June 27/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For Today
Woe to the world because of stumbling-blocks! Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to the one by whom the stumbling-block comes

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 18/06-10/:"‘If any of you put a stumbling-block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of stumbling-blocks! Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to the one by whom the stumbling-block comes! ‘If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life maimed or lame than to have two hands or two feet and to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into the hell of fire. ‘Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones; for, I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven."

Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They killed those who foretold the coming of the Righteous One
Acts of the Apostles 07/51-60.08,01a./:"‘You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you are for ever opposing the Holy Spirit, just as your ancestors used to do. Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They killed those who foretold the coming of the Righteous One, and now you have become his betrayers and murderers. You are the ones that received the law as ordained by angels, and yet you have not kept it.’ When they heard these things, they became enraged and ground their teeth at Stephen. But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. ‘Look,’ he said, ‘I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!’But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ When he had said this, he died. And Saul approved of their killing him. That day a severe persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria."

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on June 26-27/17
Who actually governs Qatar/Hussein Shobokshi/Al Arabiya/June 26/17
Saudi pledge of allegiance reflects wealth of society/Turki Aldakhil/Al Arabiya/June 26/17
A Hint of ‘Modesty’ Is What Qatar Needs/Ghassan Charbel/Asharq Al Awsat/June 26/17
The Real Threat of Artificial Intelligence/KAI-FU LEE/The New York Times/June 26/17
London Tower Fire … Lessons Learned/Megan McArdle/Bloomberg View/June 26/17
Palestinians: Why Abbas Cannot Stop Funding Terrorists/Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/June 26/17
Greece: A Drug-Smuggling Case with Global Implications/Maria Polizoidou/Gatestone Institute/June 26/17
Golan battles bring Hizballah near Israeli border /DEBKAfile Special Report June 25/2017
Is Iran plunging the Middle East into another war/Heshmat Alavi/ Al Arabiya/June 26/17
Qatar corrupting US’ national security ‘Deep State’/Staff writer, Al Arabiya/June 26/17
Trump allies push White House to consider regime change in Tehran/Michael Crowley/Politico/June 26/17

Titles For Latest Lebanese Related News published on June 26-27/17
Through society's solidarity we can face drug addiction, Aoun says
Mustaqbal-LF 'Coordination' Expected in Upcoming Period
Syrian Diva Briefly Held at Beirut Airport over Cocaine Possession
Mogherini on International Day in Support of Torture Victims: We will continue to work with international and regional partners so that torture becomes obsolete
Berri receives congratulatory calls from Aoun, Hariri
Bou Assi on Addiction Prevention Day: We are by your side, stay clean to stay free
MP Alain Aoun brushes off concerns on US relations, sanctions

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on
June 26-27/17
Syria warns Israel: Further attacks will have serious repercussions
Liberman: Syria won’t be another Hezbollah front against Israel
US: Doha is Reviewing Demands to End Crisis with Arab States
Bahrain accuses Qatar of military escalation in Gulf row
Israeli party chair slams Berlin mayor for allowing Hezbollah rally
Russian Military Base Engages in US-Iranian Conflict in Syrian ‘Badia Region’
Iraq Forces Combing West Mosul after ISIS Attack, General Says Battle to End in Days
ISIS Slaughters 7 Iraqis After Eid Prayers
Irish Ship Rescues Hundreds Near Libya as EU Effort to Halt Migrants Founders
Iran’s Supreme Leader seeks to find successor closer to him ideologically
ISIS wives escaping Raqqa regret joining group ‘that deviated from Islam’
World record: Canadian sniper kills ISIS militant from 2.1 miles away
U.S.-Backed Force Seizes a Quarter of Raqa from IS
Iraq Forces Combing West Mosul after Surprise IS Attack
May's Party Signs UK Power Deal with N. Ireland's DUP

Latest Lebanese Related News published on June 26-27/17
Through society's solidarity we can face drug addiction, Aoun says

Mon 26 Jun 2017/NNA - President of the Republic, Michel Aoun, called Monday on the Lebanese society to stand together in confronting the danger of drug addiction, on the occasion of the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. "Through the solidarity of the Lebanese society, we will be able to confront and overcome this drug addiction predicament," President Aoun's statement came via his personal account on Twitter. "Victims of drug addiction are more than the victims of wars," Aoun went on, adding that the use of drugs has destructive repercussions on the individual, family and society.

Mustaqbal-LF 'Coordination' Expected in Upcoming Period
Naharnet/June 26/17/Al-Mustaqbal Movement and the Lebanese Forces are expected to “boost their coordination” in the upcoming period, a media report said on Monday.
“Mustaqbal parliamentary sources have expressed their deep satisfaction with the atmosphere of the meeting that was held between Prime Minister Saad Hariri and LF leader Samir Geagea,” Kuwait's al-Seyassah newspaper reported. The meeting's outcome will “boost coordination” between the two parties “for the implementation of the Baabda document, especially amid the pressures that the Lebanese are facing,” the sources told the newspaper, referring to the recent Hariri-Geagea meeting and the Baabda talks that were hosted by President Michel Aoun. “The upcoming period will be economic and social par excellence, seeing as PM Hariri is determined to implement the pending clauses of the ministerial Policy Statement and he is receiving full support from President Michel Aoun, the LF and the political components that are represented in Cabinet,” the sources added.

Syrian Diva Briefly Held at Beirut Airport over Cocaine Possession
Naharnet/June 26/17/Prominent Syrian diva Asala Nasri was briefly held overnight Sunday at Beirut's Rafik Hariri International Airport over the possession of two grams of cocaine, media reports said. State-run National News Agency said Internal Security Forces inspection officers found two grams of cocaine in a small plastic box that Asala was carrying. “She was immediately referred to the relevant authorities and consequently to Mount Lebanon's prosecutor who in turn referred her to the relevant judicial authorities,” NNA said. And after she “tested positive for drug abuse,” Judge Claude Karam decided to release her on the condition that she would undergo another drug test, LBCI television said. In her preliminary hearing testimony, Asala had denied that the drugs belonged to her, claiming that she did not know who put them in her suitcase. Sky News Arabia meanwhile quoted “informed sources” as saying that Asala told interrogators that someone was trying to frame her with the aim of “tarnishing her reputation.” “She expressed dismay over the repeated incidents that aim to insult her and her reputation over her political views every time she visits Lebanon,” the sources added.
The diva was eventually allowed to leave Beirut for Cairo after she “signed a pledge obliging her to undergo a drug test every time she visits Lebanon.”After she left Beirut's airport, Asala posted an Instagram picture showing her in the plane with the caption “Thank God”. The Syrian diva, which is known for her anti-Assad stances, was in Lebanon for the annual iftar banquet organized by Eagle Films.

Mogherini on International Day in Support of Torture Victims: We will continue to work with international and regional partners so that torture becomes obsolete
Mon 26 Jun 2017/NNA - The European Union's Higher Representative for Security and Foreign Policy, Federica Mogherini, Monday vowed to "continue to work with international and regional partners to render torture a thing of the past."In a statement issued on behalf of the Federation marking World Day in Support of Victims of Torture, Mogherini renewed the call to "stop all forms of torture and to help all those who have been subjected to this heinous and inhuman practice, and their families and loved ones to overcome their suffering.""Torture is prohibited under international law, in all circumstances and without exception, but the struggle to eradicate it has not yet achieved its objectives," she indicated. Mogherini went on to explain that "the European Union's commitment to combating torture and ill-treatment wherever it occurs is enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights and highlighted in the European Union's Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy for the period of 2015 to 2019." She added: "To achieve this goal, the EU is building alliances with partners and civil society. Last December, we celebrated World Human Rights Day by organizing the EU and Non-governmental Organizations on Human Rights Forum for the year 2016, which focused on the prevention of torture and treating it at the global level." "We are convinced that respect for fundamental rights and freedoms, strengthening of inclusive societies and activating and supporting the openness of civil society are the only ways to ensure sustainable stability and security," Mogherini underscored.

Berri receives congratulatory calls from Aoun, Hariri
Mon 26 Jun 2017/NNA - House Speaker, Nabih Berri, Monday received phone calls from President of the Republic, Michel Aoun, and Prime Minister Saad Hariri, congratulating him on the occasion of Eid al-Fitr.The Speaker also received similar calls from former Prime Ministers Fuad Siniora, Najib Miqati and Tamam Salam. Among Berri's well-wishers for today was also "Marada Movement" Head, MP Sleiman Franjieh, and a large number of ministers, deputies and diplomats, as well as spiritual, judicial, security and military senior officials.

Bou Assi on Addiction Prevention Day: We are by your side, stay clean to stay free
Mon 26 Jun 2017/NNA - "We stand by your side, stay clean to stay free," Minister of Social Affairs, Pierre Bou Assi, Monday reassured the Lebanese youth, warning them of the danger of drug addiction on the occasion of "Addiction Prevention Day". "Entering addiction stage is easy due to sufferings or searching for delusional happiness," Bou Assi told the youth in a televised message, adding that its reality actually destroys health, family and social integration.

MP Alain Aoun brushes off concerns on US relations, sanctions
Daily Star/June 26/17/BEIRUT: Change and Reform bloc MP Alain Aoun dismissed concerns with Lebanon's relationship with the United States, despite the latter discussing passing more aggressive sanctions on Hezbollah. "It’s a problem it [the United States] has with Hezbollah for political reasons," the MP said in an interview with Saudi-owned daily Asharq al-Awsat, published Monday. "On the contrary, the two countries [Lebanon and the United States] have great ties, especially with the support of the Lebanese Army."The United States is a consistent supporter of the Lebanese Army, most recently in May when the U.S. donated 1,000 machine guns to aid the Army in fortifying security along the Lebanese-Syrian border. "What we are doing is talking to our American counterparts ... and warning them about the dangers these sanctions would have on Lebanon [as a whole]," Aoun added.
A number of members of the U.S. House of Representatives have prepared a draft for a bill entitled “Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Amendments Act of 2017” that is mainly aimed at cutting off all forms of financial support to the party, which Washington has labeled as a terrorist organization. The new draft, which has not yet been introduced in the House, has reportedly added new entities such as the Amal Movement to the list of sanctioned parties. A similar draft is said to be making the rounds in the Senate. The proposed amendments have caused alarm in Lebanon among both politicians and the banking sector. Aoun also spoke about Parliamentary elections, scheduled for May 2018, and the 11-month "technical delay" following the agreement on a new electoral law earlier this month. "President Michel Aoun, Prime Minister Saad Hariri, and Speaker Nabih Berri agreed [at last week's meeting in Baabda] to turn the negative aspects of extension to positive[s] by using it to get [legislative] work done,” the MP said, citing that among "Lebanese priorities" are improving its economic situation, resuming work at state institutions, and passing legislation in Parliament.
President Aoun earlier this month signed a decree to hold an extraordinary Parliamentary session between June 21 and Oct. 16, with the 2017 draft state budget at the top of the agenda.
He also said that political parties' electoral campaigns will be more active after the Eid al-Fitr holiday.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on June 26-27/17
Syria warns Israel: Further attacks will have serious repercussions
Jerusalem Post/June 25/17/The Syrian military threatened Israel on Sunday evening that should it launch any further attacks on Syrian army targets, Israel will have to take the responsibility for repercussions that can ensue, according to The Jerusalem Post's sister publication Maariv, citing Lebanese television news outlet Al Mayadeen. This threat comes after the IDF struck targets belonging to forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime in response to the errant fire that hit northern Israel earlier in the day. Several projectiles fired from Syria landed in open territory in Israel's Golan Heights on Sunday afternoon, the IDF confirmed. No injuries were reported in the incident. The military stated that the errant projectiles were the result of internal fighting in Syria.Sunday was the second day in a row that the Israeli-Syrian border has been effected by a spillover from the ongoing conflict in Syria.

