November 04/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations
The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 21/33-46/:"‘Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watch-tower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, "They will respect my son." But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, "This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance."So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?’ They said to him, ‘He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the scriptures: "The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes"? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.’ When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet."

Brothers and sisters, do not be children in your thinking; rather, be infants in evil, but in thinking be adults
First Letter to the Corinthians 14/01-05.13-14.20.26/:"Pursue love and strive for the spiritual gifts, and especially that you may prophesy. For those who speak in a tongue do not speak to other people but to God; for nobody understands them, since they are speaking mysteries in the Spirit. On the other hand, those who prophesy speak to other people for their building up and encouragement and consolation. Those who speak in a tongue build up themselves, but those who prophesy build up the church. Now I would like all of you to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. One who prophesies is greater than one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up. Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray for the power to interpret. For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unproductive. Brothers and sisters, do not be children in your thinking; rather, be infants in evil, but in thinking be adults. What should be done then, my friends? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up."

Question: "Catholic vs. Protestant – why is there so much animosity?"
Answer: This is a simple question with a complicated answer, because there are varying degrees of, and reasons for, animosity between any two religious groups. The battle between Catholics and Protestants is rooted in history. Degrees of reaction have ranged from friendly disagreement (as reflected in the numerous ecumenical dialogues produced between the two groups), to outright persecution and murder of Protestants at the hands of Rome. Reformation teachings that identify the Pope as the Beast of Revelation and / or Roman Catholicism as Mystery Babylon are still common among Protestants. Clearly, anyone with this view is not going to “warm up” to Rome any time soon.
For the most part, today at least, the animosity comes from basic human nature when dealing with fundamental disagreement over eternal truths. Passions are sure to ignite in the more weighty matters of life, and one's faith is (or at least should be) at the top of the heap. Many Protestants think Roman Catholics teach a works-gospel that cannot save, while Roman Catholics think Protestants teach easy-believism that requires nothing more than an emotional outburst brought on by manipulative preaching. Protestants accuse Catholics of worshipping Mary, and Catholics think Protestants are apparently too dull to understand the distinctions Rome has made in this regard. These caricatures are often difficult to overcome.
Behind the particular disagreements over the role of faith and works, the sacraments, the canon of Scripture, the role of the priesthood, prayers to saints, and all the issues surrounding Mary and the Pope, etc., lies the biggest rift between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism: the issue of authority. How one answers the authority question will generally inform all the other issues. When it comes down to deciding a theological issue about defined Catholic dogma, there isn’t really much to discuss on the Catholic's side because once Rome speaks, it is settled. This is a problem when trying to debate a Roman Catholic – reason and Scripture are not the Catholic’s final authority; they can always retreat into the “safe zone” of Roman Catholic authority.
Thus, many of the arguments between a Protestant and a Catholic will revolve around one's “private interpretation” of Scripture as against the "official teachings of the Roman Catholic Church." Catholics claim to successfully avoid the legitimate problems of private interpretation by their reliance on their tradition. But this merely pushes the question back a step. The truth is that both Roman Catholics and Protestants must, in the end, rely upon their reasoning abilities (to choose their authority) and their interpretive skills (to understand what that authority teaches) in order to determine what they will believe. Protestants are simply more willing to admit that this is the case.Both sides can also be fiercely loyal to their family's faith or the church they grew up in without much thought to doctrinal arguments. Obviously, there are a lot of possible reasons for the division between Catholicism and Protestantism, and while we should not divide over secondary issues, both sides agree that we must divide when it comes to primary issues. When it comes to Roman Catholicism and Protestantism, the differences are just too great to ignore. However, that does not give license for caricatures or ignorant judgments – both sides need to be honest in their assessments and try not to go beyond what God has revealed.**

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on November 03-04/17
Patriarch Al Raei's Historic Visit To Saudi Arabia/Elias Bejjani/November 03/17
Hezbollah Is A Gang Of Evil People/Elias Bejjani/November 03/17
A Gift to the Syrian Regime/Ahmad El-Assaad/November 03/17
Lebanese ‘friends of Syria’ are heading for a dead end/Diana Moukalled/ArabNews/November 03/2017
Israel, Hezbollah playing Russian roulette in Syria/Joe Macaron November 03/17
Palestinians: Meet Abbas's New Partners/Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/November 03/17
Iran and ‘The Great Satan’: A 4-Decades Old Saga/Amir Taheri/Asharq Al Awsat//November 03/17
No, Europe Isn't About to Break Up/Leonid Bershidsky/Bloomberg View/November 03/17
Israel (IDF) denies involvement in Syrian suicide attack, vows to protect Druze/Ynetnews/November 03/17
Demolition of a Palestinian Islamic Jihad Tunnel Inside Israel/Maj. Gen. (Res.) Shlomo 'Sami' Turjeman, IDF/The Washington Institute/November 03/17
North Korea's Alliance with Syria Reveals a Wider Proliferation Threat/Jay Solomon/The Washington Institute/November 03/17
Russia Makes Inroads in North Africa/Sarah Feuer and Anna Borshchevskaya/The Washington Institute/November 03/17

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on November 03-04/17
Patriarch Al Raei's Historic Visit To Saudi Arabia
Hezbollah Is A Gang Of Evil People
Lebanese Patriarch to meet King Salman in first visit by Church leader
Sabhan Says Rahi's Visit to SA Affirmation on Kingdom's 'Open Approach'
Al-Rahi: Solution to Hizbullah Arms Should Not Hinge on Mideast Solution
Spare us' on Hezbollah arms: Aoun to Arab states
Aoun signs state budget
Hariri Travels to Saudi Arabia for Second Time in Five Days
Hariri Discusses Situation in Camps, on Border with Security Chiefs
Velayati Meets Hariri, Says Iran 'Keen' on Lebanon's Stability
Velayati at Villa Boustros: Resistance axis efforts couple with balanced international, regional diplomatic efforts
Berri, Velayati tackle current regional situation
Aoun, Aswad tackle Jezzine relevant affairs
Hariri at Media Piracy Conference: Bids to Strain Lebanon-Arab Ties is Piracy Too
President Prepares for Kuwait Visit
Ministerial Panel Makes 'Limited Progress' on Electoral Law Mechanisms
Shorter Visits ISF Academy, Inaugurates New CCTV Control Room
A Gift to the Syrian Regime/Ahmad El-Assaad/
Lebanese ‘friends of Syria’ are heading for a dead end
Israel, Hezbollah playing Russian roulette in Syria

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on November 03-04/17
Scheer blasts Trudeau for supporting Governor General after 'divine intervention' comment
U.S. Strikes IS in Somalia for First Time
Suicide Car Bomb Kills 9 as Nusra Attacks Syria Golan Heights Village
Trump Says IS Will Pay 'Big Price' for Each Attack on U.S.
Twin Iraq and Syria Assaults as IS Loses Last City
Iraqi Forces Retake Crossing on Syria Border from IS
CIA Document: Bin Laden Asked his Son Hamza to Move from Iran to Qatar
Canada imposes sanctions on individuals linked to human rights violations and corruption

Latest Lebanese Related News published on November 03-04/17
Patriarch Al Raei's Historic Visit To Saudi Arabia
Elias Bejjani/November 03/17
His Beatitude, Patriach Al Raei's coming historical visit to Saudi Arabia emphasizes Bkerke's crucial and valuable role as a partner and a must gateway for the kigdom's success and credibility of it new unprecedented genuine policies of openness on the oriental Christains, Vatican and on the Western secularism, multi-culturalism, tolerance and civilization.

Hezbollah Is A Gang Of Evil People
Elias Bejjani/November 03/17
In the eyes of the Lebanese Judiciary laws, Hezbollah is an evil mere gang of outlaws. Accordingly Its members and leaders must be arrested and put on trial. No legitimacy to this Iranian gang in the constitution or in the UN Lebanese related resolutions. All Those officials who allege Hezbollah is a legitimate resistance must be charged and also put on trial.

Lebanese Patriarch to meet King Salman in first visit by Church leader
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English Friday, 3 November 2017/Saudi Minister of State for Gulf Affairs, Thamer al-Sabhan announced the upcoming visit of the Head of the Council of Catholic Patriarchs of the East, Lebanese Patriarch, Beshara al-Ra'i, to Saudi Arabia. Al-Sabhan added that the visit, which is expected in the next few weeks, confirms the openness of the Kingdom. "The visit of Patriarch Bishara al-Ra'i to the Kingdom affirms the Kingdom's approach to understanding, openness and peaceful coexistence with all the constituents of the Arab peoples," Sabhan said on Friday. Al-Ra'i received an invitation to to meet King Salman bin Abdul Aziz and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, recently according to the Charge d'Affaires of the Saudi Embassy in Lebanon, Ambassador Walid al-Bukhari.
Bukhari described the visit as one of the most important official visits as he will be the first church leader to visit the kingdom.

Sabhan Says Rahi's Visit to SA Affirmation on Kingdom's 'Open Approach'
Naharnet/November 03/17/Saudi State Minister for Gulf Affairs Thamer al-Sabhan on Friday said the expected visit of Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi to Saudi Arabia affirms the Kingdom's “open approach.”“Patriarch Rahi's expected visit to Saudi Arabia affirms the Kingdom's approach to rapprochement and peaceful coexistence to all Arab peoples,” said al-Sabhan in a tweet. The Saudi Minister's remarks came after Saudi Arabia extended an invitation to Rahi to visit it. On Wednesday, Rahi held talks in Bkirki with Walid al-Bukhari, the chargé d'affaires of the Saudi Embassy in Lebanon. Bukhari described the visit as “historic”, he said: “I was honored to visit His Eminence, Patriarch al-Rahi, and I handed him an invitation to visit the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and meet with the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdul Aziz, and His Highness Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in a visit that is considered one of the most official visits.”

Al-Rahi: Solution to Hizbullah Arms Should Not Hinge on Mideast Solution
Naharnet/November 03/17/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi announced Thursday that “the solution to the issue of Hizbullah and its arms should not hinge on a Middle East solution,” noting that “the Arab and international communities have a role to play in this regard.”Al-Rahi was commenting on remarks by President Michel Aoun, who said Monday that “a solution in the Middle East would lead to a solution for the issue of Hizbullah's arms.”“The issue of Hizbullah is not purely Lebanese anymore and it is linked to Arab and international affairs,” the patriarch added in an interview on LBCI television. “No one can overlook the role of Hizbullah and Iran in Lebanon and it played a part in the election of the president and filling the vacuum. Yes there is a significant influence but we must build our strong, capable and just state – a state that has its entity, role and justice,” al-Rahi went on to say. “It is not up to us to find the solution but the solution should not be imposed on us,” the patriarch noted. Asked about the invitation he has received to visit Saudi Arabia, al-Rahi confirmed that he will visit the kingdom in two weeks. As for his stance should he be asked by Saudi officials about Hizbullah's controversial arsenal of arms, the patriarch said “even Hizbullah does not accept” the notion that its weapons could coexist with those of the Lebanese Army. “We must look into the situation from all its aspects,” he added. Al-Rahi also said that “no preconditions” for the visit have been imposed on him by Riyadh and that his rhetoric will be “a rhetoric of peace, partnership and love” despite the current tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran and Hizbullah. “I'm not a politician to side with a certain party,” he added.

