July 31/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For Today
Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 11/49-54/:"Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, "I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute", so that this generation may be charged with the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be charged against this generation. Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.’ When he went outside, the scribes and the Pharisees began to be very hostile towards him and to cross-examine him about many things, lying in wait for him, to catch him in something he might say."

For such people do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the simple-minded
Letter to the Romans 16/17-20/:"I urge you, brothers and sisters, to keep an eye on those who cause dissensions and offences, in opposition to the teaching that you have learned; avoid them. For such people do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the simple-minded. For while your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, I want you to be wise in what is good, and guileless in what is evil. The God of peace will shortly crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you."

Question: "Should a Christian study philosophy?"
Answer: The word philosophy comes from the Greek word philosophia, which means “love of wisdom.” The study of philosophy is about using rational argument and critical thinking to analyze the way human beings think and know and perceive the world around them—both the physical world and the abstract world of ideas. Questions like “what is real?” and “can the truth be known?” and “what is beauty?” are all philosophical questions. There is nothing wrong with a believer in Jesus Christ loving wisdom (Proverbs 4:6; 7:4), and there is nothing wrong with a Christian studying philosophy. The book of Ecclesiastes is very philosophical, dealing as it does with several different worldly philosophies before concluding that a philosophy that fears and obeys God is the best (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
A Christian believes that all necessary questions pertaining to life can be answered by the Bible. However, philosophy is a fascinating field of academic study, and, if a believer’s mind is inclined toward it, the study of philosophy can be enlightening and prove beneficial in one’s dealings with the world. An understanding of the various philosophies of men is a valuable tool in evangelism. Paul was able to engage the philosophers on Mars Hill because of his familiarity with Greek writings (Acts 17:28), and he quoted a Cretan philosopher to make a point in Titus 1:12.
Faith is often seen as a “non-intellectual” pursuit; it is viewed as something understood with the spirit and the heart and therefore doesn’t need to make sense to the rational mind. This idea goes all the way back to ancient times. The Greek culture, the birthplace of philosophy, could not understand the Christian message, which seemed irrational to them. The preaching of the cross was foolishness to the Greeks (1 Corinthians 1:23). Paul here intimates the limitations of human philosophy. The philosophy of man can never arrive at the truth of God on its own.
God’s wisdom is revealed to man when God gives him the mind of Christ. Without God’s revelation, man in his natural state cannot understand the things of the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 2:14–16). Wisdom does not come from the natural, rational mind because man’s mind and his reason are fallen; that is, they are affected by sin. Wisdom is a beautiful thing, poetically described as the worker by God’s side as He created the world (Proverbs 8:12–31). To truly be able to think rationally, a person must be introduced to the ultimate source of wisdom, which is God Himself. Faith in God is not foolishness—though it is perceived that way by those who trust solely in reason—it is rather what informs reason. “By faith we understand” (Hebrews 11:3). Through faith, we access true wisdom (Proverbs 3:5–6).
On the one hand, the study of philosophy is totally harmless—simply a way to understand human concepts and learn to think critically about the world. On the other hand, if a person does not accept man’s fallen nature as revealed in Scripture, philosophy can turn into the assertion of man’s reason as the ultimate source of wisdom. When people trust in their own reason to lead them to truth, they lead themselves astray. For this reason, the study of philosophy is fraught with pitfalls; the reasoning of unsaved men fills the textbooks, and the Christian must be aware. But philosophy as a field of study is simply a tool—it can be used to build beautiful and enlightening arguments based on what is revealed by God to be true, or it can be used to deconstruct and confuse a fallen mind that trusts itself rather than its Creator.
**Recommended Resource: Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview by William Lane Craig & J.P. Moreland

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on July 30-31/17
Lebanon Is Another Name for Hezbollah/Tony Badran/Tablet Magazine/July 30/17
Qatar and Kuwait’s relations with Iran/Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat/July 30/17
What we gain and lose from Saudi Arabia’s expat dependents fees/Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi/Asharq Al Awsat/July 30/17
The Islamization of History/Uzay Bulut/Gatestone Institute/July 30/17
What Is the World Council of Churches/Malcolm Lowe/Gatestone Institute/July 30/17
Trump Endorses Obama’s Policy in Syria and Iraq/Raghida Dergham/July 30/17
Russia Woos the World with New Plan on Syria/Amir Taheri/Gatestone Institute/July 30/17

Titles For Latest Lebanese Related News published on July 30-31/17
Hizbullah-Nusra Agreement Begins with Exchange of Bodies
Al-Lino: 120 Want to Leave Ain el-Hilweh under Hizbullah-Nusra Deal
Red Cross pursues bodies' exchange process at Ibrahim's request
Marouni Warns State's Idleness Would Affect Sovereignty
Nusra militants bodies arrive at Army Brigade headquarters in Labwa
Rahi: Officials are required to resolve any law flaws
Khalil: Army and resistance confrontation against terrorism is a source of pride for all of Lebanon
Bassil from Zahle: We aspire to achieve a civil state
Bassil voices disapproval of certain taxes such as tuition increase, fears their repercussions
Bou Assi: No elections by compromise, no room for bargaining
UAE embassy partakes in Festival of Nations in Batroun in presence of Bassil
Geagea Backs Canceling By-elections, Calls on Hizbullah to Hand Over Arms
Qaouq: Arsal Win Won’t be Used to Change Internal Equation

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on July 30-31/17
Australia Foils 'Terror Plot' to Bring Down Airplane
Clashes near Yemen's Mokha Kill 40 Troops, Rebels
Russia's RT Says Correspondent Killed in Syria
Judges Uphold Israeli Soldier's Manslaughter Conviction
Canada Probes Possible Saudi Use of Its Equipment in Crackdown
Manama meet reiterates call for Qatar to halt support to terrorism
Saudi FM: Qatar call to internationalize holy sites an ‘act of war’
Saudi Arabia, UAE welcome creation of UN Counter-Terrorism Office
Saudi student among two killed in Portland arson attack
Gunman kills one, injures three in shooting at German nightclub

Latest Lebanese Related News published on July 30-31/17
Hizbullah-Nusra Agreement Begins with Exchange of Bodies

Associated Press/Naharnet/July 30/17/Hizbullah's al-Manar TV station reported Sunday that the group was exchanging the bodies of dead fighters with al-Nusra Front along the Lebanese-Syrian border in the first stage of a settlement that would restore order to the border region. Hizbullah said it is handing over the bodies of nine Nusra fighters in exchange for the bodies of five of its own who were killed in two weeks of battles along the frontier. The fighting ended with a ceasefire Thursday to allow negotiations to proceed to send the Nusra fighters and their families to Syria's northwest Idlib province -- Nusra’s Syria bastion. It would leave Lebanon, Syria and Hizbullah in control of this stretch of the border.Hizbullah’s “War Media” outlet said the bodies of Nusra’s militants would be handed over the Lebanese General Security in ambulances belonging to the group’s paramedic unit. The agreement also involves the exchange of captives held by the two groups.

Al-Lino: 120 Want to Leave Ain el-Hilweh under Hizbullah-Nusra Deal

Naharnet/July 30/17/Twenty-seven Lebanese nationals are among 120 people who have registered their names to leave the Ain el-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp for Syria’s Idlib as part of a deal reached between Hizbullah and the jihadist al-Nusra Front group, a top Fatah Movement official has said. “Until now, no official authorization has been given for the exit of any fugitive from the Ain el-Hilweh camp,” Brig. Gen. Mahmoud Issa, aka al-Lino, added in a TV interview. He noted that the Lebanese side has rejected the transfer to Idlib of any fugitive involved in terrorist acts in Lebanon. The Hizbullah-Nusra agreement got underway on Sunday with the exchange of bodies of fighters between the two groups and an exchange of captives is expected at a later stage. The agreement follows several days of fighting in the outskirts of the Lebanese border town of Arsal and the Syrian town of Flita that saw Hizbullah seize control of much of the region. The battles ended with a ceasefire Thursday to allow negotiations to proceed to send the Nusra fighters -- who are now encircled in a small pocket of territory -- and their families to Syria's northwest Idlib province, Nusra’s Syria bastion.

Red Cross pursues bodies' exchange process at Ibrahim's request
Sun 30 Jul 2017/NNA - The Lebanese Red Cross is continuing the process of exchanging bodies between Hezbollah and al-Nusra Front at the request of General Security Director-General Abbas Ibrahim, NNA correspondent reported Sunday.

Marouni Warns State's Idleness Would Affect Sovereignty 29/17/Kataeb MP Elie Marouni on Saturday voiced fear that the State’s failure to fulfill all its duties would have a negative effect on Lebanon’s sovereignty, deploring the fact that the state's prestige is weakened. “We call on the State to control the borders and prevent terrorists from infiltrating into the country,” Marouni said in an interview on New TV. Maroni stressed the need to punish the terrorists instead of deporting them, saying they should be all brought to justice. "Is it normal to secure a safe passage for the Nusra commander Abu Malek Al-Talleh and other terrorist militants to leave?" he asked. The Kataeb MP blamed the political authority incompetency and idleness for Hezbollah's dominance over the peace and war decision-making, stressing that the Army is solely entitled to defend the country's border.

Nusra militants bodies arrive at Army Brigade headquarters in Labwa
Sun 30 Jul 2017/NNA - Nine bodies belonging to al-Nusra Front militants have arrived at the Lebanese Army's Ninth Brigade headquarters in Labwa, awaiting the arrival of the bodies of Hezbollah fighters, where the exchange process will take place, NNA correspondent in Baalbek reported Sunday. The five bodies of Hezbollah fighters will be transported by Lebanese Red Cross vehicles from Wadi Hmayd to Younin and then Labwa. DNA tests will be performed on only three of the bodies, since the other two have been identified, NNA correspondent added.

Rahi: Officials are required to resolve any law flaws
Sun 30 Jul 2017/NNA - Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rahi urged the legislative, executive, administrative and judicial authorities to resolve any law imperfections, particularly in the context of the long-awaited wage grid law. Rahi, whose words came during Sunday's Mass service in Bkirki, added that the Lebanese officials are committed to serving citizens in accordance with the Constitution and stipulated laws. "It is unacceptable that people resort to strikes and demonstrations in order to obtain their legitimate rights," said Rahi, referring to the recently approved salary scale coupled with tax increases. The Patriarch refused any increase on tuition fees in private schools, calling on officials to listen to complaints from the general secretariat of Catholic schools and the union of private schools.

Khalil: Army and resistance confrontation against terrorism is a source of pride for all of Lebanon
Sun 30 Jul 2017/NNA - Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil deemed Sunday that the confrontation against terrorism by the Lebanese army and resistance in Arsal's outskirts is a source of pride for all of Lebanon. "Terrorism is not aimed at a sect or a party, but is aimed at the country's whole entity and stability, through which Lebanon and its institutions derive the force of life," added Khalil, speaking at an "Amal Movement" commemoration ceremony held in the town of Qantara. "The battle against terrorism requires more internal Lebanese national unity, the best facet of the war with terrorism," said Khalil, stressing the need "to boost the atmosphere of unity and solidarity between the Lebanese.""Victory is achieved through the strength of our army and our resistance, and this victory must be completed, crowned with the army's power and Lebanese support to it, so we can feel that our security and military immunity is sustained along the borders of our homeland," Khalil underscored.

