October 01/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For Today
False messiahs and false prophets will appear and produce great signs and omens, to lead astray, if possible, even the elect
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 24/23-31/:"If anyone says to you, "Look! Here is the Messiah!" or "There he is!" do not believe it. For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and produce great signs and omens, to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.Take note, I have told you beforehand. So, if they say to you, "Look! He is in the wilderness", do not go out. If they say, "Look! He is in the inner rooms", do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather. ‘Immediately after the suffering of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see "the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven" with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other."

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on October 01/17
'A feeling of defeat': Lebanon's Sunnis frustrated in face of Hezbollah power
Ali Harb/Middle East Eye/September 30/17
Baghdad’s Reform to Halt Iraq’s Secession/Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat/September 30/17
The Quiet Islamic Conquest of Spain/Giulio Meotti/Gatestone Institute/September 30/17

Kurdish unilateral independence and a deadly impasse/Amir Taheri/Asharq Al Awsat/September 30/17

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on October 01/17
Nasrallah Warns Saudi against Stirring 'Internal Confrontations', Backing Kurdish Secession
Aoun: Monetary Stability a Priority to Prevent Financial Crisis
Rahi Says Situation 'Unbearable' Displaced Must Return Home
Suspected Arms Dealer Arrested in Akkar
Khalil: State Budget Will Soon be Approved and Published
Lassen Discusses Waste Management with Shehayyeb
Lebanon Overpasses Tests of Taxes, Repercussions of Bassil-Moallem Meeting
Current situation demands special measures: Aoun
US Embassy: Brown assured Lebanese officials of commitment to partnership and support of the army as the only defender of Lebanon
Lebanese A`````rmy denies news of military helicopter emergency landing in Sidon
Riachi to "Tele Liban" employees: Salary scale under continuous followup
Caccia pays Derian farewell visit
Chinese Ambassador marking his country's national day: We are committed to peaceful development concept, openness strategy
'A feeling of defeat': Lebanon's Sunnis frustrated in face of Hezbollah power

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on October 01/17
Kurdistan with No International Flights…Borders Battle Looming
Macron Invites Iraqi PM to Paris to Discuss Kurdish Vote
Iran Slaps Fuel Trade Embargo on Iraqi Kurdistan
Air Strikes Kill 28 Civilians in Syria Safe Zone
Losing Syria Bastion, IS Lashes out Behind Front Lines
ISIS Regroups in Sirte Outskirts as US Strikes Leave Several Militants Dead
Syria: Multiple Russian Airstrikes Pave Way to Idlib Battles
Saudi-Russian Summit Next Thursday
Canadian sentenced to nine years for trying to join IS
Catalans Occupy Polling Stations ahead of Contested Vote

Latest Lebanese Related News published on October 01/17
Nasrallah Warns Saudi against Stirring 'Internal Confrontations', Backing Kurdish Secession
Naharnet/September 30/17/Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah on Saturday warned Saudi Arabia against stirring what he called “internal confrontations” in Lebanon or backing any Kurdish bid for independence in Iraq. “We call for preserving the current stability in the country and the current state of calm, communication, dialogue and rapprochement among the various forces,” said Nasrallah in a televised speech marking the ninth night of the Shiite Ashura commemorations. “We faced a dangerous crisis after the Constitutional Council’s ruling on the new wage scale… and the country faced a dangerous juncture, but shunning confrontation and keenness on reaching solutions enabled the Lebanese to reach a solution,” Nasrallah noted. He emphasized that Lebanon’s interest lies in “avoiding any internal confrontation under any excuse.”“We've heard some reports that some parties are preparing for new political alignments. If they are related to elections, we don't have a problem, but I warn against any attempt to drag Lebanon into an internal confrontation,” Nasrallah said. “I don't advise anyone to drag Lebanon into internal confrontations, especially Saudi Arabia,” he warned. As for the conflict with Israel, Hizbullah’s chief said Israel acknowledges that his group is the “second strongest army” in the region. Addressing Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Nasrallah added: “Your interest lies in returning to your country and real life in your country.” “Look around you. The Palestinians are clinging to the right of return,” he said. As for the latest independence referendum in Iraq’s Kurdistan region, Nasrallah warned that “there's a new scheme to fragment the region and it has begun with Iraq’s Kurdistan. “Saudi Arabia is the nation that is most susceptible to partitioning,” added Nasrallah, warning the kingdom’s leaders against backing the Kurds’ bid for independence.

Aoun: Monetary Stability a Priority to Prevent Financial Crisis
Naharnet/September 30/17/President Michel Aoun stressed on Saturday that the maintaining Lebanon's monetary system is a priority in order to “prevent the country from falling into a financial crisis.”“The priority is to maintain the general stability and monetary regularity in order to prevent the country from falling into a financial crisis. Then, only the people and State would pay price,” said Aoun to his visitors. “Legal provisions exit to protect the citizens' rights, but an exceptional stage requires exceptional decisions that safeguard the country and people,” he added. “The country's interest compelled us to facilitate the issuance of the state budget with commitment to submitting the accounting records without a specified period of time,” added the president.

Rahi Says Situation 'Unbearable' Displaced Must Return Home
Naharnet/September 30/17/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi said on Saturday that the situation in Lebanon has become “unbearable” with the presence of more than 1.5 million Syrian refugees and that the country “must not wait for the international community” but should exert strenuous efforts to return the displaced. “Lebanon can not wait for the international community to return displaced Syrians back to their country because it has its own considerations,” said Rahi. “We have to work to return them back to their homeland because there are plenty of safe regions in Syria,” he added. The Patriarch noted that Lebanon is witnessing a “political-security crisis,” adding to the “crisis of refugees and the economic calamity.” “The situation is unbearable,” he remarked. Rahi spoke from the Bekaa city of Zahle where he began a two-day pastoral visit. Lebanon hosts more than 1.5 million Syrian refugees, who amount to more than a quarter of the country's population not to mention undocumented individuals, many of whom live in informal tented settlements. The Syria refugee influx into Lebanon has strained the country's infrastructure, and has also sparked accusations that refugee camps are harboring militants from the war.
The World Bank says the Syrian crisis has pushed an estimated 200,000 Lebanese into poverty, adding to the nation's one million poor.

Suspected Arms Dealer Arrested in Akkar
Naharnet/September 30/17/Police in the northern district of Akkar arrested a suspect over his alleged involvement in arms trade across the country's border, the National News Agency said Saturday. The Regional Directorate of the State Security in Akkar arrested the suspect on his motorbike in an ambush in the Jabal Akroum region, NNA said. The suspect, identified with his initials as K.D., was under close surveillance, it added. The agency said that several rifles were caught in his possession. The detainee is suspected to be involved in arms trade across the country's border, it added. He is wanted on several arrest warrants.

Khalil: State Budget Will Soon be Approved and Published
Naharnet/September 30/17/Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil said that the country's 2017 draft state budget will soon be ratified and promulgated, as he stressed keenness on maintaining the country's monetary stability, al-Joumhouria daily reported Saturday. “The State budget will soon be ratified and published. The cabinet has sent a request adding an article that allows us to publish it as soon as it is approved,” said Khalil to the daily. Khalil's comments came after the cabinet reached an agreement as for the controversial wage hikes crisis on Friday and stressed the need to approve the country's long awaited budget.
Due to political disputes, Lebanon has not ratified a state budget since 2005. The Cabinet endorsed in March and referred the 2017 draft budget to Parliament for the first time since.On the agreed wage hikes law Khalil said: “We have been clear since the beginning, the people have a right and the state must secure it through the wage scale. Similarly the state has the right to maintain its monetary stability through tax law provisions.”According to the daily, the Finance Ministry announced after the cabinet meeting that it has started transferring the public sector salaries noting that it agreed with the Banque to Liban to speed up the payments. Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced Friday that the “cabinet has agreed on an expedited draft law that includes tax adjustments,” that will be referred to the parliament in order to secure revenues for the wage scale.

