July 23/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For Today
Here is my servant, whom I have chosen, my beloved, with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 12/14-21/:"But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him. When Jesus became aware of this, he departed. Many crowds followed him, and he cured all of them, and he ordered them not to make him known. This was to fulfil what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah: ‘Here is my servant, whom I have chosen, my beloved, with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. He will not wrangle or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets. He will not break a bruised reed or quench a smouldering wick until he brings justice to victory. And in his name the Gentiles will hope.’"

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death

Letter to the Romans 08/01-11/:"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you."

Question: "Do angels exist?"
Answer: The Bible speaks of angels as real, actual beings. However, Scripture’s depiction of angels is very different from the popular concept of them. The Bible describes angels as vastly powerful, intimidating, and mysterious creatures. They serve God for specific reasons and do not seem to be wandering or random creatures. While we don’t have a great deal of information about angels in the Bible, what’s available is enough to correct many common misconceptions. The word angel comes from the Greek word aggelos (or angelos), which most literally means “messenger.” In Old Testament Hebrew, these beings are called mal’ak, which means the same thing, “messenger.” Communication seems to be the primary function of angels in the Bible. Most references to angels involve their delivering some news or command on behalf of God. They are occasionally depicted as protecting certain people (Daniel 6:20–23) or nations (Daniel 12:1). However, there is no direct biblical support for the concept of a “guardian angel”—a single spiritual entity assigned to a specific person for purposes of protection or guidance—although such beings may exist. In modern times, common depictions of angels include things like halos, feathery wings, blond hair, harps, and white robes. Or chubby infants with tiny wings and shining eyes. In reality, the Bible gives no general physical description of angels. Only a few specific types of beings, such as cherubim and seraphim, are given direct visual details (Isaiah 6:2–6; Ezekiel 1:4–28). Only one angel, at the empty tomb of Jesus, is ever described as wearing a white robe (Mark 16:5). Scripture indicates that angels can take on a mundane human form (Genesis 19:1–4). That being said, most people in Scripture who encounter angels react with fear. Almost every time an angel appears to someone, the angel’s first words are “don’t be afraid!” (Luke 1:13, 30; 2:10; Matthew 28:5) Their presence can be so overwhelming that even apostles such as John had to be warned not to worship them (Revelation 19:9–10). This makes sense, given, the level of power ascribed to angels by the Bible. According to 2 Kings 19:35, a single angel killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers in one night. As spiritual beings created to serve God, angels are not so much “cute” as they are powerful and otherworldly. Looking at the Bible, we can say that angels are literal beings. Biblical angels exist. The cartoonish versions of angels so often seen in movies and commercials, however, do not.
Question: "Do demons exist?"
Answer: The Bible speaks of demons as real, actual beings. However, Scripture’s depiction of demons is very different from the popular concept of them. The Bible describes demons as powerful but limited and ultimately defeated creatures. They are angels who followed Satan in rebellion against God (Revelation 12:3–4). The Bible doesn’t give many details about demons, but what it provides is enough to dispel typical myths. Demons are referred to by several alternate names, including “unclean spirits” and “evil spirits.” Some of the false gods that received human sacrifices are described as actual demons (2 Chronicles 11:15; Deuteronomy 32:17). Since demons are fallen angels, they possess the same level of power and influence as angels. However, Scripture seems to indicate that God has limited their abilities (2 Thessalonians 2:6–7). The Bible indicates that not all afflictions are due to demonic influence (Matthew 10:1; Luke 8:2). The vast majority of demonic influence is spiritual, not physical. Popular culture frequently depicts demons in monstrous form. This includes drooling fangs, sharp claws, leathery wings, and so forth. Or they are portrayed as shadows or ghosts. None of these have any biblical basis at all. In fact, the Bible never physically describes any fallen angel. As is the case with angels, demons are spiritual creatures with a primarily spiritual influence, so they are unlikely to have any set physical appearance. If they choose to take on a physical appearance, it actually makes more sense for them to choose something inviting rather than scary (2 Corinthians 11:14). So, demons are literal, actual beings. The demons described in the Bible exist. However, the oft-portrayed horror-movie and Halloween versions do not.

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on July 22-23/17
General Joseph Aoun … Lebanon’s Army Commander with Many Duties/Nazeer Rida/Asharq Al-Awsat/July 22/17/
An EU Rubber-Boat Ban Won’t Stop Migrants/Leonid Bershidsky/Bloomberg/July 22/17
A Moscow-Based Overview for Changes in Syria/Vitaly Naumkin/Asharq Al Awsat/July 22/17
Metal Detectors and Palestinian Lies/Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/July 22/17
Iran’s institutionalized corruption/Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/ArabNews/July 22/17
Why is Kuwait angry with Iran/Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/July 22/17
Temporarily filing away the Qatari crisis/Salman al-Dossary/Al Arabiya/July 22/17
America acknowledges: Assad stayed in power thanks to Russia, Iran/Huda al-Husseini/Al Arabiya/July 22/17
Backgammon and shallow perception of the world/Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran/Al Arabiya/July 22/17

Titles For Latest Lebanese Related News published on July 22-23/17
‘Hezbollah’, Syrian Regime Launch Operation to Seize Arsal from ISIS, al-Nusra Front
Officials react to Hezbollah clashes on border
Report: Arsal Battle Achieving Coveted Gains Fast
Hizbullah Securing Gains in Battle against Nusra, Army Stops Militants' Infiltration
Ibrahim Says Lebanon Battling Terrorism in Arsal
Fleity dies after suffering fatal injury
Ahmed, Fayez Flayti injured while negotiating with Nusra leaders in Wadi Hmayed
Army targets terrorist groups in Safa Lizab
Heavy raids over Nusra posts in Arsal outskirts
Army bombards another terrorist group in Arsal
Red Cross transports 7 wounded, 100 women and children from Arsal's outskirts into Arsal
30 gunmen from 'Saraya Ahl Sham' withdraw from Arsal outskirts
Kuwait to Lebanon: Cease ‘Hezbollah’s’ Hostile Practices
EU Ambassador Says LAF 'Sole Providers of Security' in Lebanon
Jumblatt lashes out at Phares' comments on Lebanese Army
Ibrahim vows to continue to ward off dangers from Lebanon
Hariri Will be Hosted by Trump, White House Statement Says
Hariri Tells Lebanese Detainee in Iran his Case is Followed up Diplomatically
Alain Aoun: Army's goal is to prevent militants' infiltration into Arsal
Mashnouq: To redress humanitarian repercussions in Arsal
General Joseph Aoun … Lebanon’s Army Commander with Many Duties

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on July 22-23/17
US Warns Iran of 'New and Serious Consequences' if Americans Not Returned
Russia Says Agrees Safe Zone Mechanism with Syrian Rebels
Israel Sends More Troops to West Bank after Stabbing, Unrest
CIA Director Calls Assad ‘Puppet of the Iranians’
Qatar’s Emir Acknowledges Disputes with Gulf, Ready for Talks
Egypt Military: 30 Extremists Killed in Sinai
Egypt Sentences 28 to Death for Killing Top Prosecutor in 2015
Jubeir from Rome: 4 Countries are Simply Asking Qatar to Stop Funding Terrorism
Russia Says Boundaries of Eastern Ghouta ‘Safe Zone’ Determined
US Praises Sudan’s Efforts in Combating Terrorism

Latest Lebanese Related News published on July 22-23/17
‘Hezbollah’, Syrian Regime Launch Operation to Seize Arsal from ISIS, al-Nusra Front
Asharq Al-Awsat/July 22/17/Beirut – The Syrian regime and Lebanon’s “Hezbollah” launched on Friday the long-awaited military operation on the outskirts of Arsal aimed at capturing the last remaining pockets along the Lebanese-Syrian border that lie in the hands of ISIS and al-Nusra Front groups. The Lebanese army did not take part in the offensive, but it adopted a defensive role in that it targeted any movements of gunmen fleeing towards the Syrian refugee encampments on the outskirts of the northeastern border town of Arsal. The military deployed patrols in the area as Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq held a series of security and logistic meetings with military commanders and humanitarian organizations to safeguard Arsal and its Lebanese civilians and Syrian refugees. Telecommunications Minister Jamal al-Jarrah stressed that the Lebanese army “will not be a part of the battle on the eastern borders.”He emphasized that the military is deployed there to prevent the infiltration of gunmen from the outskirts to the town of Arsal. The military is protecting the residents and Syrian refugee encampments, he added. Military sources described to Asharq Al-Awsat the situation of the Lebanese army in Arsal as “very good”, especially since the battles are taking place on the Syrian side of the border and not in Lebanon. There are sufficient numbers of military personnel in the area and no reinforcements have been summoned, they stated. The army is fully prepared to contain any tensions that may arise, they remarked. Furthermore, they said that coordination is ongoing between the army and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and other humanitarian organizations to ensure the safe passage of families from the outskirts to Arsal. Only women and children are being granted entry, they revealed.
“Hezbollah” media outlets said that the military operation has been launched on two fronts: one in the Syrian town of Fleita in al-Qalamoun and the other in the southern section of Arsal from the Lebanese side of the border. The area has been a stronghold for “Hezbollah” since 2015 and the group has focused its attack on the regions under al-Nusra Front’s control.
Lebanon’s official National News Agency said that the Arsal battle was launched on Friday morning amid heavy shelling and a “Hezbollah” attack against the Fleita and Arsal outskirts – al-Kassarat fronts. It managed to seize vast areas in the eastern mountain range that separates Lebanon from Syria.
NNA reported that the militia made advances on al-Nusra positions in the Dahr al-Hawa, al-Qanzah, Oqab heights, Wadi al-Khayl and Shaabat al-Nakhleh areas. Lebanon’s Markazia news agency said that three “Hezbollah” militants were killed in these battles. In the afternoon, NNA stated that the shelling targeted the Arsal outskirts, focusing primarily on the al-Rahwa regions after ISIS members joined the fighting alongside al-Nusra. ISIS’ battle is being led by Mouwaffaq al-Jarbani, known as “Mouwaffaq Abou al-Sous.” “Hezbollah” later announced that it captured Sahl al-Rahwa and Dahr al-Hawa, describing them as the most important positions on the outskirts of Arsal. A source from the Syrian opposition in Arsal told Asharq Al-Awsat that the battles are focused on the Syrian side of the Fleita outskirts, where al-Nusra and Free Syrian Army-affiliated “Ahl al-Sham Brigades” are being targeted. ISIS positions in the Mira area and its outskirts are not being shelled.
The source added: “After some heavy shelling, ‘Hezbollah’ attempted to advance on the al-Rahwa and Fleita outskirts, but they fell victim to an ambush where a number of its members were killed and wounded. The militia later announced that it had captured regions that had already been under its control.”
In the town of Arsal, the inhabitants are living in an atmosphere of “cautious calm,” one of the residents told Asharq Al-Awsat. Head of the municipality Bassel al-Hujeiri said in a statement: “The situation in the town is stable and the Syrian refugees are staying in their encampments. The town locals are leading their lives normally amid the army’s security measures.”Head of the ICRC delegation in Lebanon Christophe Martin told Agence France Presse that the organization is prepared to take in any potential wounded from the outskirts of Arsal into the town.“We are offering support to two hospitals in Arsal and have provided them with more medical and surgical supplies because they have limited resources,” he explained. Arsal has been an area of tensions for the past few years in wake of the eruption of the Syrian conflict in 2011. In 2014, al-Nusra Front and ISIS overran the town and engaged in brief battles with the Lebanese army before being driven out. They abducted in their retreat some 30 Lebanese military personnel. Four have been executed, one died from his injuries and 16 were released by al-Nusra in 2015. Nine captives remain held by ISIS.