Spare us' on Hezbollah arms: Aoun to Arab states
The Daily Star/November 03/17/BEIRUT: President Michel Aoun called for Arab nations to “spare [the Lebanese state] a bit regarding Hezbollah’s weapons,” in a report published Friday by a local daily. "[Lebanese political parties] are entrusted with security, stability – and Hezbollah has become a Middle Eastern issue now, in addition to the traditional problem with Israel,” Aoun said in an interview with new Lebanese paper Al-Itihad. “This issue can only be resolved [if one also] finds a solution for the Middle East crisis and the Arab-Israeli conflict." Aoun was also reported as saying that any Israeli military action against Lebanon would not be successful. “This is not because of international decisions, but because of our own strength and national unity,” he said. He added that “no one can rely on anyone [else] to defend his country.” Turning to the parliamentary elections scheduled for spring 2018, Aoun assured doubters that voting would happen as planned. “There is nothing to fear regarding the upcoming elections, and they will be held on time.”Politicians are currently divided over how best to implement the magnetic voting cards stipulated in the new electoral law – with some noting financial problems and arguing that full implementation of the cards would require elections to be delayed. Aoun touched on these debates briefly, saying that officials “are having fun now with the magnetic card, pointing out that there are other methods by which to hold elections, but some mistakes and errors are being made.”
Regarding rumors that some scheme might exist to derail the elections, the president said, “The official minister who talked about that did not call on voters, and will be held accountable.”

Aoun signs state budget
The Daily Star/November 03/17/BEIRUT: President Michel Aoun signed the 2017 state budget Friday, paving the way for the document to be published in the Official Gazette, a political source told The Daily Star. Aoun's signature was the last step required in order to finalize the state budget – the first to be passed, albeit in an unconstitutional fashion, in over a decade. The 2017 state budget was passed without any auditing of past extra budgetary spending, which is estimated to have reached into the millions of dollars. The constitution stipulates that auditing should be completed before a budget can be passed.

Hariri Travels to Saudi Arabia for Second Time in Five Days
Naharnet/November 03/17/Prime Minister Saad Hariri traveled Friday to Saudi Arabia on a “work trip,” his office said. Hariri's trip followed talks at the Grand Serail with Ali Akbar Velayati, the senior foreign policy adviser to Iran's supreme leader Ali Khamenei. The prime minister had visited the kingdom on Monday for talks with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and State Minister for Gulf Affairs Thamer al-Sabhan. During a cabinet session on Thursday, Hariri told the ministers that “Saudi Arabia is very keen on stability in Lebanon and all that is mentioned in the media to the contrary is not true.” On Tuesday, Hariri said he held a “long meeting” with al-Sabhan, a day after the firebrand minister voiced fierce new remarks about Hizbullah. "We agreed on a lot of things that are of concern to the Lebanese people, and God willing the future situation will be better," al-Sabhan for his part added. “Whenever I meet His Highness, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, I become more convinced that we and the Saudi leadership are in full agreement on Lebanon's stability and Arab identity,” said Hariri in another tweet, referring to his Monday meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Hariri Discusses Situation in Camps, on Border with Security Chiefs
Naharnet/November 03/17/Amid concerns to maintain a stable security situation in Lebanon, Prime Minister Saad Hariri held separate talks Thursday evening with Army Commander General Joseph Aoun and General Security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, al-Joumhouria daily reported Friday. Discussions focused on the latest security developments mainly on the country's border, and the measures taken in some areas. According to the daily, talks have focused on the situation in the Palestinian refugee camps and its surroundings following contacts between Ibrahim and the Palestinian factions, in coordination with their representatives, to hand over some wanted persons taking refuge in the camps in order to ensure security. Hariri has also stressed the need for coordination between Lebanon's various security apparatuses and strengthening all forms of coordination between them so as to ensure a stable security situation at home and on the border.

Velayati Meets Hariri, Says Iran 'Keen' on Lebanon's Stability
Naharnet/November 03/17/Iranian senior adviser to international affairs Ali Akbar Velayati said after talks with Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Friday that Iran “protects Lebanon's stability and government.”“Iran protects the stability of Lebanon and its government and welcomes its independence,” said Velayati from the Grand Serail where he met the Premier. “We commend the recent victories of Lebanon against corruption and we congratulate Lebanon, its people and PM Hariri," he added. “We wish Lebanon lasting success and the formation of a coalition government that will be a success for the Lebanese people,” he went on saying. “Lebanon's victory against terrorism is a victory for us all, as is the case in Syria. Terrorists are supported by the Zionists and the Americans, the victory of Iraq against the separatist movement is another aspect of these victories,” noted Velayati. He concluded saying “these victories are a victory for the axis of resistance in the region and a victory for all of us.”Velayati later held talks with President Michel Aoun, Speaker Nabih Berri and Hizbullah Secretary-General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah.

Velayati at Villa Boustros: Resistance axis efforts couple with balanced international, regional diplomatic efforts
Fri 03 Nov 2017/NNA - Foreign and Expatriates Minister, Jibran Bassil, on Friday afternoon met at Villa Boustros with the senior Adviser to Iran's Supreme Leader, Ali Akbar Velayati, in the presence of Iranian Ambassador to Lebanon, Mohamed Fathali. On emerging, Velayati described the meeting with Minister Bassil as "distinguished", saying talks touched on the bilateral ties between the two countries and bilateral cooperation at the regional level. Talks also dwelt on international affairs, he said. Velayati stressed that the valuable efforts exerted by the resistance axis at the regional level necessitate political wisdom, cooperation and the exchange of views at the regional and international level. The Iranian official underlined that the helpful, valuable efforts of the peoples of the region and the resistance axes must be accompanied by balanced and coordinated diplomatic efforts at the international and regional levels. In reply to a question, the Iranian official indicated that Russian President Vladimir Putin plays an important role and has a great influence on cooperation and support for the axis of resistance. On the other hand, Minister Bassil met with Head of Defence Office of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, Francois Roux.

Berri, Velayati tackle current regional situation
Fri 03 Nov 2017/NNA - House Speaker Nabih Berri on Friday met at his Ain Tineh residence with the senior Adviser to Iran's Supreme Leader, Ali Akbar Velayati, in the presence of Iranian Ambassador to Lebanon, Mohamed Fathali, and his accompanying delegation. Talks reportedly touched on the current situation in the region, in addition to the bilateral ties between the two countries. On emerging, Velayati described the meeting as "very positive and beneficial", congratulating him on the recent victories realized by Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, thanks to the resistance and the peoples of the region. Velayati also affirmed that the American attempts to disintegrate Syria into two parts shall fail, anticipating advancement of the pro forces in Syria in east Euphrates and the liberation of the city of Reqqa in the near future.

Aoun, Aswad tackle Jezzine relevant affairs
Fri 03 Nov 2017/NNA - President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun, on Friday afternoon met at the Baabda palace with Jezzine MP Ziad Aswad, who thanked him in the name of Jezzine people for the appointment of the gov-run Jezzine Hospital's new administrative board. "Such an appointment constitutes a new element for the activation of this essential facility for the locals of Jezzine," MP Aswad said. The Lawmaker solicited President Aoun's support for the implementation of stringent projects for the district of Jezzine, notably the opening of a social security branch, a Lebanese army barracks and a center for real estate registration. Aswad also called for the transformation of the Jezzine electricity department to an independent authority. Aswad hailed the President's care given to the construction of dams, including the implementation of measures which would enable Jezzine region to benefit from the Besri dam. On the other hand, Aoun met with Head of the Independence Movement, Michel Mouawad, where they held a horizon tour on most recent developments in Lebanon and the broad region.

Hariri at Media Piracy Conference: Bids to Strain Lebanon-Arab Ties is Piracy Too
Naharnet/November 03/17/Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Friday likened to “piracy” the attempts of some political parties to strain Lebanon's ties with Arab countries. “Politics is being subjected to piracy and some voices which aim to strain Lebanon's ties with its Arab brothers is also considered piracy,” said Hariri at the opening of a conference on Protecting Media Creativity from Piracy at the Grand Serail. “The presidential achievement we made in Lebanon represented in the safety and stability for the entire Lebanese is also be subject to piracy,” he noted, in reference to some criticisms “undermining” the governmental achievements. The Prime Minister affirmed that the “government is ready to take any step that increases the ability to enforce laws and accelerate the workshop to modernize it in order to protect media creativity from piracy.”For his part, Information Minister Melhem Riachi said: “Efforts are being exerted towards the development of a cybercrime law, pending international agreements on the protection of intellectual property, industries and artistic works.”He called on the Prime Minister to form a general parliamentary committee specialized in the protection of intellectual property.

President Prepares for Kuwait Visit
Naharnet/November 03/17/President Michel Aoun gears up for a two-day visit to Kuwait where he is scheduled to hold talks with senior Kuwaiti officials, al-Joumhouria daily reported Friday. Aoun flies to Kuwait on Sunday for talks with the Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah, the Prime Minister, Speaker of the National Assembly, the Foreign Minister and the President of Kuwait Fund for Development. He will also meet with the Lebanese community in an expanded meeting on Sunday.

Ministerial Panel Makes 'Limited Progress' on Electoral Law Mechanisms
Naharnet/November 03/17/A ministerial panel tasked with studying the technical mechanisms of the new electoral law made “limited progress” during a meeting on Friday, Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq said. “The progress is limited and there are new questions that require answers and time is running out,” Mashnouq said after the meeting that was chaired by Prime Minister Saad Hariri at the Grand Serail. Public Works and Transport Minister Youssef Fenianos meanwhile said that no agreement was reached on the controversial issue of biometric voting cards, noting that the discussions will be resumed upon Hariri's return from a visit to Saudi Arabia. “The priority is for the elections,” Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil said, emphasizing that the fate of the polls should not hinge on the issue of biometric cards. Minister of the Displaced Talal Arslan for his part voiced pessimism, saying “there is deliberate procrastination aimed at holding the elections at any cost and without any restrictions.”“We will wait for the interior minister's answers, especially regarding pre-registration,” Arslan added. Social Affairs Minister Pierre Bou Assi of the Lebanese Forces meanwhile said that “there is progress and proposals that are accepted by several parties.”The May 2018 elections will be held under a complex proportional representation system for the first time in Lebanon's history. The parties are bickering over the issues of pre-registration for voters wishing to cast ballots away from their hometowns as well as the issue of introducing biometric voting cards.