Lassen Discusses Waste Management with Shehayyeb
Naharnet/September 30/17/Ambassador Christina Lassen, Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Lebanon, met with the Head of the Environment Parliamentary Committee, MP Akram Shehayeb, and discussed with him the urgent challenges that Lebanon is facing in managing solid waste, particularly in Beirut and Mount Lebanon, a press release said. Lassen addressed with Shehayeb the need to move forward with the review and adoption of the law on integrated solid waste management. She said: "It is crucial to get the legal and regulatory framework in place in order to establish the necessary standards."She also highlighted the importance of "paving the way for long-term financing for the whole sector" and underlined the importance of working hand in hand with all concerned parties towards finding suitable solutions. The Ambassador added: "The discussion would certainly benefit from the experience accumulated by the private sector and the civil society in recent years. The EU stands ready to assist in organizing consultations and to provide expertise."

Lebanon Overpasses Tests of Taxes, Repercussions of Bassil-Moallem Meeting
Asharq Al-Awsat/September 30/17/Beirut- The Lebanese government overpassed on Friday the test of a tax law and the repercussions of a meeting held last week in New York between its Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil and his Syrian counterpart Walid Moallem. On Friday, the cabinet convened at the Grand Serail in Beirut and adopted a new tax law to finance the salary scale.However, in order to avoid disturbing the government alliance, ministers at the Cabinet failed to address disputes related to a meeting held between the foreign ministers of Lebanon and the Syrian regime in New York.
By adopting the new tax law, the government ended the civil servants strike that started early this week across the country. After a decision of the Constitutional Council to overturn a tax law, the Lebanese Cabinet faced a deadlock in providing resources to fund a salary scale for public employees, who were angry from the possibility of not receiving their financial rights. The Union Coordination Committee (UCC) called for a general strike Monday in all public administrations, schools, and municipalities to put pressure on the government to pay public employees according to the new salary scale.
“We reached today an expedited draft law that includes the necessary tax adjustments. We will send it to Parliament for approval as soon as possible,” Prime Minister Saad Hariri said following the session.
He added that the “political consensus that continues and on which we are keen, the President of the Republic, all the parties in the government and I, has produced this solution, which some thought would be complicated, but in the end, we reached it.”And while the prime minister did not deny the presence of a political dispute concerning communications with the Syrian regime, Minister of State for Refugee Affairs Mouin Merhebi told Asharq Al-Awsat on Friday that the issue was not discussed by the Cabinet in its last two meetings held this week.
“The repercussions of the (Bassil-Moallem) meeting were not tackled,” he said, warning that the current state linked to communications held with Damascus aside from the government’s approval “cannot continue.”Meanwhile, the US sanctions passed on Thursday against Hezbollah reflected worries in the ranks of the party, which placed the new US bills in the framework of “intimidating all Lebanese.”

Current situation demands special measures: Aoun
Asharq Al-Awsat/September 30/17/BEIRUT: President Michel Aoun said Saturday that the government would effectively suspend an article of the constitution by moving forward on amending the tax hike law and drafting a state budget without accounting for previous years’ extra-budgetary expenditure.
“Legal texts exist to protect the rights of citizens, but this exceptional phase requires extraordinary decisions that protect the country and its people,” Aoun said, in a statement from the president’s press office said. Aoun added that the current state of affairs required “bold national decisions that push the head of state to take whatever consequences there may be, because [these consequences] are far better than exposing the country to financial and economic crisis.”Article 87 of the Lebanese constitution requires that the previous years’ extra-budgetary expenditure be audited and accounted for before the government can pass a new state budget. Lebanon has been without a budget since 2005, thus all of last year’s spending falls within the parameters set by Article 87. Aoun said that the Cabinet decision reached Friday, which effectively called for a new tax law and for the 2017 state draft budget to be ratified without the auditing of extra-budgetary spending, was necessary after all other options were exhausted. “If the [revisiting] of the tax law were done through a new [state budget] draft, the issuance of the budget would require the approval of extra-budgetary spending for the last years, which could not be accomplished in a short period of time – meaning that the country would remain without a budget, and the imbalance in the public finances of the state would continue,” he said. Aoun also said that nationwide strikes aiming to pressure the government into passing the salary hike had threatened the stability of the country. “There are those who wish to exploit the disparity in attitudes towards the issuance of the budget and the tax law, to create disturbances that negatively affect the safe conditions [in the country that have lasted] for nearly a year, and this cannot be accepted,” he said. The president added that the measures adopted by Cabinet in their Friday session would ensure, when approved, the issuance of a state budget for the first time since 2005, as well as the completion of auditing on extra-budgetary spending in “the next few months.”Cabinet had scrambled over the preceding week to resolve a crisis over the new salary scale law, after the tax hike law designed to fund the increases was annulled by the Constitutional Council.

US Embassy: Brown assured Lebanese officials of commitment to partnership and support of the army as the only defender of Lebanon
Sat 30 Sep 2017/NNA - In a statement issued by the American Embassy in Beirut on the meetings of Deputy Commander of the US Central Command, General Charles Brown, in Beirut and the South on Friday and Saturday, it indicated that he "reaffirmed the commitment of the United States Government to the Lebanese-American partnership and to support the Lebanese Army as the sole defender of Lebanon." In this context, Brown met yesterday with President Michel Aoun, Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Defense Minister Yacoub al-Sarraf, as well as Army Chief, General Joseph Aoun, the statement indicated.
The US Deputy Commander also met today with UNIFIL Commander, Major General Michael Perry, at the UNIFIL headquarters in Naqoura, to discuss the vital mission of UNIFIL, which helped to ease the tension in southern Lebanon, the statement concluded.

Lebanese A`````rmy denies news of military helicopter emergency landing in Sidon

Sat 30 Sep 2017/NNA - In an issued communiqué by the Lebanese Army's Orientation Directorate on Saturday, it categorically denied circulated news by certain media regarding the emergency landing of an airforce helicopter in the area of Sidon, indicating that the helicopter was on a military mission and was not subjected to any emergency failure.

Riachi to "Tele Liban" employees: Salary scale under continuous followup
Sat 30 Sep 2017/NNA - In his meeting with a delegation of Lebanese Television employees who visited him at his Khanshara residence on Saturday, Information Minister Melhem Riachi assured them of following-up on the salaries and ranks series with Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil, so that employees can receive their rightful dues. Meanwhile, Riachi stressed on being "equidistant from all candidates running in the Syndicate Union membership elections." He hoped that the elections would take place in an atmosphere of democracy, so that the best staff representative catering to their affairs away from narrow calculations would win; thus, serving the higher interests of the Television Station.

Caccia pays Derian farewell visit
Sat 30 Sep 2017/NNA - Papal Ambassador to Lebanon, Gabriel Caccia, visited on Saturday, Mufti of the Republic, Sheikh Abdul Latif Derian, on a farewell visit upon ending his diplomatic mission in Lebanon. The pair discussed ways to strengthen the Islamic-Christian relations in Lebanon and the Arab region, as well as consolidating relations between Dar-el-Fatwa and Vatican. Derian also wished Caccia success in his new diplomatic mission, expressing his appreciation for the efforts he had made during his work in Lebanon and for promoting the Islamic-Christian dialogue.

Chinese Ambassador marking his country's national day: We are committed to peaceful development concept, openness strategy

Sat 30 Sep 2017/NNA - Marking his country's 68th National Day, Chinese Ambassador to Lebanon, Wang Kejian, highlighted China's "commitment to the notion of peaceful development and its adherence the strategy of openness."
Addressing a crowd of prominent guest officials who gathered to celebrate the occasion at the Phoenicia Hotel in Beirut on Friday evening, Kejian pointed to the prospering and continuously growing Lebanese-Chinese friendly relations and bilateral cooperation in various fields. "The visits exchanged by Lebanese and Chinese officials have contributed to a broad consensus between both sides on further deepening bilateral relations, and expanding practical cooperation based on mutual benefit," said Kejian. "China supports Lebanon's efforts to safeguard the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of the country, and China is satisfied with the progress made by Lebanon in the political process," he emphasized. "China strongly supports counter-terrorism operations in Lebanon and supports Lebanon's call for the return of Syrian refugees to their country," Kejian continued to stress. "The Chinese side is ready to offer its experiences and expertise on development to the Lebanese side, enhance mutual communication and learning and achieve common development," the Chinese diplomat underscored. "I would like to assure you that I am ready to work with Lebanese friends from all fields to further consolidate and improve the Chinese-Lebanese friendship, and further deepen practical and mutually beneficial cooperation," vowed Kejian.

