July 27/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For Today
Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 11/14-23/:"Now he was casting out a demon that was mute; when the demon had gone out, the one who had been mute spoke, and the crowds were amazed. But some of them said, ‘He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons.’ Others, to test him, kept demanding from him a sign from heaven. But he knew what they were thinking and said to them, ‘Every kingdom divided against itself becomes a desert, and house falls on house. If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? for you say that I cast out the demons by Beelzebul. Now if I cast out the demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your exorcists cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out the demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you. When a strong man, fully armed, guards his castle, his property is safe. But when one stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away his armour in which he trusted and divides his plunder. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters."

Many of them therefore believed, including not a few Greek women and men of high standing
Acts of the Apostles 17/1-12/:"After Paul and Silas had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three sabbath days argued with them from the scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Messiah to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, ‘This is the Messiah, Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you.’ Some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. But the Jews became jealous, and with the help of some ruffians in the market-places they formed a mob and set the city in an uproar. While they were searching for Paul and Silas to bring them out to the assembly, they attacked Jason’s house. When they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some believers before the city authorities, shouting, ‘These people who have been turning the world upside down have come here also, and Jason has entertained them as guests. They are all acting contrary to the decrees of the emperor, saying that there is another king named Jesus.’The people and the city officials were disturbed when they heard this, and after they had taken bail from Jason and the others, they let them go. That very night the believers sent Paul and Silas off to Beroea; and when they arrived, they went to the Jewish synagogue. These Jews were more receptive than those in Thessalonica, for they welcomed the message very eagerly and examined the scriptures every day to see whether these things were so. Many of them therefore believed, including not a few Greek women and men of high standing."

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on July 26-27/17
Hezbollah is Everything That is Not Lebanese/Elias Bejjani/July 26/17
Crossing the Potomac: Saad Hariri's difficult visit to the White House/Makram Rabah/MEE/July 25/17
Trump, Lebanese leader pledge solidarity against terrorism/Darlene Superville/Washington Post/July 25/17
Can Lebanon survive Syria, Israel — and President Trump/Nora Boustany and Daniel Williams/The Washington Post /July 25/17
Hariri in a lecture at Carnegie: Lebanon is an asset to the region and the world/NNA/July 26/17
Failure of Mediation… A Message to Doha/Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Al Sharq AlAwsat/July 26/17
UK Terrorism: 'Enough' is Not 'Enough'/Douglas Murray/Gatestone Institute/July 26/17
Silicon Valley Censorship/Samuel Westrop/Gatestone Institute/July 26/17
Palestinians: Abbas's Security Doubletalk/Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/July 26/17
Brexit Disarray Points to Disaster/Clive Crook/Bloomberg/July 26/17

Titles For Latest Lebanese Related News published on July 26-27/17
Hezbollah is Everything That is Not Lebanese
Nasrallah Hails Arsal 'Victory', Says Ready to Cede Captured Posts to Army
Haley Urges Security Council to Consider Hizbullah a 'Destructive Terrorist Force'
Fact Check: Trump Misfires on Situation in Lebanon
Difficult' Fight for Hizbullah in Arsal's Outskirts
Hizbullah Shells Nusra, Blows Up Operations Rooms as Top Militant Killed
Army Reinforcements Pour into Bekaa for Possible Anti-IS Attack
Rockets, Arms Seized as ISF Raids IS Suspects in Tripoli
Report: Next Phase of Arsal Offensive Pushes for Militants' Withdrawal
Clashes Rock Syria Truce Zone, Says Monitor
Hariri: Our First Objective Is to Strengthen the State's Institutions
U.S. Humanitarian Assistance in Response to the Syrian Refugee Crisis in Lebanon
Kaag, UNRWA Director in Lebanon Visit Ain el-Hilweh Palestine Refugee Camp
Trump: Hezbollah is Menace to Lebanon, Region
Al-Nusra Uses 3 ‘Hezbollah’ Prisoners to Pressure it to Cease Arsal Operations
Syrian warplanes raid militants' posts in Arsal outskirts
Adwan: Jumbaltt Geagea meeting falls within frame of enduring relationship between both parties
Crossing the Potomac: Saad Hariri's difficult visit to the White House
Trump, Lebanese leader pledge solidarity against terrorism
Can Lebanon survive Syria, Israel — and President Trump
Hariri in a lecture at Carnegie: Lebanon is an asset to the region and the world

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on July 26-27/17
US House Votes to Slap Sanction on Russia, Iran, N.Korea
Trump Won't Let Assad Get Away with 'Horrible' Crimes
Erdogan Says Israel Removal of al-Aqsa Metal Detectors Not Enough
Standoff at Jerusalem Holy Site after Metal Detectors Removed
Israel-Turkey Fallout Deepens over al-Aqsa
PA Calls for Popular Struggle Amid Continued Israeli Measures at Al-Aqsa
Algeria Joins Gulf Crisis Mediation Efforts
Shoukry: Arab Quartet Rejects Any Compromise With Qatar
Al-Jazeera, IRNA to Strengthen Cooperation
European Court of Justice Upholds Hamas Terror Listing
40 Takfirists Killed in North Sinai in One Week
Sisi Urges Media to Spread ‘Fall of the State Phobia’ among Egyptians
Libya’s Sarraj, Haftar Agree to Ceasefire, Elections Next Spring
Libya Welcomes New Terror Designation for 18 Entities, Individuals
Hakim Brings Decades of Close Relations with Iran to an End

Latest Lebanese Related News published on July 26-27/17
Hezbollah is Everything That is Not Lebanese//ليس في حزب الله أي شيء لبناني
Elias Bejjani/July 26/17

Sadly, the majority of our Lebanese politicians, so falsely called parties, as well as the Terrorist Hezbollah's hand picked subservient appointed top officials, and in particular the Christian ones are mere Trojans.
They are betraying the peace loving Lebanese people, and marginalizing their deeply rooted great and rich history of 7000 years.
They are evilly practising with no conscience or shame Dhimmitude, cowardice, Taqiyya, Deception and treason in their worst versions of political prostitution, ethical meanness, stupidity, and ignorance.
Like Judas Iscariot the majority of these Christian Trojans in particular have sold Lebanon and its people, martyrs, values, and existence with less than thirty pieces of silver.
They, and with no shame or fear of Almighty God and His Last Day of Judgement are currently hailing the Terrorist Hezbollah's crimes, invasions and wars and feeling sorry not for the victims but for the Hezbollah killers.
These Lebanese deviated Leaders, politicians, corrupted officials and so called parties are disastrous on all levels and in all domains.
In reality these leaders and politicians are the actual enemies of Lebanon and its people.
In this same realm Dr. Walid Phares addresses today on his face Book Page under the title "1701 and 1559" (in the below patriotic and visionary statement) what the Iranian occupied Lebanon needs for securing its Liberation and the reclaiming of its confiscated independence, freedom and sovereignty.
"1701 and 1559"
Dr. Walid Phares/July 26/17
"US policy is to implement UNSCR 1701 and 1559. Period. It means:
1. Disarming militias, whatever their names and claims are.
2. Lebanese Army and Police sole Lebanese units on Lebanese soil
3. UN guarantees all international borders
Hezbollah and the Jihadists could fight as long as they want, in the mountains or in the cities, in the end there shouldn't and won't be terrorists or terror militias around. Time will show."
May Almighty God Bless and safeguard Lebanon and its people

Elias Bejjani
Canadian-Lebanese Human Rights activist, journalist and political commentator
Web sites &  &
Tweets on
Book &

Nasrallah Hails Arsal 'Victory', Says Ready to Cede Captured Posts to Army
Naharnet/July 26/17/Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah on Wednesday declared a “major victory” in his group's offensive against the jihadist al-Nusra Front group in the outskirts of the eastern border town of Arsal, while announcing that Hizbullah is willing to hand over all captured territory to the Lebanese army. “The Arsal battle had been planned since 2015... It was not an Iranian or a Syrian decision and we contacted the Syrian leadership and asked for their help in Flita,” said Nasrallah in a televised speech. “Whoever has the slightest military knowledge would know that such a decision cannot be taken days before the battle, which needed preparation and is not linked to any political developments,” Nasrallah noted. He boasted that “we are before a military victory that was achieved in 48 hours, surprising everyone,” pointing out that it was reached “with the least possible cost in terms of casualties.”
Turning to the Lebanese army's role in the ongoing developments, Nasrallah emphasized that what the army has done “in Arsal's vicinity and on the frontier was essential in the realization of this achievement.”“The Lebanese army's approach foiled the ambitions of those who sought to exploit the situation in Arsal and were betting on stirring sedition,” Nasrallah added. “Despite the difficult battle, the town of Arsal remained safe thanks to the army,” he underlined.
“Hizbullah does not want for Arsal and its residents anything but welfare, security, safety and dignity, and when the battle ends, we're ready -- if the Army Command asks -- to hand it over all of the recaptured posts and territory,” Nasrallah stressed. As for the current situation on the ground, Hizbullah's chief said “progress is continuous.” “I have asked the fighters to advance in a calculated manner and not to rush things, seeing as al-Nusra's remnants are encircled in a narrow area near refugee encampments. The operations must very accurate and there should be high caution in order to prevent any mistake,” Nasrallah noted.“The mujahideen have achieved a major victory with the least possible casualties and we are very keen on our fighters,” he added.
“I call on friends and media outlets not to set a timeframe for us. The operation has truly neared its end but time is on our side and we must not rush things. We must also give a chance to a possible settlement through the ongoing negotiations for the withdrawal of the militants under certain conditions,” Nasrallah said. He revealed that the “serious negotiations” had started on Tuesday that “an official Lebanese side” is in charge of the mediation.“Al-Nusra's leadership in Arsal or Idlib must realize that the situation on the ground does not put it in a position that enables it to impose conditions. There is a chance now but there  is not much time left and therefore they are asked to show more seriousness,” Nasrallah urged. He added: “There are two tracks – combat and negotiations – and the two tracks are currently being pursued and we're trying to be patient in order to reach the needed result.”And announced that al-Nusra Front's “military chapter in Lebanon has ended,” Nasrallah said Hizbullah “dedicates this victory to all Lebanese and the peoples in the region who have suffered from terrorism and takfiri brutality.”As for the outskirts of the border towns of Ras Baalbek and al-Qaa, which are occupied by the jihadist Islamic State group, Nasrallah said he would address the issue “after the end of al-Nusra's file.” Reinforcements from the army's elite units were pouring into the Bekaa region on Wednesday for a possible anti-IS operation in the outskirts of al-Qaa and Ras Baalbek.

Haley Urges Security Council to Consider Hizbullah a 'Destructive Terrorist Force'
Associated Press/Naharnet/Agence France Presse/July 26/17/U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley has urged the U.N. Security Council to consider Hizbullah "a destructive terrorist force" and "a major obstacle to peace" that is "dedicated to the destruction of Israel."She said the council must get serious about enforcing its resolutions that involve Hizbullah and its backer Iran, including many calling on the armed group to disarm. Haley said the U.N. peacekeeping force in Lebanon, UNIFIL, must also do "much more" to help prevent another conflict, starting by acknowledging "illegal weapons that Hizbullah parades in front of the media." She also warned that the alleged dangers Hizbullah poses "are getting larger, not smaller.""The American people sympathize with the challenges facing the Lebanese people," Haley added. "We will continue to support them as they combat ISIS and host over a million Syrian refugees," she said. U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday accused Iran and Hizbullah, which the United States considers a "foreign terrorist organization," of fueling the humanitarian disaster in Syria. "Hizbullah is a menace to the Lebanese state, the Lebanese people and the entire region," he said. "The group continues to increase its military arsenal which threatens to start yet another conflict with Israel," Trump said. "With the support of Iran, the organization is also fueling humanitarian catastrophe in Syria," he added. Hizbulah's "true interests are those of itself and its sponsor, Iran," Trump went on to say. Trump demurred when asked to comment on possible additional sanctions against Hizbullah."I'll be making my position very clear over the next 24 hours," he said. "I have meetings with some of my very expert military representatives and others, so I'll be making that decision very shortly."

Fact Check: Trump Misfires on Situation in Lebanon

Associated Press/Naharnet/July 26/17/U.S. President Donald Trump has given the impression that he is not up to speed on who's fighting whom in Lebanon. He wrongly credited the Lebanese government with fighting Hizbullah when he heaped praise on its prime minister, Saad Hariri, at the White House on Tuesday. Hizbullah, a Shiite Islamist political party with a militant faction, actually is a partner in Hariri's government. "Lebanon is on the front lines in the fight against ISIS, al-Qaida and Hezbollah," Trump said in a news conference with Hariri. The Lebanese government is indeed fighting against the Islamic State group and al-Qaida. But so is Hizbullah. Fighters from the powerful Iranian-backed group are leading a military offensive to wipe out jihadist extremists from IS and al-Qaida from areas along the Lebanese-Syrian border. And the Lebanese government is not confronting Hizbullah militarily, as Trump said, but rather reliant on it to stay in power. The group holds two seats in cabinet, as it has in previous governments. And while Hariri is opposed to Hezbollah's policies, particularly its decision to send fighters to shore up Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces in Syria, he has a power-sharing relationship with the group, without whose approval he would not be able to govern. Hizbullah also holds considerable influence in the country's parliament.

