July 25/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For Today
I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 11/05-08/:"And he said to them, ‘Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, "Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him." And he answers from within, "Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything."I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs."

The Faith & Babitism Of Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth in the city of Thyatira
Acts of the Apostles 16/11-23a./:"We set sail from Troas and took a straight course to Samothrace, the following day to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city for some days. On the sabbath day we went outside the gate by the river, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered there. A certain woman named Lydia, a worshipper of God, was listening to us; she was from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth. The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul. When she and her household were baptized, she urged us, saying, ‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home.’ And she prevailed upon us. One day, as we were going to the place of prayer, we met a slave-girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners a great deal of money by fortune-telling. While she followed Paul and us, she would cry out, ‘These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.’ She kept doing this for many days. But Paul, very much annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, ‘I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.’ And it came out that very hour. But when her owners saw that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the market-place before the authorities. When they had brought them before the magistrates, they said, ‘These men are disturbing our city; they are Jews and are advocating customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to adopt or observe.’The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates had them stripped of their clothing and ordered them to be beaten with rods."
After they had given them a severe flogging, they threw them into prison and ordered the jailer to keep them securely.

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on July 24-25/17
Hezbollah and Syrian army advance in border offensiveظYnetnews/Reuters/July 24/17
Arsal Clashes Revive Chances of Negotiations between al-Nusra, ‘Hezbollah/Nazeer Rida/Asharq Al-Awsat English/July 24/17
U.S. Abuses Its Mandate to Spread Democracy and Freedom in Iran/Avideh Motmaen-Far//Gatestone Institute/July 24/17
Hero Imams/Khadija Khan/Gatestone Institute/July 24/17
Seals and Delusions/Ghassan Charbel/Asharq Al Awsat/July 24/17
How Do Weapons Reach Terrorists/Leonid Bershidsky/Bloomberg/July 24/17
Be Clear-Eyed About Democracy’s Weaknesses/Noah Smith/Bloomberg View/July 24/17
The US Special Relationship With Britain Needs a Rest/Noah Smith/Bloomberg/July 24/17
Qatari Emir’s speech: Dispute does not lie in different points of view/Salman al-Dossary/Al Arabiya/July 24/17
Iran-Qatar rapprochement and fueling of terrorism/Sawsan Al Shaer/Al Arabiya/July 24/17
Qatar and the bribing of journalists/Ahmad al-Farraj/Al Arabiya/July 24/17

Titles For Latest Lebanese Related News published on July 24-25/17
Hezbollah and Syrian army advance in border offensive
Arsal Clashes Revive Chances of Negotiations between al-Nusra, ‘Hezbollah’
Hizbullah Urges Militants' Surrender after Taking Over Major Nusra Strongholds
Hezbullah hoists army martyrs' photos at Nusra Front Command Center in Wadi Hmayyed
Army reinforces measures in locations facing Wadi Hmayed
Aoun Chairs Security Meeting, Says Border 'Developments' to Have 'Positive' Impact
Kataeb Slams Ruling Class for 'Giving Up Sovereignty'
Kuwait MP Proposes Jail Terms for Hizbullah Backers
Berri Signs Wage Scale, Tax Laws, Refers Them to Cabinet
Saqr Says Chronic Health Problem Behind Syrian Deaths
Report: Military Abductions Feared in Arsal as Sleeper Cells Mobilize
Hariri Begins U.S. Visit, Says Security and Refugees are Top Challenges
Hariri starts official meetings in Washington DC
Kataeb holds political authority responsible for waiving Lebanon's sovereignty
Solar Lamp Project funded by UNIFIL Spanish peacekeepers inaugurated in Ghanduriyah

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on July 24-25/17
Iran Says Ambassador to Remain in Kuwait Despite Spat
Jordan Seeks to Question Israel Guard over Embassy Shooting
Ghouta Ceasefire… Local Administration, Commerce with Damascus
Saudi Arabia Supports Kuwait’s Steps against Iran’s Diplomatic Mission after Abdali Cell Verdict
Eight Hasm Movement Extremists Killed in Egyptian Police Shootout
France Confirms Hosting Sarraj-Haftar Talks on Tuesday
PA, Religious Authorities Reject Israel’s Alternatives to E-gates
King Salman, Erdogan Discuss Efforts to Combat Terrorism
Mogherini in Kuwait to Discuss Qatar Crisis
Iraqi-Iranian ‘Wide-Range’ Agreement to Boost Military Cooperation
Analysts: Qatar Backed Yemen’s Houthis with Iranian Coordination to Target Saudi Arabia
Saudi crown prince in charge as king heads on holiday
Russia says has deployed forces to police Syria safe zones
Blast kills at least 20, injures dozens in Pakistan's Lahore
Taliban suicide car bomber kills dozens in Afghan capital
Venezuela Opposition Urges Boycott of Vote to Overhaul Constitution

Latest Lebanese Related News published on July 24-25/17
Hezbollah and Syrian army advance in border offensive
Ynetnews/Reuters/July 24/17
Hezbollah and Bashar Assad's Syrian army advance against Sunni militants in massive coordinated assault to drive Sunni insurgents from mountainous area of Juroud Arsal.
Lebanon's Shi'ite militia Hezbollah and the Syrian army advanced against Sunni militants on Saturday, the second day of an assault to drive them from their last foothold along the Syria-Lebanon border, pro-Damascus media reported.
The operation has targeted Sunni Muslim insurgents from the former Nusra Front, a group that was aligned to al Qaeda and who have controlled the barren, mountainous zone of Juroud Arsal.
Hezbollah missile being fired at Syrian rebels
A military media unit run by Hezbollah said its forces captured a strategic hilltop area called Dhahr al-Huwa, previously a key Nusra Front base, which allowed them to overlook several border crossings in the area. Forces had earlier seized Jwar al Sheikh, Wadi Kriti and other areas in the southern part of Juroud Arsal, it said.
Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran's Shi'ite government, has played a critical part in previous campaigns against Sunni insurgents along Lebanon's border, part of its wider role backing President Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian war.
Hezbollah's role has drawn criticism from its Lebanese political opponents, including Sunni Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, who is a Sunni.
Footage on Hezbollah's Al Manar TV channel showed fighters on a hilltop firing assault rifles and wire-guided missiles at militant positions. The media unit also reported that some Nusra fighters had raised white flags in surrender.
The chances of any negotiation with the militants appeared dashed, however, when a mediator and former deputy mayor of Arsal was killed in rocket fire by Nusra fighters, Lebanon's National News Agency reported.
The rocket hit Ahmed al-Fliti's his car, killing him and wounding another passenger, it said. Previous negotiations had failed to secure the militants' withdrawal from the Juroud Arsal area to other rebel-held parts of Syria.
Syrian warplanes meanwhile struck militant positions on the Syrian side of the border, near the town of Fleita, it said. The offensive began on Friday and killed at least 23 Nusra militants on the first day, the Hezbollah unit said. At least five Hezbollah fighters were also killed.
A security source put Hezbollah's death toll at 15 early on Saturday, and said at least 43 militants had been killed. The Lebanese army has taken up defensive positions around Arsal town, ready to fire at Sunni militants trying to break through its lines, and has beefed up security in the area. The Lebanese army is not taking part in the operation, according to a commander in the pro-Damascus military alliance and a Lebanese security source.
The army is facilitating the passage of Syrian refugees fleeing the area, with UN supervision, the security source said.
UN refugee agency UNHCR and aid groups are preparing for an influx of Syrian refugees from Juroud Arsal and Arsal town. Only a handful of refugees were reported to have fled on Friday.Several thousand Syrian refugees occupy camps east of Arsal.
The Lebanese army and Hezbollah have regularly targeted militants penetrating the border area.
In 2014, Arsal was the scene of one of the most serious spillovers of the Syrian war into Lebanon when jihadists briefly overran the town.

Arsal Clashes Revive Chances of Negotiations between al-Nusra, ‘Hezbollah’
Nazeer Rida/Asharq Al-Awsat English/July 24/17/Beirut – The battle in Lebanon’s northeastern border region of Arsal have revived the chances of negotiations between the al-Nusra Front and “Hezbollah” over the former’s withdrawal from the area towards Syria. These chances were bolstered after the Lebanese party seized control of 60 percent of Nusra positions in the area, only days after the battle erupted to cleanse the outskirts, which lie on the Lebanese-Syrian border, of extremist organizations. Syrian refugee encampments on the outskirts of the town of Arsal have been declared neutral geographic zones.
The negotiations are focused on allowing “Ahl al-Sham Brigades” fighters, who are affiliated with the Free Syrian Army, a safe return to Syria. Lebanese sources in eastern Lebanon told Asharq Al-Awsat: “The progress that ‘Hezbollah’ has made has opened the door for negotiations on Sunday afternoon after it was shut on the eve of the battle that started on Thursday night.” They revealed that a council of al-Qalamoun clerics are mediating between the two sides after the failure of negotiations that were previously led by Sheikh Mustafa al-Hujeiri to persuade Nusra extremists to leave the area. The talks failed because Nusra Front chief Abou Malek al-Talleh refused to leave for northern Syria due to disputes with Nusra chief in the North Abou Mohammed al-Joulani. Nusra sources have meanwhile denied that the extremist group is part of any negotiations. Syrian field sources in Arsal told Asharq Al-Awsat that the “Ahl al-Sham Brigades” are divided between wanting to continue fighting or looking for a settlement. Others expected a truce to be reached that would pave the way for negotiations that would lead to their departure to northern Syria or their towns in al-Qalamoun in western Syria. Meanwhile, “Hezbollah’s” media announced on Saturday that 200 members of “Ahl al-Sham Brigades” withdrew from the battle on the outskirts of Arsal and announced their surrender. The Lebanese party has allowed them to cross into one of the Arsal encampments after they laid down their arms.
Syrian opposition websites revealed that negotiations for the departure to northern Syria were still “ongoing and the first steps to that end were achieved through the ceasefire.” The negotiations came in wake of a major military campaign carried out over the past two days on the outskirts of Arsal, where the military factions now only control 800 meters of land, reported the “Anab Baladi” website. Syrian encampments in the Wadi Hmeid and Madinat al-Malahi areas in Arsal have meanwhile been turned into “neutral geographic zones” after the “Ahl al-Sham Brigades” entered them. Lebanese sources said that they are now under the Brigades’ protection, revealing that Lebanese flags have been raised throughout the camp. None of the residents have complied with calls to fight in the battle and “Hezbollah” has also stayed clear of the area, which constitutes 30 percent of the territory the Brigades and al-Nusra Front control.
“Hezbollah” has seized the majority of the al-Nusra Front’s territory extending from the outskirts of Arsal and reaching the outskirts of Syria’s Fleita town. Lebanese media reported that the party had captured all of Fleita’s outskirts, while field sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that it had seized the majority of Wadi al-Khayl, one of al-Nusra Front’s major strongholds. Wadi al-Khayl, which separates Arsal from its outskirts, has been the target of heavy shelling by Syrian regime jets. Throughout these developments, the International Committee of the Red Cross had, under the supervision of the Lebanese army, transported a number of Syrian families from the Wadi Hmeid encampments on the outskirts of Arsal to the town. The outskirts of Arsal are the remaining territory that are controlled by the Syrian opposition factions and al-Nusra Front in Syria’s western al-Qalamoun region. Should an agreement be reached in the area for their withdrawal, they will lose all their power in the region. ISIS will meanwhile maintain its positions. The outskirts of Arsal, which lie between the town of Arsal and Ras Baalbek in Lebanon and the western al-Qalamoun region in Syria, are controlled by ISIS, al-Nusra Front and “Ahl al-Sham Brigades.” Once “Hezbollah” cleanses the area of al-Nusra, it will direct its battle against ISIS.