'A feeling of defeat': Lebanon's Sunnis frustrated in face of Hezbollah power
Ali Harb/Middle East Eye/Friday 29 September 2017
Hezbollah dominates Lebanese affairs as Saudi Arabia becomes mere 'observer' of country
TRIPOLI, Lebanon - The present hegemony of Hezbollah, Lebanon's powerful Shia group, over local affairs in the absence of a political counter-force has left the country's Sunnis feeling weak and frustrated.
"There is a feeling of defeat," Mustapha Allouch, a former member of parliament, told Middle East Eye in reference to Lebanon's Sunnis, in spite of their numbers being roughly equal to Shia in the multi-religious country.
Iran-backed Hezbollah recently declared victory in Syria, and less than a year ago elevated ally Michel Aoun to Lebanon's presidency as it became a major regional player. It has been fighting alongside the Syrian government's international allies, including Russia, while maintaining border deterrence against the Israelis and threatening that the next confrontation may take place on their territory.
The main Sunni bloc, meanwhile, led by Prime Minister Saad Hariri, is experiencing financial and political crises amid cooling relations with backer Saudi Arabia.
In politics, you don't choose between right and wrong; you make the choice that is the least dangerous.
Hariri did return to the premiership along with Aoun's ascension to the presidency last October, but it was only with Hezbollah's approval.
Hariri's first cabinet was toppled by the Shia movement in 2011, shortly before the start of the Syrian conflict, when Hezbollah and its allies withdrew their ministers from the government.
The prime minister dominated the Sunni vote in the last parliamentary elections, but that was in 2009. Observers and members of his own party say that Hariri is unlikely to retain his near monopoly over Sunni representation in next year's election.
Hariri, who inherited his father's Future Movement party after Rafic Hariri was assassinated in 2005, is no longer the unquestioned leader of Lebanon's Sunnis.
He has entered a grey region where hardliners say he compromises too much and Hezbollah views him as an arm of Iran's bitter enemies in Riyadh.
'Abnormal situation'
Ashraf Rifi, a former security chief and justice minister, deserted Hariri's camp because of what he calls its bending to Hezbollah's will. He says the Future Movement's outlook is defeatist.
Rifi is one of the emerging figures in the Sunni community who may threaten Hariri's leadership.
In Tripoli's 2016 city council elections, candidates backed by Rifi defeated Hariri's list, which was also supported by other local leaders, including former prime minister Najib Mikati.
In an interview with MEE, Rifi drew a parallel with France during World War II, when the government of Philippe Petain chose to hand France to the Nazis while General Charles de Gaulle led a resistance movement from London.
Hezbollah, for its part, maintains that it is not looking to dominate Lebanon, and that it sent its fighters to Syria to protect the Lebanese people from the threat of "terrorism".
Rifi blames the Future Movement for the current "abnormal situation" in which Lebanon's Sunnis find themselves.
"They feel like the leadership has given up," Rifi told MEE from his house in the Achrafieh neighbourhood of Beirut.
"The leadership to whom they gave all of their trust and all of their votes did not rise to the proper level of responsibility. The leadership acted like it was defeated and pursued choices contrary to those of the community it represents."
Besides disappointing Sunnis in dealing with Hezbollah, Rifi said, Hariri's party has also failed to satisfy people's social and economic needs.
He added that the Future Movement satisfied its own needs in giving Hezbollah a president and a majority in the cabinet, hinting at Hariri's return as prime minister.
My alternative is the state, not a militia. I can't agree to bend under the premise that Hezbollah has arms
Amer Helwani, a member of the Future Movement's political bureau, said Hariri had agreed to having Aoun as president because the other option was for the Lebanese state to crumble after more than two years of vacancy in the office of the presidency.
"In politics, you don't choose between right and wrong; you make the choice that is the least dangerous and least wrong," he told MEE.
Hariri is also the main leader of the Western- and Saudi-backed 14 March Movement, which was formed after his father's assassination in 2005 to demand Syria's withdrawal from Lebanon.
Syrian troops did exit Lebanon after a popular uprising that followed Hariri's death. Damascus had dominated Lebanese affairs since the end of its civil war in 1990.
Hariri's bloc was on the offensive after sweeping the elections that same year.
His allies called for disarming Hezbollah and successfully pushed for a tribunal and international investigation into the elder Hariri's death.
However, the alliance began crumbling as Hezbollah found an ally in Aoun, formerly a staunch opponent of the Syrian government.
On 7 May 2008, Hezbollah deployed armed men in Beirut to protest against a decision by the 14 March-led government to remove an internal phone network the group had set up.
The Sunnis' stance is that they are being targeted regionally, not only in Lebanon.
The militants brought life in the capital to a standstill and burned down Hariri's Future TV facility.
Hezbollah argued that the phone network was an essential part of its arsenal against Israel. Its chief, Hassan Nasrallah, vowed to "sever the hand" that reached for Hezbollah’s weapons.
Those events of 7 May changed the balance of power in Lebanon going forward.
Allouch, an outspoken leader within the Future Movement, said Hezbollah has had its way by using its weapons or threatening to use its weapons against political opponents.
Feeling like a minority
Allouch said that since the beginnings of Islam, Sunnis had been in power and considered themselves an integral part of the Islamic umma (nation), rather than a fringe community. But when the Ottoman Empire collapsed at the end of World War I, they were shocked by the loss of their centre of power in the world.
In Lebanon, Rafic Hariri's murder and Hezbollah's transformation into the country's strongest force has left Sunnis feeling like a minority and sharpened a sense of victimisation.
The war in Syria, Allouch said, has furthered that perception.
"Two years into the revolution, after all the massacres and Hezbollah's intervention, the Sunnis' stance is that they are being targeted regionally, not only in Lebanon," Allouch, a physician, told MEE from a hospital in the northern city of Tripoli.
He said Sunnis feel there is a global war against them involving the West, Russia and Iran.
Conspiracy theories about Tehran secretly working with Washington against Sunni Muslims have long fuelled anti-Iran and anti-Shia feelings in the region.
The frustration of Sunnis in Lebanon is also part of a wider feeling of repression since the demise of the Arab spring.
Allouch noted the double standards of the state in dealing with Lebanese people who fought in Syria.
Whereas Hezbollah has openly become a decisive force in the neighbouring country's civil war, Lebanese Sunnis who joined rebel forces have been detained and prosecuted, he said.
Since the beginning of the Syrian conflict, Lebanon has witnessed the rise of Sunni militant groups, including the emergence of Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir, who was sentenced to death on 28 September over deadly clashes with the Lebanese army.
Allouch said "militant extremism" only strengthens its counterparts, emphasising that Hariri did not encourage or approve of such groups.
"Our stance at the Future Movement has always been that extremism can only be treated with more moderation," he said.
Rifi also dismissed militant Sunni movements and figures, saying they do not represent the "moderate" community. He said "extremists" had been overrepresented among Sunnis because they filled the public squares, while moderates stayed at home.
Still, "bending is not being moderate; it's self-nullification," Rifi said.
Allouch warned that picking up arms against Hezbollah would not be effective.
The aim in the conflict with Hezbollah is survival without surrender, he said, acknowledging the limitations of his party.
According to Allouch, there are two possible solutions to Hezbollah's weapons: some sort of international agreement or the defeat of one side in a regional sectarian conflict.
"In either case, our role in Lebanon will not be influential unless there is arming and financing of Sunni groups in Lebanon," he said.
"In that case, we are heading towards civil war, which would be destructive for the entire country."
Allouch added that Hariri's Sunni opponents have raised the bar but have failed to provide any actual solutions.
Still, Rifi dismissed the notion that standing up to Hezbollah would lead to a civil war.
"My alternative is the state, not a militia, and I can't agree to bend under the premise that Hezbollah has arms," he said.
Abdul Ghani Imad, a sociology professor at Lebanese University, said the shifting balance of power, weakness of the state and unprecedented sectarian tensions have made Sunnis feel they are victims of injustice.
"Like all Lebanese people, they want justice; they want equality," Imad told MEE. "But given this inflammation of sectarian identities, they feel there is discrimination against them."
The Saudi role
Murmurs had been spreading around Tripoli that Qatar may be behind Rifi's political insurgency. The former security chief denies that he receives funds from Doha.
He said Lebanon's Sunnis still look to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for regional leadership.
Tripoli's main square features the name of Allah and describes the city as the 'castle of Muslims'
"We hope that harmony returns to the Gulf," he said, calling on Qatar to "revise its policies" to help end the crisis.
Standing by US President Donald Trump on the lawn of the White House in July, Hariri backed Kuwaiti mediation efforts in the Gulf crisis, calling for dialogue and refraining from criticising Doha.
Meanwhile, analysts say, amid Hezbollah's rise the Saudi kingdom seems to be changing its approach towards Lebanon.
While in the past Riyadh supported Hariri and his father before him as a Lebanese counterweight to Hezbollah, last year Saudi Arabia cancelled a $3b grant to the Lebanese army and warned its citizens against visiting the country.
It was a sign that the kingdom is moving away from participating in Lebanese affairs towards considering the country a hostile state within the Iranian orbit.
However, despite a receding Saudi role, Qatar has yet to gain a firm foothold in the Lebanese political landscape.
'A vigilant eye': UN troops in Lebanon see no appetite for war
Imad, the sociology professor, admitted that Riyadh's relations with Hariri are confusing.
Saudi is now operating more as an observer than a player in Lebanon, without putting its weight behind Hariri, Imad said.
"Did they abandon him?" he asked. "Then who is their alternative ally?"
He cast doubt on Rifi as Riyadh's new man in Lebanon, saying the Future Movement remains the only Sunni party that enjoys widespread popularity.
Allouch lamented that Hariri's relations with Riyadh are not what they used to be, but he refused to criticise Saudi Arabia, adding that the kingdom has stood by Lebanon through hard times before.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on October 01/17
Kurdistan with No International Flights…Borders Battle Looming
Asharq Al-Awsat/September 30/17/Baghdad, Irbil- All international flights to and from the Kurdistan region were suspended from Friday evening after the Iraqi central government enforced a travel ban in response to the referendum on independence held by the Region last Monday. The travel ban came as Kurdish authorities insisted to calm the situation by calling for an urgent meeting with officials in Baghdad to solve the crisis. But at the same time, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) rejected to hand over 3 border gates to Baghdad. Last Tuesday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said that if border crossings are not given to Baghdad within three days, “we will stop all international flights from and to the KRG.”Therefore, a battle of the three main crossing gates is looming as the Iraqi Defense Ministry asserted it plans to control the gates in coordination with Iran and Turkey. “Plans to impose the authority of the central government over land and air borders are going as has been planned in coordination with concerned parties and neighboring countries and there is no delay in the procedures,” the ministry said in a statement issued Friday. The three border gates are the Ibrahim al-Khalil border crossing in Zakho, Dohuk, on the Turkish border, the Bashmakh border crossing on the Iranian border near the city of Sulaymaniyah, and Haj Omran, another crossing into Iran. Almost all international air companies suspended their flights to the two international airports in Irbil and Sulaimani on Friday in response to the Iraqi-imposed ban on international flights to and from the Kurdistan Region. However, the ban will not affect the internal airports. Therefore, the majority of travelers are expected to land at the Baghdad airport, which expects to witness masses of travelers due to the addition of flights on its schedule. On Friday, the two airports of Irbil and Sulaimani were packed with foreign travelers who rushed to leave the area before the ban comes into effect. For his part, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Friday that Washington did not recognize the referendum. “We encourage all sides to engage constructively in a dialogue to improve the future of all Iraqis,” Tillerson said. The US position came as the highest Shi’ite reference in Iraq Ali Al-Sistani interfered for the first time in the crisis and announced his objection to the division of the country. In a statement read in the Shi’ite holy city of Karbala by cleric Ahmad al-Safi during Friday prayers, al-Sistani said all parties in Iraq should abide by the Iraqi constitution. Also, the Iranian semi-official news agency Tasnim said on Friday that Iran has banned the transportation of refined crude oil products by Iranian companies to and from Iraq’s Kurdistan region, after Tehran vowed to stand by Baghdad following the region’s vote for independence, Reuters reported on Friday.