Bassil from Zahle: We aspire to achieve a civil state
Sun 30 Jul 2017/NNA - Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gibran Bassil, on Sunday kicked off a tour to Zahle by visiting the Syriac Orthodox Archdiocese, where he was welcomed by Minister of Justice Salim Jeraisati. Minister Bassil said that there should be no distinction between the Lebanese, adding that he aspires "to achieve a civil state, which does not discriminate between its sons."Bassil added that his visit to the Syriac diocese came within the context of his interest in the Syriac community. "We, in this country are all minorities, there is no a mother sect or a dominant sect," Bassil went on. Bassil concluded by saying that “Christianity stems from this East, we are the basis of this homeland and there should be no discrimination [between its sons]."

Bassil voices disapproval of certain taxes such as tuition increase, fears their repercussions
Sun 30 Jul 2017/NNA - Foreign Affairs Minister, Gibran Bassil, said Sunday that his parliamentary bloc did not agree to certain imposed taxes such as the increase in school fees, expressing fear of their repercussions especially on Catholic schools. "We must help in preserving these schools and ensuring their continuity through self-sufficiency, "said Bassil, speaking from Zahle's Maronite Archdiocese, the second stop-over during his Zahle tour. "We, as a Free Patriotic Movement, have focused on the people who can afford (such taxes), namely marine properties, banks and major companies via profit and real estate improvement, since these are the places with tax contribution capabilities," he added. However, Bassil anticipated that the year 2018 would reflect economic prosperity and serve in the organization of public life. "Following the qualitative shift in politics, now the time has come for a significant shift in the economy," deemed Bassil.

Bassil from Qusaya: National cohesion preserved our villages against outside breaches
Sun 30 Jul 2017/NNA - Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Minister, Gibran Bassil, stressed that national cohesion in every village and town of Zahle preserved the region against breaches from outside the borders and inside the country. Pursuing his Zahle tour on Sunday, Bassil visited "Our Lady's Church" in the town of Qusaya where he met with dignitaries and municipality heads representing eastern Zahle's towns and villages. Bassil commended citizens for their solidarity stand together, appreciating their steadfastness in spite of their difficult living circumstances.

Bou Assi: No elections by compromise, no room for bargaining
Sun 30 Jul 2017/NNA - Social Affairs Minister Pierre Bou Assi vowed that there will be no compromise in the upcoming parliamentary elections nor will there be any room for bargaining, saying, "It is a tough battle...Everyone should hold the authority accountable during elections so that democratic life can succeed."Representing Lebanese Forces Party Chief, Samir Geagea, at the first annual dinner banquet organized the Party's branch in Upper Metn, Bou Assi stressed that "one of LF's priorities is to preserve the sovereignty and democracy of Lebanon and the pluralism of its society." "Lebanon's sovereignty means that it has one State and one authority chosen by the people in ballot boxes," he underscored. "The sovereignty of Lebanon is not a partnership; it is a one institution, one state, one hero army, and one security force implementing the decision taken by the Council of Ministers on behalf of the Lebanese people," emphasized Bou Assi. He called upon all candidates running in the upcoming parliamentary elections to "fight the battle with honor, dignity and determination."

UAE embassy partakes in Festival of Nations in Batroun in presence of Bassil
Sun 30 Jul 2017/NNA - Charge d'Affaire of the United Arab Emirates Embassy in Beirut, Hizaa Mansouri, participated on Saturday evening in the activities of the Festival of Nations in Batroun, as part of the activities of the "House of expatriates", under the patronage and presence of Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gebran Bassil. Bassil, who delivered a word during the event, referred to the achievements made by the ministry in favor of the Lebanese expatriates, saying that "expats are now able to vote and participate in the political life of their mother country."Bassil noted that during the upcoming period, the Lebanese diaspora "will have their own representatives in the legislative Council.""Ministry of Foreign Affairs is currently preparing five conferences for the Lebanese Diaspora around the world," he concluded.

Geagea Backs Canceling By-elections, Calls on Hizbullah to Hand Over Arms
Naharnet/July 30/17/Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea has called for canceling upcoming parliamentary by-elections to fill three vacant seats in Tripoli and Keserwan. “Honestly, we are not enthusiastic for these by-elections. The measure is constitutional in theory, but practically the vote will take place in October, only six months away from the date of the general elections. Should the by-elections take place, they will only cost the State and people money and effort,” said Geagea in an interview with al-Hayat newspaper published Sunday. Asked whether he is in favor of calling off the by-elections, the LF leader said: “We are with canceling the by-elections and holding the general elections, because the time interval between them is not long.” The by-elections are aimed at filling the Tripoli Greek Orthodox seat that was left vacant after the resignation of Robert Fadel, the Tripoli Alawite seat that was held by late MP Badr Wannous and the Keserwan Maronite seat that became vacant with the election of Michel Aoun as president. Separately, Geagea said he does not consider Hizbullah’s battles in the outskirts of Arsal and Flita a “victory.” “It is rather one episode in the series of battles that it has been fighting for the past six years in Syria to shore up (Syrian President) Bashar al-Assad,” Geagea noted. “What is delaying the rise of a real state (in Lebanon) is Hizbullah’s presence in the current fashion and its usurpation of the strategic decisions,” the LF leader added. Told that Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has “dedicated the victory to all Lebanese,” Geagea said: “If Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah wants to dedicate something of value to the Lebanese, let him hand over his weapons to the Lebanese army and engage in political action, the same as we all did. This step has been overdue for 27 years now.”

Qaouq: Arsal Win Won’t be Used to Change Internal Equation

Naharnet/July 30/17/Senior Hizbullah official Sheikh Nabil Qaouq reassured Sunday that his party will not employ its victory over al-Nusra Front in Arsal’s outskirts to “change the the internal equation” in Lebanon. “This achievement is an achievement for everyone and Hizbullah has no intention to employ this victory to achieve political gains or to change the internal political equations,” Qaouq said. He added: “The achievement that was made in the Arsal outskirts battle has given Lebanon a real and extraordinary chance to continue the eradication of Daesh (Islamic State group) from the outskirts of Ras Baalbek and al-Qaa, and it facilitates the Lebanese army’s mission in liberating the rest of the occupied territory in these outskirts.”Qaouq also hailed “the resistant stance” of President Michel Aoun, saying he was “a major supporter for the operation that liberated Arsal’s outskirts.”

