July 24/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

The Bulletin's Link on the lccc Site

 News Bulletin Achieves Since 2006
Click Here to go to the LCCC Daily English/Arabic News Buletins Archieves Since 2016

Bible Quotations For Today
No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 15/09-16/:"As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. ‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name."

A wife is bound as long as her husband lives. But if the husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, only in the Lord
First Letter to the Corinthians 07/36-40/:"If anyone thinks that he is not behaving properly towards his fiance’e, if his passions are strong, and so it has to be, let him marry as he wishes; it is no sin. Let them marry. But if someone stands firm in his resolve, being under no necessity but having his own desire under control, and has determined in his own mind to keep her as his fiance’e, he will do well.So then, he who marries his fiance’e does well; and he who refrains from marriage will do better. A wife is bound as long as her husband lives. But if the husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, only in the Lord. But in my judgement she is more blessed if she remains as she is. And I think that I too have the Spirit of God."

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on July 23-24/17
The end of Lebanon/Diana Moukalled/ArabNews/July 23/17
Turkey’s parliament could be finalizing its own demise/ Pinar Tremblay/Al Monitor/July 23/17
Emir of Qatar Speech…Dispute Does Not Lie in Different Points of View/Salman Al-dossary/Asharq Al Awsat/July 23/17
The US Special Relationship With Britain Needs a Rest/Noah Smith/Bloomberg/July 23/17
Deny the Holocaust, but Don't Question Sharia/Majid Rafizadeh/Gatestone Institute/July 23/17
A Month of Islam and Multiculturalism in France: June 2017/Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institute/July 23/17
How to Clear our Minds/Noah Smith/Bloomberg/July 23/17
A Moscow-Based Overview for Changes in Syria/Vitaly Naumkin/Asharq Al Awsat/July 23/17

Titles For Latest Lebanese Related News published on July 23-24/17
Families Fear for IS-Held Troops as Hizbullah Presses Assault on Nusra
Hizbullah Seizes 70% of Arsal Outskirts, Entire Area around Flita
Report: Turkey Rejects Taking in al-Talli, Gulf State Voices Readiness
Army Arrests Lebanese IS Militant in Arsal
Clashes continue between Hezbollah and Nusra Front in Wadi Hmayd, alMalahi
Syrian air raids over remaining parts of Arsal outskirts in Wadi alKhail
Syrian warplanes circle over Arsal outskirts
Saraya Ahl Sham announces ceasefire in Arsal outskirts
Hezbollah moves towards Wadi Khail depth
Nusra strongholds under Hezbollah's control
Citizen arrested for security involvement with 'Daesh'
AlRai: If all officials exercise authority in the light of truth, then all people would be blessed with justice and peace
Kataeb Party, civil society demonstrate against tax increase
Protesters Rally against New Taxes in Central Beirut Demo
The end of Lebanon
Assassination of Man Mediating With ‘Al-Nusra’ to Leave Lebanon’s Arsal

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on July 23-24/17
Report: Turkey Rejects Taking in al-Talli, Gulf State Voices Readiness
Calls to Hold Arab Foreign Ministers Emergency Meeting in 48 Hours
Arab, Russian Interposition Forces in Damascus’ Ghouta
El-Sisi: No Tolerance with those Funding Terrorists
The Palestinian Authority Appeals to International Forces to Protect Jerusalem
France Seeks a Libya Breakthrough during Haftar-Sarraj Elysee Meeting
Erdogan in the Gulf Seeking to Ease Qatar Crisis
Jordanian Killed and Israeli Wounded in Amman Embassy 'Incident'
8 Found Dead, 28 Hurt in Tractor Trailer in Texas
Rights Group Says Qatar 'Blockade' Hurts Civilians
Mogherini Urges Talks to Resolve Gulf crisis
Don't Interfere in Turkish Affairs, Erdogan Tells Germany

Latest Lebanese Related News published on July 23-24/17
Families Fear for IS-Held Troops as Hizbullah Presses Assault on Nusra
Naharnet/July 23/17/Families of nine Lebanese servicemen held hostage since 2014 by the jihadist Islamic State group have expressed concerns over the fate of their sons, amid an unprecedented offensive by Hizbullah aimed at ousting all militants from the Lebanese-Syrian border region. “I don't know how the battle will move forward but I have witnessed that the pressure is focused in a certain direction,” Hussein Youssef, the father of captive soldier Mohammed Youssef, says in an interview with LBCI TV, referring to the fact that Hizbullah's operation has so far been focused on the jihadist al-Nusra Front group although IS also has posts in the border region.“We have nine servicemen (in IS captivity). What is their situation and what is their fate amid this pressure, bombardment and battles?” Youssef wondered. “I'm not asking for stopping anything and I'm not saying that we should turn into a card of pressure... but everyone in this battle is responsible for the fate of these servicemen, whether the outcome turns out to be positive or negative,” he added. He also warned that the families “will not accept accept that these servicemen turn into a victim” of any military developments. The fate of the nine servicemen has been shrouded with mystery for around two years now and their families have organized numerous street protests to press authorities to unveil their fate and secure their release. The nine men were among more than 30 troops and policeman who were abducted during the deadly 2014 battle the Lebanese army and IS and Nusra jihadists in and around the northeastern border town of Arsal. Four of the servicemen were eventually executed by the two groups as a fifth died of his wounds. And while al-Nusra released 16 captives as part of a 2015 swap deal with the Lebanese state, the fate of the nine hostages who were kidnapped by IS remains unknown.

Hizbullah Seizes 70% of Arsal Outskirts, Entire Area around Flita
Naharnet/July 23/17/Hizbullah on Sunday pressed on with its assault in the outskirts of the northeastern border town of Arsal, seizing more strategic points from the hands of the Fateh al-Sham jihadist group, which was known as al-Nusra Front before announcing a severing of ties with al-Qaida. Hizbullah's military media unit said the group's fighters seized control of the entire outskirts of Syria's Flita from Nusra's hands and were in control of around 70% of Arsal's outskirts by Sunday afternoon. "The resistance has seized control of the Shaabat Sharaf hill, the Hqab Wadi al-Kheil hill, Dalil Wadi al-Rihan, Hqab Wadi al-Rihan, Wadi al-Rihan and Hqab al-Tabbeh in Arsal's outskirts," the unit said. Syrian warplanes meanwhile carried out intense raids on the Wadi al-Kheil area. According to the National News Agency, Nusra's presence has become limited to the Wadi Hmayyed and al-Malahi areas after Hizbullah took Wadi al-Kheil and the al-Kassarat region. "The Lebanese army is still confronting any infiltration attempt by the militants towards the town of Arsal," NNA added. Hizbullah had achieved major progress in Arsal's outskirts in the morning, capturing al-Oueini valley, “an important Nusra post in the outskirts,” Hizbullah's military media unit said. Hizbullah also took the strategic Shoabat al-Qalaa mountain which, according to the military media unit, lies 2,350 meters above sea level and oversees the al-Dobb and al-Rihan valleys. According to NNA, artillery and rocket fire was also targeting al-Nisr valley amid a notable advance towards the al-Shayyar hill. Also on Sunday, the Saraya Ahl al-Sham rebel group announced a ceasefire in Arsal “in preparation for negotiations.”According to the military media unit, at least 46 Nusra militants were killed in Arsal's outskirts and at least 23 others were killed in Flita's outskirts on Sunday while dozens of the jihadist group's fighters were wounded. Hizbullah had launched its long-awaited assault in the border region on Friday and has lost around 19 fighters in the ongoing battle.

Report: Turkey Rejects Taking in al-Talli, Gulf State Voices Readiness
Naharnet/July 23/17/Turkey has rejected the possibility of offering refuge to Abu Malek al-Talli, the embattled leader of al-Nusra Front for the Lebanese-Syrian border region, al-Jadeed TV said on Sunday. Al-Talli and his group have become besieged by Hizbullah and the Syrian army after losing around 70% of territory in the outskirts of the Lebanese town of Arsal during three days of a major offensive. According to Hizbullah's media outlets, al-Nusra has also lost all of its positions in the outskirts of the neighboring Syrian town of Flita. Al-Jadeed also reported that “a Gulf country has expressed willingness to help” in the issue of al-Talli's withdrawal from the border region. Although the TV network did not name the Gulf state, both Turkey and Qatar are suspected of having good ties with al-Qaida's ex-Syria affiliate al-Nusra, which is still considered a terrorist group by the United Nations and the international community.

Army Arrests Lebanese IS Militant in Arsal

Naharnet/July 23/17/Army intelligence agents on Sunday arrested Lebanese national Khodr al-Fliti in the northeastern border town of Arsal, media reports said. As TV networks described Fliti as a dangerous terrorist, state-run National News Agency said the man is accused of “working for the terrorist Islamic State group and trading with and transporting arms and explosives aimed at targeting army patrols.” The development comes amid a major Hizbullah offensive in the town's outskirts against al-Qaida's former Syria affiliate Fateh al-Sham Front. Hizbullah intends to wage an operation against the IS group in the border region in the coming days, according to media reports.

Clashes continue between Hezbollah and Nusra Front in Wadi Hmayd, alMalahi

Sun 23 Jul 2017/NNA - Clashes are ongoing at this instant between Hezbollah and al-Nusra Front in Wadi Hmayd and al-Malahi, coupled with heavy fire using artillery and rocket-propelled grenades, NNA correspondent in Baalbek reported Sunday.
Meanwhile, the Lebanese army continues to counter any infiltration of militants into Arsal.