Officials react to Hezbollah clashes on border
The Daily Star/July 21, 2017/BEIRUT: Lebanese officials and politicians reacted Friday to the offensive launched by Hezbollah against militants on the Lebanese borders, throwing their full weight behind the Lebanese Army. President Michel Aoun was briefed on the security situation along the Lebanese-Syrian border during meetings with officials at Baabda Palace. “[Aoun] received a report from the relevant security apparatus detailing the developments and the operations carried out by the Lebanese Army on the Lebanese border to prevent armed militants from entering [the country],” a statement from the Baabda Palace reported. The Army was reported Friday to be tightening security around the town of Arsal in order to prevent militants under attack on the border region from fleeing into the town. In the morning, the president met with Minister of State for Planning Affairs Michel Pharaon to talk about the battle near Arsal. “We discussed the ongoing security developments on the border, and specifically the situation of the Syrian refugees,” Pharaon told reporters after the meeting. During a meeting between Prime Minister Saad Hariri and EU Ambassador to Lebanon Christina Lassen, the latter reaffirmed the "EU's commitment to support the Lebanese Army and other state security and justice institutions, as the sole providers of security, stability and order in the country while stressing the importance of abiding by international human rights law." Meanwhile, Speaker Nabih Berri met with Syrian Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Abdel-Karim Ali and the two also discussed the developments. "Berri spoke of his comfort with the success of the Lebanese Army," Ali said to reporters after the meeting. When asked if the two discussed the return of Syrian refugees to Syria, Ali said yes but sidestepped giving any further details.
A preliminary attack conducted by Syrian forces and Hezbollah fighters Thursday targeted militant positions on the outskirts of Arsal with artillery, missiles and airstrikes, in an effort to force militants to lay down their weapons and leave the area. Hezbollah deputy leader Sheikh Naim Qassem said that Hezbollah entered the Syrian war in order to combat the “extremist project that threatened Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon, Palestinian and the region.” Qassem’s comments came during a graduation ceremony. He said that after battling the “extremist project” in Iraq and Syria, Hezbollah was now partaking in the combat in the outskirts of Arsal and Qalamoun to wipe out what remained of the project. For its part, the Future Movement released a statement Friday evening criticizing the decision by Syrian forces and "its affiliates" for "settling scores on Lebanese soil without any consideration or decision by the Lebanese state or its authorities to authorize the [operation]."The movement rejected any potential events which would plunge Lebanon into the Syrian crisis, referring to Hezbollah's involvement in the 6-year-old war. Telecoms Minister Jamal Jarrah said he rejected any claims that the Army was involved in the clashes. "The Lebanese Army is not part of the ongoing battle on the northern border and the Army's presence is to prevent any militants from the outskirts to enter Arsal," Jarrah said in a statement released by his press office, adding that the Army was protecting the local residents and Syrian refugees. Jarrah called on the families in Arsal to stand by the Army who is trying to maintain stability and prevent any overspill into the town that could affect its residents on Lebanese soil, "including Syrian refugees."
Early on Friday morning, Hezbollah launched a ground offensive to rout out the militants. Following the outbreak of the clashes Thursday night, Minister of State for Administrative Affairs Inaya Ezzeddine tweeted: “#TheEyesThatDontSleep Respect to the resistance on the border keeping it safe in these moments, under the patronage of God.”Also Thursday, former minister Wiam Wahhab tweeted: “Our hearts and prayers are with the heroic resistance fighters who are battling the terrorists in the outskirts of Arsal and for returning Arsal to its family under the patronage of our heroic Army.”
On Friday, Marada chief MP Sleiman Frangieh tweeted: “God be with the men of the resistance in the battle to purify the outskirts of Arsal and God willing a victory and the least amount of losses #Lebanon.”Minister for the Displaced Talal Arslan tweeted: “Our hearts are with the Lebanese Army and the heroic resistance in the battles in the outskirts of Arsal. Surely, victory is their ally.”

Report: Arsal Battle Achieving Coveted Gains Fast
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 22/17/The results achieved on the first day of an operation launched by Hizbullah against militants on both sides of the country's border with Syria, indicate that the “battle could reach fruition in a time period shorter than anticipated,” al-Joumhouria daily reported on Saturday. The outcome of the battle achieved by Hizbullah so far “indicate that the battle could be over in a shorter time than anticipated in light of the evident collapse among the terrorists' ranks. On the first day, the party was able to grasp control of a series of strategic hills which formed strength points for the terrorists mainly Tallet al-Burkan in Flita," Hizbullah sources told the daily. The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that Hizbullah has kick started "its military operation at dawn on Friday to purge Arsal's outskirts and Qalamoun of armed terrorists.” They said the operation had been launched on two axes -- from the Syrian town of Flita and from the southern part of outskirts of Arsal. Arsal's outskirts is a mountainous area around the Lebanese border town of Arsal, which lies directly across from the Syrian Qalamoun region
The operation has been anticipated for several weeks, and comes after Lebanese soldiers carrying out raids on Syrian refugee camps in the area were met with suicide bombings and a grenade attack. That attack heightened tensions over the presence in Lebanon of more than a million refugees from the civil war across the border.

Hizbullah Securing Gains in Battle against Nusra, Army Stops Militants' Infiltration
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 22/17/On the second day of its operation against al-Nusra Front militant group entrenched on the outskirts of the border town of Arsal, Hizbullah was able to secure gains, the National News Agency reported on Saturday. Hizbullah fighters “secured gains as they caught the hills of Wadi al-Khayl and al-Qanzah following heavy clashes with the Nusra terrorists,” NNA said. The agency later added that Hizbullah has also seized full control of Jwar al-Sheikh, Wadi Kraydi, al-Dalil al-Abdyad and Serj Qwaiys in the outskirts. The group's fighters waged fierce battles in one of the valleys in Arsal's outskirts, while heavy shelling was reported later on in Wadi al-Khayl, NNA later reported. Early on Saturday, sounds of sporadic shelling on the south-eastern positions of Arsal could still be heard, as the Lebanese army strictly tightened measures to keep armed militants from escaping into the town, it said. Clashes between Hizbullah fighters and the militants were ongoing mainly in al-Rahweh plain and Dahret al-Houwweh post. Hizbullah's media outlets said earlier that its fighters had seized full control of said posts amid "deaths and injuries among the ranks of the al-Nusra Front militants."
Meanwhile, the army cordoned the area implementing strict security measures to preserve security inside and around Arsal, and to prevent armed militants from infiltrating or seeking refuge in the town. Later during on Saturday, NNA said that Military Forces shelled a group of militants in Wadi al-Dam following an attempt to infiltrate towards an army checkpoint in Arsal. The agency had reported that the shelling of gunmen positions with artillery went on all through the night with the support of the Syrian warplanes. Sound of shelling were clearly heard after midnight in the towns adjacent to the Eastern Mountain Range. On Friday, Hizbullah said it had begun an operation against militants on both sides of the country's eastern border with Syria “to purge outskirts of Arsal and Qalamoun of armed terrorists.” The operation has been anticipated for several weeks, and comes after Lebanese soldiers carrying out raids on Syrian refugee camps in the area were met with suicide bombings and a grenade attack.

Ibrahim Says Lebanon Battling Terrorism in Arsal
Naharnet/July 22/17/General Security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim stressed on Saturday that Lebanon is waging a battle in the outskirts of the border town of Arsal in order to “eliminate terrorism.'“We are fighting in Arsal's outskirts in order to wipe out terrorism,” said Abbas during a trip he made Saturday to the southern town of Nabatieh. On the Lebanese flags that were flown above houses in Arsal and Nabatieh, Abbas commented saying: “The scene of flags flown up in Arsal and Nabatieh aim to send a message to terrorists, telling them that we (Lebanese) know well how to fight and we know well how to be joyous.”Stressing the need to stay united, Ibrahim said: “The best thing we need these days is unity. It is much stronger than bullets or arms.”The Security chief pointed out that the General Security was able to crackdown on a number of terror cells that had plans to target Nabtieh, he said: “Our role will continue and we will keep on clamping down on theses cells that sabotage security and stability.”

Fleity dies after suffering fatal injury
Sat 22 Jul 2017/NNA - Former Arsal Municipality Deputy Head, Ahmad Fleity, who was wounded Saturday during negotiations with militants over possible withdrawal from Wadi Hmayed, died of his mortal injury, NNA correspondent reported shortly.

Ahmed, Fayez Flayti injured while negotiating with Nusra leaders in Wadi Hmayed

Sat 22 Jul 2017/NNA - Former Deputy Head of Arsal Municipality, Ahmad Flayti, and Fayez Flayti were injured when a rocket fell nearby while they were meeting with Nusra Front leaders to negotiate over their withdrawal from Wadi Hmayed, National News Agency correspondent said on Saturday. Ahmad, who suffered serious injury, was rushed to the nearest hospital in the region while Fayez was transported to al-Rahmah Hospital, NNA correspondent added.

Army targets terrorist groups in Safa Lizab
Sat 22 Jul 2017/NNA - The Lebanese army is currently shelling terrorist groups in Safa Lizab area and destroying their anti-mechanism artillery.

Heavy raids over Nusra posts in Arsal outskirts
Sat 22 Jul 2017/NNA - Syrian warplanes are currently effecting intensive raids over al-Nusra Front positions in Arsal's outskirts, NNA correspondent in Hermel reported.

Army bombards another terrorist group in Arsal
Sat 22 Jul 2017/NNA - The Lebanese Army is currently shelling another terrorist group attempting to infiltrate into army's positions in Shemis Wadi al-Damm area.

Red Cross transports 7 wounded, 100 women and children from Arsal's outskirts into Arsal
Sat 22 Jul 2017/NNA - Red Cross vehicles have transported 7 injured persons and 100 women and children from the outskirts of Arsal into the town, NNA correspondent in Baalbek reported Saturday.

30 gunmen from 'Saraya Ahl Sham' withdraw from Arsal outskirts
Sat 22 Jul 2017/NNA - Around 30 militants of "Saraya Ahl al-Sham" withdrew from the ongoing battles in Arsal's outskirts towards al-Malahi Refugee Camp, east of Arsal, NNA correspondent reported Saturday evening.

Kuwait to Lebanon: Cease ‘Hezbollah’s’ Hostile Practices
Asharq Al-Awsat/July 22/17/Beirut – The Lebanese Foreign Ministry received a “strongly-worded” letter from its Kuwaiti counterpart, demanding “the Lebanese government to assume its responsibilities towards ‘Hezbollah’s’ hostile practices against Kuwait,” revealed Lebanese sources on Friday. The letter stressed that the “Hezbollah” group is “involved in spying in Kuwait and in funding and arming the terrorist al-Abdali cell, in order to destroy the current system in the state of Kuwait.” It therefore called for taking the “necessary measures that would deter the group, seeing as it is a member of the Lebanese government,” hoping that Kuwait would be informed of these measures “to preserve the fraternal ties.”Widely-informed sources at the Lebanese Foreign Ministry refused to confirm or deny the letter, but Arab diplomatic sources in Beirut said it has been received by Lebanon. Several media outlets also reported on it. The Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry justified its letter with the ruling of a Kuwaiti court that proved the involvement of Lebanon’s “Hezbollah” in criminal practices linked to the al-Abdali cell, “which was seeking to carry out hostile practices against the Kuwaiti state in order to destroy its system through illegal means.”“The government of the state of Kuwait considers ‘Hezbollah’s’ actions to a be a threat to the country’s security and stability and blatant and dangerous meddling in its internal affairs.” “Seeing as the party is a component of the Lebanese government, the state of Kuwait calls on it, out of the special ties that bind the two countries, to exercise its responsibilities in thwarting these reckless acts committed by Lebanon’s ‘Hezbollah’,” added the Foreign Ministry letter.