Lebanon Is Another Name for Hezbollah
Tony Badran/Tablet Magazine/July 27/17
During his joint press conference with Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Tuesday, President Trump gave expression to the inherent paradox in America’s Lebanon policy. On the one hand, the president voiced appreciation and support for Lebanon and its Armed Forces (LAF) for their supposed “impressive” role in the fight against ISIS and Al-Qaeda. On the other hand, he had strong words for Hezbollah, calling it a menace to the Lebanese state and the entire region and noting its role in fueling the catastrophe in Syria. Specifically, the president added, the group threatens to start a conflict with Israel, as it continues to increase its arsenal in violation of UN Security Council resolutions.
At the same time Hariri is visiting Washington, however, the LAF is taking part in a joint military operation with Hezbollah in northeastern Lebanon, targeting a pocket of Syrian armed groups—including the group formerly known as the Nusra Front—on the Syrian border. Hezbollah, of course, controls the Lebanese government and dictates the operations of its armed forces. Indeed, it was Hezbollah that laid out the battle plans for the current operation in northeastern Lebanon, including what role the LAF would play in it. And it was Hezbollah’s chief, Hassan Nasrallah, who announced the impending start of the joint operation with the LAF during a televised appearance a couple of weeks ago.
The Lebanese state, in other words, is worse than a joke. It’s a front. Which is what made Hariri’s comments during the presser about his government’s commitment to the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, calling for an end to hostilities between Hezbollah and Israel, all the more absurd. After all, it was the LAF that chaperoned Hezbollah and its media tour of the border with Israel — where Hezbollah’s “environmental NGOs” have set up observation posts under UNIFIL’s nose — and which then sent 150 of its officer cadets on a guided tour of Hezbollah’s museum of war with Israel.
One would think, then, that talking up Lebanon’s commitment to UNSCR 1701 may not be the smartest approach when discussing aid to the LAF. The reason why it continues to be done shamelessly is that for the past four years, the Obama administration redefined UNSCR 1701, which was passed in 2006, to fit its regional pro-Iran policy.
Famously, Trump’s predecessor publicly recognized the need to “respect” what he called Iran’s “equities” in Syria. That was a euphemism for Iran’s ability to maintain its bridge to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Obama further signaled his commitment to Iran’s regional interests by sharing intelligence, via the LAF and other Hezbollah-aligned Lebanese security agencies, with Hezbollah, to help it and Iran fend off blowback from its war on the Syrian people in support of Bashar Assad. However, since it is rather impossible to directly partner with a US-designated terrorist group that has American blood on its hands, the Obama administration did the next best thing: strengthen the partnership with Hezbollah’s auxiliary force, the LAF. The LAF was thus promoted to partner in the war on ISIS, despite the fact it sits on the extreme margin of that fight. Moreover, its synergy with Hezbollah and its role in securing Hezbollah’s rear and logistical lines into Syria, was conveniently swept aside altogether, even as its deployment to the eastern Lebanese border was praised.
And here’s where the sleight of hand on UNSCR 1701 happened. As far back as 2014, support to the LAF and its deployment to the eastern border were sold as enabling the Lebanese government to implement the resolution. Only here’s the thing: the resolution had intended for the Lebanese government to exercise its sovereignty on border control so that it may cut off Hezbollah’s illegal smuggling of weapons from Iran and Syria and, eventually disarm it. Such sovereignty, it was hoped, would also assert Lebanon’s independence from the Assad regime, whose troops were pushed out of the country only a year earlier. Instead, the Obama administration made the mandate of UNSCR 1701 about combating “Syria-origin Sunni extremists.” This became the standard language in the State Department’s Country Reports on Terrorism since 2014. And so, when the Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced the sale of a new arms package to the LAF in 2015, including light attack aircraft and laser-guided rockets, it explained that the sale serves US interests by enabling the Lebanese government to “enforce United Nation’s security council resolutions 1559 and 1701.”
However, insofar as the LAF was working hand in hand with Hezbollah — Iran’s “equity” — US support was for its mission against “Sunni terrorism” exclusively. The Obama administration effectively wrote out Hezbollah of UNSCR 1701.
Regrettably, the recently released State Department Country Terrorism report repeats this Obama-era language verbatim. In contrast, it’s clear President Trump was trying to reintroduce the Hezbollah and Iran emphasis. Hence, he underscored that terrorism now means all terrorism, which means Hezbollah. But attempting to fit this anti-Hezbollah and anti-Iran language into the policy of support to the LAF is an attempt to square the circle. You could see it also in the president’s revival of the old line about how American assistance can help ensure the LAF “is the only defender” of Lebanon — meaningless folkloric language US policy has been repeating since 2006, and which has now become not only obsolete, but also counterproductive.
It doesn’t work, and it only reinforces a pro-Iranian configuration, partly because the previous administration reconfigured its Lebanon policy to be part of its broader regional policy of realignment with Iran, and partly because Hezbollah controls Lebanon, its strategic orientation, and its security policy and apparatuses. In fact, Hezbollah controls the government of which Hariri is prime minister. The last time he visited Washington as prime minister, in January 2011, Hezbollah and its allies—which include the current president and foreign minister—collapsed his government, and forced him out of the country. He was allowed back in only after he completely capitulated to Hezbollah’s demands.
It was hardly surprising, then, that Hariri had not once mentioned Hezbollah in his remarks. He knows who wields the real power in Beirut. And his function since Hezbollah allowed him back into Lebanon has been to lobby for backing and continued support for the current Hezbollah-dominated political status quo, and to mop up after Hezbollah. So, when asked today about the Lebanese government’s response to new Congressional sanctions targeting Hezbollah, Hariri replied that he’ll be making the rounds on the Hill “in order to reach an understanding with regard to the [sanctions] resolutions coming from Congress.” Reaching an “understanding” is a euphemism for taking it easy on Lebanon. It’s what all of the Lebanese delegations to Washington, headed by Hezbollah allies, have been focused on since news of Congress’s efforts to tighten sanctions came out: we’re in compliance with existing sanctions. Don’t add new sanctions. Do you want to break Lebanon?!?
Hariri played that refrain a little as well, as he underscored his government’s “efforts to safeguard our political and economic stability while combating terrorism” (which, of course, does not refer to Hezbollah). In other words, Lebanon is a partner in the fight against ISIS, so don’t do anything to threaten its fragile political and economic stability.
With that Hariri gave a perfect example of how Lebanon is brandished as a human shield of sorts for Hezbollah in support of the status quo favorable to the party — and to everyone who partakes in it, Hariri included. The same applies to the LAF policy. For what role will the LAF play if not that of a human shield for Hezbollah when the next conflict with Israel erupts? What will the Lebanese government do but rush to the US urging it to preserve its investment in that extraordinary partner in the war against terrorism, and to intervene to stop Israel from destroying the Lebanese state. After all, who but Hezbollah would benefit from that? Cui bono, America?
Of course, all that makes sense for Hariri and the Lebanese political class and for their political careers, and perhaps for Hariri’s ambition to get in on any prospective “reconstruction” action in Syria — that is, if Iran’s and Hezbollah’s Construction Jihad let him have a cut. But none of that makes any sense for the US. Rather, it all becomes a vehicle for the perpetuation and consolidation of Obama’s deliberately pro-Iran policy.
“America is proud to support those who have the courage to stand up to terrorism,” president Trump said on Tuesday. But if terrorism includes Hezbollah, which the president made clear it does, then by definition the Lebanese state and the LAF should be excluded from that list.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on July 30-31/17
Australia Foils 'Terror Plot' to Bring Down Airplane
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 30/17/Australia has foiled an Islamist-inspired "terrorist plot" to bring down an airplane with an improvised explosive, authorities said Sunday, after four people were arrested in raids across Sydney. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the plot appeared to be "elaborate" rather than planned by a lone wolf, as security was beefed up at major domestic and international airports across the nation. "I can report last night that there has been a major joint counter-terrorism operation to disrupt a terrorist plot to bring down an airplane," Turnbull told reporters. "The threat of terrorism is very real. The disruption operation, the efforts overnight have been very effective but there's more work to do." Officials did not specify if the alleged plot involved a domestic or international flight, but Sydney's Daily Telegraph reported that a local route had been the objective. Australian Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin described the plot as "Islamic-inspired", saying four men had been arrested in a series of raids across Sydney on Saturday. "We do believe it is Islamic-inspired terrorism. Exactly what is behind this is something we need to investigate fully," he said. Colvin added that local authorities had received "credible information from partner agencies" about the claims but would not elaborate further or state if the men were on any watch list. "In recent days, law enforcement has become aware of information that suggested some people in Sydney were planning to commit a terrorist attack using an IED (improvised explosive device)," he told reporters. He added that several items "of great interest to police" had been seized in the raids but police did not yet have a great deal of information on the specific attack, the location, date or time. He said the investigation was expected to be "very long and protracted." "However, we're investigating information indicating the aviation industry was potentially a target of that attack."Colvin would not provide further details, but the Australian Broadcasting Corporation said police found items that could be used to make a homemade bomb in one of the raided homes Saturday. Authorities believed they planned to smuggle the device onto a plane to blow it up, the ABC added.
Airport security boost
Four men were arrested Saturday after armed police stormed homes in at least four neighborhoods, though their names and ages have not been released and they have not been charged by police. The Seven Network reported 40 riot squad officers moved on a terraced house in the inner city suburb of Surry Hills, as TV footage showed a man with a bandage on his head being led away by authorities, draped in a blanket. Sections of surrounding roads remained cordoned off on Sunday as forensic officers and investigators wrapped up and removed items from the house. Airline passengers have meanwhile been asked to arrive at least two hours early for domestic flights and three hours for international routes, and to limit their baggage. "Australia has very strong safeguards in place at its airports; these changes are about making them even stronger," Australian carrier Qantas said. Airline Virgin Australia stressed that the additional airport security measures were just "precautionary" and passengers "should not be concerned." Turnbull said the national terror alert level, which was raised on September 2014 amid rising concerns over attacks by individuals inspired by organizations such as Islamic State, wo uld remain at probable. Canberra has introduced new national security laws since then, while counter-terrorism police have also made a string of arrests. A total of 12 attacks, before the latest announcement, have been prevented in the past few years, while 70 people have been charged, Justice Minister Michael Keenan said. "The primary threat to Australia still remains lone actors, but there's still the ability for people to have sophisticated plots and sophisticated attacks still remain a real threat," he told reporters Sunday. The prime minister added that the alleged plan appeared to be "more in that category of an elaborate plot."Several terror attacks have taken place in Australia in recent years, including a Sydney cafe siege in 2014 that saw two hostages killed.

Clashes near Yemen's Mokha Kill 40 Troops, Rebels
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 30/17/More than 40 troops and rebels have been killed in several days of clashes between Yemen's Saudi-backed army and insurgents allied with Iran near the Red Sea port of Mokha, officials said Sunday.
Sixteen Huthi rebels and seven soldiers were killed in overnight clashes east of Mokha, a key waterway for international trade and imports currently held by the army, according to military officials and witnesses at hospitals in the area. Twenty Yemeni soldiers were also killed in a rebel strike on a major military base in Taiz province, around 40 kilometers (25 miles) east of Mokha, on Thursday, a military official there said. Authorities on Saturday said the Shiite Huthis had attacked the Mokha port with a remote-controlled boat carrying explosives. No casualties were reported. The Saudi-led coalition also said a ballistic missile fired by the Huthis was shot down Thursday near Mecca in Saudi Arabia, the site of the annual Muslim Hajj pilgrimage that falls next month. Backed by the Arab coalition, the government of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi has battled the Huthi rebels for control of the impoverished country for two years. More than 8,000 people have been killed and millions displaced in the conflict, which has pushed the country to the brink of famine. A cholera outbreak has also claimed the lives of more than 1,800 people since April, with 400,000 suspected cases across the country, according to the U.N. and the International Committee of the Red Cross. The U.N. last week warned 80 percent of Yemen's children were in desperate need of aid in what the organisation has described as the "largest humanitarian crisis in the world."

Russia's RT Says Correspondent Killed in Syria
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 30/17/Russia's Kremlin-backed international broadcaster RT said a correspondent from its Arabic-language channel was killed Sunday by shelling from the Islamic State group in Syria's Homs province. "RT mourns the loss of its correspondent Khaled al-Khatib, who was killed on Sunday July 30 as he was covering the Syrian army's operation against the terrorist group IS around Sukhna in the eastern parts of Homs province," the channel wrote in an online announcement in Arabic. "Our correspondent in central Syria sustained a fatal wound when a shell fired by IS terrorists hit a Syrian army position while he was on a field assignment riddled with danger in al-Baghaliya in rural Homs province." Syrian government troops entered Sukhna, the last IS stronghold in the country's Homs province, on Friday after jihadists began withdrawing, a monitor said. The town, some 70 kilometer (45 miles) northeast of the famed ancient city of Palmyra, is the last town on the road to the eastern city of Deir Ezzor, where a government garrison has held out under IS siege since early 2015. Since May, Syria's army has been conducting a broad military campaign with Russian support to recapture the vast desert that separates the capital Damascus from Deir Ezzor and other towns along the Euphrates Valley.

Judges Uphold Israeli Soldier's Manslaughter Conviction
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 30/17/A military court on Sunday upheld a manslaughter conviction and 18-month prison sentence for an Israeli soldier who shot dead a prone Palestinian assailant in a case that deeply divided the country. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu immediately repeated his call for a pardon for the soldier, Elor Azaria, whose actions drew harsh criticism from the military's top brass. In addition to upholding the conviction, military judges also rejected an appeal by prosecutors to increase the sentence for Azaria, a sergeant and military medic at the time of the incident, Israeli media reported. "My opinion has not changed when it comes to granting pardon to Elor Azaria and remains consistent to what I said after the verdict," Netanyahu said on Twitter. "When the subject is discussed concretely, I will give my recommendation to the competent authorities." The 21-year-old French-Israeli was convicted in January and sentenced the following month. He later appealed the verdict, while military prosecutors asked for an increased sentence after having initially requested between three and five years. Azaria arrived at the military court in Tel Aviv on Sunday in a white V-neck shirt, smiling and hugging family members as he has done at previous hearings. He completed his mandatory three-year military service on July 20 and was moved from confinement to his base to house arrest. His imprisonment had been postponed pending his appeal.He can still appeal to the country's supreme court, though Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman called on him not to and to request a pardon from the military chief of staff.
Captured on video
Azaria can also ask for a pardon from President Reuven Rivlin. A source close to Rivlin said that no request had yet been filed. "This is not an easy day, but it is the verdict, and the court must be respected," Lieberman said. "I am asking the Azaria family not to continue the appeal process... and to bring an end to this matter as quickly as possible for the good of Elor, his family and the Israeli people." The March 2016 shooting in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron was caught on video by a rights group and spread widely online. It showed Abdul Fatah al-Sharif, 21, lying wounded on the ground, shot along with another Palestinian after stabbing and wounding a soldier, according to the army. Azaria then shot him in the head without any apparent provocation. He said he feared Sharif was wearing an explosive belt and could blow himself up, a claim judges rejected. "His motive for shooting was that he felt the terrorist deserved to die," Judge Colonel Maya Heller said when reading out the verdict in January. The trial captivated Israel and highlighted deep divisions in public opinion between those who decry the shooting and those who say he was justified. Military leaders have sharply condemned Azaria's actions. However, right-wing leaders, including Netanyahu, have called for him to be pardoned in an extraordinary public rift between politicians and the military. Rights group Amnesty International has said Azaria's sentence does "not reflect the gravity of the offense," and the U.N. human rights office said it was an "unacceptable" punishment for "an apparent extra-judicial killing."