Hizbullah Urges Militants' Surrender after Taking Over Major Nusra Strongholds
Naharnet/July 24/17/Hizbullah's leadership announced on Monday that its “operation” against al-Nusra Front terror group entrenched in the outskirts of Arsal was "about to end," as it “urged militants to surrender” after seizing control of the majority of the group's strongholds. “The battle with al-Nusra Front is about to end. We urge the rest of the militants to drop their weapons and surrender and we will ensure their safety,” Hizbullah's leadership announced in a statement. Hizbullah fighters have seized full control of the Wadi al-Kheil area, one of al-Nusra Front's strongholds, in the outskirts of the border town of Arsal, the National News Agency reported early on Monday. They have also seized control of Wadi al-Maaysrah and Qalaat al-Hoson hill, NNA added. Other media outlets said the party has also seized control of Nusra posts in Wadi Maarouf, Wadi Kahil, Wadi al-Dam, Wadi Zaarour and Wadi al-Daqayiq.
Earlier NNA reported that Hizbullah waged a wide offensive at a number of fronts in Wadi al-Kheil and Hosn al-Kherbeh to the east of Arsal. Meanwhile the infantry were advancing in Wadi al-Kheil, a move that was paralleled with heavy clashes with al-Nusra terrorists.On Sunday Hizbullah pressed on with its assault seizing more strategic points from the control 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 Sunday 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. Hizbullah had launched its long-awaited assault in the border region on Friday and has lost around 19 fighters in the ongoing battle.

Hezbullah hoists army martyrs' photos at Nusra Front Command Center in Wadi Hmayyed
Mon 24 Jul 2017/NNA - Hezbullah hoisted banners at the entrance of Nusra Front Command Center in Wadi Hmayyed, depicting the photos of army martyrs who were killed at the hands of the Nusra Front, namely Ali al-Sayyed, Mohammad Hamieh, Ali al-Bazzal and Abbas Medlej.

Army reinforces measures in locations facing Wadi Hmayed

Mon 24 Jul 2017/NNA - The Lebanese army reinforced its security measures in the locations facing Wadi Hmayed after spotting Nusra militants' fleeing from Al Ajram towards the amusement park, NNA correspondent said. On the other hand, Hizbullah is currently shelling with rockets the field hospital belonging to the Nusra militants inside Wadi Hmayed in Arsal outskirts, scoring direct hits.

Aoun Chairs Security Meeting, Says Border 'Developments' to Have 'Positive' Impact
Naharnet/July 24/17/President Michel Aoun on Monday presided over a security meeting at the Baabda Palace and listened to a briefing from the army chief about the situation on the Lebanese-Syrian border amid the ongoing clashes in Arsal's outskirts between Hizbullah and al-Nusra Front. The meeting was attended by Army Commander General Joseph Aoun, Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations Brig. Gen. Nawwaf Jibawi, Military Intelligence Director Brig. Gen Tony Mansour and Director of Operations Brig. Gen. Jean Chidiac. The army chief briefed the president on “the measures that the army has taken to secure the border, prevent the infiltration of terrorists and help civilians and refugees should they need to move from one region to another,” the National News Agency said. During the meeting, Aoun lauded “the army's readiness and its preparedness to repel any attack on Lebanese territory and to protect residents and refugees.”“The outcome of the latest developments on the ground will be positive in terms of putting an end to the attacks of the terrorists and their practices against civilians and soldiers,” Aoun added. The developments “will restore security and stability on the border,” the president said, possibly referring to Hizbullah's operation against jihadists.The army is not part of the offensive in Arsal's outskirts but has since Friday opened artillery fire several times at Nusra militants trying to advance towards its posts or towards the town of Arsal and the nearby refugee encampments.
Hizbullah has announced that its operation is aimed at ousting the jihadists of al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State group from the border region.

Kataeb Slams Ruling Class for 'Giving Up Sovereignty'
Naharnet/July 24/17/The Kataeb Party on Monday accused the ruling political class of “giving up sovereignty,” in connection with Hizbullah's operation in the outskirts of the northeastern border town of Arsal. “The Kataeb Party stresses the role of the Lebanese army in fighting terrorism and preserving Lebanon's sovereignty, security, stability and borders,” Kataeb's political bureau said in a statement issued after its weekly meeting. The party “underscores its full confidence in the army's ability to win the Arsal battle and any other battle, the same as it has won several other battles,” Kataeb added. “Accordingly, it holds the ruling political class responsible for giving up Lebanon's sovereignty and its duty to liberate its land,” the party said. Hizbullah has seized most of the Arsal outskirts region from the hands of the jihadist al-Nusra Front group in a major offensive that has entered its fourth day. The party is expected to launch a similar assault against the jihadists of the Islamic State group in the Lebanon-Syria border region in the near future. The Lebanese army has stayed out of Hizbullah's operation but it has been repelling infiltration attempts by fleeing militants.

Kuwait MP Proposes Jail Terms for Hizbullah Backers
Naharnet/July 24/17/A Kuwaiti Islamist member of parliament on Monday proposed legislation calling for members and supporters of Lebanon's Hizbullah be sentenced to up to 20 years in jail. The draft legislation, submitted to parliament by MP Waleed al-Tabtabai, proposes Iran-backed Hizbullah be classified a "terrorist organization."It also stipulates a jail term of between 10 and 20 years for members of Hizbullah and anyone who shows any form of loyalty to the group. It also proposes jail terms of up to five years for anyone displaying Hizbullah's yellow logo or any symbol associated with the group. The supreme court in Sunni-ruled Kuwait, which has a sizable Shiite minority, last month convicted 21 Shiites of forming a "terrorist cell" with ties to Iran and Hizbullah and plotting attacks in the Gulf state. Kuwait has protested to Lebanon over the alleged training of the cell members by Hizbullah, which has ministers in the Lebanese government. Last week, authorities expelled 15 Iranian diplomats and shut down the military, cultural and trade missions of the Iranian embassy in Kuwait over Tehran's backing of the "terrorist cell." Iran said the allegation is baseless. Fourteen of the 21 convicted members are on the run. Local media said they fled to Iran by sea. Around a third of Kuwait's native population of 1.35 million are Shiites.

Berri Signs Wage Scale, Tax Laws, Refers Them to Cabinet
Naharnet/July 24/17/Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri on Monday signed two key draft laws and referred them to the Council of Ministers, state-run National News Agency reported. The two bills, which were approved by Parliament during its July 18-19 session, pertain to the new wage scale for civil servants and the armed forces and the new taxes that were imposed to fund the plan. The bills need President Michel Aoun's signature to enter into effect. Kataeb Party chief MP Sami Gemayel had on on Thursday called on Aoun not to sign the tax law and to return it to the legislature for reevaluation, warning of a possible “economic disaster.” 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. 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.

Saqr Says Chronic Health Problem Behind Syrian Deaths

Naharnet/July 24/17/State Commissioner to the Military Court Judge Saqr Saqr on Monday said that a medical report he received on the death of four Syrian refugees showed they deceased as the result of chronic health problems, the State-run National News Agency reported. Saqr received the report from a medical committee tasked with investigating the reasons leading to the death of four Syrians who were taken into the army's custody. The men were detained in a security raid earlier this month that netted around 355 Syrians in refugee settlements in and around the town of Arsal, near the Syrian border. The army had said four of the detained died from chronic health conditions, but the local Syrians alleged they died under beatings and torture.

Report: Military Abductions Feared in Arsal as Sleeper Cells Mobilize
Naharnet/July 24/17/Lebanon's military and security agencies have taken the needed measures following threats that some “sleeper cells” committed to terror groups in the border town of Arsal could mobilize against the army in kidnap operations, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Monday. A military source who spoke on condition of anonymity told the daily that “confessions made by one of the detainees said that sleeper cells in a number of encampments in Arsal, around 150 members, were planning to carry out security operations against the army's units deployed in the area, cutting off all supply and communication routes.“This information is not accurate, at least until now,” stressed the source “but the agencies concerned can not condone any information of any kind, in order to ensure the security and safety of its members.”In August 2014, the Islamic State group and al-Nusra Front abducted around 30 servicemen during clashes with the army in Arsal. Four of the hostages were executed. Sixteen held by al-Nusra were freed in December 2015 through a Qatari-mediated deal that also included a prisoner swap to release a number of inmates from Lebanese jails.Nine hostages are still being held by the IS and their families do not know much about their fate. On the ongoing battle in Arsal where Hizbullah is waging an operation to "eliminate" terrorists from the outskirts of the town, the source assured that the Lebanese army is still confronting infiltration attempts by the militants towards the town of Arsal. "The army entered yesterday with the Red Cross to the camps of Wadi Hmeid where they transported a number of women, children and wounded to the town Arsal under the supervision of the United Nations delegate," he pointed out. “In cooperation with the army, the Red Cross has moved in some aid to the camps of Arsal,” he stated. “Intelligence Army units have carried out an operation Sunday morning and arrested an arms dealer who used to provide the Islamic State with weapons," concluded the source. The report 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. Lebanon's army has not officially announced its participation in the offensive, but said Friday it had targeted "terrorists" in the area.