Liberman: Syria won’t be another Hezbollah front against Israel
Lahav Harkov/Jerusalem Post/June 26/17 /Israel will not allow Hezbollah to attack from Syria, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said, entering a Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting Monday. “There are many prophets out there predicting a hot summer,” Liberman said sardonically. “They say there will be a war in the south or the north. I want to make it clear one more time that we have no intention of initiating a military act – not in the north, not in the south.” At the same time, Liberman said Israel will not stand idly by as the war in Syria spills over into the Golan. “We won’t let anything pass, whether it’s just spillage or not. Everything will get a powerful response,” he stated. Liberman gave a warning to Damascus: “Whoever wants to turn Syria into a base of Syria and the Iranians against Israel should think again. We will not accept Syria being turned into another base and front against Israel.”
The defense minister added that Israel is enjoying quiet and economic growth, and he hopes that will not be disturbed. Liberman also turned his barbs towards the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, announcing that any IDF officers criticized by its members will not appear before the panel.
Public criticism of the IDF’s top brass “harms our national security and is the wrong attitude. The Defense Minister is responsible, and whoever wants to attack, can attack the Defense Minister,” Liberman stated. Liberman pointed out that officers are not supposed to respond to criticism from politicians. “Ministers and MKs can’t expect that they’ll attack the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories and the next day invite him to the committee,” Liberman said. The defense minister said he told COGAT commander Maj.-Gen. Yoav “Poli” Mordechai and his officers not to speak to the committee after public “attacks.”“It won’t work,” he emphasized.

US: Doha is Reviewing Demands to End Crisis with Arab States
Asharq Al Awsat/June 26/17/Washington, Dammam, Khartoum – US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Sunday that Qatar has started to review the list of 13 demands to end its crisis with the Arab states. Tillerson urged each of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt, as well as Qatar, to sit down together in order to reach a solution to the ongoing crisis. “A productive next step would be for each of the countries to sit together and continue this conversation,” he stated. “We believe our allies and partners are stronger when they are working together towards one goal which we all agree is stopping terrorism and countering extremism,” he added. He also stressed that the United States would continue to stay in close contact with all the concerned parties. The 13-point list includes a demand on the closure of the Al-Jazeera television station that is owned by Qatar. It also demanded that Doha limit its ties with Iran.
Meanwhile, Turkey stepped up the Gulf crisis by announcing its decision to line up with Qatar. It added that the demands submitted by the four Arab countries were a violation of the international law.
In remarks on Sunday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan denounced the demands on Qatar, adding that his country approved Doha’s stance against the 13-point ultimatum.
“We approve and appreciate the attitude of Qatar against the list of 13 demands …This approach of 13 demands is against international law because you cannot attack or intervene in the sovereignty of a country,” the Turkish president said, speaking outside an Istanbul mosque after prayers marking Eid al-Fitr. In parallel, Gulf States have reiterated that resolving the crisis with Qatar through diplomatic means remained their utmost priority. UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said on Saturday: “This is not about regime change, this about behavioral change.” “The alternative is not escalation, the alternative is parting of ways, because it is very difficult for us to maintain a collective grouping,” he added. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir reiterated his support to Kuwait in bridging the gap between Gulf States and Qatar. He also praised continuous efforts aimed at forging consensus to resolve the crisis.

Bahrain accuses Qatar of military escalation in Gulf row
Reuters/Jerusalem Post/June 26/17/RIYADH - Bahrain's foreign minister accused Qatar on Monday of creating a military escalation in a dispute with regional powers, in an apparent reference to Doha's decision to let more Turkish troops enter its territory. Bahrain, alongside Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt imposed a boycott on Qatar three weeks ago, accusing it of backing militants - then issued an ultimatum, including demands that Qatar shut down a Turkish military base in Doha. Turkey, the most powerful regional player to stand with Qatar, has increased the number of its troops in the base since the crisis erupted. "The foundation of the dispute with Qatar is diplomatic and security-oriented, never military," Bahrain's foreign minister, Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa, said in a message on Twitter. "Bringing in foreign armies and their armored vehicles is the military escalation that Qatar has created," he added, without mentioning Turkey. In earlier tweets on Sunday, Sheikh Khalid said external interference would not solve the problem. The four Arab powers' ultimatum, which also includes demands for the closure of Al Jazeera television and the curbing of ties with Iran, appears aimed at dismantling Qatar's two-decade-old interventionist foreign policy. That policy has reflected the clout generated by its vast natural gas and oil wealth but incensed conservative Arab peers over its alleged support for Islamists they regard as mortal threats to their dynastic rule. Qatar rejects accusations of fomenting regional unrest, saying it is being punished for straying from its neighbors' backing for authoritarian hereditary and military rulers. Two contingents of Turkish troops with columns of armored vehicles have arrived in Doha since the crisis erupted, along with 100 cargo planes loaded with supplies. Turkey also rushed through legislation to send more troops to the base days after the sanctions were imposed in a show of support. On Sunday, Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan dismissed the ultimatum as unlawful interference in Qatar's affairs.

Israeli party chair slams Berlin mayor for allowing Hezbollah rally
Benjamin Weinthal/Jerusalem Post/June 25/17
Lapid has sent a hard-hitting letter to Berlin Mayor Michael Müller for permitting Hezbollah to march in the German capital over the weekend. In the letter, which was sent Saturday, a day after the rally, and obtained by The Jerusalem Post, Lapid wrote: “This past week a lecture by a Knesset member from Yesh Atid [Aliza Lavie] was violently disrupted by radical anti-Israel activists at a university in Berlin. A few days later, demonstrators marched through your city proudly displaying photographs of the leader of an antisemitic terrorist organization. “As the son of a Holocaust survivor, I was deeply disturbed that in the same week that a group of Jews are targeted, antisemites are given the freedom of the city. We have stood in solidarity with Germany when you were hit by brutal terror attacks. We did that because we identified deeply with the pain caused by terrorism and we wanted to express our support for the people of you city.”Activists from the BDS campaign verbally attacked Lavie and Deborah Weinstein, an 82-year-old Holocaust survivor at Humboldt University in Berlin. A spokesman did not respond to a Post query as to whether the activists, who have been identified, have been banned from the university. Lapid, whose father, Yosef “Tommy” Lapid, survived the Hitler movement in Hungary, took aim at the mayor’s apparent reluctance to crackdown on Islamic terrorism in the capital. “We cannot fight terrorism alone. Terrorism is global and so is the fight against it. We must share intelligence, share experience and develop the methods which work. Before all else, we must fight back against the attempt by terrorists to take advantage of democracy and freedom of speech to advance their criminal agenda,” wrote Lapid. “The leader of Hezbollah, whose image was held aloft in your streets, delivered his Al Quds Day speech in Lebanon this week while crowds chanted ‘Death to Israel.’ When people march in the streets of Berlin holding up photographs of the leader of Hezbollah, they celebrate the murder of our families and of our children, they celebrate the attempt to destroy the fragile coexistence between Jews and Arabs in Israel. They celebrate terror.”Lapid, who serves on the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, continued: “Freedom of expression doesn’t extend to the glorification of murder. Freedom of expression doesn’t extend to incitement. Hezbollah is no different to ISIS or al-Qaida in their attitude towards us.
They hate Jews and they hate Christians, they hate women and they hate the LGBT community, they hate us and they hate you. Someone who is willing to carry the image of the leader of Hezbollah on the streets of Berlin is someone who is willing to murder on the streets of Berlin.
The people who marched in your city on ‘Al Quds Day’ aren’t just our enemies, they are yours.
“Mr. Mayor, your decision to remain silent in the face of this incitement and hatred is a grave mistake. Allowing the glorification of terrorism in your city won’t appease extremists, it will embolden them.”He ended his letter, asking Müller: “We would never allow a parade celebrating the murder of your citizens, why do you allow a parade celebrating the murder of ours?” According to Berlin’s intelligence agency, there are 250 active Hezbollah members and supporters in Berlin ad some 950 Hezbollah operatives in Germany. The Merkel administration outlawed Hezbollah’s military wing in 2013 but declined to outlaw all of Hezbollah in the Federal Republic. When asked about the Hezbollah march, a spokesman for Müller told the Post on Friday that the mayor does not comment on foreign organizations. In an email to the Post on Sunday, the mayor’s spokeswoman, Claudia Sünder, wrote: “a ban of the demonstration is a matter for the Senate administration of the interior” and does not fall under the mayor’s purview.

Russian Military Base Engages in US-Iranian Conflict in Syrian ‘Badia Region’
Asharq Al-Awsat/June 26/17/London –Russia has entered the arena of conflict between the US and Iran in the Syrian Badia region, as Moscow established a military base eastern Damascus in parallel with Tehran’s move to transform “Al-sin” airport into a base for Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.
Debka’s intelligence news agency reported that the Russian engineering corps had started building a new base in southeastern Syria at a small village called Khirbet Ras Al-Waar in the Bir al-Qasab district. The report added that the new facility was the first to be established since Moscow’s initial military intervention in the Syrian war in September 2015. Military sources quoted by the agency said the new base would provide Russia with a lever of control over the Syrian southeast and its borders, which are witnessing fighting between US and Iranian forces. The area of Khirbet Ras Al-Waar is located 50 kilometers from Damascus, 85 kilometers from central Golan Heights and 110 kilometers from southern Golan, not far from the American and Jordanian special forces garrison at the al-Tanf crossing inside the Syrian, Jordanian and Iraqi border triangle. Last week, the US, Russia and Jordan have agreed on a trilateral accord to establish safe zones between Damascus and Jordan. One of the points of the memorandum of accord stipulates that non-Syrian forces, in reference to Hezbollah and the IRGC, are kept 30 kilometers away from the borders with Jordan.
The memorandum has eight points, including the withdrawal of all Shiite militias from Daraa and the southern front, the opening of humanitarian corridors, in addition to a pledge by the Russian side to guarantee its commitment to the truce. Meanwhile, Zaman al-Wasl reported on Sunday that the IRGC forces have seized “Al-Sin” airport eastern Damascus. It added that several Iranian aircrafts have landed in Syria’s third largest airport. Also on Sunday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that Israeli airstrikes targeted areas in the countryside of al-Quneitra, for the second time in the past 24 hours.