Canada Probes Possible Saudi Use of Its Equipment in Crackdown
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 30/17/Canada warned Saturday it was reviewing reports that Saudi Arabia is using Canadian armored vehicles in a crackdown in the Sunni-ruled kingdom's Shiite-majority east.
"We are looking at these claims very seriously... and have immediately launched a review," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, speaking in French, said in during a visit in central Canada. The Globe and Mail reported earlier that light armored vehicles sold by Canada to Saudi Arabia had been used against Shia civilians in a major operation that left several people in the town of Awamiya in Eastern Province. Experts told the newspaper that vehicles appearing in photos and videos of the Saudi operations were Gurkha RPVs produced by Terradyne Armored Vehicles near Toronto. Earlier, a spokesman indicated that Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland was "deeply concerned about this situation and has asked officials to review it immediately.""If it is found that Canadian exports have been used to commit serious violations of human rights, the minister will take action," added spokesman John Babcock. "The government is actively seeking more information about Saudi Arabia's current efforts to deal with its security challenges, the reports of civilian casualties, and the reports that Canadian-made vehicles have been used by Saudi Arabia in its current security operations," he said in a statement. "Canada will review all available information as it determines an appropriate course of action."Babcock said Ottawa had shared its concerns with Saudi Arabia, demanding that "its internal security operations be conducted in a manner consistent with international human rights law."
Controversial deal
The controversial $13 billion U.S. contract to supply Riyadh with light armored vehicles was struck by the previous Conservative government. Trudeau's Liberal government has had to defend this contract against criticism that it may have violated Canada's export control rules that bar arms exports to countries with a poor human rights record and the prohibit using these weapons against civilians. Freeland's predecessor, Stephane Dion, had stated in April 2016 that the government would halt or revoke the export license for the military equipment if credible information showed it was being used inappropriately. "We have contracts in which people commit to respect Canadian laws, the terms of the contract and Canadian values, and we expect these contracts to be respected," Trudeau said. Earlier this week, Canada had already expressed concerns about the growing violence in Saudi Arabia, and urged Riyadh to "defuse tensions." "All such challenges must be addressed in a manner that abides by international human rights law," the statement added.

Manama meet reiterates call for Qatar to halt support to terrorism
Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnglishSunday, 30 July 2017 /The four Arab states that had cut diplomatic ties Qatar have expressed readiness to start talks with Doha on condition of having practical and honest desire in halting funding and support to terrorism. There are no grounds for optimism to resolve the crisis with Qatar now because of its practices. The remark came during a news conference that followed the meeting of foreign ministers of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt in Manama on July 30. “The four countries confirm that all the measures that have been taken are part of sovereignty duty and go in line with international law”, Bahrain Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid Bin Ahmad al-Khalifa said. The four countries confirmed that they are sticking to the list of13 demands to Qatar that includes scaling down relations with Iran and closing down its pan-Arab Al-Jazeera TV network. The Manama meeting confirmed the fact that Qatar had provided safe haven to terrorists and called on Doha to fulfil the 13 requests made by the four Arab states. The meeting also condemned the obstruction of Hajj rituals and the politicizing of the pilgrimage by Qatar and the Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir affirmed that Riyadh would spare no effort to facilitate the Hajj for Qataris. The Minister added that Qatar “pushed as to take actions against it because it breached Riyadh agreements.”UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdulla Bin Zayed al-Nahyan said that Doha is responsible for any damage suffered by the Qatari citizen because of the crisis. The UAE minister pointed out that there are a number of steps that can be taken against Qatar, adding that “we are keen to avoid harming the Qatari citizen in the proceedings against Doha.”"We are keen to end the Qatari crisis as soon as possible,” he said.
Second month of crisis
Top officials of four Arab states boycotting Qatar met in the Bahraini capital on Sunday, as a political crisis that has split the Gulf enters its second month. The bid by the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt was to persuade Qatar to "end its support for extremism and terrorism, stop meddling in the affairs of neighboring countries and change its policies," read a statement on state news agency BNA. On June 5, the Saudi-led bloc cut diplomatic and economic ties with Qatar -- the world's largest exporter of liquefied natural gas -- over allegations the emirate supported Islamist extremism and had close ties to Shiite Iran, Saudi Arabia's regional arch-rival. The Saudi-led bloc recalled their ambassadors, ordered all Qataris to return home and banned Qatar from using their airspace. Qatar has denied the allegations and accuses the bloc of imposing a "blockade" on the tiny emirate. Qatar has also rejected the bloc's demands -- which include downgrading ties to Iran and closing both the Al Jazeera news channel and a Turkish military base in the country -- as a violation of its sovereignty. UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Sheikh Abdulla bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir and Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry met in Bahrain’s Al-Sakhir Palace on Saturday. They were accompanied by Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed bin Mohammed Al-Khalifa. Bahrain’s king commended the quartet’s firm keenness on supporting the security and stability of the region, addressing its problems and protecting it from the policies of backing extremist groups and harboring terrorists, according to a statement on Bahrain News Agency (BNA). “These policies have caused dangerous humanitarian crises, with hundreds of thousands of our peoples displaced and left homeless, facing hardships in the diaspora”, Bahrain’s King Hamad said. The quartet severed diplomatic and economic ties with Qatar last month after accusing Doha of supporting terrorism, interfering in their internal affairs and seeking closer ties with Iran.(With AFP)

Saudi FM: Qatar call to internationalize holy sites an ‘act of war’
Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnglishSunday, 30 July 2017/Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said on Sunday "Qatar's request to internationalize the holy sites is an aggressive act and a declaration of war against the kingdom.""We reserve the right to respond to any party working in the field of internationalization of the holy sites," Al-Jubeir said in an interview with Al Arabiya and Al Hadath on the sidelines of the four-way meeting in Manama. Previousely, Adel al-Jubeir rejected Qatar’s attempts to politicize Hajj matters and reiterated that Qataris were welcome to perform the pilgrimage. “Saudi Arabia rejects Qatar’s attempt to politicize the arrival of Qatari pilgrims into the kingdom,” Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said during a press conference with his Emirati, Bahraini and Egyptian counterparts in Manama. “The kingdom’s history is clear in facilitating the arrival of pilgrims,” he added. Jubeir also said that Saudi Arabia is making great efforts to facilitate the arrival of pilgrims into the country. “Saudi Arabia welcomes the Qataris to perform Hajj like the rest of the pilgrims,” he added. The joint statement issued by the four foreign ministers following the meeting in Manama condemned Qatar’s authorities for obstructing its citizens from performing Hajj. Hajj pilgrims from around the world have started arriving to Saudi Arabia to prepare for the pilgrimage. But, no one from Qatar has come yet despite the Kingdom’s constant calls welcoming them. A Saudi official said that Qatar is banning its citizens from performing Hajj. Qatar has not announced the reason behind the closure yet. Qatari decision coincides with Iranian Supreme leader Ali Khamenei’s call to use the season this year to demonstrate Iranian political positions. Earlier, Qatari news outlets have called to internationalize the holy sites supervision. Prior to Manama’s meeting on Sunday, it was noted that Qatari media has begun to campaign to what it calls “separation of the two holy mosques from politics," in reference to Holy places in Mecca and Medina. At the end of eighties and after cutting ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran, Tehran banned pilgrims from performing this religious duty for three years until 1991. Last year, Iran also prevented the 80, 000 pilgrims from it, accusing the kingdom of subversiveness and incapability to ensure safety of pilgrims. Iran is calling since decades to internationalize the Two Holy Mosques to irritate the kingdom, which is entrusted with organizing the Hajj without any foreign interference. However, Tehran has failed in its calls and found no interaction. In addition, some Qatari media said that citizens are banned from entering the Grand Mosque and that Saudis might kill them if they go to Hajj.

Saudi Arabia, UAE welcome creation of UN Counter-Terrorism Office
Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnglishSunday, 30 July 2017/Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have welcomed the creation of the UN Counter-Terrorism office and voiced their willingness to cooperate with it.
In statements delivered at the UN General Assembly, Saudi Arabia and the UAE voiced their support of international measures that aim to eliminate terrorism. Saudi Arabia’s UN Ambassador Abdullah Al-Mouallimi said establishing a counter-terrorism office is part of the UN’s restructuring and it aims to combat terrorism and dry out its resources. The UN Counter-Terrorism Office was established in June and its work is independent as it’s directly linked to the UN Secretary General. The office’s main functions are enhancing coordination and coherence across the38 Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force entities to ensure the balanced implementation of the four pillars of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, strengthening the delivery of UN counter-terrorism capacity-building assistance to member states and improving visibility, advocacy and resource mobilization for the UN counter-terrorism efforts. Saudi Arabia has provided more than $100 million to UN counter-terrorism efforts during the past years.

Saudi student among two killed in Portland arson attack
Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnglishSunday, 30 July 2017/A Saudi student was among two killed in Portland last week in a fire that turned out to be an act of arson, KOIN 6 news reported. The fire was allegedly started by a man named Ryan Monaco who now faces charges of murder and arson. Taher al-Haji and another victim identified as Jason Miller were roommates of Monaco’s on-and-off girlfriend. According to the girlfriend, she and Monaco had an argument and after she left the house, he called her to tell her he soaked her couch with gasoline – which according to the report, he admitted while being interrogated. Taher’s father, Ali, told that he headed to the US to finish the procedure to transfer his son’s body to Saudi Arabia, adding however that some restrictions have prevented him from transferring the body. The Saudi embassy in the US has also intervened and formed a legal team to defend Haji in court.

Gunman kills one, injures three in shooting at German nightclub
Sun 30 Jul 2017/NNA - A 34-year-old man opened fire in a nightclub in the southern German city of Konstanz on Sunday, killing one person and seriously injuring three others, police said.
The suspect was fatally wounded in a gunfight with police officers outside the music venue after they had rushed to the scene shortly after the incident around 0230 GMT. He died later in hospital. The motive for the shooting is unclear. One police officer was also injured in the exchange of fire. Police said in a statement that special commando forces have been deployed in the city as it was not clear if the suspected had acted alone or had accomplices. On Friday, a failed asylum seeker killed one person and injured six others in the northern city of Hamburg. Officials said he was an Islamist known to security forces and he had was psychologically unstable. --- REUTERS

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on July 30-31/17
Qatar and Kuwait’s relations with Iran

Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat/July 30/17
The brothers in Kuwait always need to discover the truth themselves and they’re very sensitive to any Gulf or regional warning. Relations with Iran are not the first when it comes to this matter.
Fortunately, Tehran’s harm which targeted Kuwait was aborted at early stages either when the Hezbollah cell was discovered or when its members fled. The Kuwaiti government acted without being advised or incited, and it expelled Iranian diplomats in the country reducing their number to four. It also shut down the Iranian embassy’s technical offices and missions as it was proven they are dens for espionage and arranging terrorist operations.
Terrorism is nothing strange to Iran as its terrorist activities can be seen in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and even Latin America. The surprise is that Iran targeted Kuwait which is one of the most reconciled countries with it. Kuwait’s emir visited Tehran three years ago despite the bad timing on the Gulf level and three top Kuwaiti officials congratulated Tehran for the nuclear agreement and viewed it as a positive turning point. Kuwait then welcomed Iranian President Hassan Rowhani. His visit to Kuwait was described by the Iranian envoy in the country as a positive move in the region. Cooperation committees were formed at a time when Tehran’s relations with Riyadh were deteriorating and Iranian Revolutionary Guards were fighting in Syria. In September 2014, around four months after the visit, Iranians entered Sanaa to work with Houthi militias.
Harming Kuwait
A year after this openness and positive Kuwaiti policy, security forces discovered massive amounts of weapons in the possession of a Kuwaiti terrorist cell that consists of over 20 people who are affiliated with Iran. Their intentions were to harm the stability of Kuwait which did not engage in any hostile activity against Tehran – not even verbally. Kuwait proved, whether through the naivety of its policy or through its attempt to test the honesty of its Iranian neighbor that it’s impossible to deal with Iran without being cautious and without looking out for potential threats. The detained members of the Iranian cell escaped – the cell is called as such but only one of its members is Iranian and the rest are Kuwaiti. It was the Iranian embassy that planned their escape. This was viewed as a flagrant aggression against Kuwait’s sovereignty as Iranian Revolutionary Guard wings in the Iranian embassy in Kuwait planned the detainees’ escape and smuggled them out of the country via boats to Iran.
Dangerous Iranian interference in Kuwait and Bahrain takes back everyone to square one
Kuwait has now realized that being lenient while dealing with Iran and other parties affiliated with it is what made them dare to harm it and facilitated achieving the aims they had failed to achieve in Bahrain when they tried to release terrorists from prison and smuggle them via boats. Bahraini authorities thwarted this attempt at the beginning of 2017.
Dangerous Iranian interferences in Kuwait and Bahrain takes back everyone to square one which stipulates that Gulf Cooperation Council countries can only confront Iran, which hasn’t stopped targeting them, together. GCC countries must realize this and Qatar must realize this much more than Kuwait because it has severed Iran’s policy by allying with it in the past decade and supported extremist opposition groups in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Kuwait. This is exactly why these countries cannot keep silent over Qatar’s irresponsible practices which pave way for Iranian threats and incite to overturn regimes. Qatar’s current rapprochement with Iran and warmer ties with Turkey will burden it a lot more than burdening others. Qatar chose to take risks by dealing with powers that it will not be able to get rid of in the future and it only did so because it does not want to cooperate with the four countries that asked it to stop exporting chaos and inciting against them.
Kuwait tried to keep a reasonable political distance from Tehran but we’ve all seen the results now. So what do you think will happen with Qatar that chose to work with those with ambitions in this rich region?