Hariri Begins U.S. Visit, Says Security and Refugees are Top Challenges
Naharnet/July 24/17/Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Monday kicked off his official visit to the United States by meeting a number of U.S. Congress officials in Washington. A statement issued by the premier's office said Hariri visited the Capitol complex where he met with ‎Chris Brose, the Staff Director at the Senate Armed Services Committee, the Committee's Policy Director Matt Donovan and a number of officials. The meeting was held in the presence of Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil, Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh, Lebanese Embassy charge d'affaires Carla Jazzar, the director of the PM's office Nader Hariri, Hariri's adviser on U.S. affairs Ambassador Amal Mudallali, and the premier's security adviser Brig. Gen. Maroun Hitti. “At the beginning of the meeting, Brose welcomed PM Hariri, stressing the importance of the meeting,” Hariri's office said. Hariri for his part saluted the Committee's head Senator John McCain, who was recently diagnosed with brain cancer, underlining the importance of “consolidating Lebanese-American ties.” “Lebanon is facing a lot of challenges but it is enjoying stability, despite all the wars that the region is witnessing, and it is still a moderation model in the region that should be preserved and promoted, in order to preserve minorities across the region, especially that the Lebanese Constitution preserves these rights,” the PM added. He also noted that the top challenges that Lebanon are facing are “security and the refugee crisis.”Hariri is scheduled to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday.

Hariri starts official meetings in Washington DC
Mon 24 Jul 2017/NNA - The President of the Council of Ministers Saad Hariri started his meetings today in Washington DC by visiting Capitol Hill at 11 am Washington time (6 pm Beirut time), where he met with the Staff Director at the Senate Armed Services Committee Chris Brose, the Staff Member Matthew Donovan who was nominated Air Force Undersecretary, and a number of US officials. The meeting took place in the presence of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gebran Bassil, the Central Bank Governor Riad Salame, the Charge d'Affairs of the Lebanese Embassy in Washington Carla Jazzar, Hariri's Bureau Chief Nader Hariri, Hariri's Advisor for US Affairs, Ambassador Amal Mudallali, and Hariri's Advisor for Security and Defense Affairs Maroun Hitti. At the start of the meeting, Brose welcomed Prime Minister Hariri, highlighting the importance of this meeting. For his part, Hariri praised Senator John Mc Cain and stressed the importance of strengthening the Lebanese-American relations. He said: "Lebanon is witnessing many challenges but is still stable despite the wars in the region." Hariri added "Lebanon is an example of moderation in the region that should be preserved and generalized to preserve minorities in the entire region, particularly that the Lebanese Constitution guarantees these rights."He concluded: 'The challenges facing Lebanon are numerous, most importantly security and the displaced issue."

Kataeb holds political authority responsible for waiving Lebanon's sovereignty

Mon 24 Jul 2017/NNA - The Political Bureau of the Lebanese Kataeb Party, headed by Party President, Sami Gemayel, discussed the latest local developments and issued a statement at the end of the deliberations, in which conferees underlined the role of the Lebanese Army in fighting terrorism and preserving Lebanon's sovereignty, security and stability and protecting the borders. The Kataeb expressed "full confidence in the Army's ability to win the battle of Arsal the same way it won other battles," holding the political authority responsible for relinquishing on the sovereignty of Lebanon and its duty to liberate the Lebanese territory. The party declared that it was "going through with the battle against indiscriminate taxes that affect all Lebanese, especially those with limited income."Conferees reiterated their call on "the President of the Republic to repeal the law of tax procedures to the Parliament."

Solar Lamp Project funded by UNIFIL Spanish peacekeepers inaugurated in Ghanduriyah
Mon 24 Jul 2017/NNA - In a press release by UNIFIL, it said: " UNIFIL's Sector East Commander Brigadier General Venancio Aguado de Diego, inaugurated project "Solar Lamps" in Ghanduriyah today in the presence of distinguished guests from the area - village mayor, municipality officials, Lebanese Armed Forces representatives, police personnel and other local authorities - and UNIFIL peacekeepers. A signature document on the project was exchanged between the Commander and the mayor, who appreciated the mutual understanding and collaboration between UNIFIL personnel and locals.Under the "Solar Lamps" project, executed with US$ 29,600 provided by Spain, 45 LED street lamps were installed in the street, powered by the solar station. The project directly benefit the inhabitants of the village by addressing the problem of inadequate streetlights. The Mayor expressed his gratitude for the project. In his speech, Commander said "the UN Security Council Resolution 1701 mandates that we support communities with both social and economic activities; that's why UNIFIL cooperated with the Lebanese authorities to develop these solar lamps to improve the infrastructure in south Lebanon. These solar lamps will improve the safety of both vehicles and pedestrians, and children will be able to walk safely at night."

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on July 24-25/17
Iran Says Ambassador to Remain in Kuwait Despite Spat
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 24/17/Iran said Monday it was disappointed at Kuwait's decision to reduce the number of Iranian diplomats in the country, but said its ambassador would remain. Kuwait announced last week that 15 Iranian diplomats would have to leave within six weeks in response to the conviction of a "terror" cell with alleged links to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. "We did not expect this from Kuwait," foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said, according to the IRNA news agency. "We have always maintained positive relations with Kuwait in the Persian Gulf region. The action by the country was not nice... but we can still continue conversations and contacts," he added. Ghasemi confirmed that Iran's ambassador would remain in Kuwait, a question which had remained unclear when the move was announced on Thursday. Kuwait's supreme court last week convicted 21 people of belonging to a cell trained and formed by the Revolutionary Guards -- an allegation which Iran said was "baseless". Sunni-ruled Kuwait, which has a sizeable Shiite majority, has had tense relations with Shiite-led Iran, although it has tried to act more as a mediator in regional disputes.Kuwait greatly reduced its diplomatic presence in Tehran last year after its ally Saudi Arabia completely severed relations with Iran, although it kept a charge d'affaires and two officials.

Jordan Seeks to Question Israel Guard over Embassy Shooting
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 24/17/Jordan said Monday it was looking to question an Israeli security guard who killed two Jordanians at the Amman embassy compound, as Israel insisted he had diplomatic immunity.
A Jordanian government source, who declined to be named, said Israel was "still examining the request" to quiz the guard involved in Sunday's incident, which according to Israeli officials saw a Jordanian attack the guard with a screwdriver.
The security guard shot dead the Jordanian attacker, while a second Jordanian there at the time was also killed -- apparently by accident. A Jordanian security source named the first dead man as 17-year-old Mohammed Jawawdeh and the second as Bashar Hamarneh, a doctor who was in the residential quarter of the embassy at the time of the incident. He said the Israeli is the deputy director of security at the embassy.
Israel's foreign ministry said Jawawdeh, who had gone to the compound to install furniture, stabbed the security guard in the back with a screwdriver. It said as a foreign diplomat the guard was immune from investigation under the Vienna Convention but the Jordanian government source said security forces were seeking Israeli permission to question him.
"Israel is still examining the request," the source said. "There is no need for a diplomatic escalation."Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said they would seek to find an agreement, vowing to bring the guard home as soon as possible. "We are holding contacts with Jordanian security and government officials in order to bring the incident to a close ASAP," he said in a statement. "I assured the security officer that we will see to bringing him back to Israel, we have experience in this." Jawawdeh's father Zakariya told AFP he wanted "the truth," urging authorities to view CCTV footage from security cameras at the embassy. "My son has no interest in politics. He does not follow any extremist ideology," he said. The government source said an initial investigation indicated that Jawawdeh and the security guard "fell out over some dispute which led to a stabbing and a shooting." Israel and Jordan are bound by a 1994 peace treaty. But tensions have been high in recent days after Israel put in place security measures at the highly sensitive al-Haram al-Sharif mosque compound in east Jerusalem, known to Jews as Temple Mount.
Israel installed metal detectors at entrances to the site following an attack nearby on July 14 that killed two of its policemen. Palestinians view the move as Israel asserting further control over the compound, home to al-Aqsa mosque and Dome of the Rock, and considered Islam's third holiest site. Jordan is the official custodian of Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem. Israeli measures at the flashpoint site sparked angry demonstrations in Amman on Friday, when thousands took to the streets in a protest called by Islamist movements and leftist parties.

Ghouta Ceasefire… Local Administration, Commerce with Damascus

Asharq Al-Awsat English/July 24/17/London- A draft received by Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper of the agreement reached with the Syrian opposition on how a ceasefire will function in Damascus’ Ghouta stipulates deploying 150 Russian police officers at the cross-line between regime forces and the opposition.
Also, the draft of the agreement demands lifting the siege off Ghouta and offers the freedom of the transfer of goods and civilians through the Wafideen camp to Damascus, in addition to electing a local council for the area. Early this year, Russia, Iran, and Turkey agreed to form four proposed safe zones in Syria, including the Eastern Ghouta area. An opposition official told Asharq Al-Awsat that the founder of Tomorrow Movement Ahmad Jabra was the “godfather” of the agreement, which already started last Friday but witnessed on Sunday some breaches. The source said Jabra was in contact with political and military officials in Moscow and had arranged for the talks between representatives from the Russian defense ministry and Jaysh al-Islam in Cairo last week. The draft text of the agreement said: “Russia and the other side should respect a specific timetable to withdraw all foreign militias from Syria, particularly those supporting sectarian slogans that contradicts the national identity.” The involved parties agreed on the borders of the zone and locations of deployment and the forces monitoring the de-escalation. Also, the text stipulates the election of a local council formed by the residents of this area. “The council should manage the affairs of citizens and secure the safety of their activities.” In Article 4, the text of the agreement says the Syrian opposition should guarantee the non-presence of any Hayat Tahrir al-Sham militants in its controlled area inside eastern Ghouta. Article 10 of the draft adds that the agreement, in the second phase, should facilitate the economic and commercial activity without setting the quantity and quality of the products transferred from or to eastern Ghouta, including fuel, repair parts, and other necessary devices. In Article 12, the text says that the opposition should accept that Russia be the guarantor for the execution of this agreement, while Article 13 stipulates putting a mechanism for the immediate release of hostages. The concerned parties signed three versions of the agreement in the Arabic and Russian languages.