Shorter Visits ISF Academy, Inaugurates New CCTV Control Room
Naharnet/November 03/17/British Ambassador to Lebanon Hugo Shorter and Internal Security Forces chief Maj. Gen. Imad Othman on Friday co-chaired the 'Strategic Project Management Committee' to discuss the British Policing Support Project (BPSP) with Lebanon, the British Embassy in Beirut said. The meeting was an opportunity to “review ISF activity and the plan to transform policing across Beirut, discuss human rights and policing standards, and discuss the progress made on the ISF’s new Strategic Plan – a comprehensive plan to reform the police, over the next 5 years,” the Embassy added in a statement. The meeting took place at Aramoun Internal Security Forces Academy and was followed by a live simulated exercise at the training village where a state of the art CCTV system has been installed. The new system will help members of ISF review their training using scenario based training exercises, by putting the theory into operational practice in a safe environment. The aim is to support the ISF Academy in improving police standards across the whole of Lebanon. The Strategic Project Management Committee “provides effective strategic governance and oversees timely project implementation of the UK’s £13m support plan to the ISF,” the Embassy said. After the meeting, Ambassador Shorter said: “We fully support the vision of General Othman to reform and transform the ISF into a modern and trusted police force. Today’s live exercise demonstrates the capabilities of the police force and the ambition to deliver a pioneering police service that promotes trust, respects human rights, and safeguards freedoms in accordance with Lebanese law and in partnership with the community.” “The UK supports the ISF training at Aramoun village to transform the knowledge in the classroom to real life operations on city streets. I am very pleased that the British Policing Support Project (BPSP) is able to offer the CCTV system for training purposes. There is much more UK support to discuss and announce in the next few months,” Shorter added.

A Gift to the Syrian Regime
Ahmad El-Assaad/November 02, 2017
There is a blatant contrast between the fact that a part of the components of the Government refuses the normalization with the Syrian regime, and their high-toned rhetoric facing the attempts that the 8 March camp is undertaking in that regard, on the one hand, and the fact that the President and the Prime Minister just signed a decree to appoint a new ambassador in the Syrian regime, on the other hand. Here we are today, in front of yet another concession offered by what used to be known as “14 March”, and an additional gain to the Iranian-Syrian axis. The sight of the Lebanese ambassador presenting his credentials to the President of the Syrian regime represents the consecration of the start of the clear and direct normalization process with this regime. This completely contradicts the objections to the attempts made by Hezbollah and its allies to apply it through equivocation. It is true that withdrawing diplomatic ties with Syria was an historical, sovereign gain for Lebanon that we must preserve. But leaving this position vacant for the moment is in no way a negation of the said gain. In many cases, nations do not appoint ambassadors at certain periods of time, and settle for minimal representation – as a way to express a certain political position. In our case, the official political position was self-exclusion, and things should have been left alone based on that position. The vacant position was a good exit, and there was no harm in keeping it vacant, as many others were in the diplomatic sector and the public administration, for many years. But appointing an ambassador in these specific circumstances, in the light of the international isolation imposed on the Syrian regime, suggests, whether we want it or not, a position different than self-exclusion, and is explained as a bias to this regime, and a normalization with it. Even if it wasn’t the case, the Syrian regime will work on showing it as such, and will try to use it to break its isolation as much as possible. In short, it is a very valuable gift made by the mandate, in all of its components, to the Syrian regime… and greater things are to come.

Lebanese ‘friends of Syria’ are heading for a dead endاصدقاء سوريا في لبنان متجهون صوت نفق مسدود
Diana Moukalled/ArabNews/November 03/2017
With the appointment of a new ambassador to Damascus, Lebanon has taken a step forward toward the official normalization of relations with the Syrian regime.
This step was expected to arouse anger, and it has already sparked a major controversy in the country. In addition to Arab opposition to Lebanon’s breach of the Gulf countries’ official agreement on Syria, this step has a more complex dimension for Lebanon and the Lebanese because of their chaotic past and stormy present with Syria.
The relations with Bashar Assad’s regime, which is accused of committing war crimes against his people, are particularly sensitive, as the regime itself previously occupied Lebanon and has a long history of interfering in Lebanon’s security, politics and economy. The judiciary has recently revealed that the Syrian regime was behind two huge explosions that rocked two mosques in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli in 2013. Former Minister Michel Samaha was jailed in 2016 for smuggling explosives into Lebanon from Syria, again on the orders of the Assad regime. The Syrian regime has not changed any of its old policies on Lebanon, the Lebanese people and the region; quite the opposite, it is still bloodily carrying on the same path, supported by Tehran and Moscow.
Indeed, Assad’s regime is taking advantage of the progress achieved by the axis that protected and kept him in power despite all its massacres. It is also taking advantage of its men in positions of authority in Lebanon, whether by the power of Hezbollah’s weapons or a president who is allied to its axis.
Nevertheless, broad political and popular groups are not pleased with this situation.
Prime Minister Saad Hariri is trying to depict his approval of the appointment of the ambassador to Damascus as a procedural matter, and not political normalization. He made sure to highlight his negative stance toward the Assad regime.
Amid this controversy, other issues related to Syria are progressing, especially in terms of ensuring the safe return of refugees to Syria, which cannot be achieved without coordination with the Assad regime — which either ignores the issue, or insists that Syria’s social fabric has been improved by the departure of the refugees and that they would not be welcomed back.
There are many who want to normalize relations with the Assad regime, but they appear to have forgotten the lessons of the past.
Some believe that Hariri is just predicting the inevitable, which suggest that a comprehensive settlement is on its way to the region. This settlement is built on dividing influence based on military presence in the region. Thus, Moscow, the Syrian regime’s main sponsor along with Tehran, needs to guarantee Syria’s unity — even if it is a fabricated one.
The West and Israel can no longer call for Assad’s departure, and although Iran may have started the Syrian crisis, Tehran believes that it should be in control because it is one of Assad’s main sponsors and because it fought against Daesh. Therefore, Iran wants a share in the new Syria through establishing military bases in the country, and perhaps through reconstruction projects.
In these complex circumstances, some in Lebanon seek to normalize relations with Syria, but they do not seem to realize that the main participants in the Syrian war have not put down their weapons — and they are not likely to do so soon. They have also forgotten that Lebanon has been on the receiving end of violence from the Syrian regime and its sponsors in the past.
Therefore, it seems that recent talks about Lebanon taking part in Syria’s reconstruction projects are hopeless.
Indeed, it is difficult to predict what will happen in Syria in the next six months, but those taking part in the conflict will not put their weapons down, so it appears that the ambitions of some in Lebanon regarding Lebanese-Syrian relations are facing a dead end.
• Diana Moukalled is a veteran journalist with extensive experience in both traditional and new media. She is also a columnist and freelance documentary producer. Twitter: @dianamoukalled

Israel, Hezbollah playing Russian roulette in Syria
Joe Macaron November 2, 2017
On Oct. 25, Israel unmasked the identity of the Hezbollah commander in charge of the southern Syria front, and the Iranian-backed Lebanese movement reacted a day later by releasing photos taken inside an Israeli settlement. While these acts might be interpreted as psychological warfare, they inherently reflect how both sides are striving to set limits on their rules of engagement in Syria. They also highlight the critical role Russia has increasingly played in preventing clashes between Israel and Hezbollah on the Golan Heights.
Three phases have defined the confrontation between Israel and Hezbollah in the past decade: The July 2006 war set new rules of engagement by restricting the scope of the conflict to Lebanese territory under Israeli occupation (mainly Shebaa Farms); between 2011 and 2015, the Syrian conflict expanded the battlefield and challenged the tactics of a covert war; since 2015, the Russian intervention in Syria has made Moscow the de facto power broker, containing potentially serious fallout from their enmity.
In fact, the parameters of the Syrian war altered the conflict dynamics between the two adversaries. Hezbollah has acquired freedom of navigation inside Syria, and rockets fired from Syria occasionally hit the Israeli-occupied side of the Golan Heights. The Syrian regime is no longer seen by Israel as a stabilizing force able to guarantee stability on the Golan or contain Hezbollah in Lebanon.
As a result, the two archenemies have had to reassess their postures, tactics and priorities. Hezbollah’s military cabal, the Jihad Council, overcame a number of upheavals, including the mysterious assassination in May 2016 of its leader Mustafa Badreddine, who had replaced Imad Mughniyeh after he was killed in 2008. In the early years of the Syrian war, Hezbollah primarily focused on opening a new battlefield against Israel from inside Syria. Israel responded by assassinating those charged with carrying out that mission, mainly Samir Kuntar (killed in December 2015) and Jihad Mughniyeh (killed in January 2015).
Hezbollah’s reaction to these two killings was surprisingly measured, most likely at Tehran’s request, as a representative of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps sits on the powerful Jihad Council. The retaliation came at Shebaa Farms, indicating that the Iranian-backed Lebanese group had opted not to change the rules of the game by targeting Israel in Syria. Hezbollah’s message was that it would avoid escalation if Israel refrained from further targeting its commanders.
Indeed, the Russian role of containing any escalation between Israel and Hezbollah was a turning point in early 2016 and allowed Moscow to keep its focus on saving the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. Russia and Israel reached an agreement allowing the Israelis to target Hezbollah’s arms shipments and Syrian regime forces when necessary. In return, Israel would not challenge the Russian intervention or threaten Assad's survival. In the case of Iran, Russia offers full air support to its proxies to shape the balance of power on the ground, but Moscow still dictates the scope of these confrontations.
In July, Hezbollah acceded to Russian demands by withdrawing fighters from Daraa, in southern Syria, to fight al-Qaeda along the Lebanese-Syrian border. In recent weeks, however, the Iranian-backed group sent fighters back to the Syrian desert, with Russian consent. This new development highlights that Tehran’s priority is to seize the Damascus-Baghdad highway and establish a supply line between Iran and Beirut.
Israel’s approach has also evolved since 2011, most notably since 2016, when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shifted focus from Iran’s nuclear program to Tehran’s role in Syria. Recent developments suggest that the political and security establishments in Israel do not share the same assessment of Hezbollah’s threat. While Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman noted last month that the group was “behind firing rockets on the Golan Heights,” the Israeli army immediately downplayed the analysis. The military establishment believes that Hezbollah is primarily focused on the Syrian war, and it prefers to avoid a scenario where it shifts gears back to Israel.
Despite containing a confrontation, Russia's balancing act in the context of the Syrian conflict remains a dangerous exercise. An Oct. 16 episode is illustrative. Hours before Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu landed in Israel, the Syrian regime fired an SA-5 anti-aircraft missile at an Israeli aircraft conducting a reconnaissance mission over Lebanon. Within two hours, the Israeli army had retaliated by bombing the Syrian missile battery. Moscow’s ambiguous policy of playing both sides might lead the parties to serious miscalculations.
The Israeli approach to a “good neighbor” policy, by providing aid and air support to Syrian armed groups in return for a security belt as the first line of defense, is neither effective nor sustainable. The Syrian regime shares control of the area surrounding the Golan Heights with armed opposition groups and extremist militants, which could lead to unintended escalation. As the Syrian war is winding down, a permanent agreement on who will ultimately control the Quneitra area will become necessary.
Once the race to control the Iraqi-Syrian border crossing concludes in Deir ez-Zor, Russia and the United States will have to normalize the de-escalation zone in southern Syria. The situation will require more than the current Russian checkpoints deployed 8 miles from the demarcation line between Israel and Syria. Israel’s unmasking of Munir Ali Naim Shati, also known as Hajj Hashem, was a warning shot in the absence of a channel for reducing tensions with Hezbollah. While it is hard to envision how both sides can resist the temptation of clashing in Syria in the long term, Russia will have to try to set new rules of engagement, or the next war will do so instead.
**Joe Macaron is a policy analyst at the Arab Center Washington DC. On Twitter: @macaronjoe

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on November 03-04/17
Scheer blasts Trudeau for supporting Governor General after 'divine intervention' comment
CBC/November 03/17 /Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is criticizing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for praising Gov. Gen. Julie Payette in the wake of Payette's suggestion that "divine intervention" did not play a role in the creation of life on Earth. "It is extremely disappointing that the prime minister will not support Indigenous peoples, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Christians and other faith groups who believe there is truth in their religion," Scheer said in a statement posted to Facebook. "Respect for diversity includes respect for the diversity of religious beliefs, and Justin Trudeau has offended millions of Canadians with his comments‎." Speaking at a science conference in Ottawa on Wednesday, Payette stressed the need for greater public awareness of scientific knowledge and noted, with some incredulity, that certain unscientific beliefs persist, including astrology and skepticism about climate change. She also made a reference to religious belief. "We are still debating and still questioning whether life was a divine intervention or whether it was coming out of a natural process let alone, oh my goodness, a random process," Payette said. Asked about the Governor General's statements on Thursday, Trudeau offered a general statement of support. "We are a government grounded in science. Canadians are people who understand the value of science and knowledge as a foundation for the future of our country," he said. "And I am extraordinarily proud of the strength and the story of our Governor General, Julie Payette, who has never hidden away her passion for science and her deep faith that knowledge, research and the truth is a foundation for any free, stable, successful society. And I applaud the firmness with which she stands in support of science and the truth."Scheer did not directly criticize Payette. Asked whether Scheer would like the Governor General to apologize, a spokesman deferred to Scheer's statement about the prime minister.