What we gain and lose from Saudi Arabia’s expat dependents fees
Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi/Asharq Al Awsat/July 30/17
There has been confusion in the Saudi employment market as well as among expatriates following the recent imposition of a monthly fee on the dependents of expatriates working in the Kingdom. This is because of the fee has been placed on each member of an expatriate’s family, including wife and children, and because most expatriates cannot pay these fees, especially since they will double over the coming years, reaching the equivalent of the half of an expatriate’s salary or perhaps all of it.
Many expatriates have started thinking about what they should do to solve this dilemma, which they are facing for the first time in the Kingdom. This issue has overshadowed all other topics such as the spiraling house rent, the increase in the education fees of their children and other concerns.
Some of them have already taken the bitter decision to leave Saudi Arabia and return to their homeland. Some of these people have spent long years in the Kingdom working hard and sincerely for the development of the nation.
At the same time, others have decided to send their wife and children home and remain here alone. It seems that this is the easier solution but in fact the psychological, social, security and economic effects may be disastrous for the expat as well as for his family and children.
Some columnists have written articles in the Arabic daily newspapers about the positive and negative aspects of dependents fees. Many of them have concluded that they will have a negative impact on the Saudi economy.
Many expatriates have started thinking about what they should do to solve this dilemma, which they are facing for the first time in the Kingdom
For example, Ghassan Badakok, a prominent economic writer, wrote an article in Okaz entitled “Expatriate fees: Pros and cons.” He pointed out that the fees are an internationally accepted method adopted by many countries to address the imbalance in their markets and demographic structures. However, he did not mention the name of any country, which imposes fees on dependents. As far as I know, there are no such fees imposed in any other country.
Pros and cons
The columnist also spelled out the merits and demerits of the imposition of dependents fees. He sums up the benefits as follows:
1. A source of income to offset the budget deficit to a certain extent.
2. Saving a portion of the cost of subsidies that benefit expatriates.
3. Replacing departing expatriates with Saudis in the employment market.
4. Rectifying the demographic imbalance as expatriates make up 40 percent of the Saudi population.
5. Reducing cover up (tasattur) business and enhancing security as a result of a reduction in crime.
6. Redirecting support to citizens so as to reduce the demand for public utilities, such as electricity, water and fuel.
The writer also cites the demerits of dependents fees, namely:
1. The revenue from dependents fees will not have added value as it is not an attractive investment.
2. The continued slowdown in the economy will negatively affect the private sector.
3. The decline in the purchasing power of low-income people after increasing costs will lead to a fall in their standard of living.
4. The jobs that will be made available for Saudis are limited because the majority of expatriates are employed in the technical, technological and vocational fields.
5. Some citizens will lose their jobs because of the closure of some firms that cannot afford the dependents fee.
6. The majority of our companies and establishments will face a decline in their profits due to the loss of their income earned from the spending of expatriates.
It is obvious that the demerits of the imposition of dependents fees outweigh the benefits. Similarly, many economists, who have written about the topic, have pointed out that this fee will not bring about the revenues as projected by some experts. This is because a large number of expatriates will leave the Kingdom because they cannot afford the fee.
Economic loss
Those who decide to stay will lead a bachelor’s life. The loss to the economy will be doubled because these expatriates will continue transferring most of their earnings to their families back home and subsequently, the volume of foreign remittances will also be doubled.
On the other hand, the presence of expatriates along with their families would make them more stable, more productive and more satisfied. They would spend the lion’s share of their salaries and other earnings within the Kingdom in order to meet the family’s expenses in terms of food, clothing, education of children, medical treatment, entertainment, and payment of fees for exit and reentry visas and renewal of residency permits (iqamas).
There is also another big loss that writers have not mentioned. As a consequence of the imposition of the fee, the country will incur another irreparable loss in terms of human relations, and the feelings of gratitude on the part of expatriates toward the host country. We must insure that expatriates take away sweet memories of our country and our people. We should not forget the remarkable role played by expatriates in the development that our country has achieved.
Of course, the imposition of dependents fees will force expatriates to leave the country because of their inability to pay. Eventually, this will contribute to the creation of feelings of resentment and bitterness.
Therefore, I earnestly appeal to Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, deputy premier and minister of defense, to reconsider and revoke dependents fees so that we do not lose the love and affection of millions of expatriates who have contributed immensely in the nation-building process.
Let them be ambassadors of our country when they return to their homeland.

The Islamization of History
Uzay Bulut/Gatestone Institute/July 30/17
Not only does no other religion in Turkey, other than Islam, have the power, influence or financing of the Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet) -- whose budget even surpasses that of most ministries; other religions are either not officially recognized (as in the cases of Alevism and Yazidism), or are on the verge of complete governmental elimination -- as in the cases of Judaism, Greek Orthodoxy, Assyrian (Syriac) and Armenian Christianity.
"...[S]ince the creation of the world there is only one religion and it is the religion of Islam.... therefore, when Islam was not in that area before Mohammed came to it, it should have been there....So any place like this had to be freed, not to be conquered...And therefore, there is no Islamic occupation. If somebody occupies anything, it will always be somebody else, not the Muslims. So, there is no Islamic occupation. There is only Islamic liberation." -- Moshe Sharon, Professor Emeritus of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
To be effective, however, policies safeguarding religious liberty must include conducting an honest and open discussion of the history and doctrine of Islam, as well as its contemporary iteration, not as a "religion of peace" -- which, in Islam, is to occur only after the entire world has accepted Allah, as well as Islamic law, Sharia -- but as one of war and terror.
The debate over whether Islam has been hijacked by fundamentalists -- or whether the religion itself preaches the kind of hatred that leads to terrorism -- has been raging since the 9/11/2001 attacks on the United States. Although this issue has not been resolved, one thing is clear: in the Muslim world, the demonization of Jews and Christians is commonplace.
Take Turkey, for example, where anti-Semitism has been exhibited publicly for decades by prominent members of government, the religious establishment and the media. In June this year, the head of the government's Religious Affairs Directorate -- the "Diyanet" -- joined the chorus.
In a speech he delivered in Gaziantep -- a transcript of which was posted on the Diyanet's official Twitter account -- Prof. Dr. Mehmet Görmez announced that Islam was brought to the world by Allah to correct the "distortions" of Judaism and Christianity. At the center of Judaism, he said, was "material, money and wealth." Christianity, he asserted, took the opposite, albeit equally "wrong," interpretation of the divine, as it "came up with an understanding that denigrated the world and deemed property and wealth almost forbidden [haram]."
Mehmet Görmez, President of Turkey's Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet), announced in June that Islam was brought to the world by Allah to correct the "distortions" of Judaism and Christianity. (Image source: Tezkiretul/Wikimedia Commons)
The Diyanet was established in 1924 by the founding government of Turkey, under the Republican People's Party, after the abolition of the Ottoman Caliphate, as a successor to Sheikh ul-Islam, the previous religious-affairs authority. It has many departments, chief among them the High Board of Religious Affairs, whose duties include:
"[M]ak[ing] decisions, shar[ing] views and answer[ing] questions on religious matters by taking into consideration the fundamental source texts and methodology, and historical experience of the Islamic religion as well as current demands and needs."
Not only does no other religion in Turkey, other than Islam, have the power, influence or financing of the Diyanet -- whose budget surpasses that of most ministries; other religions are either not officially recognized (as in the cases of Alevism and Yazidism), or are on the verge of complete governmental elimination -- as in the cases of Judaism, Greek Orthodoxy, and Assyrian (Syriac) and Armenian Christianity.
Turkey is not alone in this practice, which brings us back to the question of why "Muslims hate Jews so much."
According to Andrew Bostom, author of The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism: From Sacred Texts to Solemn History, the answer lies in the Koran, whose "central anti-Jewish motif... is found in verse 2:61 , repeated at verse 3:112."
They have been put under humiliation [by Allah] wherever they are overtaken, except for a covenant from Allah and a rope from the Muslims. And they have drawn upon themselves anger from Allah and have been put under destitution. That is because they disbelieved in the verses of Allah and killed the prophets without right. That is because they disobeyed and [habitually] transgressed. (3:112)
In a 2008 interview, Bostom says:
"This is where the Jews are accused of slaying the Prophets and transgressing against the will of Allah, and so they are condemned and cursed eternally. Verse 2.61 says 'shame and misery' are 'stamped upon them.' And this verse is coupled to verses like 5:60, and other verses about the Jews being transformed into apes and pigs, which is part of their curse. Verse 5:78 describes the curse upon the Jews by David and Jesus, Mary's son. There is a related verse, 5:64, which accuses the Jews of being spreaders of war and corruption, a sort of ancient antecedent of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. (Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas cited this verse during a diatribe against the Jews of Israel, in 2007.) More generally, the Koran's overall discussion of the Jews is marked by a litany of their sins and punishments, as if part of a divine indictment, conviction, and punishment process."
Taking this beyond the Koran, Moshe Sharon, Professor Emeritus of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, explains that the
"basic attitude is that all history is in fact Islamic history...that all major figures of history basically are Muslim − from Adam down to our own time. So, if the Jews or Christians are demanding something and basing it on the fact that there was a king called Solomon or a king called David, or a prophet called Moses or Jesus, they say something which is not true or, in fact, they don't know that all these figures were basically Muslim figures."
Sharon continues: "In fact, since the creation of the world there is only one religion and it is the religion of Islam. So, if anybody says 'Look, there is a place connected with Solomon and that is the place where the Temple of Solomon stood,' a true Muslim would tell you: 'Yes, you're absolutely right. But don't forget that Solomon was a Muslim and David was a Muslim. And Abraham was a Muslim. And Isaac was a Muslim, and Jesus was a Muslim.' This is what they mean by the Islamization of history."
Sharon says that through this "Islamization of history," there is also an "Islamization of geography," such that,
"Anywhere which was connected with these people or with these prophets who were all Muslims becomes a Muslim territory. And therefore, when Islam was not in that area before Mohammed came to it, it should have been there. By that area, I mean the Middle East or other parts outside of the Middle East which are now Muslim. So any place like this had to be freed, not to be conquered. They had to be liberated. So, Islam appeared in history in the time of Mohammed -- or reappeared in history from their point of view -- as a liberator. And therefore, there is no Islamic occupation. If somebody occupies anything, it will always be somebody else, not the Muslims. So, there is no Islamic occupation. There is only Islamic liberation."
This combination of hate-filled Koranic verses, as highlighted by Bostom, and revisionist Islamist history, as illustrated by Sharon, have created a monster in the form of an existential threat to the Judeo-Christian world. To counter it, the West needs to implement unapologetic policies to safeguard the religious liberty of both non-Muslims and non-extremist Muslims, wherever they reside.
To be effective, however, these policies must include conducting an honest and open discussion of the history and doctrine of Islam, as well as its contemporary iteration, not as a "religion of peace" – which, in Islam, is to occur only after the entire world has accepted Allah as well as Islamic law, Sharia -- but as one of war and terror.
*Uzay Bulut, a journalist born and raised a Muslim in Turkey, is currently based in Washington D.C. She is a writing fellow 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.