EU Ambassador Says LAF 'Sole Providers of Security' in Lebanon
Naharnet/July 22/17/Ambassador Christina Lassen, Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Lebanon, held talks Friday with Prime Minister Saad Hariri and stressed that the Lebanese Armed Forces and other state security and justice institutions are the “sole providers of security” in Lebanon. Lassen's remarks came hours after Hizbullah launched a major operation in the outskirts of the border town of Arsal to oust jihadist militants from the area. “In the context of reviewing the security situation at Lebanon's eastern border and the operations in Arsal, Ambassador Lassen reaffirmed the EU's commitment to support the Lebanese Armed Forces and other state security and justice institutions, as the sole providers of security, stability and order in the country while stressing the importance of abiding by international human rights law,” said a statement issued by the EU Delegation after the meeting. Lassen also welcomed Hariri's “announcement to publish the results of the still ongoing investigation on the death of four detainees in LAF custody.” Concerning the situation of refugees from Syria in Lebanon, Lassen expressed concern about the rising tensions and lauded “statements from the President and the Prime Minister denouncing recent attacks and divisive rhetoric.”

Jumblatt lashes out at Phares' comments on Lebanese Army
The Daily Star/July 22/17 /BEIRUT: Progressive Socialist Party head MP Walid Jumblatt Saturday criticized Lebanese-born American right-wing political pundit Walid Phares over recent comments he made about the Lebanese Army and new U.S. sanctions against Hezbollah. Phares said in an interview with local Lebanese An-Nahar newspaper that American military aid to the Lebanese Army will be restricted to “extremely limited operations against Jihadi terror,” as long as the government "remains under the control of Hezbollah." “The country [Lebanon] can do without Mr. Walid Phares’ destructive advice about the [Lebanese] Army and the economy,” Jumblatt said on Twitter in response to Phares' comments. Phares also said that the U.S. financial sanctions against Hezbollah leaves the Lebanese government with two choices: “Either taking part, with the U.S. administration, in [applying] this pressure [on Hezbollah] ... or not,” adding that not complying with the sanctions could lead to ramifications. Jumblatt dimissed Phares' implication, saying, “As far as I know, [Phares] has no official post [in the U.S. administration].”

Ibrahim vows to continue to ward off dangers from Lebanon
Sat 22 Jul 2017/NNA - General Security Director General, Abbas Ibrahim, stressed Saturday on continuing to avert the threats of terrorism, noting that "the cost of confrontation is much less than waiting for the cancer of terrorism to spread."Ibrahim's words came during an honorary ceremony organized by Nabatieh's Municipal Council in appreciation of his great achievements and as a token of gratitude for his relentless efforts in preserving the country's security and stability. Ibrahim emphasized the "need for national unity which is stronger than any arms or bullets."Ibrahim valued the Nabatieh Municipal Council's initiative in paying tribute to the sacrifices of the Public Security General Directorate. He commended the Council's undertaken efforts, being "a distinct forward-looking step towards the needs of the local community within the context of a developmental process that places the city of Nabatieh in the ranks of prosperous and developed Lebanese cities."

Hariri Will be Hosted by Trump, White House Statement Says
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 22/17/US President Donald Trump will meet Prime Minister Saad Hariri in Washington next week for talks on issues including refugees and combating terrorism, the White House announced in a statement. Analysts also anticipate US aid will be high on the agenda of the July 25th talks at the White House. "The two leaders will discuss issues of mutual concern, including the fight against terrorism, the economy, and refugees," the White House statement said. "This meeting will serve as an important opportunity to strengthen the bilateral relationship," the statement said, adding that the talks "will encourage other international and regional partners to support Lebanon as it faces a wide range of challenges."Hariri had left to the US on Friday on an official visit during which he will meet with Trump and other US officials, including House Speaker Paul Ryan and members of Congress as well as senior officials from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The announcement comes days after US Ambassador Nikki Haley accused Hizbullah of amassing weapons and urged the international community to dial up pressure on the powerful paramilitary organization to disarm. There has been speculation about the possibility of a new war between Iran-backed Hizbullah and Israel, more than a decade after their last direct confrontation. On Thursday members of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee introduced legislation aimed at bolstering sanctions targeting Hizbullah, dubbing the group a threat to Israel's security and criticizing its role as an active ally of President Bashar Assad's regime in Syria.

Hariri Tells Lebanese Detainee in Iran his Case is Followed up Diplomatically
Asharq Al-Awsat/July 22/17/Beirut- Prime Minister Saad Hariri has received a phone call from Lebanese businessman Nizar Zakka from the Iranian prison where he is detained, his press office said Friday. Zakka described the difficult conditions of his detention and his deteriorating health and asked the Lebanese government to intervene to free him, the statement said. Hariri told Zakka that his case is being followed up through the available diplomatic channels, it added. Secretary General of the Arab ICT Organization (Ijma’a), Zakka was arrested in Tehran in wake of his participation in a conference that was held in September 2015. He was kidnapped while he was headed to the airport to depart the country. It was later revealed that he was detained by the Iranian authorities. In 2016, an Iranian court sentenced him to ten years in jail and fined him 4.2 million dollars on charges of conspiring against the state. His lawyer, Badawi Abou Deeb, later appealed the sentence. Zakka began a hunger strike in June in an attempt to pressure authorities to release him without any conditions.

Alain Aoun: Army's goal is to prevent militants' infiltration into Arsal
Sat 22 Jul 2017/NNA - MP Alain Aoun deemed Saturday that the aim behind the ongoing events in Arsal is to prevent the infiltration of militants into Arsal, noting that "controlling the Lebanese borders helps to fortify internal security and weaken the terrorist threat and its plots inside Lebanon."Speaking in an interview to "Voice of Lebanon" Radio Station, Aoun stressed that the Lebanese Army is carrying out its duties to contain the situation in the outskirts of Arsal, confronting militants and not refugees, contrary to some insinuations. "There is no problem with the Syrian refugees inside the camps," Aoun emphasized, adding "the army is only targeting terrorists.""There is a great possibility that the pace of the return of the displaced will continue as the necessary guarantees and conditions for their safe return are ensured," stated Aoun.Responding to a question about recent diplomatic appointments, Aoun considered that accusations over this issue are unjustified, noting that "only six people were chosen from the outside for their long years of experience that serve Lebanon's bilateral relations."Over the approved salary scale, Aoun explained that "the salary series cannot satisfy everyone, but it positively targets more than a million people." He highlighted, herein, the need for finding new incentives to stimulate the economy in the next two years, so as to avoid reaching a state of collapse in 2019.

Mashnouq: To redress humanitarian repercussions in Arsal
Sat 22 Jul 2017/NNA - Interior and Municipalities Minister, Nuhad al-Mashnouq, conducted over the past 24 hours intensive contacts and work meetings that focused on measures to redress the humanitarian repercussions of the armed clashes in Arsal's outskirts. "We need to work to alleviate the humanitarian burden that the host community in Arsal has suffered since the beginning of the war in Syria and its sacrifices in sheltering the displaced and bearing the consequences of militants' presence in the area," Mashnouq added. He vowed continuous contact with all concerned within the army and security apparatuses, the Higher Relief Commission and international and local organizations, to ensure all necessary means to protect civilians and provide them with medical and humanitarian assistance. In this context, the Interior Minister met with a delegation from the UN Higher Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) headed by Beirut's Operations Office Deputy Director, Emmanuel Ganiac, in the presence of Higher Relief Commission Secretary General, Maj. Gen. Mohammed Khair. In the same framework, the International Red Cross Committee Head in Lebanon, Christophe Martin, briefed the Minister on the adopted measures to provide emergency medical aid to civilians in Arsal region. Mashnouq also conferred with Relief and Development Associations Union Representative, Mohamed Nur Karhani, on the readiness of NGOs and their emergency plans to provide humanitarian aids and facilitate the hosting of civilians.