Syrian air raids over remaining parts of Arsal outskirts in Wadi alKhail
Sun 23 Jul 2017/NNA - Syrian warplanes launched heavy raids over the remaining parts of Arsal outskirts at the entrance to Wadi al-Khail, NNA correspondent in Baalbek reported on Sunday evening. Meanwhile, "Saraya Ahl al-Sham" wounded militants during battles in Wadi Hmayd between al-Nusra and Hezbollah were taken to al-Rahma Field Hospital in Arsal, namely Ahmed Reda Jarboua (20 years), Adnan Khaled Joumaa(28 years), Hussein Joumaa Karkour (17 years), Hassan Ahmed Zahra (30 years), NNA correspondent added.

Syrian warplanes circle over Arsal outskirts

Sun 23 Jul 2017/NNA - Syrian warplanes circled over Arsal's outskirts along the eastern chain of Lebanese mountains, NNA correspondent in Baalbek reported Sunday.

Saraya Ahl Sham announces ceasefire in Arsal outskirts
Sun 23 Jul 2017/NNA - Saraya Ahl al-Sham announced a ceasefire in the outskirts of Arsal, as a precursor to negotiations with Hezbollah, National News Agency correspondent said on Sunday.

Hezbollah moves towards Wadi Khail depth
Sun 23 Jul 2017/NNA - Hezbollah is currently pounding Nusra positions with heavy artillery in the area of Wadi al-Khail, and moving towards the depth of the valley, which separates between Arsal outskirts and town of Arsal, National News Agency correspondent said on Sunday.

Nusra strongholds under Hezbollah's control

Sun 23 Jul 2017/NNA - Wadi al-Khail and the Kassarat region, which constitute the largest stronghold of Nusra Front, have fallen after Hezbollah's swift advance inside the Lebanese territories of Arsal outskirts, National News Agency correspondent said on Sunday. Hezbollah holds more than 70 percent of Arsal oustkirts territories, NNA correspondent added. It was also reported that the Resistance seized more positions from Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, which included: Al-Lazzabeh height, Shoaabat and Al-Tabeh in the outskirts of Arsal.

Citizen arrested for security involvement with 'Daesh'
Sun 23 Jul 2017/NNA - Citizen Kh. al-Flaiti was arrested on Sunday on charges of being involved in security acts in favor of "Daesh" terrorist organization, and in trading and transferring weapons and explosives to target Lebanese army patrols, NNA correspondent in Baalbek reported.

AlRai: If all officials exercise authority in the light of truth, then all people would be blessed with justice and peace
Sun 23 Jul 2017/NNA - Maronite Patriarch, Cardinal Bshara Butros al-Rai, wished Sunday that all state officials would practice their authority and duties in the light of truth, so that all people can be blessed with goodness, justice, peace and respect for their rights and human dignity. "If all those responsible for public affairs could test the beauty of truth that liberates, they would free themselves from their illegal material interests and narrow calculations, and would value the liberals who derive their strength from their competence, morality, integrity and respect for the law," said al-Rai.
The Patriarch's words came during Sunday Mass held in Bkirki, which was attended by Foreign Affairs Minister, Gebran Bassil, and more than 1500 young men and women of the "Maronite Youth Diaspora" in America, Argentine, Australia, Colombia, France, Cyprus, Ukraine, Africa, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Palestine and the Holy Lands. Al-Rai urged the youthful generations in Lebanon and abroad "to harbor no fears because they are in the heart of God," and to "remain steadfast and courageous, testifying to the truth for the sake of building a better society."

Kataeb Party, civil society demonstrate against tax increase
Sun 23 Jul 2017/NNA - Kataeb Party and the civil society organizations, on Sunday demonstrated against the recently approved tax increase in Downtown Beirut.
Member of Kataeb political bureau, Serge Dagher, urged President of the Republic not to sign the new tax law and return it to Parliament, noting that the party will continue its protest till the end.

Protesters Rally against New Taxes in Central Beirut Demo
Naharnet/July 23/17/Protesters from the Kataeb Party, civil society groups, the National Liberal Part and the Lebanese Communist Party rallied Sunday in downtown Beirut in rejection of the new taxes that were passed by Parliament to fund the new wage scale. The demonstrators warned that the new taxes will harm the lower and middle classes. The demo started outside the building of Beirut Municipality and protesters then marched to Banks Street to an area outside parliament's building before moving to the Riad al-Solh Square and the Martyrs Square. Kataeb secretary general Patrick Risha renewed the party's call for President Michel Aoun to return the tax law to parliament for reevaluation. Kataeb chief MP Sami Gemayel had on Thursday called on Aoun not to sign the tax law and to return it to the legislature, warning of a possible “economic disaster.”“The president has the ability to stop the crime that will be committed against the Lebanese people and economy,” said Gemayel at a press conference. He warned that the taxes that have been approved would lower citizens' purchasing power “by 10 to 20%” and would also push “more than 100,000 citizens below the poverty line,” citing studies by the American University of Beirut. Gemayel also quoted Father Butros Azar, the secretary general of Catholic schools, as saying that school tuitions would rise an average of 27%. “The prices of apartments will also rise and our youths will suffer,” the young MP cautioned. The new taxes involve hiking the VAT tax from 10% to 11%, fines on seaside violations, and taxes on cement, administrative transactions, sea imports, lottery prizes, financial firms and banks. Authorities have argued that the new taxes are necessary to fund the new wage scale but opponents of such a move have called for finding new revenues through putting an end to corruption and the waste of public money.

The end of Lebanon/ديانا مقلد: نهاية لبنان

Diana Moukalled/ArabNews/July 23/17
The battle of Jaroud Arsal, launched by Hezbollah on the Lebanese-Syrian border, has multiple goals.
This battle was waged after a primary Russian-US agreement regarding safe zones in Syria. Iran apparently did not welcome this agreement, thinking it marginalized Tehran; its discontent was manifested in efforts to assert its influence in Syria and Lebanon, where the Arsal battle is taking place.
The Iran-backed Hezbollah paved the way for this battle through a large political media campaign in Lebanon supported by political forces, either because they are Hezbollah’s allies or have decided to surrender to its power. Behind the fabricated speeches about “protecting Lebanon,” they are in fact working to create a safe zone for future repatriated Syrian refugees. Iran also wants to strengthen its areas of influence in Syria and tighten the safety belt around these areas.
Hezbollah knows that no one in Lebanon can object to this battle because no one wants to keep Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham (JFS), the militant group formerly known as Al-Nusra Front, controlling the barren areas on the borders. Hezbollah knows very well how and when to take advantage of decisive moments.
Hezbollah waged these battles, supported by shallow patriotic feelings, and undermining the role of the military institution on the borders. Hezbollah was able to get the needed compassion and support by launching a campaign of hatred against the Syrian refugees by spreading racist videos, in which Lebanese were seen beating Syrians, following the killing of Syrian detainees tortured by the Lebanese army. Hezbollah sowed misperceptions about Syrian refugees and the terrorists.
Patriotism in Lebanon today is just blind, ignorant hatred, and allows for the depiction of what is going on in Jaroud Arsal as a battle against terrorism. It is in fact a battle to confirm regional Iranian influence and undermine Lebanon even more.
When there is no value to borders, sovereignty and citizens, the end of Lebanon becomes a crystal-clear reality.
What homeland are they defending, when the citizens’ feelings are being fueled with hatred against refugees, who are portrayed as terrorists?
The Lebanese have accepted the army’s killing of four Syrian detainees because they believed that this will pave the way for a stronger state fighting terrorism. However, it is really about preparing the soil for a wider regional sectarian plan.
Hezbollah is today the sole decision-making power in Lebanon. The government has to secure the party’s mission in Syria, in return for trivial rewards. No one cares about refugee camps being set on fire, detainees being tortured and killed, a journalist being arrested for commenting on Facebook or a lawyer being threatened because she dared to defend victims of torture. All this no longer offends anyone in Lebanon, and we cannot escape the fact that Lebanon is now a state ruled by Hezbollah.
What is happening in Arsal is that Hezbollah is expanding its influence, with the Lebanese army remaining mute. When there is no value to borders, sovereignty and citizens, the end of Lebanon becomes a crystal clear reality.
• Diana Moukalled is a veteran journalist with extensive experience in both traditional and new media. She is also a columnist and freelance documentary producer. She can be reached on Twitter @dianamoukalled.