Difficult' Fight for Hizbullah in Arsal's Outskirts
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 26/17/Surveying the rocky no-man's land on Lebanon's eastern border with Syria, Hizbullah fighters recalled the "difficult" battle they fought to recapture much of the terrain from militants. The group has waged a five-day offensive across the scraggy landscape known as Juroud Arsal to oust the jihadists of al-Nusra Front from the area. On Wednesday, Hizbullah brought journalists to its positions overlooking the last pocket of enemy territory. Despite plumes of black smoke in the distance, fighters appeared relaxed after several days of clashes, grinning in the blistering heat. "Juroud Arsal's topography is tough and the battle against al-Nusra Front here was difficult," said a Hizbullah commander, speaking on condition of anonymity. "Al-Nusra was entrenched in its hilltops and valleys, turning these areas into combat facilities that even airplanes couldn't reach." Al-Nusra was al-Qaida's Syrian branch before it broke off ties and rebranded as Fateh al-Sham Front last year. Hizbullah has fought the group in Syria since intervening in support of the Damascus government in 2013. Juroud Arsal -- a mountainous area around the Lebanese border town of Arsal -- is mostly barren, save for some orchards of cherry and apricot trees that ripened long ago without being picked. Tens of thousands of Syrian refugees live in and around the town, some in camps. But security has long been a concern, with Lebanese security forces battling jihadists there in 2014. On Wednesday, Lebanon's flag had been planted next to the yellow and green flag of Hezbollah in Juroud Arsal. Around 200 fighters were in a pocket "that does not exceed nine square kilometers," the Hizbullah commander said.
Air strikes
Syrian warplanes have backed the push with regular air strikes from their side of the frontier. A Syrian army colonel accompanied by Hizbullah fighters could be seen atop a tank Wednesday in the porous border area. The Lebanese army has not officially declared its participation in the operation but has shelled "terrorists" in the area. Hizbullah fighters on Wednesday said they had helped protect "the Lebanese army's back." "We're shouldering the danger for Lebanon -- the danger of explosions and terrorist cells," the commander said. Hizbullah's involvement in Syria has intensified pre-existing divides among Lebanese political parties, but the assault in Juroud Arsal has appeared less controversial. Despite Hizbullah's announcement Monday that the operation was nearly over, the field commander said there was still work to do.
"The battle in Juroud (Arsal) is not over yet," he told journalists. "Nusra has an ideology and its fighters are tough. But we too are strong and have an ideology, even if it's a different one."Extreme Sunni militant groups such as al-Qaida consider Shiite Muslims, who make up a majority of Hizbullah's members and supporters, as apostates. Since its offensive began, Hizbullah has buried around 20 of its fighters and says around 120 enemy combatants were killed.

Hizbullah Shells Nusra, Blows Up Operations Rooms as Top Militant Killed
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 26/17/Hizbullah fired rockets and artillery Wednesday afternoon at al-Nusra Front's posts in Arsal's Wadi Hmayyed area and blew up Nusra “operations rooms” in the town's outskirts, following cautious calm in the morning. The Lebanese army also fired artillery rounds at militant posts in the Eastern Mountain Range after detecting “suspicious movements,” the National News Agency said.Syrian warplanes meanwhile launched consecutive raids on the posts of the militants in Arsal's outskirts and the sounds of bombardment were echoing across northern Bekaa, NNA said. On the humanitarian front, the Lebanese Red Cross, in coordination with the International Committee of the Red Cross, transferred three wounded militants from Wadi Hmayyed to the al-Rahma Hopsital in Arsal. Earlier in the day, Hizbullah's operations room reported that a Nusra military commander, Ammar Wardi, was killed during the battles. The National News Agency said Syrian warplanes staged several airstrikes at dawn on the Zamarani crossing along the Lebanese-Syrian border targeting militants. Battles between Hizbullah and al-Nusra Front had intensified early Wednesday on the Wadi Hmayyed hills before subsiding, NNA said. The agency added that Hizbullah was trying to protect civilians by distancing the battlefields from the encampments of refugees. It managed to encircle some hills and highlands in Wadi Hmayyed in anticipation of a new battle, the agency said. Hizbullah had kicked off its offensive in Arsal's outskirts on Friday. On Monday, Hizbullah said its fight against al-Nusra was "nearing its end," calling on the group's militants to surrender. Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah is scheduled to address the developments in a televised speech on Wednesday evening.

Army Reinforcements Pour into Bekaa for Possible Anti-IS Attack
Naharnet/July 26/17/Reinforcements from the army's elite units were pouring into the Bekaa region on Wednesday for a possible operation against the jihadist Islamic State group in the outskirts of the border towns of al-Qaa and Ras Baalbek. State-run National News Agency said the army's Airborne Regiment reinforced its posts in Ras Baalbek, al-Qaa and the neighboring areas, staged patrols and set up new military points “in anticipation of any infiltration or escape attempts by the militants into the two towns.”A military source meanwhile told Sky News television that the army was putting the final touches on “plans for an assault on IS in the hills neighboring al-Qaa and Ras Baalbek.”“Military reinforcements have been sent to all frontiers in Arsal, Ras Baalbek and al-Qaa seeing as these areas are considered a single front,” the source added. Al-Arabiya television had earlier reported that “major reinforcements” from the army's Commando Regiment were “heading towards IS' posts in al-Qaa's outskirts.”“Orders have been given to send large units from the Lebanese army to northern Bekaa,” Al-Arabiya quoted sources as saying. Foreign Minister and Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil meanwhile hinted from the United States that an army operation is looming in the horizon. “We want to know the fate of our missing troops. We want to liberate the outskirts of al-Qaa and Ras Baalbek and all outskirts. IS' terrorism will not escape the grip of the army... Go after them, our heroes,” Bassil tweeted from Washington. “Remember how much we had called for the army to liberate the eastern outskirts during the tenure of the previous government. A new president and a new army chief are now in charge and the time has come for keeping no land under occupation,” Bassil added. The developments come amid a Hizbullah offensive in the outskirts of the border town of Arsal against the militants of the jihadist al-Nusra Front group and the battle is reportedly in its final stage. Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah is expected to declare his group's victory over al-Nusra during a speech Wednesday evening.

Rockets, Arms Seized as ISF Raids IS Suspects in Tripoli
Naharnet/July 26/17/A patrol from the Internal Security Forces Intelligence Branch raided Wednesday a building in Tripoli's Abi Samra area in which it seized arms, shells and rockets, media reports said. LBCI television said the police agents stormed the apartment of a man called Jalal al-Jamal in Abi Samra in connection with the arrest of his brother-in-law Mahmoud al-Brihi two days ago in the northern area of Sir al-Dinniyeh. “In the wake of the raid, the patrol called in reinforcements and managed to arrest al-Jamal and his wife Safa al-Brihi, as arms, shells and rockets were found in the house,” LBCI said. The detainees are loyal to the jihadist Islamic State group, the TV network added. State-run National News Agency meanwhile said Intelligence Branch agents searched the entire building after imposing a security cordon around it.

Report: Next Phase of Arsal Offensive Pushes for Militants' Withdrawal
Naharnet/July 26/17/The “second phase” of Hizbullah's offensive against al-Nusra Front militants in the outskirts of Arsal will probably “end at dawn on Sunday,” paving way for the “third phase which opens channels of negotiations to secure the withdrawal of insurgents into Syria,” al-Joumhouria daily reported on Wednesday. An unnamed military source following-up closely on Hizbullah's operation, told the daily that the “noose will be tightened around 120 militants lingering in the Wadi Hmayyed area near the amusement park.”The “third phase will later begin by opening the channels of communication to secure the withdrawal of insurgents, unarmed, into Syria. The militants would eventually bow in the end as a result of the situation on the ground and the collapse of their defense lines,” said the source. On the other hand, a security source told the daily on condition of anonymity that “none of the Nusra militants entered into the encampments of refugees in Wadi Hmayyed near the amusement park.” He pointed out that “only around 150 gunmen from Saraya Ahl al-Sham rebel group entered into the area,” and that “negotiations to secure their withdrawal will be made.”Furthermore, the “Lebanese army has upped its security precautions to prevent Abu Malek al-Talli ( the embattled leader of al-Nusra Front for the Lebanese-Syrian border region) or any of his gunmen from infiltrating into Arsal,” added the source. In parallel, the Lebanese security services continue their crackdown on terrorist cells. The Internal Security Forces announced on Tuesday the dismantling of a sleeper cell following raids in Beirut and the Bekaa valley. The cells were waiting for final instructions from the Islamic State terror organization. Hizbullah said on Monday its fight against militant groups along the eastern border with war-ravaged Syria was "nearing its end", and called on fighters to surrender. Hizbullah announced a major push on Friday to clear both sides of Lebanon's border with Syria from "armed terrorists". The clashes are focused on the outskirts of Arsal, a mountainous area around the Lebanese border town of Arsal. Tens of thousands of Syrian refugees live in the town and the surrounding Arsal's outskirts area, some in camps. Hizbullah, which has been fighting alongside Syrian government forces since 2013, announced the offensive on Friday morning. The clashes have killed at least one civilian, and Hizbullah has carried out funeral services for at least 18 of its fighters. The Lebanese army has not officially declared its participation in the offensive but has fired shells on "terrorists" in the area.

Clashes Rock Syria Truce Zone, Says Monitor
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 26/17/Clashes erupted overnight in a rebel-held enclave outside Damascus, which was also hit by government air strikes despite a truce deal, a monitor said on Wednesday. An internationally brokered ceasefire zone covering parts of Eastern Ghouta went into effect on Saturday. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the overnight fighting was the first in the enclave since the truce began. Government troops clashed with fighters of the Faylaq al-Rahman rebel group in the Ain Tarma district, the Britain-based monitoring group said.
The fighting subsided by Wednesday morning but government warplanes then carried out strikes in the area. Faylaq al-Rahman is allied with former Al-Qaeda affiliate Fateh al-Sham Front and the pro-government Al-Watan newspaper reported on Monday that it was excluded from the truce.
Government air strikes also hit the Utaya district of Eastern Ghouta, killing a girl and wounding seven other civilians, as well as the town of Zamalka, the Observatory said. The new strikes came after two days of government air raids on the town of Arbeen in Eastern Ghouta, which killed 12 civilians, among them children. The so-called "de-escalation" zone deal, hammered out by government allies Russia and Iran and rebel backer Turkey in May, covers only part of Eastern Ghouta, a large region that is key opposition territory. A map displayed at a Russian defence ministry briefing appeared to show that the areas hit late on Tuesday and on Wednesday were inside the ceasefire zone."The air strikes and the clashes are a violation of the truce," Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said. On Tuesday, a Russian military official denied that any air strikes had hit inside the ceasefire zone, which is being monitored in part by Russian police. The Russian defence ministry map appears to show at least part of Arbin may be excluded from the truce zone. Eastern Ghouta is the second of four proposed ceasefire zones to be implemented, after parts of the southern provinces of Daraa, Sweida and Quneitra. More than 330,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began with anti-government protests in March 2011.

Hariri: Our First Objective Is to Strengthen the State's Institutions
Naharnet/July 26/17/Prime Minister Saad Hariri stressed that the government’s main goal is to strengthen the State's institution and its military and security forces in order to extend their control over the entire Lebanese territory. “Our first objective is to strengthen the institutions, the Lebanese army and the security forces in order to extend their control over the entire Lebanese territory. This is what is supposed to happen, and it will hopefully. I confirm that President Michel Aoun insists on this matter more than anyone else does,” said Hariri from Washington during a reception at the Embassy of Lebanon.“The days that passed have been difficult in the political sense, but the most important is that we agreed since we formed this government to complete the march in the interest of the country,” added Hariri. “There may be different opinions and disagreements among political parties about what is happening in the country. The most important thing is for the country to protect itself and for the Lebanese army to carry out its duties to protect the Lebanese, the (refugees) camps and the Lebanese borders,” stressed the PM. Hariri said: “It is important for us to come to Washington and meet with officials to explain the importance of Lebanon in the region and what we are doing to stabilize it. “Lebanon is in the midst of a region witnessing chaos and we managed to maintain stability by establishing consensus among all political parties and putting Lebanon's interests first. We made sure that this consensus applies to all aspects of government,” he said. “During this visit, we spoke clearly about Lebanon's interest in maintaining stability, strengthening the Lebanese army, developing the economy and agreeing on how to help the Syrian refugees. But the most important is to help the Lebanese national economy because if it does not rise there will be a problem in the country,” Hariri concluded.

U.S. Humanitarian Assistance in Response to the Syrian Refugee Crisis in Lebanon
Naharnet/July 26/17/The United States announced that it is providing more than $140 million in additional humanitarian assistance in Lebanon to address the urgent needs of refugees from Syria and those of Lebanese host communities, according to a U.S. State Department fact sheet released by the U.S. Embassy in Beirut. The announcement was made during Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s visit to Washington, DC. The newly announced funding brings U.S. humanitarian assistance to Lebanon to more than $1.5 billion since the start of the Syria crisis in 2012. It reflects the steadfast U.S. commitment to helping address the unprecedented magnitude of suffering and urgent humanitarian need in Lebanon Lebanon hosts more than 1.5 one million registered refugees, representing nearly a quarter of its population, a sign of the great hospitality and generosity of the Lebanese people.Through this support, the United States will provide food assistance, shelter for the most vulnerable families, emergency and hospital care, humanitarian protection, and child immunization and nutrition to the more than one million refugees and Lebanese host populations that are in need. The United States will also support infrastructure projects that improve access for Lebanese and refugees to safe drinking water and wastewater services. This assistance supports the critical humanitarian needs addressed in the 2017 Lebanon Crisis Response Plan’s appeal of $2.8 billion. The new funding supports the operations of UN humanitarian agencies in Lebanon. We encourage other donors to join us in providing additional humanitarian assistance for those affected by the crisis in Syria, including fulfilling not yet funded previously made pledges.

Kaag, UNRWA Director in Lebanon Visit Ain el-Hilweh Palestine Refugee Camp

Naharnet/July 26/17/The United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Sigrid Kaag and the Director of UNRWA in Lebanon, Claudio Cordone, visited the Palestine refugee camp of Ain el-Hilweh, UNRWA said in a statement on Wednesday. They met on Tuesday with representatives and residents of the camp, including women and youth groups, and visited UNRWA installations and other areas in the camp. Noting the difficult socioeconomic conditions in the camps and recurrent outbreaks of violence, Kaag and Cordone underlined the ongoing need for calm and stability allowing residents to go about their daily lives without fear of violence. “The important message of this visit is complete and continued support for the Palestine refugees under the aegis of UNRWA whilst they are residing in Lebanon,” Kaag said. Cordone said “UNRWA is committed to deliver its assistance and protection mandate for Palestine refugees to the best of its ability, including in particular by assisting the families most in need due to poverty and displacement by the recent fighting.” Kaag and Cordone welcomed the measures taken by the Palestinian joint security forces and the cooperation with the Lebanese military and security agencies to improve the security situation in the camp. More than 57,000 Palestine refugees are registered by UNRWA as living in Ain el-Hilweh.

