October 04/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For Today
No one tears a piece from a new garment and sews it on an old garment; otherwise the new will be torn, and the piece from the new will not match the old.
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 05/33-39/:"Then they said to Jesus, ‘John’s disciples, like the disciples of the Pharisees, frequently fast and pray, but your disciples eat and drink. ’Jesus said to them, ‘You cannot make wedding-guests fast while the bridegroom is with them, can you? The days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.’ He also told them a parable: ‘No one tears a piece from a new garment and sews it on an old garment; otherwise the new will be torn, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine desires new wine, but says, "The old is good." ’

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on October 03-04/17
The Case for Kurdish Independence/Alan M. Dershowitz/Gatestone Institute/October 02/17
Austria: Integration Law Goes into Effect/"Integration through performance"/Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institute/October 03/17
Refugees, Intersectionalists, and Jews/Denis MacEoin/Gatestone Institute/October 03/17
Ashoura and the controversy among Saudi Shiites/Hassan Al Mustafa/Al Arabiya/October 03/17
Will sanctions against Iraq’s Kurdistan work/Adnan Hussein/Al Arabiya/October 03/17
King Salman’s Russia visit has potential to change Middle East landscape/Shehab Al-Makahleh/Al Arabiya/October 03/17
Can Congress avoid blowing up the Iran deal/Bryant Harris/Al-Monitor/October 2, 2017

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on October 03-04/17
Mercenary Lebanese Politicians & the Sheep
Ashura in Lebanon: Donating blood rather than spilling it
National Geophysics Center: 3 magnitude quake hits Baalbek this afternoon
Govt. Submits Bill to Delay Wage Scale Until Tax Approval
Report: Hariri, Jumblat Adhere to Ministerial Statement, Reject Normalization with Syria
Hariri Receives Economic Bodies
Change and Reform Urges Govt. to Address 'Existential Threat' of Refugee Crisis
Kataeb Warns against Reinstating Taxes on Low-Income Citizens
UNRWA, EU Hand Over Newly-Built Houses to 93 Nahr el-Bared Families
Army Detains Perpetrators Involved in Sidon Shooting that Killed Two
UK Relaxes Travel Advice for Some Areas across Lebanon

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on October 03-04/17
Mossad Head Declares: Iran Is Our Primary Objective
Defiant Qatar Emir Meets Iran's Zarif
Trump says Las Vegas shooter "sick," will discuss gun laws later
Belgium withdraws residence permit of "Salafist" Saudi imam
France says knife attacker was Tunisian with Italian papers
Israeli Defense Minister Says Syria's Assad 'Victorious'
Opponent of Iraq Kurd Leader Sole Candidate in Presidential Vote
Iraq ex-President and Kurdish Leader Jalal Talabani Dies at 83
U.S.-Led Strike Kills 18 Civilians in Syria's Raqa
Netanyahu Rejects Palestinian Reconciliation unless Hamas Disarms
Palestinian Government Meets in Gaza for First Time Since 2014
Al-Sisi Hails 'Opportunity' for Palestinian Unity
After Las Vegas Massacre, Trump Silent on Gun Control
Catalonia Set for General Strike over Independence Poll Violence
Islamic State Group Claims Deadly Damascus Bomb Attack
UAE Jails Iranian over Sanctions Breach
Mattis Says Pentagon 'Fully' Backs Tillerson on North Korea
Mattis Says Nuclear Accord with Iran in U.S. Interest
U.S. Expels 15 Cuban Diplomats following Mysterious Attacks
Putin Calls for Better U.S. Ties as He Meets New Envoy

Latest Lebanese Related News published on October 02-03/17
Mercenary Lebanese Politicians & the Sheep/السياسيون اللبنانيون المرتزقه والأتباع القطعان

Elias Bejjani/October 03/17
The Iranian-Hezbollah occupied Lebanon is at the present time in an SOS urgent need for genuine, free, honest and patriotic voices. Lebanon badly needs a new breed of politicians and not merchants.
Lebanon, the occupied county and its oppressed and impoverished people are in need of patriotic political voices that are loud, strong and are willing and capable for witnessing for the mere truth with no fear, Dhimmitude or personal power and financial agendas.
Sadly the majority of the current active Lebanese politicians, if not all of them, as well as the feudal, Mafiosi parties, and the majority of the officials are evil, greedy, hungry – evil merchants.
In reality and actuality, they are a role model for narcissism and trogon horses, while all their prime focus, interests, alliances, affiliations, activities and stances are totally tailored and engineered to revolve around their own personal power ambitions and their coffers’-bank accounts gains agendas..
In this derailed context he majority of the Lebanese politicians and so called parties are a living miserable model for evilness and corruption. They have no conscience, shame or fear of God’s Day of Judgment.
They never ever honour or respect the Lebanese peoples’ rights or abide by the constitution or any ethical-faith-honesty-transparency codes.
They are professional acrobats and pioneering experts in prostituting any thing and every thing in a bid to promote and serve their own greediness and power-money hungry ambitions.
The sad part in this funny on going theatrical play and dilemma lies in the fact that unfortunately many… many Lebanese citizens are ignorant, lack the ABC of self respect, have no insight in all that is patriotism and blindly follow the corrupted politicians and against all odds accept happily the role sheep.
Yes sheep no more no less.
Our main problem as Lebanese citizens from all religious denominations and from all walks of live is deeply rooted in our education, in our norms for what is wrong and what is not, in our willingness to be subservient if it serves our agendas, in our rotten mentality of opportunism and in our lack of loyalty to our great country…the Land Of the Cedars.
In conclusion, unless we change our own education and mentality and adopt genuine patriotic stances we shall continue to go down more and more.
It remains that and as our popular proverb says:” God does not change what people think and do unless they themselves initiate and work hard on doing so.

Ashura in Lebanon: Donating blood rather than spilling it
عاشوراء في لبنان: تبرع بالدم بدل اراقته
Chloé Domat/MEE/October 02/17
Following Hezbollah’s call to stop gestures of self-mutilation, local NGOs and hospitals encourage believers to donate their blood instead.
On Sunday, thousands of Lebanese of all ages gathered in processions to commemorate the death of the imam Hussein, the Prophet Muhammad's grandson, and the associated battle of Karbala.
While a religious figure recounted the story of the 680CE battle massacre, people walked down the streets in black clothes, wearing headbands commemorating the glory of Hussein and his sister Zaynab.
For the believers, this is a very emotional moment. Some cry while others re-enact the martyrdom by hitting themselves on the head with swords until they bleed. "Take my picture!" said Ali, running towards a group of journalists with a bleeding forehead. "I wanted to bleed because I love Hussein. I do it every year, I want to feel his pain," said the 19-year-old student from Beirut's southern suburbs.
But Ali's bloody face attracted more curious photographers than sympathy, with many in the Shia community disapproving of the act of self-flagellation. "This is just showing off," said Ali Awad, a 26-year-old graphic designer, who takes part in this parade, coordinated by the political party Amal, every year.
"This is not what Ashura is about, and it can even transmit diseases when people share the same sword," he said, adding that he has never taken part in the controversial act. This tradition, known as tatbir, has often been divisive. In 1994, Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei issued a decree against self-mutilation, describing the practice as "against religion".
But it continues in parts of Iraq, as well as among parts of the Shia communities of Bahrain and Turkey. Blood donation replacing blood letting. In Lebanon as well, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has spoken out against tatbir on several occasions.
A few streets from where Ali celebrated, Hezbollah's parade was blood-free. Believers simply brought their hands to their chest in rhythm while chanting.
"Here we never make ourselves bleed. It is against religion. God didn't tell us to do this, neither did Hussein, and Hezbollah prohibits it," said Hussein, a young customs officer who was watching the marchers from his rooftop.
For Ashura, Hezbollah encourages its supporters to give their blood for a good cause rather than spill it."Every year, I go and give my blood to an association or a hospital that needs it. A lot of people do the same, too many in fact," Hussein said. "This time they asked me if I could wait a few days because they thought they would be receiving enough of my blood type," he said.
A growing trend
Ashura is by far and away the day during which the most blood is donated across the country. Donner Sang Compter and Who is Hussain? are two NGOs that organise the blood drive in Beirut's southern suburb of Haret Hreik, this year beating their record and receiving 300 units in just a few hours. "Every year we get more," said Nour Bazzi, president of the Donner Sang Compter club in Haret Hreik. "People are very responsive."
The units will be transferred to the American University of Beirut's hospital (AUBMC). The hospital has a large cancer treatment department, where patients and in particular children are in constant need of blood. "We take advantage of Ashura because it is a day when people feel very emotional, they want to give, and in hospitals there is a real need for blood units," said Hala Smain, one of the AUBMC technicians in charge of the welcoming the donors.
In Lebanon, there is no central blood bank. Patients have to rely on their relatives to find the blood they need from private donors or, in some cases, from the black market. The Red Cross, hospitals and NGOs have been working for years to encourage anonymous and voluntary blood donation.
"We hope that as the years go by, mentalities will change and instead of just giving blood when called upon by a relative, we will see more and more voluntary donations such as this," she said.
Sunday's blood drive was organised in one of the town hall buildings. People from the neighbourhood were packed at the entrance filling in the forms to become donors.
"I want to change the image people have about my religion. The media always shows pictures of mutilated faces on Ashura but there is another side to it," said Ghadir Hamadi, a 20-year-old journalism student waiting in line.
"There are two schools of thought when it comes to Ashura. Some people want to shed blood in the streets; others want to give it for a good cause," she said.
"I really hope I can give, for me it is important to do something useful on this day."
Mahmoud Zeineddine, a 29-year-old man from the neighbourhood who is giving blood for the fifth year, said: "Hussein gave his blood for us, this is something we must respect. "Our role is also to make our blood useful, not throw it in the street for it to go to waste."Images enclosed/A Lebanese man carries a sword as he bleeds after he was cut on the forehead with a razor during an Ashura procession in Nabatieh, south Lebanon on Sunday (Reuters)

National Geophysics Center: 3 magnitude quake hits Baalbek this afternoon
Tue 03 Oct 2017/NNA - The National Geophysics Center of the National Council for Scientific Research said in a statement that "a 3-magnitude earthquake hit the city of Baalbek this afternoon at 3:06 pm." The Center said that the locals of Baalbek felt the mild quake.

Govt. Submits Bill to Delay Wage Scale Until Tax Approval
Naharnet/October 03/17/The government sent a bill to the parliament on Tuesday requesting permission to delay the implementation of the wage scale law until the tax law is approved, the state-run National News Agency reported. The Cabinet had on Friday agreed on an expedited draft law that includes tax adjustments,” noting that “it will be referred to the parliament.” The crisis had erupted after the Constitutional Council revoked a tax law aimed at funding the scale following an appeal filed by ten MPs led by Sami Gemayel. The ruling prompted the Cabinet to hold several emergency sessions in a bid to find alternative funding sources, amid protests and an open-ended strike that was declared by private and public school teachers and public employees.

Report: Hariri, Jumblat Adhere to Ministerial Statement, Reject Normalization with Syria
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/October 03/17/Prime Minister Saad Hariri and leader of the Democratic Gathering bloc MP Walid Jumblat have reportedly rejected all attempts aiming to “normalize” relations with Syria, and have stressed adherence to the ministerial statement, the pan-Arab al-Hayat daily reported on Tuesday. Sources that followed up on Sunday's meeting told the daily Tuesday that both men have “affirmed adherence to the content of the ministerial statement regarding neutralization of Lebanon from the wars and conflicts raging around it. They have rejected attempts to normalize ties with the Syrian regime under the pretext that there is a need for this communication to discuss the return of Syrian refugees to their towns and villages.” Speaking on condition of anonymity the sources stressed that Hariri and Jumbalt “refuse to pave the way for relations with the Syrian regime through political talks.”Hariri-Jumblat meeting took place in the presence of Culture Minister Ghattas Khoury, MP Wael Abu Faour and Nader Hariri, the premier's chief of staff. The sources pointed out that the solution for the issue of displaced Syrians “will not be through the organization of political and media campaigns that drive into more political tension,” they said. However they stressed the need for the return of the displaced back to Syria “because Lebanon can not bear the burden of hosting them in light of the economic and financial situation.”They considered “incitement campaigns” against the displaced as “unbeneficial” but saw a role for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, “which has to determine the safe areas in Syria to arrange the procedures to return them.”

Hariri Receives Economic Bodies
Naharnet/October 03/17/Prime Minister Saad Hariri met at the Center House with a delegation from the economic bodies, headed by President of the Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture of Beirut and Mount Lebanon Mohamed Choucair, who presented to him a document containing their observations on the government’s draft regarding the tax hikes law. After Monday's meeting, Choucair said: “Our meeting with Prime Minister Hariri was good and he understands the concerns of the economic bodies. We submitted our suggestions concerning law 45 and we will meet this week with President Michel Aoun, Speaker Nabih Berri and Minister of Finance Ali Hassan Khalil.”He added: “I think the suggestions that we submitted to Hariri are good. The basic point rejected by the economic bodies is the double taxation, article 17 of law 45, because it is against the Constitution and affects not only the Lebanese banks but all the Lebanese institutions whether banking, financial, industrial or commercial.”Choucair said: “We are calling on the citizens of the Gulf to return and invest in Lebanon. The Central Bank is establishing funds for the Lebanese expatriates, but who will invest in Lebanon while seeing all these taxes, with also the double taxation?” He explained that this is rejected and consultations will continue with everybody to reach a solution that is in the national interest. In response to a question, Choucair said that in the last four years, 388 factories closed down and exports have fallen by 30%.