Iraq Forces Combing West Mosul after ISIS Attack, General Says Battle to End in Days

Asharq Al-Awsat/June 26/17/The battle to take full control of Mosul from ISIS will be over in a few days, a general said Monday as Iraqi forces searched neighborhoods of west Mosul they retook weeks ago after a surprise jihadist attack on their rear that left several dead. “Only a small part remains in the city, specifically the Old City,” said Lieutenant General Abdul Ghani al-Assadi, commander of the Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) elite units in Mosul. From a military perspective, ISIS is finished,” Assadi said. “It lost its fighting spirit and its balance, we are making calls to them to surrender or die.”The area now under ISIS control in Mosul, once the militant group’s de facto capital in Iraq, is less than 2 sq kms, the Iraqi military said. An attempt by ISIS militants late on Sunday to return to neighborhoods outside the Old City failed, Assadi said, adding the city would fall “in very few days, God willing”. The CTS is leading the fight in the densely populated maze of narrow alleyways of the historic Old City which lies by the western bank of the Tigris river. A US-led international coalition is providing air and ground support in the eight-month-old offensive. The militants last week destroyed the historic Grand al-Nuri Mosque and its leaning minaret from which their leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a caliphate spanning parts of Iraq and Syria three years ago. The mosque’s grounds remain under the militants’ control. Iraqi troops captured the neighborhood of al-Faruq in the northwestern side of the Old City facing the mosque, the military said on Monday. A top commander in the CTS said Sunday’s attackers had infiltrated the area by blending in with returning displaced civilians. “The group came with the displaced and settled in the Tanak district. They regrouped and launched counter-attacks,” Staff Lieutenant General Abdulwahab al-Saadi told AFP. “Yarmuk is being searched house to house,” he said, adding that two groups of ISIS attackers were still believed to be in the area, which lies on the western edge of the city. A CTS medic said the attack had caused several victims but he could not say how many. He said 15 to 20 terrorists were also killed in the battle. The east bank of Mosul was retaken in January and a push to wrest back the western side was launched in mid-February.

ISIS Slaughters 7 Iraqis After Eid Prayers
Asharq Al-Awsat/June 26/17/Baghdad- Iraqi security sources said on Sunday that ISIS slaughtered 7 civilians following the Eid prayers by “cutting their bodies into small pieces” in the province of Kirkuk, located 250 kilometers north of Baghdad. A source said the so-called Sharia court of ISIS in Hawija District sentenced seven civilians to death on charges of cooperation with Iraqi security forces, Alsumaria News reported on Sunday. The source added that the terrorist group slaughtered the civilians on Sunday morning in public after the Eid Al-Fitr prayers. Also, the source said on condition of anonymity that ISIS militants cut the bodies of the civilians into small pieces, then put the flesh in plastic bags and threw them in the southern suburb of Hawija. ISIS still controls the Hawija District and the areas of al-Rashad, al-Abbasi, al-Zab and al-Riyad, considered as the strongholds of the terrorist group. ISIS also uses those areas to launch attacks on Salahuddin province and the outskirts of Kirkuk. Meanwhile, a security source from Salahuddin said that four people were killed and three were injured when a Katyusha rocket fell on people as they gathered in the village of al-Mazra’a. The German news agency dpa quoted one security official as saying that “several people were exchanging congratulations on the occasion of the Eid Al-Fitr outside one of the houses before a rocket fell on them on Sunday morning.” The source said the injured were transferred to the Tikrit hospital for treatment, adding that one of them was in critical conditions. Several villages surrounding Biji were being targeted by Katyusha rockets, while the Iraqi authorities were still not allowing residents to return to the city despite being liberated two years ago. ISIS still controls areas east and north of the city, particularly the Makhoul Mountains and the desert area stretching from the provinces of Salahuddin to Anbar.

Irish Ship Rescues Hundreds Near Libya as EU Effort to Halt Migrants Founders
Asharq Al-Awsat/June 26/17/Ireland’s Defense Forces said on Monday that an Irish naval ship rescued 712 people including pregnant women and infants off the coast of the Libyan capital as part of an international migrant rescue effort. The LÉ Eithne ship led the rescue of multiple vessels in distress 40 kilometers northwest of Tripoli throughout Sunday. Six migrants, including one baby, were revived from states of unconsciousness. The ship will transport the people, including 14 pregnant women and four infants below the age of four months, to a designated “port of safety” to be handed over to Italian authorities.
“I’m very proud to say all lives were saved, no lives were lost. It was a complex operation where lives were at stake at every turn over a full eight-hour period,” Commander Brian Fitzgerald told national broadcaster RTE from the ship. “Overall, they were really in a wretched condition but in all cases healthy enough to undertake the journey to a port of safety.” Half a million people have crossed the Mediterranean from Libya to Italy over the past four years, mainly sub-Saharan Africans who pay smugglers to shepherd them across the desert to Libya, and onward to Europe in unseaworthy dinghies. An estimated 13,000 of them have drowned. According to Reuters, European governments want to stop the migrants and break the grip of the smugglers. But more than four months after Italy and the European Union launched a new push to tackle the crisis, accounts by migrants, aid workers and officials show that effort is all but failing to make a difference. When Libyan authorities do catch migrants, they take them to detention centers nominally under the control of the government, which already house about 8,000 people. Though Europeans have pledged funding to improve the camps, some are still so cramped that migrants have to sleep sitting up. At Tripoli’s Tariq al-Siqqa migrant center, where visiting dignitaries are brought, flowers have been planted in the courtyard and wash-basins installed. But behind a padlocked metal gate hundreds of migrants still languish, crammed side to side on mattresses in a single unventilated room.
“They shut us up, they imprison us, they ask us for money,” said one 22-year-old from Guinea, who has been in the center since March, when he was intercepted by the Libyan coastguard with about 120 other migrants shortly after they set off for Italy. “They hit people.”Since last year, the EU has made a push to cooperate with a new Libyan government backed by the United Nations. Coastguard training began on board EU ships in October. In February, Italy signed a memorandum of understanding with Tripoli that the EU quickly endorsed, earmarking 90 million euros. But Europe has delivered little concrete support. “They want us to be Europe’s policeman. At the same time, that policeman needs resources,” said naval coastguard spokesman Ayoub Qassem. “I challenge anyone to work in these conditions.” Tarek Shanbour, a senior coastguard official, also said: “We meet, we talk, we take decisions, we make agreements, but on the ground there is no execution.”

Iran’s Supreme Leader seeks to find successor closer to him ideologically
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English Monday, 26 June 2017/Observers have begun analyzing who could be Iran’s next supreme leader as Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s deteriorates, with many saying that Khamenei’s death will mark a turning point for the Iranian Republic. This comes as Foreign Affairs magazine ran an analysis saying that Khamenei desperately wants a smooth transition and is insisting that someone personally and ideologically close to him take over the helm once he dies. Sanam Vakil and Hossein Rassam, authors of the Foreign Affairs piece, argue against the notion that “the deep state” will “safeguard the Islamic Republic long after he is gone.”Who might succeed Khamenei as Iran’s Supreme Leader? “The problem with this argument is that the deep state is hardly invincible, and those in the regime who are aching for reform, including President Hassan Rouhani and his circle, are hardly impotent,” Sanam Vakil and Hossein Rassam wrote. While Iran has a presidential system, much of the key decision are made by the supreme leader himself. Khamenei said that it was not important who became president after Iran’s presidential election last month. He believed it was only important that Wilayat al-Faqih system should win by raising the level of voter participation in the ballot.

ISIS wives escaping Raqqa regret joining group ‘that deviated from Islam’
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English Monday, 26 June 2017/Whether they joined their husbands willingly or not, many wives of ISIS militants say the group’s extremist members are desperate for their families to leave as Iraqi armed forces inch their way closer to recapturing towns close to the center of Mosul.
“We wish for nothing except to go back to our home countries. We regret our decisions to come here and join our husbands in the first place,” one woman, who wished to remain unnamed, told Al Arabiya. Iraqi forces on Monday seized control of al-Farouq district on the northwestern side of Old Mosul on Monday. The neighborhood is located on the opposite side of the historic al-Nuri Mosque, which was destroyed by ISIS last week. In Raqqa, US-backed fighters seized a quarter of Syria's Raqqa from ISIS group, a monitor said Monday, less than three weeks after they first entered the northern city. Noor al-Huda al-Qassim is one of the wives who managed to escape by help from her own husband, who said the situation in Raqqa was growing so desperate that he forced his wife to pose as a refugee and flee with civilians. “My husband came to me and said what is important for now is that you leave the state (ISIS) and we’ll find you a way to reach your family,” she said. Many women joined ISIS back in 2014 willingly after the militant group opened up a “marriage bureau” for women who wanted to marry its militants in Syria. However, women who escaped the group told Al Arabiya that many quickly became disillusioned once they realized the reality of life under ISIS rule. “Above all, we regret joining a group that deviated from Islam,” the unnamed ISIS wife said.

World record: Canadian sniper kills ISIS militant from 2.1 miles away
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English Monday, 26 June 2017/A Canadian sniper has set a new world record in military history when he shot an ISIS militant in Iraq from 3,450 meters or approximately 2.14 miles distance, Canada’s Department of National Defense has recently confirmed.
“The Canadian Special Operations Command can confirm that a member of the Joint Task Force 2 successfully hit a target from 3,450 meters,” the Department of National Defense confirmed in a statement to the local Global News. It added: “For operational security reasons and to preserve the safety of our personnel and our Coalition partners, we will not discuss precise details on when and how this incident took place.” The Globe and Mail newspaper, meanwhile, reported that the shot was fired from a high-rise building in the Iraqi city of Mosul using a McMillan TAC-50 rifle and hit the target - a stationary fighter standing in front of a wall. The new long-distance shot shatters a 2009 record held by British Corporal Craig Harrison in Afghanistan at 2,263 meters.So far, Canadian soldiers claim three of the top five longest confirmed shots ever recorded in the history of warfare, the report said.