Trump: Hezbollah is Menace to Lebanon, Region
Asharq Al-Awsat/July 26/17/Washington, Beirut- US President Donald Trump considered during his meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri that Hezbollah “is a menace to the Lebanese state, the Lebanese people, and the entire region.”The US president said “the group continues to increase its military arsenal, which threatens to start yet another conflict with Israel, constantly fighting them back.”On Tuesday, Hariri crowned his Washington trip by meeting with Trump at the White House, where he stressed the importance of protecting stability in Lebanon as an absolute priority at this stage. Speaking at a joint press conference, Trump said: “The Prime Minister and I have just concluded an extensive conversation about the challenges and opportunities facing Lebanon and its neighbors.” He added that Lebanon is on the front lines in the fight against ISIS, Al Qaeda, and Hezbollah.
“The Lebanese army has been fighting continually to guard Lebanon’s border and prevent ISIS and other terrorists — of which there are many — from gaining a foothold inside their country,” the US President told Hariri. Trump said the US military has been proud to help in that fight and will continue to do so. “America’s assistance can help ensure that the Lebanese army is the only defender Lebanon needs,” he added. Trump accused the head of the Syrian regime, Bashar Assad, of committing “horrible” crimes against humanity and he pledged “not to stand by and let him get away with what he tried to do.”For his part, Hariri thanked Trump for his support to the Lebanese army and security agencies, as well as his support to maintaining peace and stability along the southern border. “We are happy to make sure that this partnership we have in fighting ISIS and all terrorism is ongoing. We will keep this partnership, hopefully, for the best of the region,” Hariri said from the Rose Garden.

Al-Nusra Uses 3 ‘Hezbollah’ Prisoners to Pressure it to Cease Arsal Operations
Nazeer Rida/Asharq Al-Awsat/July 26/17/Beirut – The al-Nusra Front released on Tuesday a video of three “Hezbollah” fighters, whom it had detained in 2015 and 2016 in the outskirts of Aleppo, Syria. The detainees have been used as a negotiations card by al-Nusra after they pleaded with the party to cease its military operations in the outskirts of Lebanon’s northeastern border region of Arsal. Al-Nusra uncovered the video after indirect negotiations were launched over granting the extremist group and its leader in the outskirts Abou Malek al-Talleh safe passage to northern Syria after “Hezbollah” announced that the operations in the region were nearing their end. Sheikh Mustafa al-Hujeiri has been mediating between the Lebanese government, “Hezbollah” and the extremist group. The start of the negotiations led to a temporary suspension of military operations in Arsal after the party had seized more than 80 percent of territory that was under al-Nusra’s control. The lull in the battle was short-lived and fighting resumed some 24 hours after the ceasefire was announced. The renewed fighting on Tuesday afternoon appeared to be a sign that the negotiations had failed. Arsal field sources spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat of information that ISIS terrorists and al-Nusra extremists had joined ranks in the battle against “Hezbollah.” Predictions that the two sides would come together were made two days ago in anticipation of the potential failure of negotiations. After announcing that it had captured the majority of land seized by al-Nusra, the Lebanese party had called on the extremist fighters to surrender “in order to ensure their safety.” Lebanese media said that “Hezbollah” had set as a condition al-Nusra declaring that it was ready to withdraw from the area before looking into a mechanism that would transport the fighters out of the battle zone.
The party later said that it did not receive an answer to its demands, which prompted it to escalate its military operations. Informed Lebanese sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that al-Talleh had demanded that he be allowed to leave the area with his medium and heavy weapons, a request that “Hezbollah” rejected. The party instead said that al-Talleh and his fighters should withdraw with only their personal weapons and after al-Nusra announces its surrender. If these demands are fulfilled, the party would ensure their safe passage to northern Syria. The al-Nusra central command apparently sought to raise the stakes by revealing the capture of the three “Hezbollah” fighters. This indicates that the negotiations in Arsal were no longer limited to al-Talleh, but they have come to include al-Nusra’s main command. The prisoners were identified as Hussein Nazih Taha and Mahdi Hani Shoaib, who were detained in the town of al-Ais in the outskirts of Aleppo in November 2015, and Mohammed Jawad Ali Yassine, who was detained in the same town in April 2016. A third “Hezbollah” fighter was imprisoned with Taha and Shoaib in 2015, but he was not shown in Tuesday’s video.
The three detainees urged the party to stop the attack on Syria’s al-Qalamoun “or we will be victims if this demand is not met.”They also pleaded with their relatives “to mobilize and pressure the party to halt this attack” against al-Nusra in the Arsal outskirts. On the ground in Arsal, “Hezbollah” media said that the party continued to make progress, escalating the fight against “what remained” of al-Nusra’s fighters in the area. Al-Manar television reported that a “two-prong attack was launched to capture the last remaining land that al-Nusra controls in the outskirts.”Field sources said that the party launched a wide attack on all fronts against the extremists’ positions in Wadi Hmeid and Wadi al-Rahwa. Hours later, the media said that the party had captured Wadi Kamil, Wadi Hammoudi, Makaabat al-Furn, al-Baydar, Shaabat al-Nahleh and Wadi Daleel al-Barrak.
In the meantime, the Lebanese Red Cross, with the Lebanese army’s support, had transferred nine refugee women and children from encampments on the outskirts of Arsal to the town of Arsal. A woman, who had gone into labor, was also transported from an encampment in Wadi Hmeid to a nearby hospital.

Syrian warplanes raid militants' posts in Arsal outskirts
Wed 26 Jul 2017/NNA - Syrian warplanes are launching successive raids on gunmen's posts in Arsal outskirts, NNA reporter said on Wednesday. The sound of shelling had been heard in northern Bekaa. The Lebanese army artillery is targeting militants' posts in the eastern chain, after detecting suspicious movements.

Adwan: Jumbaltt Geagea meeting falls within frame of enduring relationship between both parties
Wed 26 Jul 2017/NNA - Lebanese Forces (LF) Vice President MP George Adwan on Wednesday said that the meeting which occured yesterday [Tuesday] between Democratic Gathering head MP Walid Jumblatt and LF leader Samir Geagea and his wife in Clemenceau falls within the nature of "permanent and continual relationship between Progressive Socialist Party and the LF.""The meeting comes in the aim of maintaining reconciliation and fortifying national coexistence and stability in Mount Lebanon," MP Adwan remarked, disclosing that the meeting took up a range of issues on the local arena. "These meetings have never stopped," the MP said in an interview to Al Anbaa newspaper, adding that such meetings took place on a constant basis between both commands.

Crossing the Potomac: Saad Hariri's difficult visit to the White House
Makram Rabah/MEE/July 25/17
The Lebanese PM will be forced to explain how Hezbollah launched a military campaign against Syrian rebels inside the country. Given Trump's anti-Iran stance, Hariri may need some back up.
For many Lebanese statesmen, a high-profile international visit, especially to Washington, DC is a cause for bragging rights, a chance to claim they’ve seen the inside of the White House and shaken the hand of the most powerful politician in the world. It is with this mindset perhaps that Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri and his extended delegation have landed in Washington on Tuesday, scheduled to meet President Donald Trump and other US officials to discuss several items, chief among them, the ever-inflating refugee crisis and the fight against terrorism.
By unilaterally declaring war, Hezbollah's campaign in Arsal deals a severe blow to Lebanon’s sovereignty
This visit, mundane as it might appear, will certainly not be smooth for Hariri who will have to answer uneasy questions about his government’s weak stance on Hezbollah and the group’s highjacking of the Lebanese state.
A few days before Hariri left for DC, Hezbollah launched a so-called war of liberation against what it deems to be terrorist groups bunkered down in the eastern town of Arsal. By unilaterally declaring war, the campaign deals a severe blow to Lebanon’s sovereignty.
It has also, once again, humiliated the Lebanese government and its army, which is not participating in the offensive, but only coordinating relief efforts to avoid a potential humanitarian crisis as Syrian refugees displaced from the Arsali outback flee.
In order to explain to Trump how it is that Hezbollah - the Iranian-backed US designated terror group fighting for Assad in the Syrian war - has launched its own operation in the country he controls, Hariri will likely use the same justification he used when he changed his stance against the group to elect Michel Aoun, Hezbollah’s main Christian ally, as president. He's protecting "Lebanon and the state and the people”.
This pretext, however, will fail to impress the hawkish Trump who, unlike his predecessor, views Iran as an equal if not more menacing threat than terrorist groups like Islamic State.
The roller-coaster ride
Since 2005, when he was forced to lead his father’s coalition of anti-Syrian parties, known as March 14, after he was assassinated, Hariri’s adventure in Lebanese politics has been nothing short of a roller-coaster ride.
Despite March 14’s electoral successes, Hariri had to wait until 2009 to be named premier - and only as a result of the Doha Agreement, the deal which ended a round of violence between the Lebanese government and Hezbollah and their allies.
Consequently, Hariri was named to led a national unity government which included all factions as well as Hezbollah who agreed to bury the hatchet - or so it seemed.
On his last visit to Washington, DC in 2011, then as prime minister, Hariri was leaving the oval office when he learned that Hezbollah had imploded his government, leaving Hariri as a caretaker prime minister until he was replaced by Najib Mikati, an ally of Hezbollah and the Syrian regime, three months later.
Following this humiliation, Hariri went into exile. He faced security threats and, perhaps more importantly, his financial empire in Saudi Arabia was dealt a severe blow, preventing him from financing a successful opposition campaign against his local Lebanese rivals.
Hariri’s recent return last November to the Grand Serail – headquarters of the Lebanese premier - came as part of a startling deal he struck with Aoun, including an agreement dividing the government and its resources between them and ensuring that Hariri’s tenure would go smoothly.
The major hitch in this Faustian deal, however, was that Hariri was forced to work with Aoun’s ally Hezbollah. Ill-sentiments between the group and Hariri and his Saudi allies was, unsurprisingly, mutual.
The Aoun-Hariri alliance, while ostensibly empowering the latter, also exposed him to major criticism both locally and intentionally. Among his traditional supporters, Hariri has relinquished his father’s legacy by bringing Aoun to power, a concession which will only strengthen Hezbollah’s grasp over the state.
Despite welcoming Aoun’s election, Saudi Arabia clearly had reservations over the deal and, since he came to power, has not provided financial support to the state or the army, as it has done on numerous occasions in the past.
But perhaps most importantly, Hariri, according to many reports, lost favour with senior Saudi leaders who were disappointed by his earlier political performances and by his repeated failure to stand up to Hezbollah and Iran.
Saad Hariri's Saudi problem: Desperate needs, desperate deeds
His situation was further complicated when Hariri’s Saudi construction firm Saudi Oger was accused of financial corruption, a claim which was followed by intentional delays by the Saudi government to settle Oger’s bills which drove the company to the brink of bankruptcy.
While Hariri is still received in Saudi Arabia as a long lost son, his collusion with Hezbollah, whether he likes it or not, places him in a very volatile position which will only worsen with time.
Expect turbulence
With these burdens on his shoulders, Hariri’s trip to the US may prove more turbulent than expected. While he has unleashed a barrage of criticism against Hezbollah, condemning the battle in Arsal as part of an Iranian agenda, Hariri himself has deliberately kept these issues off the table of his cabinet and has refrained from asking his ally President Aoun to take a stand against the continued breach of state sovereignty.
Naturally, Hariri wants to avoid these thorny matters which are certain to break up this marriage of convenience with Aoun and consequently thwart several government projects in the works, many of which have been accused either of involving monopolies or corruption.
Once Hariri gets his photo op with Trump and the cameras are gone, neither of the two leaders will be able to avoid the elephant in the room. Nor will Trump fail to mention that, despite continued American military assistance to Lebanon, the state has failed to enforce financial sanctions against Hezbollah and, instead, has allowed the group to use the government as a cover to carry out its military scheme in the east.
May be Obama would have accepted a claim that this was out of the Lebanese government’s hands. Trump won’t.
If Hariri and his allies can agree to pass unpopular and unsound taxes and projects that are expected to fail and waste millions of taxpayers’ money, then it is only natural that the prime minister of Lebanon and the president of the republic step forward to protect what remains of Lebanon's shattered dignity.
Consequently, if Hariri and his team don’t have a contingency plan for any of the scenarios above, then their trip to the White House will certainly not bode well, nor will it make Hariri a return visitor to the oval office, a reality which would further ostracise Lebanon from the international community and further push it into the Iranian sphere.
- Makram Rabah is a lecturer at the American University of Beirut, Department of History. He is the author of A Campus at War: Student Politics at the American University of Beirut, 1967-1975.