Change and Reform Urges Govt. to Address 'Existential Threat' of Refugee Crisis
Naharnet/October 03/17/The Change and Reform parliamentary bloc on Tuesday warned that the Syrian refugee crisis has started to pose an “existential threat” to Lebanon. “The bloc reiterates that the Syrian refugee presence in Lebanon is a pressing issue that has started to pose an existential threat to Lebanon,” said the bloc in a statement issued after its weekly meeting. “We urgently call on the government to look into, study and discuss the draft solution paper that has been prepared by the foreign minister (Jebran Bassil),” the bloc added. It also urged the government to “record births and take all the measures that make the registry of births compulsory for Syrian refugees and not a voluntary measure that leads to low registry numbers as is the case today.”

Kataeb Warns against Reinstating Taxes on Low-Income Citizens
Naharnet/October 03/17/The Kataeb Party on Tuesday warned authorities against reinstating taxes on low-income citizens, after the Constitutional Council revoked a tax law aimed at funding a wage scale for civil servants. “The Kataeb Party rejects the reinstatement of taxes on low-income citizens instead of exerting serious efforts to stop shady deals and put an end to corruption and the waste of public money,” Kataeb's political bureau said in a statement issued after its weekly meeting. The party “warns the ruling political class against violating the law and the Constitution every time its political and financial interests do not match the laws and the constitutional norms,” it said. The political bureau also called for “approving a state budget, according to the Constitution, that includes all the necessary reforms to stop financial squandering and control spending.”The Constitutional Council had annulled the tax law after Kataeb's MPs and five other lawmakers filed an appeal against it citing voting and financial violations. The Council demanded that authorities amend some of the law's articles so that they conform with the applicable laws. The government has recently approved the requested amendments, reportedly keeping the taxes intact while revising the law's wording. Kataeb has not ruled out filing a new appeal against the law. The law involves hiking the VAT tax from 10% to 11%, fines on seaside violations, and taxes on cement, administrative transactions, real estate transactions, phone bills, commercial bills, imported alcoholic beverages, tobacco, sea imports, lottery prizes, financial firms, banks and travel tickets. Authorities have argued that the new taxes are necessary to fund the new wage scale but opponents of such a move have called for finding new revenues through putting an end to corruption and the waste of public money.

UNRWA, EU Hand Over Newly-Built Houses to 93 Nahr el-Bared Families
Naharnet/October 03/17/The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and the European Union on Tuesday held a ceremony in the Nahr el-Bared Palestinian refugee camp to mark the handing over of newly reconstructed houses to 93 returning families. A statement issued by the EU Delegation to Lebanon said the ceremony highlighted the “longstanding support of the EU and UNRWA to Palestine refugees displaced from Nahr el-Bared following the 2007 crisis.”EU Ambassador Christina Lassen and Director of UNRWA Affairs in Lebanon Claudio Cordone handed over keys to the families to celebrate their return to the camp. “Thanks to the generous contribution of EUR 12 million from the EU, an overall number of 348 families returned and 81 retail units were built, and the social and economic prospects of the Palestinian community in the Nahr el-Bared camp were improved,” the EU statement said. Adnan Omar and his family were happy to finally receive the key to their house. Omar said: “It is a great day for us because we are going back home. We can finally have privacy. We are thankful to the EU for helping us to return to our house after a long time of waiting, suffering and displacement.”The EU and UNRWA also launched the next phase of the reconstruction works under a new project entitled “Further Support to the Reconstruction of Nahr el-Bared Camp” in the amount of EUR 12 million. This new contribution from the EU will enable the return of 360 families with the provision of furniture grants. In addition, 78 retail units will be rebuilt, thus helping “further rejuvenate the economic activity in the camp.”Additional funding will also be provided by EU Member States. Speaking at the event, Cordone thanked the EU for their ongoing support to Palestine refugees, and specifically for the reconstruction of Nahr el-Bared. "Without this support, hundreds of Palestine refugees would continue to live in unhealthy and inappropriate living conditions after 10 years of displacement. We all look forward to the day when all displaced families return to their new homes. UNRWA is committed to maximizing the speed of the reconstruction while always seeking to improve the living conditions of the refugees,” he said. "Today we are handing over keys to the new apartments to 93 families that have been waiting for too long. Since 2007, these families had to endure very difficult living conditions. But all along they kept the hope alive that one day they would return to what they could call a home, away from home," Ambassador Lassen said. She added: "Our support does not stop here: today we are also visiting Nahr el-Bared to present a new future and to assure you of our enduring commitment to support Palestinian Refugees. Later today we will be visiting the areas where we will soon start the construction of additional housing units that will be delivered within the next 18 months through a dedicated fund worth EUR 12 million.”

Army Detains Perpetrators Involved in Sidon Shooting that Killed Two
Naharnet/October 03/17/The Lebanese Army has arrested on Tuesday the perpetrators involved in an armed dispute that erupted Monday night in the southern coastal city of Sidon killing two people and wounding two others, the National News Agency reported. The Army Intelligence arrested the culprits and deployed its units in the city. Calm was restored after the deadly clashes that rattled the area, NNA said. The agency added that one of the men involved, identified as Ahmed Shehadeh, was arrested in the area of al-Ghazieh. The clash erupted Monday evening between power generator owners of the Shahadeh and al-Siddiq families that aggravated into shooting. The dispute arose against the backdrop of a disagreement between owners of the generators on who should operate in the area, the agency said.

UK Relaxes Travel Advice for Some Areas across Lebanon
Naharnet/October 03/17/The British Foreign and Commonwealth has revised its travel advice for Lebanon, reducing the areas to which they advise against travel for British citizens, a press release by the British Embassy in Beirut said. A British Embassy spokesperson said: "We have changed our travel advice in response to improvements to the general situation in the country and a reduction in incidents in recent years. However, we continue to warn citizens that terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks against sites in Lebanon, as well as a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals. “We advise our citizens to remain vigilant and familiarize themselves with our travel advice before traveling. We value our partnership with the Lebanese security forces and will continue to work closely with them. Our travel advice is kept under constant review and restrictions may be reinstated if our assessment changes."

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on October 03-04/17
Mossad Head Declares: Iran Is Our Primary Objective
Jerusalem Post/October 03/17/Yossi Cohen, the head of Israel's national intelligence agency, divulges on some of the organization's main priorities. Iran is the primary target of the Mossad’s actions, which number in the hundreds and thousands each year, Mossad head Yossi Cohen said on Monday.
Cohen was speaking at the Mossad headquarters alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, during a ceremony where Netanyahu initiated what he said would be a new annual tradition of handing out six citations of merit to Mossad employees who took part in operations.
Cohen said the spy organization works within the framework of a multi-year plan that focuses on the top national, security and diplomatic priorities. “The objectives of the Mossad are clear: Iran continues to hold onto its vision of attaining significant nuclear capabilities, so that it will attain nuclear military capabilities,” he said. Cohen added that the Islamic Republic continues to aggressively direct military and operational forces in the Middle East closer to Israel’s borders than ever before, both in Syria and in Lebanon; continues to support Hezbollah and, increasingly of late, Hamas; and continues to transfer advanced precision weaponry to terrorist organizations in the region. In addition to Iran, he said, Islamic State “will continue to challenge us every day in its efforts to harm us and, no less important, our friends around the world.”Cohen said that the Mossad “undertakes hundreds and thousands of actions every year, some of which are complex and bold, in the heart of enemy states – the target countries.” He added that the organization has a “unique ability to work in the very heart of the target, to penetrate into the most guarded and dangerous places, and to return with a decisive achievement.”He called the organization a “link in the chain of the lives of our people – an ancient people that strives to be an example for itself and to the world.”Netanyahu, who called the organization a “synchronized fist,” said he saluted its “initiative, daring and professionalism – both in planning and in execution.”

Defiant Qatar Emir Meets Iran's Zarif
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/October 03/17/Iran's foreign minister held talks with the emir of Qatar Tuesday aimed at strengthening "co-operation," nearly four months into a Saudi-led blockade against the Gulf emirate. Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani and Iran's Mohammad Javad Zarif met at a time of heightened Gulf tensions, with Qatari officials warning the ongoing Arab blockade would only drive Doha towards regional powerhouse Iran. Qatar's state news agency said the pair discussed the impasse in the region, which has seen Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut ties with Doha over its ties with Iran and accusations that it supports extremists. "During the meeting, they reviewed relations of cooperation between the two countries in various fields as well as exchanged views on the current situation in the region," read the statement from Qatar News Agency. Tuesday's visit was notable as it was Zarif's first since Qatar's political isolation began on June 5. The Iranian foreign minister on Monday visited Oman -- which has remained neutral on the Gulf crisis -- meeting with Sultan Qaboos in Muscat. Qatar's relationship with Shiite-dominated Iran, seen as the major rival to Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia in the Middle East, is one of the major factors underpinning the crisis between Qatar and its former allies. Last week, Qatar's foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani warned that the political and economic boycott imposed on Qatar was pushing Doha closer to Tehran. "They accuse Qatar of being close to Iran but with their measure... they push Qatar towards Iran. They are giving Qatar like a gift to Iran," Sheikh Mohammed said in a speech in Paris. Doha in January 2016 had pulled its ambassador from Tehran in solidarity with Saudi Arabia over attacks on its diplomatic mission there -- attacks spurred by Riyadh's decision to execute a prominent Shiite cleric in the kingdom. But in August, Qatar announced it was restoring full diplomatic relations with Iran by returning its ambassador. Qatar and Iran share the world’s largest natural gas field – which Doha calls the North Field and Iran South Pars -- and which has been responsible for the emirate's dramatic transformation over the past 20 years.

Trump says Las Vegas shooter "sick," will discuss gun laws later
Tue 03 Oct 2017/NNA - U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday said the gunman in Sunday's mass shooting in Las Vegas was "a very, very sick individual" but declined to call it domestic terrorism and said gun laws would be discussed later. "We'll be talking about gun laws as times goes by," Trump told reporters at the White House. Asked if the shooting was an act of domestic terrorism, he added: "He was a sick man, a demented man. Lot of problems, I guess, and we're looking into him very, very seriously." -- REUTERS

Belgium withdraws residence permit of "Salafist" Saudi imam
Tue 03 Oct 2017/NNA - Belgium took steps to expel a Saudi imam who preaches at the country's biggest mosque for spreading extremist ideology, the immigration minister said on Tuesday. The imam's residence permit was withdrawn as a prelude to expelling him. He had lodged an appeal against that decision which, if it failed, would oblige him to leave the country, Minister Theo Francken told radio station BelRTL. Brussels' Grand Mosque, which was leased to Saudi Arabia for 99 years in the 1960s as part of an energy deal, has faced repeated accusations from local politicians of propagating ultra-conservative forms of Islam. "There is a problem with the Grand Mosque... I have taken the decision to withdraw the residence permit of the imam of that mosque," Francken said. "We have had some very clear indications that he was very radicalized, Salafist and conservative. He was dangerous for our society and national security." Francken did not name of the imam, who the ministry also declined to name when contacted by Reuters. Authorities at the mosque were not immediately available for comment. The Salafist movement - which is strongly influenced by Saudi Arabia's Wahhabi school of Islam - sees many other branches of the faith as heretical has been linked to militant groups such as Islamic State. A judge will decide in the coming weeks on the imam's appeal. -- REUTERS

France says knife attacker was Tunisian with Italian papers
Tue 03 Oct 2017/NNA - France's interior minister says the man who fatally stabbed two young women in Marseille was a Tunisian who had lived in Italy. Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said on France-Inter radio Tuesday that the assailant had Italian residency and a valid Tunisian passport. The attacker was killed by soldiers after Sunday's stabbings, which were claimed by the Islamic State group. Collomb urged more information-sharing among governments about such cases. One of the seven IDs the attacker used in previous encounters with French police was a Tunisian passport identifying him as Ahmed H. A judicial official said Tuesday that authorities have determined that is the Marseille attacker's true identity.--Associated Press

Israeli Defense Minister Says Syria's Assad 'Victorious'
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/October 03/17/Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Tuesday that President Bashar al-Assad has been "victorious" in Syria's civil war and was now being courted by former enemies. "Assad has emerged victorious in the battle," Avigdor Lieberman told Israeli news website Walla!. "Suddenly, everyone wants to get closer to Assad," he said. "I see that there is now a long line of countries applauding and wooing Assad, including Western (and) moderate Sunni Muslim (states)." Assad's fortunes have changed dramatically since Russia launched a military intervention to shore up his forces in 2015 and he now appears well on top after a series of key victories. Israel has previously called on Assad to step down, but officials have sought to avoid getting too heavily involved in the conflict. Israel has accused Assad-backer Iran of transferring sophisticated weapons to Lebanon's Hizbullah and has sporadically struck weapons convoys to the Shiite movement inside the war-ravaged country, as well as Syrian government forces. Israel and Syria have technically been in a state of war for decades and Israel has become alarmed at the growing Iranian influence in Damascus. Lieberman said they were hoping for increased American involvement to counterbalance the Iranian threat. "We hope that the United States will be more active on the Syrian front and in the Middle East in general. We are on the northern front against the Russians, Iranians, Turks and Hizbullah," he said. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu admitted last year Israel had carried out dozens of attacks on weapons convoys destined for Hizbullah.