What Is the World Council of Churches?
Malcolm Lowe/Gatestone Institute/July 30/17
A new period began with the appointment of Emilio Castro as the Fourth General Secretary of the WCC during 1985-1992. Social and political issues had always been a subsidiary concern of the WCC; their role had grown under Castro's immediate predecessor, Philip Potter (1972-1984). From now on, however, those issues became its most prominent focus. Increasingly, advocacy on behalf of the Palestinians and denunciations of Israel came to top the agenda.
If the WCC ceased to exist, few would miss it today. The WCC has become one more NGO that survives largely on magnifying the Arab-Israel conflict at the expense of other conflicts in the world. In contrast to the resources lavished on "Palestine," the WCC has devoted only occasional words -- and not a single "Ecumenical Accompanier" -- to the millions of Christians recently displaced from or killed in other Middle East countries.
Thus there is a vast gap between the appearance and the reality of the WCC. The appearance is the claim that the WCC consists of hundreds of churches in over a hundred countries working for Christian unity. The reality is a small Secretariat in Geneva financed chiefly by some handfuls of European Protestant bureaucrats.
The World Council of Churches was founded with a noble aim: to overcome the divisions of Christianity and restore the unity of purpose of Christ's original followers. After the retirement of its founding spirit, Willem Visser 't Hooft, it drifted away from its original concerns, a development that accelerated after his death in 1985. Today it has shrunk in effect to a small secretariat in Geneva that draws inspiration from its obsession with the Palestinian problem and has little else currently to its credit or discredit.
Original Purpose
The intention to create a World Council of Churches (WCC) was proclaimed at a meeting in Utrecht in 1938, where its first General Secretary, Willem Visser 't Hooft, was also appointed. Because of the Second World War, however, it was only in 1948, at its First Assembly, that the WCC was officially founded. Visser 't Hooft remained its General Secretary until 1966. Even after his retirement, he continued to wield considerable influence on its activities by serving as its Honorary President until his death in 1985.
During Visser 't Hooft's period, the WCC placed its greatest emphasis on the need to overcome the multiple divisions of the Christian world. Gradually, the membership was expanded to include numerous Orthodox churches as well as Protestant churches. From 1968 on, Catholics began to appear as observers at WCC meetings. The Vatican, however, has not allowed Catholic churches to join the WCC. It is only Old Catholics, who broke away from the Vatican in the nineteenth century, who have become full members of the WCC.
The peak of this period of the WCC's existence was reached in 1982-1983 with the publication of two documents: a statement on three key areas of Christian theology (Baptism, Eucharist and Mission: BEM) and a proposed common form of worship (the Lima Liturgy). BEM itself, while trying to identify common ground shared by most or all Christians, testifies to continuing differences. Little further progress has been achieved since then. Thus BEM, practically speaking, was both the peak and the end of this period of the WCC's existence.
New Management Takes Over
A new period began with the appointment of Emilio Castro as the Fourth General Secretary of the WCC during 1985-1992. Social and political issues had always been a subsidiary concern of the WCC; their role had grown under Castro's immediate predecessor, Philip Potter (1972-1984). From now on, however, those issues became its most prominent focus. Increasingly, advocacy on behalf of the Palestinians and denunciations of Israel came to top the agenda.
During the last two decades, the WCC has created a whole family of offshoots devoted to the propagation of Palestinian aims. They typically carry imaginative names whose content, if any, is belied by their true character and by their activities.
Thus the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) was founded in 2002. Its website claims to have been "founded in response to a call from the local Heads of Churches in Jerusalem" and in order to "support the local churches." In practice, however, that long-ago request for help was used as an excuse and subsequently ignored; EAPPI's programs do little for local Christians, apart from promoting some Palestinian Christian intellectuals in good standing with the WCC.
The volunteers sent by EAPPI, so far nearly 1500 of them, creep into Israel in the guise of tourists, receiving a standard tourist visa of three months. Off they then go to the West Bank, where the WCC uses them as ignorant busybodies while having their heads stuffed with anti-Israel allegations whose veracity they have no opportunity to check. After their visit, they are obliged to spend another three months spreading their pseudo-knowledge among their own churches. Sometimes they have the further thrill of addressing politicians and parliaments, besides acquiring a lifelong status as "experts."
After arriving in the West Bank, these "Ecumenical Accompaniers" are taken to the checkpoints where Palestinian workers cross daily into Israel. As it happens, there is a highly effective Israeli NGO, Machsom Watch, that monitors those checkpoints. The activists of Machsom Watch speak Hebrew, of course, and have the telephone numbers of the relevant offices and of senior Israeli army officers. So they are able to intervene immediately whenever something is evidently amiss. The "Ecumenical Accompaniers" have none of the necessary inside knowledge, so they can only ignorantly watch or, worse still, agitate and harass. It does not cross their minds that it is a privilege for Palestinians to work in Israel for much higher wages than are paid by Palestinian businessmen.
Other activities include going for half an hour in the mornings and again in the evenings to the gates in Israel's lifesaving security barrier where Palestinian farmers living on one side cross to fields on the other. Or witnessing the demolition of the house of a Palestinian who murdered Israelis. None of this benefits Palestinian Christians, since the latter are neither farmers nor terrorists.
This author went to a meeting in which one of the early groups of "Ecumenical Accompaniers" was presented to a small local public. They proclaimed, of course, that they had come at the invitation of the local churches and described activities of the kind mentioned. Among the few local Christians present, a priest, asked them what contact they had had with the local churches. One volunteer spoke of having visited the Lutheran church in Bethlehem, another of the Anglican church in Zababdeh, and a third of visiting once an Anglican and once a Lutheran one. That was all (the vast majority of local Christians, of course, are Orthodox or Catholic). Rather than rebuking their pretensions, the priest -- who served as the ecumenical representative of the Greek Orthodox Church -- courteously told them that they would always be welcome if they found time to pay a visit.
Since 2007, the WCC has a "Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum" (PIEF). Despite the grand title, its homepage makes it clear that it is entirely devoted to mobilizing Christians everywhere against "the occupation." Its creation was accompanied by the "Amman Call," a bombastic statement issued in July 2007 at the WCC's International Peace Conference "Churches Together for Peace and Justice in the Middle East." The statement called for the removal of Israel's security barrier, the main obstacle to Palestinian terrorism, and for the implementation of a "right of return" for Palestinians, that is, the creation of an Arab majority in Israel.
A follow-up to the Amman Call was the Kairos Palestine Document (KPD) of December 2009. As this author was able quickly to demonstrate, the WCC falsely pretended that the document had the endorsement of the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem. In fact, the scheme was organized by two WCC employees, Rifat Odeh Kassis and Yusef Daher. The only serving Head of Church among the document's list of authors was Lutheran Bishop Munib Younan, who subsequently asked for his name to be removed (but his name can still be found on internet in early reports such as this and this). Among the remaining authors, "Patriarch Michel Sabbah" was in retirement and "Archbishop Theodosios Atallah Hanna" has repeatedly been at loggerheads with his own Patriarchate.
Later the WCC promoted the "Bethlehem Call" (2012), a statement so extreme that it was disavowed ("Ich bin kein Vertreter des Bethlehem-Call" – "I am not a supporter of the Bethlehem Call") by KPD co-author Mitri Raheb, the Lutheran pastor in Bethlehem itself. Anyone familiar with Raheb's own rants against Israel will be astonished that even he can be outdone.
Besides serving as a repository for pro-Palestinian propaganda, the PIEF's subsidiaries include its "World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel" and its "Jerusalem Interchurch Centre" (JIC) run by Daher. The JIC does have a Council drawn from local Christians. Daher's procedure, as it emerged in a recent case, is to write statements, send them to council members by mail, and publish them as statements "from the Churches of Jerusalem" irrespective of whether those members ever get back to him. As Daher puts it, the statements are "shown" to the Council, but the Council is not convened to discuss, modify or approve them. Daher at first had a modest office in a basement flat in the Old City of Jerusalem, but since losing it he operates from a monastery. As Dexter van Zile has repeatedly documented, Daher also specializes in abusing the most solemn mysteries of Christianity, such as the Crucifixion, in order to promote an anti-Israeli agenda that includes anti-Semitic stereotypes.
As with other WCC schemes, the appearance is one thing and the reality another. Yet another such scheme is the "Pilgrimage for Justice and Peace" (PJP).
Why the Diversion of Purpose?
That a pro-Palestinian agenda is now the guiding path of the WCC was confirmed by the appointment of its current Seventh General Secretary, Olav Fykse Tveit (from 2010 on), as well as by its most recent Tenth Assembly in 2013. Tveit was previously co-chair of the WCC's above-mentioned PIEF. The Tenth Assembly met under the rubric: "God of Life, lead us to justice and peace." Palestine featured prominently both in the workshops and in the statements adopted. For instance, only the State of Israel -- not for instance Assad's murderous regime in Syria -- was criticized in the Statement on the Middle East, which included the ludicrous claim that the "longstanding Palestine/Israel conflict... remains the core problem that is fuelling the logic underlying many of the conflicts in the region, putting at risk international relations and peace."
Several reasons can be given for this diversion of the WCC from its original main purpose. First, as noted, the theological discussions reached an impasse. This impasse was reinforced when the Orthodox churches that had joined the WCC began to worry that the WCC was trying to impose unacceptable views and behaviour upon them. Their worries were addressed by a Special Commission, meeting during 1998-2002, which recommended limitations on the nature of WCC statements and on decision procedures.
The second reason emerged after the downfall of the Soviet Empire. Many KGB documents came to light that revealed the extent of attempts by the KGB to manipulate the WCC through agents planted in the churches in Soviet-dominated countries. This process began when the Russian Orthodox Church joined the WCC in 1961 and got into full swing after Visser 't Hooft's retirement in 1966. In particular, one document claimed that at the WCC's Sixth Assembly in 1983 no less than 47 KGB agents were engaged in ensuring that an "acceptable candidate" emerged as the new Secretary General. That is, in the appointment of Emilio Castro. Also the WCC's Fifth General Secretary, Konrad Raiser (1993-2003), admitted after his retirement that the WCC had been lax in addressing the persecution of dissidents, including Christians, in the Soviet Empire.
Third, the WCC hardly has any other remaining reason for its continued existence. Back in 1948, it was both rare and difficult for the leaders of diverse churches to meet. A General Assembly of the WCC made the unusual possible and exciting. In the meantime, thanks to cheap airfares and changing priorities, church leaders constantly get together without help from the WCC. Thus Pope Paul VI (1963-1978) was the first Pope to leave Italy since 1809, but Pope John Paul II (1978-2005), an avid traveller, is said to have been seen in person by more people than anyone else in history. Likewise, the current Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople and recent Archbishops of Canterbury have been constant travellers. Summit meetings of churches in countries and continents are a commonplace.
If the WCC ceased to exist, few would miss it today. The WCC has become one more NGO that survives largely on magnifying the Arab-Israel conflict at the expense of other conflicts in the world. In contrast to the resources lavished on "Palestine," the WCC has devoted only occasional words -- and not a single "Ecumenical Accompanier" -- to the millions of Christians recently displaced from or killed in other Middle East countries.
Back in 2002, when the tension between Orthodox and Protestant member churches was at its height, the Bulletin of the German Protestant Churches was prompted to ask: "Will the WCC become superfluous?" The WCC survived only by starkly reducing what little interchurch activity that remained, such as joint worship at its conferences, and seeking unity elsewhere: in a crescendo of joint agitation on behalf of Palestinian aims. The switch testifies that the answer to the question was "Yes."
Fourth, and maybe most fundamental, is the organizational structure of the WCC. Its General Assembly is theoretically its sovereign body, but this meets only once every seven or eight years to elect a Central Committee. The latter, too, meets only once every two years, to elect an Executive Committee, which meets twice a year. Consequently, the WCC's Secretariat in Geneva, which runs day-to-day activities, has immense freedom to pursue agendas of its own devising. All the more so, since it is the Secretariat that prepares in advance the agenda, statements and decisions of the Committees and the Assembly.
A related question is the financing of the WCC. I was once told by someone who had worked at the Secretariat that many member churches pay no dues, but that this does not matter because a foundation supplies a considerable income. While we are not in a position to verify such claims, NGO Monitor's web page on this matter shows that current finance comes largely from a small number of mission organizations affiliated with European Protestant churches. These mission organizations themselves are usually dominated by small groups of individuals who share the agenda of the WCC's Secretariat and sometimes go on to work there themselves. In 2015, the last year for which NGO Monitor has given figures, the biggest contribution by far (some five million Swiss Francs) came from Brot für die Welt, for which all the German Protestant churches collect money at Christmas.
The Appearance and the Reality
Thus there is a vast gap between the appearance and the reality of the WCC. The appearance is the claim that the WCC consists of hundreds of churches in over a hundred countries working for Christian unity. The reality is a small Secretariat in Geneva financed chiefly by some handfuls of European Protestant bureaucrats. That is, if the State of Israel has problems with a vociferous clique in Geneva, it need not greatly fear that it risks offending Christians worldwide, provided that the State of Israel can clearly document that it has right on its side.
Indeed, Israel has begun to overcome its fearfulness toward clerical Christian antagonists and occasionally even refuses entry to the most obnoxious of WCC-sponsored visitors. Israel's will to do so was strengthened when in 2016 someone supplied an electronic copy of a WCC document that instructed visitors how to dissemble before the immigration officers at Israel's airports. (This author was also sent a copy of the file; its internal characteristics confirm that it was created on a WCC computer.)
Yet another question is how much the member churches pay attention and respond, if at all, to the propaganda issuing from Geneva. The same goes for another Geneva-based organization, the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), which is staffed by like-minded people coming from the same church organizations that mostly finance the WCC, and which promotes a similar pro-Palestinian agenda.
In 2013, the LWF proclaimed a scheme for making the twenty-fourth of every month a special "prayer vigil" for "ending the occupation of Palestine." It took up a scheme initiated on the previous Christmas Eve, December 24, by the Act Palestine Forum (APF), a group that subscribes to the WCC's Kairos program and is financed by the same donors as the WCC itself. APF claimed to be acting at the urging of the churches of Jerusalem, but the relevant page on the APF website names only nine parishes or organizations in Jerusalem that have affiliated with the initiative, all of them connected with the WCC or the LWF. Remarkably, of the 64 that have signed up worldwide during more than four years, not one comes from Germany, the heartland of Lutheranism. The LWF President at that time, by the way, was the above-mentioned Bishop Munib Younan (2010-2017) of the Palestinian Lutherans.
Latest Outrage
The same lack of impact may be true of the WCC's 2016 pro-Palestinian initiative, among the most outrageous ever. It asked all of its 354 member churches, totalling half a billion Christians, to spend the seven weeks preceding Easter 2016 by holding services in which they would solemnly denounce the alleged theft of Palestinian water by Israel. The scheme was launched in the Jerusalem church of the Palestinian Lutherans and was presided over by Bishop Munib Younan. The WCC's General Secretary, Tveit, preached the sermon. How many parishes elsewhere took up the WCC's lead has not been established, but 64 may be the upper limit in this case, too. Again, out of the thousands of parishes of the hundreds of member churches of the WCC, that would not be very much. It suggests that the WCC's attempt to escape insignificance by diversifying into pro-Palestinianism is a fiasco.
The sermon contained, in particular, two shameless deceptions. One was the outright lie that "80% of the ground water from Palestine's mountain aquifer is pumped underneath all the way to Israel." The same lie was chanted during the service on the authority of Younan.
The other deception was Tveit's claim that "the average per capita water consumption in London is 150 litres/day compared to that of only 70 litres/day for an average Palestinian. On the other hand, the per capita consumption for Israel is 300 litres/day." What is wrong with this claim is not that the figures cited may be false or grossly misleading (the figure for China is similar to that for the Palestinians). Wrong is that the claim is totally irrelevant as an attempt to make Israel responsible for any lack of water for Palestinians.
The truth of the whole issue of Palestinian water can be explained in a few sentences for those who are ready to think clearly as opposed to being swept away in floods of emotions. The central fact is just this: that a considerable amount of rainwater that falls in the mountains, where the Palestinian Authority holds sway, passes underground though aquifers that surface at springs in Israel. Thus the one responsible for this falsely called "pumping" is not Israel but the Creator of the World; Tveit and Younan should address to Him any indignant chants of culpability.
This phenomenon has known parallels in other regions; the standard solution is negotiations between the land of origin and the recipient land, whereby the latter contracts to return a certain proportion of the rainfall to the former. The issue was resolved in 1995 as a part of Oslo II, whereby Israel contracted to supply an annual quantity of water from its springs to the Palestinian Authority. Israel has faithfully fulfilled that obligation ever since. And that is the end of the matter. (Those who nevertheless would like more details can find them here.)
Note that Israel's obligation is to return a certain quantity of the estimated actual rainfall, irrespective of whether there are 100 Palestinians or 100 million Palestinians. Consequently, the citing of per capita water usage by Palestinians and Israelis is utterly irrelevant. How much it works out per capita depends upon the Palestinian birth-rate, something for which Israel bears no responsibility.
After I pointed out the false denunciations of Israel in Tveit's sermon, he must have read it, since the WCC responded with an open letter to Gatestone, requesting a "dialogue." Only, this letter contained a further deception: the WCC claimed that all its figures come from United Nations sources. In fact, Tveit's sermon explicitly cited pro-Palestinian sources for its accusations against Israel. The WCC Secretariat, in short, is chronically economical with the truth. No dialogue is possible with such a body, as long as it seeks to mobilize the world's Christians to denounce Israel with mendacious and irrational chants.
World Council of Churches General Secretary Olav Fykse Tveit made false accusations against Israel in a 2016 sermon. Pictured above: Tveit in Switzerland, on July 1, 2011. (Image source: ©SEK/Flügge)
*Malcolm Lowe is a Welsh scholar specialized in Greek Philosophy, the New Testament and Christian-Jewish Relations. He has been familiar with Israeli reality since 1970.
© 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.