Trump, Lebanese leader pledge solidarity against terrorism
Darlene Superville/Washington Post/July 25/17
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Tuesday that supporting Syrian refugees as close to their home as possible is the best way to help them. Trump commented during an appearance with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, whose country is burdened by an influx of refugees fleeing the civil war in Syria and who is counting on continued U.S. assistance to help manage that burden. During Hariri’s first visit to the Trump White House, the leaders also pledged continued solidary against terrorism from the Islamic State group and other militant groups. “Our approach supporting the humanitarian needs of displaced Syrian citizens as close to their home country as possible is the best way to help most people,” said Trump, standing alongside Hariri in the Rose Garden after their talks.
The U.S. has provided billions of dollars in humanitarian assistance to help supply displaced and other Syrians with clean water, food, shelter and health care since the civil war broke out in early 2011. Hariri said Syrian refugees account for about 1.5 million, or one quarter, of Lebanon’s population of about 6 million people. The prime minister was expected to seek additional U.S. assistance to cope with the refugee influx. In brief remarks to open one of their meetings, Hariri said he hoped the anti-terrorism partnership between the U.S. and Lebanon would continue until all terrorists are defeated. “We will do that,” replied Trump, who also praised the Lebanese army for keeping IS and other extremist groups from establishing a foothold in the country. “Ultimately you will win ... we have great confidence in you.”
Continued U.S. support for the Lebanese military, financial assistance for Syrian refugees and U.S. plans to tighten sanctions on the militant group Hezbollah were the key items on Hariri’s agenda going into the meeting with Trump. The Lebanese army in recent years has been battling Islamic extremists near its border with Syria and the country has suffered recurrent bouts of insecurity and spillover from the civil war raging next door. U.S. security assistance for the Lebanese army has exceeded $1 billion in the past decade, but concern is mounting that the aid could be cut under Trump’s plan to slash the State Department budget. But Hariri has a tough balancing act. Potentially embarrassing for him is the current offensive to clear Sunni militants along the Lebanon-Syria border, which is being spearheaded by Hezbollah and the Syrian army, with the Lebanese military serving largely as a bystander.
Trump has slammed the Iranian-backed Shiite militant group Hezbollah, which the U.S. considers a terrorist group, and Congress recently introduced legislation to impose stiffer sanctions on the powerful group. Hariri, whose fragile governing coalition includes members of Hezbollah, is worried that U.S. efforts to widen sanctions on Hezbollah could negatively impact the banking industry in Lebanon.
At the same time, he has warned that Lebanon is close to a breaking point due to the strain of hosting more than 1 million Syrian refugees. When asked, Trump declined to offer a position on possible tighter sanctions against Hezbollah, but U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley took a hard line against the group on Tuesday. Haley urged the U.N. Security Council to acknowledge that Hezbollah — which it has not even named in recent resolutions — “is a destructive terrorist force” and “a major obstacle to peace” that is “dedicated to the destruction of Israel.” She said the council must get serious about enforcing its resolutions that have been routinely violated by Hezbollah and its backer Iran, including many calling on the militant group to disarm.Haley said the U.N. peacekeeping force in Lebanon must also do “much more” to help prevent another conflict, starting by acknowledging “illegal weapons that Hezbollah parades in front of the media.”
“The American people sympathize with the challenges facing the Lebanese people,” Haley said. “We will continue to support them as they combat ISIS and host over a million Syrian refugees.” But she warned that the dangers Hezbollah poses “are getting larger, not smaller” and it’s time to acknowledge this and get serious about enforcing U.N. resolutions.

Can Lebanon survive Syria, Israel — and President Trump?
Nora Boustany and Daniel Williams/The Washington Post /July 25/17
BEIRUT — Lebanon, a country seemingly always under existential siege from forces inside and out, is trying to navigate a summer of tensions with its neighbors.
First, Saad Hariri, prime minister of the beleaguered country, wants to keep his country out of Syria’s vicious civil war, where Hezbollah, Lebanon’s formidable and autonomous Shiite militia, is allied with Iran in support of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad against Sunni Islamist rebels and other rebels.
Lebanon also faces a bellicose Israel to the south, which is unhappy with archenemy Hezbollah’s growing power and is talking about flattening the country if Hariri doesn’t do something about it.
This tinderbox of pressures coincides with Hariri’s visit with President Trump in Washington on Tuesday, when he will try to keep the administration from ending a State Department program of military aid to Lebanon worth about $80 million this year. Trump should not end U.S. support for Lebanon’s armed forces. Trump’s Middle East policy includes raising the rhetorical temperature on Iran and siding with Saudi Arabia in a regional power struggle against the Islamic republic. The United States considers Hezbollah a terrorist organization, and Trump is committed to the U.S. alliance with Israel.
So where does that leave Lebanon, suspended between Iran, Syria and Hezbollah on the one hand and Israel on the other? Hariri will prefer to avoid having to take sides among all these unpredictable players.
But this summer, Lebanese high-wire neutrality is under particular threat. Hezbollah has launched an offensive to clear Islamist rebels and other anti-Assad forces from the mountainous border area about 70 miles northeast of Beirut. The Islamic State, along with Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, once an al-Qaeda affiliate known as the al-Nusra Front, are among the rebel groups.The Lebanese army is trying to keep the insurgents from fleeing into the border town of Arsal and beyond. More than a million Syrian refugees have taken sanctuary in Lebanon.
Over the past few years, the Lebanese army aggressively hunted down rebel operatives to ensure Lebanon did not become a safe haven for anti-Assad groups and invite the wrath of Hezbollah and Syria. But the strategy also endangered the country’s stability.
In 2015, a pair of Islamic State suicide bombers blew themselves up in a Shiite Beirut neighborhood and killed about 40 people. In June 2016, Islamist suicide bombers detonated eight bombs in the Christian village of al-Qaa, just north of Arsal. It was a warning to the Lebanese army to stop pursuing rebels inside Lebanon. About a month ago, the Lebanese army raided Arsal and rounded up about 360 rebel suspects. During the assault, five suicide bombers detonated explosives, killing a Syrian girl and wounding several soldiers. Brutality easily spread: Human Rights Watch said that at least four detainees died in army custody, with three showing signs of torture. Western diplomats in Beirut are warning that anti-Assad sleeper cells, ensconced mostly in northern Lebanon and in Palestinian refugee camps, might unleash a terror spree in response to the army’s current activities.
Diplomats also wonder and worry about Israel’s intentions. Israel accuses the Lebanese government of turning a blind eye to Hezbollah’s military buildup in the Bekaa Valley in eastern Lebanon and is not buying the notion that the government can’t control Hezbollah. Defanging Hezbollah was a requirement of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701 that ended the 2006 Israel-Lebanon war.
During the past few months, Israelis have unleashed a drumbeat of threats. Israel’s former defense minister Moshe Yaalon warned darkly, “Every Lebanese will suffer from the next war because all infrastructure will be destroyed.”
Upping the ante, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said that Hezbollah can hit all of Israel, including its nuclear reactor in Dimona, with its own hoard of missiles and that in the event of war, “tens of thousands” of Arabs would join the fight.
In interviews last week, U.N. peacekeepers — also criticized by Israel for going easy on Hezbollah in the south — that it doesn’t take much to spark war with Israel. In 2006, a cross-border Hezbollah raid, during which the militia captured two Israeli soldiers, triggered a major conflict. “We are on edge,” said a U.N. official in southern Lebanon.
So what comfort can Hariri get from Trump in this precarious situation? Hariri will want to not only keep military aid flowing but to also avoid conditions demanding that Lebanon try to disarm Hezbollah. Hezbollah is dangerously well-equipped and more potent than the Lebanese army. It is also politically powerful. The State Department’s 2016 terrorism report noted that Hariri’s own cabinet “did not consider legislative initiatives that could potentially threaten Hezbollah’s operations, as the presence of Hezbollah and its political allies in the government make the requisite consensus on such actions impossible.”
Trump ought to maintain support for the Lebanese army. As weak as the Lebanese army is, does the administration really want to leave the military field open only to Hezbollah? The price for supporting Hariri is small enough, even if military aid at least serves as a symbolic means to bolster official Lebanon in the face of Hezbollah.
*Nora Boustany is an award-winning former correspondent and columnist for The Washington Post based in Lebanon, where she writes and teaches journalism at the American University of Beirut.
*Daniel Williams is author of “Forsaken: The Persecution of Christians in Today’s Middle East.”

Hariri in a lecture at Carnegie: Lebanon is an asset to the region and the world
Wed 26 Jul 2017/NNA - The President of the Council of Ministers Saad Hariri was invited today by the "Carnegie Endowment for International Peace" think tank, where he delivered a lecture attended by members of the accompanying Lebanese delegation, the director of the Institute William Burns and a large group of thinkers and researchers.
At the beginning, Burns welcomed Hariri and spoke about the role of the Institute and its activities, the situation in the Middle East and the violence and extremism it witnesses. He praised the role played by Prime Minister Hariri in stabilizing Lebanon, fighting extremism and emphasizing the role of moderation in Lebanon and the region and what the Lebanese are doing to give a boost to their country.
Prime Minister Hariri delivered the following lecture:
"The late Pope John Paul the Second has called Lebanon a "message to the region and the world".
I am here to add: Lebanon is an asset to the region and to the world.
In a region fraught with religious and sectarian violence, in a world where coexistence between Islam and Christianity is increasingly portrayed as impossible, Lebanon offers a model. A model of coexistence, of dialogue and of political solution.
In a region where authoritarian regimes offer no alternative but repression and civil war, Lebanon's democratic - certainly imperfect, yet democratic - system also offers a model.
In a region where despair is becoming the norm, where economic and social horizons are bleak, Lebanon offers a model of resilience, creativity and initiative.
In a region threatened by extremism and terrorism, Lebanon is a model of a society anchored in moderation, denying extremism a foothold, and of an Army and security forces actively combating terrorism achieving success after success in that battle.
In a world incapable of accommodating refugees in the thousands, Lebanon, with a population of 4 million, has nearly 1,5 million Syrian displaced, added to about half a million Palestinian refugees on its territory - a ratio of one to two!. In this, Lebanon provides a public good to the world.
For all the above reasons, and more, Lebanon is an asset to the region and to the world.
This asset faced and still faces many threats. Some of which we as Lebanese are dealing with on our own, and some for which the contribution of the International community is a must.
Let me first discuss what we Lebanese have been doing to stabilize our situation.
Lebanon is emerging from ten years of political deadlock that has polarized the country and led to economic inaction and erosion of investor confidence.
Less than a year ago, we faced the challenges of political tension, paralysis in decision-making, low capital inflows, slow growth and the negative repercussions of the Syria conflict and the associated Syrian displaced crisis.
Since then, we have elected a president putting an end to a 3 years vacancy in power. We have formed a national unity government and adopted a new electoral law. In short, political life has been returned to normal.
Elections are scheduled for next May, which gives our current government 10 months. Despite this short period, I plan to address the economic and social challenges, concentrating on four broad objectives:
1- Jumpstart inclusive economic growth
2- Maintain fiscal stability
3- Mitigate the impact of the Syrian displaced
4- Implement a capital investment program.
These objectives are mutually reinforcing and will help create a virtuous circle.
To jumpstart growth, we are counting on regained political stability to encourage private sector activity. We are developing a new growth model and diversifying the sources of growth: Information and communication technology, startup ecosystem, the oil and gas sector). We are building manufacturing capacities in industrial zones and special economic zones. We are enhancing private sector participation, adopting a Private Public Partnership law, and capital markets development. And we are providing an incentive package to the private sector.
To maintain fiscal stability, we have passed a budget this year, for the first time in 12 years and we are now working on passing the 2018 budget. We also passed a neutral wage bill, where no additional expenditure is financed through debt, and with it, passed much needed administrative reform. We are improving our tax collection and aiming to stabilize our debt to GDP over the short term. However, fiscal stability also faces the pressure of increased expenditure on our Army and security agencies, who are at the forefront of the fight against terrorism.
Now comes the part where the international community needs to live up to its responsibilities and shoulder the burden with us.
As I said before, no country in the world and in recent History has hosted as many displaced as a share of its population. No people have shown the generosity the Lebanese have given to 1,5 million Syrian displaced.
However the effects of the conflict in Syria and the refugee influx have been devastating on our economy, infrastructure and social sectors.
The most recent World Bank estimates put the cumulative loss to Lebanon's GDP since the start of the conflict at 18 billion dollars, and revenue loss is estimated at 4,2 billion dollars. Unemployment particularly among the youth - Syrians and Lebanese - has doubled with more than 500 thousand youth at risk today.
Lebanon's public school system is now working almost around the clock, accommodating more Syrian students than Lebanese: 230 thousand Syrians, and 200 thousand Lebanese. Still it is estimated that 200 thousand Syrian children displaced in Lebanon are still out of school, posing a real danger for their own future, the future of Syria and of Lebanon.
The same pressure is felt on public hospitals, the electricity grid, water, waste, and all public services.
Our government has outlined its vision for dealing with the crisis at the Brussels conference earlier this year.
We have recently witnessed signs of fatigue in host communities as tensions with the Syrian displaced are rising. The situation is frankly a ticking time bomb.
The number of Lebanese youth who have fallen in the trap of radicalization is minimal, not to say negligible. This is a direct positive product of the openness, diversity, tolerance and moderation inscribed in Lebanon's genome.
However, if our schools, hospitals, infrastructure, public services and host communities falter under the current unbearable weight, we will all be faced with a lost generation of both Syrians and Lebanese.
While we recognize donor assistance to the Syrian displaced in Lebanon, it has been mainly humanitarian in nature and much less than needed.
And here, allow me to reiterate my position on the issue of the return of Syrian displaced to their country:
First, we fully support the speedy and safe return of the Syrian displaced. However we will under no circumstances force them to return to Syria.
Second, we will only address the issue in close coordination with the UN and its specialized agencies.
Third, we will make sure the conditions for return are properly met and in accordance with international law.
We are developing a multi-year capital investment program to modernize our infrastructure, address the gaps, and improve basic public services. Indeed, capital expenditure over the past years has been less than 5 percent of total expenditure. Our capital stock is depreciated. We are now finalizing a program in the range of 12 billion dollars in line with Lebanon's long term development agenda.
Particular emphasis is on transport, water, electricity, education, health and telecommunication.
For this, we will mobilize assistance in the form of grants and concessional loans, while encouraging the involvement of the private sector.
I have no doubt we will all together defeat the current brand of extremism and terrorism. However a more dangerous brand could well emerge if no political solution is found in Iraq and Syria, allowing the inclusion of all sects, groups and communities in power.
Lebanon's democratic, inclusive and open system is the model for such a solution.
On a wider scale, the only rampart against extremism is moderation, dialogue and coexistence. Here again, Lebanon is the model.
Despair can only be fought with hope, with resilience, with creativity. All values for which Lebanon is also a model.
We are doing our share as Lebanese to stabilize our model and succeed. The world at large is invited to help and maintain this model, an asset to the region and to the world".