Assassination of Man Mediating With ‘Al-Nusra’ to Leave Lebanon’s Arsal
Asharq Al Awsat/July 23/17/Beirut- “Hezbollah” continued on Saturday to advance in the battle of Jurud Arsal located at the Lebanese eastern borders with Syria, decreasing the area of control of al-Nusra Front, which the Lebanese Army said killed former vice-president of Arsal Municipality, Ahmad Flayti during negotiations with militants over possible withdrawal from Wadi Hmayed. Security sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Lebanese Army on Saturday foiled three attempts by al-Nusra Front to infiltrate into their military positions, particularly those located in the Safa Lizab and Wadi al-Damm in Jurud Arsal. In a statement issued on Saturday, the Lebanese Army said: “The terrorist Al-Nusra Front targeted Ahmad Flayti accompanied by Fayez Flayti who were driving in the Wadi Hmayed to meet with terrorists groups and negotiate over their withdrawal from the area.”The army said that the attack killed Ahmad and injured Fayez. Vice-president of Arsal municipality Rima Karnabi told Asharq Al-Awsat: “It is now difficult to solve the developments in Arsal through negotiations.” Head of Arsal municipality Bassel al-Hojeiri agreed with Karnabi. “Talks about a possible negotiation suffered a severe setback.”On Saturday, the National News Agency (NNA) said the Lebanese army shelled terrorist groups in Safa Lizab and destroyed their anti-mechanism artillery, while “Hezbollah” was still advancing in the Jurud Arsal area. Reuters quoted a security source putting Hezbollah’s death toll at 15 early on Saturday, and said at least 43 militants had been killed. Hezollah’s Al Manar TV said large groups from al-Nusra Front had raised six white flags in surrender near the Wadi Khalil area in Jurud Arsal, while the Lebanese Army and “Hezbollah” raised the Lebanese flag in the strategic hilltop of Dhahr al-Huwa, which is considered a key Nusra Front base in the area. From the Syrian side, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Syrian warplanes launched more raids against al-Nusra Front positions near the Lebanese-Syrian borders. Meanwhile, NNA said Interior Minister Nuhad 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 said.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on July 23-24/17
Report: Turkey Rejects Taking in al-Talli, Gulf State Voices Readiness
Naharnet/July 23/17/Turkey has rejected the possibility of offering refuge to Abu Malek al-Talli, the embattled leader of al-Nusra Front for the Lebanese-Syrian border region, al-Jadeed TV said on Sunday. Al-Talli and his group have become besieged by Hizbullah and the Syrian army after losing around 70% of territory in the outskirts of the Lebanese town of Arsal during three days of a major offensive. According to Hizbullah's media outlets, al-Nusra has also lost all of its positions in the outskirts of the neighboring Syrian town of Flita. Al-Jadeed also reported that “a Gulf country has expressed willingness to help” in the issue of al-Talli's withdrawal from the border region. Although the TV network did not name the Gulf state, both Turkey and Qatar are suspected of having good ties with al-Qaida's ex-Syria affiliate al-Nusra, which is still considered a terrorist group by the United Nations and the international community.

Calls to Hold Arab Foreign Ministers Emergency Meeting in 48 Hours
Asharq Al Awsat/July 23/17/Cairo- Hossam Zaki, assistant secretary general of the Arab League, told Asharq Al-Awsat that a meeting for Arab foreign ministers is being prepared upon the request of Jordan – it is supposed to be held within 48 hours. Arab diplomatic sources revealed that there are ongoing connections to hold an emergency ministerial meeting to discuss latest developments in Jerusalem and Aqsa Mosque. Aqsa Mosque witnessed during the past two days serious violations from the Israeli Occupation Forces against Palestinian prayers, killing four Palestinians and wounding 400 as well as arresting dozens. This pushed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to announce suspending communications with Israel until the occupation retracts its procedures in the Aqsa Mosque. In a related matter, Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Ahmed Abou Zaid said that Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry received a phone call on Saturday from his Jordanian counterpart Ayman Safadi and they discussed the deteriorating security condition in Jerusalem and Aqsa Mosque in addition to the aggression against Palestinians. They both evaluated the situation from various sides and stressed importance of ceasing Israeli escalation against Palestinians and removing imposed restrictions on practicing rituals in Aqsa Mosque. Abou Zaid added that foreign ministers of Egypt and Jordan tackled possible procedures that can be taken to face the current crisis. In a statement for the Egyptian foreign ministry, it called for an instant cease of violence and security escalation against Palestinian in Jerusalem and Aqsa Mosque, expressing concerns over the situation. Egypt emphasized that Israel should respect sacredness of religious sites and the right of Palestinian to practice religious rituals freely and safely.

Arab, Russian Interposition Forces in Damascus’ Ghouta
Asharq Al Awsat/July 23/17/Moscow, Beirut- Russia’s Defense Ministry announced on Saturday reaching an agreement with moderate opposition forces on how a ceasefire will function in Damascus’ Ghouta. The agreement excluded Faylaq Al-Islam, although the group had previously accepted to join the truce in the area. The Russian Defense Ministry said on Saturday: “After talks were held in Cairo between representatives of the Russian Defense Ministry and the Syrian opposition with the mediation of the Egyptian side, the parties signed agreements on the mechanisms needed for the functioning of the East Ghouta de-escalation zone.”The involved parties agreed on the borders of the zone and the deployment locations and powers of the forces monitoring the de-escalation. “The first humanitarian convoy to the de-escalation zone and evacuation of the injured are due within days,” the Russian ministry added. Although the truce in Syria was still being breached, the Syrian regime announced the end of fighting in parts of Eastern Ghouta. In a statement, the army said “a halt in fighting in some areas of Eastern Ghouta in Damascus province would start at midday Saturday.”Meanwhile, political leader of Jaish al-Islam Mohammed Alloush confirmed the ceasefire agreement. “Yes, the agreement was reached and now it came into force,” he said, adding that the agreement would hopefully end the siege in Ghouta and would allow the delivery of humanitarian aid and fuel. Early this year, Russia, Iran and Turkey agreed to form four proposed safe zones in Syria, including the Eastern Ghouta area. Separately, the Ahrar al-Sham movement suffered on Saturday a resounding loss during its last round of fighting with Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham in the Idlib province. Tahrir al-Sham, a group led by Jubhat al-Nusra, controlled 30 villages and towns in the province last week and more importantly, the armed group was capable to force Ahrar al-Sham to hand over Bab al-Hawa crossing border with Turkey to a civil administration, which would later be under the supervision of al-Nusra.

El-Sisi: No Tolerance with those Funding Terrorists
Asharq Al Awsat/July 23/17/Cairo- In an assertion that no lenience will be shown in the crisis with Qatar and the list of Arab demands delivered by the Quartet States to Doha, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi said on Saturday that his country would show no tolerance with those funding terrorism. “Terrorism will not be eliminated unless countries that finance it are held accountable. It is impossible to tolerate those countries financing terrorism with billions of dollars, leading to the killing of our citizens, while boasting about the rights of brothers and neighbors,” el-Sisi said. The Egyptian president was speaking Saturday at al-Hammam City during the inauguration of Mohamed Naguib military base, which is located at the western border with Libya. The ceremony was attended by an array of prominent Gulf and Arab figures, including Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Emir of the Holy Mecca Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, Crown Prince of Bahrain Salman Bin Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifah and Commander of the Libyan National Army General Haftar Khalifa. El-Sisi said in his speech that patience has long-drawn-out regarding the role of some countries and parties in sponsoring and financing terrorism. “To those countries we say that the blood of innocent people is expensive, and what you are doing will not go unpunished,” the president said, adding: “You will not be able to undermine Egypt or our brothers in the region.”Last month, the Arab Quartet including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE, cut their diplomatic ties with Qatar, accusing Doha of supporting terrorism and building closer ties with Iran. El-Sisi said the new Mohamed Naguib military base embodies the advanced level reached by the Egyptian Armed Forces that could now compete with the most modern military bases in the world. Participants later attended an aerial show of the French-made Rafale aircraft, followed by a presentation of two separate American-made F-16 models.

The Palestinian Authority Appeals to International Forces to Protect Jerusalem
Asharq Al Awsat/July 23/17/Ramallah- The Palestinian Authority (PA) on Saturday appealed to world countries to aid in protecting Jerusalem and Palestinians amid rising tensions over Al-Aqsa Mosque. Israeli authorities had sent extra troops into the occupied West Bank as international concern mounted over the deadliest outbreak of violence between the two sides for years. PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah urged international forces and the United Nations to swiftly and actively intervene to protect Palestinians. Hamdallah accused Israel for carrying out heinous killings and violence against Palestinians. Palestinians in Jerusalem for the second week were refused access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site, at the Israeli gates. For the first time since the outbreak of the crisis, Israel has shown signs of a possible retreat. Israeli sources said Public Security Minister of Israel Gilad Erdan will discuss with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu possible alternatives to re-opening the site’s gates gates later. Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai also announced that an Israeli technical committee would examine the possible security alternatives to the gates. The signs of the Israeli withdrawal came “We’re willing to examine alternatives to the metal detectors as long as the solution of alternative ensures the prevention of the next attack,” the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, said Saturday. The Palestinian Health Ministry said one Palestinian was killed during a separate clash outside the city, taking the death toll from the past two days to seven. It did not provide details of how he died. Three Israelis were stabbed to death on Friday while eating dinner in a West Bank settlement. Hours earlier, three Palestinians were killed in violence prompted by Israel’s installation of metal detectors at entry points to the Noble Sanctuary-Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem’s walled Old City. Israel’s opposition leaders Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni called for immediate solutions after clashes went on escalating. Herzog said that all political and security means must be activated to restore calm and reduce violence before it further worsens He called for calmness and foresight in order to stop the bloodshed.

France Seeks a Libya Breakthrough during Haftar-Sarraj Elysee Meeting
Michel Abu Najm/Asharq Al Awsat/July 23/17/Paris- French President Emanuel Macron has shown that French diplomacy will be adopting a new approach in which it is prepared to take on a direct role in mediating for a Libya settlement. For over six years, the Libya row and crisis has affected European countries in terms of immigration, an upsurge in terrorism, growing trafficking activity. Not only that but regional stability and security for north African countries and the coast have been threatened. On that note, Paris is preparing to host an exceptional meeting on Tuesday, likely to be held at the Elysee Palace. The meeting will bring together President Macron, Libya’s UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) leader Fayez al-Sarraj, and Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar. The new head of the United Nations support mission in Libya (UNSMIL), Ghassan Salame, the Arab League representatives, European Union delegates will also attend the meeting. So far, Paris had stuck to general diplomatic rhetoric concerning Libya, and arranging for an intervening meeting did not appear in any of government’s agendas. A number of Paris-based sources told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that France seeks a “breakthrough” in the Libya file, hoping that the upcoming Sarraj-Haftar will hold better prospects for a settlement than the last two meetings. The warring leaders had met in Abu Dhabi, UAE last May. At the Abu Dhabi meeting, the two agreed on a number of issues, notably fresh parliamentary and presidential elections, a truce, the need to fight terrorism, the development a united army and an end to the UN-imposed weapons. It would be surprising, if the Paris encounter takes place, if they do not repeat these, especially the elections call now that it has become a key policy of Sarraj.France recognizes the Presidency Council and insists the Libyan Political Agreement is the sole basis for resolving the Libyan crisis, but it has also provided intelligence support to the Haftar-led LNA in its fight against extremists in the east of the country.