Opponent of Iraq Kurd Leader Sole Candidate in Presidential Vote
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/October 03/17/An ex-minister in Iraq's first post-invasion government will be the sole candidate for the presidency of the country's autonomous Kurdish region in a November election, an official said on Tuesday. Mohammad Tofiq Rahim, 64, a staunch opponent of current Kurdish leader Massud Barzani who has repeatedly said he will not stand again for the post, was the only person to put forward his candidacy, the autonomous region's electoral chief said. "By the deadline for candidates on Tuesday, we had received all the documents necessary for Mohammad Tofiq Rahim to be a candidate for the presidency of Kurdistan. He is the only person to have declared himself a candidate," electoral commission head Yari Hadji Omar told AFP by telephone from the regional capital Arbil. The Kurdish region, which last week voted overwhelmingly in favor of independence in a referendum rejected both by Baghdad and by Iraq's neighbors Turkey and Iran, will hold presidential and legislative elections on November 1.The electoral commission has approved 21 lists of candidates for the legislative vote.Despite repeatedly saying he would not stand for re-election, Barzani has also been seen as reluctant to cede power. Rahim, a former member of the Kurdish peshmerga security forces, is a member of Goran, a party strongly opposed to Barzani. The most recent presidential vote in the autonomous Kurdish region was in 2009. Originally, a presidential term of office was four years, but in 2013 parliament extended it by two years. A general election was held in September 2013, but Kurdish parliamentary activity has been frozen since November 2015, enabling Barzani to remain in power. Rahim has opposed Barzani's mandate being extended."The commission must now examine the documents and accept his candidacy," Hadji Omar said of Rahim. In September 2003, Rahim became industry minister in the first Iraqi cabinet that followed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and overthrow of Saddam Hussein. The September 25 referendum on Kurdish independence, a Barzani initiative, returned a resounding 92.73 percent "yes" result.
Regional tensions
But it also provoked a resounding "no" from Baghdad, Tehran and Ankara and sent regional tensions soaring. Barzani's successor will have a heavy and urgent workload in the wake of the referendum result. On Monday, Iraq and Iran -- previously sworn enemies that fought a devastating eight-year war in the 1980s -- staged joint military maneuvers just across the border from Iraqi Kurdistan in Iran. Iraq, Iran and Turkey all have sizable Kurdish minorities and have taken measures to isolate Iraqi Kurdistan, including suspending international flights to and from its two main airports. Iran has also slapped an indefinite ban on the transport of oil and energy products to and from Iraq's Kurdish region. Officially comprising Arbil, Dohuk and Sulaimaniyah provinces, Iraqi Kurdistan also claims other territory including oil-rich Kirkuk province -- a dispute that is a major source of contention with Baghdad. Tuesday's electoral commission announcement that only Rahim had registered to stand in the presidential election came shortly before the announcement of the death in Germany aged 83 of charismatic Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani, a former president of Iraq. On Sunday, the Kurdish region replaced the referendum council with a body dubbed the Political Directorate of Kurdistan, seen by Barzani opponents as a way of him retaining control.The new body includes members of the two main traditional parties, Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). But it has been criticized including by Talabani's widow Hero Ibrahim Ahmed, a PUK leader. She has called it "a gross error" and compared it to Saddam's Revolution Command Council, the real decision-making body under the dictator while the government had no role.

Iraq ex-President and Kurdish Leader Jalal Talabani Dies at 83
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/October 03/17/Ex-Iraqi president and Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani died on Tuesday in Germany, officials in his party told AFP. Talabani, 83, was Iraq's president from 2005 to 2014 and a key figure in Iraqi Kurdistan, where voters last week overwhelmingly backed independence in a disputed referendum."Our leader died in Germany," an official with Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) said. A family member said Talabani's health had taken a turn for the worse and he been transported to Germany, along with his wife and two children, before the referendum.
Iraqi Kurdish lawmaker Zana Said paid tribute to Talabani as "the only president whose death saddens Arabs, Kurds and all other ethnicities." "We pray to God that his death will help to bring back good relations between the brothers of Iraq." Talabani's death, following a decades-old struggle for Kurdish statehood, came after Iraq's Kurds voted 92.7 percent in favor of independence in the September 25 referendum. The vote, rejected by Baghdad as illegal, has put deep strain on ties between the Kurds and central Iraqi authorities, who have cut off international flights to the region and threatened further action. Talabani was an avuncular politician and a skilled negotiator, who spent years building bridges between the country's divided factions, despite his efforts for Kurdish independence. Born in 1933 in the mountain village of Kalkan, he studied law at Baghdad University and did a stint in the army before joining the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) of Mullah Mustafa Barzani, father of current Kurdistan regional president Massud Barzani. Talabani took to the hills in a first uprising against the Iraqi government in 1961 but famously fell out with Barzani, who sued for peace with Baghdad, and joined a KDP splinter faction in 1964. Eleven years later, he established the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) after Barzani's forces, abandoned by their Iranian, U.S. and Israeli allies, were routed by Saddam Hussein's army. He became president in April 2005 after the first post-Saddam election in Iraq and continued in the post until 2014, when he was replaced by the current president, Fuad Masum. Iraq's head of state plays a largely ceremonial role and is elected by members of parliament. In August 2008, the married father of two underwent successful heart surgery in the United States, then in 2012 he was flown to Germany after suffering a stroke, casting doubt over his ability to ever return to Iraq. He did go back in July 2014, with Iraq in crisis after the Islamic State group had taken control of swathes of the country, and was replaced by Masum following a parliamentary election.

U.S.-Led Strike Kills 18 Civilians in Syria's Raqa
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/October 03/17/A U.S.-led coalition air strike killed at least 18 civilians on Tuesday in the Islamic State group's former stronghold of Raqa, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said. "International coalition planes targeted water wells where a group of civilians were gathered in the north of Raqa city, killing at least 18 civilians," Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said. The Britain-based group said four children were among the dead. The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters, broke into Raqa in June and has since wrested 90 percent of the city from IS. But activists say coalition strikes in support of the operation have killed hundreds of civilians and caused enormous damage. The coalition's spokesman Colonel Ryan Dillon said it does "everything within its power to limit harm to non-combatants and civilian infrastructure."
He said "rigorous standards" were applied to coalition targeting and "extraordinary efforts" taken to avoid civilian deaths."The coalition conducts a detailed assessment of each and every allegation of possible civilian casualties and we will do so for this allegation as well," he added in an email to AFP.
In late September, the coalition acknowledged the deaths of 735 civilians in its strikes on Syria and Iraq since 2014. But activists say the toll is much higher. Raqa has faced water shortages for months because of damage to pipelines caused by suspected coalition strikes. Even in the early days of the Raqa assault, residents said they feared being caught in air strikes or shelling when they ventured to wells or the Euphrates River that runs south of the city to draw water.

Netanyahu Rejects Palestinian Reconciliation unless Hamas Disarms
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/October 03/17/Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday Israel would reject any reconciliation deal between the two leading Palestinian factions unless the Iran-backed Islamist movement Hamas disarmed. "We are not prepared to accept bogus reconciliations in which the Palestinian side apparently reconciles at the expense of our existence," Netanyahu said in a statement. "Whoever wants to make such a reconciliation, our understanding is very clear: recognize the State of Israel, disband the Hamas military arm, sever the connection with Iran -- which calls for our destruction," Netanyahu added. Palestinian prime minister Rami Hamdallah began a three-day visit to Gaza on Monday as the two leading factions seek a reconciliation deal that could lead to a unity government. The internationally recognized Palestinian Authority (PA) has signed a peace deal with Israel but Hamas, which runs Gaza and has fought three wars with Israel since 2008, has not. Hamas maintains a major military wing and senior officials have downplayed the idea of disarming in any reconciliation deal. However PA president Mahmoud Abbas said in an interview on Monday there would be "one state, one system, one law and one weapon" -- in an apparent reference to Hamas' military wing.

Palestinian Government Meets in Gaza for First Time Since 2014
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/October 03/17/The Palestinian cabinet met in Gaza on Tuesday for the first time since 2014 in a further step towards the internationally recognised Palestinian Authority retaking control of the territory. The meeting of the government, which is based in the occupied West Bank, comes as part of moves to end a decade-long split between the PA and the Islamist Hamas movement, which runs Gaza. In an opening speech, Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah renewed his pledge to end the rift. "We are here to turn the page on division, restore the national project to its correct direction and establish the (Palestinian) state," he said. It was the first meeting of the cabinet in Gaza since November 2014, and comes a day after Hamdallah entered the territory for the first time since a unity government collapsed in June 2015. On Monday, he met with senior Hamas figures, including leader Ismail Haniya. After Tuesday's cabinet meeting, government spokesman Yusuf Al Mahmud said ministers discussed the humanitarian situation in Gaza. No Hamas officials took part. Mahmud warned that a full reconciliation deal would take time. "The government does not have a magic wand," he told reporters.
More than two million people live in impoverished Gaza, which has been blockaded by Israel and Egypt for years. The sides will hold further talks next week in the Egyptian capital Cairo. Punitive measures imposed by the PA against Hamas, including cutting electricity payments for Gaza, would remain in place pending the result of those talks, Mahmoud added. Hamas called for the measures to be ended immediately as a show of good will. "Our people look forward to practical steps to ease their suffering," a statement said. Hamas has controlled Gaza since seizing it from the PA in a near civil war in 2007 and multiple previous reconciliation attempts have failed. Last month, the Islamists announced they were willing to cede civilian control to the PA, following Egyptian pressure. The United States and the European Union blacklist Hamas as a terrorist organisation, complicating the formation of any potential unity government.
The head of Egyptian intelligence Khaled Fawzi is to visit Gaza later on Tuesday and meet with Hamas and PA officials, including Haniya. - 'Carefully optimistic' -Tuesday's cabinet session took place at the official Gaza residence of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in the cabinet office, hung with portraits of Abbas and historic Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Abbas himself remained in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Hamas security were on the roof of the building, while Palestinian Authority agents were deployed inside, an AFP correspondent reported.
"Today we are faced with a historic revival in which we are grappling with our wounds and elevating our unity," Hamdallah said, reaffirming that there would be no Palestinian state without Gaza. UN Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov said on Monday that he was "carefully optimistic" about the reconciliation talks. "If the region stays engaged, if Egypt's role continues and if the political parties themselves continue to show the willingness they are currently showing to work with us on this process, then it can succeed," he told AFP. In an interview on Monday night Abbas said that while the two sides "might have wronged each other and cursed each other, today we enter a new phase."A key issue is Hamas's powerful military wing that has fought three wars with Israel since 2008. Hamas officials reject the possibility of dissolving it. Abbas told Egypt's CBC that there will be "one state, one system, one law and one weapon" -- in an apparent reference to Hamas’s military wing. He also warned Hamas could not "copy or clone Hezbollah's experience in Lebanon," referring to a situation where an independent armed group exerts major influence on national politics. The United States cautiously welcomed Hamdallah's visit, but White House special envoy Jason Greenblatt warned any Palestinian government "must unambiguously and explicitly commit to nonviolence, recognition of the State of Israel, acceptance of previous agreements and obligations between the parties and peaceful negotiations."The Palestinian Authority has signed peace deals with Israel, but Hamas was not party to them and does not recognise Israel's right to exist.

Al-Sisi Hails 'Opportunity' for Palestinian Unity
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/October 03/17/Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has said Palestinian reconciliation could be an "opportunity" for wider regional peace, while Hamas welcomed their aid. "The whole world is waiting for your efforts to achieve reconciliation among the Palestinian people and appreciates your determination to address all obstacles," Sisi said in a pre-recorded speech addressing the two main Palestinian movements on Tuesday."There is a chance to realize peace in the region, providing all the parties are united."The video was played as Egyptian intelligence head Khaled Fawzy met with Hamas and Palestinian Authority leaders in the Gaza Strip.Cairo has been the key backer in attempts to bring the two Palestinian sides together, and Sisi said the global powers would back the talks. "I am confident the major world powers, when they see the Palestinian parties are fully aware of the nature of this phase and the importance of dialogue to achieve the goal of peace, will help to realize this peace," he added. Hamas has ruled Gaza since a violent overthrow of the Palestinian Authority in 2007, but last month agreed after Egyptian mediation to hand over civilian rule. Israel, however, says it will reject any deal between the two factions in which Hamas is allowed to keep its weapons. Hamas leader Ismail Haniya said Tuesday they were willing to "pay any price" for reconciliation, while praising the Egyptian role. "I say on my behalf and on behalf of the brothers in Fatah and all the Palestinian factions that we are ready to pay any price for the success of Palestinian national reconciliation," he said. Israel has fought three wars with Hamas since 2008.