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on July 26-27/17
US House Votes to Slap Sanction on Russia, Iran, N.Korea
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 26/17/The US House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to impose tough new sanctions on Iran, North Korea and Russia, a move that will antagonize the Kremlin as well as European nations fearing economic ramifications. The measure notably constrains President Donald Trump's ability to waive the penalties. The sanctions package, which passed 419 to three after weeks of negotiations, "tightens the screws on our most dangerous adversaries in order to keep Americans safe," House Speaker Paul Ryan said after the vote. The measure now heads to the Senate, where there is support for sanctions but debate about whether to include penalties on North Korea. The legislation is the result of a congressional compromise reached last weekend and is aimed at punishing the Kremlin for meddling in the 2016 US presidential election and Russia's annexation of Crimea. "Under Vladimir Putin, Russia has invaded its neighbor Ukraine, seizing its territory and destabilizing its government," House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce said in applauding passage.
"Left unchecked, Russia is sure to continue its aggression."
But the bill could end up penalizing European firms that contribute to the development of Russia's energy sector. New sanctions against Iran and its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which stands accused of supporting terrorism, and North Korea, for its missile tests, are also included in the bill. Key among the provisions is one that handcuffs the US president by complicating any of the leader's unilateral efforts to ease penalties against Moscow in the future -- effectively placing him under Congress's watch. Trump has faced accusations that his administration had sought to reassure Moscow that sanctions imposed near the end of the Obama administration could be lifted under a President Trump. Initially, Trump resisted the legislation. But faced with near-total consensus among Republican and Democratic lawmakers, the White House blinked, but did not say directly that the billionaire president would sign it into law.
"While the President supports tough sanctions on North Korea, Iran and Russia, the White House is reviewing the House legislation and awaits a final legislative package for the president's desk," spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.
- Veto likely not effective -In mid-June, the Senate voted 98-2 in favor of tough sanctions on Moscow and Tehran, but the text stalled in the House.
With the North Korea sanctions now included, the new measure would need to be passed by the Senate before heading to the White House, likely before summer break begins in mid-August. Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer said he wants the new measure passed and sent to Trump's desk "without delay."US lawmakers, including Republican leaders, have remained wary of the intentions of the billionaire businessman-turned-president -- who has called for better relations with Moscow -- regarding a relaxation of pressure on Putin. But even if Trump were to veto the legislation, Congress would likely be able to overcome such a blockage with a two-thirds majority in each chamber.- Russia calls sanctions 'counterproductive' -The Kremlin warned that fresh sanctions on Russia would adversely affect both sides. "We consider such a continuation of the rhetoric of sanctions counter-productive and harmful to the interests of both countries," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday. From Paris to Berlin, the sanctions bill was seen as a unilateral action by Washington that disrupts a carefully crafted order. To date, sanctions against Moscow have been coordinated on both sides of the Atlantic, to maintain a united front.
European Union member states were due to meet Wednesday and discuss the issue -- and a possible response. Several European nations, including Germany, are livid because the new law would allow punishing companies working on pipelines from Russia, for example by limiting their access to US banks. The provision could theoretically pave the way for sanctions against European partners in Nord Stream 2, a project to build a pipeline carrying Russian gas across the Baltic that could boost supplies to Germany from 2019. To date, Washington and Brussels had agreed that sanctions would not affect Europe's gas supply. In an apparent concession, the House modified a provision so the bill only targets pipelines originating in Russia, sparing those that merely pass through, such as the Caspian pipeline that carries oil from Kazakhstan to Europe.

Trump Won't Let Assad Get Away with 'Horrible' Crimes
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 26/17/US President Donald Trump accused Syria's leader Bashar al-Assad on Tuesday of committing "horrible" crimes against humanity and vowed to prevent his regime from carrying out any more chemical attacks. Speaking at a White House press conference with Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad Hariri, Trump said: "I'm not a fan of Assad. I certainly think that what he's done to that country and to humanity is horrible.”
Recalling that he had ordered cruise missile strikes on Assad for using chemical weapons, Trump said: "I am not somebody that will stand by and let him get away with what he tried to do."Trump also claimed Syria would be different today had his predecessor Barack Obama taken action against Assad after drawing a "red line in the sand" over his regime's use of chemical weapons. "Had president Obama gone across that line and done what he should have done, I don't believe you'd have Russia, and I don't believe you'd have Iran, anywhere near the extent and maybe not at all, in Syria today," he said.

Erdogan Says Israel Removal of al-Aqsa Metal Detectors Not Enough
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 26/17/Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday welcomed Israel's removal of metal detectors from a highly sensitive Jerusalem holy site but said it was "not enough". Israel installed metal detectors at entrances to the Haram al-Sharif mosque compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, after an attack on July 14 that killed two policemen. But after protests and intensive international diplomacy to prevent further unrest, the government removed the detectors from the site. "Israel took the right step to remove the metal detectors to help lower tension," Erdogan said. "But is it enough according to our wishes? No, it is not," he said at a meeting on further education in the Islamic world in Ankara. Erdogan said Turkey "cannot tolerate" constraints placed on Muslims visiting the site during Friday prayers. Palestinians viewed the new security measures as Israel asserting further control over the site, which is central to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Clashes broke out during protests, leaving five Palestinians dead."The Israeli government want to destroy the Islamic character of Jerusalem with a new practice every day," Erdogan said. There were tit-for-tat statements from both sides after Erdogan criticized Israel on Tuesday and accused it of "attempting to take the (al-Aqsa) mosque from Muslim hands". The Israeli foreign ministry said in a statement that his comments were "mind-blowing, false and distorted". Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Huseyin Muftuoglu on Wednesday condemned Israel's "arrogant" remarks.

Standoff at Jerusalem Holy Site after Metal Detectors Removed
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 26/17/A tense standoff was underway between Israel and Muslim worshippers at a Jerusalem holy site Wednesday despite the removal of metal detectors, with concerns of major unrest later this week if a resolution is not found. Muslims have refused to enter the site and have prayed in the streets outside for more than a week after Israel installed new security measures at the Haram al-Sharif compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount. The measures followed an attack that killed two policemen and included metal detectors at entrances.
Palestinians view the move as Israel asserting further control over the site, which houses the revered Al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock. Israeli authorities said the metal detectors were needed because the July 14 attackers smuggled guns into the site and emerged from it to attack the officers. Protests and deadly unrest have erupted in the days since, with clashes breaking out around the compound in Jerusalem's Old City and in the occupied West Bank, leaving five Palestinians dead.
A Palestinian also broke into a home in a Jewish settlement in the West Bank last week and stabbed four Israelis, killing three of them. There are concerns the main weekly Muslim prayers on Friday -- which typically draw thousands to Al-Aqsa -- will lead to serious clashes between protesters and Israeli security forces. Following intensive international diplomacy and warnings of the potential of wider unrest, Israel removed the metal detectors in the pre-dawn hours of Tuesday. Cameras installed in the wake of the attack on the police were also removed. But Israeli officials said they were to be replaced with "advanced technologies" -- widely believed to be smart cameras with facial recognition technology. Railings installed at the site's entrance before the metal detectors were removed have also remained in place. The railings and suspicions over what new measures Israel is planning have led Palestinian and Muslim leaders to continue to call for a boycott of the site, and worshippers have heeded the call.
"We leave at 6:00 am and we return after the last prayers around 9:30 to 10:00 pm," Umm Maath, from Nazareth in northern Israel who has been coming with a group to pray outside in protest, said Wednesday. "We reject the metal detectors. We reject the cameras."
- 'Not over this crisis yet' -Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, who announced a freeze on contacts with Israel last week over the dispute, said Tuesday the suspension would continue until the site was returned to the way it was before the crisis began.
Muslim authorities at the holy compound have been conducting an inspection in and around the site to ensure there were no other changes or damage. Israel's decision to remove the metal detectors came after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held talks with Jordanian King Abdullah II, who had demanded their removal. A top aide to US President Donald Trump also arrived in Jerusalem for talks on the crisis on Monday.
UN Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov has warned of wider unrest and said Tuesday that "we are not over this crisis yet". "I hope that the steps being taken by Israel will enable a return to relative calm, and we all hope this will happen in the next days," he said. The clock was ticking, with last week's main weekly Muslim prayers on Friday having brought the situation to a boil. Concerned with the potential for unrest, Israel barred men under 50 from entering Jerusalem's Old City for prayers. Protests and clashes erupted later in the day in Jerusalem and the West Bank, killing three Palestinians. The deadly stabbings of three Israelis occurred on Friday evening.
- Deal with Jordan -As tensions rose in the days afterwards, a diplomatic standoff between Israel and Jordan may have helped negotiations on the metal detectors.
On Sunday night in Amman, an Israeli embassy security guard shot dead a Jordanian who attacked him with a screwdriver, Israeli officials said. A second Jordanian was also killed, apparently by accident.
Israel insisted the guard had diplomatic immunity and rejected Jordanian demands to question him. The guard and other diplomats arrived home Monday after a deal that a Jordanian government source said also involved the mosque compound. Jordan is the official custodian of the Muslim holy sites there. The compound is located in east Jerusalem, seized by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War and later annexed in a move never recognised by the international community. The third-holiest site for Muslims and the most sacred for Jews, it is at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It has served as a rallying cry for Palestinians. In 2000, then Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon's visit there helped ignite the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising. Authorities were also keeping a close eye on the flashpoint West Bank city of Hebron, where a group of Israeli settlers occupied a disputed building on Tuesday, boosting tensions.

Israel-Turkey Fallout Deepens over al-Aqsa
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 26/17/A fallout between Turkey and Israel deepened on Wednesday as the Jewish state hit back at Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's criticism of its constraints on Muslims visiting a sensitive holy site in annexed east Jerusalem. Erdogan welcomed Israel's removal of metal detectors from the site but said it was "not enough." Israel installed metal detectors at entrances to the Haram al-Sharif mosque compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, after an attack on July 14 that killed two policemen. But after protests and intensive international diplomacy to prevent further unrest, the Israeli government removed the detectors from the site. "Israel took the right step to remove the metal detectors to help lower tension," Erdogan said. "But is it enough according to our wishes? No, it is not." Erdogan said Turkey "cannot tolerate" constraints placed by its nominal ally Israel on Muslims visiting the site during the weekly Friday prayers.Israel's foreign ministry responded on Wednesday with a forthright statement. "It's absurd that the Turkish government, which occupies northern Cyprus, brutally represses the Kurdish minority and jails journalists, lectures Israel, the only true democracy in the region," it said in a statement. "The days of the Ottoman Empire have passed." Palestinians viewed the new security measures as Israel asserting further control over the site, which is central to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Clashes broke out during protests, leaving five Palestinians dead.
"The Israeli government want to destroy the Islamic character of Jerusalem with a new practice every day," Erdogan said. There were already tit-for-tat statements from both sides on Tuesday after Erdogan criticized Israel and accused it of "attempting to take the (Al-Aqsa) mosque from Muslim hands." The Israeli foreign ministry said in a statement on Tuesday that his comments were "mind-blowing, false and distorted".Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Huseyin Muftuoglu on Wednesday condemned Israel's "arrogant" remarks.

PA Calls for Popular Struggle Amid Continued Israeli Measures at Al-Aqsa
Asharq Al-Awsat/July 26/17/Ramallah – The Palestinian Authority held an emergency meeting on Tuesday – chaired by President Mahmoud Abbas – in which it called for escalating popular struggle and holding Friday prayers in public squares rather than mosques. The call was made as Jerusalemites prayed on Tuesday, and for the 11th day in a row, before the gates of Al-Aqsa as they refused to enter the compound under the new security measures imposed by Israel. Prior to the meeting, Abbas said that security coordination with Israel would be restored only when the occupation forces cancel all procedures at al-Aqsa. “If things do not return to what they were before July 14 in Jerusalem, there will be no changes in our stance,” he stated. For his part, deputy Secretary of the Fatah Central Committee Sabri Saidam urged Palestinians to hold prayers in public squares on Friday. He also said that the organization was making preparations to join 28 international organizations and to approach the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Israeli forces on Tuesday dismantled metal detectors, which were placed at the entrances of the mosque, but committed to the installation of smart surveillance cameras, an alternative measure that was strongly opposed by Palestinian authorities and religious figures. During Tuesday’s evening meeting, the Palestinian president warned that security cooperation with Israel would remain frozen until the complete removal of all measures at the mosque. “All the new Israeli measures on the ground from that date to the present are supposed to disappear,” he stated. “Then things will return to normal in Jerusalem and we will continue our work after that in relation to bilateral relations between us and them [Israelis]”, he added. Meanwhile, the Islamic Waqf of Jerusalem announced it had formed a technical committee to look into new alternatives adopted by Israel to replace the controversial metal detectors. In this regard, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Sheikh Mohammed Hussein said: “We will make our decision on whether to enter the mosque or not in light of the outcome of the technical committee’s report.”“It is a big and difficult decision, but we will wait for the committee’s report,” he added.

Algeria Joins Gulf Crisis Mediation Efforts
Asharq Al-Awsat/July 26/17/Abu Dhabi – Algeria has joined mediation talks over the Gulf crisis with Qatar, as Algerian Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdulqader Musahel met on Tuesday in Abu Dhabi with his UAE counterpart, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan. In a statement, the Algerian foreign affairs ministry said that talks have touched on the ongoing crisis in the Gulf, the situation in Libya and Yemen, and Israeli violations of Al-Aqsa Mosque. The two officials also discussed bilateral relations and views regarding latest developments in the region. A statement issued by the Emirates News Agency said that Sheikh Abdullah has stressed during the meeting that the relationship between the two countries was based on understanding and shared points of view on issues of common interest. He noted “a constant desire to advance bilateral relations towards wider horizons, to answer the aspirations of the leadership and people of both countries”.Musahel, for his part, described relations between the UAE and Algeria as “exemplary and strategic”, stressing both countries’ determination to strengthen cooperation in all areas. He also praised the UAE’s role at the Arab and international level, a well as its continuous efforts to resolve regional and international issues. Meanwhile, sources said that Algeria was seeking to join mediation efforts with regards to the crisis with Qatar. The sources also noted that the Algerian minister, following his visit to the UAE, would head to Cairo to preside over an extraordinary session of the Arab League which would focus on the Israeli violations of holy sites, in particular the new measures imposed on Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

Shoukry: Arab Quartet Rejects Any Compromise With Qatar
Asharq Al-Awsat/July 26/17/Brussels, Ankara- Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry informed the European Union on Tuesday that the four Arab States that cut diplomatic and commercial ties with Qatar in June would not accept any compromise. After talks with EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini in Brussels, Shoukry said Doha must accept demands issued by Egypt, Saudi Arabia the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to end the dispute. “It is not an issue of compromise, we cannot compromise with any form of terrorism, we cannot compromise or enter into any form of negotiation,” Shoukry was quoted as saying by AFP. The Egyptian Foreign Minister added that “the crisis will be resolved only when Qatar truly accepts being a partner in the fight against terrorism.”For her part, Mogherini reiterated what she said last Sunday during talks with Kuwait’s Emir who is currently acting as a mediator to solve the crisis with Doha. She called on all parties to hold talks and solve the diplomatic crisis, saying “it is of paramount importance that a process of engagement, of dialogue under the mediation efforts of his highness the Emir of Kuwait, can start and should start as a matter of urgency.” Mogherini added that Europe sees this as a need not just for one country, but for all countries. “It is correct not to refer to these tensions as a Gulf crisis because the presence of Egypt among the four countries that are at the center of it together with Qatar demonstrates that this is going far beyond the Gulf,” the foreign policy chief said. She also said that Europe has a clear commitment to fighting terrorism in an effective manner. Meanwhile, Reuters reported on Tuesday that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan described his trip to the Gulf to deal with the Qatar crisis as “productive and successful”, following two days of talks that appeared to yield no immediate progress towards healing the rift.