General Joseph Aoun … Lebanon’s Army Commander with Many Duties/
الجنرال جوزيف عون قائد الجيش اللبناني رجل له مهمات متعددة
Nazeer Rida/Asharq Al-Awsat/July 22/17/
Beirut – There have not been fundamental changes to the duties of Lebanese Army Commander General Joseph Aoun from before and after he was appointed to his post. General Aoun, who waged the battle in eastern Lebanon to preserve the country’s stability and prevent the infiltration of extremist groups from the eastern border outskirts with Syria towards Lebanon when he was commander of the ninth army brigade, is experiencing the same mission now as army chief. Add to this mission other challenges, most important of which is protecting Lebanon’s internal stability and its southern and eastern borders. These challenges have determined the standards that led him to be appointed as army commander in March to succeed Jean Qahwaji. Aoun’s resume has to a great extent helped him reach this position. Along with his military history and his academic and military higher studies, he took part, for almost an entire year, in the international counter terrorism program that was held in the United States in 2008. He also participated in an intelligence and counter terrorism workshop in 2013 and has a knowledge in “managing crises,” according to his resume. Lebanon is currently waging a “war against terrorism” on its eastern border with Syria where the army is deployed in vast regions near the Syrian al-Qalamoun area to confront extremists ISIS and al-Nusra Front members. The army is also intensifying its security and military operations on the internal scene in order to crackdown on suspected extremist groups, dismantle sleeper cells and pursue what is known as “lone wolves” linked to ISIS and other extremists. The military intelligence, along with other security forces, have carried out several “preemptive” missions that have led to the arrest of a number of terrorist suspects or fugitives.
Adept field commander
Prior to his appointment as the 14th Lebanese army commander since the country’s independence, Aoun made a name for himself as an expert field commander. He was transferred as commander of the ninth brigade that was deployed on the southern border with Israel to the northeastern border that is “one of the terrorist passages” to Lebanon. His name shone as an “adept field commander, who was able to contain the security and social situation in an area that is witnessing tension due to the large number of Syrian encampments that are hosting some 100,000 refugees,” said sources that have monitored his rise in the ranks. They told Asharq Al-Awsat: “On the eastern borders, General Joseph Aoun worked on fortifying military positions, especially those on the frontlines, thereby lifting the morale of his troops when he was commander of the ninth brigade.”“After his move to al-Yarzeh, the headquarters of the Army Command, he carried with him the plight of Arsal, repeatedly announcing that the military is fully prepared to defend each grain of soil of the nation, provide security and stability to the citizens and cut the hand of anyone who tries to meddle with security,” they added. Aoun had launched the concept of preemptive operations that are aimed at destroying terrorism before it spreads. He has proven his success in the many operations that were carried out and that had led to the arrest of several wanted suspects and the elimination of a number of others.
American trust
Aoun also followed up on the missions that were entrusted to him in regards to coordinating with the international community in combating terrorism. He worked on bolstering the abilities of the army through direct contact with the US military command as demonstrated by his trip to the US only two months after his appointment as army chief. He held talks there with a number of military and political officials with the aim of bolstering the capabilities of the Lebanese army. Observers of his foreign trips told Asharq Al-Awsat that Aoun “enjoys the trust of external powers, especially American ones. He was part of several US-hosted courses, especially ones on fighting terrorism and others on military affairs. His military and field experience have garnered him great trust, especially after leading the Arsal front and the significant advances the army made there in combating terrorism.”“His ties with the Americans were strengthened after his appointment as army commander and this was evident through the regular visits that military and diplomatic officials make to the Army Command headquarters,” they added. Several officials have repeatedly said that the Lebanese army is their partner in fighting terror, saying that it is the power that is offering security and stability in a country that lies in a volatile environment. “Arms caches are therefore open to the army when the need arises,” said the observers.The sources underlined the importance of Aoun’s first trip to the US since his appointment to his post, saying that its “results will be translated into the size of US military assistance to the Lebanese army.” This includes Bradley Fighting Vehicles and Super Tucano attack aircraft.
Firm officer
Aoun began his military career in 1983 when he enlisted in the army. Since then, he has amassed a wealth of experience, as well as personal and humanitarian ties with military personnel. One of his close acquaintances told Asharq Al-Awsat that Aoun is known as a “firm officer, who firmly addresses national principles.” At the same time, he “appears to be a personal friend of the military personnel who work under his command.”“In the years preceding his appointment as army commander, he used to spend most of his free time with the military personnel to an extent that he no longer made them feel that he was their superior. This is a trait that he developed years ago and which earned him the love of his soldiers and officers,” revealed the acquaintance. Over the years, Aoun moved among the army divisions, such as the commando unit and infantry, as well as its teaching directorate, leading to his command of the ninth brigade. Throughout this time, he worked on his university degrees, obtaining a BA in Political Science, specializing in international affairs. He also holds a university degree in Military Science and is fluent in French, English and Spanish.
Constant inspections
Becoming army commander has not broken his old routines and Aoun often makes the news for carrying out inspections at various hotspots where the army is deployed. He recently inspected the army’s positions in the eastern Tufail region in the Baalbek outskirts on the border with Syria. Days ago, he stressed that the army has taken “all field measures to protect the border towns and villages and ensure the safety of their residences against any terrorist infiltration.”“The army will protect Lebanon regardless of the sacrifices and it will not listen to those seeking to hamper its mission. The army that has protected Lebanon in the most difficult times, will protect it in the present and future no matter the cost,” he declared.
Plans to develop the military institution
While his foreign trips are part of his vision to bolster the army’s capabilities, the observers say that developing the military institution “is at the top of Aoun’s priorities.” He has has, since his appointment as army commander, made it his mission to provide the military with all logistic and military support and develop its abilities amid the major challenges it is facing, starting with terrorism, which it is confronting with intelligence support and political and popular backing.His many plans for the army include the establishment of new brigades aimed at controlling the eastern and southern borders, the observers revealed.
Fateful phase amid the challenges
Those in tune with the nature of the Lebanese army’s duties at this current time agree that Aoun is “leading the army during a fateful phase due to the size of the regional challenges.”Strategy researcher Dr. Mohammed Rammal told Asharq Al-Awsat: “Several geopolitical changes are taking place around us, most notably in Iraq and Syria. Lebanon is not isolated from what is happening given that terrorism is no longer restricted to a certain region.”He noted that the Lebanese army confronted terrorism before the September 11, 2001 attacks in the US, saying that it waged the Dinniyeh battles against the so-called “Takfiri and al-Hijra” group. “There is no country that is safe from terrorism, no matter how great their military and security capabilities,” he added. “Lebanon is part of the network that is combating terror and the army, led by Aoun, is a part of it,” he stressed.
Source of strength
Despite the challenges, the army enjoys the trust of the Lebanese people, which gives it strength. Rammal said: “Aoun is commanding the army at a time when there is popular consensus over it. This is one of the golden phases to unite around the army.”
Another source of its strength lies in the “unprecedented” coordination between all of its agencies in that information is exchanged between them in ways that were not seen before, he explained.The military also enjoys regional and international support, he noted. Moreover, and despite the controversy that surrounded its Arsal raid in late June, Rammal said: “An army unit entered the camp and was faced with five suicide bombers who blew themselves up. No Syrian civilian was hurt by army bullets, but a number of soldiers were wounded in the bombings. This is an achievement in itself.”
The lack of casualties “indicates a level of professionalism that the world trusts and which prompted it to offer its congratulations to the military.”
International Humanitarian Law directorate
The Arsal operation did however lead to the death of four Syrian detainees held by the army. They died of health complications, but it still led to local and international outcry and a demand for a transparent investigation in the case. The army complied and tasked its International Humanitarian Law directorate to investigate. This directorate, said Rammal, is in charge with coordinating with international humanitarian and rights groups whenever the military carries out a crackdown. Formed in 2009 before the eruption of the Syrian crisis, the directorate follows up on humanitarian cases and ensures that soldiers on the ground respect International Humanitarian Law.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on July 22-23/17
US Warns Iran of 'New and Serious Consequences' if Americans Not Returned
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 22/17/President Donald Trump's White House dialed up the pressure on Iran Friday, demanding the quick return of Americans detained in the Islamic Republic."President Trump is prepared to impose new and serious consequences on Iran unless all unjustly imprisoned American citizens are released and returned," the White House said in a statement. The tough warning comes just days after Trump rowed back on a campaign promise and upheld the Iran nuclear deal, while introducing new non-nuclear related sanctions. The threat of prisoner-related sanctions opens up a new front in tensions between Tehran and the Trump administration. The measure comes after a Chinese American accused of "infiltration" in Iran was sentenced to 10 years in prison. The man was identified as Xiyue Wang, a 37-year-old researcher at Princeton University. US officials say Trump has taken a keen interest in the fate of Americans held overseas and was deeply affected by the case of Otto Warmbier, a student who was released last month from a North Korean prison in a coma and died shortly after being sent back home. "President Donald J. Trump and his Administration are redoubling efforts to bring home all Americans unjustly detained abroad," the White House statement said. "The United States condemns hostage takers and nations that continue to take hostages and detain our citizens without just cause or due process."The statement mentioned Xiyue Wang by name, along with Siamak and Baquer Namazi and ex-FBI agent and CIA contractor Robert Levinson -- who went missing in March 2007. Washington and Tehran have had no diplomatic relations since April 1980 in the wake of the Islamic revolution, and tensions have sharpened under Trump after a brief warming under his predecessor, Barack Obama. The two countries along with other major powers signed an accord July 14, 2015 aimed at curbing Iran's nuclear program. Washington has continued to honor the accord despite Trump's threats as a candidate last year to "rip it up."

Russia Says Agrees Safe Zone Mechanism with Syrian Rebels
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 22/17/Russia's defense ministry said Saturday that its officials had signed a deal with moderate Syrian rebels at peace talks in Cairo on how a safe zone near Damascus will function. "As a result of talks held in Cairo between Russian defense ministry officials and moderate Syrian opposition brokered by the Egyptian side... agreements have been signed on how the Eastern Ghouta de-escalation zone will function," the defense ministry said in a statement sent to AFP. The rebel stronghold of Eastern Ghouta is in one of four proposed "de-escalation zones" designated in an agreement reached by government allies Iran and Russia and rebel backer Turkey in May. But the deal has yet to be fully implemented over disagreements on the monitoring mechanism for the safe zones. The most recent talks in Kazakhstan this month between Russia, Turkey and Iran failed to iron out of the details of the four safe zones. Russia said that the sides have now signed agreements under which "the borders of the de-escalation zone are defined as well as the deployment locations and powers of the forces monitoring the de-escalation."It said the sides had also agreed "routes to supply humanitarian aid to the population and for free movement of residents."Russia said it plans to send in the first humanitarian convoy and evacuate the wounded "in the next few days."The Eastern Ghouta region is a major rebel stronghold near the capital, and it has been the frequent target of government military operations. More than 330,000 people have been killed in Syria since its conflict broke out in March 2011 with anti-government protests.

Israel Sends More Troops to West Bank after Stabbing, Unrest
Associated Press/Naharnet/July 22/17/Israel sent more troops to the West Bank on Saturday, a day after a Palestinian stabbed to death three members of an Israeli family in their home and widespread Israeli-Palestinian clashes erupted over escalating tensions at the Holy Land's most contested shrine. The 20-year-old Palestinian assailant wrote in a pre-attack Facebook post that he planned to avenge what he alleged was Israel's "desecration" of the Jerusalem holy site. Disputes over the shrine, revered by Muslims and Jews, have set off major rounds of Israeli-Palestinian confrontations in the past. They were also at the root of the current round that began last week when Arab gunmen fired from the shrine, killing two Israeli policemen. In response, Israel installed metal detectors at the gates of the 37-acre (15-hectare) walled compound, portraying the devices as a needed security measure to prevent more attacks. Muslims alleged Israel was trying to expand its control at the Muslim-administered site under the guise of security — a claim Israel denies — and launched mass prayer protests. On Friday, anger boiled over and several thousand Palestinians clashed with Israeli security forces in the West Bank and in Jerusalem after noon prayers, the highlight of the Muslim religious week. Three Palestinians were killed and several dozen wounded by live rounds and bullets in some of the worst street clashes in the past two years. Late on Friday, a Palestinian identified as Omar al-Abed jumped over the fence of the Israeli settlement of Halamish in the West Bank and entered a home, surprising a family during their Sabbath dinner. The Israeli military said the assailant killed a man and two of his adult children, while a woman was wounded. A neighbor heard the screams, rushed to the home and opened fire, wounding al-Abed who was taken to an Israeli hospital, said the head of Israel's rescue service. A photo released by the military showed a kitchen floor covered with blood. Itai Orayon, a medic, said he encountered a shocking scene at the Halamish home. "Blood everywhere in the house, the floor was covered in blood," he told Israel Army Radio. He said three people were on the floor, unconscious "with deep stab wounds all over their bodies," and that the medical team was unable to save them. On Saturday morning, Israeli troops searched the assailant's family home in the West Bank village of Kobar and detained one of his brothers, the army said. Video footage released by the military shows soldiers leading away a handcuffed and blindfolded man. The army said soldiers searched the house and measured it in preparation for eventual demolition. Ibrahim al-Abed, an uncle of the assailant, confirmed the family was told the house would be destroyed. The uncle said his nephew had been arrested three months ago by security forces of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who presides over autonomous enclaves in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. The uncle said his nephew had endured two weeks in detention and was violently interrogated about alleged plans to attack Israelis before he was released. In his pre-attack Facebook post, Omar al-Abed, said he planned to take action to avenge what he alleged was Israel's "desecration" of the shrine and berated Arab countries for their alleged inaction. He alleged that Israel "declared war on God," and described his plan as a suicide mission, saying that "I'm going to heaven." Israel has repeatedly accused Abbas and his Palestinian Authority of permitting anti-Israeli incitement in the public Palestinian discourse. Abbas has rejected such claims, saying Israel's 50-year-old occupation of lands sought for a Palestinian state is at the root of widespread anger and helps drive violence. Abbas has been a staunch opponent of violence, and in 12 tumultuous years in power always stuck to security coordination between his forces and Israeli troops against a common enemy — his Islamic militant rivals from Hamas.
On Friday evening, Abbas announced that he would "freeze" ties with Israel "on all levels" until the metal detectors are removed from the shrine, but did not say whether this means halting security coordination. Ending security ties would have far-reaching repercussions and sharply raise tensions with Israel. Even if largely meant for domestic Palestinian consumption, the Abbas announcement dealt a setback to fledgling efforts by the Trump administration to revive long-dormant Israeli-Palestinian talks on a peace deal. Such efforts now seem moot as Israelis and Palestinians refuse to budge in the showdown over the shrine and violence threatens to escalate. Israel's military said Saturday it sent more troops to the West Bank. It did not elaborate but said the decision came after hundreds of troops were deployed Friday. Israel's chief of staff and defense minister visited the Halamish settlement, the scene of the stabbing attack, on Saturday.