Saudi Arabia Supports Kuwait’s Steps against Iran’s Diplomatic Mission after Abdali Cell Verdict

Asharq Al-Awsat English/July 24/17/Saudi Arabia’s cabinet hailed on Monday the security agencies’ efforts in countering terrorism and cracking down on fugitives, affirming that they will continue to pursue anyone seeking to harm the kingdom, reported the Saudi Press Agency (SPA).It revealed after a meeting chaired by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz that the security agencies killed three terror suspects in the town of al-Sayhat in al-Qatif province. A number of weapons and explosives were found in their possession, said Information Minister Awwadh bin Saleh al-Awwadh, according to SPA. The cabinet also reiterated Saudi Arabia’s “complete support” for the measures taken by Kuwait against the country’s Iranian diplomatic mission in wake of the verdict against the al-Abdali terrorist cell, added SPA. The cell’s operatives were backed by Iran. The cabinet, which convened at al-Salam Palace in Jeddah, also assessed King Salman’s talks with various officials who visited the kingdom, including Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. They also reviewed the telephone call he made to Tajikistan President Emomali Rahmon.The cabinet then discussed a number of local Saudi issues, as well as regional, Arab and international developments. On the local level, the cabinet stressed that Saudi Arabia is keen on human development, renewing its commitment to national sustainable development. It also looks forward to cooperating with the United Nations and other strategic partners in order to achieve these goals on the local, regional and international levels. It also hailed the International Monetary Fund report on the Saudi economy and the progress the Kingdom has made in implementing Saudi Vision 2030. On the regional level, the cabinet highlighted the importance of the statement issued by the emergency meeting of the permanent representatives of the Arab League regarding the latest Israeli violations in Jerusalem and the al-Aqsa Compound. Riyadh condemned the measures taken by the Israeli authorities at the Compound and its closure to worshippers. It therefore urged the international community to assume its responsibilities towards the Israeli violations against the Palestinian people.

Eight Hasm Movement Extremists Killed in Egyptian Police Shootout

Asharq Al-Awsat English/July 24/17/Cairo- Egypt’s interior ministry announced on Sunday the death of eight terrorists and the arrest of five Hasm extremists in Faiyum, Giza, and Sharqia.
Egyptian police killed eight Hasm Movement militants in a shootout during a raid on their training camp south of Cairo, the interior ministry said in a statement. According to the statement, two other Hasm hideouts located in Giza and Sharqiya governorates were raided. Five other militants were arrested in operations carried out in Giza and Sharqiya regions, it said. The National Security Agency was able to discover a hideout used by the group in a desert area in Fayoum, to train “new youths elements” on the use of arms, the ministry said in a statement. Automatic rifles, ammunitions and supplies were recovered at the Fayoum camp southwest of the capital, the ministry said. Police also found documents detailing upcoming terrorist operations at the two Hasm hideouts. Founded in 2016, The Arms of Egypt Movement, abbreviated as Hasm Movement, is an active extremist militant group operating in Egypt. Hasm has claimed several attacks on security forces, said on Friday it had carried out a shooting last week in Fayoum, a province about 60km south of Cairo, that killed one policeman and injured three others. Egypt accuses Hasm of being a militant wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, a hardline group it outlawed in 2013. Sunday’s announcement comes only two days after the police said they had shot dead two Hasm leaders during a raid on their hiding place, also in Fayoum, which is around 100km south of Cairo. Egyptian security forces have arrested and killed dozens of suspected Hasm members in the past few months. Recently the Hasm Movement has claimed responsibility for the Sunday attack in Cairo, which killed two police officers and injured three conscripts.

France Confirms Hosting Sarraj-Haftar Talks on Tuesday

France confirmed that it will host talks on Tuesday between Fayez al-Sarraj, head of Asharq Al-Awsat English/July 24/17/Libya’s UN-backed government in Tripoli, and Khalifa Haftar, the commander of the Libyan National Army in the divided country’s east. During the talks, President Emmanuel Macron aims to show France’s support for UN-backed efforts to stabilize the country, his office said in a statement. Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper has already published reports that Sarraj, who heads the Government of National Accord (GNA), and Haftar will hold their third meeting together. “France intends, through this initiative, to facilitate a political agreement” between the two rivals as the newly appointed UN envoy for Libya, Ghassam Salame, takes office, the Elysee Palace statement said. Italian media has said that Salame, Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), will attend the Paris meeting on Tuesday. The two rivals held talks in Abu Dhabi in May, the first in more than a year and a half. “I know Haftar is in Paris already, Sarraj is due to arrive soon. They are aiming for Tuesday,” a diplomatic source told Reuters over the weekend. Macron wants France to play a more active role in tackling the Libyan crisis. The idea would be to bring Sarraj and Haftar into an agreement allowing the UN to implement a peace deal and set up elections.

PA, Religious Authorities Reject Israel’s Alternatives to E-gates
Asharq Al-Awsat English/July 24/17/Ramallah– The Palestinian Authority (PA) and national and religious figures in Jerusalem have voiced their rejection to all alternative measures to the electronic gates placed at the entrances of Al-Aqsa Mosque, as occupation forces have installed modern surveillance cameras and started promoting other security measures at the compound. Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Sheikh Mohammed Hussein said that all recent procedures adopted at Al-Aqsa Mosque were strongly rejected, adding: “We only accept that the situation returns to what it was before July 14 (the date of the closure of the mosque.” “All other Israeli measures at Al-Aqsa are rejected,” he stated. On July 14, Al-Aqsa mosque was closed for two days following an attack on Israeli police officers near the site. Israeli authorities partially reopened the site in the next 48 hours, but placed electronic gates and metal detectors at the entrances to search worshipers. The security measures sparked a wave of condemnations and violent confrontations broke out in Jerusalem in the days that followed. The Palestinian foreign affairs ministry condemned on Sunday all procedures taken by the occupation forces at Al-Aqsa.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates condemns, in the strongest terms, all the measures taken by the occupation authorities against the Al-Aqsa Mosque, whether by placing electronic gates on its gates or cameras in its surroundings and yards, or by controlling the entry of worshipers and physically examining and humiliating them,” the ministry said in a statement published on its website.
“These colonial measures aim at subjugating Al-Aqsa Mosque’s status to negotiations, creating a new reality in which an Israeli sovereignty is imposed on Al-Aqsa Mosque, and challenging the role played by the Islamic Endowments in Al-Haram Alsharif,” the statement added. It went on to say: “The Ministry affirms that the current battle of Al-Aqsa is a decisive one by all standards and will reflect on all parties. Therefore, the ministry calls upon leaders and peoples to interact seriously with this battle and to be at the level of the event and responsibilities.”
On Sunday, Israeli authorities installed new security cameras at the compound and placed its forces on high alert, according to the Associated Press. They noted that “alternatives” were being considered in regard to the metal detectors positioned at the entrance to the site. Israeli reports said that barricades would be placed at the entrances of the mosque, which would allow Occupation forces to inspect suspicious worshipers with hand detectors. For the second week, Palestinian worshipers have refused to be subjected to security inspection, and chose to pray in front of the gates and in the streets of Jerusalem. On Friday, Israeli forces killed three Palestinians during confrontations between the police officers and protesters. In response, three Israeli settlers were killed in Halmish during a Palestinian operation.
In the West Bank, Israeli forces arrested on Sunday at least 25 Palestinians and decided to oust five Fatah leaders from Jerusalem.

King Salman, Erdogan Discuss Efforts to Combat Terrorism
Asharq Al-Awsat English/July 24/17/Dammam- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz on Sunday at Al-Salam Palace, where they showcased bilateral ties and discussed developments in the region and efforts to combat terrorism and sources of its funds. Erdogan’s visit to the kingdom falls within his Gulf tour that aims at contributing to containing the Qatar crisis. He also met Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah on Sunday, before heading to Kuwait – his second stop in his Gulf tour that also includes Qatar. The Turkish president’s visit to the region represents a new ring in a chain of international mediation aimed at curbing tension. Prior to his arrival to Jeddah, Erdogan stated in a news conference in Istanbul that “No one has any interest in prolonging this crisis anymore.”“Saudi Arabia has a big role to play in solving the crisis, he noted, adding that King Salman leads the figures capable of resolving the problem. Erdogan expressed his support to the mediation by Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah and called on other countries in the region and the world to follow his example. Since the beginning of the crisis, Ankara has been in an attempt to play the mediator role among various parties but it seems to be clearly biased to Qatar – Turkey is an ally of Qatar and has sent some cargo planes and ships to Doha as well as nearly hundred soldiers to a military base that is being established in Qatar.

Mogherini in Kuwait to Discuss Qatar Crisis

Asharq Al-Awsat English/July 24/17/Kuwait, Brussels– Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al Sabah met on Sunday with EU High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, who arrived in Kuwait for a visit aimed at discussing the Qatari crisis and relations between the EU and the Gulf. KUNA news agency reported that the EU official also held talks with the First deputy Premier, Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al Sabah in the presence of the Emir’s emissary Sheikh Mohammad Al Mubarak Al Sabah. While KUNA said the meeting touched on latest developments on the regional and international levels, the EU headquarters in Brussels noted that Mogherini discussed with the Kuwaiti emir the crisis with Qatar. The Kuwaiti agency reported that Sheikh Sabah has praised the special relations between the EU and Kuwait, as well as cooperation between the GCC and Europe in different fields. A statement issued by the EU said that Mogherini headed to Kuwait upon an invitation from Sheikh Sabah, adding that talks would focus on the crisis with Qatar and developments in the region. “The High Representative has paid tribute to the “relentless mediation efforts undertaken by Kuwait with the personal involvement of His Highness the Emir to find a solution to the current political crisis in the Gulf and reiterated the EU’s continued support to Kuwait in this endeavor,” the EU press release said. “The EU would be ready to support the process of negotiation and assist in the implementation of a plan for the resolution of the crisis, in particular in the area of counter terrorism,” it added.