Al-Jazeera, IRNA to Strengthen Cooperation
Asharq Al-Awsat/July 26/17/London- Managing Director of the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) Mohammad Khodadadi and Al-Jazeera Media Network’s Director General Mostefa Souag have recently met in Doha to discuss ways to develop cooperation between the two media outlets, according to IRNA. During their meeting, Khoddadi and Souag emphasized the need for using the media to create an atmosphere of peace, friendship, and convergence. IRNA quoted Khoddadi as stressing “the need for exchanging information by relying on primary sources to present a real image of developments.”
The Iranian official, who for years has been holding important media posts after leaving the Revolutionary Guards’ political bureau, warned that any attempt to block the free stream of information or any action to prevent dissemination of information or free activities by the media people are doomed.
He claimed the Iranian media are seriously trying to use information as a tool to foster more convergence and mutual understanding and to enhance peace and security. For his part, Souag expressed the channel’s willingness to strengthen cooperation with IRNA, adding that the Qatari channel is “keen to strengthen cooperation with the media and to transmit information on Iran,” IRNA reported. Iranian authorities closed Al-Jazeera bureau in 2005 after covering the Ahwaz protests, but Tehran allowed the channel to reopen its office coinciding with the beginning of the Hezbollah-Israel war in July 2006. It is the first time that negotiations between Al-Jazeera and Iranian government media outlets are announced. In 2008, Al-Jazeera discussed with the Iranian Ministry of Culture and Information a cooperation project believed to be aimed at “improving Iran’s image in Arab countries.”The project targeted different areas of the Arab world, but it faltered at the end of 2010 after the launch of the so-called “Arab Spring” in several countries. In addition to political programs aimed at explaining the political vision of Iran and its allies, the project included the dubbing of Iranian series into Arabic in order to compete with the Turkish series as well as developing Arab channels and sections in Iranian media institutions.

European Court of Justice Upholds Hamas Terror Listing
Asharq Al-Awsat/July 26/17/The European Union’s top court on Wednesday upheld the bloc’s decision to put Palestinian movement Hamas on its terrorism blacklist, sending the case back to a lower court for reconsideration. The European Court of Justice overturned a 2014 ruling by the bloc’s second highest court, saying it “should not have annulled Hamas’ retention on the European list of terrorist organizations”. The lower court sparked outrage in Israel and Washington when it said Hamas should be dropped from the list because the EU had made the decision based on information from the media and internet. But the Luxembourg-based ECJ said that in doing so, the General Court had “made an error in law” and it would now have to examine the case again. The Hamas ruling came as a surprise since once of the ECJ’s senior lawyers had said in an opinion last September that Hamas should not have been included on the terror list because procedural mistakes invalidated the EU decision. The court rarely rules against the advice of its top lawyers and there had been concerns that if the ECJ agreed with the General Court, then already tense EU-Israel relations would have been hit again. The EU originally listed Hamas as a terror group in 2001, a move that froze assets of the organization in the European Union. Hamas slammed the sanctions, arguing that it is a legally elected government and therefore has the right to conduct military operations against Israel. Hamas has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007 and fought three wars with Israel, the last in 2014.

40 Takfirists Killed in North Sinai in One Week
Asharq Al-Awsat/July 26/17/Cairo- Cairo Criminal Court has sentenced one of the Egyptians returning from Syria to 25 years in prison on Tuesday after being convicted of joining ISIS and fighting in its ranks. Meanwhile, the same court also sentenced 43 activists to life in prison in a retrial of anti-government protesters who clashed with authorities in January 2011 in the case that was dubbed by local media “Cabinet clashes,” a reference to the Cabinet building where the unrest occurred. Sherif El Sayyed El Shishtawy, known as “Abou Soheib” was sentenced to life in prison for joining the terrorist organization “ISIS” in Syria from April 2013 to May 2015, received military training and participated in attacks that did not target Egypt. Dozens of extremist Egyptians headed to Syria during the rule of former President Mohamed Morsi in 2012 to fight with extremist organizations against Bashar al-Assad ruling. Based on its own investigation, The Soufan Group, which is directed by a former FBI agent, has calculated that between 27,000 and 31,000 people have traveled to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS and other violent extremist groups from at least 86 countries; 850 of them were from Egypt. As the fighting in Syria continued, with little achievement, many of these fighters returned to their countries of origin, posing a security threat to Egypt, which feared they would carry out terrorist acts inside the country. In another case, the Egyptian criminal court sentenced 43 activists to life in prison (25 years). The 43 defendants had been charged with rioting, vandalism and attacking security forces during clashes with police and the army in Cairo in December 2011, in which at least 17 people were killed and almost 2,000 were wounded. The defendants were also fined more than 17 million Egyptian pounds ($948,661) combined for vandalizing public property during the clashes. Nine others were sentenced to 10 years in prison and one to five years, while 92 were acquitted. The same court previously sentenced 230 people to life in prison in the same case in February 2015, with 39 minors sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. All defendants were sentenced in absentia, with the exception of activist Ahmed Douma, who was present during the trial as he was serving another sentence at the time. In this context, spokesman of the Egyptian army Colonel Tamer Rifai announced Tuesday the results of the confrontations between the armed forces and the extremist groups in northern Sinai over the past week. He said that armed forces managed to “kill 40 Takfiri elements and arrested five others in addition to destroying 52 terrorist hotbeds through successful air raids in al-Arish and Rafah cities in Northern Sinai over the past 7 days.”“They also destroyed 20 vehicles of different types and four motorcycles used by Takfiri elements,” Rifai added.

Sisi Urges Media to Spread ‘Fall of the State Phobia’ among Egyptians

Asharq Al-Awsat/July 26/17/Cairo- Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi called on the media to work on creating a state of phobia against the fall of the state during the second day of the fourth National Youth Conference in Alexandria on Tuesday. “Many countries and entities tried to make our country fail, but their attempts didn’t succeed. History will remember always the armed forces’ role in protecting their country,” Sisi added during discussions at the Youth Conference. He praised the role played by the Egyptian army in facing attempts to destroy the Egyptian state recently. He added that one of his presidency’s goals is to improve the Egyptian spirit, “even the Suez Canal Area Development Project targeted to improve the general spirit against failure and despair.”Sisi said that the state is ready to finance a media project or a movie to improve patriotism among Egyptians. “What happened during 2011 was capable of making the Egyptians fight with each other for about 50 or 60 years. It’s not only the armed forces, but other elements came together and prevented the country from falling into the unknown,” Sisi said. In earlier statements during the conference sessions, Sisi said that the economic reform decisions were ‘inevitable’. “These decisions were our only way to gaining back the place we deserve in the world’s map. We had to face our problems seriously in order to take further steps forward,” Sisi added. “Given our population numbers, huge development will take place after applying all reform measures needed.”On Monday morning, Sisi inaugurated the fourth National Youth Conference in Alexandria. Around 1,500 youth attended the conference along with parliamentarians, heads of unions and universities, journalists, public figures and representatives of the National Council for Women and the National Council for Human Rights.

Libya’s Sarraj, Haftar Agree to Ceasefire, Elections Next Spring
Asharq Al-Awsat/July 26/17/Paris – Libya’s UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, and Commander of the Libyan Army Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar agreed in an unprecedented joint statement on Tuesday to commit to a conditional ceasefire and to hold elections next spring. Following hours of official meetings held under the auspices of French President Emmanuel Macron and chaired by the new UN envoy to Libya, Ghassan Salameh, in La Celle-Saint-Cloud near Paris, the two Libyan leaders signed a 10-point declaration, in which they pledged to commit to ceasefire, hold elections and integrate all militias within a unified national army under political control. In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, Arab diplomatic sources underlined the importance of Tuesday’s achievement, noting however: “What is most important is whether it will find its way to implementation.”The sources went on to say that obstacles, which have prevented the execution of previous agreements and commitments despite international pressure “have not magically disappeared, but are still in place”.“Yet, a number of field and political changes” may contribute to pushing the warring parties to finally accept the road map, according to the sources. The declaration stressed that the two leaders have agreed that only a political solution could end the ongoing crisis. “We commit to a ceasefire and to refrain from any use of armed force for any purpose that does not strictly constitute counter-terrorism”, the joint statement said. Sarraj and Haftar also agreed to work to hold elections as soon as possible under UN supervision, according to the statement. The French president said elections would be held in spring next year. Other points in the declaration included fighting terrorism, curbing the waves of migration through Libyan costs, and preventing the destabilization of North African and Sahel countries. Another important point is the establishment of unified national institutions, including a central bank and a national oil corporation. The meeting between the two rival leaders is the second in the space of three months, as a meeting was held in Abu Dhabi in May but saw no agreement on a joint communiqué. In a news conference following Tuesday’s encounter, Macron said: “The courage that is yours today by being here and by agreeing to this joint declaration is historic.” “I believe profoundly that civil war is not inevitable, and that through dialogue peace can win through, that’s what the step taken today is trying to show through concrete actions,” he added.

Libya Welcomes New Terror Designation for 18 Entities, Individuals
Asharq Al-Awsat/July 26/17/Cairo – Libyan interim government, led by Abdullah al-Thani and the Libyan National Army led by Marshal Khalifa Hafter welcomed the four Arab states’ decision to add nine entities and nine individuals to the terrorist list linked to Qatar. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE, and Bahrain issued a list of 59 names and 12 entities linked to Qatar on charges of extremism and terrorism. The new regulation added new entities including six Libyans: Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries, al-Saraya Media Center, Boshra News Agency, Rafallah al-Sahati Battalion, Nabaa Channel, al-Tanasuh Foundation for Dawa, Culture and Media, as well as two Libyans Ibrahim Bukhzim and Ahmed al-Hasnawi. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Libyan interim government has confirmed the accuracy of the new terror designation. In its statement issued on Tuesday, the ministry expressed appreciation to the four countries for working to fulfill the aspirations of the Libyan people and mitigating the risks posed by groups and individuals who support terrorism in Libya. The ministry declared that the new list “meets the aspirations of the Libyan people, which were clearly expressed through the 2012 and 2014 parliamentary elections.”“Such brave decisions strengthen the Arab security, in the face of Qatar’s obstinacy,” the ministry said. The ministry called upon the international community and organizations to unite and cooperate against those entities and those who support them, primarily Qatar. The foreign statement accused Doha of providing funds and weapons to the terrorists named in the two lists, adding that it is ready to provide documents and video tapes showing the extent of Qatar’s involvement with those terrorists in Libya.
For its part, the Libyan army thanked the four countries that listed Libyan individuals and entities on terrorist lists.
“We would like to emphasize that all names and entities should be added to the list of the Parliament. We also call on other countries to be aware of their dangers to the world. In addition, several parties are the political wings of these groups and some of their commercial entities, and therefore they should be considered and added to the lists of terrorism as well,” explained the army in its statement. Benghazi Revolutionaries Shura Council, mentioned on the terror list, was formed in eastern Libya in mid-2014 as a coalition of terrorist militias that included the UN and US sanctioned Ansar al-Sharia Benghazi and the Rafallah Sahati Battalion. Ismail Mohammed al-Sallabi, commander in the Benghazi Revolutionaries Shura Council, was mentioned by the four countries calling for combating terrorism in June 2017. Sallabi received Qatari financial and military support during the Libyan revolution. In 2015 and until early 2016, the Benghazi Revolutionaries Shura Council fought alongside the Libyan branch of ISIS, according to the UN and statements by the Benghazi Revolutionaries Shura Council’s leadership.
Among the Libyan organizations that have been included in the new list is the Rafallah al-Sahati Battalion, which is affiliated with the Benghazi Revolutionaries Shura Council. It is also led by Sallabi. In addition, Boshra News Agency, the official media outlet of the Benghazi Defense Brigades in Libya, was included in the terrorist list. Benghazi Defense Brigades in Libya is a terrorist militia designated by the four countries calling for combating terrorism in June 2017. Boshra News Agency published the founding statement of Benghazi Defense Brigades that featured Benghazi Defense Brigades leader Sallabi.
Nabaa TV Channel is a Libyan media outlet controlled by Abd al-Hakim Belhaj, the former leader of al-Qaida’s Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) who is sanctioned by the four countries. Nabaa is used by Belhaj and his associates to promote a terrorist ideology and agenda in Libya. Nabaa TV endorses attacks and activities of terrorist militias in Libya. Another terrorist organization mentioned is Tanasuh Foundation for Dawa, Culture, and Media in Libya. It has been used by Benghazi Defense Brigades’ religious leader Sadiq al-Gharyani to endorse attacks and broadcast messages to, terrorist militants in Libya. Gharyani was sanctioned by the four countries calling for combating terrorism in June 2017. As for the two terrorists mentioned, Ibrahim Bukhazim is a founder and leader of the Benghazi Defense Brigades in Libya. Bukhazim previously fought with militants in Iraq before returning to Libya to serve as a commander in Ansar al-Sharia and manage attacks by terrorist militants on Libyan oil facilities west of Benghazi. He was an associate of al-Qaida leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar. The other Libyan national, Ahmed al-Hasnawi is a militia leader in southern Libya. Hasnawi provided logistical support to terrorist organizations including ISIS, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and Ansar al-Dine in Mali, according to the UN.