Erdogan in the Gulf Seeking to Ease Qatar Crisis

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 23/17/President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday began a key visit to the Gulf region aimed at defusing the standoff around Turkey's ally Qatar, saying no one had an interest in prolonging the crisis. Erdogan, whose country has come to Qatar's aid in the crisis, had talks in Jeddah Sunday with King Salman who hailed the Turkish leader's "efforts in the fight against terrorism and its financing," Saudi state news agency SPA reported. Erdogan is scheduled to fly to Kuwait later Sunday before heading to Qatar on Monday for his first face-to-face talks with Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani since the crisis began. "No one has any interest in prolonging this crisis any more," Erdogan said in Istanbul before leaving on the two-day trip. He accused "enemies" of seeking to "fire up tensions between brothers" in the region. Erdogan praised Qatar's behavior in the crisis, saying Doha had sought to find a solution through dialogue. "I hope our visit will be beneficial for the region," he said. On June 5, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt cut ties with Qatar, accusing it of backing extremism and fostering ties with their Shiite rival Iran. Doha denies the claim and has been strongly backed by Ankara throughout the standoff. The crisis with Qatar has put Turkey in a delicate position, and Erdogan has repeatedly said he wants to see the end of the dispute as soon as possible. In recent years, Qatar has emerged as Turkey's number one ally in the Middle East, with Ankara and Doha closely coordinating their positions on a number of issues including the Syria conflict where both are staunch foes of President Bashar al-Assad. Crucially, Turkey is in the throes of setting up a military base in Qatar, its only such outpost in the region. It has expedited the process since the crisis began and reportedly now has 150 troops at the base. "From the first moments of the Qatar crisis, we have been on the side of peace, stability, solidarity and dialogue," said Erdogan.
Gulf's 'elder statesman'
But Turkey, which is also going through a turbulent time with the European Union and the United States, also does not want to wreck its own relations with regional kingpin Saudi Arabia. As well as meeting King Salman, Erdogan was also to hold talks with Mohammed bin Salman for the first time since he was elevated to the role of crown prince and his father's heir in a dramatic June reshuffle of the royal house. "As the elder statesman in the Gulf region, Saudi Arabia has a big role to play in solving the crisis," said Erdogan, taking care not to explicitly criticize the kingdom. Erdogan said he supported the mediation efforts of Kuwait's Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah, a possible indication Ankara sees Kuwait as the key to solving the crisis. The Qatari emir said Friday he was ready for talks to resolve the row as long as the emirate's sovereignty is respected. His call received a cold reception from the UAE's state minister for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, who said he hoped the emir had pledged to reconsider Qatar's position. "Dialogue is necessary, but it should be based on a revision" of Qatar's stance, he tweeted. Erdogan is likely to get a warm welcome in Doha where Turkey has been loudly applauded for sending in food, including fruit, dairy and poultry products by ship and by plane to help Doha beat an embargo. Turkey has also benefited, with its exports to Qatar doubling in the past month to more than $50 million. According to the economy ministry, Ankara has sent around 200 cargo planes filled with aid since the crisis began. Erdogan's tour coincides with a visit to Kuwait by the EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini, who held talks Sunday with Kuwaiti officials. A statement said Mogherini paid tribute to Kuwait's "relentless mediation efforts" in the dispute and called for a resolution "through dialogue and without delay."

Jordanian Killed and Israeli Wounded in Amman Embassy 'Incident'
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 23/17/A Jordanian was killed on Sunday and an Israeli seriously wounded at Israel's embassy in Amman, a security source said. "A Jordanian man was killed and an Israeli man wounded and is in a serious condition following an incident inside the (Israeli) embassy" in the residential Rabiyeh neighborhood of Amman, said the source who declined to be named or give further details.

8 Found Dead, 28 Hurt in Tractor Trailer in Texas
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 23/17/Eight suspected migrants were found dead early Sunday inside an overheated truck in a Walmart parking lot in Texas, and nearly 30 others were hospitalized, in what police said appeared to be a "horrific" human trafficking crime. Twenty of those taken to area hospitals after the discovery in San Antonio -- about a two hour drive from the Mexican border -- were in serious to "extremely critical" condition, suffering from heat stroke and dehydration, authorities said. City police chief William McManus said the truck driver had been arrested. At least 38 people were in the trailer including now fewer than two school-age children, Fire Chief Charles Hood said, but McManus later told CNN that the dead were all adult men. It was not immediately clear how many might have escaped and were unaccounted for. "We got a call from a Walmart employee about a welfare check in a tractor-trailer that was parked on the lot here," McManus told a news conference. "He was approached by someone from that truck, who was asking for water." The employee returned with the water and then called the police who "found eight people dead in the back of that trailer," the police chief said, calling it a "horrific tragedy.""We're looking at a human trafficking crime this evening," McManus said.
'Hot to the touch'
Authorities used helicopters to rush some of the injured to seven area hospitals, Hood said, saying some were in "extremely critical condition or very serious condition." He added that the people in the truck were "hot to the touch," adding the air conditioner in the trailer was not working. Weather in the area has been hot and dry. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and immigration officials are assisting local law enforcement with the investigation. "This is not an isolated incident... this happens all the time," McManus said. "It happens late at night, under darkness because they don't want to be discovered." The police chief said store security footage showed that some vehicles came to pick up some travelers who were on the truck and who had made it out alive. It was not immediately clear how long the truck had been in the parking lot, and police were working to determine who owns it. Tens of thousands of illegal migrants from Mexico and Central America attempt to make the treacherous trip into the United States each year. In 2003, 19 would-be migrants died in an overheated truck while being taken from south Texas near the Mexican border to Houston.
President Donald Trump has pledged to build a security wall along America's border with its neighbor -- and make Mexico pay for it -- in order to crack down on illegal immigration, leading to raised tensions with Mexico City. So far, the project has been stalled by reluctance in Congress to dedicate funding for the barrier, which could cost as much as $20 billion according to some estimates. U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly has been to Mexico twice to discuss immigration, human trafficking and the spiraling cross-border drugs trade. "By any standard, the horrific crime uncovered last night ranks as a stark reminder of why human smuggling networks must be pursued, caught and punished," acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement director Thomas Homan said in a statement. "These networks have repeatedly shown a reckless disregard for those they smuggle, as last night's case demonstrates."

Rights Group Says Qatar 'Blockade' Hurts Civilians
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 23/17/A non-profit rights group called on Sunday for an end to the "blockade" on Qatar, warning that the regional boycott against Doha has led to "forced separation" of families. "We demand the countries that imposed the embargo on Qatar reverse their June 5 decision, compensate the victims and allow students to complete the academic year," Abdelmajid Mrari of the Brussels-based rights group AFD International told a press conference in Doha. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt on June 5 cut all ties with Doha, recalling their ambassadors and banning Qatar from using their airspace. They accuse Qatar of ties to Shiite Iran and of supporting Islamist extremism, allegations the emirate has consistently denied. The four Arab states also ordered all Qataris to repatriate, including students, and closed the country's only land border with Saudi Arabia. Some rights groups have raised concerns that the measure could split mixed families. "Mothers have told me that children have become frightened, overwhelmed watching the news, terrified that they are going to be taken away from their mother, which no child should undergo, when it is a distinct violation of children's right to a childhood," said Mairead Tagg, a psychologist with AFD International. "Childhood should not be characterized by terror, worry and separation, and forced separation from parents."

Mogherini Urges Talks to Resolve Gulf crisis
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 23/17/European Union foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini on Sunday called for swift direct talks to resolve the Gulf crisis between Qatar and its neighbors. Mogherini's call came after she met Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah and other officials and expressed EU support for Kuwait's "relentless mediation efforts" in the dispute. The emir has been mediating to resolve the crisis after three Gulf states and Egypt cut ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting extremist groups. Last month, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic ties with Qatar and imposed economic sanctions, including the closure of its only land border. Mogherini in a statement on Sunday called on "all the parties to enter into negotiations to agree clear principles and a roadmap for a swift resolution of the crisis."She said the EU was ready to support the process of negotiations and assist in the implementation of a plan for the resolution of the crisis, in particular in the area of counter-terrorism.