U.S. Strikes IS in Somalia for First Time
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/November 03/17/The U.S. conducted a pair of drone strikes against Islamic State fighters in Somalia on Friday, the first time America has struck the jihadists in the Horn of Africa nation, officials said. The strikes occurred in northeastern Somalia and killed "several terrorists," the U.S. military's Africa Command said in a statement. "No civilians were in the vicinity of the strikes," said AFRICOM spokesman Lieutenant Commander Anthony Falvo. "They struck their intended targets," he added, noting these were the first anti-IS air strikes in Somalia.

Suicide Car Bomb Kills 9 as Nusra Attacks Syria Golan Heights Village
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/November 03/17/Jihadists launched an assault Friday on a government-held village in Syria's Golan Heights, killing at least nine people in a car bomb, and clashing with regime troops, state media said.
The attack hit the village of Hader, populated by members of the Druze majority, which lies near the disengagement line that divides the Syrian-controlled part of the Golan from that occupied by Israel. The fighting prompted concern from Druze residents of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, and a statement from the Israeli army, which pledged to "prevent Hader from being harmed or occupied."The assault began when a suicide car bomb attacked the outskirts of the village, Syrian state media said. "A suicide bomber from Al-Nusra Front detonated a car bomb in the midst of the homes of citizens on the outskirts of Hader, killing nine people and injuring at least 23," SANA said. Al-Nusra Front is the old name for a jihadist group that was formerly al-Qaida's affiliate in Syria and is now known as the Fateh al-Sham Front. "In the aftermath of the terrorist attack, terrorist groups carried out a heavy attack on Hader, and army units and the Popular Defense units (pro-government militants) clashed with the attackers," SANA added. The agency said the toll was expected to rise because a number of those wounded in the bombing were in serious condition and the ongoing assault on the town made it difficult to remove the injured to safety. SANA did not provide details on the identity of the victims.
'Shots fired from Syria'
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, said the clashes that followed the blast killed several forces on both sides.
Hader lies in southwestern Syria's Quneitra province, around 70 percent of which is held by either rebel or jihadist groups while the government controls the remaining 30 percent, according to the Observatory. Some Syrian Druze have expressed sympathy for opposition forces battling the government since the start of the civil war but the community has largely been loyal to the regime. Israel seized 1,200 square kilometers (460 square miles) of the Golan Heights from Syria in the Six-Day War of 1967 and later annexed it, a move never recognized by the international community. The Jewish state has officially maintained a posture of non-intervention in the war in Syria that erupted after anti-government protests in March 2011. But it has bombed Syrian territory on a sporadic basis, sometimes in response to stray Syrian army fire. On other occasions, it has been accused of carrying out air strikes targeting weapons intended for Hizbullah, the Lebanese militant group that is an ally of Damascus but has fought Israel. The Israeli army said Friday that a civilian in the town of Majdal Shams in the Israeli-occupied part of the Golan was lightly wounded as a result of "shots fired from Syria."It said the shots were "stray fire resulting from the intense fighting on the Syrian Golan Heights".
Israel pledges help
Israeli army spokesman, Brigadier General Ronen Manelis, said the military was ready to "prevent Hader from being harmed or occupied, as part of our commitment to the Druze population.". Nearly 140,000 members of the Druze minority, which follows a secretive offshoot of Shiite Islam, live in Israel and the Israeli-occupied Golan. In Majdal Shams, Druze residents gathered along the buffer zone seeking to cross over and help. Around 10 of them entered the buffer zone, the Israeli army said, before forces caught them and returned them to the Israeli-occupied side. "This behavior is a serious violation of the law," the Israeli army said, urging all civilians to refrain from crossing the fence or even approaching it. Speaking from London, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said "we safeguard our borders. Our borders in the south, our borders in the north. And we also cherish our sympathy for our Druze brethren."
Israel has a policy of providing medical assistance to Syrians wounded in the conflict, transporting some into its territory for treatment.The policy has been controversial, and in 2015, members of the country's Druze minority attacked two ambulances transporting Syrians, killing one and injuring another.

Trump Says IS Will Pay 'Big Price' for Each Attack on U.S.
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/November 03/17/President Donald Trump said Friday that the Islamic State group will pay a "big price" for every attack it stages against the United States, following the New York truck attack by an IS loyalist.
The U.S. military has hit IS "much harder" over the past two days after the jihadist group claimed the attacker was one of their soldiers, Trump said. "They will pay a big price for every attack on us!" Trump wrote on Twitter. The New York attack Tuesday left eight dead and 12 wounded. Trump has said the alleged attacker, Uzbek immigrant Sayfullo Saipov, 29, should be executed. Trump backed off initial comments that he would like to see the man sent to the U.S. prison for terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Twin Iraq and Syria Assaults as IS Loses Last City
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/November 03/17/Syrian troops on Friday retook the last major city where the Islamic State group had a presence as Iraqi forces seized a crossing by the jihadists' last urban bastion across the border. The simultaneous assaults on Deir Ezzor in eastern Syria and Al-Qaim in western Iraq dealt fresh blows to IS in its former heartland, leaving Albu Kamal, on the Syrian side of the border, the last town of note under its full control. The jihadist group that once laid claim to a self-styled "caliphate" spanning swathes of Syria and Iraq has seen its proto-state crumble in recent months under the pressure of multiple offensives. In October, it lost its one-time de facto Syrian capital Raqa after an assault of more than four months waged by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish-Arab alliance. On Friday, Syria's army announced that its Russian-backed assault had recaptured all of Deir Ezzor city, in the oil-rich east of the country, while Iraqi forces captured the Husaybah border post on the edge of the town of Al-Qaim. "The army forces... restored security and stability to all of Deir Ezzor city," a spokesman for the army command said in a statement broadcast live on state television. "Deir Ezzor represents the final phase in the complete elimination of Daesh," the statement added, using the Arabic acronym for the group. The city "was the headquarters of the organization’s leadership, and in losing it, they lose their capacity to direct terrorist operations," the statement added.
State television said engineering units from the army were combing captured neighborhoods to clear mines and other explosives. Syrian forces entered Deir Ezzor city in September, breaking an IS siege of nearly three years on government-held parts of the provincial capital. The battle has been ferocious, with heavy Russian air strikes and Syrian artillery fire leaving much of the city in ruins. A reporter contributing to AFP inside the city on Thursday saw entire floors of buildings that had crashed onto those beneath, while on others, facades were completely blown away to reveal empty, destroyed interiors.
Trenches dug by IS fighters were still visible, as were army minesweepers working to locate and defuse explosives laid by the jihadists.
Iraqi forces enter Al-Qaim -
Before Syria's war began in March 2011 with anti-government protests, around 300,000 people lived in the city, the capital of Deir Ezzor province along Syria's eastern border with Iraq. But in 2014, IS jihadists seized the city and much of the surrounding province, including vital oil and gas fields that once served as a key source of revenue for the extremists. IS has now been driven from most of its strongholds in Deir Ezzor, but it still controls over 35 percent of the province, much of it empty desert. Its last major position is the town of Albu Kamal, though it also holds a string of smaller towns and villages and at least one oil field, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor. IS, which at its peak controlled territory roughly the size of Britain, has suffered a string of losses in recent months in both Syria and Iraq. On October 17, it lost the city of Raqa to the U.S.-backed SDF, a highly symbolic blow that illustrated how its "caliphate" has disintegrated. In Deir Ezzor province, it is under attack by both regime and SDF forces, while across the border in Iraq it now retains a foothold in just a single town, Al-Qaim, after losing its stronghold of Mosul in July and the town of Hawija in October.
Iraqi forces entered Al-Qaim on Friday, quickly taking several districts, and also recaptured an important border crossing nearby, military commanders said. Iraq's Joint Operations Command said troops had "regained full control" of the Husaybah border post on the edge of Al-Qaim after launching a push to oust the jihadists. Government forces launched the operation last week to seize Al-Qaim and its surroundings, a barren pocket of desert along the Euphrates river near the Syrian border. The U.S.-led coalition has said around 1,500 IS fighters are left in the area, which it expects to be the scene of the "last big fight" against the group in Iraq.

Iraqi Forces Retake Crossing on Syria Border from IS

Naharnet/Agence France Presse/November 03/17/Iraqi forces said they recaptured an important crossing on the border with Syria from the Islamic State group on Friday as they advanced into the jihadists' last bastion in Iraq. Iraq's Joint Operations Command said troops had "regained full control" of the Husaybah border post on the edge of the town of Al-Qaim after launching a push to oust the jihadists. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi released a statement congratulating the armed forces for "entering into Al-Qaim and liberating" the border crossing. An Iraqi army officer told AFP that the jihadists "deserted the border post after several of them were killed" and headed off into Syria.
Al-Qaim and the surrounding areas are the last remnants of the self-styled caliphate IS declared after rampaging across Iraq and Syria in 2014.
Iraqi forces backed up by air strikes from a U.S.-led coalition launched the operation last week to seize back the strategically located pocket of barren desert along the Euphrates river. IS is simultaneously battling for survival in its holdouts across the border in Syria, where government troops said they ousted the group from the key city of Deir Ezzor on Friday.

CIA Document: Bin Laden Asked his Son Hamza to Move from Iran to Qatar
Asharq Al-Awsat/November, 03/17/In one of the documents that the CIA released on Wednesday, slain al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden made it clear that the “Iranians are not to be trusted” despite evidence of strong ties between the terrorist group and Iran. The document was released as part of 470,000 additional files found in May 2011 when US Navy SEALs burst into Bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, and shot him dead. The slain al-Qaeda chief’s son Hamza was in Iran when in September 2010, Osama bin Laden wrote a letter to his three sons, including Hamza, as well as one of his wives and grandchildren. Bin Laden made it clear that the “Iranians are not to be trusted” and he wanted his wife to “leave everything behind,” just in case some sort of tracking device was implanted within her possessions. He worried about Hamza’s security and suggested that he travel to Qatar, where he could lay low and study. After Hamza did not take his father’s advice, he made his way into Pakistan. But Bin Laden insisted that the terrorist group’s heir move to Qatar. Bin Laden’s suspicions of Iran came despite one of the newly released documents showing al-Qaeda's links to Tehran. The 19-page document recounts an offer by Iran to provide al-Qaeda with “money, arms” and “training in Hezbollah camps in Lebanon, in exchange for striking American interests in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf.” The very fact that Hamza and other senior figures appear to be able to live under Iranian protection or custody supports claims that Tehran and Bin Laden had a working relationship, analysts have said.