After Las Vegas Massacre, Trump Silent on Gun Control
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/October 03/17/President Donald Trump condemned the massacre of at least 59 Las Vegas concert goers as an "act of pure evil" Monday, but refrained from addressing calls for gun control or the motives for the worst mass shooting in recent US history.Delivering televised remarks, Trump tried to offer consolation and called for unity -- an act that has become a grim rite of passage for modern US presidents. Barack Obama wept as he tried to soothe the nation after the 2012 Sandy Hook primary school shooting, George W. Bush told Americans that the "nation grieves" after a similar outrage at Virginia Tech university. Trump ordered that flags be flown at half-staff until sunset Friday, offered prayers for the victims and announced he would visit Las Vegas on Wednesday. Later, he led White House staff on the South Lawn for a moment of silence.
"In moments of tragedy and horror, America comes together as one -- and it always has," Trump said. Police have identified the gunman behind the Sunday night massacre -- which injured more than 500 people -- as a 64-year-old former accountant named Stephen Craig Paddock, who killed himself before a SWAT team breached his 32nd floor hotel room. Investigators recovered at least 16 guns, including assault rifles, from Paddock's room at the Mandalay Bay, and another 18 firearms along with bomb-making materials at one of his two homes. Officials have reacted cautiously to an Islamic State group claim that Paddock was a "soldier of the caliphate" but while his motive remained unclear, the shooting instantly rekindled the divisive national debate on gun control. - 'Right to bear arms' -White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that now was not the time for politics, a tactic frequently used by gun advocates to diffuse public outrage. "There's a time and place for a political debate, but now is the time to unite as a country," said Sanders. Trump insisted, "our unity cannot be shattered by evil. Our bonds cannot be broken by violence."But in the immediate aftermath of the shooting, that unity was difficult to find. Trump's vanquished election rival Hillary Clinton hit out at the gun manufacturers lobby -- the National Rifle Association -- which has backed a congressional push to make it easier to obtain a gun silencer. "The crowd fled at the sound of gunshots. Imagine the deaths if the shooter had a silencer," tweeted Clinton, whose Democratic Party has tried in vain to introduce lasting gun control measures. "Our grief isn't enough. We can and must put politics aside, stand up to the NRA, and work together to try to stop this from happening again."There have already been over 270 mass shootings in the United States this year alone, according to, although the exact definition is contested. Gun violence accounts for more than 33,000 deaths each year in the United States, and according to the latest Gallup poll, 55 percent of American voters would like to see stricter rules for buying guns.
But the issue is highly sensitive and Trump's own views have changed markedly over his years in public life. After the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, where 20 six and seven-year old children and six adults were mowed down by a disturbed 20-year-old, Trump appeared to favor stricter rules. Back then, his predecessor Obama -- who often called Sandy Hook the worst moment of his eight year presidency -- called for the deadlock to be broken and for Congress to act. At that time Trump tweeted: "President Obama spoke for me and every American in his remarks in #Newtown Connecticut." But since then Trump -- whose White House bid was endorsed by the NRA -- has positioned himself as a defender of the constitutional "right to keep and bear arms."The NRA donated an estimated $30 million to Trump's campaign in 2016, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. US Senator Chris Murphy, who was the congressman for Sandy Hook, renewed a call for action in the wake of the Las Vegas attack. "This must stop. It is positively infuriating that my colleagues in Congress are so afraid of the gun industry that they pretend there aren't public policy responses to this epidemic," he said.

Catalonia Set for General Strike over Independence Poll Violence
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/October 03/17/Large numbers of Catalans are expected to observe a general strike on Tuesday to condemn police violence at a banned weekend referendum on independence, as Madrid comes under growing international pressure to resolve its worst political crisis in decades.
Flights and train services could be disrupted as well as port operations, after unions called for the stoppage to "vigorously condemn" the police response to the poll, in which Catalonia's leader said 90 percent of voters backed independence from Spain. Barcelona's public universities are expected to join the strike, as is the contemporary art museum, football club FC Barcelona and the Sagrada Familia, the basilica designed by Antoni Gaudi and one of the city's most popular tourist sites. "I am convinced that this strike will be widely followed," Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont said ahead of the protest.
The central government has vowed to stop the wealthy northeastern region, which accounts for a fifth of Spain's GDP, breaking away from Spain and has dismissed Sunday's poll as unconstitutional and a "farce". Violent scenes played out in towns and cities across the region on Sunday as riot police moved in on polling stations to stop people from casting their ballots, in some cases charging with batons and firing rubber bullets to disperse crowds. UN rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said he was "very disturbed" by the unrest while EU President Donald Tusk urged Madrid to avoid "further use of violence".
The European Parliament will hold a special debate on Wednesday on the issue. "We call on all relevant players to now move very swiftly from confrontation to dialogue. Violence can never be an instrument in politics," European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said, breaking weeks of virtual EU silence on the Catalan issue. Residents in many cities briefly stopped work at midday on Monday and descended onto the streets in silent, solemn protest. In Barcelona, municipal police said about 15,000 people stopped traffic as they rallied, many draped in the blue, yellow and red Estelada flag used by Catalan separatists, shouting "the streets will always be ours". "This was the norm under Franco!" the crowd chanted, referring to former dictator Francisco Franco whose 1939-75 regime repressed Catalan language and culture.
Emergency talks -The government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy held emergency talks after Puigdemont declared Sunday that Catalonia had "won the right to an independent state". Puigdemont has appealed for international mediation to help solve the crisis and called for police deployed to Catalonia from other parts of Spain for the vote to be removed. The regional government said 2.26 million people took part in the poll, or just over 42 percent of the electorate. But any attempt to unilaterally declare independence is likely to be opposed not just by Madrid but also a large section of the Catalan population, a region of 7.5 million people that is deeply split on the issue. Puigdemont has said he will now present the results to the region's parliament, where separatist lawmakers hold a majority, and which has the power to adopt a motion of independence. The Catalan leader said close to 900 people had received medical attention, though regional authorities confirmed a total of 92 injured. Four were hospitalised, two in serious condition. Videos posted on social media showed police dragging voters from polling stations by their hair, throwing people down stairs and attacking Catalan firefighters protecting polling stations. Magdalena Clarena Dabant, a 70-year-old grandmother, described a "brutal" incident when she decided to join "passive resistance" in her village to prevent the Guardia Civil police from seizing a ballot box. "To stop them, many voters sat on the floor, I sat on a chair. They told me to go away, I responded I wouldn't move. "They grabbed me by the arm, strongly, and I fell on the floor. In hospital they told me I had the wrist broken."

Islamic State Group Claims Deadly Damascus Bomb Attack
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/October 03/17/The Islamic State group on Tuesday claimed a bomb attack at a police station in the Syrian capital Damascus a day earlier that killed at least 17 people. In a statement circulated on its social media accounts, the group said three of its fighters armed with guns, grenades and explosives were involved in the attack in the southern neighbourhood of Midan on Monday. The Syrian interior ministry said on Monday that the attack involved two suicide bombers, one of whom managed to penetrate the police station and reach the first floor before his explosives detonated. But a monitor reported a third explosion involved a car bomb outside the police station, and the IS claim also referred to the third attacker blowing himself up separately from the other two. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group, said at least 17 people were killed in the attack, among them 13 police officers. Damascus has been largely insulated from the worst of the violence during the country's brutal six-year civil war, but several bomb attacks have shaken the city. The Midan police station has itself been targeted before. In December 2016, three police officers were wounded when a seven-year-old girl walked into the police station wearing an explosive belt that was remotely detonated. The regime is currently waging several offensives against IS, including in the Badiya desert region and in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor. The jihadist group is rapidly losing territory across Syria, though it retains a handful of positions, including in the Yarmuk camp in Damascus. More than 330,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011 with anti-government protests.

UAE Jails Iranian over Sanctions Breach
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/October 03/17/A United Arab Emirates appeals court has upheld a 10-year jail sentence against an Iranian convicted of breaching international sanctions against Tehran, state media reported on Tuesday. The State Security Court upheld the man's conviction on charges of "sharing intelligence with Iran, importing electricity generators and devices used in the Iranian nuclear programme from the United Kingdom and attempting to illegally re-export these devices to Iran," the official WAM news agency reported. The man, whose identity has not been disclosed, was found guilty by a lower court in April and sentenced to 10 years in jail to be followed by deportation. Nuclear-related international sanctions on Iran were lifted following a landmark deal reached between Tehran and major powers in 2015. But the UAE and other Sunni-ruled Gulf Arab states remain deeply opposed to the influence of Shiite-dominated Iran in the Middle East.

Mattis Says Pentagon 'Fully' Backs Tillerson on North Korea
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/October 03/17/Pentagon chief Jim Mattis said Tuesday his department "supports fully" Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's effort to find a diplomatic solution to the North Korea nuclear stand-off. Defense Secretary Mattis was speaking after President Donald Trump appeared to undermine his top diplomat by suggesting it was a "waste of time" to reach out to Kim Jong-Un's regime.

Mattis Says Nuclear Accord with Iran in U.S. Interest
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/October 03/17/U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Tuesday that President Donald Trump should consider sticking with the nuclear accord with Iran, which he said is in the U.S. national interest. Mattis's expression of support for the 2015 agreement curbing Iran's nuclear program was in sharp contrast with Trump's blunt assessment that the deal is an "embarrassment."Asked during a Senate hearing whether he believed it was in the national interest, Mattis replied: "Yes, senator, I do.""If we can confirm that Iran is living by the agreement, if we can determine that this is in our best interest, then surely we should stay with it.""I believe at this point in time, absent indication to the contrary, it is something that the president should consider staying with," he said. Trump must notify Congress every 90 days whether Iran is abiding by the accord and whether the lifting of sanctions against Tehran is in the U.S. national interest. He has so far certified that Iran is in compliance with the agreement but has indicated the next deadline on October 15 will be crucial. Iran and the other signatories -- China, Russia, France, Britain and Germany -- defend the deal as a guarantee of the peaceful, non-military purposes of Tehran's nuclear program.

U.S. Expels 15 Cuban Diplomats following Mysterious Attacks
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/October 03/17/The United States ordered the expulsion of 15 Cuban diplomats on Tuesday, accusing Havana of failing to protect their U.S. counterparts from harm in a series of mystery "attacks" on their health. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said, however, that Washington would maintain diplomatic relations even though the size of the U.S. mission in Havana would be reduced to a minimum. "The decision was made due to Cuba's failure to take appropriate steps to protect our diplomats in accordance with its obligations under the Vienna Convention," Tillerson said.
"This order will ensure equity in our respective diplomatic operations," the statement continued. "Until the government of Cuba can ensure the safety of our diplomats in Cuba, our embassy will be reduced to emergency personnel to minimize the number of diplomats at risk of exposure to harm." The attacks, which US officials initially suggested could have come from some sort of covert acoustic device, have affected at least 22 US embassy staff in Havana over the past few months.Those affected have exhibited physical symptoms including ear complaints, hearing loss, dizziness, headache, fatigue, cognitive issues, and difficulty sleeping. Tillerson said the U.S. would "maintain diplomatic relations with Cuba, and will continue to cooperate with Cuba as we pursue the investigation into these attacks."U.S. relations with Havana were only fully restored in 2015 -- after a half-century Cold War break -- and have deteriorated since President Donald Trump took office in January.Last week, Tillerson said he was withdrawing more than half the personnel from the U.S. embassy in Cuba in response to the unexplained attacks.
'Protect our people'
The Cuban diplomats, who were given seven days to depart, were not declared persona non grata, a US official speaking on condition of anonymity said.
Washington, he said, wants "to underscore to the Cubans that they must take more actions to protect our people on the ground." "Our position on assurances is not presume Cuban culpability. What it does is require the Cuban government to be able to fulfill their obligations with the safety and well being and protection of foreign diplomats in their country." The U.S. diplomats leaving Cuba are expected to be out of the country by the end of the week. "We would need full assurances from the Cuban government that these attacks will not continue before we can even talk and plan" for resuming operations in Havana, he said. Most importantly, Tillerson wants "to focus on the safety and well being of our personnel. Once having made that decision we then moved on to consider ensuring that there would be an equitable impact in our two embassies ability to operate."The State Department gave the Cubans a list of which diplomats they wanted expelled. Routine U.S. visa operations in Havana were suspended indefinitely in response to the attacks. U.S. officials had previously told reporters they believed some kind of inaudible sound weapon was used on the U.S. staff either inside or outside their residences in Havana. Canadians in Cuba have also been hurst, with a source close to that country's embassy telling AFP that more than five families were affected, including several children. Observers doubt that Cuba would have risked antagonizing its neighbors at the end of 2016 -- when relations between the former Cold War enemies were thawing, before they deteriorated under Trump. The head of North American affairs at Cuba's foreign ministry, Josefina Vidal, earlier told state television that Cuba wants to work with the United States to resolve this case.