Don't Interfere in Turkish Affairs, Erdogan Tells Germany
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 23/17/Germany has no right to interfere in Turkey's domestic affairs, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday, his latest broadside in a blistering row sparked by the waves of arrests under the current state of emergency. Several German nationals are among those being held and Berlin has warned its citizens that their safety cannot be guaranteed in Turkey and that consular access is not assured in case of arrest. Throwing away any pretence at diplomatic nuance, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel had Thursday also warned German firms against investment in Turkey and spoke of an "overhaul" of the entire relationship. "Turkey is a social democratic state based on law and no one has the right to interfere in its internal affairs," said Erdogan before heading off on a trip to the Gulf. Addressing Gabriel's comments, he said: "We (Turkey and Germany) are together in NATO. We (Turkey) are in negotiations to join the EU. "So the strategic partnership between us is nothing new. We have been partners for a long time. No step should be taken to overshadow this partnership," he added.In an interview with the daily Bild, however, Germany's powerful finance minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, warned Erdogan that he was "jeopardizing the centuries-old partnership between Turkey and Germany". "It is truly dramatic -- there is actually so much that connects us. But we will not be blackmailed," he said, according to extracts of the interview to be published on Monday. The German Chambers of Commerce and Industry (DIHK) estimated that the prevailing uncertainty would likely wipe two billion euros ($2.3 billon) off bilateral trade, the Welt am Sonntag newspaper reported.  Turkey remains under a state of emergency imposed days after last year's July 15 failed coup which critics claim is being used to go after any opponent of Erdogan. The authorities say the emergency is needed for public security. The latest crisis was precipitated by the order of a Turkish court to remand in custody a group of human rights activists detained on an island off Istanbul, including Amnesty International's Turkey director Idil Eser and Berlin-based activist Peter Steudtner.  But Berlin was already furious over the jailing in February of Deniz Yucel, Turkey correspondent for Die Welt newspaper, who Erdogan has personally denounced as a "terror agent." Meanwhile, Turkey accuses Germany of not doing enough to deal with Kurdish militants and suspects from the failed coup who have taken refuge on its soil. Erdogan said Ankara had passed Berlin 4,500 dossiers on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) suspects alone. Both Turkey and the EU as well as the U.S. outlaw the PKK as a terror group.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on July 23-24/17
Turkey’s parliament could be finalizing its own demise

 Pinar Tremblay/Al Monitor/July 23/17
It's not possible to regulate people's thoughts, but Turkey's president has come up with the next-best thing: controlling their words.
The "palace regime," a phrase coined by opposition members to define the Turkish president's agenda, aims to silence the last legitimate venue for political opposition prior to the 2019 presidential election. Since the April 16 referendum that expanded the authority of the presidency, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been urging Turkey's parliament to make drastic changes to its bylaws and internal regulations. On July 7, two right-wing parties — the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Action Party (MHP) — submitted an 18-point plan to back Erdogan’s proposals to modify bylaws. The draft generated tense arguments in the Constitutional Commission but is expected to pass with ease: The AKP has joined forces with the ultranationalist MHP — the smallest party in parliament — to guarantee a majority vote. The proposed changes are quite broad: Some are rather arbitrary and petty, while others are well-calculated to have a lasting impact on Turkish politics. Most opposition lawmakers refer to the package as the “palace regime,” saying it's no longer about the parliament, AKP or even the prime minister and his Cabinet. Rather, it's about serving the presidential palace's interests.
What are these changes? First, there are stylistic ones, such as changes to the parliamentary dress code. Parliament Speaker Ismail Kahraman, an outspoken Islamist, has never been happy with the current code, which requires him to wear a black tailcoat and white bow tie. Under the proposed changes, that uniform would no longer be required. There also has been debate about removing ties as a requirement for all male lawmakers.
Other changes are more substantial and are expected to have significant consequences. Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker Muharrem Erkek, a Constitutional Commission member, said in a television interview, “Those who drafted this proposal must have specifically singled out the instances [in which] opposition lawmakers speak up and influence public opinion, when they actually alter the course of public discussions, and now [the authors] propose to erase those few opportunities so lawmakers can no longer talk and inform the public.” For example, parliamentary bylaws allot 40 minutes for lawmakers to discuss a matter; this would be reduced to 14 minutes. The legislator bringing a matter to parliament's attention would get five minutes, and three other parties couild take three minutes each to respond. Reporting from the parliament floor is so crucial that several CHP and Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) members have been using their own mobile gadgets and apps (such as Periscope video streaming) to reach the public when state-controlled TV fails to air opposition members’ speeches. The public’s interest in these speeches has been overwhelming. The opposition's contributions seen through Periscope become trending topics on social media, particularly during heated constitutional amendment debates.
In January, it became clear just how much opposition lawmakers’ live reporting annoyed AKP members. A profile appeared on Twitter under the name Yeliz Adaley. Adaley started her own Periscope broadcasting from parliament with critical remarks about opposition lawmakers. Yet there are no lawmakers in the Turkish parliament with this name. Opposition parties started to investigate and found out a male AKP lawmaker, Ahmet Hamdi Camli — who at one time had been Erdogan’s driver — was responsible. After the discovery, the troll account was shut down, but Camli hasn't been able to shake his female nickname in Ankara.
Under the proposed regulations, AKP members would no longer need to create gender-bending troll identities to distract the public.
Secret balloting appears to be at risk. If 20 lawmakers agree, open voting would be accepted on almost all votes. This was a particularly thorny issue during voting for constitutional amendments when AKP and MHP members recklessly broke the secret ballot rules. Several procedural rules also would change. For instance, at least one-third of the membership currently must assent to a call for a vote on the floor. With the updates, no roll call would be necessary.
The most mind-boggling proposed change addresses words lawmakers may say in parliament. Words and phrases found to be offensive to Turkey's history — that are deemed damaging to the public’s faith and belief in the future — would be sanctioned. This could entail almost anything. For example, anyone could be penalized for using words such as "Amed" (the Kurdish name for Diyarbakir province) or simply for saying "Kurdistan" or "Armenian genocide." Similarly, lawmakers criticizing historic figures or decisions could be required to pay one-third of their monthly salaries as a fine. One-third of the salary is 12,000 Turkish liras, about $3,400.
If lawmakers are temporarily suspended from parliament, the fine would be two-thirds of their monthly salary.
The AKP has been able to pass every law it has wanted so far, so why the urgency to pass such draconian measures to erase even the symbolic values of the legislative body? One reason is that by November 2019, when the next presidential election is scheduled, parliament needs to pass about 2,000 transition laws and regulations so that the new constitution can go into effect immediately.
The voices of those in the opposition, some members of which are in jail, still serve two crucial purposes. First, they raise public awareness about proposed laws' potential consequences and possibly turn public opinion against the government. HDP council member Alp Altinors told Al-Monitor that parliamentary debate has been instrumental in stopping extreme AKP proposals such as the “marrying your rapist” bill, which was shelved due to strong public reaction.
Next, even though they can't stop most of the proposed laws, opposition members can delay them. With thousands of new regulations to be passed in the next 27 months, AKP members complain about a lack of time and say they need legislation to clear the parliament quickly. This would mean no deliberation and would devolve parliament into a merely symbolic venue to unconditionally rubber-stamp the palace’s wishes.
Altinors said the proposed restrictions on lawmakers are unconstitutional. Focusing on the ban on criticizing historical events, he cited the Dersim Massacre in the 1930s, when the military killed more than 13,000 Kurdish citizens. In 2011, Erdogan issued an official apology.
“Now, this kind of a statement from the parliament would [draw] a hefty fine," Altinors remarked.
Altinors claims the current administration has been diligently working to erase the reality of Kurds and others. In a July 15 speech, Erdogan spoke of the country's "50 million people,” though the entire Turkish population surpasses 80 million.
Altinors asked, "Is it really possible to deny the reality of Kurdistan by punishing the lawmakers who dare to talk of it, when the Iraqi Kurdish flag went up at Istanbul airport Feb. 26?” These arbitrary restrictions would only increase tension inside an already-tense parliament. If the proposals pass, will their effects spill over to the public as well? For example, will regular citizens be prosecuted for uttering words not approved by the palace?
This vague, arbitrary and broad set of proposals aims to take away the last legitimate venue available to opposition members to voice their concerns and represent their constituents. Where and how will the political demands of “others” be represented in Turkey?

Emir of Qatar Speech…Dispute Does Not Lie in Different Points of View
Salman Al-dossary/Asharq Al Awsat/July 23/17
Political disagreements don’t ruin amicability. This is how Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani summarized Qatar’s crisis in his speech on Friday, and I don’t think that anyone was expecting a surprise in his speech, which expressed the Qatari diplomacy that has been depending for two months on international pursuits and has been avoiding pointing fingers to the problem.Who would have imagined that the emir speech wouldn’t point out the real reason behind the dispute but would, instead, distance itself from Unfulfilled 2014 Riyadh Agreement, which was signed by Sheikh Tamim.
This is the main trigger of the crisis — this is what has led the region to this place and Qatar to isolation. Briefly, there is an agreement that was signed by Doha and the emir but was unimplemented – Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt and Bahrain are demanding that Qatar abides by it.
But directing the speech towards disgrace and calumniation with neglecting the main reason of the crisis is another message from Qatar’s leadership that it has chosen to remain isolated. I assume that this speech intentionally didn’t mention the real reason behind the dispute for a simple reason: Doha can’t deny signing the agreement and can’t claim implementing it.
The emir’s speech intended to deliver two main messages: the first was internal and it urged a permanent enthusiasm as he said: “I call upon all to continue this approach.” The second message was foreign, informing the West that Doha is ready to solve its problems with the former and to alleviate concerns related to funding and backing terrorism. Speaking justly and away from the media propaganda and Qatari policy, Doha has started the first step on the road whether in the agreement signed with the US to curb terrorism funding or in its approval to send officials from the US Department of Justice to the Public Prosecution in Qatar to pause accusations to funding-terrorism suspects. This would limit Doha’s previous acts in supporting groups and individuals related to terrorism – according to Reuters, a US official said that arrests were made and scrutiny increased since the beginning of the crisis. He added that Qatari people have taken huge steps, which reveals that the boycotting countries have started to yield.
What matters is that Qatar implements the demands, regardless of the way it chooses to promote its concessions – the four states took diplomatic and economic procedures to oblige Doha to change its terrorism and extremism-supporting policies and Doha could have initially admitted committing to the agreement signed in Riyadh. But Qatar preferred to seek the harder solution through the US, which means that the crisis period will extend until reaching an exit that fits the propaganda policy adopted by Doha. As long as Sheikh Tamim avoids putting his finger on the problem and as long as he chooses that the solution comes from the West and not Kuwait – unlike what he said – then Qatar will isolate itself more and will prolong the crisis period. But, what could be said to a state that considers choosing the longest roads and aborting the shortest to reach the same purpose an achievement and a great victory?