Hakim Brings Decades of Close Relations with Iran to an End
Asharq Al-Awsat/July 26/17/Baghdad- Ammar al-Hakim, leader of the Iraqi National Alliance party, has ended a three and a half decades of close relations with Iran when he announced on Monday his withdrawal from the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, which was established and sponsored by Iran. Hakim, further, announced establishing a new organization called the National Wisdom Stream. This step reflects his pursuit to appear as a national non-Islamic movement after the defamation of political Islam in Iraq since around 14 years. A reliable source from the council told Asharq Al-Awsat that what Hakim has done is an Iraqi moment. “The man has been trying for long to get rid of the council established by Iran. He expressed this on several occasions,” he added. Iran was possibly surprised by Hakim’s step, as it recently welcomed a delegation from the council to provide support and continuity away from the new movement, added the source. He also expected the current leadership in the council to dismiss Ammar Hakim, dissolve the economic office affiliated with the council and demand back the real-estates and places belonging to the council. An increased number of youths announced enrolling with the new movement. Hakim declared the establishment of National Wisdom Stream on Monday. “We need a new movement to present national projects,” Hakim said. “For this purpose, we are announcing the National Wisdom Movement, which is a new political movement in Iraq.”Commenting on the withdrawal of Hakim, the council leadership issued a statement by which it pledged in front of the people to retain religious and political foundations according to which the council was established. According to political observers, the place chosen by Hakim to make his announcement – at Jadriya – indicates that he will not abandon the Islamic Supreme Council headquarters.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on July 26-27/17
Failure of Mediation… A Message to Doha
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Al Sharq AlAwsat/July 26/17
There is no doubt that the Qatari crisis is far from resolving as some promote or hope that it would be a passing summer cloud. With the failure of foreign ministers visits and presidents’ mediation, the four states seem to stick to their demands. Why do we expect the crisis period to prolong? Because it is an old and cumulative one – complaints about Doha have been pouring for almost a long 20 years. Despite old disputes, the statement issued by the four states at the beginning of June represents a new development – it is the first confrontation and the most serious one. This was clearly expressed via cutting diplomatic and consular ties and prohibiting transit and traffic. From that day on, the confrontation has been escalating and the speech of the Emir of Qatar a few days ago expressed escalation and not bridging. For this, the crisis will probably last for months.
So far, who has won and who has lost in the last round? I think that states such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia are used to offenses and hostile media campaigns.
Qatar, however, is an affluent and immune state that has been attacked by extremist groups such as al-Qaeda only once in the nineties. It doesn’t have a large population density or religious and cultural diversity threatening its stability, unlike Bahrain. It is on the safe side with two US military bases protecting it from invaders.Qatar has two images: a real negative one similar to other hostile Arab states and a fake media one that depicts it as a modern, positive, young and moderate state, enjoying freedom and independence from foreign pressures.Few people are aware that Qatar’s image is fake, or at least exaggerated.
In the current crisis, the conflict has fallen to its lowest levels. Doha is the damaged party because the other party is used to media distortion and targeting. For the first time, Qatar’s name is attached to terrorism and extremist intellect.
No matter how much the government tries to recruit more public relations firms in Washington to repair its image, it won’t succeed because the damage has already occurred and the other party is still able to deliver its message. As for Qatari media efforts, they mainly focus on consumed and repeated messages that governments are used to. In the Arab region, the tactic of the Qatari propaganda machine relied on outdated means such as exploitation of the Palestinian cause and linking it to the crisis. But this attempt failed. The machine, also, tried to convince citizens of these countries that their governments are biased and false. Qatar found little sympathy because the four states have disrupted groups hired by it from commentators, preachers, and academics.
The four states’ control has undermined the Qatari government investment in these people who were silenced. It is not a matter of freedom of speech as much as standing against lobbies and public relations illegally recruited by a foreign government – majority of regimes prohibit receiving funds from foreign governments for sponsoring political activities. Eventually, the crisis will come to an end but we can’t determine when and how – maybe next year. Qatar is the state under political pressure in the region and will reach a deadlock because the four states, along with the majority of the region, can no longer bear the attitude and damage caused by the Qatari government.
Most of the region’s governments consider that Doha is jeopardizing their stability. Therefore, responding by targeting Qatar is legitimate and necessary. Is Doha able to bear the risks and consequences of its policies? The continuation of the crisis and the rejection of mediation and pressure are all indicators that Qatar is playing a dangerous game and has a choice to make: let go of its policy or risk its existence.

UK Terrorism: 'Enough' is Not 'Enough'
Douglas Murray/Gatestone Institute/July 26/17
Were terror attacks like this simply something that the British public would have to get used to, as the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, had suggested? What if the public did not want to get used to them?
That the UK authorities allowed the "Al-Quds Day" march to proceed through the streets of London and for Palestine Expo to assemble such an array of speakers just down the road from one of this year's terror attacks, suggests that all that has happened this year in Britain is extremely very far from "enough".
So, rather than expecting resilience, the British people will have to be prepared to accept still more terror -- and doubtless more pointless platitudes to follow each attack -- as surely as they have followed all the attacks before.
On June 3, Britain underwent its third Islamist terror assault in just ten weeks. Following on from a suicide bombing at Manchester Arena and a car- and knife-attack in Westminster, the London Bridge attacks seemed as if they might finally tip Britain into recognising the full reality of Islamist terror.
The attackers that night on London Bridge behaved as such attackers have before, in France, Germany and Israel. They used a van to ram into pedestrians, and then leapt from the vehicle and began to stab passers-by at random. Chasing across London Bridge and into the popular Borough Market, eye-witnesses recorded that the three men, as they slit the throats of Londoners and tourists, shouted "This is for Allah."
A day later, British Prime Minister Theresa May made another appearance on the steps of Downing Street, to comment on the latest atrocity. In what appeared to have become a prime ministerial tradition, she stressed that the terrorists were following the "evil ideology of Islamist extremism", which she described as "a perversion of Islam". All this was no more than she had said after the Manchester and Westminster attacks, and almost exactly what her predecessor, David Cameron, had said from the same place after the slaughter of Drummer Lee Rigby on the streets of London in 2013, as well as after the countless ISIS executions and atrocities in Syria in the months that followed.
Yet Prime Minister May's speech did include one new element. She used her speech on June 4 to go slightly farther than she had previously done. There had been "far too much tolerance of extremism" in the UK, she said, before adding, "Enough is enough".
It was a strong statement, and seemed to sum up an increasingly disturbed public mood. Were attacks like this simply something that the British public would have to get used to, as the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, had suggested? What if the public did not want to get used to them? As with one of Tony Blair's statements after the July 7, 2005 London transport attacks -- "The rules of the game are changing" -- Theresa May's statement seemed full of promise. Perhaps it suggested that finally a British politician was going to get a grip on the problem.
Yet now that we are nearly two months on from her comments, it is worth noting that to date there are no signs that "enough" has been "enough". Consider just two highly visible signs that what Britain has gone through this year has been, in fact, no wake-up call at all, and that instead, whatever might have been learned has been absorbed into the to-and-fro of political events, passing like any other transient news story.
Nearly two months on from British Prime Minister Theresa May's comments, following the Westminster terror attack, that there is "far too much tolerance of extremism" in the UK and that "Enough is enough", it is worth noting that what Britain has gone through this year has been, in fact, no wake-up call at all, and that to date there are no signs that "enough" has been "enough". (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
The first was an event that took place only a fortnight after Theresa May's claim that something had changed in the UK. This was the annual "Al-Quds Day" march in London, organised by the badly misnamed Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC). Apart from organising an annual "Islamophobe of the Year" award -- an award which two years ago they gave to the slaughtered staff of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo -- this Khomeinist group's main public activity each year is an "Al Quds Day" in London. The day allows a range of anti-Semites and anti-Israel extremists to congregate in central London, wave Hezbollah flags and call for the destruction of the Jewish state, Israel.
As Hezbollah is a terrorist group, and any distinction between a "military" and "diplomatic" wing of the group exists solely in the minds of a few people in the British Foreign Office, waving the flag of Hezbollah in public is waving the flag of a terrorist group. If the rules of the game were indeed changing after the followers of a Hezbollah-like creed had slaughtered citizens on a bridge in London, then the promotion of a terrorist group in the same city only days later would not have gone ahead. Nor would the speeches from the "Al Quds Day" platform have been allowed to be completed without arrests being made. The speeches to the 1,000-strong crowd included the most lurid imaginable claims.
These included a speech by the chairman of the IHRC, Nazim Ali. Mr Ali used his time before the public to make a connection between the horrific fire in a tower-block in West London days before the march and the Jewish state. According to Mr Ali, the roughly 80 victims of the fire at Grenfell Tower "were murdered by Theresa May's cronies, many of which are supporters of Zionist ideology." He went on:
"Let us not forget that some of the biggest corporations who were supporting the Conservative Party are Zionists. They are responsible for the murder of the people in Grenfell, in those towers in Grenfell, the Zionist supporters of the Tory party... It is the Zionists who give money to the Tory party, to kill people in high rise blocks... Careful, careful, careful of those rabbis who belong to the Board of Deputies [of British Jews], who have got blood on their hands."
Does Mrs. May regard this as "enough"?
The same question arises over another event, held in the very heart of Westminster only a couple of weeks later. On the weekend of July 8-9, the Queen Elizabeth II Centre (right opposite Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament) was host to a "Palestine Expo" event. This occasion was advertised as "the biggest social, cultural and entertainment event on Palestine to ever take place in Europe".
Speakers included Tariq Ramadan, the dauphin of the Muslim Brotherhood, who used his speech to try to minimise the violence of the terrorist group Hamas. Ramadan used his speech to pour scorn on the idea that the knife and vehicle attacks carried out by Hamas, and those people inspired by its Islamist message in the Middle East, have any connection at all to the knife and vehicle attacks such as the one which had recently claimed the lives of four people crossing Westminster Bridge, as well as that of a policeman at the gates of Parliament. The site of the slaughter was just opposite the conference centre in which Ramadan was speaking:
"As if al-Qaeda is exactly like Hamas and the Palestinian resistance. By saying that they are all terrorists, that's exactly the game. And we are saying we condemn terrorism. But there is a legitimate resistance to your state terrorism."
Other speakers at the Palestine Expo event included the South African preacher Ebrahim Bham. Among his own previous gems is his claim from earlier this year regarding people who are not Muslims: "They are like animals! No, they are worse than animals!"
All of this took place in the weeks immediately after Theresa May said that "enough was enough." That the UK authorities allowed the Al-Quds march to proceed through the streets of London and for Palestine Expo to assemble such an array of speakers just down the road from one of this year's terror attacks suggests that all that has happened this year in Britain is extremely far from "enough". So, rather than expecting resilience, the British people will have to be prepared to accept still more terror -- and doubtless more pointless platitudes to follow each attack -- as surely as they have followed all the attacks before.
**Douglas Murray, British author, commentator and public affairs analyst, is based in London, England.
© 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