Canada imposes sanctions on individuals linked to human rights violations and corruption
November 3, 2017 - Ottawa, Ontario - Global Affairs Canada
Under the new Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act, the Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs, today announced targeted sanctions against 52 individuals.
The sanctions target individuals who are, in the opinion of the Government of Canada, responsible for, or complicit in, gross violations of internationally recognized human rights or acts of significant corruption.
These sanctions place an asset freeze in Canada on all listed people, and render listed persons as inadmissible to Canada under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
“Canada is determined to protect human rights and combat corruption worldwide. Today’s announcement sends a clear message that Canada will take action against individuals who have profited from acts of significant corruption or who have been involved in gross violations of human rights. Canada’s Parliament recently passed the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act, and I am pleased we are today using this new and fit-for-purpose tool for the first time.”
- Hon. Chrystia Freeland, P.C., M.P., Minister of Foreign Affairs
Quick facts
The Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act entered into force on October 18, 2017.

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Statement by Minister of Foreign Affairs on Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act
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Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on November 03-04/17
Palestinians: Meet Abbas's New Partners
Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/November 03/17
Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders are strongly opposed to Mahmoud Abbas's political agenda and even see him as a collaborator with Israel.
Leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad announced at a rally on November 2 that they are determined to stick to their weapons "until the liberation of all of Palestine" -- or, in other words, until the total destruction of Israel and the elimination of Jews.
When Zahar says that only a "crazy person" thinks he can disarm Hamas and other armed groups in the Gaza Strip, he is clearly referring to Abbas. Zahar's statement should be seen as a direct threat to Abbas.
Abbas continues to tell the world that he is working to achieve a peaceful settlement with Israel. But will he be able to continue saying such things after he joins forces with his new partners in Hamas and Islamic Jihad? The answer is simple and clear: No.
As Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas are moving forward towards implementing their "reconciliation" agreement, we are already getting an idea of what this new partnership is going to look like.
Abbas is trying to sell the agreement to the world as a deal that enables him and his Palestinian Authority (PA) to return to the Gaza Strip and assume full control there. He and his PA officials and spokesmen have also been working hard to convince the international community that only good will come out of the "reconciliation" agreement and that Hamas is even headed toward moderation and pragmatism.
However, Abbas and the PA seem to be engaged in yet another bid to deceive and lie to the international community.
Just last week, Israel foiled another plan by Hamas to dig a terror tunnel deep into Israeli territory.
The tunnel was supposed to be used by Hamas to dispatch terrorists into Israel to kill or kidnap as many Jews as possible. The tunnel was a joint Hamas-Islamic Jihad project. The terrorists have been working on the tunnel for some time -- before and after the "reconciliation" accord that was reached in Cairo last month.
This means that for Hamas and Islamic Jihad it is business as usual -- "reconciliation" or not, they are determined to continue their jihad to destroy Israel. The two terror groups may allow Abbas and his Palestinian Authority to return to the Gaza Strip, but Hamas and Islamic Jihad will continue to control what goes on under the earth. They will also continue to stick to their weapons in preparation for war against Israel.
Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the rest of the terror groups operating in the Gaza Strip continue to make it clear as day that they have no intention to disarm as a result of the "reconciliation" agreement. Abbas and the PA are welcome to assume civilian control of the Gaza Strip, but when it comes to security and weapons, Abbas is not entitled to raise this issue at all.
On November 2, Abbas received yet another indication of what awaits him and his Palestinian Authority as a result of the "reconciliation" agreement. Leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad announced that they are determined to stick to their weapons "until the liberation of all of Palestine" -- or, in other words, until the total destruction of Israel and the elimination of Jews.
The announcement was made during a rally held by Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the town of Khan Yunis in the Gaza Strip to commemorate two Hamas terrorists who were killed when Israel blew up the tunnel two days earlier.
Mahmoud Zahar, a senior Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip, told the thousands of Palestinians attending the rally: "We will continue to resist the occupier until the liberation of all of Palestine." He also cautioned "any crazy person against trying to take one rifle from the hands of the resistance." Zahar sent his "blessings" to the Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists who are preparing around the clock to wage war against Israel. "We are training our sons to dig under the temporary borders so that they can reach the occupied territories [Israel]."
Mahmoud Zahar, a senior Hamas leader, pictured in 2005. (Photo by Abid Katib/Getty Images)
Islamic Jihad leader Sheikh Nafez Azzam, who spoke at the rally, also stressed his group's adherence to its weapons. "For Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the option of jihad is a basic option. It's a great honor to stand here today in front of our martyrs."
These are the Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders who are soon expected to become Abbas's partners in managing the affairs of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, in accordance with the "reconciliation" deal. These Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders are strongly opposed to Abbas's political agenda and even see him as a "collaborator" with Israel. At the rally, both Zahar and Azzam repeated their vehement opposition to any peaceful settlement with Israel and said that "armed resistance" is the only way to destroy Israel. The two men should be given credit for their honesty and straight-forward talk.
Zahar's warning should ignite a red light with Abbas. When Zahar says that only a "crazy person" thinks he can disarm Hamas and other armed groups in the Gaza Strip, he is clearly referring to Abbas. Zahar's statement should be seen as a direct threat to Abbas. Abbas, for his part, is not oblivious to such threats and he knows, more than anyone else, that the weapons of Hamas and other terror groups in the Gaza Strip are a red line. If he crosses it, he will be buried in one of the terror tunnels.
So why does Abbas insist on proceeding with his "reconciliation" agreement with Hamas? Because he wants to look good in the eyes of his people by showing them that he cares about Palestinian "unity" and is keen on ending the split between the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Abbas is hoping that the agreement will allow him to present himself as the president of all Palestinians, including those living in the Gaza Strip, and not just a powerless and weak president controlling small parts of the West Bank. Some Palestinians like to refer to Abbas as the "Mayor of Ramallah" – a hint at his limited power.
Abbas continues to tell the world that he is working to achieve a peaceful settlement with Israel. But will he be able to continue saying such things after he joins forces with his new partners in Hamas and Islamic Jihad? Will Zahar and Azzam allow Abbas to pursue any peace process with Israel after the "reconciliation" accord is implemented? The answer is simple and clear: No.
Abbas and the Palestinian Authority may be on their way to returning to the Gaza Strip, but nothing good will come out of this move. This is merely an internal Palestinian issue designed to benefit both Abbas and Hamas, each in their own way and according to their own interests. But at the end of the day, no dramatic changes should be expected as a result of the "marriage" between the PA and Hamas.
This is a marriage of convenience intended first and foremost for internal consumption and then for tricking the international community. It's time for the world to listen to what Palestinian leaders are telling their people in Arabic. In Arabic, Hamas and Islamic Jihad are being very honest and frank about their dream to destroy Israel.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad are indeed very serious about their intentions; they are not only talking, but are busy digging more tunnels and amassing weapons in preparation for the destruction of Israel. These are Abbas's new partners, and the world needs to take notice.
**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.

Iran and ‘The Great Satan’: A 4-Decades Old Saga
Amir Taheri/Asharq Al Awsat//November 03/17
Right now, with marches and fiery speeches, the Islamic Republic in Iran is marking the 38th anniversary of the seizure of the US Embassy in Tehran and the holding of American diplomats as hostages for 444 days.
As the US Congress seeks new ways of tightening the screws on Iran, the Tehran leadership remains prisoner to old illusions. Most of those illusions are centered on the United States which has frightened and fascinated the mullahs since they seized power almost 40 years ago.
The mullahs are frightened of the US because their view of history is shaped by their belief in conspiracy theories. They regard the US as a heavily centralized diabolical machine controlled by a small coterie of conspirators determined to rule the world. Internal political fights in the US are seen as part of a carefully scripted scenario to confuse the outside world.
According to one prominent mullah, President Donald Trump is “playing mad on advice from Henry Kissinger, with the aim of frightening the Muslims.” According to another leading mullah even the duel between Trump and Mrs. Hillary Clinton was “nothing but a show to confuse the world.”
At times, the US is depicted as “on the verge of destruction” because of its “lack of morality and deep-rooted corruption”. At other times, it is the “Great Satan”, as powerful and just as deadly as the diabolical personage depicted in scriptures.
For some mullahs, including Ayatollah Imami Kashani, hating the US is part of “true belief.” For others, for example Ayatollah Qara’ati, no prayer could be regarded as validated until it ends with “Death to America!”
Every day, President Hassan Rouhani, a mid-ranking mullah, and all members of his Cabinet trample the US flag under feet before they enter their offices.
Since the mullahs seized power hardly a day has passed without the Islamic Republic holding some US hostages. The raid on the US Embassy in Tehran on 4 November 1979 is dubbed “The Second Revolution” and marked with government-sponsored marches and seminars, exhibitions and propaganda campaigns across the nation.
The Islamic Republic is also holding the mortal remains of at least three Americans, a former CIA station head in Beirut, kidnapped by "Hezbollah" and killed under torture in Iran, a retired FBI agent working for a private US company in Dubai, and a seconded US officer serving with a UN peace force in southern Lebanon.
And, yet, some mullahs and their technocratic attendants also cultivate another image of America as a gullible 800-kilo gorilla who is easily deceived and brought into one’s service.
In 2015, in the heyday of the nuclear talks, the entourage of Mohammad-Javad Zarif, the US-educated functionary who plays the role of foreign minister, circulated several limericks to that effect. One said: Don’t see him so frail (a play on the word Zarif), He can knock out six like them! (meaning the US and other members of the 5+1 group of nations.) Another line was: “Zarif fights, America trembles!”
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard strategist Dr. Hassan Abbasi, nicknamed “ Kissinger of Islam” claims that Iran has “ tens of thousands of sleeping elements” inside the US and in Latin America ready to “ blow America up into pieces at a moment’s notice.”
“The Americans know this and are frightened of us,” the Doctor likes to say, Such illusions were encouraged by President Barack Obama’s determination to accommodate the Islamic Republic almost at any cost. Obama believed that the US had done Iran much wrong for which he sought atonement. The mullahs and their minions saw Obama’s behavior as sign of American weakness.
And, yet, the current ruling elites are fascinated by America. A list of over 700 children of top Islamic Republic personalities currently attending American universities was unveiled in Tehran last August. According to Islamic Majlis member Karimi Qodusi, over 1500 Islamic Republic officials hold dual nationality, including American citizenship and/or permanent residency.
There are scores of former Islamic Republic and IRGC officials throughout the US, including in think-tanks and universities.
Two years ago, President Rouhani described the Obama-scripted nuclear “deal’ as “The greatest diplomatic victory in the history of Islam."
But now, under its new President, the“ Great Satan” is highlighting the hollowness of that “ victory”. Iran’s oil revenues, accumulated over the years remain largely frozen in Western, Japanese, Chinese, Indian and other banks that won’t un-freeze them for fear of attracting US sanctions. The highly publicized “Oil Deal of the Century” with the French giant TOTAL is put on the backburner for the same reason.
The same sorry fate has befallen “agreements in principle” for Iran to buy new passenger aircraft from Airbus and Boeing. Promises of granting Iran new credit lines, including one worth $5 billion by Russia, have been quietly forgotten because it is now clear that Trump won’t sing from Obama’s hymn sheet on Iran.
Zarif now says that “We cannot even open a bank account in London to pay our embassy staff.”
To be sure, in his last phase in office, Obama provided some relief for Iran in coping with its cash-flow problem. But it is now clear that with Obama gone, Tehran is unlikely to ride any gravy train any time soon.
So, what is Iran to do?
The reasonable response would be that Iran should seek the roots of this unnecessary enmity and try to cut them out through a review of its foreign policy and creative diplomacy. It is interesting that after 38 years, the mullahs have never told Iranians why they should regard the US as “enemy” (dushman) rather than an adversary or, even more realistically, a power with which Iran has some differences.
Because of that almost all Iranians are suffering in their daily lives without scoring any points against the “Great Satan”.
For almost four decades, trampling the star-spangled banner under feet, burning effigies of US presidents and cries of “Death America” haven’t solved any of Iran’s many problems. Nor has the “Great Satan” changed its tune on such scores.
When a policy has failed, reason dictates that it should be re-visited. However, in Iran today, lazy minds remain content with fist-shaking and flag burning.