CIA Director Calls Assad ‘Puppet of the Iranians’
Asharq Al-Awsat/July 22/17/London- CIA Director Mike Pompeo has launched a scathing attack on Iran, accusing it of adopting an expansionist policy to pursue regional hegemony and dubbing the head of the Syrian regime a “puppet of the Iranians.”The defeat of ISIS is America’s top priority at the moment, Pompeo said Thursday but he mentioned Iran as one of the US enemies in Syria. “Today you have Iran extending its boundary, extending its reach, now making an effort to cross the borders and link up from Iraq,” Pompeo said. “It’s a very dangerous threat to the United States. Just yesterday, one more time we learned that Iran is the world’s largest state sponsor of terror, and they now have a significant foothold in Syria.”He said the Trump administration is working on ways to push back against Iran, which wants to be a “kingpin” in the Middle East. The CIA director spoke in a wide-ranging conversation at the Aspen Security Forum, an annual gathering of intelligence and national security officials and experts in Aspen, Colorado. Lebanon’s “Hezbollah is but one of example of Iranians” using proxies, he said, adding that Tehran has proxies in Yemen and Iraq. All these elements constitute a threat to Gulf states, Israel and American’s interest, he said. He said it’s difficult to imagine a stable Syria with the head of the regime, Bashar Assad, still in power. He called Assad a “puppet of the Iranians.”Russia will stay in Syria, he said, because it loves its naval port in Tartus. “They have an intention to remain there.”Asked if there was any evidence Russia has pursued a serious strategy against ISIS, instead of concentrating its fire on the more “moderate” opponents of the Assad regime, Pompeo bluntly answered “No.”Turning to the nuclear deal with Iran, Pompeo said that although the State Department has certified continued Iranian compliance with the JCPOA, the Trump administration remains committed to pushing back against Tehran in many areas.The deal “was designed to foster stability and have Iran become a re-entrant to the Western world, and the agreement simply hasn’t achieved that,” he added.

Qatar’s Emir Acknowledges Disputes with Gulf, Ready for Talks
Asharq Al-Awsat and Moaz al-Omari/July 22/17/Dammam, Abu Dhabi, Washington- Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani said Friday that Qatar is ready for dialogue to resolve a diplomatic crisis with the Arab quartet, but stressed that any solution to the crisis must respect Doha’s sovereignty. “We are open to dialogue to resolve the outstanding problems. But any solution to the crisis must be based on two principles: first, the solution should be within the framework of respect for the sovereignty and will of each state. Secondly, it should not be in the form of orders by one party to another, but rather as mutual undertakings and joint commitments binding on all,” the Emir said in a televised address to the nation, his first since the crisis broke out on June 5. “I do not underestimate the pain and suffering caused by the blockade on us. The time has come for us to spare the people from the political differences between the governments,” Al-Thani said. Al-Thani said that his country was “subjected to an unprecedented campaign of incitement and siege”. “Fabricating false reports are vile and heinous crimes and there were attempts to impose a guardianship system on us.” He recognized during his speech that there were differences between Doha and the GCC on their foreign policies and that they “disagreed with others on the sources of terrorism”. The statement follows his decree, which establishes two national lists for individuals and terrorist entities and sets out the requirements for being included in them. The Emir said Qatar was “fighting terrorism relentlessly and without compromises, and the international community recognizes this.”The changes to Qatar’s anti-terror legislation has been called “a step in the right direction” by the UAE. “The Qatari decision to revise their law regarding the financing of terrorism is a step in the right direction towards addressing the terrorism blacklist of 59 entities. The pressure from the crisis has borne fruit,” UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr. Anwar Gargash said on Twitter on Friday. But Gargash, repeated his demands for Qatar to reorient its policies in order to ease the crisis with its Arab neighbors.“It would be wiser for Qatar to totally change its political orientation,” he said. The Anti-Terror Quartet of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE and Egypt decided to impose a diplomatic and economic boycott on Qatar over its history of supporting terrorism and extremist groups in the region.

Egypt Military: 30 Extremists Killed in Sinai

Asharq Al-Awsat English/July 22/17/Egyptian forces have killed 30 extremists in security operations that spanned several days in the Sinai Peninsula involving the army, air force and police, the military said Saturday. The Egyptian authorities are battling an insurgency by ISIS in North Sinai that has killed hundreds of members of the security forces and civilians. The military did not specify to which group the 30 extremists belonged but described them as “extremely dangerous”. Five others were arrested as Egyptian forces imposed a “tight siege” on the North Sinai provincial capital El-Arish and the cities of Sheikh Zuweid and Rafah, a military statement said. Egypt has struggled since 2013 to quash attacks led by ISIS, whose local branch is based in North Sinai. On Thursday, gunmen attacked a three-car police convoy on the main Cairo-to-Fayoum road, killing one policeman and injuring three others, the Egyptian interior ministry said.The gunmen fired at the last car from plantation land alongside the road, it said.

Egypt Sentences 28 to Death for Killing Top Prosecutor in 2015

Asharq Al-Awsat English/July 22/17/Twenty-eight people have been sentenced to death on Saturday in Egypt for the murder of the country’s top prosecutor Hisham Barakat in 2015. Barakat was killed in a car bomb attack on his convoy in Cairo, an operation which Egypt blamed on the Muslim Brotherhood and Gaza-based Hamas militants. Both groups have denied it. The attack was spurred by extremist calls for attacks on the judiciary to avenge a crackdown against them. No group claimed responsibility for the attack, but police later said they had arrested the perpetrators, charging they were members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood. The Cairo criminal court also sentenced 15 defendants to life in prison in the same case, while a further eight received 15 years, and 15 others were handed 10 years, security and judicial officials said on Saturday. The death sentences have already been approved by the mufti, Egypt’s official interpreter of Islamic law, whose opinion is legally required, but not binding. The rulings can still be appealed. Egypt has struggled to quell an extremist insurgency since the military overthrew Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi in 2013 and cracked down on his supporters. Egyptian courts have sentenced hundreds of Morsi supporters to death since his overthrow, but many have appealed and won new trials.Morsi and other top figures of his Muslim Brotherhood have also faced trial.

Jubeir from Rome: 4 Countries are Simply Asking Qatar to Stop Funding Terrorism
Asharq Al-Awsat/July 22/17/Rome – Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir has said that his country was ready to open a new page with Qatar if the country committed to the list of demands made by the Anti-Terror Quartet. The four countries are looking forward to Doha’s compliance with the demands “so that we turn the page of dispute,” Jubeir said on Friday at a joint press conference with his Italian counterpart Angelino Alfano in Rome. Jubeir discussed with Alfano bilateral relations and the latest developments in the region, mainly the Gulf crisis and the situation in Libya, the Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) reported. “We are simply asking Doha to commit to the principles” that have been proposed by the Anti-Terror Quartet of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE and Egypt, he said. The four countries decided to impose a diplomatic and economic boycott on Qatar last month over its history of supporting terrorism and extremist groups in the region. They also asked it to reorient its policies in order to ease the crisis. But Jubeir stressed that the move of the four countries was not aimed at “harming” Qatar. The Saudi foreign minister expressed hope that the Qataris would make a “wise” decision “so that our region becomes better.” Turning to Iran, Jubeir accused Tehran of sponsoring terrorism and spreading hatred. He reiterated that Iran continues to interfere in the internal affairs of the region’s countries and supports terrorism by spreading its networks in other states. The Saudi FM traveled to Rome from Brussels where he met with his Belgian counterpart Didier Renders and several other European officials.

Russia Says Boundaries of Eastern Ghouta ‘Safe Zone’ Determined
Asharq Al-Awsat English/July 22/17/Russia’s defense ministry said Saturday that its officials had signed a deal with moderate Syrian rebels at peace talks in Cairo on how a de-escalation in the East Ghouta zone near the capital Damascus will function. “As a result of talks held in Cairo between Russian defense ministry officials and moderate Syrian opposition brokered by the Egyptian side… agreements have been signed on how the Eastern Ghouta de-escalation zone will function,” the defense ministry said in a statement. The statement did not give further details, but said the agreement includes the zone’s borders as well as routes for delivery of humanitarian aid and free movement of civilians. The rebel stronghold of Eastern Ghouta is in one of four proposed “de-escalation zones” designated in an agreement reached by Iran and Russia- the allies of Bashar Assad’s regime- and rebel backer Turkey in May. But the deal has yet to be fully implemented over disagreements on the monitoring mechanism for the safe zones. The most recent talks in Kazakhstan this month between Russia, Turkey and Iran failed to iron out of the details of the four safe zones. Russia said that the sides have now signed agreements under which “the borders of the de-escalation zone are defined as well as the deployment locations and powers of the forces monitoring the de-escalation.”It said the sides had also agreed “routes to supply humanitarian aid to the population and for free movement of residents.”Russia said it plans to send in the first humanitarian convoy and evacuate the wounded “in the next few days.”The Eastern Ghouta region is a major rebel stronghold near the capital, and it has been the frequent target of regime military operations.

US Praises Sudan’s Efforts in Combating Terrorism
Asharq Al-Awsat/July 22/17/Washington- The United States on Thursday praised Sudan’s efforts in fighting terrorism ahead of a decision expected in October on whether to lift decades-old sanctions on Khartoum. At a time when Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir announced that his country was pursuing its efforts to lift sanctions on Sudan, his Sudanese counterpart Ibrahim Ghandour said he had received pledges from US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that the sanctions would be fully lifted in October. “The United States notes Sudan’s improved counterterrorism efforts through enhanced inter-agency and international cooperation to address the threat from ISIS and other terrorist organizations,” Heather Nauert, a spokeswoman for the State Department, said in a statement. Washington “welcomes the recent announcements by the governments of Sudan and Saudi Arabia underscoring Sudan’s commitment to sustain positive dialogue with the United States,” the statement added. Relations between Washington and Khartoum improved significantly under the administration of former US president Barack Obama, who had in January eased the sanctions imposed in 1997 with a view to lifting them completely after a six month review. President Donald Trump last week extended the review period to October 12, angering Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir who initially announced he would cut-off talks before reversing his decision and saying he would continue to work for an end to the embargo. The US outlined “five tracks” that Sudan must adhere to, including an end to hostilities against armed groups in Sudan, halting support for insurgents in neighboring South Sudan and counterterrorism cooperation with Washington. Washington imposed a complex set of economic sanctions on Sudan in 1997 for its alleged backing of militant groups, including al-Qaeda. Earlier this week, Jubeir said that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is working with Khartoum to improve its relations with the US, lift sanctions imposed on it and remove Sudan from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. “We believe that Sudan has achieved significant progress to reach lifting these sanctions and lift the name of Sudan from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, and we continue in our efforts to coordinate with Sudan and others in the region to find a solution to this situation, so that Sudan can return to its normal state and focus on development, economy and prosperity.”