U.S.-Backed Force Seizes a Quarter of Raqa from IS
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 26/17/U.S.-backed fighters have seized a quarter of Syria's Raqa from the Islamic State group, a monitor said Monday, less than three weeks after they first entered the northern city. Arab and Kurdish militiamen from the Syrian Democratic Forces smashed into the jihadists' main Syrian bastion on June 6 after a months-long drive to encircle it. "Since the offensive began, the SDF have captured around 25 percent of the city's built-up neighborhoods," Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told AFP on Monday. Backed by U.S.-led coalition air strikes, the SDF has fully seized the southeastern districts of al-Meshleb and al-Senaa, as well as al-Rumaniya and Sabahiya in the west, he said. From those neighborhoods, they were bearing down on Raqa's Old City in a pincer movement on Monday, with fighting raging in the western al-Qadisiya district and parts of the city's east. SDF fighters also hold part of Division 17 -- a former Syrian army base -- and an adjacent sugar factory on the northern edges of the city. "They want to cut off the city's northern part, including the Division 17 base, so that there's more pressure on IS in the city center," Abdel Rahman said.
The battle for Raqa is the SDF's flagship offensive, with heavy backing from coalition air strikes, advisers, weapons and equipment. The US-led coalition is also backing a major assault on the last IS-held pockets of Mosul in neighboring Iraq. IS overran Raqa in 2014, transforming it into the de facto Syrian capital of its self-declared "caliphate."It became infamous as the scene of some of the group's worst atrocities, including public beheadings, and is thought to have been a hub for planning attacks overseas.

Iraq Forces Combing West Mosul after Surprise IS Attack

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 26/17/Iraqi forces on Monday were searching neighborhoods of west Mosul they retook weeks ago after a surprise jihadist attack on their rear that left several dead, officials said. The attack, which was claimed by the Islamic State group, sowed panic among residents who returned to live in the Tanak and Yarmuk neighborhoods of west Mosul. A top commander in the Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS), which sent forces to fight the IS gunmen, said the attackers had infiltrated the area by blending in with returning displaced civilians. "The group came with the displaced and settled in the Tanak district. They regrouped and launched counter-attacks," Staff Lieutenant General Abdulwahab al-Saadi told AFP. "Yarmuk is being searched house to house," he said, adding that two groups of IS attackers were still believed to be in the area, which lies on the western edge of the city. A CTS medic said the attack had caused several victims but he could not say how many. "There are martyrs who were killed by Daesh," the medic said, using an Arabic acronym for IS. He said 15 to 20 jihadist fighters were also killed in the battle. Iraqi forces, led by the CTS, have for a week been pressing a perilous assault into the Old City in central Mosul, the last pocket still controlled by the jihadists. Federal forces backed a U.S.-led coalition launched an offensive to retake the country's second city from IS more than eight months ago. The east bank of Mosul, a city divided by the Tigris River, was retaken in January and a push to wrest back the western side was launched in mid-February. More than 800,000 people have been displaced from the Mosul area since October last year and the security forces are struggling to carry out effective screening. While the exact circumstances were unclear, Sunday night's attack was described as a diversionary tactic by west Mosul "sleeper cells" to ease the pressure on the Old City, where the jihadists appear to be on their last legs. "The sleeper cells carried out a surprise attack against the security forces, in an attempt to ease the siege on the Old City," a local official told AFP on condition of anonymity. "Operations to flush out pockets controlled by Daesh are ongoing," he said. Hundreds of families, who in some cases had returned to their homes weeks ago, fled the area again overnight, fearing the return of jihadist rule.

May's Party Signs UK Power Deal with N. Ireland's DUP
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 26/17ظBritish Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservatives signed a deal Monday with Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party that will allow them to govern after losing their majority in a general election this month. "An agreement has been signed," May's spokesman told AFP without revealing the details. Northern Irish DUP leader Arlene Foster said she was "delighted" that a deal had been struck, while May said the Conservatives and the DUP "share many values" and Monday's agreement was "a very good one." The agreement was signed by senior Conservative official Gavin Williamson and senior DUP member Jeffrey Donaldson, as May and Foster looked on. The Conservatives have 317 seats in the 650-seat parliament after the June 8 election and need the support of the DUP's 10 MPs to be able to govern. Discussions between the two began immediately after the election and centered on a "confidence and supply" deal in which the DUP would support the government in any confidence votes and to pass budgets. The prospect of a deal with the ultra-conservative DUP has caused consternation in Britain since the party opposes gay marriage and abortion. Some of its representatives have also been criticized in the past for homophobic comments, climate change denial statements and sectarian rhetoric. Ireland's former premier Enda Kenny has warned that a deal with the Protestant and pro-British DUP could upset Northern Ireland's fragile peace.
London's neutrality is key to the delicate balance of power in Northern Ireland, which was once plagued by violence over Britain's control of the province.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on June 26-27/17
Who actually governs Qatar?
Hussein Shobokshi/Al Arabiya/June 26/17
With the repercussions of the recent events and the result of the political crisis between a number of Arab countries and the coup regime in Qatar, the biggest question that is emerging on the scene is: Who actually governs Qatar?
With the abdication of Hamad Bin Khalifa, the ruler of Qatar, in favor of his son Tamim, who came to power in a controversial manner for the post of state of the covenant, before that, the father’s waiver remained very vague and the reasons presented for this “waiver” is at best, strange, funny and cause for wonder and questionable.
With the arrival of Tamim officially to the post of Emir, began features of the New Testament and the formal salvation of the old guard of his father, led by the former controversial Foreign Minister Hamad Bin Jassim, and the appointment of the “new” faces and supporters. However, the reality is otherwise.
The leader of the coup, Hamad Bin Khalifa, was and still, is the one who is following things and keeps the political, diplomatic, and media compass trends, which continue as they are. Support for the armed terrorist groups in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen and other destinations has increased very significantly in recent days, and the confusion has begun to clear on the ruling party in Qatar.
Tamim was unable to win any battle for his benefit, whether in the diplomatic or political arena, but increased the number of countries that Doha has conflict and rivalry with in ways that have become known and denied by them, is no longer useful and convincing
Routine retraction
A speech by Emir Tamim was abruptly cut off without any subsequent explanation. The same thing happened with former Foreign Minister Hamad Bin Jassim, who announced an unexpected talk on Jazeera Channel. Justifying, and of course one cannot ignore, the initial statements that came out from Tamim and then retracted, was said to be the signs of sharp differences of opinion between the father of the coup leader and his entourage and Tamim and the new faces.
The current Emir Tamim is handcuffed by the father, especially in financial affairs. As it is known any disbursement by the Central Bank of Qatar exceeding the barrier of one billion Qatari riyals must be approved by the signature of the father personally and everyone who deals with the Central Bank of Qatar knows this very well.
Appointments in major positions such as the Ministry of Defense, Interior, Foreign Affairs and the Presidency of the Council of Ministers must be approved by the father of the Emir, as well as the selection of ambassadors of Qatar to Washington, Moscow, London and Paris and the GCC countries too.
Under pressure
Therefore, Tamim is under severe pressure from the circle of his father and his mother to impose policies that he adopts so that the approach of ruling becomes monstrous and a copy of his father’s already hated rule.
Tamim was unable to win any battle for his benefit, whether in the diplomatic or political arena, but increased the number of countries that Doha has conflict and rivalry with in ways that have become known and denied by them, is no longer useful and convincing.
The footnote surrounding Tamim’s circle and his father from the Muslim brothers and the Arab caliphate, and the suspicious advisers from the Western decision-making circles, combined with enormous pressure on the coup regime in Qatar, convinced himself that he was a maker of change in the Middle East.
He wears a garment much larger than his size. He also acts on this basis, but because he is “unconvincing” and does not apply what he claims and asks others to reveal himself and to reveal that in fact is only a “tool” in the hands of others.
Therefore, the pivotal question remains: “Who rules Qatar?”

Saudi pledge of allegiance reflects wealth of society
Turki Aldakhil/Al Arabiya/June 26/17
The scenes depicting pledge of allegiance witnessed recently is a reflection of the society. Old experienced princes, young promising princes, scholars, preachers, muftis, people belonging to different walks of life and loyal men who have lived through the eras of wars with King Abdulaziz during the foundation phase were all present. The interesting statements were those made by that cleric in his white turban as he addressed Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman while pledging allegiance to him. His words show the difference between the time back then, when wars were waged and when King Abdulaziz carried his sword and led his army in the Peninsula to execute the unification plan. The scenes demonstrating pledge of allegiance is a reflection of the society in all its diversity. It reflects Saudi Arabia’s social plurality, which is certainly its wealth
Security is essential
This cleric said security is essential for the country, adding that we can get rid of anyone who does not appreciate this. He recalled the years of King Abdulaziz’s pledge of allegiance when defectors and undisciplined members either returned to their senses or went to war. The cleric understood the meaning of combating terrorism early. Who forgets the year when Al-Sabla battle was fought?
The scenes demonstrating pledge of allegiance is a reflection of the society in all its diversity. It reflects Saudi Arabia’s social plurality, which is certainly its wealth.

A Hint of ‘Modesty’ Is What Qatar Needs
Ghassan Charbel/Asharq Al Awsat/June 26/17
In brief words of wisdom directed at an ambitious young writer, a more renowned and established journalist says “Over the years, I was enthralled with seeing my name going to print, but days showed me better.”“Always be reminded that a newspaper dies at sunset, and that readers are rather keen on being forgetful of the pen behind the words. Do not lose yourself to dreams and illusions— once you find yourself caught up in the clamor of ego take a trip down to the closest library, there you’ll see that the world is greater than you think.”“The shelves are stocked with books and to each there is an author. Look closely, you’ll discover that they have written grander pieces than you have. And should you ever find success, you can all but hope to be a drop in an overwhelming sea.”
“Modesty is an educator and vanity is an open trap.”
“With time you will learn that the above goes for both journalism and politics—take say, the example in Charles de Gaulle, a French President who overdid self-conceit to the point where the people forced his resignation.” “Similarly, the concept can be sampled in the experiences of other pompous leaders. Libya’s notorious Muammar Gaddafi was unmistakably envious of historical figures that had their legacy etched in time. Owing to prodigious poets like Al-Mutanabbi rulers like Emir of Aleppo Sayf al-Dawla had managed to endure time. But such phenomenal poets able to carefully and wittily document the lives of leaders in perfectly worded verses of praise emerge once every blue moon.”
Emboldened by economic clout, wealthy leaders wrongly believe that history has tasked them with reshaping the world. They later on abandon their natural duty, which is developing their nations and leaving foreign policy to the guidance of international norms. The fallout is almost always catastrophic.
Some would go as far as saying that Colonel Gaddafi’s “The Green Book” was written for the sole purpose of joining the league of grand pieces of writing like Gamal Abdel Nasser’s “The Philosophy of The Revolution,” or even “The Red Book” by Mao Tse-tung. We can easily imagine the prosperity Libya would have enjoyed had its leader chosen to invest in a prestigious university rather than supporting the Japanese Red Army and its likes. The absence of modesty in Gaddafi’s mindset has cost his people, neighbors and the world very dearly.
In another encounter of political pretentiousness, Qatar’s ex-Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim arranged a dinner with the then Emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa and Libya’s former Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril and ex-Foreign Minister Abdul Rahman Shalgam.
The meeting took place on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in 2011 in New York.
The dinner was intended to clear the air after a misunderstanding taking place when the Emir of Qatar abruptly interrupted Jibril in a Paris meeting, and in an audience including France’s then President Nicolas Sarkozy and UK former Prime Minister David Cameron. Qatar’s Emir refuted Jibril’s proposal on disarming paramilitary factions and rebels, and reinstating national institutions and authorities to power. Hamad’s attempt at mending bridges did not succeed. Qatar’s Emir was determined to leave Jibril without solidified authority over security and defense. At the time, Doha was committed to giving Abdelhakim Belhaj, a Libyan politician and veteran who fought in Afghanistan, reign over Libya’s security. Qatar’s foreign policy aggravated the situation later forcing Jibril to resign.