No, Europe Isn't About to Break Up
Leonid Bershidsky/Bloomberg View/November 03/17
Those who are always on the lookout for the next European crisis -- Brexiters not least among them -- have latched on to Catalonia's symbolic "secession" as another sign that Europe isn't working well. The Catalan events, however, merely confirm that today, Western European countries are secession-proof -- too fat to fail. Belgium, the country where ousted Catalan First Minister Carles Puigdemont is hiding out from prosecution (or, to Catalan secessionists, leading a government in exile) is another good example.
Puigdemont, ordered to appear in court in Madrid on Thursday to face charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds, is in Belgium because that country has a secessionist movement a lot like the Catalan one. It's strong in the wealthier and more economically dynamic Flemish part of the country. Catalonia, with 16 percent of Spain's population, provides almost 26 percent of the country's exports. Flanders, with 58 percent of Belgium's population, delivers 82 percent of exports.
The historically secessionist Belgian party, the New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) is a partner in Belgium's ruling coalition, headed by Prime Minister Charles Michel, leader of the Reformist Movement, a Francophone party. It controls some key portfolios, including migration. Theo Francken, the migration minister, has made sympathetic noises about Puigdemont's predicament, although Michel has made it clear they don't amount to any kind of official invitation. But the hapless Catalan politician can count on informal support from N-VA colleagues and on the kind of competent legal defense Belgian lawyer Paul Bekaert previously offered to Basque separatists who fought extradition from Belgium to Spain.
But the unofficial nature of that support network highlights the main similarity between the Flemish and Catalan separatist movements: Despite the strong pro-independence rhetoric, they are really about strong autonomy and decentralization, not secession.
There are other similarities: For example, both the Catalan secessionists and the N-VA are republican movements within monarchies, both militate for a weaker language (Catalan, the Flemish dialect of Dutch) in the presence of a stronger international one, and both want more control over sharing their regional wealth with the bigger country's poorer areas. But the Flemish, given their numerical and economic strength, have done better than the Catalans at what Marcel Gerard from Belgium's Catholic University of Louvain has called "an evolutionary and maybe endless repeated game" of devolution. Politically, Belgium is a weak federation in which the regions are unusually powerful. Recently, the Walloon regional parliament nearly derailed the European Union's free trade agreement with Canada, because Belgium couldn't approve it without the regions' say-so.
In the latest reform of the Belgian federation, which began in 2011, the Flemish succeeded in splitting the country's social safety net by moving certain competences such as child allowances and certain kinds of health care from the federal to the regional level. This is a level of autonomy of which Catalonia can't even dream.
Splitting up Belgium completely, however, makes little economic sense. The country's public debt of 106 percent gross domestic product is a big problem: Francophone Wallonia cannot shoulder its fair part of the burden, so trying to divide it up would cause a dramatic rise in borrowing rates for Flanders, too. Besides, there's the matter of Brussels -- a largely French-speaking international city that is a separate part of the federation, although it's surrounded by Flemish territory. In a breakup, it's unlikely that Brussels would become part of either Flanders or Wallonia, and its economic input and status as an international hub would be lost to both.
In the Catalan independence scenario, the issue of splitting up Spain's debt, which stands at 99 percent GDP, would also be a major issue. But few have considered the effect on Barcelona, a rich and vibrant international city of major importance to both Catalonia and Spain. Its status as an international hub would suffer from secession. When I was in Barcelona last week, Ruben Enikolopov, a Russian economist working at Barcelona's Pompeu Fabra University, told me his colleagues openly envy (if somewhat tongue-in-cheek) his plan to spend more time in Moscow next year. Even Vladimir Putin's capital city looks like a safe haven compared with a Barcelona faced with Catalan secession. The city's powerful mayor, Ada Colau, did not back secession because it would feed social unrest and uncertainty.
Splitting a country carries an inevitable cost for its citizens, and especially the ones in big cities dependent on frictionless international travel, cross-border funding for cultural and academic projects, and seamless economic relations. Separatist movements have to be noisy if they are to succeed at the game of federalization and devolution, but ordinary citizens know and worry about the potential cost, even if they sympathize with the rhetoric. In Flanders, about 40 percent of the population votes for separatist parties. In Catalonia and in Scotland, where people rejected independence in a 2014 referendum largely to avoid economic pain, polls show roughly the same level of support for secession. That's enough to matter, but not enough to win.
The recognition, and rejection, of the economic cost is the biggest reason why the independence movements in Catalonia, Belgium and Scotland are nonviolent. Even those who vote for secession won't fight for independence because they don't feel they stand to gain much from it -- and because, in wealthy countries such as Spain, Belgium and the UK, they feel they have something to lose.
It's a mistake to take secessionist rhetoric at face value, although some brands of it, such as Puigdemont's claim to leading a government in exile, as expressed by his website's new address -- -- are more worthless than others. It can have a constructive effect, though, by feeding decentralization -- a trend that doesn't have to weaken Europe or even its constituent nation states. After all, government is most effective when it's close to the governed. It keeps them happier and more aware that their life is too good for radical change.

Israel (IDF) denies involvement in Syrian suicide attack, vows to protect Druze
الجيش الإسرائيلي ينكر تورطه بالهجوم الإنتحاري في الجولان ويتعهد الدفاع عن الدروز
Ynetnews/November 03/17
Denying allegations made by pro-Syrian regime figures, IDF says it was not involved in rebel attack on Druze village of Hader; Syrian rebel forces habitually, intentionally operate near border with Israel; IDF possesses several plans to counteract possible Hader takeover, including cross-border ground operation.
In light of the Syrian accusations levied against the IDF for supposedly helping rebel forces carry out a suicide attack in the Syrian Druze village of Hader Friday, the army published an extraordinary announcement saying it was "Ready and willing to assist the people of the village and would prevent Hader from being harmed or occupied out of a sense of commitment to the Druze people."
National Security Advisor Meir Ben-Shabbat made the same point to the Israeli Druze community's spiritual leader Mowafaq Tarif, telling him Israel will not allow terrorist elements to overtake Hader.
After opening trading at the London Stock Exchange, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu referred to the position Israel is taking in light of the heated hostilities within Syria.
Netanyahu stated that Israel will continue to protect its borders in the north and south, while maintaining sympathy to "our Druze Brethren."
Riots broke out in Majdal Shams after the attack in Syria Friday
The IDF said the rioters broke through a gate in the border fence and ten of them came within several dozen meters of the fence. IDF forces gave pursuit and returned the Druze protesters to Israeli territory. The rioters were handed over to the police, which will decide whether to further detain them.
The near break-through, the first since the May 2011 riots to succeed despite the new, double fence built on the border, came on the heels of an particularly tense day that started with a suicide bombing in Hader, claiming the lives of at least nine and wounding 23 when al-Nusra Front terrorists detonated a car bomb there.
The riots in Majdal Shams escalated further when some of the village's residents found out their relatives were murdered in Hader. The heads of the Druze community in Israel stated Friday the community's leaders, including Tarif, met with GOC Northern Command Maj.-Gen. Yoel Strick in the army's Mount Hermon outpost.
Tarif demanded the IDF do its utmost to prevent Hader being overrun or its denizens harmed out of Israel and the army's commitment to the Israeli Druze community. The Druze leaders further maintained senior political and military ranks gave them their word the IDF will not allow Hader to be occupied and will endeavor to return the situation there to normal. Tarif and the other Druze leaders then called on Israeli Druze to not be led astray by rumor mongering on social media and elsewhere regarding the severity of the situation.
The Nusra Front force, which attacked Hader earlier Friday, entered the village after flanking it by moving on the eastern side of the Israeli border, very close to the border itself. This brought about Syrian and Druze claims the attacks was carried out under Israeli auspices, or at the very least with the army turning a blind eye to it. The army vigorously disavowed the allegations. Syrian rebels oftentimes cling to the Israeli border fence when battling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's army out of the assumption they would not be attacked due to their position.
In a Northern Command status evaluation, it was decided to maintain high alert and readiness near the border while using existing routine security battalions, and to forego sending reinforcements to the forces already active as part of the Golan Division. Northern Command, in fact, made preparations for a possible escalation as far back as three weeks ago, in light of increased fighting in the northern Golan Heights between Assad's army and the Syrian rebels.
In order to calm spirits and prevent further riots in Majdal Shams, Buq'ata and Mas'ade, the three Israeli Druze villages near the border, senior Northern Command officers have been keeping Israeli Druze community elders abreast of all developments.
Hader, a large Druze village under Assad's control, is, in fact, under light Israeli military and air de-facto control: outposts on the Hermon's slopes overlook it, tanks are permanently deployed opposite it and Northern Command has been preparing plans to operate inside it for the past two years.
In response of the fighting in the area, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, GOC Northern Command Strick and Bashan Division Commander Brig.-Gen. Yaniv Asor held a status evaluation of their own in the early afternoon hours of Friday.
As for the IDF possibly operating within Hader itself, the Northern Command has prepared several alternatives for operation, the most extreme of which entails cross-border ground operations. Should the IDF decide to interfere in the fighting, however, it will be able to attack either from the ground or the air, due to the Israeli oversight over the village mentioned above.
When the status evaluation concluded, the IDF published its announcement saying it would refrain from overtaking Hader. "Claims regarding Israeli involvement and assistance provided to world jihad elements in the Golan Heights fighting were baseless," the army added.
"In contravention of the lies propagated by certain interested parties, Israel does not, has not and will not assist any terrorist element in harming the people of Hader. On the contrary, we will maintain our stance side by side with the Golan Heights' Druze community," IDF Arabic Spokesperson Maj. Avichai Adraee posted on Facebook.
A lie such as the one Adraee was referring to was disseminated by secretary-general of the Quneitra Ba'ath Party, who said, "The Zionist enemy has been continually providing medal services to terrorists and assisting in their attacks."
Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt addressed the people of Hader after the attack and the IDF's announcement it would help them should rebels overrun their village. "Do not believe Israel or those calling for it help will assist you. Unite and count on yourselves alone, as well as on any impartial and honest Arab support," he said.