Macron Invites Iraqi PM to Paris to Discuss Kurdish Vote
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/September 30/17/French President Emmanuel Macron has invited Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to visit on October 5 to discuss the Kurdish independence referendum, offering France's help in calming tensions over the vote.
In a statement, the presidency said France wanted to "help Iraq to stop tensions from setting in" after the deeply divisive vote on Monday saw Iraqi Kurdistan overwhelmingly support secession. "Emmanuel Macron stressed the importance of preserving the unity and integrity of Iraq while recognising the rights of the Kurdish people. Any escalation must be avoided," the presidency said in the statement late Friday. "Faced with the priority of fighting Daesh and the stabilisation of Iraq, Iraqis must remain united," it added, referring to the Islamic State group. While Monday's independence vote was non-binding, it has nonetheless sent tensions in the country and the region soaring. In response to the poll, The Iraqi government has cut Kurdistan's direct air links with the outside world, partially isolating the northern region. Turkey and Iran, which both have their own Kurdish minorities, have denounced the referendum, while the United States described it as "unilateral" and lacking legitimacy.

Iran Slaps Fuel Trade Embargo on Iraqi Kurdistan
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/September 30/17/Iran has embargoed exports and imports of fuel products to and from Iraqi Kurdistan in response to the region's controversial independence referendum, Iranian media reported on Saturday. All transport companies and drivers are ordered to stop carrying fuel products between Iran and Iraqi Kurdistan "until further notice" or face "consequences", the state broadcaster's website reported citing a transport ministry directive. Iraqi Kurds overwhelmingly voted for independence in Monday's non-binding referendum, which has sent regional tensions soaring. Iran strongly opposes independence for the Iraqi Kurds, fearing it will provoke separatists among its own Kurdish population. The transport ministry order, sent to various organisations and transportation associations, is dated Wednesday, according to a copy published by Tasnim news agency.
"Based on the recent regional developments and the order of the department of border and counter-strike affairs of the Interior Ministry, international transport companies and drivers should avoid loading and carrying fuel products to and/or from the Kurdistan region of Iraq until further notice," the directive said.
Gas oil is one of Iran's main exports to the autonomous Kurdistan region, which imported 110 million litres of it from Iran last year, state broadcaster IRIB said quoting figures from the National Oil Company.

Air Strikes Kill 28 Civilians in Syria Safe Zone
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/September 30/17/At least 28 civilians were killed in air strikes on northwestern Syria where a planned safe zone has been overshadowed by a bombing campaign against jihadists, a monitor said Saturday. Four children were among the dead in the overnight strikes on the town of Amanaz, in Idlib province near the Turkish border, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. The Britain-based watchdog had earlier reported 12 dead in the strikes on the town in Harem district around 20 kilometres (12 miles) northwest of the provincial capital Idlib. It said it could not immediately determine whether the strikes had been carried out by warplanes of the Syrian government or its ally Russia. But they are the latest in an intensifying air campaign carried out by the two governments against jihadist fighters who control most of the province and are not party to a safe zone deal brokered by Russia, Turkey and Iran. The surge in bombing raids has forced hospitals in the province to close, medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said on Friday. They were triggered by an offensive by jihadist fighters led by Al-Qaeda's former Syria affiliate launched against government-held villages in neighbouring Hama province on September 19. The jihadists control nearly all of Idlib province after driving out Islamist former allies earlier this year. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed on Thursday to step up efforts to establish a safe zone in Idlib as part of a wider agreement struck in May.Three other safe zones have already been set up -- in Eastern Ghouta near Damascus, parts of the south and some areas of the central province of Homs. The de-escalation agreement excludes both the Islamic State group and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the alliance dominated by Al-Qaeda's former Syrian affiliate.