The Real Threat of Artificial Intelligence
KAI-FU LEE/The New York Times/June 26/17
What worries you about the coming world of artificial intelligence?
Too often the answer to this question resembles the plot of a sci-fi thriller. People worry that developments in A.I. will bring about the “singularity” — that point in history when A.I. surpasses human intelligence, leading to an unimaginable revolution in human affairs. Or they wonder whether instead of our controlling artificial intelligence, it will control us, turning us, in effect, into cyborgs. These are interesting issues to contemplate, but they are not pressing. They concern situations that may not arise for hundreds of years, if ever. At the moment, there is no known path from our best A.I. tools (like the Google computer program that recently beat the world’s best player of the game of Go) to “general” A.I. — self-aware computer programs that can engage in common-sense reasoning, attain knowledge in multiple domains, feel, express and understand emotions and so on. This doesn’t mean we have nothing to worry about. On the contrary, the A.I. products that now exist are improving faster than most people realize and promise to radically transform our world, not always for the better. They are only tools, not a competing form of intelligence. But they will reshape what work means and how wealth is created, leading to unprecedented economic inequalities and even altering the global balance of power. It is imperative that we turn our attention to these imminent challenges. What is artificial intelligence today? Roughly speaking, it’s technology that takes in huge amounts of information from a specific domain (say, loan repayment histories) and uses it to make a decision in a specific case (whether to give an individual a loan) in the service of a specified goal (maximizing profits for the lender). Think of a spreadsheet on steroids, trained on big data. These tools can outperform human beings at a given task.
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This kind of A.I. is spreading to thousands of domains (not just loans), and as it does, it will eliminate many jobs. Bank tellers, customer service representatives, telemarketers, stock and bond traders, even paralegals and radiologists will gradually be replaced by such software. Over time this technology will come to control semiautonomous and autonomous hardware like self-driving cars and robots, displacing factory workers, construction workers, drivers, delivery workers and many others. Unlike the Industrial Revolution and the computer revolution, the A.I. revolution is not taking certain jobs (artisans, personal assistants who use paper and typewriters) and replacing them with other jobs (assembly-line workers, personal assistants conversant with computers). Instead, it is poised to bring about a wide-scale decimation of jobs — mostly lower-paying jobs, but some higher-paying ones, too.
This transformation will result in enormous profits for the companies that develop A.I., as well as for the companies that adopt it. Imagine how much money a company like Uber would make if it used only robot drivers. Imagine the profits if Apple could manufacture its products without human labor. Imagine the gains to a loan company that could issue 30 million loans a year with virtually no human involvement. (As it happens, my venture capital firm has invested in just such a loan company.)
We are thus facing two developments that do not sit easily together: enormous wealth concentrated in relatively few hands and enormous numbers of people out of work. What is to be done? Part of the answer will involve educating or retraining people in tasks A.I. tools aren’t good at. Artificial intelligence is poorly suited for jobs involving creativity, planning and “cross-domain” thinking — for example, the work of a trial lawyer. But these skills are typically required by high-paying jobs that may be hard to retrain displaced workers to do. More promising are lower-paying jobs involving the “people skills” that A.I. lacks: social workers, bartenders, concierges — professions requiring nuanced human interaction. But here, too, there is a problem: How many bartenders does a society really need?
The solution to the problem of mass unemployment, I suspect, will involve “service jobs of love.” These are jobs that A.I. cannot do, that society needs and that give people a sense of purpose. Examples include accompanying an older person to visit a doctor, mentoring at an orphanage and serving as a sponsor at Alcoholics Anonymous — or, potentially soon, Virtual Reality Anonymous (for those addicted to their parallel lives in computer-generated simulations). The volunteer service jobs of today, in other words, may turn into the real jobs of the future. Other volunteer jobs may be higher-paying and professional, such as compassionate medical service providers who serve as the “human interface” for A.I. programs that diagnose cancer. In all cases, people will be able to choose to work fewer hours than they do now. Who will pay for these jobs? Here is where the enormous wealth concentrated in relatively few hands comes in. It strikes me as unavoidable that large chunks of the money created by A.I. will have to be transferred to those whose jobs have been displaced. This seems feasible only through Keynesian policies of increased government spending, presumably raised through taxation on wealthy companies.

London Tower Fire … Lessons Learned
Megan McArdle/Bloomberg View/June 26/17
We aren’t conclusively sure how the fire spread in London’s Grenfell Tower so quickly, consuming the entire 24-story building.
What we do know is that there are ways to help control the spread of fire in apartment buildings, such as sprinkler systems. This has the makings of a scandal for Prime Minister Theresa May’s beleaguered government. Her immigration minister, Brandon Lewis, was formerly the housing minister. He declined to require developers to install sprinklers. The Independent quotes him as telling Parliament in 2014: “We believe that it is the responsibility of the fire industry, rather than the Government, to market fire sprinkler systems effectively and to encourage their wider installation. … The cost of fitting a fire sprinkler system may affect house building — something we want to encourage — so we must wait to see what impact that regulation has.”
People who died in the Grenfell fire might be alive today if regulators had required sprinkler systems. This does not play well for the Tories.
But before we start hanging them in effigy, there are a couple of things we should consider. The first is that, even if the regulation had passed, and required existing developers to retrofit sprinklers into older buildings, Grenfell Tower might not have gotten a sprinkler system before the fire occurred. Regulations are not implemented like instant coffee; they take time to formulate, and further time for businesses to comply. All the political will in the world cannot conjure up enough sprinkler systems, and sprinkler-system installers, to instantly transform a nation’s housing stock.
This, however, is only a quibble; even if Grenfell Tower could not have been saved, there are surely other buildings where fires will soon occur that would benefit from sprinklers. Must we wait for those deaths before we can say that his was a bad calculation?
Well, no. But we should wait until we can establish that it was actually a bad calculation.
It may sound heartless to discuss life-saving measures as a calculation. But the fact is that we all make these sorts of calculations every day, about ourselves and others. We just don’t like to admit that we’re doing it.
Consider the speed at which many of you drove to work this morning. I’m sure you’re all splendid, careful drivers. Nonetheless, when a vehicle is being piloted at 50 or 60 miles an hour, the margin of error for avoiding an accident is pretty small. To drive a car even at 5 miles per hour is to accept a small risk of killing oneself and others. To drive at 50 miles per hour is to accept a much higher risk of doing so. It’s a calculation: risk versus reward.
In the US, tens of thousands of people were killed in auto accidents last year. We could probably eliminate most of those deaths if we simply made sure that no one ever piloted their personal vehicle above some prudent speed — say, 25 mph — which would reduce both the likelihood of crashes occurring, and the damage any crashes would do.
Are you willing to make that trade-off? To avert 40,000 deaths a year, all you have to do is move closer to work, take public transportation (where available), or spend a lot more time in the car.
Americans have made that choice: Nope, not worth it. We are manifestly not willing to exchange personal convenience for lower auto fatalities. Nor, as far as I am aware, is anyone anywhere else. Government sets much higher speed limits — speeds that are still quite deadly! — and most drivers opt for even deadlier speeds. Every speeding driver knows, at some level, that what they’re doing is dangerous; they simply care more about what the boss will say when they’re late than they do about the increased risk of killing other people. (Pro tip: If you started late, just accept that you’re going to get there late.)
Now, I won’t defend the folks who go 90 in a 50 mph zone. But in less extreme cases, the broader calculation is probably correct. Auto accidents cost lives. But automobile transport has also saved a lot of lives, by enabling the economic growth that has made us richer and healthier. Slowing traffic down to a crawl would make a lot of that economic activity impossible, or at least, unprofitable. Very few people would like to lower a very small personal risk of death by agreeing to live in the economic equivalent of 1900.
When the cost is as personal, as glaring and obvious, as restricting every car to a snail’s pace, we can see that not all safety trade-offs are worth it. However, when the cost seems to be borne by someone else, we suddenly become safety absolutists: no price is too great to pay.
Unfortunately, “other peoples’ money” has a way of ultimately coming out of our own pockets. If it costs more to build buildings, then rents will rise. People will be forced to live in smaller spaces, perhaps farther away. Some of them, in fact, may be forced to commute by automobile, and then die in a car accident. We don’t see those costs in the same way as we see a fire’s victims; we will never know the name of the guy who was killed in a car accident because he had to live far from work because rents rose because regulators required sprinkler systems. But that is a distinction for public opinion, not for good policy making. Good regulations would take into account the proximate and distant effects. Back to the case at hand: Maybe sprinkler systems should be required in multifamily dwellings. It’s completely possible that the former housing minister made the wrong call. But his comment indicates he was thinking about the question in the right way — taking seriously the fact that safety regulations come at a cost, which may exceed their benefit. Such calculations have to be made, no matter how horrified the tut-tutting after the fact.
And he is certainly right about one thing: When it comes to many regulations, it is best to leave such calculations of benefit and cost to the market, rather than the government. People can make their own assessments of the risks, and the price they’re willing to pay to allay them, rather than substituting the judgment of some politician or bureaucrat who will not receive the benefit or pay the cost. Grenfell Tower, of course, was public housing, which changes the calculation somewhat. And yet, even there, trade-offs have to be made. The government spends money on a great number of things, many of which save lives. Every dollar it spends on installing sprinkler systems cannot be spent on the health service, or national defense, or pollution control. Would more lives be saved by those measures or by sprinkler systems in public housing? It’s hard to say.
It’s possible that by allowing large residential buildings to operate without sprinkler systems, the British government has prevented untold thousands of people from being driven into homelessness by higher housing costs. It’s also possible that a sprinkler system would not have saved lives in that Grenfell inferno, as the fire apparently spread outside the building as well as within it. Hold these possibilities in mind before condemning those who chose to spend government resources on other priorities. Regulatory decisions are never without costs, and sometimes their benefits are invisible.