Demolition of a Palestinian Islamic Jihad Tunnel Inside Israel
Maj. Gen. (Res.) Shlomo 'Sami' Turjeman, IDF/The Washington Institute/November 3, 2017
The lack of armed response by Hamas or PIJ highlights the host of military and political factors restraining both organizations and the potency of new Israeli defense technologies, though radical elements may still decide to risk an attack out of desperation.
On October 30, loud explosions interrupted the fragile calm on the Gaza border as Israeli forces destroyed a tunnel infiltrating their territory. The explosions resulted in the deaths of several senior members of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), which operated the tunnel. Several Hamas members were killed during subsequent evacuation efforts.
Despite harsh declarations by PIJ and the Hamas government in Gaza, neither has responded by firing on Israel. This lack of armed action would have been inconceivable in the past, when events of this sort inevitably escalated into fighting. What made this instance different, and what lessons can be drawn from it? The fact that Israel demolished the tunnel on its own territory has not prevented these organizations from claiming it was an act of aggression. In other words, the decision to hold fire did not stem from any perception that Israel's move was a legitimate act of self-defense. Rather, top Hamas officials such as Ismail Haniyeh openly called for revenge during funerals for the operatives killed in the explosions. The lack of action must therefore be rooted in other factors.
The Palestinian reconciliation process. The decision may be a product of the same pressures that recently pushed Hamas into another round of reconciliation talks with the Palestinian Authority, including political isolation, Gaza's ever-escalating economic crisis, direct PA financial pressure, and the slow pace of reconstruction. True reconciliation seems impossible at the moment given current Palestinian realities, but both factions are likely eager to keep the process from collapsing in its first stages. Only a day after the tunnel incident, Hamas transferred authority over Gaza's borders to the PA, a momentous occasion that the organization surely did not want to spoil. Of course, Hamas still hopes to maintain control over its armed forces even after transferring civil responsibilities to the PA, which would allow it to resume acting like a terrorist organization unconstrained by political obligations. For now, though, it is not in the organization's interest to take the blame for collapsing the reconciliation process.
Deterrence. In 2014, Operation Protective Edge showed Gaza's leaders the costs of war. The Strip has not yet recovered from that conflict, in large part because the Hamas government's main focus is on reconstructing its military force and suppressing popular opposition to its rule. An escalation at this point would endanger the organization's hold on power and its efforts to contain PIJ.
Inconvenient timing. From a military perspective, neither PIJ nor Hamas is prepared for a major confrontation with Israel. Both organizations seem to regard building extensive cross-border tunnel networks for the sake of launching raids on Israeli soil as critical components of their future warfare strategy. This week's demolition may have taken away their most important asset in this strategy.
The element of surprise. Hamas and PIJ may still be trying to understand the advanced technological capability that Israeli forces demonstrated in discovering the secret tunnel. Israel has accelerated its construction of a continuous subterranean barrier along the Gaza border, a project that incorporates various tunnel-detection technologies. This week's demolition indicates that both organizations were caught completely off guard. They may now be attempting to learn from the setback and make plans for dealing with the new barrier's capabilities before diving into an armed confrontation.
Israeli restraint. Israel demolished the tunnel on its own territory, refrained from entering Gaza, and even refrained from issuing a public alert to its citizens as it normally does following an event of this sort. This restrained approach will likely keep PIJ from reasonably claiming that Israel is gearing toward confrontation, which in turn enables Hamas to demand that PIJ hold its fire, at least for now.
Gaza-Sinai isolation. Hamas has been taking strategic steps toward warmer relations with Egypt, and this tightening relationship with Cairo has obligated the organization to sever ties with the Islamic State (IS) and other terrorist elements in Sinai. Decreasing cooperation from Gaza in turn makes it more difficult for IS to use the peninsula as a springboard for attacks against Israel. This mode of operation -- which Hamas has used as an indirect way to threaten Israel while avoiding head-on confrontation -- is no longer an option (though IS elements have of course continued to target Israel on their own).
Four lessons stand out. First, Hamas has not yet been able to regain its former military, civil, and political stature three years after Operation Protective Edge. In the past, the deaths of such a large number of senior Hamas and PIJ officials would never have occurred without an immediate armed response.
Second, the demolition highlights the growing importance that tunnels hold in the eyes of Palestinian terrorist organizations. Cross-border tunnels of the type destroyed this week are a critical component of their offensive strategy against Israel. Even as Gaza sinks further into economic crisis, they continue to invest the bulk of their resources in subterranean infrastructure, giving it precedence over all other military and civilian needs. At the same time, the incident sheds light on -- and may drastically accelerate -- the now largely overt arms race between Palestinian tunnel diggers and Israeli countermeasures.
Third, by bringing Palestinian terrorists to an uncomfortable realization -- that Israel has a tunnel-detection solution capable of eliminating a key part of their military strategy -- the demolition operation could push them into a "use it or lose it" dilemma. That is, even if the Hamas mainstream is uninterested in escalation for now, PIJ or radical elements within either organization might still initiate a tunnel attack in the short term simply to prevent their colossal investment from being wasted. Such an attack would likely be unprecedented in its severity, thereby dragging Israel into a broad-scale operation inside Gaza.
Fourth, despite the implausibility of actual Palestinian reconciliation, the very existence of a gradual process between Hamas and the PA will contribute to stability as long as it lasts. Additionally, there is reason to believe that Egypt has asked Hamas and PIJ not to retaliate in the hope of maintaining a process it has been brokering from the start. This is a mixed blessing of course -- once the parties attempt to deal with their core issues of contention, Hamas may decide to evade political compromise by reverting to confrontation with Israel.
Operation Protective Edge brought Israeli deterrence in Gaza to an all-time high, resulting in a long period of relative calm. Israel has used this hiatus wisely, developing new technology of the sort that proved its effectiveness this week.
At the same time, this Israeli success could push Palestinian terrorist organizations into a corner and spur them to escalate -- despite the post-2014 deterrence, despite Gaza's growing internal crises, and despite the sensitive Palestinian reconciliation process. Yet one way or another, Operation Protective Edge served Israel's interests by giving it the time needed to take initiative in defending its southern border.
**Maj. Gen. (Res.) Sami Turjeman is a visiting military fellow at The Washington Institute. Previously, he led the IDF Southern Command, overseeing the last operation in Gaza during the Protective Edge campaign.

North Korea's Alliance with Syria Reveals a Wider Proliferation Threat
Jay Solomon/The Washington Institute/November 2, 2017
The longstanding cooperation between the two regimes seems to have intensified during Syria's war, with troubling implications for future missile, chemical, and even nuclear proliferation in the Middle East.
North Korea's decades-old military alliance with the Assad regime is stoking fears inside the Trump administration that Kim Jong-un is not only profiting from Syria's six-year war, but also learning from it. According to U.S., Arab, and Israeli officials, he has continued to supply weapons and military equipment to Damascus throughout the conflict despite facing numerous international sanctions. In recent months, UN investigators have uncovered North Korean supplies being smuggled to Syria's Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC), the secretive body that oversees Bashar al-Assad's chemical weapons program. Syrian opposition groups and the UN also allege that North Korean military advisors are present inside the country to help Assad, a charge Pyongyang has denied.
Such activities have led officials to conclude that North Korea's alliance with Damascus poses a long-term security threat to the United States and its allies in the Middle East and Asia -- a threat that could grow as Pyongyang advances its nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities, and as Assad strengthens his hold on power with help from Iran, Russia, and Hezbollah. Officials already fear that North Korean advisors have been integrated into the planning and operations of these military players. Even more worrisome, the West has proven incapable of shutting down Pyongyang's arms shipments to the wider Middle East, which are expected to become even more lethal in the coming years.
According to U.S. and South Korean officials, the Syria-North Korea alliance goes back to the 1960s and is far deeper and more entrenched than many Middle East analysts realize. Pyongyang and Damascus were both clients of the Soviet Union during the Cold War and established formal diplomatic relations in 1966. North Korean fighter pilots later aided the Syrian air force during its historic conflicts with Israel, including the 1967 Six Day War and the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Pyongyang has also dispatched tank crews and missile technicians to Syria to support its interminable "struggle" against Israel. "The North sees Israel as an invader and has been willing to support military action by the Arabs that promotes Palestinian liberation," wrote Moon Chung-in, a top advisor to the South Korean president, in 2007. "Solidarity between North Korea and the Arabs has been bolstered by maintaining security relations, which go far beyond diplomatic rhetoric."
The North's assistance to Damascus has intensified as the Kim family develops more sophisticated weapons systems. According to current and former U.S. officials, North Korea has proven willing to transfer equipment directly to Damascus and help the regime procure it from third countries such as China. The latter contention is particularly disturbing given that Pyongyang has used front companies across China to not only procure equipment for its military and nuclear weapons, but also export it.
Meanwhile, many North Korea analysts believe Kim is gleaning lessons from Assad's battlefield tactics, including the use of chemical weapons. There is little question that Kim is willing to use such weapons abroad -- Washington believes he authorized the use of VX nerve agent this February to assassinate his half-brother Kim Jong Nam in Malaysia, so he can be expected to use his vast chemical arsenal in any conflict with the West. "Korean analysts should take note of how chemical weapons were used in the [Syrian] civil war because this is likely going to be a test-bed for future North Korean actions in conflict with the South," wrote military strategist Bruce Bechtol Jr. in a 2015 report for the Korean Journal of Defense Analysis.
Many current and former U.S. officials consider Pyongyang's construction of a graphite reactor in Syria's Deir al-Zour province as one of the greatest acts of nuclear proliferation in history. Called al-Kibar, the facility was almost an exact replica of the Yongbyon reactor that North Korea has used to harvest plutonium for its own nuclear weapons arsenal. The Syrian reactor was close to being operational when Israeli jets destroyed it in 2007, killing a number of North Korean technicians working there.
Despite the audacity of this proliferation, the U.S. government and the UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, have yet to close their investigations into the reactor. As for the infrastructure and raw materials required to support such a facility -- including fuel fabrication plants and uranium -- their original source and ultimate fate largely remain a mystery. U.S. intelligence agencies are even uncertain who paid the North Koreans to build the plant given the Assad regime's tight finances. One theory still being pursued is that Iran funded al-Kibar and sought to outsource some of its nuclear research to Syria. And according to David Asher, former special coordinator of the State Department's North Korea Working Group, "It seems pretty clear the North Koreans never stopped working in Syria, which raises a whole bunch of other questions."
U.S. government cables indicate that officials in the George W. Bush and Obama administrations were equally stunned by the web of front companies Pyongyang used to procure equipment for Syria's missile programs. North Korean brokers purchased graphite, specialty steel, nozzle throats, and related materials to help Syria develop Scuds and other short- and medium-range ballistic missiles. Some of these transfers directly involved the SSRC, which U.S. and Israeli officials believe is central to all of the Assad regime's nonconventional weapons programs. "This dependence on North Korean sources both directly and via North Korean brokers for a range of missile-related materials, advanced chemicals, and technology is likely to continue, given the difficulties Syria has encountered purchasing such items directly from other suppliers," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrote in a 2009 memo focused on preparations for a gathering of the Missile Technology Control Regime in Rio de Janeiro.
Pyongyang's smuggling for Assad and the SSRC has continued, if not accelerated, throughout Syria's current war, even as international sanctions against both regimes have been strengthened. Likewise, North Korean government workers maintain a heavy presence in Damascus. A September report by the UN panel tasked with overseeing North Korea sanctions said it "continues to investigate the widespread presence of [such] Africa and the Middle East, particularly in the Syrian Arab Republic, acting on behalf of or at the direction of designated entities, including their involvement in prohibited activities such as trade in surface-to-air missile systems."
For example, the panel noted that two UN member states had interdicted shipments of North Korean equipment bound for Syria in recent months. The consignees for these shipments were Syrian companies sanctioned by the European Union and Washington for serving as SSRC fronts. Syrian-based representatives from one of Pyongyang's main arms suppliers, the Korea Mining Development Trading Corp. (KOMID), were believed to be facilitating the shipments. According to the UN, "The panel is investigating reported prohibited chemical, ballistic missile and conventional arms cooperation, including activities on Syrian Scud missile programs and maintenance and repair of Syrian surface-to-air missile air defense systems."
The Trump administration has stepped up U.S. efforts to choke off North Korea's overseas businesses and proliferation networks. The president has also ordered U.S. intelligence agencies to redouble their efforts to uncover all military cooperation between Pyongyang and Iran, including missile work and potential nuclear weapons links. U.S. officials are worried that North Korea has been integrated into the coalition of Middle Eastern regimes, terrorist groups, and militias that Tehran dubs the "Axis of Resistance." This alliance has rallied to Assad's defense but is also active in Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon, and the Palestinian territories.
Despite the Trump administration's pledge, however, some fear that Kim's rapidly expanding weapons arsenal -- which now includes as many as twenty atomic bombs, according to U.S. and Chinese officials -- could be even more difficult for the United States and UN to track. The White House will need to mobilize all of its Middle Eastern and Asian allies to guard against acts of proliferation potentially worse than the reactor North Korea built in eastern Syria. There is wide consensus that the cash-strapped North has every incentive to try selling even its most advanced weapons systems. In recent years, the United States has tracked North Korean arms sales to some of its closest regional allies, including Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, so preventing transfers to Iran's "axis" will no doubt be more difficult than ever.
**Jay Solomon is the Segal Distinguished Visiting Fellow at The Washington Institute and author of The Iran Wars: Spy Games, Bank Battles, and the Secret Deals That Reshaped the Middle East