Losing Syria Bastion, IS Lashes out Behind Front Lines
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/September 30/17/Just after sunrise outside Syria's Raqa, dozens of Islamic State group jihadists donned Kurdish military uniforms, piled into cars with weapons, and broke back into a district they lost control of months ago. The raid was the latest evidence that IS, despite holding just a pocket of territory in its one-time stronghold, retains the capacity to wage deadly guerrilla attacks on areas thought to be relatively safe.The jihadists opened fire on a media centre run by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces in Al-Meshleb, the easternmost neighbourhood of Raqa and the first area taken from IS in June. "They were wearing YPG (Kurdish People's Protection Units) uniforms and came in six cars from the east," said the centre's head Kani Shahani, who was communicating with AFP during the attack. The YPG forms the backbone of the SDF, a key force fighting IS in northern Syria with support from the US-led coalition against the jihadists. Hours of clashes left at least two SDF members dead and appeared to shake the confidence of the alliance of Arab and Kurdish fighters in the area as a safe rearbase.The road into the east -- which had seen regular civilian traffic over the past few weeks -- has remained sealed for days, with large metal barrels and sand berms blocking access.
Tense SDF fighters were on high alert as they searched cars and motorcycles at checkpoints on Friday. Two other failed infiltration attempts also hit the city's west this week. On Friday, jihadists were suspected of trying to sneak out of the city among civilians, SDF members said. More than a dozen vans of SDF fighters could be seen speeding from a western suburb into the city to reinforce regular positions.  - Sleeper cells, tunnels -"There has been more than one attempt from Daesh to break this siege on those inside, including striking behind the front lines," said SDF press chief Mustefa Bali, using the Arabic acronym for IS. He said the attack on Al-Meshleb was waged by at least 30 IS fighters who snuck in from territory a few kilometres east of the city limits. "This shows that the infiltration was major. This area is supposed to be relatively secure," Bali said, adding that it was proof of "sleeper cells" in the area.
The SDF is tightening the noose on IS in a final pocket of territory that include Raqa's national hospital and the football stadium.
While most of the city's neighbourhoods are under SDF control, the US-backed fighters said that they have not cleared them house by house. Some feared IS was using a massive network of underground tunnels to move around in secret. Jeker Derek, an SDF fighter in the city's west, said that his unit had fought off a surprise attack by IS earlier this week. "Two days ago, we faced an attack from underground. A group of Daesh fighters came out from here and we clashed with them," the lean fighter said. He was pointing to a now-sealed tunnel entrance in a building just hundreds of metres (yards) west of Raqa's national hospital, where hundreds of jihadists are thought to be holed up with civilians. "This is the entrance, but it's not clear where it ends."
- 'Come from anywhere' -Other SDF members and representatives of the US-led coalition backing the offensive on Raqa said IS was trying to blend in with displaced civilians to escape the city undetected before waging new attacks. The coalition said last week it had detained several IS fighters -- including a local leader -- attempting to flee Raqa alongside residents. "Trying to sneak in with IDP (internally displaced people) flows, sneak out and lay low is something we're worried about," a senior commander from the US-led coalition backing the SDF's operations told AFP.
The commander said recent guerrilla attacks proved that IS was still a threat, but that it was lashing out in a last-ditch attempt to do damage to the SDF.  "It's that boxer on the ropes throwing punches -- he's still going to get one in every once in a while. It's still dangerous," the commander said.
In Hawi al-Hawa, a western suburb of Raqa under SDF control for months, fighter Jamal Mahmoud seemed nervous that his unit would be the next target. He had heard about the hit-and-run attack on Al-Meshleb earlier in the week and said it showed that "an attack could happen at any moment". "On the frontline, you know your enemy is going to be facing you," he said. "But in a liberated city that has all these tunnels, he could come at you from anywhere."

ISIS Regroups in Sirte Outskirts as US Strikes Leave Several Militants Dead
Asharq Al-Awsat/September 30/17/Cairo- UN-recognized government’s Defense Ministry Spokesman Brigadier General Mohammed Al-Ghasri, speaking in Sirte on Friday, reiterated that ISIS has become a global threat.
On that note, the US military has conducted airstrikes against ISIS in Libya this week. Two airstrikes 100 miles southeast of Sirte on Tuesday left “several” ISIS militants dead, the US Africa Command (AFRICOM), which oversees American military activities on the continent, said in a statement.
Six other US airstrikes last Friday killed 17 ISIS members and destroyed three vehicles in a desert camp approximately 150 miles southeast of Sirte, according to AFRICOM. ISIS considers southeast Sirte an important region for its operations because it is home to several major oil fields like al-Bayda, Mabruk, Bahi, and Fida. ISIS in Libya is reorganizing on the outskirts of Sirte, on the gulf by the same name, under the name “army of the desert”, the head of investigations at the Libyan prosecutor general’s office, Siddiq al-Sour, was quoted as saying by the BBC’s website.
The report is one of many released by the magistrate and based on statements made by ISIS militants questioned by investigators. Al-Sour explained the settlement of ISIS in Libya with the financial support that the “Libyan government” granted in the past to militants of the now-dissolved Ansar Al-Sharia and Al Qaeda. The funding then allegedly changed hands from Ansar to ISIS.
ISIS Libyan militants took control of Sirte in May 2015. It was subsequently retaken by Libyan forces between August and December 2016.
A country of about 6.4 million people, Libya descended into chaos in 2011 when an uprising and international intervention led to the overthrow and subsequent execution of former regime head Moammar Gadhafi.
The civil war has divided the country into two governments, the U.N.-backed Government of National Accord in Tripoli and the Russian-backed Libyan National Army in Tobruk, with each laying claim to power.
The United States stands by the Libyans and supports their efforts to combat terrorist threats. More so it continues to reaffirm its strong position on continuing to put pressure on the terrorist network, and prevent ultra-hardliners from establishing a safe haven. Spokesman Brig.Gen. Ghasri, leading forces loyal to the Tripoli-based government waging a war against terror group ISIS under the name of Operation ‘Al-Bunyan Al-Marsoos,’ told Asharq Al-Awsat that the recent US strikes against ISIS sites was performed by a drone.
He also pointed out that his forces began a broad sweep of the struck post, to register the toll whether in material or human losses suffered by ISIS.
Ghasri said that his forces, over the last three days, strained the desert and remote areas south of Sirte. He pointed out that forces lead an open pursuit of armed elements affiliated with the extremist organization.