Iraqi-Iranian ‘Wide-Range’ Agreement to Boost Military Cooperation

Asharq Al-Awsat English/July 24/17/Baghdad, Tehran- Iraq and Iran signed on Sunday several deals aimed at boosting their military cooperation during the visit of Iraqi Defense Minister Irfan al-Hayali to Tehran where he met with his Iranian counterpart minister Hossein Dehghan. “Extending cooperation and exchanging experiences in fighting terrorism and extremism, border security, and educational, logistical, technical and military support are among the provisions of this memorandum,” IRNA reported after the signing of the accord in Tehran. Also during his stay in Tehran, Al-Hiyali, who was leading a military delegation, met separately with parliament speaker Ali Larijani and Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, AFP reported on Sunday. Larijani and Shamkhani both emphasized the importance of “unity” between the two countries, while Larijani informed al-Hayali about the importance of preserving Iraqi unity “because if it wasn’t for the emergence of political differences, ISIS would not have been able to penetrate there.” For his part, Shamkhani warned that “secessionist approaches can become a platform… to prepare the ground for insecurity and instability,” in a reference to the decision of Iraq’s Kurdistan region to hold an independence referendum next September. Iran opposes that an Iraqi Kurdish region become an independent state. And contrary to the echoes left by the visit of Iraqi Interior Minister Qassem al-Araji to Saudi Arabia lately, observers noticed that the Iraqi defense ministry has not issued an official statement on its website concerning the visit of its minister to Iran. Hakem al-Zameli, head of the Iraqi parliament’s Security and Defense Committee, said on Sunday that al-Hayali informed members of the Committee that his visit aims at improving relations between both countries considering that Iran is an axial state in the region.Al-Zameli said he believes that the visit of the defense minister to Iran aims at providing logistic support for the Iraqi forces rather than being related to the war against ISIS.

Analysts: Qatar Backed Yemen’s Houthis with Iranian Coordination to Target Saudi Arabia
Asharq Al-Awsat English/July 24/17/Riyadh – Qatar’s support of Yemen’s Houthi rebels has “revealed the truth of the ties that have existed for some time now between the two sides,” analysts told Asharq Al-Awsat. They said that Qatar’s negative approach, not only harms the Gulf Cooperation Council and its national security, but it is tantamount to “military and security suicide after it already committed suicide on the political and media levels.”The analysts noted that Doha played a negative and harmful role through its support of the Houthis with the coordination of Iran. It then persuaded the military branch of the Muslim Brotherhood to ally itself with the Houthis in order to target Saudi Arabia. President of the Washington DC-based Saudi American Public Relation Affairs Committee (SAPRAC), Salman al-Ansari, stated that trusted intelligence information revealed that Qatar joined operation Decisive Storm in order to provide Houthis with the coordinates of the Saudi-led Arab Coalition. This consequently led to several martyrs from among the Saudi and Emirati ranks of the alliance in Yemen. Doha also sought to join the alliance to serve the Yemeni Gathering for Reform, which is affiliated with the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood, added al-Ansari. Qatar’s recognition of the legitimacy of the Houthis and possible opening of an office for them in Doha “will be military and security suicide,” he added. “This development will turn Qatar into a country that goes against international consensus and a clear violator of United Nations Security Council resolutions 2216, 2201, 2342 and 2140, which all prohibit providing support to the rebels in Yemen,” he continued. Saudi political analyst Dr. Khalid Batrafi said: “Qatar’s ties with the Houthis exist and they are strong. It is better that they are out in the open than being under the table, because you can better follow and confront actions that are done in the open.”Yemeni political analyst Dr. Najib Ghallab stated: “Had it not been for Qatar’s backing of the Houthis, the extremist group would have been destroyed a long time ago.”“Qatar sough to support the Houthis just when they were on the brink of dying. The Arab Coalition could have destroyed them had Qatar not interfered through an agreement with Iran,” he explained. “This intervention saved the Houthi movement,” he stressed. It even struck an agreement that saw Houthi prisoners freed from jail. Each former detainee was given a rifle and 10,000 Qatari riyals. These individuals stormed Sana’a in 2014 and they are the actual leaders of the coup, Ghallab remarked. Furthermore, he noted that several Yemenis rejected Qatar’s mediation, “but strangely enough, it managed to convince the Muslim Brotherhood’s military and political wings that were combating the Houthis that reconciliation with it was important because a conspiracy is being spun around them.”“I believe that Qatar had its own clear agenda of targeting Saudi Arabia through this reconciliation and its ongoing support for the Houthis is linked to Iran’s revolutionary goals,” he added.

Saudi crown prince in charge as king heads on holiday
Mon 24 Jul 2017/NNA - Saudi Arabia's King Salman left for holiday abroad on Monday and appointed his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to run the affairs of the world's top oil exporter in his absence, a royal decree said.It is standard practice for Gulf leaders to hand over control to their deputy during travel abroad, but it is the first time Mohammed bin Salman, 32, has officially taken on the role since his ascent to crown prince last month.--Reuters

Russia says has deployed forces to police Syria safe zones
Mon 24 Jul 2017/NNA - Russia has deployed military police to monitor two safe zones being established in Syria, the defence ministry in Moscow said Monday.Senior commander Sergei Rudskoi said Russian forces had set up checkpoints and observation posts around a zone in the south-west and in another one covering Eastern Ghouta, near Damascus. The two areas are part of a broader Moscow-backed plan to create four "de-escalation zones" in rebel-held parts of Syria.--AFP

Blast kills at least 20, injures dozens in Pakistan's Lahore

Mon 24 Jul 2017/NNA - An explosion killed at least 20 people and injured dozens in a busy vegetable market in the Pakistani city of Lahore Monday, officials said, but the cause of the blast was not immediately clear. "(The explosion) seems like a suicide blast targeting police, but we are still ascertaining the nature of the explosion," the city's commissioner Abdullah Khan Sumbul said. He told AFP at least 20 people had been killed and 35 wounded. Meanwhile a spokesman for the Lahore police, Syed Hammad Shah, put the toll at 25 dead with 40 injured. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan warned the toll could rise in a press conference held minutes after the attack. Most of the casualties were police officers and some bystanders, he said. "It is not yet confirmed if it is an incident of terrorism or an accidental explosion," the interior minister added. Provincial law minister Rana Sanaullah also said the nature of the blast was not confirmed, but said it had appeared to target a vegetable market crowded with shoppers. Lahore has been hit by significant militant attacks in Pakistan's more than decade-long war on extremism, but they have been less frequent in recent years.--AFP

Taliban suicide car bomber kills dozens in Afghan capital
Mon 24 Jul 2017 /NNA - A Taliban suicide attacker detonated a car bomb in the western part of Kabul on Monday, killing up to 35 people and wounding more than 40, government officials said, in one of the worst attacks in the Afghan capital in recent weeks. Police cordoned off the area, located near the house of the deputy government Chief Executive Mohammad Mohaqiq in a part of the city where many of the mainly Shi'ite Hazara community live. Monday's suicide bombing, which targeted government personnel, continued the unrelenting violence that has killed more than 1,700 civilians in Afghanistan so far this year. The Taliban, which is battling the Western-backed government and a NATO-led coalition for control of Afghanistan, has launched a wave of attacks around the country in recent days, sparking fighting in more than half a dozen provinces. "I was in my shop when suddenly I heard a terrible sound and as a result all of my shop windows shattered," said Ali Ahmed, a resident in the area of Monday's blast. Acting Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish said at least 24 people had been killed and 40 wounded but the casualty toll could rise further. Another senior official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk about the incident with the media, said the toll stood at 35 killed. That was in line with a claim on Twitter by Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, who said 37 "intelligence workers" had been killed. Mujahid said in a tweet claiming responsibility for the attack the target had been two buses that had been under surveillance for two months. Government security forces said a small bus owned by the Ministry of Mines had been destroyed in the blast but the National Directorate for Security, the main intelligence agency, said none of its personnel had been hit.
Three civilian vehicles and 15 shops were destroyed or damaged in the blast, the Interior Ministry said in a statement. At least 1,662 civilians had already been killed in Afghanistan in the first half of the year. Kabul has accounted for at least 20 percent of all civilian casualties this year, including at least 150 people killed in a massive truck bomb attack at the end of May, according to United Nations figures. The Islamic State group claimed an attack on a mosque in the capital two weeks ago that killed at least four people. On Sunday, dozens of Afghan troops were under siege after Taliban fighters overran a district in northern Faryab province, a spokesman for the provincial police said. There was also fighting in Baghlan, Badakhshan, and Kunduz provinces in Afghanistan's north, and Kandahar, Helmand, and Uruzgan in the south, according to officials. The resurgence of violence also coincides with the U.S. administration weighing up its strategic options for Afghanistan, including the possibility of sending more troops to bolster the NATO-led training and advisory mission already helping Afghan forces. -- REUTERS

Venezuela Opposition Urges Boycott of Vote to Overhaul Constitution
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 24/17/Venezuela's angry opposition is pushing for a boycott of an upcoming vote that it dismisses as a ploy by President Nicolas Maduro to cling to power. Ahead of next Sunday's election for a 500-plus member assembly to rewrite the constitution and give the president more power, the opposition also plans a general strike -- the second in weeks -- on Wednesday and Thursday and a big protest march on Friday. It all makes for a dramatic week in the opposition's dogged drive to unseat the socialist Maduro, whom it blames for an acute economic crisis marked by shortages of food, medicine and such basics as diapers, soap and toilet paper. Four months of almost daily street protests in the oil-rich OPEC member have left 103 people dead. "Let them lock us all up. The fight must move forward," said Freddy Guevara, the deputy speaker of the opposition-controlled congress.
"The people of Venezuela must fuel the general strike. They must come to Caracas and help us prepare for the civic boycott," Guevara told a news conference. He insisted his supporters will not resort to violence. Next Sunday's vote is supposed to be for a 545-seat constituent assembly that will draw its members not from political parties but rather social sectors which the opposition sees as loyal to Maduro, a former bus driver who was the handpicked successor of late socialist firebrand Hugo Chavez. Maduro on Sunday urged the opposition to refrain from violence, respect the voting and let those who wish to cast ballots do so. "I demand this of all the opposition leaders," Maduro said on state TV. "The US right wing thinks it can give orders in Venezuela, but the only one who gives orders in Venezuela is the people," Maduro said on his television show. Maduro's comments Sunday followed a warning the president had issued the previous night about the vote, and how the opposition behaves next weekend. "We will be relentless if they try to generate a process of violence in order to stop that which cannot be stopped," he said. - 'Treason' -Also during his Sunday TV program, Maduro said that 33 judges whom the opposition-controlled congress designated Friday as a sort of shadow Supreme Court would be arrested. One of them had already been detained Saturday. The opposition says the current top court is packed with hardcore Maduro loyalists. Many of its justices were hastily appointed shortly before Maduro's ruling party lost its majority in congress in 2015 legislative elections. The Supreme Court said that by swearing in shadow judges, congress overstepped its bounds and committed treason. Of the 33 shadow justices, Maduro said: "One by one, one after another, they will all be arrested. All of them will have their assets and accounts frozen, all of it. And no one is going to defend them." Opposition leader Julio Borges wants talks with the government -- but only after Maduro drops the constitutional change effort. "Get on the right side of things and let's work on an agreement," Maduro said Sunday, warning: "The Constituent Assembly is happening."Maduro has presented his Constituent Assembly as the only path to peace and prosperity. But he has not explained how the body or a new constitution would bring that about. Opposition members fear that Maduro could adopt communism in a new constitution. The only communist country at present in the Americas, Cuba, is Caracas' closest ally. Surveys by Datanalisis, a polling firm, have shown that more than 70 percent of Venezuelans reject Maduro's leadership. The economy is expected to shrink by nine percent this year, said Asdrubal Oliveros of the consulting firm Ecoanalitica. Inflation is expected to top 700 percent, according to the International Monetary Fund. But the president has brushed aside opposition moves to force him out. He can count on a loyal military, which has been given control of swathes of the economy.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on July 24-25/17
U.S. Abuses Its Mandate to Spread Democracy and Freedom in Iran