Putin Calls for Better U.S. Ties as He Meets New Envoy
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/October 03/17/Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday called for "predictable and mutually beneficial" ties with the United States as he received diplomatic credentials from Washington's new ambassador to Moscow. The U.S. Senate last week confirmed businessman, veteran diplomat and former presidential candidate Jon Huntsman as ambassador to Russia, filling a crucial post at a time when ties are at dangerously low ebb. "As far as bilateral ties with the United States are concerned, their current level cannot be satisfying," Putin said at the Kremlin after he received diplomatic credentials from Huntsman. "We are in favor of constructive, predicable and mutually beneficial cooperation. We are convinced it should be based on the meticulous adherence to the principles of equality, respect of national interests and non-interference in domestic affairs."Putin again expressed condolences to the American people following the Las Vegas shooting which killed at least 59 people and wounded more than 500.
'Problems of reciprocity'
Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said earlier Tuesday that the Russian president wanted to restore ties with the United States but stressed he could not do it alone. "So far there are certain problems when it comes to reciprocity," Peskov told reporters. "But we hope that with the new ambassador at the helm at least the U.S. diplomatic mission in Moscow will be able to contribute to the restoration of our relations." U.S. President Donald Trump has pledged to improve ties between the two countries which slumped to their lowest point since the Cold War over the Ukraine crisis. But allegations of collusion between Russia and members of Trump's election campaign team overshadowed those promises. The 57-year-old Huntsman, who served as governor of Utah, has worked in numerous U.S. administrations, notably as ambassador to China under Democrat president Barack Obama, before running unsuccessfully for president as a Republican in 2012. Huntsman said during his confirmation hearing last week that there is "no question" Russia interfered in the U.S. presidential race and that Moscow continues to "threaten stability" in Europe. "I look forward to working to rebuild trust between our two countries and to strengthening the bilateral relationship based on cooperation on common interests," the new U.S. ambassador said after the Kremlin ceremony. "I will seek out Russian people from all walks of life to share perspectives, to relay American values, and to deepen my growing appreciation for Russia's rich and fascinating history and culture," he added. The U.S. embassy in Moscow said Huntsman would return to Washington for "final consultations" before assuming his post in Russia next week. Huntsman will be performing one of the most difficult jobs on the diplomatic circuit. One of his predecessors, Michael McFaul, left the post under a cloud after just two years in Russia. McFaul, who left in 2014, sparked Moscow's fury with critical comments and meetings with Russian opposition leaders and was harassed by pro-Kremlin youth activists and TV channels. His successor, career diplomat John Tefft was summoned out of retirement and served as U.S. ambassador to Russia between 2014 and 2017.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on October 03-04/17
The Case for Kurdish Independence/قضية الإستقلال الكردي
Alan M. Dershowitz/Gatestone Institute/October 02/17
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan tried to extort Israel to withdraw its support, and threatened to end the process of normalization unless it does so. It is worth noting that Turkey strongly supports statehood for the Palestinians but not for their own Kurdish population. Hypocrisy abounds in the international community, but that should surprise no one.
Iraqi Kurds were a key partner for the U.S. coalition that toppled Saddam Hussein's regime and has staved off further sectarian tensions in that country. One thing is clear: if the United States continues to neglect its "friends" and allies in the region -- those on the front line in the fight against ISIS -- the damage to its credibility will only increase.
Nor are there any limits to the hypocrisy of those university students and faculty who demonstrate so loudly for Palestinian statehood, but ignore or oppose the Kurds. When is the last time you read about a demonstration in favor of the Kurds on a university campus? The answer is never.
No one who supports statehood for the Palestinians can morally oppose Kurdish independence. But they do, because it is double-standard hypocrisy, and not morality, that frames the debate over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
More than 90% of Iraq's Kurdish population have now voted for independence from Iraq. While the referendum is not binding, it reflects the will of a minority group that has a long history of persecution and statelessness.
The independence referendum is an important step toward remedying a historic injustice inflicted on the Kurdish population in the aftermath of the First World War. Yet, while millions took to the streets to celebrate, it is clear that the challenges of moving forward toward establishing an independent Kurdistan are only just beginning. Already, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, has said: "we will impose the rule of Iraq in all of the areas of the KRG, with the strength of the constitution." Meanwhile, other Iraqi lawmakers have called for the prosecution of Kurdish representatives who organized the referendum -- singling out Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Masoud Barzani, specifically.
People cast their referendum vote on September 25, 2017 in Kirkuk, Iraqi Kurdistan. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
While Israel immediately supported the Kurdish bid for independence, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan tried to extort Israel to withdraw its support, and threatened to end the process of normalization unless it does so. It is worth noting that Turkey strongly supports statehood for the Palestinians but not for their own Kurdish population. The Palestinian leadership, which is seeking statehood for its people, also opposes statehood for the Kurds. Hypocrisy abounds in the international community, but that should surprise no one.
The case for Palestinian statehood is at least as compelling as the case for Kurdish statehood, but you would not know that by the way so many countries support Palestinian statehood but not Kurdish statehood. The reason for this disparity has little to do with the merits of their respective cases and much to do with the countries from which they seek independence. The reason, then, for this double standard is that few countries want to oppose Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria; many of these same countries are perfectly willing to demonize the nation-state of the Jewish people. Here is the comparative case for the Kurds and the Palestinians.
First, some historical context. In the aftermath of WWI, the allied forces signed a treaty to reshape the Middle East from the remnants of the fallen Ottoman Empire. The 1920 Treaty of Sevres set out parameters for a unified Kurdish state, albeit under British control. However, the Kurdish state was never implemented, owing to Turkish opposition and its victory in the Turkish War of Independence, whereby swaths of land intended for the Kurds became part of the modern Turkish state. As a result, the Kurdish region was split between Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran, and the Kurds were dispersed around northern Iraq, southeast Turkey and parts of Iran and Syria. Although today no one knows its exact population size, it is estimated that there are around 30 million Kurds living in these areas.
In contrast to the Palestinian people, who adhere to the same traditions and practices as their Arab neighbors, and speak the same language, Kurds have their own language (although different groups speak different dialects) and subscribe to their own culture, dress code and holidays. While the history and genealogy of Palestinians is intertwined with that of their Arab neighbors (Jordan's population is approximately 50% Palestinian), the Kurds have largely kept separate from their host-states, constantly aspiring for political and national autonomy.
Over the years, there have been countless protests and uprisings by Kurdish populations against their host-states. Some rulers have used brute force to crack down on dissent. Consider Turkey, for example, where the "Kurdish issue" influences domestic and foreign policy more than any other matter. Suffering from what some historians refer to as "the Sevres Syndrome" -- paranoia stemming from the allies' attempt to carve up parts of the former Ottoman Empire for a Kurdish state – President Erdogan has subjected the country's Kurdish population to terror and tyranny, and arrested Kurds who are caught speaking their native language.
But perhaps no group has had it worse than the Kurds of Iraq, who now total 5 million -- approximately 10-15% of Iraq's total population. Under the Baathist regime in the 1970s, the Kurds were subject to 'ethnic cleansing." Under the rule of Saddam Hussein, they were sent to concentration camps, exposed to chemical weapons and many were summarily executed. It is estimated that approximately 100,000 Kurds were killed at the hands of the Baathist regime. So "restitution" is an entirely appropriate factor to consider -- although certainly not the only one -- in supporting the establishment of an independent Kurdistan in northern Iraq.
In contrast, the Palestinians have suffered far fewer deaths at the hands of Israel (and Jordan), yet many within the international community cite Palestinian deaths as a justification for Palestinian statehood. Why the double standard?
There are many other compelling reasons for why the Kurds should have their own state. First, the Iraqi Kurds have their own identity, practices, language and culture. They are a coherent nation with profound historical ties to their territory. They have their own national institutions that separate them from their neighbors, their own army (the Peshmerga) and their own oil and energy strategy. International law stipulated in Article 1 of the Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States, lays the foundation for the recognition of state sovereignty. The edict states:
"the state as a person of international law should possess the following qualifications: (a) a permanent population; (b) a defined territory; (c) government; and (d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states."
The KRG meets these criteria, as least as well as do the Palestinians.
Moreover, the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq -- the closest it has come to having its own state -- has thrived and maintained relative peace and order against the backdrop of a weak, ineffectual Iraqi government and a brutal civil war. As such, it represents a semblance of stability in a region comprised of bloody violence, destruction and failed states.
Why then did the United States -- along with Russia, the EU, China and the UN -- come out against independence for one of the largest ethnic groups without a state, when they push so hard for Palestinian statehood? The U.S. State Department said it was "deeply disappointed" with the action taken, while the White House issued a statement calling it "provocative and destabilizing." Essentially, the international community cites the following two factors for its broad rejection:
That it will cause a destabilizing effect in an already fragile Iraq that may reverberate in neighboring states with Kurdish populations;
That the bid for independence will distract from the broader effort to defeat ISIS – which is being fought largely by Kurdish Peshmerga forces.
These arguments are not compelling. Iraq is a failed state that has been plagued by civil war for the last 14 years, and the Kurdish population in its north represent the only real stability in that country, while also assuming the largest military role in combatting ISIS' occupation of Iraqi territory. There is also nothing to suggest that an independent Kurdistan would cease its cooperation with the anti-ISIS coalition. If anything, the stakes in maintaining its newfound sovereignty would be higher. Additionally, Iraqi Kurds were a key partner for the U.S. coalition that toppled Saddam Hussein's regime and has staved off further sectarian tensions in that country. One thing is clear: if the United States continues to neglect its "friends" and allies in the region -- those on the front line in the fight against ISIS -- the damage to its credibility will only increase.
Israel is the only Western democracy to come out in support of Kurdish independence in northern Iraq. One would expect that the state-seeking Palestinian Authority (PA) -- which has cynically used international forums to push for Palestinian self-determination -- would back Kurdish efforts for independence. However, while seeking recognition for its own right to statehood, the PA instead subscribed to the Arab League's opposing position. This is what Hasan Khreisheh of the Palestinian Legislative Council said about the referendum:
"The Kurds are a nation, same as Arabs, French and English. But this referendum is not an innocent step. The only country behind them is Israel. Once Israel is behind them, then from my point of view, we have to be careful."
Clearly, there are no limits to the Palestinian Authority's hypocrisy.
Nor are there any limits to the hypocrisy of those university students and faculty who demonstrate so loudly for Palestinian statehood, but ignore or oppose the Kurds. When is the last time you read about a demonstration in favor of the Kurds on a university campus? The answer is never. No one who supports statehood for the Palestinians can morally oppose Kurdish independence. But they do, because it is double-standard hypocrisy, and not morality, that frames the debate over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
* Alan M. Dershowitz, Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law, Emeritus, at Harvard Law School and author of, "Trumped Up! How Criminalization of Political Differences Endangers Democracy," which is now available.
© 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.