Trump Endorses Obama’s Policy in Syria and Iraq
Raghida Dergham/Founder and Executive Chairman at Beirut Institute
Published on July 30, 2017
Declaring victory against the Islamic State group (ISIS/ISIL), al-Nusra Front, or other al-Qaeda affiliates and jihadist groups will be insufficient, as long as the fate of their fighters remains shrouded in the same kind of mystery that had surrounded their groups’ inception and rise. Men do not spontaneously spawn or disappear. Defeating the so-called Caliphate State, for one, requires giving people some kind of closure regarding the fate of the militants – whether through their demise, their rehabilitation, or even their escape to the breeding grounds that had exported them to Syria and Iraq. It requires publishing images of the capture of their equipment and propaganda devices that had stunned the world. In the name of fighting terror, Iraq was destroyed and rendered a magnet for terrorists, under George W. Bush’s mantra “'fight them there, so we don't have to fight them here,” in reference to American cities. Under the banner of fighting terror, Syria, once an arena of a civil uprising, was rendered into a muster point for terrorists from all around the world, to hunt them down away from Russian, American, and Iranian cities. The Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was the top investor in the ‘joint stock company’ selling international terror commodities in Syria, alongside multinational investors and financiers, from the Gulf to Iran and from Turkey to North Africa. US, Russian, and European were also essential stakeholders in that covert cocktail that helped create the ‘joint stock company’ aka ISIS, which exported terror and horror, overshadowing al-Qaeda, and al-Nusra Front’s various iterations. Where will all those volunteer fighters go, be they terrorists, ideological extremists, or those who see themselves as defenders of the Sunnis against Iran’s Shia-branded regional expansion in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon? Indeed, Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Iranian Republican Guards’ Qods Force, is now a war hero in Iran, for having portrayed himself as a fierce fighter against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Copying Bush’s model, Iran took the fight to two Arab countries, so it doesn’t have to fight them on its soil. In Iraq in particular, Iran built the Popular Mobilization Forces as a parallel army, more loyal to Tehran than to Baghdad, increasing Soleimani’s popularity and heroic credentials for having exported Iran’s revolutionary model to Iraq. In Lebanon, Iranian-backed Hezbollah and its leader Hassan Nasrallah are proclaiming themselves a parallel army loyal to Tehran under the banner of fighting terrorists like ISIS and al-Nusra Front. In doing so, Hezbollah is converging with US strategy, in addition to Iranian strategy in the context of Iran’s final realignment before sharing spheres of influence in Iraq and Syria, while maintaining its hegemony in Lebanon and the chords of Sunni-Shia tensions in the region. This is the primary point of convergence between real and alleged victories in the war on terror. On one side of it is American naivety, on the other American strategic shrewdness, depending on who you ask; either way, the US has decided that its interests lie in continuing to stoke Sunni-Shia conflict in partnership with Russia and willing regional powers.
Turkey has played its part in stoking Sunni-Shia conflict, by adopting and exporting the Muslim Brotherhood power project, which sought to impose a Sunni quasi-theocracy similar to Iran’s Shia theocracy. But where Iran succeeded, Turkey has failed, from Syria to Egypt. Instead, its actions, co-sponsored by some Gulf countries, led to fostering terrorism, particularly in Syria.
The Saudi-Iranian conflict in the Sunni-Shia equation extended from the Gulf to Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, then Yemen. Now, it is taking on an American dimension under President Donald Trump, a course that began differently under the US former president, Barack Obama. Both Tehran and Riyadh have tried to sell themselves as a serious reliable counter-terror partner rather than the other. Obama was persuaded by partnership with Iran and adopted a policy that stoked Sunni-Shia conflict, deliberately. However, this is nothing new in US long-term strategy on the Sunni-Shia question from Af-Pak to Iran and Saudi Arabia. In the US designation, terrorism has taken on both a Sunni and Shia forms alternately. Once, the US partnered up with Sunni Saddam Hussein in his war with Iran, and then vice versa in Iraq, and in Syria, while Iran kept a truce-like posture on Israel.
For his part, Donald Trump seems more convinced of partnership with the Sunni powers to eliminate terrorists. However, US actions on the ground in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen are not convincing. At the Riyadh summit with Sunni leaders, the US president had obtained promises, financial pledges, and manpower commitments against Sunni terror groups. However, this Sunni preparedness to fight in the front row of the battle will lose momentum if the US does not deliver on its quid pro quo to contain Shia Iran’s violations and aspirations in the region.
Leaving the fate of the PMF in Iraq to the discretion of prime minister Abadi is to kick the can down the road, because Abadi cannot stand up to the Iranian-led paramilitary force. In truth, this is a prime example of the fundamental flaw in the current fight against ISIS and similar groups. For one thing, ISIS was born out of the disbanding of the Iraqi army following the US occupation of the country under Bush. ISIS was able to grow and expand because its fuel was Iranian violations and the arrogance of Shia political factions under Iraqi former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who deliberately marginalized the Sunnis of the country. In other words, if no radical approach is found to the Sunni-Shia equation in Iraq following the liberation of Mosul, to address the future of the PMF and Iran’s influence in the country, even a victorious eradication of ISIS will leave seeds for a new, perhaps even worse, version to spawn again.
In Syria too, the Trump administration seems scattered between its partnerships, even with Iran and its militias, to defeat ISIS; and the arrangements on the ground to contain al-Nusra Front, ISIS, and the abandonment of moderate Syrian rebels. US defense secretary James Mattis – who until recently was one of the biggest critics of Iran’s militias and wanted to frustrate its regional project – speaks today ina tone that does not suggest objection to the expansion of the Revolutionary Guards, Hezbollah, and other Iranian militias into the Syrian territories recaptured from ISIS. That not only contradicts his own previous stances, but also the declared position of the US President Donald Trump.
The same applies to H. R. McMaster, the National Security Advisor, who has long attacked Iran’s policies, that feed “this cycle of sectarian conflict to keep the Arab world perpetually weak,” as he said in early July. McMaster has said the US would not intervene in Syria or Iraq to stop Iran’s project, saying: “We have to be very clear that the reason we are in Syria is to destroy the ISIS”, and nothing else.
In the past few days, in an indication of further disarray in the positions of the Trump administration, CIA Director Mike Pompeo said from the Aspen Security Forum: “When we have our strategy in place (on Iran), I’m confident you will see a fundamental shift in policy”. In other words, the Trump administration does not have an Iran strategy. This contradicts everything Trump has said at the Riyadh Summit and subsequent threats he made against Iran and Hezbollah. The Axis of Adults, which includes Mattis, McMaster, Pompeo, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson who is now on a break, has backed down on its previous positions and pledges, awaiting this new American strategy.
Here, it is worthwhile for the Gulf countries led by Saudi Arabia to adopt caution. Relying on US promises entails a big gamble. The Riyadh summit obtained promises from Trump and mobilized support from countries that have wagered on Saudi leadership to guarantee the delivery of those promises. Riyadh spent billions on the new relationship, on the basis that it was going to restore traditional security, economic, political, and strategic ties pursuant to a new US policy different from Barack Obama’s, especially vis-à-vis Iran. However, the facts on the ground suggest the Trump administration is implementing the same policies of Barack Obama, at least in Syria and Iraq.
The language of the US president is different from his administration’s policies on the ground. Congress has assisted the president by imposing and studying further sanctions on Iran and Hezbollah, but his cabinet is focusing on a different priority, that is, Trump’s absolute priority to claim victory against ISIS even if that requires partnering up with the devil. This is short-termist.
For one reason, it rushes an incomplete victory that does not address the root causes that led to the emergence of the Sunni extremist terror groups, either in terms of their ideology or in terms of their response to Iran’s regional encroachment. This will lead to the re-emergence of these groups, either in the form of new factions or sleeper cells that could seek revenge on the international community’s abandonment.
For another, endorsing Iran’s arrogance and overconfidence, will enable its Persian Crescent project through Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, which seeks to establish an Iranian link with the borders with Israel. It will also undermine the tacit willingness among Sunni powers to coexist and reconcile with Israel, on new foundations different from those contained in the Arab Peace Initiative rejected by Israel.
If the Trump administration restores its balance and ends its contradictory policies, it may be possible again to rely on a constructive strategy where the US abandons its traditional policy of stoking sectarian conflict between Sunnis and Shias. Then it will be possible to trust the US determination to eliminate terrorism of any kind. But in the absence of this development, it seems the many stakeholders who invest in war, from the military-industrial complex to Big Oil and the intelligence community, are not yet satiated.
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Russia Woos the World with New Plan on Syria