Avideh Motmaen-Far//Gatestone Institute/July 24/17
Mohammad Reza Yazdanpanah was fired, he believes, for refusing to produce a report painting Israel in an evil light, while defending Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine Director at the NGO Human Rights Watch. Instructed by duty editor Keyvan Hosseini to do a story on Israel's denial of a work visa for Shakir (which ultimately it granted), Yazdanpanah objected that the topic was irrelevant to the station's audience and unrelated to Radio Farda's mission -- "to inform people about the corruption and human rights violations in Iran."
"So biased has been their broadcast in favor of the Iranian regime that the people of Iran and the dissidents derogatorily call Voice of America the 'Voice of Ayatollahs,' and Radio Farda 'Radio Khatami.'"
Reza Parchizadeh proposed that one step the U.S. government can take to "advance the project of regime change in Iran" is to "replace the regime sympathizers in Voice of America and Radio Farda."
Radio Farda, the Prague-based Persian-language branch of the U.S. government-funded network Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, recently fired one of its journalists for doing his job: providing Iranians at home and abroad with access to information they are denied by the ayatollah-led regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
On June 30, 2017, Mohammad Reza Yazdanpanah was told that he was being let go for retweeting an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, written by Sohrab Ahmari, which attacked the station for abusing its U.S. taxpayer-funded mandate by covering for the mullahs in Tehran and for bias against Israel.
Announcing his ouster on Facebook (in Farsi), Yazdanpanah wrote: "Finally, my constant protest in these recent years against the widespread and clever censorship, the removal of opponents of the Islamic Republic from news coverage, distancing of Radio Farda from its mission and raison d'être, manipulation of news in the interest of the Islamic Republic and the widespread corruption in Radio Farda resulted in my expulsion from this media. "
In an exclusive interview with Gatestone, Yazdanpanah said his ouster was the result of more than his repeated social media posts critical of the Iranian regime, or even his issues with Radio Farda for discrediting Iranian dissidents. He was fired, he believes, for refusing to produce a report painting Israel in an evil light, while defending Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine Director at the NGO Human Rights Watch.
Yazdanpanah told Gatestone that when he was instructed by duty editor Keyvan Hosseini to do a story on Israel's denial of a work visa for Shakir (which ultimately it granted), he initially objected, on the grounds that the topic was irrelevant to the station's audience and unrelated to Radio Farda's mission -- "to inform people about the corruption and human rights violations in Iran."
As such, he argued, American tax dollars "should not be spent on a report about whether or not Israel granted someone a visa."
Hosseini was adamant, however, and ordered Yazdanpanah to go ahead with the piece. Yazdanpanah complied. During the course of his research on the case, however, he discovered that Shakir was openly anti-Israel, often to the point of being anti-Semitic. While an undergraduate at Stanford University, Shakir served as co-president of the organization Students for Palestinian Equal Rights, the precursor to Students for Justice in Palestine. An avid supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, Shakir, as a lawyer for the Center for Constitutional Rights, represented Professor Steven Salaita, whose offer of employment by the University of Illinois was rescinded over the discovery of blatantly anti-Semitic posts on social media. After Hamas kidnapped, and then murdered, three Israeli teens, for example, Salaita tweeted:
"You may be too refined to say it, but I'm not: I wish all the f**king West Bank settlers would go missing."
In another post, Salaita wrote:"There's something profoundly sexual to the Zionist pleasure w/#Israel's aggression. Sublimation through bloodletting, a common perversion."
Bolstering Salaita's position, Shakir tweeted: "We sued U of Illinois today for violating Constitution in firing @stevesalaita for tweets on Israel's bombing of Gaza."
Because Yazdanpanah's report on Shakir ended up including all of this information, Hosseini did not permit it to be broadcast. Instead, the editor reprimanded Yazdanpanah in an email, saying his report was not only "unbalanced and biased," but defamatory. He then aired a short account of Shakir's visa troubles -- but omitting mention of the anti-Zionist activist's background. (This was one of the examples Ahmari pointed to in his Wall Street Journal piece, to illustrate misconduct at Radio Farda.)
Yazdanpanah replied in an email to Hosseini: "The short story you wrote about Omar Shakir's visa is biased, because you have introduced an anti-Semitic individual to the people of Iran as a defender of human rights. I have never been part of the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic propaganda, and I never will be." Hosseini's response was to file a complaint against Yazdanpanah, which contributed to his dismissal.
Yazdapanah told Gatestone that in recent years, Radio Farda's directorate has favored journalists who have repeatedly violated the rules and regulations of the station's mandate, which is to contribute to the free flow of information and the spread of democracy and freedom of expression in Iran.
"Not only do these journalists attack Iranian dissidents on social media," he said, "but they even express sympathy for the security and military institutions of the Islamic Republic." He added: "And I am the one who got kicked out."
Yazadapanah's claims echo those expressed on June 8, 2017 by Iranian-American political theorist and analyst Reza Parchizadeh. During an address on Capitol Hill -- as part of an event about regime change in Iran, coordinated with the office of Congressman Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.) -- Parchizadeh said:
"The old media, including the state media directed towards Iran, must be completely overhauled and restructured. In that regard, Voice of America and Radio Farda stand at the forefront, as they have been stuffed with regime sympathizers. So biased has been their broadcast in favor of the Iranian regime that the people of Iran and the dissidents derogatorily call Voice of America the 'Voice of Ayatollahs,' and Radio Farda 'Radio Khatami.'"
Iranian-American political theorist and analyst Reza Parchizadeh recently said: "So biased has been their broadcast in favor of the Iranian regime that the people of Iran and the dissidents derogatorily call Voice of America the 'Voice of Ayatollahs,' and Radio Farda 'Radio Khatami.'" Pictured: Mohammad Khatami, then President of Iran, and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, on December 20, 2000. (Image source: Commons)
Parchizadeh proposed that one step the U.S. government can take to "advance the project of regime change in Iran" is to "replace the regime sympathizers in Voice of America and Radio Farda."
Yazdanpanah says he intends to provide "complementary documents" to any U.S. regulatory agencies investigating Radio Farda. He also expressed his "right to pursue legal action in American and European courts," and "welcomed help to do so from concerned individuals and organizations."
**Avideh Motmaen-Far is a Canadian-Iranian journalist.
© 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.