Austria: Integration Law Goes into Effect/"Integration through performance"
Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institute/October 03/17
The new law also requires immigrants from non-EU countries to sign an "integration contract" which obligates them to learn written and spoken German and to enroll in courses about the "basic values of Austria's legal and social order." Immigrants are also required to "acquire knowledge of the democratic order and the basic principles derived from it."
The massive demographic and religious shift underway in Austria, traditionally a Roman Catholic country, appears irreversible. In Vienna, where the Muslim population now exceeds 12.5%, Muslim students already outnumber Catholic students at middle and secondary schools. Muslim students are also on the verge of overtaking Catholics in Viennese elementary schools.
"The immigration seen in recent years is changing our country not in a positive but in a negative way... Uncontrolled immigration destroys the order in a country." — Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz.
A groundbreaking new law regulating the integration of immigrants has gone into effect in Austria. The so-called Integration Law — which bans full-face Muslim veils in public spaces and prohibits Islamic radicals from distributing the Koran — establishes clear rules and responsibilities for recognized asylum seekers and refugees who are granted legal residence in the country.
Austrian officials say the main goal of the law is to promote respect for Austrian values, customs and culture; Muslims claim that the measure unfairly targets them and will promote "Islamophobia."
As of October 1, anyone covering his or her face in public with a burka, niqab or mask is subject to a fine of €150 ($175). The law, which follows similar bans in Belgium, France and the Netherlands, requires the face to be completely visible in all public spaces, including bus, rail, air and sea transport. Those who refuse to comply are subject to arrest.
The new law also requires immigrants from non-EU countries to sign an "integration contract" which obligates them to learn written and spoken German and to enroll in courses about the "basic values of Austria's legal and social order." Immigrants are also required to "acquire knowledge of the democratic order and the basic principles derived from it."
Immigrants are subsequently required to take an "immigration exam" to prove that they have "in-depth knowledge of the German language for independent use" and "in-depth knowledge of the fundamental values ​​of the legal and social order of the Republic of Austria."
Immigrants have a period of two years to prove their compliance with the integration agreement. Those who fail to comply are subject to fines of up to €500 ($585), imprisonment of two weeks and the loss of social welfare benefits — but not deportation.
The new integration law is the brainchild of Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, the leader of the conservative Austrian People's Party (ÖVP). Kurz, who has taken an increasingly hard line on immigration, is leading the opinion polls in the run-up to parliamentary elections on October 15 and is on track to becoming Austria's next chancellor. He explained the rationale behind the new law:
"The new integration law regulates the central framework conditions for the integration of people who want to settle in Austria: We need clear rules and regulations in order to achieve social solidarity and social peace. The principle on which this law is based is 'integration through performance.' People are not judged by their country of origin but by their will to contribute to Austria. The main goal of this law is to promote integration."
Austria's new integration law is the brainchild of Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, the leader of the conservative Austrian People's Party. In explaining the rationale behind the new law, Kurz said: "The immigration seen in recent years is changing our country not in a positive but in a negative way... Uncontrolled immigration destroys the order in a country." (Image source: Austrian Foreign Ministry)
The Algerian-French businessman Rachid Nekkaz said that he was committed to "neutralizing" the impact of Austria's burqa ban by paying all fines issued to Muslim women for violating the new law. "If one accepts religious freedom, one must also accept the visibility of religions," he said. Nekkaz has reportedly paid more than €200,000 worth of fines issued to burqa-wearers in Belgium and France.
"We will not tolerate any symbols that aim to build a counter-society with us," replied Kurz.
Previously, Kurz was instrumental in reforming Austria's century-old Islam Law (Islamgesetz), governing the status of Muslims in the country. Kurz's other new law, which was passed in February 2015, is aimed at integrating Muslims and fighting Islamic radicalism by promoting an "Islam with an Austrian character." It also stresses that Austrian law must take precedence over Islamic Sharia law for Muslims living in the country.
Austria's Muslim population now exceeds 700,000 (or roughly 8% of the total population), up from an estimated 340,000 (or 4.25%) in 2001 and 150,000 (or 2%) in 1990, according to data compiled by the University of Vienna.
The massive demographic and religious shift underway in Austria, traditionally a Roman Catholic country, appears irreversible. In Vienna, where the Muslim population now exceeds 12.5%, Muslim students already outnumber Catholic students at middle and secondary schools. Muslim students are also on the verge of overtaking Catholics in Viennese elementary schools.
At the same time, Austria has emerged as a major base for radical Islam. Austria's Agency for State Protection and Counterterrorism (BVT) has warned of the "exploding radicalization of the Salafist scene in Austria." Salafism is an anti-Western ideology that seeks to impose Islamic Sharia law.
"The immigration seen in recent years is changing our country not in a positive but in a negative way," said Kurz, who is campaigning on a "law and order" platform: "Uncontrolled immigration destroys the order in a country."
**Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute.
© 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.

Refugees, Intersectionalists, and Jews
Denis MacEoin/Gatestone Institute/October 03/17
According to a leaked German government report, up to 6.6 million migrants -- both refugees and migrants seeking a better life -- are currently waiting to cross to Europe from Africa.
The "mistake" the Israelis made seems to have been that, although driven out as refugees, they exercised their right to self-determination, returned to their homeland, and turned it into one of the most successful countries in the world. The Palestinians, who had an equal opportunity to achieve that, remain in poverty and disarray, with terrorism for 80 years as their only notable achievement. If they had agreed to work with the Jews instead of fighting them, who knows where they might be today?
To begin with, there actually are no Palestinian people, as used in the current sense of the term. The Oslo Accords accurately refer to Arabs, which is what they are -- Arabs who left Israel in the war of 1947-8 in order not to be involved in a conflict in which other Arabs fought with Jews and Christians and who currently make up more than a million of the Arabs now living in Israel as citizens with equal rights.
Refugees are back in the news. This summer, the number of migrants crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa is likely to rise significantly. According to the Daily Telegraph:
"Europe could face a new wave of migrant arrivals this summer, a leaked German government report has warned. Up to 6.6m people are waiting in countries around the Mediterranean to cross into Europe, according to details of the classified report leaked to Bild newspaper."
With the closing of the route through the Balkans and entry via Greece, most refugees, economic migrants and asylum seekers are crossing the Mediterranean into Spain or Italy, putting those countries under enormous strain. Since 2016, Austria has strengthened border police to prevent thousands more entering from Italy, and increased the number of troops and armored vehicles on the border in 2017.
On World Refugee Day 2016, the United Nation's High Commission for Refugees announced that there are now more displaced persons than there were after World War Two: "The total at the end of 2015 reached 65.3 million – or one out of every 113 people on Earth... The number represents a 5.8 million increase on the year before." During the past three years, Gatestone Fellow Soeren Kern has published a strong series of well-researched articles examining the impact of the refugee crisis on Europe overall and on individual countries such as Germany and Sweden. The rise in criminality in general, rape, Islamic radicalization, and even terror attacks as a result of a barely controlled influx of migrants from mainly Muslim countries has created alarm in country after country.
Migrants arrive at a beach on the Greek island of Kos after crossing part of the Aegean sea from Turkey in a rubber dinghy, on August 15, 2015. (Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)
This alarm has led to serious divisions. It has divided people politically, with the left and centrists welcoming increasing numbers and the right -- in particular the far-right in Europe -- calling for more rigid controls and even the expulsion of many incomers. Even this division conceals two important issues.
First, it is easy to forget that many countries are legally bound to accept refugees from wherever they originate. These are the 142 countries who are signatories to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol extending it. They include European countries into which refugees have been coming, such as Germany, Spain, Italy, France and the UK. (The United States is signatory only to the 1967 Protocol.) The Convention guarantees that refugees shall not be sent back into harm's way, and that, according to the UNHCR, "refugees deserve, as a minimum, the same standards of treatment enjoyed by other foreign nationals in a given country and, in many cases, the same treatment as nationals". Among the few non-signatories are the Gulf states of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.
Second, there is a moral dimension that transcends simple party politics. Many religious people, such as Christians, may give greater priority to compassion for their fellow man than national concerns about the ability to cope with overwhelming numbers of new arrivals or ways of integrating them into their own societies. Many Jewish people, conscious of the world's failure to take in hundreds of thousands of Jews in the years leading up to, and even during, the Holocaust, also feel a moral obligation to show a level of concern for today's refugees far above what was shown to their grandparents. This view also extended to the way a barely-established state, Israel, took in around a million Jews expelled from Arab states after 1948.
Generosity and moral actions, however, may unintentionally make matters worse. In a recent Gatestone article on migrants, Douglas Murray quotes a statement by Bill Gates, a philanthropist who has started to rethink the results of such generosity:
"On the one hand you want to demonstrate generosity and take in refugees. But the more generous you are, the more word gets around about this -- which in turn motivates more people to leave Africa. Germany cannot possibly take in the huge number of people who are wanting to make their way to Europe."
Balancing legal requirements, stemming from the 1951 Convention, with the needs of national security, finance, and social cohesion, still proves a major dilemma for signatory states. Non-signatories such as the Gulf States, vastly wealthier than European countries such as Greece or Italy, have no such a dilemma, even though many Syrian and North African refugees speak much the same language, have the same religion, and practice similar customs in daily life. That is an anomaly that has yet to be addressed seriously by the United Nations, UNHCR, and many national parliaments.
There are likely to be further waves of refugees in the next few years, then more from Syria now that Islamic State is all but finished in Raqqa. The civil war in Syria, with the ISIS threat to a large extent removed, is certain to intensify; then more will flee Iraq with the recapture of a battered Mosul and further clashes between Sunni and Shi'i militias; then more from Libya, where ISIS-affiliated groups clash with a multitude of other Islamist fighters; then more from other failed and failing states in North Africa, the Middle East, the rest of Africa and Afghanistan, where the Taliban are again resurgent -- more, in fact, from everywhere as social structures break down further, now that so many qualified people such as doctors, teachers, scientists have vanished to Europe. According to a leaked German government report, up to 6.6 million migrants -- both refugees and migrants seeking a better life -- are currently waiting to cross to Europe from Africa.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), since its establishment in 1950, has resettled some 50 million refugees -- an extraordinary achievement by any standards. Today it faces an even higher figure, all at one time. The collapse around the world of so many countries that never became democracies -- countries lacking in abundant natural resources and whose dictators, taking international aid for their own pockets, sucked them dry -- has led to an exodus that threatens to displace some of the world's leading democracies. Many are now under a barely manageable strain and growing impoverishment, actually enabled by our democratic values, our concern for international conventions, our compassion and, at times, our naïvete. Worst of all, perhaps, our decline will leave future refugees without sanctuaries in which they may thrive and give their children the opportunities for which they came.
Something, however, is missing. The left, who so often lead the campaigns to welcome to our shores an almost unfettered number of newcomers, alongside a great many decent and humanitarian people from churches or secular organizations, have in recent years justified their actions through the concept of intersectionality.
In itself, intersectionality could a useful way of looking at the world by seeing links between people who suffer different forms of oppression, such as racism, misogyny, homophobia and so on. It argues, for example, that a poor black woman has more issues to solve than, say, a middle-class white woman, even though both may be victims of male oppression. In theory, it is a useful tool; in practice, not so much.
How does intersectionality apply to refugees? Well, in general the "Left" have made the open reception of refugees a major cause, using intersectionality to justify this while condemning any other approach as fascist.
Articles often drip with standard far-left language: "emancipate ourselves from all forms of oppression", "if we want to fight capitalism with all its forms of oppression", and "white supremacist behavior harms our political self-organization" and other displays of racism framed in victimhood.[1]
Referring to Linda Sarsour, a prominent Palestinian-American "anti-Zionist," Benjamin Gladstone argues in Tablet Magazine that
"no matter what the Sarsours of the world say, Jewish issues do belong in the intersectional justice movement. ... Despite its enormous value and importance, however, the idea of intersectionality can also be manipulated to exclude Jewish issues from pro-justice movements."
Why "Jewish issues"? And what does this have to do with refugees? The answer is that the "Left", including the anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist "Left", have turned intersectionality into two seemingly unlinked matters: as an argument to call for unlimited entry for refugees and other migrants; and as a weapon to advance their hostility for Israel in demonstrations, in conferences, and in their written work.
The clearest expression of this refusal to include Jewish concerns in any intersectional discussion is the way "Left-wing" and anti-racist demonstrators, and speakers, starting in Ferguson in 2014, have consciously linked the Black Lives Matter movement to the Palestinian cause, blaming the "oppression" of the Palestinians on Jews, Zionists, and Israel, and then appealing to intersectionality as the basis for that link. This pairing of two causes rapidly became a core part of the Black Lives Matter movement. Already by 2015, in a deeply anti-Semitic and anti-Israel document, the 2015 Black Solidarity Statement with Palestine, one reads:
"Our support extends to those living under occupation and siege, Palestinian citizens of Israel, and the 7 million Palestinian refugees exiled in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Palestine. The refugees' right to return to their homeland in present-day Israel is the most important aspect of justice for Palestinians."
There is, of course, no mention of Palestinian repression of free speech, of corrupt Palestinian governance, of Palestinian terrorism, or other abuses that follow in the wake of rotten governance. This overdone concern for generations of the descendants of Palestinian refugees -- people forced to live in camps, not by Israel but by the Arab states referred to -- is then artificially made to meld with the intersectional concern for refugees who are fleeing into Europe from wars in Muslim countries.
It is precisely here that the pretence of intersectionality on the left is most fully exposed. It is not just that supporters of intersectionality refuse to accept Jews as recipients of their outpourings of love and generosity, or that they focus in a racist and fascist manner on the supposed evils of the only Jewish state. They show themselves to be hypocrites in two ways.
To begin with, there actually are no Palestinian people, as used in the current sense of the term. The Oslo Accords accurately refer to Arabs, which is what they are -- Arabs who left Israel in the war of 1947-8 in order not to be involved in a conflict in which other Arabs fought with Jews and Christians and who currently make up more than a million of the Arabs now living in Israel as citizens with equal rights. These Arabs who abandoned Israel while it was fighting for its life and who afterwards wanted to return. Israel refused on the grounds that these countrymen had not been loyal. It is those displaced persons, largely in Jordan and Lebanon, who then found themselves on the wrong end of a war that their brother Arabs had started and, to everyone's astonishment, had lost. It is these Arabs (and their descendants), who fled Israel during the War of 1947-8, and who are therefore considered by Israel a fifth-column, who are what we now call the Palestinians.
Jews have remained in place in the area continuously for more than three thousand years -- with Arabs, Christians, Turks, Helenes, Philistines, and whoever else came along -- even when, at times, many were forced out.
One might have assumed that this history of abuse of the Jews would excite intersectionalists into reaching out to Jewish people everywhere and working with them to quell anti-Semitism and anti-Jewish terrorism. Instead, they have chosen to align with a people whose leaders have refused multiple times to accept a Palestinian state each time it was offered to them.
Instead, they apparently prefer to hate Jews and the Jewish state of Israel.
This is important. Jewish refugees from the Russian pogroms and Russia in World War I, long before the Holocaust, and from Arab and Muslim states were among the earliest to head for Palestine, then Israel, in order to build a new Jewish homeland, where Jews would be guaranteed a refuge from violence and hatred. Do not those refugees deserve the same intersectional support as those flowing into Europe today? Do not the many thousands of black Jews who went from Ethiopia and Sudan to Israel deserve backing from Black Lives Matter? Do not the thousands of Indian Jews now in Israel deserve friendship from people of color?
Instead, left-wing intersectionalists work towards an increasingly unachievable Palestinian "right of return". In June 2017, the radical publishing house Verso, hosted an event at which Omar Barghouti, co-founder of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, spoke. In 2009, Barghouti accurately said: "I do not buy into the two-state solution. It is not just pragmatically impossible, it was never a moral solution. The first issue would be the right of return, but if the refugees were to return you cannot have a two-state solution like one Palestinian commentator remarked, you will have a Palestinian state next to a Palestinian state rather than a Palestinian state next to Israel."
Speaking after Barghouti was Nyle Fort, a prominent organizer of the Black Lives Matter in Ferguson. Fort's own anti-Semitism, under the US State Department and internationally-recognized IHRA definitions, and his support for Palestinian terrorists place Barghouti's earlier remarks in a clear context.
There is no room here for a discussion of the spurious nature of "Palestinian Refugees" or the fact that they are kept in refugee camps -- not by Israel but by Arab states. But such a discussion within groups who use intersectionality as a tool for hatred against Jews and Israelis is long overdue.
If intersectionality means anything as a system for bringing diverse peoples together, for helping refugees settle, for expressing solidarity with people who have suffered, it is meaningless if certain people are excluded. The "mistake" the Israelis made seems to have been that, although driven out as refugees, they exercised their right to self-determination, returned to their homeland, and turned it into one of the most successful countries in the world. The Palestinians, who had an equal opportunity to attain the same success, remain in poverty and disarray, with terrorism for 80 years as their only notable achievement. If they had agreed to work with the Jews instead of fighting them, who knows where they might be today? That would have been positive intersectionality, bringing two suffering people together for the common good. But to some, being "politically correct" evidently matters more than making the world a better place. The Jews preach tikkun olam, "repairing the world". What are radical intersectionalists doing to achieve that?
*Denis MacEoin PhD is an Irish commentator on Islam, Israel and the Middle East and a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Gatestone Institute. He lives in England.
[1] Nadiye Ünsal, an activist at the Refugee Protestcamp at Oranienplatz in Berlin, writing on "Challenging 'Refugees' and 'Supporters': Intersectional Power Structures in the Refugee Movement in Berlin"
© 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.