The US Special Relationship With Britain Needs a Rest
Noah Smith/Bloomberg/July 23/17
Many Americans still regard Britain as the US’s political and cultural parent.
Despite the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, the US and the UK eventually developed a special relationship that endured throughout the 20th century.
Together, the two defeated the Axis and communism, and established a global order based on free trade and (eventually) universal human rights. But even before that diplomatic alliance solidified, cultural and technological exchange between the two countries was immense — British inventions powered America’s industrial revolution, and British notions of natural rights and tolerance formed the basis of US government.
In economics, British influence on the US has been immense — Adam Smith, Alfred Marshall and John Maynard Keynes are just three of the intellectuals who revolutionized American thinking from across the Atlantic.
Thus, it is with a heavy heart that I write this article: The time has come for a hiatus in this special relationship. The UK is going through a time of extreme internal trouble, and a number of bad ideas are emerging from the chaos. The US needs to reduce, at least temporarily, its reliance on British ideas.
The most obvious example, of course, is Britain’s decision to leave the European Union. The EU has its flaws, but the UK has reacted to those problems in a highly dysfunctional way. First, there was the contentious Brexit referendum, in which ugly racism and anti-intellectualism rose to the fore. Then following the decision to exit, some British leaders began behaving in a less-than-friendly manner toward the remaining EU countries, with a few even threatening to go to war over Gibraltar.
Meanwhile, the UK hasn’t actually completed Brexit yet, and it hasn’t even decided on the details of the separation. So it’s currently enjoying none of the potential benefits of such a split, while already suffering some of the costs. Investment in the British auto industry has plummeted, and is on track to be only about a quarter the level of two years ago.
Brexit has already had a bad influence on the US The rancor of the 2016 presidential election, with its explosion of racial animus and anti-Islamic rhetoric, seemed to echo the UK Brexit referendum. Anecdotally, it’s common to encounter British white supremacists, anti-Semites and Islamophobes on Twitter, demanding that Western civilization be defended by expelling nonwhites, non-Christians and most immigrants. The American right can’t help but be influenced by these regressive ideas, to its great detriment.
But it’s not just the British right that is giving its American cousins bad ideas. The British left has taken the lead in attacking the moderate, centrist economic policy consensus that saw the free world through the 20th century. British intellectuals on the left rail constantly against neoliberalism, the technocratic, economics-based approach to policy-making. They have also been particularly dogged in attacking the economics profession.
Neoliberalism and other advocates of deregulated markets certainly overreached in the years before the financial crisis, and the economics profession — especially macroeconomics — clearly made many mistakes. But blaming centrist technocracy for all the problems of the modern age is an excuse, not an agenda, and it ignores all the good that free trade has done, especially for the poor countries of the world. Meanwhile, Jeremy Corbyn, the leftist leader of the British Labour Party, has praised Hugo Chavez, whose radical policies left Venezuela’s economy in shambles. Anti-Semitism has also surged on the British left.
In other words, where Britain was once a bastion of pragmatism and sensible calm, it is now exporting extremism, some of which finds welcome ground in the United States. This is a sad change from the 1930s, when Keynes helped US President Franklin Roosevelt chart a centrist course between laissez-faire and socialism at a dangerous moment.
But it’s not only radical British ideas that the US should avoid. The UK’s entire industrial policy during the past few decades has been questionable. All developed economies rely heavily on service industries, but in the UK this has been taken to an extreme, with services comprising 80 percent of the economy. Services don’t export very well, which probably helps to explain Britain’s persistent trade deficit. And much of Britain’s service economy centered around finance, which made it more vulnerable than many other nations to the crash of 2008. And the country’s misguided austerity policies made a bad situation worse. Finally, it’s important to remember that British per capita income stands at only about 74 percent of US levels, compared with about 85 percent for Germany and 89 percent for the Netherlands.
So while it remains an important geopolitical ally, Britain no longer looks like a source of good ideas for the US to follow. Ironically, it’s the two countries’ old Axis foes, Germany and Japan, that now look like the strongest beacons for the United States. Germany’s effective system of collective bargaining has helped make it an export powerhouse, while Japan’s wise macroeconomic management has put the entire country back to work. And both countries, with the memory of their disastrous early 20th century extremism relatively fresh in their collective minds, have mostly avoided the bilious political outpourings roiling the UK and US. The US would therefore be well-advised to place its special relationship with Britain on the back burner until that troubled country can sort itself out. In its place, the US should forge new special relationships with Germany and Japan.

Deny the Holocaust, but Don't Question Sharia?
Majid Rafizadeh/Gatestone Institute/July 23/17
Why is it encouraged, even praised, to deny the unimaginable suffering that millions went through during the Holocaust, but if anyone dares to question Sharia their lives are in danger?
If you dare even to joke about Islam, your punishment can range from torture, long terms of imprisonment, to swift death sentences, either judicial or from mob violence.
"They have created a myth in the name of the Holocaust and consider it above God, religion and the prophets," — Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, on Iranian state television.
If you grew up between Iran and Syria, as I did, you would have lived underneath the iron rule of dictators such as Bashar Assad, Ayatollah Khamenei, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. In addition to the fear and oppression they maintained over their people, all of these rulers appeared to have another "tradition" in common. They are all deny the Holocaust.
It was common to hear from whoever worked for the Iranian regime that the Holocaust did not exist. Despite the mountain of clear facts before them, they chose, and continue to choose, not only to believe that the Holocaust was a fabrication, but to spread this belief to their people.
"The Holocaust is a fictional story made up by Israelis, Americans and Jews," you would have overheard, as I did, a member of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) say to his colleagues. The group stood next to its patrol car while rigidly monitoring people's behavior and clothes on the street. The words, even then, created a shock. How could anyone deny such atrocities?
These notions are pressed on children from a very young age -- presumably with the intention of brainwashing them into agreeing. Instead, however, over the years, the question became more insistent. Why was it totally acceptable to deny one of the worst humanitarian tragedies in the modern era, and not question Sharia? The Holocaust involved some of the most sickening crimes against humanity, all of which were committed less than a century ago. There is ample unquestionable historic evidence to prove that it occurred. Still, the leaders of Iran and Syria, as well as many Islamist imams, continue to encourage people to deny it. At the same time, it is forbidden even to question Islamic laws, some of which were created more 1400 years ago.
Why is it encouraged, even praised, to deny the unimaginable suffering that millions went through during the Holocaust, but if anyone dares to question Sharia their lives are in danger? You must never question the veracity of the stories that imams relay about Islam, Muhammad, and his God. If you dare even to joke about Islam, your punishment can range from torture, long terms of imprisonment, to swift death sentences, either judicial or from mob violence. The latest example is the case of Sina Dehghan, 21, arrested by the Revolutionary Guards when he was 19, for allegedly "insulting Islam". Charges were brought against him for insulting the Prophet Muhammad on the messaging app LINE. For this supposedly enormous crime, a young man, still in his teens, was swiftly sentenced to death.
The not-surprising answer seems to be that there are major incentives to denying the Holocaust. Islamist systems reward and celebrate those who deny the Holocaust.
The reinforcing response to this unreasonable behavior is substantial, ranging from obtaining high-level military positions to gaining powerful political positions. One person, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was rewarded for his denial by becoming the president of the country. "They have created a myth in the name of the Holocaust and consider it above God, religion and the prophets," Ahmadinejad said in a live broadcast on the regime's state television before his second-term presidential election. Ahmadinejad even admitted that his Holocaust denial was his biggest achievement. Hassan Rouhani, the current so-called "moderate" president of the Iranian regime, is not any different from the previous one. He is clearly a Holocaust denier as well, and continues to encourage those that work in his government, and all of his people, to follow the same fraudulent belief.
Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said that his Holocaust denial was his biggest achievement. Pictured: Then-President Ahmadinejad speaks at Columbia University in New York City, on September 24, 2007.
The regime spends a significant amount of money and time, from the top down, to spreading the notion that Holocaust did not occur at all.
The Supreme Leader of the Islamist state of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has repeatedly denied the Holocaust in his books and on social media outlets. In a video, he remarked:
"It is not clear whether the core of this matter [Holocaust] is a reality or not. Even if it is a reality, it is not clear how it happened...This is the ignorance that exists in today's world. We should be awake. [Muslims] should know that we can stand up against the ignorance.... Who assists the fake Zionist regime.... Who supports them, who clears the road for them, who stands behind them? It is Western powers headed by America that are doing so. This is while they say in their slogans that they are opposed to terrorism and ISIS."
In addition, the regime spends millions of dollars each year on Holocaust-denial cartoon competitions, reflecting their attempts to spread anti-Semitism across the world. People are invited from various countries, and hundreds of thousands of dollars are awarded to the winners. According to the regime's official IRNA news agency, the conference last year drew participants from more than 50 different countries.
What is mind-boggling is that while these extremist Muslims have ratcheted up their engagement in such activities, the international community, and many countries in Europe and the West, continue to host these extremists and Iranian leaders, and provide them with a platform to speak -- all of which gives them additional legitimacy.
Much time has passed since the Iranian Revolution, but unfortunately one thing has remained the same: The extremist Muslims continue to reward and promote Holocaust-deniers, while brutally punishing anyone who dares to question Islamic laws. If the international community does not take a stand and demand that these accommodations be changed, we will all just be treated to more of this malignance and more of the mullahs.
**Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is president of the International American Council on the Middle East. He is a Harvard-educated and world-renowned Iranian-American political scientist, businessman, and author of "Peaceful Reformation in Iran's Islam". He can be reached at Dr.Rafizadeh@Post.Harvard.Edu.
© 2017 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