Hero Imams
Khadija Khan/Gatestone Institute/July 24/17
More than 60 Islamic leaders and imams -- from France, Belgium, Britain, Tunisia, and of different Islamic faiths -- in a move that may be unprecedented, are touring Europe to denounce Islamic terrorism and to pay homage to the victims of terror in Europe by visiting many of the sites of terror attacks.
The idea seems to have shaken extremists to the core. They have been sending these imams death threats.
It is therefore high time, as mankind faces a crucial turning point, that people will pull together and support any voices of peace such as those of the marching imams, and restrain any hands that would try to sabotage their noble mission.
More than 60 Islamic leaders and imams -- from France, Belgium, Britain, Tunisia, and of different Islamic faiths -- in a move that may be unprecedented, are touring Europe to denounce Islamic terrorism and to pay homage to the victims of terror in Europe by visiting many of the sites of terror attacks.
It is ironic that while the "liberal" world has been busy in Canada lavishing millions on the "Foreign Terrorist Fighter" Omar Khadr, and in the US pampering extremists such as Linda Sarsour -- an apologist for ISIS and Islamist terrorism who calls for a "jihad" on the president, and whose tweets include racist comments such as "How many times to we have to tell White women that we do not need to be saved by them? Is there a code language I need to use to get thru?" -- that the press has largely ignored these courageous Islamic leaders. They have travelled from six major European countries and launched a peace march in Europe to show the masses that some Muslims, at least, do condemn terrorism and want nothing to do with terrorists who murder in the name of Islam.
Many consider their efforts a brave stand to win back the trust of those in the West who are justifiably angry about the recent wave of terrorist attacks in United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Israel, Germany, the United States and across much of the world.
These imams, from different Islamic faiths, have done an extraordinary job in unequivocally denouncing the terrorists by visiting the sites of terror attacks to pay homage to victims of terrorism in Europe.
Hassen Chalghoumi (pictured at center on January 8, 2015), the imam of Drancy Mosque in suburban Paris, is leading a peace march of more than 60 Islamic leaders and imams, to denounce Islamic terrorism and pay homage to the victims of terror in Europe. (Photo by Marc Piasecki/Getty Images)
The idea seems to have shaken extremists to the core. They have been sending these imams death threats.
It is not only violent extremists, however, who pose threat to peace efforts and the West. At least what they do can be seen. Possibly more harmful are non-violent Muslims, such as Linda Sarsour, who, in order to prey upon naïve admirers of other cultures, continue to feed to the world a narrative of Muslim victimhood, apparently to try to whip up hostile sentiments.
Sarsour for instance, recommends launching a jihad against the current US administration by calling its members "white nationalists", "fascists", and "Islamophobes". She has also been sending her warm wishes to Assata Shukar, a woman who murdered an American policeman, then, after escaping from prison, fled to Cuba.
It is painful to see such people stoking the fire to support extremists -- especially while heroic imams go on a peace mission, only to face threats from extremists.
It is also painful to watch such extremists invoke well-worn words such as jihad and sharia -- words the meaning of which is known all too well in the Muslim world -- and then later try to paint these words -- presumably for gullible Westerners -- as symbols of warm-and-fuzzy non-violent "resistance".
Even though it is partially true that in Islam, jihad is considered a struggle against oneself to eliminate the evils within oneself, if you speak to anyone in the Muslim world and ask what jihad is, that is not the answer you will get.
There are hadiths [the deeds and saying of the Prophet Muhammad], taken literally by hardline Muslims, that order the need for jihad against infidels:
The last hour would not come unless the Muslims will fight against the Jews and the Muslims would kill them until the Jews would hide themselves behind a stone or a tree and a stone or a tree would say: Muslim, or the servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me; come and kill him.... (Sahih Muslim Book 041, Number 6985)
or: I have been commanded to fight against people so long as they do not declare that there is no god but Allah, and he who professed it was guaranteed the protection of his property and life on my behalf except for the right affairs rest with Allah. (Hadith Muslim 30)
There are verses in the Quran that state:
And kill them wherever you overtake them and expel them from wherever they have expelled you, and fitnah is worse than killing. And do not fight them at al-Masjid al- Haram until they fight you there. But if they fight you, then kill them. Such is the recompense of the disbelievers. (Quran 2:191-193)
So let those fight in the cause of Allah who sell the life of this world for the Hereafter. And he who fights in the cause of Allah and is killed or achieves victory - We will bestow upon him a great reward. (Quran 4:74)
What is not addressed is how a majority of Muslims have been radicalized over the years by extremist clerics who know nothing about peace. They have apparently adopted a literal interpretation of many versus to take over the non-Muslim world and impose on mankind an Islamic version of religion.
It is also ironic that extremists can take time from their busy schedules to send death threats to these peaceful imams, but never have any problem with people such as Sarsour -- perhaps because they are not in her cross-hairs and possibly share the same ideology.
Organizations that are supposedly "non-violent" such as the Muslim Brotherhood, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), nevertheless represent an ideology, the sole purpose of which is to impose Saudi, Taliban, or Iran-like Sharia law on the world.
Both the Muslim Brotherhood and CAIR, as well as Britain's Islamic Relief and 80 other organizations, for example, were added to the United Arab Emirates' list of designated terrorist organizations in 2014. Presumably, all are the fonts from which violent Islam grows. Many on the list, such, as Hezbollah and Boko Haram, already are violent.
These views in Islam no longer have anything to do with the great mystic philosophers, such as Rumi, Saadi and Ibn el Arabi, who considered even the weakest soul an extension of Allah, thus demanding love and respect for all, and with no ambitions of ruling anyone or taking control of the world.
Anyone who is trying to sell Islam and Sharia, which represent an extremist ideology, as something non-militant, only exposes himself or herself as trying to fool the world.
It is also important to keep in mind that extremists consider peaceful Muslims apostates. Mansoor Hallaj for example, who was gruesomely tortured and executed, is a symbol of how these extremist Muslims have savaged anyone who tried to offer a "kinder, gentler" version of Islam.
The only reason that modern-day people -- from both East and West -- are aware of the violent aspect of jihad is that they have seen bloodbaths and massacres wherever the phrase "Allahu Akbar," "Allah is the greatest," was chanted.
Therefore, the word jihad in the current historical context can only trigger suspicion and anger against anyone who announces jihad as a wish.
Extremist Muslims have, in fact, played this game for decades in the West and also in the Muslim world. They have not only poisoned the minds of their own youths against other faiths, but are also preparing them to commit violence against people of other faiths in a bid to take over the world through "jihad".
Now they have realized that they may be starting to lose the game: many youths have started to question their activities while many governments in the West are running programmes to integrate the brainwashed young people into their societies.
The notion of "Us vs. Them" is beginning to fall apart and finally the world seems to be coming out of the decades-long chaos and cold war(s) that begin after 1940s.
It is therefore high time, as mankind faces a crucial turning point, that people will pull together and support any voices of peace, such as those of the marching imams, and restrain any hands that would try to sabotage their noble mission.
**Khadija Khan is a Pakistani journalist and commentator, currently based in Germany.
© 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.

Seals and Delusions
Ghassan Charbel/Asharq Al Awsat/July 24/17
Rulers need someone to protect them from excessive dreaming that leads to falling into delusions. The need for that doubles if the ruler of a certain country is wealthy.
With the absence of institutions and guarantees, no minister or adviser dares to trouble the leader with a report about how hard things are or about the actual dangers. Usually, the commander would hear what makes him happy apart from facts and reality.
The truth is that unnatural roles coming out of illusions soon become a burden. The circumstances of the “Arab Spring” allowed Qatar to play a role founded on the expenses of others and sovereignty of other states.
This is a role that Qatar can’t maintain or even manage, especially that it increased the winds of instability in more than one place.
The only way out is to end this role play and abandon what led to it.
The leader has the right to dream and put his country’s capabilities to serve those dreams. But dreams should take into consideration the country’s map and its ability to withstand the adventures.
Who even said that a ruler can achieve his dreams on others’ lands, like deciding who rules them or what regime to govern them?
Take my country for example. Is it right for Lebanon to decide who rules Syria? If we assume it is just, does this mean that Syria can determine who leads Lebanon, too? We can not reject the second assumption without refusing the first.
In the same context, we ask ourselves if, taking advantage of its resources, can Qatar determine the fate of Egypt?
There is a huge difference for Qatar to have a saying in the current situation in Egypt and support groups that are trying to change the regime by force. If Doha assumes it has the right to intervene in Egypt, why shouldn’t Cairo treat it the same way?
By using its ability to attract people or factions in a dismantled country as Libya, can Qatar, for instance, decide who should be its president or minister of defense? Why should Doha deny others the same right it granted itself?
For example, is it acceptable for Doha to back groups infiltrating into countries they don’t belong to and kill and bomb there?
Countries have the right to dream and to be motivated by revolution. But it is not within its right to cross over from the land of dreams to fantasies.
Only natural roles last. If not compatible with international law and conventions, major roles implode in small states. Countries that are relatively small can’t digest grand roles gained through maneuvers and under-the-table plots. Roles yanked in a haste and against nature, can’t survive long at the expense of natural roles.
States, like individuals, are tempted by roles of announced and secret mediation or direct or proxy interventions. The situation becomes dangerous that the person is so convinced he can re-form powers in conflict zones and is capable of shifting historical balances.
Middle East’s arenas are tempting for intervention. Countries always find an excuse to cross over borders and settle the scores. But these arenas are risky and it is hard for a new leader without any basis to rule it for a long time.
The only way out of the current crisis is through returning from the times of delusions. Qatar, like any other country, has the right to have a saying in what’s going on in the region and the world. But, it doesn’t have the right to devote its different capabilities in an agenda to create chaos in the region.
This chaos only serves non-Arab powers in the region.
Despite differences of countries, sizes, and eras, lessons should be learned.
Hasn’t Kuwait invasion been the fruit of holder of seals in Iraq changing from dreams to delusions? Didn’t Saddam believe he was capable of changing things and that the region will bow down to what he has done and the world would have to deal with it?
The results don’t need further explanations or comments.
Also, Muammar Gadhafi crossed over from the land of dreams to trap of illusions. He secretly sent money to armed groups in more than one continent. He wasn’t hesitant to use the embassies of his country to send bombs and mess with nearby and far away states.
Gadhafi received British Prime Minister Toni Blair and sat pointing the sole of his shoes at him. Where is Gadhafi now? Where is Blair? What about Libya and UK?
During his ruling, Gadhafi rejoiced that Silvio Berlusconi kissed him on the hand. But what happened to Gadhafi and Berlusconi?
A leader should be careful of excessive praise. It is pure poison. It leads to a trap of delusions and that is where the disaster begins.
It is so hard when delusions take over the ruler.​ ​

How Do Weapons Reach Terrorists?

Leonid Bershidsky/Bloomberg/July 24/17
The permissiveness of US gun laws is not just a domestic problem. Judging from a new study of internet gun sales, it’s also making the country a source of illicit weapons in Europe.
Following reports that guns for the 2016 Munich shootings and the 2015 Paris terror attacks were purchased on the vast, hidden part of the internet known as the dark web, the Rand Corporation received a commission for the first empirical study of the illegal online weapons trade. Led by Giacomo Persi Paoli, who had previously studied small arms trafficking for the United Nations, the Rand team spent a week in September 2016 observing the activity of 52 unique arms vendors operating on 15 online markets.
The results are troubling. Although weapons sales were marginal compared with drugs, they were significant and offered “both a wider range and better quality firearms than what is normally accessible on the streets.” The researchers estimate that some $80,000 worth of guns, gun parts, ammunition, explosives and digital products such as files for the 3D-printing of guns is sold every month in just the part of the market that they managed to observe. Most of the revenue comes from pistols. At an average price of $1,189 for a Glock, that’s hundreds of illegal guns a year.
Perhaps most interesting is the direction of trade. Sellers were located primarily in the US, with its vast legal arms market and well-developed cryptomarkets. And while delivery destinations were hard to pin down, the researchers concluded that “Europe appears to be a key recipient.” This is plausible in part because of the profits to be made by targeting customers across the Atlantic: In the US, a new Glock retails for $459, so the markup can exceed 100 percent. That makes shipping worth the trouble (though it’s worth noting that the Munich and Paris shootings were traced to European sellers).
The dark web has a lot of advantages for European buyers. The risk of being scammed or caught in a sting operation is high, but it’s no lower on the street. Cryptomarkets are easier to find than offline illegal arms dealers. Most transactions result in a customer review of the vendor, so it’s also easier to locate relatively — though never perfectly — trustworthy sellers. In Europe, with its strict gun laws, a street deal can be more dangerous than picking up a parcel with parts hidden in a power tool or a computer case, or several packages with bits of a disassembled gun.
Europeans broadly support tough rules against gun ownership. Although it’s not clear that fewer guns means less violent crime, plenty of studies show a positive correlation. European countries that forbid their citizens to carry weapons boast lower crime rates than the US.
The Rand report demonstrates how Europe’s rules can be circumvented if guns are legal in any country with a good internet and postal infrastructure. Anyone with a computer and a little determination can take part in the intercontinental arms trade. This means that tighter gun controls in the US, and specifically laws limiting how many a person can buy in a certain period, could cut the spillover to countries where the black market is hungry for weapons and sellers can command large premiums.
Unfortunately, even those US states that limit sales — California, New Jersey, Maryland — allow one per month. That’s far more than anyone needs for self-protection, and enough to earn a handsome additional income by shipping guns to Europe.