Ashoura and the controversy among Saudi Shiites
Hassan Al Mustafa/Al Arabiya/October 03/17
Ashoura rituals are no longer a religious ceremony, which Shiites mark across the world. It has become a topic for debate between different movements and groups. Citizens in Saudi Arabia observe Ashoura during the first 10 days of Muharram. Extensive preparations are made including several activities ranging from religious sermons, mourning, exhibitions, plays and blood donation campaigns. These events do not only reflect a religious duty but also express one’s desire to make an appearance. Serious manifestations of remembering Imam Hussein appeared in Iraq after the third Gulf War in 2003 as their flagellation rituals began to include “tatbir,” i.e. using a sword to beat their heads, and “zanjeel,” i.e. using a chain with blades to beat their backs. This is in addition to journeys in which people walk during the Arba’een to mark 40 days after the day of Ashoura, to Hussein’s tomb for days. There are other strange and primitive traditions which were inherited from Pakistan, Afghanistan and India and they include crawling on the ground or walking on burning coal.
‘Suppressed culture’
These rituals can be sociologically and anthropologically interpreted as expressions of a “suppressed culture” that has lived on the margins for years although it has what it views a historical and religious legitimacy.
After the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime, this culture found itself free of all restraints that prevented it from expressing itself. Therefore, it began to spontaneously express itself in a manner where religious rites are mixed up with tribal ones. The way Shiites expressed themselves and exposed the faults, which resulted from being marginalized for so long. This was a result of the elimination policy which the Baath Party practiced in Iraq during its time in power. It was also a reaction to attacks by al-Qaeda and ISIS later.
Like any religious ritual, there is no single accurate and final interpretation of Ashura rituals. They do not submit to rational standards in general but rather to acceptance and obedience
Rituals in this case reflect the politics, culture and social norms rather than a commitment to the teachings of Ahl Al-Bayt. Even the narratives – which those who perform these rituals tell you – are carefully selected according to what suits them as many texts actually contradict their practices and oppose them.
Shiite citizens in Saudi Arabia were affected by what happened in Iraq in 2003. The events there affected the entire region politically and culturally, but the increased practice of rituals by Shiites in Iraq had great influence on Shiites in the Gulf in general. This is why we started to hear clerics calling on people to participate in self-flagellation rituals. A strange rhetoric that depends on metaphysics, dreams and myths began to develop while portraying Ahl Al-Bayt imams as people above humans or as men with superpowers. It is the same image drawn for Sufi saints or for Jesus in Christianity.
Doubting rituals
Debates about these rituals among Saudi Shiites can be seen in the articles published in local news websites or social networks and during preachers’ and intellectuals’ lectures. In fact, the controversy reflects the society’s development and growing awareness. Saudi Shiites are not a monolith and they are not a closed uniform community that walks like a herd of sheep behind a certain religious leader as some people imagine. They are like other social groups in Saudi Arabia, a community that’s culturally and socially diverse as there are several religious and liberal movements that engage in a real discourse that has resulted in several changes.
Here is a guide to the ideas circulating during Ashoura:
1. The movement of traditional clerics which represents a wide group that believes in the importance of commemorating Ahl Al-Bayt and holding ceremonies away from politics. These events mainly focus on detailing Hussein’s virtues and the Karbala incident. This movement does not adopt “tatbir” or “zanjeel.” The movement’s prominent clerics include Sheikh Hussein al-Omran and the late Sheikh Abdulhamid al-Khati.
2. A movement that consists of the Shirazi school that follows late Sayyid Mohammad al-Shirazi and another school that follows the “Walaai” doctrine represented by the late Sheikh Jawad Tabrizi and Ayatollah Hussain Vahid Khorasani. This is in addition to a third group called “Sheikhism” which is mainly present in al-Ahsa and Dammam. This group follows the teachings of late Mirza Hassan al-Haeri al-Ehqaqi.
While they have some differences, all these three movements support self-flagellation rituals and other practices considered unusual for the majority of Saudi Shiites. The problem with this group is that it attempts to monopolize Shiism and accuses those who oppose it of “weak loyalties to Ahl Al-Bayt.”
Extremists among this movement adopt a fundamentalist rhetoric similar to that adopted by the likes of Yasser al-Habib and Sayyid Mujtaba Hussaini Shirazi. They harshly criticize figures like Sayyid Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, Sheikh Ahmad al-Waeli and Sheikh Abdulhadi al-Fadli because they reject the fundamentalist sectarian interpretation of Imam Hussein’s biography.
3. The Centrist movement aims to present the Karbala incident in a modern way and without narrating any myths. However, this movement “lacks the required bravery” as some would say and it does not engage in any critical discussions with clerics from the aforementioned school above.
This movement’s most prominent figure is Ayatollah Sayyid Mounir al-Khabbaz who has worked on presenting a moderate rhetoric rooted at the ideas of Sayyid Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah and Sayyid Mohammed Baqer al-Sadar. However, due to social pressures, Khabbaz does not criticize practices like “tatbir” as he wants to avoid debate with fundamentalists and to maintain unity, as his followers claim. He perhaps avoids it out of respect and courtesy for his teachers Mirza Tabrizi and Hussain Vahid Khorasani.
4. Reformist movement is a movement that rejects the metaphysical image promoted by the Shirazi movement when explaining Ashoura rituals. This movement frankly and directly criticizes this approach and believes that remaining silent over such practices poses a threat to “Shiism,” “distorts the renaissance of Imam Hussein” and contributes “to generalizing a culture of ignorance and backwardness.”
Among those who form the backbone of this “enlightment” movement are Sheikh Hassan al-Saffar, Sheikh Hussein al-Mustafa, Sayyid Hassan al-Nimr and Sayyid Mohammed Rida al-Salman.
5. This fifth movement views Ashoura rituals as a result of religious phenomenon and as a human, social and cultural behavior, i.e. it does not grant these rituals any sanctity that shields them from criticism. This movement deals with these rituals as a matter on which the standards of social and anthropological studies apply. Tawfiq Al-Saif is perhaps one of the most prominent experts in this field in Saudi Arabia.
Accurate interpretation
Like any religious ritual, there is no single accurate and final interpretation of Ashoura rituals. They do not submit to rational standards in general but rather to acceptance and obedience. They are the product of spiritual sentiments and self-certainty.
According to this interpretation, they resemble “faith” and “love.” Both is personal and from the heart and which cannot be measured by reason alone.
Therefore, this fifth movement looks at the religious phenomenon via a neutral approach while culturally interpreting it and analyzing the factors that influence it without being part of it.
It believes this phenomenon is part of the individual’s and society’s freedom to practice religious rituals without any compulsions. However, this movement with its secular tendency also offers strong critique that rejects “primitive” behaviors like “tatbir” and walking on burning coal because they lack rationality and violate man’s dignity and humanity.
This discourse within the Saudi Shiite society is beneficial and necessary, and it’s important that it continues without the interference of any official or higher religious authority as it will produce more modern ideas that keep up with progress, strengthen belief in plurality, decrease the extent of fundamentalism and sectarianism and make people more able to think freely, without fear or control from clergy or others.

Will sanctions against Iraq’s Kurdistan work?
Adnan Hussein/Al Arabiya/October 03/17
The Barwari Bala region, a mountain plain distinguished for planting apples of American origin, is situated on the borders with Turkey, in the far north of the Iraqi Dahuk governorate.
Whenever I ask a Kurdish friend who lives there about how the apples are, he says they are bad. Why? “It’s because the globalization apples put them out of the market.” By “globalization apples” he means those imported, probably from Turkey.
The latter are being sold for low prices resulting in recession in sales of Barwari apples. The imported apples are even cheaper than the cost of collecting the Barwari apples and transferring them to markets. When I visited Barwari, apples were not picked and they were rotting in the trees or underneath them.
Perhaps there is now chance for Barwari apples and other Kurdish crops to regain their glory if Turkey, Iran and Iraq implement their threats and besiege Iraq’s Kurdistan region to force it to give up on the referendum which was held last week.
Also read: Catalan referendum and its implications for the EU
The Iraqi, Iranian and Turkish governments’ warnings could not postpone or halt the referendum. The serious threats they made led some to believe that at least one of them will opt for military power to prevent the referendum which “threatens national security” in all three countries, Iraq, Iran and Turkey, as they are saying.
The referendum was peacefully held but the governments of Baghdad, Ankara and Tehran are still threatening to take “deterring” measures against Kurdistan if it does not back down. So what are these three capitals’ options to achieve their aims?
The referendum did not result in any financial implications. There are no measures which the Kurdistan region can take in the foreseeable future toward independence. Kurdish leaders said several times that the referendum does not mean drawing borders or announcing independence but it aims to confirm the desire for independence which achieving requires the Iraqi government’s approval and willingness to engage in negotiations with it.
A war on the Kurds will not have any popular or political support – except for few politicians, mainly Islamists, who in the past few weeks displayed chauvinism that matches that of the Baath Party
The idea of Kurdish independence
This independence though will of course depend on the stance of the other two strong neighbors, Iran and Turkey. It’s clear that like Baghdad, Tehran and Ankara, do not intend to accept the idea of Kurdish independence. As for military options, none of the three capitals frankly threatened to resort to military power to get the Kurds to forget this referendum ever happened.
They did not make such threats because they are aware they cannot resort to military power, neither solely nor together. Such military intervention will be internationally condemned. The US-led coalition which protected the Kurds during Saddam’s regime in the 1990’s will not accept such a move. The US-led coalition combating ISIS and the international community will also reject this, at least for humanitarian reasons.
Meanwhile, the Iraqi government cannot use power against the Kurds for moral and political reasons as any war against the Kurds will show that the current Iraqi regime, which is dominated by Shiite powers, is like Saddam’s regime that tragically persecuted the Kurds and Shiites once.
A war on the Kurds will not have any popular or political support – except for few politicians, mainly Islamists, who in the past few weeks displayed chauvinism that matches that of the Baath Party.
This is in addition to the fact that Iraqi troops are engaged in the war against ISIS and are fighting alongside Peshmerga troops. ISIS still poses dangerous threats to Iraq’s national security and Iraqi troops are not qualified to fight a second war.
Turkey and Iran are also incapable of using armed force as if they carry out any military operations in Iraq’s Kurdistan, they will witness unrest in their Kurdish regions where the population is double that of the Kurds in Iraq. Turkey and Iran are not in a situation that allows them to take such a risk and confront the possibility of domestic unrest.
There is also the economic factor as for over 25 years, ever since the Kurdish autonomy was established in 1991, Iraqi Kurds built extensive economic ties and partnerships with Iran and Turkey.
The market in the Kurdistan region now relies on products from these two countries, which have investments there worth billions of dollars. Turkey makes around $10 billion a year out of its trade with the Kurdistan region while Iran makes around $5 billion. This is in addition non-official trade, i.e. smuggling.
According to Turkish data, the Kurdistan region ranks third among the importers of Turkish products, after Germany and Britain. The Kurdistan region is the gate used to deliver Turkish and Iranian products to the rest of Iraq. The two countries’ investments in the region are in the oil, gas, manufacturing, transportation, telecommunications and dams sectors.
Strategic interests
The number of Iranian and Turkish companies operating in the region are around 2,000 – most of them are Turkish. Turkey in particular has other strategic interests there as all of the latter’s oil passes to Turkey or through it.
In this case, it will be difficult for Ankara and Tehran to implement strict sanctions on the region as this will harm them more than anyone else. Iranian and Turkish officials implied this in the past few days when they said their measures will not target citizens.
Baghdad will face a similar situation as all Turkish products and most Iranian ones pass through the Kurdistan region and a decent amount of Iraqi oil passes through the Kurdistan region towards the Turkish Ceyhan port.
There are also joint investments between Arabs and Kurds in the region, like the case is in the rest of Iraq, and they would also be harmed if any sanctions are imposed. Strict sanctions will at most push the Kurds to go back to their traditional economy, which is based on agriculture.
In the 1990’s, the Kurds lived through a severe siege which the Saddam regime imposed. At the time, they did not have any infrastructure but today they have a decent one that’s much better than the rest of Iraq where financial and administrative corruption hindered the infrastructure’s development.
In brief, Baghdad, Ankara and Tehran will realize that economic sanctions will not be efficient. This will open the door to negotiate with Erbil again – a door that’s actually not closed now. They will thus realize that sanctions will push the Kurds in Iraq to further adhere to the independence option!