A Month of Islam and Multiculturalism in France: June 2017

Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institute/July 23/17
"I am in fundamental disagreement with these left-wing people who do everything to dissociate fundamentalism from Islam. Islam has been radicalized for fifty years. On the Shiite side, there was Imam Khomeini and his Islamic revolution. In the Sunni world, there was Saudi Arabia, which used its immense resources to finance the spread of this fanaticism of Wahhabism. But this historical evolution took place within Islam and not outside. When the people of the Islamic State attack, they do it by saying 'Allahu Akbar.' So how can we then say that this has nothing to do with Islam? It must be stopped." — Sir Salman Rushdie, author of the novel The Satanic Verses, who has been hunted to be killed by Muslim extremists for nearly 30 years.
Residents of the Paris suburb of Mée-sur-Seine complained that a mosque was blasting prayers on outdoor loudspeakers well beyond midnight each night during Ramadan. Mourad Salah, a local Muslim leader, said the city council was to blame for the noise because of its failure to provide Muslims with a larger mosque: "The ball is in the mayor's court. Until we have a place of prayer worthy of the name, with a greater capacity, things will be difficult."
An online petition — "Women: An Endangered Species in the Heart of Paris" — accused Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo of allowing a large swathe of the city to become a no-go zone for women. Every night, hundreds of migrants from Africa and the Middle East line the pavements to form an intimidating gauntlet for women walking from the Gare du Nord and Gare de l'Est railway stations to their homes, the petition said. Shouts of "bitch" and "dirty whore" are common.
June 1. Saber Lahmar, a 48-year-old Algerian who has lived in Bordeaux since his release from Guantánamo Bay in 2009, was charged with "terrorist association" and placed in pre-trial detention. He is suspected of providing financial, logistical and doctrinal aid to French jihadists who were planning to travel to Iraq and Syria. Lahmar was arrested in Bosnia in 2001 after being accused of plotting to bomb the American embassy in Sarajevo. In November 2008, U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon ordered Lahmar to be released from Guantánamo because there was insufficient reason to hold him. In December 2009, Robert C. Kirsch, a lawyer at the firm of WilmerHale, which represented Lahmar in federal court, said: "We are grateful for the courage and generosity of the French people and government, and for the ongoing effort by President Obama... which will now give Mr. Lahmar a chance to rebuild his life in France."
June 1. A group of prominent intellectuals accused French authorities of covering up the April 4 murder of a Jewish woman by her Muslim neighbor. Kobili Traoré a 27-year-old Malian Muslim, tortured 66-year-old Sarah Halimi and threw her out of her third-story apartment. The letter criticizes the Paris Prosecutor's Office for omitting hate crime charges from a draft indictment against Traoré. They cited a recording of the incident made by another neighbor. In it, Traoré can be heard shouting "Allahu Akbar" and calling Halimi "dirty Jew" to her face. Some observers believe the authorities covered up Halimi's murder to prevent it from helping Marine Le Pen's presidential campaign.
June 2. The mayor of Nice, Christian Estrosi, banned Noorassur, a local insurance broker, from hanging a sign with the words "Islamic finance" because it "poses a high risk of disturbing public order." Estrosi said the sign was placed in close proximity to the Promenade des Anglais, the site of the July 14, 2016 jihadist attack. He said that there was a risk to both the staff and the customers and that passersby might see the sign as a provocation. Noorassur's founder, Sonia Mariji, filed a lawsuit against the city. "Islamic finance is not incompatible with the Republic," she said. "I am a fruit of the Republic." Her lawyer accused Estrosi of "conveying the idea that Islamic finance is linked to Islamist terrorism."
June 6. Farid Ikken, a 40-year-old Algerian, attacked a police officer in front of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Government spokesman Christophe Castaner said the hammer attack was an "isolated act." Ikken was later charged with "attempted murder in connection with a terrorist enterprise." Prosecutor François Molins said that Ikken was radicalized through Islamic State propaganda he found on the internet. Molins also confirmed that Ikken, who had recorded a video pledging allegiance to the Islamic State, was a former journalist who was legally living in France as a student working on his doctoral thesis.
A policeman stands guard near Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, France, on June 6, 2017, after Farid Ikken, a 40-year-old Algerian, attempted to murder a police officer at the site. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
June 8. In an interview with L'Obs, British Indian author Sir Salman Rushdie, the object of an Islamic death sentence for alleged blasphemy in his 1988 best-selling novel The Satanic Verses, blamed European leaders for refusing to see the reality of the origins of jihadism:
"I am in fundamental disagreement with these left-wing people who do everything to dissociate fundamentalism from Islam. Islam has been radicalized for fifty years. On the Shiite side, there was Imam Khomeini and his Islamic revolution. In the Sunni world, there was Saudi Arabia, which used its immense resources to finance the spread of this fanaticism of Wahhabism. But this historical evolution took place within Islam and not outside. When the people of the Islamic State attack, they do it by saying 'Allahu Akbar.' So how can we then say that this has nothing to do with Islam? It must be stopped."
June 11. Three more men were charged with involvement in supplying the weapon that Karim Cheufri used to kill police officer Xavier Jugelé in Paris on April 20. A total of four suspects have been charged with directly or indirectly helping Cheufri, who was shot dead after killing Jugelé and wounding two other police officers on the Champs-Elysées.
June 13. President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Theresa May announced an anti-terror action plan to remove jihadist propaganda from the internet. The action plan includes exploring the possibility of legal penalties against social media companies if they fail to remove unacceptable content from their networks.
June 14. The mayor of Mandelieu-La-Napoule, Henri Leroy, called on the fashion chain Hennes & Mauritz (H&M) to prohibit sales personnel from wearing Islamic headscarves. He said he had received repeated complaints from shopkeepers and local citizens who are "embarrassed by the religious attire of your employees." He added: "I think it is useful to remind you that the municipality is attached to Republican values and to religious neutrality." Feïza Ben Mohamed, a candidate in the local elections in the Alpes-Maritimes department accused Leroy of "Islamophobia" and of engaging in a "shameful polemic."
June 18. Marine Le Pen, leader of the anti-EU, anti-immigration National Front party, won a seat in parliament for the first time. Overall, her party won only eight seats in the 577-seat National Assembly, dashing her hopes of becoming the main opposition to President Emmanuel Macron. Le Pen blamed France's electoral system and called for proportional representation. "It's a scandal that our party that won 7.6 million votes in the first round of the presidential election and three million more in the second round, cannot form a group in the French parliament," she said.
June 19. Adam Lofti Djaziri, a 31-year-old jihadist from the Paris suburb of Argenteuil, was killed when he rammed his car, laden with guns and gas canisters, into a police van on the Champs-Elysées. Police said Djaziri had meant to turn his vehicle into a car bomb but it failed to explode. No one else was injured in the attack. Djaziri had mailed a letter to his family just before the attack saying he had wanted to travel to Syria but that he had been stopped from doing so "by apostates against the Islamic State." It later emerged that although Djaziri had been on a jihadist watchlist, he had legally been allowed to purchase firearms.
June 20. A Polish truck driver was killed when he crashed into the back of another truck that had been stopped by migrants on a highway near Calais. The migrants had placed barriers consisting of tree trunks and other large objects to slow down three trucks headed for Britain in an attempt to stow away in them. Four migrants — two Afghan adults and two Eritrean minors — were charged with manslaughter, impeding traffic and endangering lives. Polish Interior Minister Mariusz Blaszczak asked French authorities to "take action to guarantee the security of Polish truck drivers in the Calais region."
June 22. President Emmanuel Macron's government introduced new anti-terrorism legislation that would give French authorities greater powers to act to protect an event or location thought to be at risk from attack, without first having to seek permission from the courts. The draft law would also allow mosques thought to be promoting extremism to be shut down for up to six months. Prime Minister Edouard Philippe argued it struck the "right balance" between respecting freedoms and reinforcing security. Rights groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said the legislation would enshrine into law draconian powers allowed under the state of emergency, which has been in place since the November 2015 jihadist attacks in Paris.
June 22. A special anti-terror tribunal in Paris sentenced 18 members of a jihadist network to between one and 28 years in prison for a grenade attack on a Jewish grocery store in the Paris suburb of Sarcelles in September 2012. The "Cannes-Torcy cell," named after the towns where its members were based, was accused of having planned several other attacks before the network was dismantled in 2012. During the hearing at a special anti-terror tribunal, the cell was described as "the missing link" between the self-proclaimed al-Qaeda militant Mohamed Merah — who murdered three Jewish children and a teacher in an attack at their school in Toulouse in 2012 — and the network that attacked the Bataclan concert hall in November 2015.
June 22. Residents of the Paris suburb of Mée-sur-Seine complained that a mosque was blasting prayers on outdoor loudspeakers well beyond midnight each night during Ramadan. "The loudspeaker was used for the many faithful praying on the sidewalk because the mosque is too small," according to Le Parisien. Mourad Salah, a local Muslim leader, said the city council was to blame for the noise because of its failure to provide Muslims with a larger mosque: "The ball is in the mayor's court. Until we have a place of prayer worthy of the name, with a greater capacity, things will be difficult."
June 23. Five jihadists were sentenced to a combined 25 years in prison for associating with the Islamic State. The men, all in their 20s, had been recruited by Omar Diaby, a French national of Senegalese descent known for funneling fighters to Syria. Ali Abzouzi and Luck Manodritta were sentenced to six and eight years in prison, respectively. The two had spent several months in Syria in 2013 and 2014. Two others, Cedric Belly and David Assila, were given four years in prison including two-year suspended sentences for having attempted to join the others. The court also handed a three-year jail sentence to Magomed Bagaiev for helping a young woman prepare to leave for Syria. Diaby, also known as Omar Omsen, is believed to have recruited around 50 French jihadists to fight to Syria.
June 24. Interior Minister Gerard Collomb rejected calls from charities for the construction of a new migrant camp in the northern port of Calais, where hundreds migrants have once again gathered in hopes of crossing the English Channel to Britain. In October 2016, French authorities bulldozed a migrant camp known as "The Jungle," but aid agencies say about 400-600 migrants are now sleeping rough on streets. Collomb said: "We don't want to create a gathering point where numbers would swell back up to 7,000 over time. That would not be tolerable, for the migrants, the residents of Calais and for economic life."
June 26. An online petition — "Women: An Endangered Species in the Heart of Paris" — accused Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo of allowing a large swathe of the city to become a no-go zone for women. Every night, hundreds of migrants from Africa and the Middle East line the pavements to form an intimidating gauntlet for women walking from the Gare du Nord and Gare de l'Est railway stations to their homes, the petition said. Shouts of "bitch" and "dirty whore" are common. The petition was launched by a woman called Laurence who said:
"As a woman you start adopting defensive measures. You don't go here or there. Avoid certain routes. Take your kids to school another way. I stopped going to my tobacconist and some cafes because suddenly there were only men inside. I have to ask the teenage drug dealers politely to step aside in the foyer just so I can get to my own front door.... You get used to averting your eyes from streams of urine and pools of lowering your head... to walking alone... to feeling fear, great, great fear because you dared to speak out."
Pierre Liscia, a conservative councilor, said that city officials were concerned that the lawlessness might derail the Paris bid for the 2024 Olympics:
"The cynical thing is that last month a vast clean-up operation was launched when the Olympic committee came to visit for an inspection ahead of the Games. They moved out 1,600 people in 24 hours. I find it contemptible that the mayor's office acted only when there was media attention."
Mayor Hidalgo has repeatedly denied that there are no-go zones in Paris, and in January 2015 she threatened to file a lawsuit against Fox News for "harming the honor of Paris" after it reported that such zones exist.
June 27. The trial began of Beatrice Huret, a 45-year-old former supporter of France's anti-immigration National Front party, for helping to smuggle her Iranian migrant lover across the English Channel to Britain. Huret met 37-year-old Mokhtar while volunteering at the now-demolished "Jungle" migrant camp in Calais. In June 2016, she purchased a small boat for 1,000 euros which Mokhtar and two friends used to cross the Channel. The boat capsized en route but the trio arrived safely after being rescued by the British coastguard. Huret was subsequently arrested and charged with being part of a migrant smuggling network. Since then, the couple have kept up their relationship, with Huret regularly visiting Mokhtar in the northern English city of Sheffield, where he obtained a work permit. Huret, who has a 19-year-old son, said: "I am prepared to give up my life for him. The only thing that would bother me is that I would no longer be able to see Mokhtar if I'm in jail."
June 27. The mayor of Lorette, Gerard Tardy, banned burkinis and other Muslim clothing at a new outdoor swim park. The regulation states:
"Monokinis, burkinis, partial veils or veils which totally conceal the face, or a combination thereof, are prohibited on the beach. Any breach of this provision will lead to the immediate expulsion (which may cover the entire swimming season) of the offenders by security or, if necessary, by the police."
Aldo Oumouden, spokesman of a mosque in Saint Étienne, responded:
"France is multicultural and banning the veil at this facility is an attack on the individual freedom of Muslims and does not even distinguish between burkini and headscarf. How is it that the veil is aggressive or dangerous for the population? It does not represent any health problem, and there is no interference with the freedom of others. Does Mayor Tardy not realize that this decision will further stigmatize Muslims? It is not only unnecessary but also devastating for community harmony."
June 28. Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that new counter-terrorism legislation proposed by the French government will fuel prejudice against Muslims. President Emmanuel Macron wants the legislation to replace temporary emergency powers in place since jihadists attacked Paris in 2015. HRW said:
"As the text stands, the law could, for instance, be used arbitrarily to prohibit any meeting at which ideas or theological concepts associated with conservative interpretations of Islam, such as Salafism, are expressed regardless of whether there is any demonstrable connection to criminal activity. Poorly worded laws that are likely to lead to closing solely Muslim places of worship may also help feed anti-Muslim rhetoric and prejudice prevalent in wider society."
June 29. The mayor of Chevigny-Saint-Sauveur, Michel Rotger, banned halal menus in school canteens. "Under the principle of secularism, a single menu is proposed. No substitute meals will be provided except in case of food allergies," he said. "I am applying the recommendation of the Association of Mayors of France (AMF)," he added. The AMF recently published a guide for "secular best practices" which criticized "denominational menus" in canteens. "We are putting in place an operation so that children eat everything and that what is offered is balanced," Rotger said. "There is too much waste, and we will teach them to eat meat, be it poultry or pork." Muslim groups have vowed to fight the ban in court.
June 30. A new mobile app — "No-Go Zone" — appeared in the Google App Store. The app warns people if they are in a Paris no-go zone, and provides live alerts of thefts and sexual assaults in the city. The app description reads: "Whether you are staying in an unknown location, looking for a safe place to live, on your way to a specific location then No-Go Zone allows you to reduce any risk of aggression, theft, harassment or incivility."
**Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter.
© 2017 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