Be Clear-Eyed About Democracy’s Weaknesses
Noah Smith/Bloomberg View/July 24/17
In her new book, “Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America,” Nancy MacLean writes that my Bloomberg View colleague Tyler Cowen, by questioning American political institutions, was creating “a handbook…for how to conduct a fifth-column assault on democracy.” As the Hoover Institution’s Russ Roberts pointed out, Cowen’s quote was taken out of context. This is worth noting because Cowen has long been a staunch defender of democracy. But it’s no secret that Cowen is willing to think critically about the potential weaknesses of the US system. He does this not to attack democratic ideals, but to defend them. If we want to see democracy endure, we must think realistically and pragmatically about its weak points, so that we can focus resources on shoring them up. It’s very dangerous to indulge in triumphalism about one’s own form of government. Yes, democracies appear to have a modest statistical advantage when it comes to economic growth. But that’s just a statistical trend, not an ironclad proof of economic superiority. Plenty of autocratic countries have experienced rapid growth, from Germany in the 19th century to South Korea and Taiwan in the early 1980s. What’s more, there’s a chance that the modest correlation between democracy and growth is driven by one massive outlier — the US, whose alliance and patronage was undoubtedly a big economic advantage for many democratic countries during the 20th century.
Right now, democracy is being questioned more from both within and without. It’s worth asking if this is because democratic systems have some unique economic challenges that were systematically ignored in previous decades. Economists have long known that democracy doesn’t always lead to the most economically efficient outcome. The Nobel prize-winning economist Kenneth Arrow famously proved that no democratic political system can give all its citizens what they want in in all situations. Of course, real political systems don’t even come close to optimality, so this finding is a bit academic.
But economic theory also points to a more concrete problem — the difficulty democracies have in providing public goods. One of government’s essential roles is to provide things that benefit people other than those who directly pay for them. Examples include national defense, infrastructure and basic research. Education and health care also have some aspects of public goods, since a healthy and educated populace creates broad benefits for everyone.Because free markets generally won’t provide enough of these things, government needs to pick up the slack. When building infrastructure, authoritarian countries don’t have to worry about hurting the few to help the many. China forcibly relocated 1.2 million people to build a dam in the 2000s. Fortunately, that wouldn’t be possible in the US, but it does mean that American companies are often forced to compete against authoritarian rivals that have access to cheaply built world-class infrastructure.
Paying for public goods can also be difficult. People differ both in their ability to pay and in the amount of benefit they derive from the public goods. Typically, countries use different types of taxes to take these two things into account — gas taxes to fund highways, and income taxes that fall more heavily on the rich. But economic theorists have figured out that under a fairly general set of conditions, no tax regime can possibly provide a good deal for all citizens. Either government ends up not providing enough public goods, or it runs a budget deficit. There is an alternative. It’s possible to balance the budget and provide the optimal amount of public goods, but only if some rich people are forced to pay very high taxes. But the amount of top-level taxation required is so steep that many rich people would rather just quit the system entirely — move to another country, or abolish the government. This fairly general mathematical result probably explains many rich people’s affinity for libertarian ideas.
It also may explain why most democracies carry large amounts of government debt.

The US Special Relationship With Britain Needs a Rest
Noah Smith/Bloomberg/July 24/17
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.

Qatari Emir’s speech: Dispute does not lie in different points of view
Salman al-Dossary/Al Arabiya/July 24/17
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.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
Beginning of the crisis
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?

Iran-Qatar rapprochement and fueling of terrorism
Sawsan Al Shaer/Al Arabiya/July 24/17
Last week, security forces arrested members of a Bahraini institution called the Manama Human Rights Observatory that works under the pretext of defending human rights.This incident raised a series of questions: Does the Iranian-Qatari rapprochement have any negative repercussions on Bahrain’s security and stability? Is this a new rapprochement and happened as a reaction to the decision to boycott Qatar? Or is this an old agreement that was secret and it recently became public? The institution whose members were arrested had held seminars and workshops in Lebanon and Geneva and issued statements against the security forces in Bahrain. The investigation proved that this institution received financial support through a Bahraini man who works for Hezbollah and lives in Lebanon. It also turned out that the Lebanese Hezbollah funds and supports many people who are affiliated with other alleged human-rights organizations by holding conferences that include international organizations. The investigation also showed that one of the female suspects who was arrested by Bahrain and who exploited working in the human-rights field in that Bahraini institution communicated and cooperated with Al-Karama Foundation, a Qatari human rights organization, whose chief was named on the terror list issued by the countries boycotting Qatar.
The US Treasury had also included him on its terror lists and froze his assets and funds in 2013 due to his ties with the terrorist al-Qaeda organization. According to the investigation, this man also exploited Al-Karama’s human rights’ cover to support many terrorist organizations, including the Bahraini one.
If the international community is serious about combating terrorism and about restraining Iran, as it is “a major supporter of terrorism,” it will not succeed unless it tightens supervision over Qatar as both of them work together to fuel the conflict in the Middle East
‘Mutual interest’
The question here is what brought these two different parties, an Iranian and a Qatari organization, together to support the same Bahraini institution? What’s the “mutual interest” that brought a terrorist organization supported by Iran and a Qatari organization that supports al-Qaeda together with a Bahraini institution?What’s noteworthy is that the investigation showed that communication between the three parties has been still on until the members of that Bahraini cell were arrested last week, i.e. after the quartet of Arab countries decided to boycott Qatar.
After Qatar said that it has nothing to do with terrorist groups, the cell, whose members were recently arrested, proved that Qatar and Iran are working together to try and harm Bahrain. The cell showed Iran and Qatar and al-Qaeda and Hezbollah have a lot in common and that Bahrain is one of their most important mutual affairs.
Qatar and Iran do not only work in Bahrain to undermine security and fuel conflict but they also work in Yemen as a US State Department report proved that Iran still supports the Houthis and supplies them with arms while Qatar supports al-Qaeda there. Both of them work against legitimacy in Yemen.
In December 2013, the US Treasury submitted a report that stipulates that al-Karama provided financial support to terrorist organizations affiliated with al-Qaeda in Yemen, Syria and Iraq. This means that al-Karama is actually a bridge to transfer Qatari money to these groups.
The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies published a report entitled Qatar and Terror Finance. It confirmed that Qatar continues to financially support charity organizations and that the latter still operate although they have not attained licenses to resume their work.
Beyond Qatari control
The US State Department report proved that these organizations are beyond international and Qatari control. An organization called Qatar Charity is also accused of providing financial support to terrorism in Syria and Yemen.
The report said that Qatar Charity provided financial aid to terrorist groups in Yemen under the cover of carrying out charity projects, adding that a little contemplation in the names and parties working on these projects is enough to realize the true path of these donations.
Iran and Qatar also work together in Syria. Everyone is aware of the support which Iran provides to the Assad regime, Hezbollah and Shiite armed militias. Meanwhile, Qatar provides support to many Sunni armed organizations such as al-Nusra Front and others, and it provides this support under the cover of humanitarian aid or direct political support. The most interesting affair that they are also involved in is undermining the Palestinian Authority by supporting Hamas as its rival. Iranian-Qatari rapprochement is nothing new. They have mutual aims and interests such as “undermining security in the region” by supporting armed organizations and aiding groups that logistically help them under the cover of charity work or defending human rights. If the international community is serious about combating terrorism and about restraining Iran, as it is “a major supporter of terrorism,” it will not succeed unless it tightens supervision over Qatar as both of them work together to fuel the conflict in the Middle East. Therefore, Iranian-Qatari rapprochement must be monitored and observed.

Qatar and the bribing of journalists
Ahmad al-Farraj/Al Arabiya/July 24/17
All indications suggest that Qatar is counting on buying time and internationalizing the Gulf crisis. To achieve this end, Doha recruited all its media outlets inside the country and abroad to forge facts. It went as far as distorting official statements and altering translations.
It goes without saying that Qatar has always denied that some media outlets are affiliated with it and funded by it – one of the journalists it hired in Doha for this purpose has recently scandalized it though. What’s strange about these websites is that they worked on publishing everything that harms Saudi Arabia, and they’ve done so even before the decision to boycott was made.
These outlets are managed by suspicious Israeli Azmi Bishara who is aided by a group of Arab mercenaries who manage the so-called Qatari propaganda machine and who get promoted and richer the more they harm the Saudi kingdom.
What’s strange is how Gulf citizens who support the Brotherhood, particularly in Saudi Arabia, provide Azmi Bishara and his mercenaries of everything that harms their country to publish it on websites affiliated with Qatar. Many of the Saudi Brotherhood supporters visit Qatar regularly and the latter honors them and takes pictures of them while carrying expensive gifts and cheques.
Qatar did not just establish and support media platforms that are also supported by Iran but it also bribed western media outlets and writers who were once well-known.
Qatar does not honor them for nothing but it honors them in exchange of providing services that harm their country. These figures have not realized the magnitude of the crime they’ve committed until after the boycott decision was made. They ended up in trouble as they could not side with their country out of fear they will be blackmailed by Qatar. This exposed them and showed their true color to the Saudi people. This is one of the boycott’s positive results as before the boycott, Brotherhood supporters concealed their intentions, claimed they are patriots and used religion to deceive Saudi youths. Qatar did not just establish and support media platforms that are also supported by Iran but it also bribed western media outlets and writers who were once well-known. Yes, don’t be surprised. The western media is not all pure as we thought it was or as they wanted us to think. Human being, irrespective of his nationality or color, gets weak before the power of money and Qatar’s rulers are generous when it comes to that. Who thought Qatar will pay David Hirst and that he will manage a website for it? In addition to Hirst, there is Fareed Zakaria, the star who has fallen and who transformed from an intellectual and unbiased journalist into an Iranian mouthpiece speaking against the Saudi kingdom and keeping silent when hosting guests affiliated with the fascist regime of the supreme guide in Tehran.
The funds which Qatar spent on its media platforms and the bribes it lavishly paid to Arab and western journalists will not save it from evading the responsibility of supporting terrorism and terror groups. Is Doha aware of that?