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on July 22-23/17
An EU Rubber-Boat Ban Won’t Stop Migrants

Leonid Bershidsky/Bloomberg/July 22/17
If it looks as though Europe is clutching at straws to stop hundreds, sometimes thousands, of migrants from crossing the Mediterranean into Italy every day, that’s exactly what’s happening. On Monday, the European Union’s foreign ministers approved restrictions on the supply of inflatable boats and outboard motors to Libya. The boats that bring the migrants, mostly Africans these days, have long been a target of European efforts to dismantle the human-trafficking networks that control the Libya-Italy route. According to a U.K. parliamentary report, Operation Sophia, the joint European naval operation that began in 2015, had destroyed 452 boats by mid-June. These were larger, mainly wooden boats that could carry up to 500 people and offered the smugglers the greatest profit margins. Removing them from the Mediterranean has made the migrant crossings riskier. As a European Commission communication pointed out in January, the smugglers’ “business model” has changed:
They increasingly place irregular migrants and refugees on cheap and completely unseaworthy inflatable dinghies that have no prospect of ever reaching the Italian shores, assuming they will be picked up near or within Libyan territorial waters. The fact that such dinghies now account for 70 percent of all boats leaving the Libyan coast contributes to making journeys increasingly dangerous and to the rise in the number of deaths at sea. What the focus on destroying boats hasn’t changed are the migrant arrival numbers. On July 14, 5,122 people came, close to the record of 5,504 set on Aug. 31, 2016. But the EU stubbornly keeps after the boats, this time rubber ones. A Sophia report from December 2015, published by WikiLeaks three months later, noted:
Reports of rubber boast (sic) being imported from China and transhipped in Malta and Turkey are supported by a recent interception by Maltese customs of 20 packaged rubber boats in a container destined for Misratah, Libya. As there are no legal grounds for holding such shipments, it was released for delivery to the destination. That cargo would now be seized. But Europe has little control over the Chinese boat trade.
China has a lively inflatable boat industry with some 180 builders. Some two-thirds of rubber boats imported to Europe come from China. The manufacturers and sellers there know how their products are often used. On Alibaba, the biggest Chinese online market, the dinghies are marketed as “refugee boats.”
It’s easy to predict the consequences of the export restrictions. Dinghy shipments to Libya will no longer go through Malta, but rather through Turkey and North Africa. The EU sanctions have a loophole for fishermen, which will be exploited. If a shortage is created, smugglers will have to pay more for the vessels, so they’ll cram even more migrants into them or to reuse the boats instead of dumping them at sea. This may result in more deaths; so far this year, 2,174 people drowned or went missing trying to make the crossing, compared with 2,951 by this point of the year in 2016.
In May, the EU asked China to help stop the shipments. But the producing country can’t reasonably be expected to stop a large homegrown industry from shipping rubber boats to Turkey or Morocco.
The ugly reality of the current migrant crisis is that Europe can do little to stop the smuggling. The boat restrictions and EU participation in the training of the Libyan coast guard are the hopeless flailings of a bloc trapped by the consequences of the 2011 North Atlantic Treaty Organization military operation, which accelerated regime change in Libya but left it lawless and the coast practically unpoliced. In the same document that imposed the rubber boat restrictions, the EU reiterated “its firm support” for the internationally recognized government of Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj, which controls little in Libya beyond the capital city of Tripoli.
This is a losing game. There’s no point in repeating the bromide that the Libyan conflict cannot be resolved by force. Force is exactly what’s likely to resolve it, when the strongest rebel group manages to consolidate the country or when it splits up the way Somalia did. Apart from pinpointing the strongest rebels and backing them militarily — an unpalatable option to democracy-supporting Europeans — the only solution to human trafficking out of Libya would be to land an expeditionary force to pursue the smugglers. Since the EU’s joint military capability is modest, this should be an operation for NATO, which helped create the original mess and should help clean it up. If that ever happens, Chinese rubber boat sales will drop a little — but then the boat-building companies weren’t started with African migrants in mind. They’ll just have to go back to courting clients who want dinghies because they like to go fishing.

A Moscow-Based Overview for Changes in Syria

Vitaly Naumkin/Asharq Al Awsat/July 22/17
“Tangible change has been recently witnessed concerning Syria’s ongoing crisis.”
– Director of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Vitaly Naumkin
Syria’s course of negotiations was recently split into a three-way axis: Geneva, Astana and Amman—with Geneva emerging as the sole platform for comprehensive dialogue.
Similarly, talks held in Astana and Amman chiefly revolve around military and security discussions. However, the two differ in terms of outlining terms and conditions and contributing partakers.
From a present overview, it is evident that two troikas of three are being forged. The first group encompassing Russia, Turkey, Iran, and many other participants sponsoring the Astana talks. The second group being Russia, the United States and Jordan alone. The three paths complement each other.
Each of Geneva, Astana and Amman’s initiatives very much complement each other in terms of achieving a settlement for the Syrian crisis. Putting it even more carefully, the Astana-Amman platforms lay the foundations for upcoming Geneva negotiations.
De-escalation zone areas became a reality with the help of international mediators. But the argument stands on issues relevant to safe zones not being resolved.
More so, de-escalation zones are a temporary solution given that all forces at play recognize the importance and necessity of preserving Syria’s sovereignty and unity, both the land and people.
Although it is important to form “de-escalation zones” areas, as a temporary solution, many analysts wonder whether they will later on develop into a tool for dividing Syria. Temporary things have a habit of sticking around.
It is up to the international community to prevent that from happening at any cost.
Russia, for instance, continues to send military teams largely composed of the North Caucasus servicemen: Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan to Syria.
Available data shows the number of Russia-deployed troops soon reaching 1,000—most forces will be distributed over northern Syria and Aleppo, but also near de-escalation zones in the southwestern borders. Most likely they will take camp in the governorates of Daraa, Quneitra and Swaida.
On that note, recent remarks made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could also further complicate the situation in the south, after he refused to accept the Russian-US agreement of forming a fifth “de-escalation” zone. However, how that that plays out, remains unclear.
According Netanyahu, a fifth de-escalation zone would serve as an excuse for a well pronounced Iranian military presence in Syria.
As far as battleground developments go, ISIS ultra-hardliners lost lands previously held to their credit. Yet to properly address the situation at hand, it is better to focus on reducing ISIS’ territorial hold even further, rather than speaking of ultimately exterminating the terror group.
To start with, ISIS was built on the hopes of establishing a brutal and barbaric caliphate—swaths of land are a central mean to their end. Losing Raqqa, the group’s Syria stronghold, will serve as a crippling blow.
Caught in such a situation, it is expected that the group would then resort to its worldwide offshoots in Africa, Europe, Eurasia and Southeast Asia. Despite shrinking support for ISIS, there are still those who are willing to join this monstrosity.
Even in Russia, there have been registered attempts of some citizens planning to travel to Syria in hopes of joining ISIS ranks. A number of which have been arrested in Turkey, including a woman with her children.
Events recently taking place on the southern Philippines island, Mindanao, show that there are Chechen fighters who infiltrated the local population who had been sent there under ISIS orders.
Just like all the other 80 countries whose citizens have joined ISIS ranks in Syria, Russia is extremely concerned with post-battle fallout and where those extremist fighters will escape after losing their stronghold.
A large number of the abovementioned countries prefer to put down those terrorists during battles in Syria, although rehabilitation is still on the table for those who have not committed heinous crimes.
Combating terrorism has become an undisputed number one priority to most of the world’s superpowers. Especially with the US under a Trump presidency and Emmanuel Macron taking office in France.
There is an opportunity to launch a US-French cooperation, along with Russia, built on the grounds of confronting terrorist groups. Nevertheless, a full-blown French-Russian-US troika is not very likely.
It is natural that the US and France together blacklist groups condemned by the United Nations Security Council—take say ISIS and the ex-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front, regardless of the latter’s attempt to rebrand itself.
Despite all that, there have been quite a few successes in providing a mechanism for ceasefires. A truce nowadays receives a plausible level of commitment in general, but with some violations. Humanitarian access is improving. Syrian refugees began to return from abroad to liberated cities, particularly Aleppo. Russian soldiers are actively participating in reintroducing life to the city.
More on international coordination on Syria, The Friends of Syria Group whose co-presidents – Russia and the United States – has seen a sizable decline even though both counterparts upheld steady and undisclosed talks hosted by Amman.
A few days ago, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it was not yet time to reveal information about the US-Russia agreement for a new truce, but there was no doubt that it is underway.
Multinational armed forces are currently operating on Syrian territory, without an official request by the Syrian government, and without UN clearance. It is still unknown what future plans these foreign players have for their presence in Syria.
Last but not least, it is worth taking into consideration that the Kurdish factor has increased substantially. The rapprochement between Syrian Kurds and the US, which now joined forces with the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), cannot be hidden as an essential component for forces that are fighting for a “push” against ISIS on the ground.
This collaboration is being carried under a clearly drawn agreement. Analysts point to the possibility of a change in Turkey’s attitude towards the Kurdish YPG—but till this very moment Ankara still views the group as a terrorist organization.
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus’ statement was well noted when saying that Turkey “will not declare war on the YPG”, but will reserve its right to respond if it perceives any threat.
It is natural that all this describes the dynamic scene of the process in general, as this brief explanation is not enough to understand what is going on, and no doubt can follow this sequence.
With such a dynamic nature to the forces at play and the Syrian crisis in and of itself, the above simplification of the conflict remains insufficient to grasp the situation on the ground and remains open to ever-changing events.
*Vitaly Naumkin is head of the Center for Arab Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute of Oriental Studies.