Amir Taheri/Gatestone Institute/July 30/17
Caught between the hope of securing a lasting foothold in the Middle East and the fear of inheriting an impossible situation, Russia is trying to re-gauge its Syrian policy with possible support from the Trump administration in Washington.
The key feature of Russia's evolving new strategy is an attempt at changing the narrative on Syria from one depicting a civil war to one presented as a humanitarian emergency that deserves massive international aid.
Western analysts say the new narrative has the merit of pushing aside thorny issues such as the future of President Bashar al-Assad and power-sharing in a future government.
Russia's other aim is to divert international attention from the investigation of war crimes and crimes against humanity that might concern not only Assad but also Moscow's own military in Syria.
A glimpse of the new Russian narrative was offered by Moscow's senior diplomat Evgeniy Zagayanov earlier this year in a paper presented to the United Nations Security Council, proposing a project to clear minefields created by ISIS in and around the desert location of Palmyra.
The Security Council put the demand on the backburner after members argued that tackling the humanitarian problem in a serious way would require the removal of hurdles set by President Assad's government.
"The issue of humanitarian assistance to Syria cannot be reduced to the issue of blockages and hard-to-reach regions," Vladimir Safronkov, a senior Russian diplomat, told the council a few weeks later.
Since then, Moscow experts have been working on what is labelled "master plan for relief and rebuilding in Syria." The plan envisages separate projects to restart and revitalize such key industries as oil and gas production, the extraction of phosphates, and the reopening of regional trade routes.
Russia has already presented a plan, estimated to cost over $300 million, for demining 40 per cent of Syrian territory within 22 months.
According to David Butter, a Syria expert with Chatham House in London, the Kremlin has already enlisted a number of Russian firms to pick up putative contracts in all those fields.
The next plank of Russia's new strategy consists of extending the so-called "de-escalation zones", currently limited to five or six localities in the south, to other parts of Syria with Idlib province regarded as the next priority.
"Russia is trying to freeze the political situation and the reality of control; on the ground," says Ahmad Ansari, an Iranian researcher. "Once a de-escalation zone is set up it would matter little who is in nominal control. And, in time, people will come to focus on possible reconstruction projects [rather] than the nature of power in Damascus."
However, the proposed "frozen situation" would require at least two things: a minimum of municipal administration and a police presence to impose a minimum of security.
Moscow is trying to deal with the first problem with a plan for installing provisional municipal councils in "de-escalation zones."
A team of administrative experts from Moscow are expected to visit Syria next month to help with the planning needed. That would put Russia as a "firewall" between the Assad regime, kept in distance in Damascus with nominal control, and the opposition forces in actual control on the ground.
To solve the second problem, Russia is already training special police units for deployment in Syria. According to Moscow sources the first batch of 80 policemen are expected to arrive in Syria in September after a special course including training in Arabic language.
According to Moscow sources, President Vladimir Putin evoked the outline of the proposed "master plan for relief and rebuilding in Syria" during his meeting in Hamburg with US President Donald Trump. Russians believe that Trump, with his background in construction and real estate, would be more likely to appreciate the "master plan" than classical politicians.
Russia also hopes that the marginalization of Iran in Syria, implicit in the new Moscow strategy, may be an added an incentive for Trump, who seems determined to clip Iran's wings through all means short of military intervention.
Western experts put the cost of a comprehensive reconstruction program in Syria at over $1.2 trillion, something that Russia, with its economy in dire straits as a result of sanctions and the fall in energy prices, is in no position to offer. In fact, earlier this month Tatyana Gulikova, head of the Russian Pubic Accounts Office, reported that the number of Russians living below poverty line rose by a whipping two million, to a total of 22 million in 2016, compared to the year before.
According to Oleg Buklemishev, a Professor at Moscow State University, even if the Russian economy returns to growth in 2017, Moscow would still be in no position to maintain domestic social spending commitments while spending vast sums on foreign policy projects such as involvement in Syria.
Dangling the "master plan" for rebuilding Syria may also whet the appetite of the European Union at a time it is desperate to seek stimulants for its stagnant economy. According to French sources, Putin raised the issue with French President Emmanuel Macron in their meeting in Versailles last May.
The "master plan" also appeals to Turkey, whose major construction firms have sustained heavy losses, especially after being forced to leave Libya after Muammar Kaddafi's demise. The same firms also face a more hostile environment in other Arab states as well as the European Union.
Both Jordan and Lebanon are also keen to see an injection of new financial resources into the region's economy through the Syrian "master plan".
In his meeting with President Trump in Washington, Lebanon's Prime Minister Sa'ad Hariri even expressed the hope that his country would be seen as the launching pad for the rebuilding of Syria.
On the domestic front, the new "relief and reconstruction" narrative may appeal to Russian Muslims, some 20 per cent of the country's population, who are concerned about Russia's involvement in massacring Syrians.
It is too early to obtain a full picture of the new Russian strategy in Syria. It seems to be a collage of disparate political, security and economic concepts that may prove to be contradictory rather than complementary.
The Russian strategy would reduce the remnants of the Assad regime to a mere ghost of a government. That may please Assad's opponents but would leave unresolved the fundamental issue of who should govern Syria.
Russia may be able to secure the small percentage of Syrian territory it needs to protect its bases on the Mediterranean, but will not be able to provide the financial and human resources needed to provide a credible measure of stability to other parts of the country.
With both Iran and Turkey busy carving their own enclaves in Syrian territory, the country's fragmentation may become a fait accompli.
On a smaller scale, France tried a similar policy in the Central Africa Republic and Congo-Brazzaville during their respective civil wars. The result, in both cases, was a signal failure.
Even if the Russian plan garners the support it needs, it will solve nothing in the medium- and long-term; the key problem is who should govern Syria on whose behalf.
* Amir Taheri, formerly editor of Iran's premier newspaper, Kayhan, before the Iranian revolution of 1979, is a prominent author based on Europe. He is the Chairman of Gatestone Europe.
*This article first appeared in Asharq Al Awsat and is reprinted here with the kind permission of the author.
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