Palestinians: Why Abbas Cannot Stop Funding Terrorists
Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/June 26/17
ay of expressing their gratitude to those who have chosen to "sacrifice" their lives by trying to murder Jews. It is also their way of encouraging young people to join the war of terrorism against Israel. The financial aid sends a specific message: Palestinians who are prepared to die in the service of murdering Jews need not worry about the welfare of their families.
The more years a Fatah terrorist serves in Israeli prison, the higher the salary he or she receives. Some Fatah terrorists held in Israeli prison are said to receive monthly stipends of up to $4,000. Many of them are also rewarded with top jobs in both Fatah and the Palestinian Authority (PA). Why should any Palestinian go to university and search for a job when he can make a "decent living" murdering Jews?
Such a plan to dry up the funds that support terrorists and their families, is doomed from the start unless these leaders reverse their behavior and embark on a process of de-radicalizing their people.
For the record, this is not a defense of Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas or of funding terrorists. It is simply an explanation of what is taking place. Nonetheless, it is worth noting that the idea of ending payments to Palestinian terrorists and their families is a challenging one, to say the least. Old habits, especially of hate, are hard to break.
The practice of paying salaries to terrorists and the families of "martyrs" is as old as the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which was founded in 1964. It did not start after the establishment of the Palestinian Authority (PA) in 1994. Nor did this practice start after Abbas was elected as president of the PA in January 2005.
Prior to the establishment of the PA, the PLO relied solely on Arab and Islamic financial aid to pay salaries to imprisoned terrorists and the families of those killed in terror attacks against Israel.
But after most of the Arab countries turned their backs on the PLO, following its support for Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait and the subsequent establishment of the PA, the Europeans and Americans became the major donors to the Palestinians -- including payments to the terrorists and their families.
The PLO is not the only organization that rewards terrorists and their families. Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian groups have also been paying monthly stipends to terrorists and their kin. This is their way of expressing their gratitude to those who have chosen to "sacrifice" their lives by trying to murder Jews. It is also their way of encouraging young people to join the war of terrorism against Israel. The financial aid sends a specific message: Palestinians who are prepared to die in the service of murdering Jews need not worry about the welfare of their families.
In the past few decades, various Palestinian groups have used the payments to buy loyalty and recruit new members. Because Fatah -- the dominant party of the PA -- has always reaped the largest share of Arab, Islamic and Western donations, it was able to recruit the largest number of loyalists and members. Headed by Abbas, Fatah terrorists receive the highest salaries for their "contribution" to the Palestinian cause.
The more years a Fatah terrorist serves in Israeli prison, the higher the salary he or she receives. Some Fatah terrorists held in Israeli prison are said to receive monthly stipends of up to $4,000. Many of them are also rewarded with top jobs in both Fatah and the PA.
Take, for example, the case of Karim Younes, a Fatah terrorist who has been in prison for over three decades for kidnapping and murdering an Israeli soldier. Recently, Younes was appointed as member of the Fatah Central Committee, one of a number of key decision-making bodies dominated by Abbas loyalists. As a member of the Fatah Central Committee, Younes will now be entitled to thousands of dollars each month.
In his recent meeting with US presidential envoys Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt in Ramallah, an enraged Mahmoud Abbas rejected their demand that he halt payments to terrorists and their families.
Some of Abbas's aides have gone as far as describing the demand as "crazy," arguing that it will instigate instability and turn many Palestinians against their leaders. One of Abbas's advisors was quoted as accusing Kushner and Greenblatt of serving as "advisors" to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Abbas is also well aware that his life would be in danger if he stops the payments, because he will be killed by the same terrorists he and other Palestinian leaders have been praising and promoting for many years.
In his recent meeting with US presidential envoys Jason Greenblatt (left) and Jared Kushner (center) in Ramallah, an enraged Mahmoud Abbas (right) rejected their demand that he halt payments to terrorists and their families.
Abbas's argument that halting the payments would turn his people against him is not baseless. In fact, in an attempt to appease Israel and the Trump Administration, Abbas has already cut off payments to scores of terrorists and their families, particularly those who are not necessarily associated with his Fatah faction.
In the past few weeks, dozens of former Palestinian prisoners and their families have staged daily protests against Abbas's decision to cut off their salaries. They are accusing Abbas of bowing to Israeli and American pressure, with some dubbing him a "traitor."
Abbas and other Palestinian leaders can only blame themselves, however, for the backlash on the Palestinian street following the decision to halt the payment of salaries to some terrorists and their families. After all, it was these leaders who in the first place recruited the terrorists and encouraged them to launch terror attacks against Israel, and promised that they would care for their families if they were imprisoned or killed. For decades, Abbas and other Palestinian leaders have heaped praise on Palestinian terrorists, calling them "heroes" and "freedom fighters" who sacrifice for their people. The "sacrifice," to clarify, means murdering and wounding Jews.
Under Abbas and his predecessor, Yasser Arafat, countless institutions have been established to support terrorists and their families. At one point, they even set up a special ministry called the Ministry of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs. Its main goal: "to ensure a decent life for prisoners and care for their children and their families." Why should any Palestinian go to university and search for a job when he can make a "decent living" murdering Jews?
In 2014, after protests from Western donors, Abbas abolished the ministry. However, the decision turned out to be nothing but a cosmetic change intended to dupe the donors. The ministry continues to function, but under a different name: Commission of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs. Abbas defended the decision by claiming that the new commission was now part of the PLO, and not the PA government. This is like claiming that the House of Representatives and the Senate are two different bodies that are not linked to the United States government.
Palestinian terrorists have become an integral part of a culture that has long been glorifying and promoting acts of terrorism against Israel. Generation after generation, Palestinians have been taught that prisoners and terrorists killed by Israel are the "esteemed sons of the revolution," the "untouchables." The official Palestinian narrative is that these men were imprisoned or killed for nothing but "resisting Israel." This narrative has successfully concealed the truth concerning the imprisonment or death of Palestinian terrorists.
Faced with a new reality in which many in the international community are no longer willing to have their taxpayer money designated for terrorists and their families, Abbas now finds himself trapped between what for him are two terrible moves.
He is currently scurrying to explain to his people why suddenly it has become hard to pay salaries to the very terrorists he trained and continues to glorify by naming streets, public squares and sports centers after them. His people, of course, do not buy his excuses, and many are accusing him of serving Israeli and American interests by abandoning the "good boys" of the "revolution."
It will take a long time, and a massive shift in attitude, before Abbas or any other Palestinian leader manages to dry up the funds that support terrorists and their families. Such a plan is doomed from the start, unless these leaders reverse their behavior and embark on a process of de-radicalizing their people. This will require a drastic about-face in their existing narrative of violence, as well as a move toward a culture of peace -- precisely the issue about which Abbas recently lied so disrespectfully when meeting with US President Donald Trump.
Judging from Abbas's rage-response to the demand to halt payments to terrorists and their families, it seems that Abbas and his cohorts in Ramallah plan to continue their same old antics.
*Bassam Tawil is a Muslim based in the Middle East.
© 2017 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Greece: A Drug-Smuggling Case with Global Implications
Maria Polizoidou/Gatestone Institute/June 26/17
If even the partial information that Efthimios (Makis) Yiannousakis revealed during the interviews is true, the upper echelons of Greek society have good reason to want to silence him.
The true culprit, however, is the "deep state" and its links to Iran, through the drug trade. It is an open secret by now that heroin revenues are used by Middle East regimes to fund terrorist and other questionable organizations, such as ISIS, Hezbollah, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. The case of the Noor 1 illustrates one of the ways that both the drugs themselves and terrorist operations are exported to Europe.
The possible direct and indirect involvement of figures at the highest levels of Greek society makes it nearly impossible for the government alone to get to the bottom of the case, and protect key witnesses from bodily harm. It needs help now, preferably from the U.S. Justice Department and security agencies. The complete dismantling of the drug-terrorism circuit is not only a pressing issue for Greece. It is an international security imperative.
New details surrounding a three-year-old drug-smuggling case in Greece are causing a political storm that could have global implications.
In June 2014, the Greek Coast Guard uncovered and seized 986 kilograms of heroin stashed in a warehouse in a suburb of Athens, and another 1,133 kilograms in two other locations, claiming that the more than two tons of drugs -- valued at $30 million -- had been smuggled on a tanker, the "Noor 1," from the "territorial waters between Oman and Pakistan."
As was reported by Gatestone last December, the heroin, which was to be distributed throughout Europe -- in addition to 18 tons of oil also smuggled on the Noor 1 -- originated in Iran. Two years later, in August 2016, a criminal court in Piraeus sentenced five of the defendants, two Greeks and three foreign nationals, to life imprisonment. Among these was the (now former) owner of the Noor 1, Efthimios (Makis) Yiannousakis.
The Noor 1 case, and particularly Yiannousakis's role in it, has hit the headlines again, due to a leaked recording of a telephone conversation he had with Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos. In the conversation, Kammenos allegedly asked Yiannousakis to turn state witness against a certain businessman connected to the heroin smuggling, in exchange for amnesty.
After coming under fire from members of the opposition, Kammenos claimed that it was Yiannousakis who had requested -- through journalist Makis Triantafyllopoulos -- judicial protection in exchange for testimony. "As it was my duty to do, I immediately informed the prosecutor and the responsible minister," Kammenos said.
According to Triantafyllopoulos, who has been covering the case from the outset and has interviewed Yiannousakis extensively, Yiannousakis fears that the information he is willing to reveal puts him at risk. He has appealed for American protection for him and his family, so that he can speak freely about all aspects of the case.
Yiannousakis' apprehension is well-founded. Since the smuggling case emerged, several witnesses were murdered or have died of "unknown causes". In addition, the judge presiding over the trial received a bomb in a package sent to his home. The explosive, which was filled with razor blades and screws and placed inside a hollowed-out book, was detonated by bomb squad agents before it had a chance to kill its recipient -- a day after the prosecutor recommended life sentences for the five main suspects.
Furthermore, between the first and second telephone interviews he gave to Triantafyllopoulos, Yiannousakis was transferred from a correctional facility to a closed prison, which he believes is a move by the authorities -- a web of political, financial and media elites implicated in the affair -- to put psychological pressure on him to keep his mouth shut. If even the partial information that he revealed during the interviews is true, the upper echelons of Greek society have good reason to want to silence him.
What he indicated was that the amount of heroin transferred to the Noor 1 from an Iranian ship was far greater than that which was seized by the Greek Coast Guard. He claimed that it was not 2.1 tons, but rather 3 tons that were found, and that the extra 900 kilograms were taken by Vangelis Marinakis -- a powerful businessman, shipowner, member of the Piraeus city council and owner of the football (soccer) clubs Olympiacos in Greece and Nottingham Forest in Britain -- who sold it to a network of Serbian drug dealers. He also accused Marinakis of being involved in illegal oil-trafficking in the Persian Gulf.
These allegations, if accurate, are particularly startling, given Marinakis's newfound control over much of the media in Greece, and extensive ties to the foreign media. He recently purchased the Lambrakis Press Group (DOL) and a 22.1% stake of the private Greek network MEGA TV. According to Triantafyllopoulos, this is only the tip of the iceberg where Marinakis's media holdings are concerned.
Marinakis denies the allegations; he says that they were concocted by the government to counter the loss of control over the media. Yet, there is no denying what is behind Marinakis' desire to buy newspapers, radio stations and television networks, all of which have been losing money and are in serious debt. In other words, it is not for immediate financial gain that he has spent tens of millions of euros on bad investments, but rather for long-term political and economic influence at home and abroad. Clearly, his strategy is working: he is considered today one of the most powerful men in Greece.
The complexities of this case have become the source of a fierce confrontation between the government, headed by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and President Kyriakos Mitsotakis, and the opposition New Democracy Party, headed by Kyriakos Mitsotakis. Each blames the other for ties to the Noor 1 protagonists and culpability in the case. The true culprit, however, is the "deep state" and its links to Iran through the drug trade. It is an open secret by now that heroin revenues are used by Middle East regimes to fund terrorist organizations, such as ISIS, Hezbollah, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. The case of the Noor 1 illustrates one of the ways that both the drugs themselves and terrorist operations are exported to Europe.
Ironically, Greece, a country in poverty and beholden to Germany and the European Union to keep it afloat, appears manipulated from within by malevolent forces posing as legitimate members of the elite.
The possible direct and indirect involvement of figures at the highest levels of Greek society makes it nearly impossible for the government alone to get to the bottom of the case, and protect key witnesses from bodily harm. It needs help now, preferably from the U.S. Justice Department and security agencies. The complete dismantling of the drug-terrorism circuit is not only a pressing issue for Greece. It is an international security imperative.
**Maria Polizoidou, a reporter, broadcast journalist, and consultant on international and foreign affairs, is based in Greece.
© 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.