Russia Makes Inroads in North Africa
Sarah Feuer and Anna Borshchevskaya/The Washington Institute/November 2, 2017
While U.S. attention is focused on fires already raging in the Middle East, Russia is quietly expanding its presence in North Africa, to the detriment of U.S. interests.
Since officially coming to power in May 2000, President Vladimir Putin has sought to restore Russian influence in regions the Kremlin lost in the 1990s. Although his efforts have been more visible in the Middle East, he has also targeted North Africa, where Moscow has geostrategic, economic, and political interests.
The events of the Arab Spring, which originated in North Africa, undercut the influence Putin had labored to regain and reinforced the Kremlin's perception that the West is behind all protest movements aimed at dismantling authoritarianism. In Putin's estimation, Russia's ascendancy depends on countering the United States and its European allies. Expanded access to the Mediterranean serves this broader goal by establishing a foothold in a European sphere of influence and reducing the U.S. ability to maneuver militarily. In economic terms, North Africa presents an opportunity for Russia to sell arms, forge partnerships in the energy sector, and invest in infrastructure development. Moscow can also claim it is in the region to fight terrorism.
Russia's most robust relationships are in Libya and Algeria, former Cold War allies. But even in Morocco and Tunisia, bilateral ties have grown in recent years.
The 2011 Libyan uprising, the subsequent NATO intervention aimed at blocking Muammar Qadhafi's forces from committing a massacre in Benghazi, and the collapse of Qadhafi's regime not only ruptured the country's status quo -- these events also upended a series of economic and military agreements Putin had forged with the Libyan dictator. Moscow has spent the last six years trying to salvage these deals. In July 2017, the Russian state-run oil and gas company Rosneft began purchasing oil from Libya's National Oil Corporation, and Putin is eyeing Tobruk and other ports for potential berthing agreements. The latter development would entail significant Russian investment, but a permanent naval presence in Libya would establish Russia as a regional power broker and should not be discounted.
Politically, Moscow leans heavily toward Gen. Khalifa Haftar, leader of the Libyan National Army (LNA) in the oil-rich east. In Haftar, Russia sees an emerging strongman who proclaims a shared aversion to Islamist groups. (The reality is more complicated, as Haftar has worked closely with Salafists, and Putin will generally ally with any actor similarly inclined to reduce Western influence.) Haftar's LNA is allied with the Tobruk-based House of Representatives, which has not fully endorsed the internationally recognized, Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) under Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj. Haftar visited Russia three times in 2016, and in January 2017 he boarded Russia's aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, then anchored off the coast of Tobruk. In March, Russian special forces were reportedly stationed in western Egypt to assist Haftar's troops across the border. Still, Moscow maintains contact with the GNA, partly to present itself as an alternative peacemaker to the United Nations and partly to hedge against Haftar. Ultimately, Moscow cares most about exerting influence in Libya, regardless of who is in charge. Among Libya's many strategic benefits, not least is an opportunity to influence Egyptian president Abdul Fattah al-Sisi next door.
 2001, when Russia and Algeria signed a declaration of strategic partnership, bilateral relations have been strongest in the military sector. In 2006, Russia concluded a $7.5 billion arms deal with Algeria -- its largest post-Soviet weapons sale -- which included a military modernization and training program, and cancellation of a $4.7 billion Soviet-era debt to Moscow. Weapons sales in 2010, 2012, 2013, and 2015 brought Algeria additional military equipment, including helicopters, tanks, and submarines. In 2016, Algeria and Russia began sharing intelligence on terrorist groups' movement across North Africa and announced additional plans for deeper military cooperation.
Russia has also sought to carve out a larger presence in Algeria's substantial oil and gas sectors. However, as Europe's third-largest natural gas supplier after Norway and Russia, Algeria has viewed Russia as more of a competitor than a partner in the energy arena. Russia's Gazprom does have assets in Algeria, and the company has won contracts to explore and develop oil and gas, but Algeria's restrictive foreign investment laws limit the investment potential of such companies.
Moscow views the birthplace of the Arab Spring as a potential hub for Russian companies wishing to enter African markets, and since 2011 the bilateral relationship has focused on counterterrorism, nuclear energy, and tourism. In 2016, Moscow began sharing with Tunis satellite imagery of terrorist groups moving across the Maghreb, a gesture that Tunisian officials later credited with helping them thwart several attacks linked to smuggling networks along the Libyan border. That same year, the countries announced a nuclear energy cooperation agreement and Moscow pledged to provide Tunisia's armed forces with helicopters, night-vision goggles, and bulletproof vests, although it remains unclear whether these supplies have been delivered.
The most visible sign of Russia's growing presence in Tunisia has been in the tourism sector. Between 2012 and early 2016, Tunisia was wracked by a series of high-casualty terrorist attacks, and revenues from its tourism industry plummeted as European travelers stayed away. Russians, by then prohibited from traveling to Egypt and Turkey over political disputes and security concerns, began filling the void. In 2016, roughly 600,000 Russian tourists visited Tunisia, a tenfold increase from the previous year and over 10 percent of the country's visitors that year. Tunisian retail businesses have welcomed Russians' presence, and the government has spoken positively of Russia's assistance in counterterrorism. Officials have also publicly acknowledged Russia's growing regional sway, including in Syria.
In 2016, Morocco's King Mohammed VI met with President Putin in Moscow, the monarch's first trip to Russia since 2002. The king sought strengthened economic relations through a renewal of the countries' free trade agreement and an expansion of Russian access to Moroccan fisheries on the Atlantic coast. His trip came against a backdrop of strained relations with the Obama administration, during which Moroccan officials grew frustrated with a perceived weakening of U.S. support for the kingdom's position concerning Western Sahara, and objected to the State Department's assessment of Morocco's human rights record.
Morocco-U.S. relations have begun to recover from these low points, but Morocco continues to strengthen its "strategic partnership" with Russia, evidenced by an announcement in October of eleven agreements in the agricultural, military, and energy sectors, including one by which Russia will begin supplying the kingdom with liquefied natural gas. As it does Tunisia, Russia views Morocco as an economic gateway to Africa; it also regards the kingdom as a model to emulate in countering Islamist extremism in its own vicinity.
Absent an assertive posture on the part of the United States, Russia's growing encroachment across the Maghreb will likely continue. Such an outcome will pose a challenge for the U.S. strategic interests of maintaining stability for its NATO and non-NATO allies in the region, ensuring freedom of operation for the U.S. Navy throughout the Mediterranean, and supporting regional actors working toward political and economic reform. In cooperation with its European allies, policymakers should promote greater regional counterterrorism cooperation among the Maghreb states and expand the U.S. Navy's presence across the Mediterranean. Stationing more vessels out of Rota, Spain, for example, would help constrain Russian actions.
Additionally, policymakers would do well to consider relatively low-cost measures to shore up the traditional alliances with Morocco and Tunisia, while also signaling the U.S. intention to engage with Algeria and Libya:
⦁ In Morocco, the United States needs to continue restoring trust with a key counterterrorism ally. Appointing an ambassador would be an important step in this regard. Additionally, policymakers should deepen ties to the kingdom by expanding educational and cultural exchanges, while encouraging momentum in Morocco's political and economic reforms.
⦁ In Tunisia, continued assistance will be crucial on border control, civilian police training, domestic counterterrorism, and programs strengthening the emerging democratic institutions and civil society organizations working to solidify them.
⦁ In Algeria, traditional wariness of closer ties with the United States should not obscure the fact that the largest country in Africa remains a vital security partner, as Algiers's assistance following the recent deaths of four U.S. Special Forces in Niger made clear. Moreover, Algeria could be primed for an economic and political opening, given its ailing octogenarian president and no clear succession plan. The Trump administration should engage with Algeria's business, energy, and military sectors to ensure the United States is well positioned in the event this opening occurs.
⦁ In Libya, the administration should weigh the risks of continued disengagement, given Russia's determination to fill the leadership void. Russia's involvement in Libya is unlikely to bring stability there, since Moscow has little interest in assisting the parties to address their underlying grievances.
In March 2017, the head of U.S. Africa Command, Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee that Russia seeks to exert maximum leverage over the most likely victor in the Libyan civil war and that such leverage would not be in the U.S. interest. As such, the Trump administration should adopt clearer statements and actions in support of recent peacemaking initiatives by UN special envoy Ghassan Salamé, and consider even modest investments in governance and capacity-building programs for Libyan activists residing in Tunisia.
**Sarah Feuer is a Soref Fellow at The Washington Institute, where Anna Borshchevskaya is the Ira Weiner Fellow.