How to Clear our Minds
Noah Smith/Bloomberg/July 23/17
When it comes to economics, we spend most of our time thinking about better ways to organize human activity. This is the main purpose of debates about minimum wage, universal health care, deregulation, taxes and other common economic policies. But it’s worth remembering that the condition of the people matters a lot as well — the best policies in the world won’t guarantee prosperity if the bulk of citizens are sick, illiterate or innumerate.
In the 20th century, universal public education and public health measures became standard policy in every developed country. That increased the capabilities of the workforce — what economists call human capital — immensely. Factory workers could read instructions, office workers could calculate revenues and costs, and people throughout society were mostly freed from the scourge of diseases like polio, whooping cough and tuberculosis. This was a huge win for developed nations, and for human quality of life.
But in the 21st century, rich countries’ economies depend more and more on knowledge industries like technology, finance and business services. Even outside of those industries, almost every worker now has to know how to use office-productivity software, interact with websites or perform other complex tasks. In this new world, humans are being asked to think all the time.
That means US policy makers need to be looking at better ways to upgrade the mental capabilities of the labor force. Unfortunately, a number of things interfere with Americans’ ability to think clearly.
The biggest threat to clear-headedness comes from drugs. The twin epidemics of opioid-painkiller dependence and heroin abuse destroy people’s lives and harm productivity. There is a strong correlation between opioid use and unemployment, and it’s no great stretch to assume that the former helps cause the latter. A second, much-discussed problem is lead pollution. A flood of research is finding that even small amounts of lead exposure in childhood can lead both to worse academic performance later in life, and to more criminal behavior.
Furthermore, recent evidence suggests that American children are far more exposed to lead than most people realize. Lead paint contaminates soil, lead pipes contaminate drinking water, and a variety of commercial products from cosmetics to electronics contain bits of lead. The US is allowing its people to be poisoned with heavy metals, and both their intelligence and their self-control is being degraded as a result.
But drugs and lead aren’t the only forces preventing Americans from being able to think clearly. Poverty is another. Everyone knows that the US is a very unequal country, but few think about the damage that causes to American minds. A growing body of researchshows that poor people have different brain structures from other people.
Mental problems can and do cause poverty, of course, but poverty also exposes people to many of the forces that are known to cause post-traumatic stress disorder — violence and unstable family situations — in addition to brain-damaging malnutrition. Let’s hope that new long-term studies will clarify just how much poverty damages the brain, although the mechanisms are already pretty obvious.
Violence in general probably causes lots of long-term harm to the minds of American children. The US as a whole has a high murder rate for a rich country — 4.2 homicides per 100,000 people, about three times as high as France or the UK.
When all these factors are added up, they represent a severe threat not just to Americans’ quality of life, but to the productivity of the US workforce. Policy makers, economists and other intellectuals should start thinking more about how to beat back this multipronged assault on national clear-headedness.
Opioid prescriptions should be curbed and monitored more closely. Policies from countries such as the Netherlands should be copied to beat back the heroin menace. A nationwide program of lead abatement should scour the metal from US soil, drinking water and commercial products. A more robust social safety net should be implemented to cushion the stress and deprivation of poverty. Community policing strategies should be implemented to cut crime by building trust between cops and communities.
In the 20th century, government saved us from disease and illiteracy; in the 21st, it needs to help us clear our minds.

A Moscow-Based Overview for Changes in Syria
Vitaly Naumkin/Asharq Al Awsat/July 23/17
“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.
ional 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.