Golan battles bring Hizballah near Israeli border معارك الجولان تقرب حزب الله من حدود إسرائيل
DEBKAfile Special Report June 25/2017
In the last 48 hours, Israel has conducted air strikes on and aimed tank fire at Syrian army positions near Quneitra’s northern suburb of Baath city, 3km from IDF Golan border defenses. (See map). Those positions were the source of the mortar shells that exploded on the Israeli Golan – 10 on Saturday, June 24 and three the next day. They came from a battle in which Syrian and Hizballah units were fighting off a Syrian rebel offensive around Quneitra. The rebel militias set up a coalition to coordinate their offensive. It is dominated by the Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), which Damascus claims is an arm of Al Qaeda-Syria. In fact, it is an alignment of dozens of Islamist groups, some of which belonged and still do to Jabhat Fateh al-Sham – the former Nusra Front.
Fighting on the side of the Assad regime are the remnants of the Syrian army’s 90th Brigade, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards South Syrian command center, and the pro-Iranian Afghan Shiite militia.
They are joined by members of Hizballah’s Southern Shield Brigade.
This brigade is made up of Palestinians, Druzes, Circassians and local Syrians, whom Hizballah recruited and has posted in Hermon villages ready to launch terrorist attacks inside Israel.
The battle around Quneitra was preceded on June 17 by the assassination of Majd a-Din Khalik Khaymoud, commander of the Southern Shield Brigade and his two lieutenants, who were caught in an ambush near the village of Khan Arnabah. No party took responsibility for this attack.
Then, on Saturday, June 24, the rebel coalition launched its offensive on the Syrian-Hizballah units at Al-Baath, boasting that they would not stop until they reached Damascus. Although they caught the enemy by surprise, they were unable to follow up with a rapid advance, because they were pushed back by superior fire power. Since the Syrian mortars were aiming their fire at the rebel units concentrated around Quneitra, i.e., from east to west, some of the shells spilled over the border into the Golan.
When the rebels saw they were falling short of their objective, they drummed up a more modest goal: It was to open a second front in order to lighten the pressure on a separate rebel organization which for nearly three weeks has been fighting off fierce assaults on their positions in the southern Syrian town of Daraa, close to the Jordanian border. Assad’s army, combined with large-scale Hizballah units and pro-Iranian forces, are therefore in full flight to seize control of Syria’s borders with Jordan and Israel. Amman and Jerusalem therefore face a twin peril on the Daraa and Al-Baath fronts. Both are anxious to keep Hizballah as far as possible from their territory. But for now, both these warfronts hang in the balance and are undecided. Also undecided on how and when to react are Israel and Jordan. Hizballah is already 3km from the Golan border, although Israel’s government and military leaders have pledged repeatedly that they would be allowed to come in so close.

Is Iran plunging the Middle East into another war?هل تغرق قطر الشرق الأوسط في حرب جديدة
Heshmat Alavi/ Al Arabiya/June 26/17
The days of ISIS are numbered and voices are heard about the entire region being forced into a far more disastrous conflict. Various parties, mainly the US and Iran, have begun jostling, seeking to inject their influence onto what the future holds for Syria. As Iran has also wreaked havoc in Iraq and Yemen, concerns are rallying on Tehran going the distance to pull the US full-scale into the Syria inferno. Such a mentality results from misunderstanding the nature of what is known as the Iranian regime.
Escalating tensions
After establishing a foothold in the strategic town of al-Tanf near the Iraq-Jordan-Syria border, US forces designated a buffer zone to provide protection for their own troops and resources, alongside their allies of anti-Assad opposition rebels.
1) On three different incidents Iran-backed militias have made advances into the buffer zone, only to receive warnings and eventually be attacked by US warplanes.
2) Raising the stakes, on two occasions Iran-made pro-Assad drones have been downed by US-led coalition forces.
3) And maybe the ultimate incident came when a US F/A-18 fighter jet shot down a Syrian Sukho-22 warplane after the latter dropped bombs on US-backed Kurdish forces north of Raqqa, the self-declared capital of ISIS.
Understanding its conventional and non-conventional forces stand no match against the classical armies of the US and the unity of its Arab allies, Iran has for the past 38 years resorted to tactics of its own. Terrorist attacks across the region through proxy groups such as the Lebanese Hezbollah have proven successful. The 1982 Beirut bombings of US and French barracks led to the American pullout of this highly fragile country. As a result, Tehran has used this method ever since to send its message. Following the wars of Afghanistan and Iraq, Iran yet again resorted to paramilitary and proxy methods to advance its interests in the region. Seeing no strong response only emboldens Iran in its pursuit of wreaking havoc. Witnessing the disastrous and premature withdrawal of US forces from Iraq, and Obama’s refusal to live up to his own red line after Assad resorted to the extreme low of gassing his own people in 2013, Iran came to a conclusion such actions will continue unabated.
The language of force
There have been cases otherwise, however, including Operation Praying Mantis on April 18th, 1988 when the US Navy launched a campaign against Tehran’s naval fleet in retaliation for the Iranian mining of the Persian Gulf during the Iran–Iraq war and the subsequent damage to an American warship. The attack came as a major wake-up call for Iran as the mullahs in Tehran only understand the language of force. The 59 cruise missiles the US used to target the Syrian regime airfield used to launch a chemical attack on Homs earlier this year also rose eyebrows not only in Damascus, Moscow and Tehran, but the world over. The recent incidents in Syria are further serious signals for Iran that such belligerence no longer will go tolerated, especially considering a new US administration in Washington adopting a far different perspective and strategy than its predecessor.
What needs grave understanding is the fact that Iran is the last party that seeks a full blown war in Syria, Yemen or any other region of the Middle East. The Iranian regime is seeking a win-win solution, enjoying an open hand in meddling across the region to such extent to prevent any major international community retaliatory action. Has Iran been successful? To this day, mostly it has, unfortunately, thanks to the West’s highly flawed belief in adopting a policy of engagement with Iran to tame the mullahs and enjoy short-term economic gains.The tides, however, are changing for the better. Iran’s Achilles Heel must be the main target as seen in the recent US Senate resolution imposing sanctions on the regime’s ballistic missile program, support of terrorism and human rights violations. Tehran may kick, scream and threaten to abandon the Iran nuclear deal in retaliation. Yet rest assured the mullahs will not make such a grave mistake, triggering the automatic re-imposition of sanctions under six previous United Nations Security Council resolutions. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards lies at the heart of the mullahs’ illicit activities both inside the country and abroad. This entity also controls around 40 percent of the country’s already fragile and highly corrupt economy. To this end, there is no need for another war in the region. Iran knows better that such an outcome would only accelerate developments against its interests. The US and Arab world can and should lead the international community by designating the Revolutionary Guards as a foreign terrorist organization. This will be a complementary measure to the abovementioned Senate resolution, and bring Tehran to its knees. Such an initiative will place the international community alongside the Iranian people in their struggle against the ruling mullahs’ regime. This is especially true after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson referred to Washington’s support for domestic forces seeking peaceful regime change in Iran.