Syria: Multiple Russian Airstrikes Pave Way to Idlib Battles
Asharq Al-Awsat/September 30/17/Beirut- Massive escalation in Russian air strikes against the Idlib province in northwest Syria was registered on Friday. Strikes were far-reaching and touched on border areas with Turkey, amid expectations that the raids pave the way for an imminent military operation to expel Al Qaeda-linked militants from the Syrian province. The escalation followed the meeting of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara, during which political sources cited that Syrian opposition ‘deliberately’ embarrassed Turkish authorities by formally requesting that Russia oversees a cease-fire in northern Syria. But other sources said the Russian bombing could be part of an agreement with Turkey to expel the al-Sham Liberation Organization (an al-Qaeda affiliate) from its stronghold in Idlib.
It was noted that the Russian aircraft expanded its shelling of the countryside Idlib on Friday to include points adjacent to Turkish borders, as information came in about the violation of Turkish airspace during the exercises to bombardment, and dozens of strikes targeted over 42 towns and villages in the northern countryside of this province. On the other hand, dozens of elements of the Syrian regime and its allies have been killed in large-scale attacks launched by ISIS protecting their outposts in central Syria, where the killing of 14 members of Hezbollah, the largest loss of the party suffered since its participation in the battles of the Syrian Badia against ISIS. Hezbollah members fought alongside the Syrian pro-regime forces to recover ground lost during an ISIS counterattack in eastern Syria that targeted positions on the road between Deir al-Zor and Palmyra, a commander in the pro-Damascus alliance said. Hours later, the military information unit of Hezbollah said that the Syrian army and its allies had managed to secure the road from Palmyra to Deir al-Zour after foiling the violent attack.
The assault marked the first major counterattack against the Syrian army and its allies since they broke through a swathe of ISIS-held territory to reach the city of Deir al-Zor earlier this month.

Saudi-Russian Summit Next Thursday
Asharq Al-Awsat/September 30/17/Moscow- The Kremlin said it hopes that the upcoming visit of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud to Moscow next week will give a new powerful impetus to the development of bilateral relations with Riyadh which is the leader of the Arab world. “Russia is interested in maintaining a dialogue, including in the framework of the discussion of the situation in the Middle East and Syria,” the press secretary of the Russian president Dmitry Peskov said on Friday.
King Salman is expected to arrive in Moscow next Wednesday on an official visit to Russia. A summit between the Saudi King and Russian President Vladimir Putin will be held on Thursday to discuss enhancing and developing bilateral relations, and would also tackle a number of regional and international issues. The visit will last until Sunday. “We hope that this visit will give a new powerful impetus to the development of bilateral relations, because the potential of our relations is much richer than the de facto situation, and we want to develop our dialogue in every possible way,” Peskov said. Saudi King’s official visit will also witness the signing of Russia of a number of memorandums and agreements with 6 Saudi governmental bodies. Two Saudi companies will also sign a number of deals with four Russian companies. The visit will also see the delivery of a number of investment permits. Asked whether the visit of King Salman constitutes a sign of the rapprochement of positions between Moscow and Riyadh, particularly concerning the Syrian crisis, Peskov said: “Saudi Arabia is a state that plays an important role in Arab and inter-Arab affairs. It is the leader of the Arab world.”
He added that Russia is undoubtedly interested to keep its dialogue with the Kingdom.

Canadian sentenced to nine years for trying to join IS
Sat 30 Sep 2017/NNA - A 29-year-old Canadian was sentenced on Friday to nine years in prison for trying to travel overseas to join the Islamic State group. Ismael Habib was the first person to be found guilty at trial under a law banning people from trying to leave Canada to commit a terrorist act.
"This wasn't a utopian or irrational project of a manipulated adolescent. Rather, it was done with perfect knowledge of the objectives of the Islamic State and its methods used," Quebec Court Judge Serge Delisle said. "The offender multiplied his efforts to get to Syria to join the Islamic State.
"He didn't plan on getting there to play a passive role. He was ready to do anything for the Islamic State, up to dying." The judge sentenced him to eight years for trying to leave Canada under a 2013 terrorism law, and one year for providing false information to obtain a passport.
Minus the time Habib already served in pre-trial custody, he will spend the next six and a half years in prison. "It is a relatively harsh punishment," prosecutor Francois Blanchette told reporters. He said he believed Habib's "very intense adherence to the (Islamic State) group's ideology" was a factor in the sentencing. Habib is the son of an Afghan father and a Canadian mother. The trial heard that he tried to obtain a fake passport from an undercover policeman after his own was revoked following a failed 2012 attempt to reach Syria, in which he was detained in Turkey and deported to Canada. The defense argued that police tricked him into confessing that he wanted to travel overseas to join IS and die for God. His wife and two young children were also living in the war-torn nation, Habib told the court. The judge, however, rejected his testimony, noting that Habib had scanned online dating sites and was living with a woman in Canada when he was arrested last year. ---AFP

Catalans Occupy Polling Stations ahead of Contested Vote
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/September 30/17/Supporters of an independence referendum in Catalonia opposed by Madrid occupied would-be polling stations on Friday in a bid to ensure the vote goes ahead, as thousands gathered in Barcelona for the separatist camp's closing campaign. In one of the biggest crises to hit Spain since democracy was restored after the death of Franco in 1975, the referendum has pitched the wealthy northeastern region against central government and sown divisions among Catalans themselves. Authorities in Madrid have instructed police to ensure no votes are cast in Sunday's vote. A court on Wednesday ordered police to prevent the use of public buildings "for the preparation and organisation" of the referendum. But as classes ended for the day, small groups of activists, including parents with their children, on Friday peacefully occupied several schools in Barcelona where voting is scheduled to take place. "I am going to sleep here, with my oldest son who is a student here," Gisela Losa, a mother of three, told AFP at Reina Vionant primary school in Barcelona's fashionable Gracia neighbourhood, where pro-independence sentiment runs high.
The occupations appeared to be partly coordinated by a platform of "schools open for the referendum" which distributed a manual via social networks with instruction on how to occupy buildings and guarantee they are available to serve as polling stations.
- Cinema and dance classes -On Friday evening, around 10,000 supporters of the referendum gathered off Barcelona's Placa d'Espanya, or Spain Square, as separatist leaders closed their campaign for the vote. "In these hugely intense and hugely emotional moments, we sense that what we once thought was only a dream is within reach," Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont told a cheering crowd.
"On Sunday, we have a date with the future."Many of them waved the "Esteleda" -- the separatists' flag of red-and-yellow stripes with a white star on a blue chevron.But quite a different scene played out just six kilometres (3.5 miles) away in the town of L'Hospitalet de Llobregat. There, some 2,000 people who oppose separating from Spain rallied at a meeting called by Ciudadanos, Catalonia's main opposition party. They waved Spanish and EU flags, as well as the "Senyera" -- the official Catalan flag of plain red-and-yellow stripes. "This is a dead end, they want to destroy the state, Spain and Catalonia," said Dolores Molero, a 53-year-old secretary from Tarragona, a city further south.
Madrid has repeatedly warned those who help stage a referendum which the courts have ruled unconstitutional that they face repercussions. On Friday, Spain's education ministry said in a statement that school directors in Catalonia "were not exempt from liability" if they cooperated.
But Jordi Sanchez, the president of the Catalan National Assembly, an influential pro-independence organisation, told AFP the court order said public spaces could not be used for the referendum on Sunday "but it did not say anything about leisure activities today and Saturday."
"We have proposed that citizens organise activities, that they put in place a lot of activities to give life to these spaces which on Sunday should host the referendum."Barcelona's Joan Brassa high school, for instance, advertised a series of activities for Friday and Saturday, including movie screenings, football matches and Zumba dance fitness classes. Catalan government spokesman Jordi Turull said there would be "2,315 polling stations all over the region" for the vote. It was not immediately clear how many potential polling stations were being occupied. Police have for days been seizing electoral items such as ballot papers as they follow orders to stop the referendum while prosecutors ordered the closure of websites linked to the vote and the detention of key members of the team organising the referendum.
- Travel warnings -Polls show the 7.5 million people of Catalonia are split on independence, but a large majority want to vote in a legitimate referendum to settle the matter. With firefighters and farmers vowing to protect polling stations, Catalonia's regional police force, the Mossos d'Esquadra, have warned of the risk of "disruption of public order" if they try to prevent people from casting ballots. In case they resist, Madrid has sent thousands of extra police officers from other forces to Catalonia -- which accounts for one fifth of Spain's economy -- to help suppress the referendum it deems illegal.
Central government spokesman Inigo Mendez de Vigo said he was "completely certain" that the Mossos would "obey the law and the judge's orders" because they "are subject to the law like everyone else"."I insist that there will be no referendum," he said.
Concerned, though, several European countries, including Germany and the Netherlands, urged their nationals in Catalonia to exercise caution ahead of the referendum.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on October 01/17
Baghdad’s Reform to Halt Iraq’s Secession
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat/September 30/17
Give the Kurds a real stake in Baghdad’s government, and then they will let go of the separation idea. Right now, they are conferred honorary posts without powers just like many components of the Iraqi state, which was founded, post the invasion, on a participatory parliamentary system.
Almost all the countries in the region oppose the idea of any territory’s separation, which will not let Kurdistan’s plan easy to be achieved. There is increased fear that the central Iraqi authority, along with Iran and Turkey, will wage a war against the Kurdish ‘state,’ especially after 92 percent of the Kurds in Kurdistan region supported the separation from their country, Iraq.
Separation is a long and dangerous political route as it includes military confrontations and a painful economic blockade; At the same time, the Kurds are determined, and even if they hold back somehow now, they will pursue it later.
The reason why the Kurds’ project is worrisome is that the rest of Iraq’s provinces and governorates are dominated by separatist ideas that will eventually lead to the end of Iraq as we know it. An Iraq we have known since 1920 – the country whose borders were set by the Britons and the French.
Solutions exist if there is a sincere intention to stop the separation that threatens to destroy Iraq and the region.
The political parties in Baghdad should grant the Kurds the powers and guarantees that they are not only a memorial image but also partners in the government. If that happens, the justifications will end.
The Kurds, like the rest of Iraqi parties on which the new Iraq project was based, were marginalized and their presence was eliminated by the governing partners, political figures and other Iraqi parties after the Americans, who were guarantors of the political project, left the country.
Baghdad is the capital of the entire state and is supposed to be run by all groups that represent the country to reflect the participatory governance project, which was designed by the Americans.
The imbalance began in the era of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki when the government’s powers were seized and given to Maliki only.
After that, the parties that have an armed presence in Baghdad imposed their demands, and the capital became ruled by armed militias, backed by Iran, which was successfully able to legitimize them under the Popular Mobilization Forces’ banner.
Similarly, there are religious references that some are trying to impose as a political reference. Now, the fatwa given by these religious references precedes the parliamentary vote and the government’s decisions.
What is the value of the state’s legislative institutions, such as the parliament, if it is incompetent, and the Supreme Court is subject to what the political leaders want while the current government cannot impose its decisions when opposed by parties supported by armed groups?!
In this perspective, why do we expect the Kurds, and any other political group, to commit themselves to a state without identity or full powers?
This is why the Iraqi state, not only the government, needs to reform its status through supporting its legal authority, respecting its constitution and pledging to treat everyone equally under its law.
Iraq must not only chase ISIS militants and separatists from Kurdistan but should also fight whoever violates its rules and regulations.
During the years of war against terrorism, the slogan was that the Iraqi state would not allow anyone to carry arms other than its military institution and that it would not accept any territory or governorate to be run by illegal groups.
Wars were waged under this promise; Anbar and Salah al-Din provinces were cleansed, and Mosul and many other cities were liberated.
However, in southern and central Iraq, state authorities were weakened. The head of the Popular Mobilization Forces became more important than the prime minister, and Vice President Maliki voiced his opposition and incitement against the prime minister.
This is how they weakened the state until the Kurds decided that the time has come for their independence.
To stop the separation conflict, give the Kurds real powers not only theatrical acting roles. This will also stop the ongoing conflicts among some Sunni Arabs in Anbar and some Shiites in Basra – who are waiting for Kurdistan’s separation so they can wage their own war.
Unless Baghdad is a state for all Iraqis, secession will not stop.​ ​