Metal Detectors and Palestinian Lies
Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/July 22/17
The slain police officers were stationed there to ensure the safety of Muslim worshippers. The Palestinian spin doctors are attempting to divert attention from the terror attack by making it look as if the crisis began when Israel installed the metal detectors and not when two police officers were murdered.
First, the security measures, including the placement of the metal detectors, was not an Israeli initiative but came as a direct and necessary response to a specific terror attack. The Israeli government did not convene and take a decision to install the metal detectors in order to alter the status quo or stop Muslims from praying.
Second, it was the Palestinians who took the decision not to enter into the Temple Mount unless the metal detectors are removed. The Palestinians and the Waqf are lying to the world by telling it that Israel is denying Muslims access to their holy sites.
The Palestinian opposition to the metal detectors at the Temple Mount means one thing only: that the Palestinians are determined to turn the holy site into a weapons cache and use it as a launching pad to carry out terror attacks against Israelis. If the mosque were then actually destroyed in the process, guess who would be blamed? Possibly that is even the real agenda.
The controversy surrounding the Israeli authorities' decision to place metal detectors at the gates of the Temple Mount calls to mind the famous Arab saying, "he beat me and cried then came to me to complain." This inversion of reality is a common among perpetrators who pretend to be victims.
The decision to install the metal detectors came after Arab terrorists murdered two Israeli police officers at the Temple Mount on July 14. The three terrorists -- Israeli Arab citizens from the city of Umm al-Fahm -- used a submachine gun and knives to carry out their attack. The weapons were easily smuggled into the Temple Mount thanks to Muslim worshippers not having been required to pass through metal detectors or undergo body searches by policemen stationed at the gates.
Incredibly, the Palestinians have since been waging daily protests against the new Israeli security measures, demanding that the metal detectors be removed from the entrances to the Temple Mount. As part of the protests, Palestinian leaders have urged Muslim worshippers not to enter the Temple Mount through the metal detectors and instead to pray at the entrances to the holy site.
The Palestinian Authority (PA), Jordan and other Arab and Islamic countries are accusing Israel of violating the status quo at the Temple Mount by installing the metal detectors. One listens in vain for a denouncement of the terrorists who murdered the two Israeli police officers -- these are the people responsible for defiling the sanctity of the holy site.
We also hear no condemnation of the murder of the officers, who belong to the Druze community in Israel and who were entrusted with preserving law and order at the Temple Mount. The slain officers were stationed there to ensure the safety of Muslim worshippers. On the contrary -- many Palestinians and Arabs have applauded the terror attack as a "heroic operation" against the "Zionist enemy." The three terrorists, who were killed by Israeli policemen during the attack, are being hailed as "martyrs" and "heroes" who sacrificed their lives in defense of the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Sadly, many Israeli Arab leaders have refused to condemn the terror attack carried out by three of their fellow citizens. The metal detectors have one goal: to prevent terrorists from smuggling weapons into the Temple Mount. That is the act that should be viewed as a desecration of a holy site. Yet, rather than supporting the Israelis' attempt to thwart bloodshed on this sacred soil, the Palestinians and other Arabs blame Israel for seeking to safeguard the well-being of all people -- not least of all Muslim worshipers -- through basic security measures.
The Palestinian spin doctors are attempting to divert attention from the terror attack by making it look as if the crisis began when Israel installed the metal detectors and not when two police officers were murdered.
The Palestinians and other Arabs are now crying to the international community that Israel is seeking to change the status quo at the Temple Mount through a series of security measures. They are also trying to make it look as if Israel is preventing Muslim worshippers from entering and praying at the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
The facts, however, tell a rather different story.
First, the security measures, including the placement of the metal detectors, was not an Israeli initiative but came as a direct and necessary response to a specific terror attack. The Israeli government did not convene and take a decision to install the metal detectors in order to alter the status quo or stop Muslims from praying.
Second, it was the Palestinians who took the decision not to enter into the Temple Mount unless the metal detectors are removed. Palestinian leaders and officials the Waqf (a religious trust that manages the Temple Mount compound) were the ones who urged Muslim worshippers to stay away from the Temple Mount and hold prayers in the streets and public squares in protest against the metal detectors. The Muslim worshippers prefer to pray in the streets and public squares rather than enter the Temple Mount through metal detectors. But now the Palestinians and the Waqf are lying to the world by telling it that Israel is denying Muslims access to their holy sites.
Approximately 4,000 Palestinian Muslims pray outside the entrance to the Old City of Jerusalem, on July 19, 2017, in protest at the installation of metal detectors at the entrances to the Temple Mount.
The Palestinian propaganda machine is working overtime to market the false impression that the metal detectors are part of an Israeli scheme to spark a religious war with Muslims and destroy the Al-Aqsa Mosque. It appears, however, that quite the opposite is true. The incitement of Palestinian and Waqf officials suggests that it is they who are hell-bent on triggering a religious war with Israel and Jews.
This incitement began more than two years ago, when Palestinian and Waqf leaders started telling their people and the rest of the world that Israel was planning to destroy the Al-Aqsa Mosque and that Jews visiting the Temple Mount were "defiling with their filthy feet" an Islamic holy site. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was the first to pronounce this blood libel, which triggered a wave of knife and car-ramming attacks against Israelis that continues to this day.
The three terrorists who carried out the July 14 attack were acting precisely in accordance with the instructions of Abbas and other Palestinian and Muslim leaders: that it is the duty of Muslims to defend the Al-Aqsa Mosque from Jews. In that sense, this attack should be seen in the context of the ongoing wave of terror attacks against Israel that began in late 2015 and which is known as the "Knife Intifada."
Since then, the Palestinians have been using visits by Jews to the Temple Mount as an excuse to launch terror attacks against Israel. Palestinian officials and media outlets continue to depict these peaceful visits as "violent raids by Jewish settler gangs into the Al-Aqsa Mosque." The truth, however, is that no Jew has set foot inside the mosque. The visits are restricted to tours of the Temple Mount compound -- something that non-Muslim tourists have been doing since 1968.
In reality, it is the Palestinians themselves who are desecrating the sanctity of the Temple Mount, using the site to launch violent attacks against Jews by hurling stones at Jews praying at the nearby Western Wall.
They have also been smuggling various types of weapons into the Temple Mount in order to throw firebombs and stones at Jewish visitors and policemen. The Palestinian leadership and Waqf officials have also encouraged Muslims to harass Jewish visitors and police officers by hurling insults at them.
Last year, the Palestinians thwarted a plan by Jordan to install dozens of security cameras at the Temple Mount. The cameras were supposed to refute or confirm Palestinian allegations that Israel was plotting to destroy the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The Jordanians backed off from their plan after Palestinian intimidation, including the threat to destroy the cameras.
Why protest the plan? The Palestinians were afraid that their violence, harassment and amassing of weapons to attack Jewish visitors and police officers would be captured on camera.
Redux: Palestinian are twisting reality again, only this time with metal detectors. They are worried that the metal detectors will stop them from smuggling knives and firearms into the Temple Mount.
One wonders -- if the draw of the Al-Aqsa Mosque is prayer, why worry about metal detectors? Thousands of Palestinians pass every day through metal detectors on their way into Israel, and all that happens is that they get to work. Similarly, Palestinians and Israelis alike pass every day through metal detectors at shopping malls and state institutions, such as the Post Office, the National Insurance Institute, hospitals and medical centers. Where is the outcry?
The Palestinian opposition to the metal detectors at the Temple Mount means one thing only: that the Palestinians are determined to turn the holy site into a weapons cache and use it as a launching pad to carry out terror attacks against Israelis. If the mosque were then actually destroyed in the process, guess who would be blamed? Possibly that is even the real agenda. Who among the international community would like to sign off on that?
*Bassam Tawil is a Muslim based in the Middle East.
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Iran’s institutionalized corruption/فساد إيران المؤسساتي
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/ArabNews/July 22/17
Hossein Ferydoun, the brother of Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, was recently detained on charges linked to financial corruption. Intriguingly, Ferydoun is also a top aide to Rouhani, and enjoyed high-level contacts with the Obama administration during nuclear negotiations. Many are analyzing this development in the classic way: Empowerment of hard-liners against moderates. There is some truth to this, but there are other major issues to consider.
Financial corruption, fraud and theft by officials have crippled the lives of millions of ordinary Iranians who cannot afford to eat or find shelter. According to Transparency International’s latest corruption index, Iran is one of the most corrupt countries in the world.
Poverty is widespread, yet it is one of the world’s richest countries in terms of natural resources. It has the fourth-largest oil reserves and the second-largest gas reserves. Export industries include mining, agriculture and manufacturing.
Before Ayatollah Khomeini came to power in 1979, he promised that the government would provide free electricity and water, and “bring oil to the tables of people,” meaning oil revenues would be distributed. Soon after, his speeches about distributing the nation’s resources and wealth were banned. Anyone who talked about them could be prosecuted.
Financial theft and corruption are institutionalized in the political system. A former bank employee from Tehran told me recently: “If you’re a high-level government official, you can get huge loans with zero interest in less than an hour. Government officials get these loans, then go to the next bank down the street and invest the money, getting 20-25 percent profit. So with no effort, money is coming to their bank accounts. That’s why inflation is high. Ordinary people have to pay as high as 20 percent interest on loans, and are very lucky to get the loan in the first place.”
Cases of financial and political corruption are ubiquitous and systematic, among hard-liners and reformists alike. For example, Rouhani has been promising economic justice and to address corruption, but at the same time he has been promoting his brother and preventing investigation of his case. This shows the president and his party’s double-standards, false promises and deception regarding corruption.
From time to time, the regime detains people to portray an image of justice being done. Some poor people may be delighted or relieved that a thief was finally arrested, but the few who get detained are eventually freed from punishment.
Financial corruption, fraud and theft by officials have crippled the lives of millions of ordinary Iranians who cannot afford to eat or find shelter.
Stealing the nation’s wealth prevents the establishment of a middle class, which is often the source of social revolutions. The idea is to preoccupy people with struggling to make ends meet so they do not have the time or resources to protest. “If I skip my work for even a few hours, my children will sleep hungry at night,” a teacher and part-time taxi driver in Semnan told me.
Regime institutions such as the Revolutionary Guards and the supreme leader’s office have the most to gain from rampant corruption because there is no oversight of their financial activities. Such corruption also threatens the region, since it is exported to countries in which Tehran exerts influence. That is why Syria, Iraq and Lebanon are the only Middle Eastern countries alongside Iran at the bottom of Transparency International’s corruption index.
• Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated, Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. He serves on the boards of the Harvard International Review, the Harvard International Relations Council and the US-Middle East

Why is Kuwait angry with Iran
Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/July 22/17
Kuwait’s decision to expel Iranian diplomats and close down some of the Iranian embassy’s offices suggests that the situation has become intolerable and that Kuwait, the Gulf state, which has been friendly to its Iranian neighbor, has run out of patience. Kuwait has been very patient with regard to its neighbor’s intransigence and acts that hurts with Kuwait’s national security. Iran’s behavior has been the same since the sectarian regime came to power in 1979 and the Khomeini era began. But there are questions craving for attention. Who blew up the convoy of Kuwait’s former and late Emir Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad? Who blew up Kuwait’s popular cafes? Who hijacked a passenger aircraft? Who recruited the Kuwaiti cell in Mecca? Who established the Khomeini terrorist cell in Kuwait, known as the Abdali cell? In August 2015, Kuwaiti interior ministry said that a number of suspects who possessed weapons were arrested. The seized weapons were found in a farm in Abdali near the Iraqi borders and in houses owned by the suspects and included 19 tons of ammunition, 144 kilograms of explosives, 68 different types of arms, 204 grenades and electric detonators. At the time, the Iranian embassy issued a statement condemning the Kuwaiti interior ministry. This upset many Kuwaitis and they have every right to be angry. The Iranian foreign ministry has today condemned Kuwait and threatened it following its recent “sovereign” measure, which it took after the Kuwaiti judiciary made a decision regarding the terrorists of the Abdali cell. The moot point is that Iranian intransigence will not end until it destroys everything. They nurture a fatal illusion that they are God’s representatives. This is the unfortunate reality
Iranian boats
The cell’s members are being pursued and monitored. Following reports that they escaped on board Iranian boats and headed to the Khomeini republic. Let us also recall the attack on the Bahraini Jaw Prison last January, which was meant to break out members of a terrorist cell after killing a Bahraini policeman. The plan failed after Bahrain’s security forces captured the wrongdoers before they reached the Shetan shore. Kuwait has for decades been lenient with its neighbor. Partisan political figures supporting the Khomeini republic – such as famous MP Abdul-Hamid Dashti – have enjoyed decent margin of activity in Kuwait. A while ago, Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Sabah al-Khaled went to Tehran to mediate between Iran and the Gulf countries. But at the end of it all, this is how Iran has rewarded Kuwait. Kuwait’s official statement voiced “regret over the negative developments in relations between the two countries.” This is not the first crisis to erupt between Kuwait and Tehran as there have been other developments, one of which happened five years ago. The moot point is that Iranian intransigence will not end until it destroys everything. According to their fatal illusion, they think they are God’s representatives. This is the unfortunate reality. Iran is not a country that one can reach an understanding with. The best solution is a “truce” as for peace, yet there isn’t any.

Temporarily filing away the Qatari crisis
Salman al-Dossary/Al Arabiya/July 22/17
Forty-five days have passed since Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt took their measures against Qatar. A Kuwaiti mediation tried and strove to resolve the crisis, but the isolated party ensured its failure from the very beginning when it leaked the demands of the four Arab countries. It then went beyond that and did not even comply with any of them. The foreign ministers of the United States, France, Britain and Germany toured the region and their luck was not any better than Kuwait’s. The four countries are firm in their stance and say that Doha signed the 2014 Riyadh agreement and has not committed to it, but it is time that it does. Any mediation less than that is unacceptable. Qatar in return is insisting against respecting and committing to what it signed. It has announced that officially and boasts about it. It believes that playing the waiting game will be enough for the four countries to change their stance. It also believes that its reserve of $300 billion will be enough to save it from the boycott of its neighbors.
As long as Doha believes that it can wage a long-term confrontation and insists on reneging on its pledges and as long as the four countries believe that they have shut the doorway of evil that has been open for too long, then there is no problem in filing away the Qatar crisis after the emirate has become isolated and unwanted. The crisis should be filed away until Doha regains its memory and seriously and rationally deals with the problem. As long as it does not change its political ideology, then its neighbors will be better off continuing on a path that does not include it. As long as Doha believes that it can wage a long-term confrontation and insists on reneging on its pledges and as long as the four countries believe that they have shut the doorway of evil that has been open for too long, then there is no problem in filing away the Qatar crisis
Fair demands
The Saudi cabinet stressed its firm stance in continuing the measures adopted by the four countries until the Qatari authorities completely comply with the fair demands, which include confronting terrorism and achieving security and stability in the region. This is a stance, that since day one of the crisis, the countries have not wavered on. UAE State Minister for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said from London’s Chatham House on Monday: “We want a permanent solution and not one that will prolong the crisis. Diplomacy will remain our main course and we have said in the past that we will not escalate the situation beyond what is permitted by international law.”
Indeed, the permanent solution of rehabilitating the Qatari regime will require the four countries to continue their decision to clip Doha’s political nails that have scratched so much that blood has been shed everywhere. Any temporary solution will only exacerbate the crisis and the region will once again return to square one. Without a permanent and radical solution the crisis will continue and with greater intensity. The difference this time is that the Qatari policy will operate in dark rooms and it will be alone and isolated on its path. It will not regain the ties that it exploited terribly in order to target the national security of its neighbors.
Implementing commitments
The four countries have succeeded in cutting the road halfway for Qatar. It will cross the remaining road when Doha expresses its desire to return to their fold and implement the commitments that are required of it. It is certain that Qatar, which Gargash described as far back as 1995 as a “rebel looking for a cause” and which has found its way with extremist movements, will not be able to again play this revolutionary role. After today, it will no longer be able to spark fires throughout the region and be the only side with a firetruck. One after the other, western foreign ministers left the region without being able to give Doha what it is bargaining on. The stances of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the UAE are firm, their vision is clear and the commitments are known. Gradually, Qatar will run out of options and the world, except for Iran and Turkey, is no longer even that concerned with its crisis. The days have gone by and it has found itself isolated after everyone washed their hands clean of it. If it was capable, as it claims, to confront the measures taken against it, then this is its decision and choice. The upcoming months will be a tough test of its claims.
The Kuwaiti mediation still stands and is ready to search for a solution and not waste time in international tours. As for the four countries, it is enough that they kept on giving Doha chance after chance. They have placed its crisis above all others because they are eager for their “sister” to return to them. It is time however for them to walk without her as they have several crises and files to deal with in the next phase and away from Qatar, which ultimately chose to isolate itself.