Silicon Valley Censorship
Samuel Westrop/Gatestone Institute/July 26/17
If it is ever "toxic" to deem ISIS a terrorist organization, then -- regardless of whether that is the result of human bias or an under-developed algorithm -- the potential for abuse, and for widespread censorship, will always exist. The problem lies with the very concept of the idea. Why does Silicon Valley believe it should decide what is valid speech and what is not?
Conservative news, it seems, is considered fake news. Liberals should oppose this dogma before their own news comes under attack. Again, the most serious problem with attempting to eliminate hate speech, fake news or terrorist content by censorship is not about the efficacy of the censorship; it is the very premise that is dangerous.
Under the guidance of faulty algorithms or prejudiced Silicon Valley programmers, when the New York Times starts to delete or automatically hide comments that criticize extremist clerics, or Facebook designates articles by anti-Islamist activists as "fake news," Islamists will prosper and moderate Muslims will suffer.
Google's latest project is an application called Perspective, which, as Wired reports, brings the tech company "a step closer to its goal of helping to foster troll-free discussion online, and filtering out the abusive comments that silence vulnerable voices." In other words, Google is teaching computers how to censor.
If Google's plans are not quite Orwellian enough for you, the practical results are rather more frightening. Released in February, Perspective's partners include the New York Times, the Guardian, Wikipedia and the Economist. Google, whose motto is "Do the Right Thing," is aiming its bowdlerism at public comment sections on newspaper websites, but the potential is far broader.
Perspective works by identifying the "toxicity level" of comments published online. Google states that Perspective will enable companies to "sort comments more effectively, or allow readers to more easily find relevant information." Perspective's demonstration website currently allows anyone to measure the "toxicity" of a word or phrase, according to its algorithm. What, then, constitutes a "toxic" comment?
The organization with which I work, the Middle East Forum, studies Islamism. We work to tackle the threat posed by both violent and non-violent Islamism, assisted by our Muslim allies. We believe that radical Islam is the problem and moderate Islam is the solution.
Perspective does not look fondly at our work:
Google's Perspective application, which is being used by major media outlets to identify the "toxicity level" of comments published online, has much potential for abuse and widespread censorship.
No reasonable person could claim this is hate speech. But the problem does not just extend to opinions. Even factual statements are deemed to have a high rate of "toxicity." Google considers the statement "ISIS is a terrorist group" to have an 87% chance of being "perceived as toxic."
Or 92% "toxicity" for stating the publicly-declared objective of the terrorist group, Hamas:
Google is quick to remind us that we may disagree with the result. It explains that, "It's still early days and we will get a lot of things wrong." The Perspective website even offers a "Seem Wrong?" button to provide feedback.
These disclaimers, however, are very much beside the point. If it is ever "toxic" to deem ISIS a terrorist organization, then -- regardless of whether that figure is the result of human bias or an under-developed algorithm -- the potential for abuse, and for widespread censorship, will always exist.
The problem lies with the very concept of the idea. Why does Silicon Valley believe it should decide what is valid speech and what is not?
Google is not the only technology company enamored with censorship. In June, Facebook announced its own plans to use artificial intelligence to identify and remove "terrorist content." These measures can be easily circumvented by actual terrorists, and how long will it be before that same artificial intelligence is used to remove content that Facebook staff find to be politically objectionable?
In fact, in May 2016, the "news curators" at Facebook revealed that they were ordered to "suppress news stories of interest to conservative readers from the social network's influential 'trending' news section." And in December 2016, Facebook announced it was working to "address the issue of fake news and hoaxes" published by its users. The Washington Free Beacon later revealed that Facebook was working with a group named Media Matters on this issue. In one of its own pitches to donors, Media Matters declares its dedication to fighting "serial misinformers and right-wing propagandists." The leaked Media Matters document states it is working to ensure that "Internet and social media platforms, like Google and Facebook, will no longer uncritically and without consequence host and enrich fake news sites and propagandists." Media Matters also claims to be working with Google.
Conservative news, it seems, is considered fake news. Liberals should oppose this dogma before their own news comes under attack. Again, the most serious problem with attempting to eliminate hate speech, fake news or terrorist content by censorship is not about the efficacy of the censorship; it is the very premise that is dangerous.
Under the guidance of faulty algorithms or prejudiced Silicon Valley programmers, when the New York Times starts to delete or automatically hide comments that criticize extremist clerics, or Facebook designates articles by anti-Islamist activists as "fake news," Islamists will prosper and moderate Muslims will suffer. Silicon Valley has, in fact, already proven itself incapable of supporting moderate Islam. Since 2008, the Silicon Valley Community Foundation (SVCF) has granted $330,524 to two Islamist organizations, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and Islamic Relief. Both these groups are designated terrorist organizations in the United Arab Emirates. SVCF is America's largest community foundation, with assets of over $8 billion. Its corporate partners include some of the country's biggest tech companies -- its largest donation was $1.5 billion from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. The SVCF is Silicon Valley. In countries such as China, Silicon Valley has previously collaborated with the censors. At the very least, it did so because the laws of China forced it to comply. In the European Union, where freedom of expression is superseded by "the reputation and rights of others" and the criminalization of "hate speech" (even where there is no incitement to violence), Google was ordered to delete certain data from search results when a member of the public requests it, under Europe's "right to be forgotten" rules. Rightly, Google opposed the ruling, albeit unsuccessfully.
But in the United States, where freedom of speech enjoys protections found nowhere else in the world, Google and Facebook have not been forced to introduce censorship tools. They are not at the whim of paranoid despots or unthinking bureaucrats. Instead, Silicon Valley has volunteered to censor, and it has enlisted the help of politically partisan organizations to do so.
This kind of behavior sends a message. Earlier this year, Facebook agreed to send a team of staff to Pakistan, after the government asked both Facebook and Twitter to help put a stop to "blasphemous content" being published on the social media websites. In Pakistan, blasphemy is punishable by death.
Google, Facebook and the rest of Silicon Valley are private companies. They can do with their data mostly whatever they want. The world's reliance on their near-monopoly over the exchange of information and the provision of services on the internet, however, means that mass-censorship is the inevitable corollary of technology companies' efforts to regulate news and opinion.
At a time when Americans have little faith in the mass media, Silicon Valley is now veering in a direction that will evoke similar ire. If Americans did not trust the mass media before, what will they think once that same media is working with technology companies not just to report information Silicon Valley prefers, but to censor information it dislikes?
*Samuel Westrop is the Director of Islamist Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.
© 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.

Palestinians: Abbas's Security Doubletalk
Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/July 26/17
So, who is taking Abbas's threats to suspend security cooperation with Israel seriously? Not Israel, not the Americans, and certainly not many Palestinians. Abbas is caught between two bad places -- both of his very own making. On the one hand, he knows that security cooperation with Israel is his only insurance policy to remain in power and alive. On the other hand, Abbas is acutely aware of his status among many Palestinians, who would be more than happy to replace him with someone more... to their taste.
Palestinian intelligence chief Majed Faraj's message was directed to the Israeli public with the goal of pressuring the Israeli government and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to cave in to Palestinian threats and remove the metal detectors. This is why Faraj chose an Israeli journalist who is known to be sympathetic to Abbas and the Palestinian Authority (PA) leadership. Faraj and his boss -- Abbas -- wanted to scare the Israeli public and turn them against Netanyahu by telling them that Palestinians will stop security coordination with Israel unless the metal detectors were removed.
Abbas is still playing his old game. Out of one side of his mouth he claimed a desire for a peaceful solution to the metal detectors crisis, and out of the other side, he egged his people on to murder more and more Israelis. As it turns out, whether security coordination is "sacred" or "suspended," Abbas is in it for one person only: himself.
The conflicting reports emerging from Ramallah concerning security coordination with Israel serve as yet another reminder of the Palestinian Authority (PA) leaders' astounding hypocrisy.
Israel, for its part, has brushed aside reports about a suspension of the security coordination with the Palestinian Authority as yet another Abbas gimmick.
It is far from lost on Mahmoud Abbas and his PA that such security coordination is what stands between a very hungry Hamas and Abbas served up on toast for breakfast.
In the past, Abbas has rightly and reasonably described security coordination with Israel as "sacred," saying he will never succumb to pressure from Hamas and many Palestinians to stop working with Israel in the West Bank.
"I wish to say this openly – security coordination (with Israel) is sacred and will continue regardless of our political differences," Abbas declared in 2014.
Abbas's statement came amid reports that Israeli intelligence had thwarted a Hamas assassination plot against him in 2014.
Security coordination is indeed sacred for the Palestinian Authority president -- not to mention his family members and senior officials, who without such cooperation would also be dead, imprisoned or forced into exile. Abbas has yet to recover from the nightmare of 2007, when Hamas brought about the collapse of his Palestinian Authority and violently seized control over the Gaza Strip. The last thing Abbas wants is a recurrence of that horrific scenario; thousands of his police officers and Fatah loyalists were severely humiliated, and many either lynched in public, thrown off the high floors of buildings, imprisoned, or forced either to surrender or flee to Israel and Egypt.
The latest fiasco pertaining to the issue of security coordination with Israel began on July 21, when Abbas announced his decision to "freeze contacts with the occupation state (Israel) on all levels." Abbas's announcement came during a meeting of Palestinian leaders in Ramallah to discuss the crisis surrounding Israel's decision to install metal detectors at the entrance to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. This decision came in response to a shooting attack on July 14 carried out by three Arab Israelis that resulted in the murder of two Israeli police officers.
Abbas's announcement did not refer specifically to security coordination with Israel. Palestinian officials in Ramallah later explained that the decision to "freeze contacts with Israel on all levels" did not include security coordination between the two sides, which they said was continuing as usual and was necessary and vital.
Then came the backlash, with Palestinians roasting Abbas for maintaining security coordination with Israel. Palestinians perturbed by metal detectors at the entrance to the Temple Mount have also been chanting slogans against Abbas, accusing him of "collusion" with Israel and failing to support their campaign to have the metal detectors removed.
Social media has also not been silent. Many Palestinians and Arabs have been denouncing Abbas as a pawn in the hands of Israel and the US and demanding that he halt security coordination and all forms of cooperation with Israel.
In an attempt to contain the raging resentment on the Palestinian street, Abbas's aides later clarified that he has instructed his security commanders to stop talking to their Israeli counterparts in protest against the installation of the metal detectors. The aides hinted that despite the instruction, security coordination on the ground level will continue between the two sides because the decision only referred to contacts on a high level.
Many Palestinians, however, are calling Abbas's bluff.
As pressure on Abbas intensified, he sent his intelligence chief, Majed Faraj, to inform an Israeli journalist closely associated with the Palestinian Authority that Abbas has instructed him and other security chiefs to stop talking to their Israeli counterparts.
Faraj's message was directed to the Israeli public with the goal of pressuring the Israeli government and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to cave in to Palestinian threats and remove the metal detectors. This is why Faraj chose an Israeli journalist who is known to be sympathetic to Abbas and the PA leadership. Faraj and his boss -- Abbas -- wanted to scare the Israeli public and turn them against Netanyahu by telling them that Palestinians will stop security coordination with Israel unless the metal detectors are removed -- which the Israeli government agreed to do on the night of July 24.
One wonders when the Palestinian Authority will upgrade its scare tactics: they have used this one for decades to frighten the Israeli public.
The best evidence that Abbas is continuing to bluff everyone regarding security coordination with Israel is what happened in March 2015, when the PLO Central Committee, a key decision-making body headed by Abbas, voted in favor of suspending security coordination with Israel. Not only was this decision never implemented, in fact security coordination between the Palestinians and Israel has since grown stronger as the two sides face a common enemy in the West Bank called Hamas.
Abbas is still playing his old game: terrified of the raging Palestinian street, he released a terse statement on July 23 claiming that the decision to suspend contacts with Israel does indeed include security coordination. This latest statement, however, flies in the face of assertions by Israel and some Palestinian officials that suggest the exact opposite. Israeli security officials have scoffed at Abbas's decision, calling it symbolic and saying that security coordination is continuing by telephone.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. (Image source:
So who is taking Abbas's threats to suspend security cooperation with Israel seriously? Not Israel, not the Americans, and certainly not many Palestinians. Abbas is caught between two bad places -- both of his very own making. On the one hand, he knows that security cooperation with Israel is his only insurance policy to remain in power and alive. On the other hand, Abbas is acutely aware of his status among many Palestinians, who would be more than happy to replace him with someone more... to their taste.
Abbas lives in a demonic Wonderland. Out of one side of his mouth he claimed a desire for a peaceful solution to the metal detectors crisis, and out of the other side, he egged his people on to murder more and more Israelis. As it turns out, whether security coordination is "sacred" or "suspended," Abbas is in it for one person only: himself.
*Bassam Tawil is an Arab Muslim based in the Middle East.
© 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.

Brexit Disarray Points to Disaster
Clive Crook/Bloomberg/July 26/17
The Brexit talks have started, and there’s little sign yet of an intelligible U.K. strategy. All is disarray.
The shambles makes two bad possible outcomes more likely. One is that the U.K. will crash out of the European Union in 2019 with no agreement in place. This would cause enormous economic disruption — damage that would take years to repair.
The other bad possibility, if the government continues to flail while the two-year deadline advances, is that public opinion will wobble. A second referendum might be called, and last year’s decision to quit might be reversed. I used to think this scenario extremely unlikely. Now I think it’s merely improbable, and support for it is on the rise (though I’m unsure whether backing from Tony Blair, Britain’s unpopular former prime minister, is helping).
You might be wondering, what would be so bad about revisiting the decision to quit?
To begin with, don’t assume a second referendum would go the other way. Britain’s Remainers seem to take it for granted that next time common sense will prevail. The majority for quitting in last year’s vote was narrow, but remember that Leave won despite an enormous and sustained preponderance of advice from the government, from economists of all stripes, and from elite opinion generally. There’s a reason Britain has always been the odd man out in the EU: Popular disquiet at the U.K.’s place in an ever-integrating Europe runs deep.
Also don’t take for granted that Britain would be allowed to change its mind. The legality of revoking the Article 50 notice is disputed. The EU says this cannot be done unilaterally. Before Britain was let back in, it might be asked to pay a price for its impudence. (Maybe that would give rise to demands for a third referendum.) Efforts to reverse last year’s vote could simply run out the clock and make the first bad outcome — crashing out of the union with no deal — more likely.
Isn’t this risk worth running for the chance to correct a historic error — if that’s what it was? I doubt it. Suppose a second referendum was called and the result was Remain; suppose the EU said, “Great, glad to have you back.” Reversing Britain’s decision under these circumstances — out of fear, to avert looming chaos — wouldn’t reconcile the country to its European future. This cringing submission would raise instinctive euro-skepticism to new extremes and divide the U.K. even more bitterly.
Gideon Rachman writes in the Financial Times that it would be a national humiliation. True. It would surpass the Suez Crisis in 1956 and the country’s surrender to trade-union militancy in the 1970s — crushing setbacks with far-reaching political consequences. If there were ever a case of “be careful what you wish for,” this is it.
Where I disagree with Rachman is that, if I understand him correctly, he recommends this humiliation as the best course of action. All Britain’s options right now are humiliating, he believes, so this is no basis for rejection. On the plus side, humiliation can be good for you (think Germany after 1945). He notes that many Europeans think Britain could stand to be taken down a peg or two.
No doubt. On the whole, though, I think national humiliations are best kept to a minimum. In this case, a feasible, non-humiliating and mutually advantageous alternative is available.
To avoid any crashing out of the union in 2019, Britain and the EU need a transitional agreement: Britain would be out of the EU, with no say in its future direction, but would retain essentially all the rights and obligations of membership while a permanent arrangement is worked out. That would take as long as it takes — no more pressure of a stupid deadline. And this longer-term arrangement would in turn be a liberal, trade-promoting accord between close friends and allies, recognizing Britain’s desire to be, and remain, a sovereign state.
It’s important to understand that this can be done — a point that gets remarkably little attention. It isn’t asking the impossible, and it isn’t asking anything that a self-confident EU needs to oppose. But this good outcome can’t come about by accident. Both parties to the negotiations will have to pursue it deliberately. That’s the problem.
There’s too little sign of purpose or foresight on either side. Britain is paralyzed by political division. Government support for the transition model does seem to be inching higher, but May still gives every impression of making things up as she goes along — and, crucially, she isn’t preparing Brexit supporters to be patient. Other EU governments, for the most part, are just standing to one side, content to let Britain stew. They have less to lose in this, to be sure — but that doesn’t justify letting the train wreck happen.
Brexit doesn’t need to be a disaster, and avoiding the worst doesn’t require superhuman political talent. It just requires better leaders than Britain and Europe seem to have.