The Quiet Islamic Conquest of Spain

Giulio Meotti/Gatestone Institute/September 30/17
"Evicted five centuries ago by crusading Christians, the Arabs are back in Spain, using their oil dollars to buy land that was seized from their ancestors by the sword". — James M. Markham, The New York Times, 1981.
The Madrid daily ABC wrote that 800 mosques in Spain are out of control. The Spanish daily La Razon charged that Gulf donors, such as Qatar, were a source of Spain's Islamization. The Saudis also launched a new Spanish television channel, Córdoba TV, as did Iran.
They dream of, and work to, regain the "lost Caliphate" of Spain. Some Islamists do it with bombs and car-ramming attacks. Others, more surreptitiously, do it with money and dawa, Islamic propaganda. The second way may be even more effective than the first.
The ceremony in 2003 was announced with bombastic headlines: "After a wait of more than 500 years, Spanish Muslims, have finally succeeded in building a mosque of their own in the shadow of the Alhambra, once the symbol of Islamic power in Europe". A troupe from al Jazeera was sent to follow the event: a muezzin climbed to the minaret of the Great Mosque of Granada to call the faithful to prayer for the first time in five centuries.
From Osama bin Laden to the self-proclaimed Caliph, Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi, all the leaders of the global jihad -- including the terror cell that killed 17 people in Barcelona -- have mentioned Spain among the lands to be conquered by Islam. There is, however, not only jihad. There is also "the quiet conquest", as it has been dubbed by the French magazine, Valeurs Actuelles. The quiet conquest is a sinuous attempt to re-Islamize Spain through cultural centers, mega-mosques, proselytizing, conversions and financial investments. This pacific attempt to elicit submission has been underway for some time and has been backed by a flow of money from countries such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia. According to a former commander of British forces in Iraq, General Jonathan Shaw, these two countries in particular have ignited a "time bomb" by funding the global spread of radical Islam.
The New York Times first detailed in 1981 that, "evicted five centuries ago by crusading Christians, the Arabs are back in Spain, using their oil dollars to buy land that was seized from their ancestors by the sword". Spain back then did not even recognize the State of Israel, and the Spanish monarchy regularly visited Saudi Prince Fahd while he was relaxing in the south of Spain. After that, it was Kuwait's turn: "During the late 1980's, when Spain was booming, Kuwait came shopping for corporations and investments".
Since then, the Arab monarchies have targeted Spain with huge investments. Some emblematic buildings in Madrid and Barcelona, ​​not to mention the Costa del Sol, are now owned by Arab investment groups, from the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid to the W Hotel in Barcelona. In Marbella, just a few meters away from the King Fahd Mosque, there is the Alanda Hotel, which offers halal food and services to meet the demands of the Muslim clients. In 2011, the International Petroleum Investment Company, controlled by the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, purchased Cepsa, the second-largest Spanish company in the oil sector.
Last January, Spain's King Felipe VI visited Saudi Arabia and announced that Spain would boost economic, trade and investment relations with the Islamic kingdom. Before that, in 2012, Saudi Aramco awarded Spanish companies projects worth $700 million. Spain and Qatar are now discussing the formation a $1 billion joint investment fund that would help the Gulf state invest in Latin America. The Arab Emirates' media called Spain "a hotspot for investment from the Arab world". After Qatar, it was the Oman's turn to invest in the Spanish market: Oman just agreed to invest up to $120 million in a uranium mine in Spain, to be used for Omani nuclear energy plants.
Demographically, Muslims are witnessing a shocking population increase in Spain. In 1990, Muslims in the country numbered 100,000. By 2010, the number had increased to 1.5 million. In 2017, the number was nearly two million. It is a growth of 1,900% in 27 years.
Today there are 1,400 mosques in Spain. According to the Observatory of Religious Pluralism in Spain (an initiative of the Ministry of Justice), "this figure represents 21% of all places of worship for all religions present in Spain".
The most prolific funder of mosques in Spain is Saudi Arabia. In 1985, using only its own money, the Saudi kingdom opened the Islamic Cultural Center in Madrid, Europe's largest mosque, followed by the Islamic Center of Malaga, which the Saudis financed with 22 million euros (today the ​​Madrid area has 112 mosques and Islamic cultural centers). As Gatestone's Soeren Kern detailed, the Saudis have built mosques everywhere, from Marbella to Fuengirola.
Islamic rogue regimes, such as Iran, have also been able to infiltrate Spanish political parties. According to an investigation, Tehran gave money to Podemos, the leftist party which emerged as a new contender in the Spanish political arena.
The Madrid daily ABC wrote that 800 mosques in Spain are out of control. The Spanish daily La Razon charged that Gulf donors, such as Qatar, were a source of Spain's Islamization. The Saudis also launched a new Spanish television channel, Córdoba TV, as did Iran.
The details of this religious proliferation are detailed The Spain of Allah, a book by Ignacio Cembrero. While the number of Catholic churches in Spain has not undergone much variation for many years, Muslim mosques have been growing at a rate of 20% percent annually. Qatar's Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani has also offered to buy La Monumental Arena in Barcelona to turn it into Europe's biggest mosque. The United Arab Emirates funded the construction of the Great Mosque of Granada.
Qatar's Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani has offered to buy La Monumental Arena in Barcelona, with its nearly 20,000 seats, to turn it into Europe's biggest mosque. (Image source: Sergi Larripa/Wikimedia Commons)
They dream of, and work to, regain the "lost Caliphate" of Spain. Some Islamists do it with bombs and car-ramming attacks. Others, more surreptitiously, do it with money and dawa, Islamic propaganda. The second way may be even more effective than the first.
**Giulio Meotti, Cultural Editor for Il Foglio, is an Italian journalist and author.
© 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.