America acknowledges: Assad stayed in power thanks to Russia, Iran
Huda al-Husseini/Al Arabiya/July 22/17
The Mercer Island High School’s magazine The Islander recently conducted an interview with US Secretary of Defense James Mattis. Mattis is a retired four-star general. He was a NATO official and a commander of the joint forces command and has participated in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
When asked why out of the thousand calls, he responded to theirs, Mattis, who was a teacher at Stanford University for 3 years, said: “I’ve always tried to help students because I think we owe it to you young folks to pass on what we learned going down the road so that you can make your own mistakes, not the same ones we made.”
During the interview, Mattis who owns a library that contains over a 1,000 books and who has a degree in history focused on the importance of studying history, said: “I wish now looking back on it, if I’d known what waited for me in life, I would have put a lot more attention into history.”
“No matter what you’re going to go into, whether it be business or politics or international relations or domestic politics, I don’t think you can go wrong if you maintain an avid interest in history. The reason I say that is you’ll find that really, there’s nothing new under the sun, other than some of the technology we use,” he added.
When asked about the war on terrorism in the Middle East in particular where ISIS is suffering military losses by recruiting foreign fighters, Mattis said the key to establish an atmosphere of stability in the Middle East is through education. “I think ideologies can be countered by showing people a better education and hope for the future,” he said.
The Saudi example
Mattis gave Saudi Arabia as an example and cited late Saudi king Abdullah bin Abdulaziz’s scholarships program which was launched in 2005 to enable academically qualified Saudi students to study abroad in esteemed in order to contribute to their country’s economic and social development.
Mattis added that Middle Eastern countries must become more productive on the economic level to guarantee that they can confront the challenges confronting society and improve education. He then talked about Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and commended his efforts to shift the kingdom’s economy from a consumer economy into a productive economy and described this as “a revolutionary effort.”
Mattis then focused on youths’ energy and said youths must be part of a positive environment in order to be safe and protected and avoid being recruited by extremist groups. He then went back to discussing history which he said it “will show you not all the answers, but it’ll tell you a lot of the questions to ask.” Mattis voiced his rejection of ideological people and said: “It’s like those people just want to stop thinking” as they reject those who are not like them. He asked why they bother and make so much effort to show that “the other” is evil or crazy. “None of us are perfect and all-knowing,” he said.
When asked about war, Mattis voiced his admiration of Greek historian and leader Thucydides who wrote the first book about history 2,000 or 3,000 years ago. He said: “The fundamental nature of war, you go all the way back to Thucydides” who said that the motive for war is fear, honor and interests and they all still exit to this day”.
“What he wrote over 2,000 years ago, 3,000 years ago still consumes people. That’s what I meant about studying history,” Mattis said. He added that although technology has become part of war, the latter is “still full of fear and courage, cowardice and duplicity, treachery, and clarity, honesty and confusion.”
When President Donald Trump picked him as Secretary of Defense, he said before the Congress that the military institution must be lethal. In the interview with The Islander, he explained: “The way that you get your diplomats listened to in an imperfect world is you make certain you back them up with hard power. So what you have to do is make certain that your foreign policy is led by the diplomats, not by the military. I meet for breakfast once a week with Secretary of State Tillerson and I’ll advise him on the military factors for his foreign policy. I think that’s where diplomats lead and the military then reinforces the diplomats.”
Mattis has revealed another side of himself that demonstrates his steadiness and leniency. He draws the present and knows that the basic partner for a good future is the young generations provided they are educated about history
After ISIS
On what will happen after ISIS is defeated, Mattis explained how Tillerson held a conference in Washington 7 weeks ago. As many as 65 countries and military, financial and humanitarian organizations participated in it and Mattis spoke during it.
Mattis told The Islander: “You don’t have to have the Americans do it all. There are many nations that said, if you will lead, we will contribute. Many nations don’t trust each other as much as they trust America, no matter what you read in the newspapers right now.”“We spent 85 percent of the meeting not talking about the military aspects. I think what you want to do is look at the Marshall Plan, but instead of the American’s carrying the full burden or even the heaviest burden.” Mattis acknowledged America’s “defeat” of wars after military victories. He noted that: “The most important thing is, if you have to go to war, then do everything you can not to go to war if at all possible.”
Mattis explained that in Desert Storm, the US achieved victories on all levels. He said that in that war, President Bush, the first President Bush, said ‘we’re not going to tolerate a nation being taken over,’ and went to war.
“And we went in, kicked them out of Kuwait, freed Kuwait, and then he would not go any further. Some people said ‘oh we’re winning let’s charge into Baghdad.’ He said ‘nope. all we’re going to do is free Kuwait.’ We went in with more troops than we needed and we ended it quickly, because he had the political end state right. Even the Russians helped us in that war by the way. They told us exactly what their radars they’d given Saddam Hussein could do so we knew where we could fly through the radar coverage.”
Trust with Arabs
Asked how the US can create an atmosphere of trust with the Arab people, especially in Iran, he said: “That’ll be a little tough, since it’s not really an election. It is the Supreme Leader who decides who gets to run. It would be like having the current American president decide who gets to run in the next campaign, and by the way, when they come in he stays in the White House and the others just kind of rotate through. So the point is that this is a country that is acting more like a revolutionary cause, not to best interests of their own people so it’s very, very hard. What you have to do eventually is what then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did, which was to move sanctions, economic sanctions, against them and force them to the negotiating table because they want to stay in power.”
He added: “They tried to murder an Arab ambassador in downtown Washington D.C. for example. Right now, they have moved ballistic missiles down to Yemen that were shot into Saudi Arabia from Yemen. It is going to be very hard to deal with them. So somehow, you don’t want to unite the Iranian people with that unpopular regime because if you pressure them both then they will grow together. We’ve got to make certain that the Iranian people know that we don’t have any conflict with them. Iran is certainly the most destabilizing influence in the Middle East.”
Mattis then discussed Syria and said Bashar al-Assad’s regime has stayed in power thanks to Iran and Russia. “Russia right now has chosen to be a strategic competitor with NATO and with the United States, so this is an area they can compete in although frankly between US military and the Russian military, we maintain very open communications with each other. We’re not engaged in the fight to get rid of Assad, we’re just there fighting ISIS. The Russians are trying to figure out how to get out of it now.” The interview with The Islander is lengthy. It narrated history and lessons learnt and explained how motives for war have been the same and have not changed although the weapons used may have differed. In the interview, Mattis has revealed another side of himself that demonstrates his steadiness and leniency. He draws the present and knows that the basic partner for a good future is the young generations provided they are educated about history. What Mattis said in detail must be circulated.

Backgammon and shallow perception of the world
Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran/Al Arabiya/July 22/17
One of the complicated matters, which have kept philosophers busy for years, is how men form convictions and ideas and formulate transforming or constant facts. Information is received by the brain and the issues one argues about are produced by a path that is relevant to the theory of knowledge.
Few days ago, I read an interesting chapter from the book “Arab mentality – violence is the master of judgments” for Fouad Ishaq al-Khoury, a Lebanese writer who takes keen interest in sociology.
In the chapter entitled “Playing and ideology,” he analyzes the Arab mentality via backgammon considering it is an Arabic game and because “the arrangement of the backgammon board reflects a general universal organization to play the game. However, some think it is related to the general universal system as the board with its squared and open shape is a symbol of the earth’s endless perfection.
The black and white bars carved in the wood are a symbol of night and day. The four angles which include the bars are a symbol of the four seasons while the 12 bars on each side represent the number of months a year.
Khoury thinks games like the board game backgammon and the card game basra follow the same flat brain while other games like volleyball, tennis, basketball and football follow the hierarchical structure. Playing influences the ideology and exposes the mentality and the role of imagination in producing the truth.
Wise men have been busy with the basic obviousness, which is considered the platform of formulating the truth, or the plurality of “paths of truth” as Martin Heidegger put it. Thus came philosophical concepts based on Aristotle’s logic and Greek ideas and on developed concept of wisdom in the East and of ideas that oppose myths from the 5th century until the 15th century.
The axis of philosophical and theoretical work, which is related to truth, is the specific definition of the logic of the latter (the truth)
Heidegger’s theory
There are influential philosophies by Edmund Husserl and his students Herbert Marcuse, Emmanuel Levinas and Martin Heidegger. Heidegger was the most influenced by Husserl despite the political differences between them. Heidegger acknowledged to his teacher that he triggered his questions about existence.
There are sharp differences between Heidegger’s theory in time and space and Husserl’s phenomenalism that aims to answer the basic question of “how can objectivity become subjective?”
This was clearly seen in his book “Ideas: General Introduction to Pure Phenomenology.” It was also seen through his debates of other philosophers’ theories about the production of truth, such as in his book “Logical Investigations.” The book has three parts in which Husserl discusses the debate about truth and its sequence of production. Husserl was armed with phenomenalism as he brought back the phenomena of awareness into the picture as they’re considered the mind’s activity and grace. To him, existence is what appears. Therefore, he went through previous philosophies and the roles which each philosopher assigned to his theory. He did so via logical research of the pure mind and by researching the obvious.
While discussing the extent of psychology’s independence from logic, he set necessary questions which he called the questions of traditional conflict that are linked to determining logic. These questions are: Is logic a theoretical art or a practical one, i.e. it’s an industry? Is it independent from other sciences such as psychology or metaphysics?
Is it a demonstrative and communal art? Or an inductive and empirical art? Despite the importance of these questions in the sequence of logic that will experiment truth, Husserl wittingly warns of being bias to traditional tendencies or of setting initial differences that influence them.
The axis of philosophical and theoretical work, which is related to truth, is the specific definition of the logic of the latter (the truth). Therefore, the collective perception of the truth destroys any potential individual outlook of the world. The main goal of philosophical differences is to establish the factors of contrast and virtues of difference especially that facts are many – as many as philosophies and more.
Defining facts have always obliterated the concept of “character” as Hegel puts it. The game – the backgammon, which Khoury mentioned – may be evidence to imagining existence and truth with its different paths and routes. And as Goethe put it: At the beginning no one is against anything as much as he’s against the errors he abandoned.