Qatar corrupting US’ national security ‘Deep State’
Staff writer, Al Arabiya/June 26/17
In a detailed analysis published recently by Security Studies Group, author and expert Angelo Codevilla, who is Professor Emeritus of International Relations at Boston University and a fellow of the Claremont Institute, goes into the historic role of American institutions, including the State Department and the CIA, to forge relationships with terror groups in the mistaken belief that they can be weaned away from violence. He traces this flawed thinking by these state institutions and other actors to the Arab Gulf states rift with Qatar. Codevilla writes: “As he applauds Saudi Arabia’s and its Gulf allies’ attempt to force Qatar to stop supporting terrorists, even his secretary of State not so subtly echoes the Establishment’s chorus that this is a bad idea. No one denies that whoever supports terrorism should stop doing so, that the state of Qatar in fact does support terrorists with billions of dollars, facilities, and a television network, and that the Muslim Brotherhood carries out terrorist acts directly and through affiliates. Hence the question imposes itself: how do opinions so contrary to reality and to the common sense of ordinary people acquire such power in high places?” The author then lists the ways that Qatar has been peddling its influence in the West and especially in the US, even corrupting many institutions of the US national security “Deep State”. “The counterintuitive influence of Muslim Brotherhood/Qatar is yet another example of what Herman Kahn used to call ”educated incapacity” – the inability of a few, acquired only by sustained effort, to understand or even to perceive realities obvious to the unschooled many,” writes Codevilla. He then exmines how that influence has taken hold. “It is a story of how the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideas and the Qatari state’s money have encouraged the professors, think-tankers and bureaucrats of America’s National Security State to foist upon America a peculiar set of values and priorities by indulging their own prejudices.”
Indentical articles
The author points out that as President Trump was about to command the State Department “to list the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and the United Arab Emirates had already done so), Foreign Policy magazine and the Brookings Institution published nearly identical articles.” After President Trump praised Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies’ cutting of diplomatic and commercial contact with Qatar to force it to end its support for the Muslim Brotherhood, among other terrorists, an adviser to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told The New York Times that, while “The president is focused on ending terrorism; the secretary is focused on diplomacy that will return GCC focus to fighting terrorism.”In other words: The US government – the President notwithstanding – far from helping to isolate Qatar, will focus on ending that isolation and hope that this will have a beneficial effect on fighting terrorism. Tillerson himself, while admitting that Qatar was supporting terrorism, made clear that this support was less important than the relationship itself. Codevilla says that this was tantamount to saying: “We would rather support a Qatar that does not support terrorism. But we’ll support it even though it does.”The answer also lies in the confluence between the Progressive prejudices of the American foreign policy establishment and the material reinforcement thereof by Muslim regimes, particularly that of Qatar. The author painstakingly goes back to the post-World War II American security establishment and its moral compass, viewing view themselves on the side of the world’s emerging peoples, as “the true revolutionaries.”
Crude influence-buying
“Qatar is one of the many entities that have capitalized on the US foreign policy establishment’s predispositions to Progressive ideology and to meddling. Let us abstract from such crude influence-buying as the Qatari government’s gift of one million dollars to the Clinton Foundation on the occasion of Bill Clinton’s 65th birthday or the lucrative business connections,” the author says. “Qatari operatives rightly regard these contributions, many deployed by their National Research Foundation, as having produced the political equivalent of strategically located military units,” says Codevilla. There are American academic institutions in Qatar, and there are as well dozens of Qatari-supported foundations and countless scholars. Codevilla concludes:“The al Thani family, which has ruled it for decades, has used the country’s great wealth to pursue influence abroad in ways that are inherently incompatible. Tamim, the current emir, has taken that foreign policy to a point where the incompatibilities may no longer coexist.”

حلفاء ترامب يدفعون البيت الأبيض لتغيير النظام الإيراني
Trump allies push White House to consider regime change in Tehran
Michael Crowley/Politico/June 26/17
As the White House formulates its official policy on Iran, senior officials and key allies of President Donald Trump are calling for the new administration to take steps to topple Tehran’s militant clerical government.
Supporters of dislodging Iran’s iron-fisted clerical leadership say it’s the only way to halt Tehran’s dangerous behavior, from its pursuit of nuclear weapons to its sponsorship of terrorism. Critics say that political meddling in Iran, where memories of a 1953 CIA-backed coup remain vivid, risks a popular backlash that would only empower hard-liners.
That’s why President Barack Obama assured Iranians, in a 2013 speech at the United Nations, that “we are not seeking regime change.”But influential Iran hawks want to change that under Trump.
“The policy of the United States should be regime change in Iran,” said Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who speaks regularly with White House officials about foreign policy. “I don’t see how anyone can say America can be safe as long as you have in power a theocratic despotism,” he added.
Cotton advocated a combination of economic, diplomatic and covert actions to pressure Tehran’s government and “support internal domestic dissent” in the country. He noted that Iran has numerous minority ethnic groups, including Arabs, Turkmen and Balochs who “aren’t enthusiastic about living in a Persian Shiite despotism.”
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson appeared to endorse subverting the Iranian regime during recent testimony about the State Department’s budget when Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) asked the diplomat whether the Trump administration supports “a philosophy of regime change” in Iran.
Noting that Trump’s Iran policy is still under review, Tillerson said the U.S. would work with Iranian opposition groups toward the “peaceful transition of that government.”In response, Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif lashed out on Twitter, saying that the U.S. was “reverting to unlawful and delusional regime-change policy” toward his country.
“US officials should worry more about saving their own regime than changing Iran’s,” he added.
On Wednesday, Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations filed a formal protest over Tillerson’s statement, saying it revealed “a brazen interventionist plan that runs counter to every norm and principle of international law,” and a group of prominent Iranian reformists wrote a public letter condemning Tillerson’s “interventionist” stance. A State Department spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.
National Security Council spokesman Michael Anton said that manipulating Iran’s internal politics is not currently a U.S. goal — nor among the “objectives” set in the initial stage of the White House’s routine Iran policy review. “An explicit affirmation of regime change in Iran as a policy is not really on the table,” Anton said.
As a candidate, Trump was sharply critical of U.S. efforts to topple dictators in Iraq, Libya and Syria, though each of those instances involved the use of military power, which virtually no Iran hawks currently advocate as an instrument within Iran.
But, along with Tillerson, key Trump officials are on the record as saying that Iran will remain a U.S. enemy until the clerical leaders and military officials who control the country’s political system are deposed — even under the administration of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, a reformer with whom Obama cultivated ties and who was reelected in May.
As a member of Congress, Trump’s CIA director, Mike Pompeo, last year publicly called for congressional action to “change Iranian behavior, and, ultimately, the Iranian regime.” And Derek Harvey, the Trump National Security Council’s director for Middle East affairs, told an audience at the conservative Hudson Institute in August 2015 that the Obama administration’s hope of working with moderates to steer Iran in a friendlier direction was a “misread” of “the nature and character of the regime,” whose structure he said he has carefully studied.
The case for political subversion in Iran has also been pressed to the White House by the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a hawkish Washington think tank that strenuously opposed Obama’s 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran and which has close ties to many key Trump officials.
Soon after Trump’s inauguration, FDD’s CEO, Mark Dubowitz, submitted a seven-page Iran policy memo to Trump’s National Security Council. The memo — which was circulated inside the Trump White House and recently obtained by POLITICO — included a discussion of ways to foment popular unrest with the goal of establishing a “free and democratic” Iran.
“Iran is susceptible to a strategy of coerced democratization because it lacks popular support and relies on fear to sustain its power,” the memo argued. “The very structure of the regime invites instability, crisis and possibly collapse.”Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and U.S. President Ronald Reagan in 1987.
It maintained that Trump has an instrumental role to play in discrediting the regime. “No one has greater power to mobilize dissent abroad than the American president,” the memo states, setting a goal of “a tolerant government that adheres to global norms.”
In 1979, Iran underwent an Islamic revolution that overthrew a pro-U.S. shah who counted Richard Nixon and Andy Warhol among his friends, replacing him with a Shiite fundamentalist government fiercely hostile to the U.S. and Israel.
While the country does have a democratically elected parliament and president, they answer to a repressive clerical leadership led by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and backed by the military’s Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.
In June 2009, allegations of election rigging sparked mass street protests, known as the “Green Movement,” that briefly seemed to threaten Khamenei’s regime. The protests were brutally suppressed, and many analysts say virtually no organized anti-regime opposition movement survives today. There are signs of moderation within Iran’s system, including Rouhani’s reelection by a comfortable margin and the success of reformist candidates in May municipal elections.
That might lend support to Obama’s theory that striking a nuclear deal with Rouhani — who ran his first presidential campaign in 2013 on a platform of better relations with the West — would empower his moderate political faction and demonstrate the economic fruits of cooperating with the U.S.
But many Trump officials consider Rouhani’s moderation a deceptive mask for Khamenei’s militant fundamentalism and believe Obama was naive to consider him a true political reformer. Most also consider Obama’s nuclear deal a giveaway that only pauses Tehran’s path to a nuclear bomb — while entrenching Khamenei’s regime by relieving sanctions that were generating popular discontent.
The FDD memo argues that Rouhani’s presidency “has managed to mislead world leaders that it is a force for moderation and pragmatism” and suggested that the Trump administration work to prevent Rouhani’s reelection, although there is no evidence that it did.
The memo also proposed borrowing from Cold War anti-communist tactics, citing the Reagan administration’s support of the Polish “Solidarity” labor movement, which helped to fracture Eastern European communism.
Emulating the way Reagan worked with Poland’s Catholic Church and labor unions, the memo argues, Trump “can use trade unions, student organizations and dissident clerics to highlight the economic, political [and] moral shortcomings of the Iranian regime.”
It also called for spotlighting Iran’s atrocious human rights record as a means of pressuring Rouhani at home by reminding Iranians about the true nature of their regime. Despite the generally low priority his State Department has placed on human rights in U.S. foreign policy, Tillerson has repeatedly denounced Iran as a rights abuser — most recently during his May visit to Iran’s arch-enemy, Saudi Arabia.
Anton said the FDD memo was just one of many sources of input the White House has solicited, including from experts with the nonpartisan Brookings Institution, and that “our policy is based far more on what is generated inside the government than by what comes from the outside.” He did not specify how widely the memo had been circulated. Dubowitz called the memo one of several he has submitted to the Trump administration.
Iran experts said that a U.S. regime change strategy would be a practical challenge given the lack of a strong organized opposition within Iran. And critics warned that the mere talk of regime change could drive Iranian politics in the wrong direction.
Don McGahn is pictured.
“Even the discussion of regime change is damaging, let alone a policy of regime change,” said Mike Morell, a former deputy director of the CIA who focused heavily on Iran.
“A policy of regime change would be a huge strategic mistake,” Morell said. He added that such an approach would drive away pro-modernization Iranians and allow Khamenei to accuse outsiders of again meddling in a country with a long history of unwanted foreign influence. “A huge potential downside is that you feed the hard-liners and lose the moderates,” Morell said.
“Not only are you unlikely to be successful, but you are likely to have huge blowback,” Morell added.
Trita Parsi, founder of the National Iranian American Council, said a U.S. strategy of trying to undermine Iran’s government would undo progress Obama had made. “If you put regime change back on the table, it is a complete reversal of what has been achieved thus far. Through the nuclear deal, there were channels of communication and even cooperation,” Parsi said.
Parsi argued that Rouhani’s reelection was a victory for reformers who have placed their hopes for changing Iran on gradual political reform, not mass street protests. “The people have essentially chosen that they want to reform the system from within,” he said. “The hard-liners could hardly hide their pleasure in seeing the U.S. take on that position.”