Kurdish unilateral independence and a deadly impasse
Amir Taheri/Asharq Al Awsat/September 30/17
Despite many efforts to stop or postpone it, the Iraqi Kurdistan referendum has become a fait accompli and must be taken into account in shaping future developments, and Masoud Barzani, the man who orchestrated the exercise, must be as pleased as Punch.
In contemplating the future, it is important to know exactly what we are talking about. Supporters of the referendum have pinned their flag to two concepts: independence and self-determination.
They say Iraqi Kurds want independence. However, like all other Iraqis, Iraqi Kurds already live in a country that is recognized as independent and a full-member of the United Nations.
The concept of the quest for independence applies to lands that are part of a foreign empire or turned into “possession” of a colonial power. Legally speaking, at least since 1932, that has not been the case in Iraq. If, Iraq isn’t independent, then we must assume that Kak Masoud, rather than being a prominent leader contributing to the development of Iraq’s new but fragile democratic process, is a satrap for an unknown empire or an agent for a mysterious colonial power. But Kak Masoud isn’t a satrap precisely because his country, Iraq, is independent.
Then we come to the concept of self-determination which is recognized as a right under international law. It was first developed in the wake of the First World War and the beak up of the Ottoman and the Austro-Hungarian Empires. The idea was that people in the component parts of those empires should determine their own future, especially by deciding whether or not to form states of their own. The Wilson Doctrine and the so-called Briand-Kellogg Pact (between France and the US) further refined the concept.
Later, in the wake of the Second World War the concept was used to provide a legal framework for decolonization as British, French and Dutch Empires broke up. In the past 100 years, thanks to the concept of self-determination, over 120 new independent countries have appeared on the global map.
Self-determination was established as the right of all peoples to choose their own governments and pass their own laws rather than be subject to distant foreign rulers and lawmakers.
Seen in that light, Iraqi Kurds already enjoy self-determination because they choose their own local and national governments and lawmakers.
The first thing to understand is that the recent referendum was about independence and self-determination is bogus, to say the least. Used to hoodwink public opinion could lead to dangerous complications in the future.
So, what was the referendum really about? It was about secession which is not the same thing as self-determination or independence. Its organizers want to detach the areas where Kurds form a majority and set up a new separate state.
However, while self-determination is universally recognized as a right, secession is not. Secession is an option, not a right. At best, it could be regarded as a desire and, at worst, a folly.
But seeking secession, though unlawful in both national and international law, isn’t a crime. Also, it has little to do with the degree of democratic development of societies. The United Kingdom is a well-established democracy but still faces secessionism on the part of large number of Scots. There are secessionists in several other democracies: the Quebecois in Canada, the Corsicans in France, the Basques and the Catalans in Spain, the Frisians in Denmark, the Kashmiris in India and even Porto Allergens in Brazil.
The important thing is that in all those cases, parties that support secession say so openly, seldom trying to disguise their ambition as a quest for self-determination and independence.
So, the first thing that Kak Massoud should do is to stop doing taiqyeh, call a spade a spade, and openly admit that what he is seeking is secession.
He should say that his aim is to break up Iraq, which is a multi-ethnic republic, in order to create a mono-ethnic Kurdish state. Interestingly, the word Iraq, which means “lowland”, is a geographic term with no ethnic connotations. Iraqi citizenship is a civic concept, transcending ethnic, religious and racial identities.
Many countries in the world are named after their majority ethnic component. In our region Turkey is the land of the Turks and Armenia the land of Armenians. All the “stan” countries refer to ethnic majorities there. Beyond the Middle East, all but 12 of the European states are also named after ethnic components: Germany is the land of Germans and Russia the land of Russians.
However, none of the Middle Eastern countries that emerged from the break-up of the Ottoman Empire are labeled with ethnic identities. They are known under historic and/or geographic names and regard the presence of various ethnic and/or religious communities within their borders as a given. Even Israel, though a special case for obvious reasons, fits into that pattern if only because 27 per cent of its citizens are not Jews. They are Israelis but not Israelites.
The Middle East has been the sphere of multi-ethnic empires for some 25 centuries: Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Roman, Byzantines, Umayyad, Abbasid, Ottomans etc. So, the Kurdish state that Kak Massoud wishes to create would be the first over 2000 years in the Middle East to claim a purely ethnic identity.
Let’s give an example of the difference between independence, which is the right of all peoples under foreign colonial or imperial rule, and secession. Morocco and Tunisia were both under the domination of the French Empire in the name of colonial protection. In the 1950s they exercised their right of self-determination and obtained their independence without a minimum of hassle. Algeria, on the other hand, was regarded as two provinces of the French Republic itself, elected its own members of parliament and enjoyed full French citizenship rights.
Thus, its demand for independence was regarded as secession and could only be granted with the agreements of the French state, later ratified in a national referendum throughout France. But before that happened, Algerians had to fight a 5-year war, with perhaps half a million dead, and go through a two-year negotiating period.
Other states have treated secession in different ways.
Around the world
Canada and the United Kingdom have organized referendums in Quebec and Scotland giving the local populations a chance to reject secession. In Czechoslovakia and between Malaysia and Singapore, secession came through negotiations producing divorce by consent. In the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, secession was organized by Great Britain as the colonial power. South Sudan’s secession was ratified by the Khartoum government after 20 years of war and six years of negotiations.
The international community recognizes the outcome of any secession only if it is achieved with the consent of the country concerned. Montenegro seceded from Serbia through negotiations and was immediately admitted into the United Nations. Kosovo also seceded but without consent and still remains in a limbo, rejected by the UN and recognized by only a handful of nations.
Holding referendums does not automatically bestow legitimacy on secessionist programs. Russia has held referendum in Crimea, which it snatched from Ukraine, and in South Ossetia and Abkhazia which it took from Georgia. However, no other country recognizes those secessions.
The reason is that there is no mechanism in domestic or international law to recognize non-consensual secession. The International Court of Justice at The Hague made that clear by refusing to certify Kosovo’s independence. In Canada the High Court has ruled against Quebec secession and in France Corsican secessionist demands have been thrown out by courts. In Iraq, the Constitution, drafted with the full and enthusiastic participation of Masoud, excludes unilateral secession in articles 107 and 116 and 13.
Finally, secession does not feature in the programs of any of the dozen or so parties active among Kurds who live in Iraq, Turkey, Syria, Iran, Armenia and Azerbaijan. So the next step that Masoud must take is to enshrine secession in his party’s charter and manifesto for the next Iraqi general election in 2018. If he does that and obtains mandate to seek secession he could then demand that the central government in Baghdad enter into negotiations on the issue of secession.
In other words, any attempt at a unilateral declaration of independence could lead only to impasse, a deadly impasse.