King Salman’s Russia visit has potential to change Middle East landscape
Shehab Al-Makahleh/Al Arabiya/October 03/17
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman will head an official delegation on October4-7, 2017 to have meetings with Russian president Vladimir Putin and senior government officials, the first ever visit by a Saudi King to Moscow since the foundation of the Kingdom.
The visit, which has been postponed several times earlier, is gaining significance due to the success of preliminary visits by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman to Russia since he took over the Ministry of Defense in 2015, during which he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and a number of senior Russian officials.
Several landmark pacts are expected to be signed during the King’s visit to Russia, which primarily seeks to further enhance its political image in the Islamic world. Moscow has tried for decades to act as a mediator in many Middle East conflicts, starting from intervening in Iraq by convincing Saddam Hussein to withdraw from Kuwait as well as trying to counsel former Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi.
Russia: The polar shift
King Salman’s visit to Moscow demonstrates that Saudi Arabia is trying balancing its relations with the two superpowers: the US and Russia.
The importance of the visit stems from statement of Dimitry Peskov, the Russian president’s spokesperson, who said that “Saudi Arabia is a country that plays a key role in Arab affairs. It is a leader in the Arab world. We in Russia seek to boost dialogue with Riyadh on various issues of common concern, including the current situation in the Middle East and in Syria in particular.”
Politically, Saudi Arabia has been supporting the Syrian opposition against Bashar Al-Assad. This has changed recently when Saudi government asked the Syrian opposition to think of means to save their country and to start the reconciliation process. Russia believes that its military support to the Syrian army has changed the balance of power on the ground and has created the four de-escalation zones that could bring an end to the war.
The visit at this critical time indicates that Russia has proven its presence in the Middle East and is giving due importance to Riyadh’s political and strategic status in Russia-Arab relations
This success has been viewed by Saudis as an indicator of the role Russians may play in the future of the Middle East, at a time when Americans have started reducing their political and military presence. This has prompted states in the Middle East to head eastward toward China and Russia.
Furthermore, the Saudi king’s focus will be on Moscow’s ties with Qatar and Iran. Although Moscow may not reconsider replacing its old allies with new ones, Russia and Saudi Arabia can work toward improving their economic relations. Since mid-1950s Russia started to forge strategic alliances with Third World nations that eventually culminated in its stand to support the Syrian government in its so-called “war against terrorism”.
As regards the Qatari issue with other GCC states, the Russian stand is that it would work as a mediator. However, Russians have felt that Saudis are leading a major change in the region which should be beneficial at every level. Amongst the items on the agenda is the Iranian influence in the Arab region, including Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Qatar.
The Saudis are aware that Russians will not change their stand toward Iran overnight as they have made Iran their strategic partner. The rise of a Turkish-Iranian alliance is another issue that Saudi Arabia is concerned about.
The Syrian scenario
On the other hand, Russians would like to see greater clarity in the strategy of the Saudi government’s position towards some regional issues starting from Iraq, Syria and Yemen.
Moscow believes that the best solution to the Syrian issue is a transitional body for reaching a consensus in the aftermath of Geneva and Astana conferences and this should be reached only by Syrians themselves who would decide the future of the Syrian state and the future of the Syrian president as well through democratic decentralisation or pluralistic decentralisation formulas for the prospective settlement of the Syrian conflict. This is a message Russian officials would convey to the Saudi officials.
Over the past two years, Moscow has become an important political hub for many Arab leaders, Libyan government officials, Yemenis, Iraqis, Kurds, Turkish and North African officials, who have converged on Moscow to discuss means for solving issues bedevilling the Middle East.
Putin and the crown prince
Putin hosted Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in the Kremlin on May 30, where both leaders gave the green-light to their governments to bolster cooperation in various fields including oil, renewable energy and infrastructure projects.
The visit of the crown prince to Moscow was timely as it came on the heels of US President Donald Trump’s visit to Riyadh on May 21 where he held talks with over 30 Arab and Muslim leaders.
This was reiterated by Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs Adel Al Jubair in his interview with Sputnik news agency a few days ago when he said that the visit of King Salman will be historic because “it will symbolize the extent of the relationship and consultations that take place between the two countries. Our two countries are more closely aligned to each other than what some analysts try to portray.” This statement reveals how far Saudi government seeks to take relations between both Riyadh and Moscow.
Economic cooperation
The Saudi minister highlighted the objectives of the visit, starting from increased financial investments by both countries in their economies, as well as the nurturing of cultural, educational, scientific relations and cooperation to enhance areas of security to counter extremism and terrorism in the region.
On the economic front, a number of memorandums of understanding (MoUs) with Russian companies will be signed. Saudi Aramco and Saudi Basic Industries Corp (SABIC) will sign MoU with CIBOR, Russia’s largest petrochemical company, and shall discuss opportunities to build petrochemical plants in the two countries.
Saudi Arabia and Russia, the world’s top oil producers, have worked closely together over the past year to reach an agreement between OPEC and non-OPEC oil producers to cut global output and boost prices. Other agreements are expected to be signed, including MoU between Saudi Aramco and Novatech, the largest non-state gas producer in Russia. There will also be discussion on investment opportunities in the gas sector.
Moscow and Riyadh are slated to have joint projects in petrochemical industries and LNGs with expectations that Rosneft and Aramco will be signing huge projects on this visit. Russia’s sovereign wealth fund is also involved in the final stage of negotiations with Saudi partners on major Russian projects in the kingdom, which includes establishing a new investment platform in energy and infrastructure sectors. Saudi Arabia has signed a preliminary agreement for nuclear cooperation with Russia in 2015. The kingdom has recently announced plans to build its first nuclear power plant with a capacity of 2.8 GW.
Russian leaders look forward to gaining strategic leverage in order to enable them to curb any polarization in the Middle East, even though this is difficult to change in a short time as many Arab countries are pro-West, since they gained their independence in last century with the exception of Syria.
The King’s visit to Moscow at this critical time indicates that Russia has proven its presence in the Middle East and for its part is giving due importance to Riyadh’s political and strategic status in Russia-Arab relations.

Can Congress avoid blowing up the Iran deal?
Bryant Harris/Al-Monitor/October 2, 2017
US President Donald Trump has repeatedly indicated that he won’t find Iran to be in compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal later this month. If he follows through, the agreement’s fate will lie with a Republican-controlled Congress for whom the easiest solution — both politically and legislatively — will be to reimpose nuclear-related sanctions that could well blow up the deal.
Under the 2015 law that paved the way for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Congress will have 60 days to take action if Trump won’t certify Iranian compliance with the deal by the Oct. 15 deadline. While most legislation takes 60 votes to pass in the Senate, the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA) specifically allows the upper chamber to reinstate several hard-hitting sanctions packages with a partisan majority of just 51 senators (Vice President Mike Pence would split a 50-50 tie).
“It’s 50 votes, so they can’t rely … upon a minority to block it procedurally,” said Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., a supporter of the deal. “I think that would be a difficult vote.”
Republicans currently hold 52 Senate seats and a comfortable majority in the House, more than enough to reinstate sanctions without any Democrats joining them if they band together. Not a single Republican in either chamber voted for the deal in 2015, and congressional leaders are desperate for a political win after back-to-back defeats on health care.
“If you look at the Republican majorities in the House and Senate, none of those members of the Republican caucus voted for the deal during the 2015 congressional review,” a Senate aide told Al-Monitor on the condition of anonymity. “So the pressure would be overwhelming on those members.”
Already, proponents of the deal are bracing for the worst.
“This could very easily take on a momentum of its own,” said Jon Finer, the chief of staff to former Secretary of State John Kerry. “You could be in a situation where the administration [won't certify compliance] and Congress will say, ‘Well the administration has spoken as to Iran’s implementation of the deal,’ and this moves forward whether or not people have fully thought through the consequences.”
Kerry himself urged Congress not to rush into action in a Washington Post op-ed on Sept. 29.
“Having cast dozens of arms-control votes as a senator — judging not whether they were perfect, but whether we were better off with them — I want to take those who may soon cast a similar vote ‘into the negotiating room’ to explain the product we negotiated to close Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon, and why it is so important to keep the agreement in place,” Kerry wrote.
Some Democrats are echoing that sentiment on Capitol Hill.
"I think this will be a big fight, but at the end, I don’t know if Republicans want to be responsible for Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon,” Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., told Al-Monitor. “I know there are some Republicans who are so rabidly against the agreement they might vote to impose sanctions, but I have to believe there are enough reasonable Republicans that they wouldn’t put both North Korea and Iran on a pathway to nuclear weapons.”
At the other end of the political spectrum, some argue that Congress can’t be trusted to kill the deal cleanly.
“Perhaps the most inane argument is that Congress should decide the deal’s fate and whether to reimpose US sanctions,” former US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed Sept. 28. “If a president is unwilling to solve this kind of problem, he shouldn’t have applied for the job.”
Congressional Republicans for their part have been in no hurry to get pinned down on a potentially momentous vote.
“I just don’t want to move into public discussions yet about what may occur,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., told Al-Monitor. Corker wrote the INARA bill and has been in contact with the Trump administration regarding certification.
The House and Senate leaders who would be tasked with putting potential legislation on the floor are being equally coy.
"This could very easily take on a momentum of its own … and this moves forward whether or not people have fully thought through the consequences.”
“You’ve done a really good job of twisting yourself around the hypothetical axle,” a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told Al-Monitor when asked if his boss planned to bring nuclear sanctions to a vote.
At its core, the Iran deal rescinded US and international sanctions in exchange for Iran curtailing its nuclear program. If Trump doesn’t certify Iranian compliance, Corker’s INARA law would allow Congress to easily reimpose all or some of four main nuclear-related sanctions packages that Tehran may well view as reason enough to leave the deal.
“All four of those are quite potent, quite potent,” said Kenneth Katzman, an Iran sanctions expert with the Congressional Research Service. “Iran would certainly charge that the US has breached the agreement even if any one of them were reimposed.”
Sanctions from the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act would have the most sweeping effect on curbing Iran’s oil exports, which have been key to ensuring that Iran remains in compliance with the deal, according to Katzman.
“The key one I would say is the National Defense Authorization Act of fiscal year 2012, which would require countries to cut their oil purchases from Iran every six months or risk having their banks basically be shut out of the American financial system,” said Katzman. “That was very, very damaging to Iran.”
Katzman also pointed to the Iran Sanctions Act, which has been waived under the deal, as “very effective as far as curbing … investment in Iran’s energy sector.”
Furthermore, reimposing the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act would once again freeze Iranian assets abroad.
“This was basically oil money Iran received and was in banks all over the world,” said Katzman. “Those banks could be liable to sanction if they allowed Iran to withdraw that money to a central bank to expatriate the money.”
And while Katzman identified the Iran Freedom and Counterproliferation Act as the least damaging of the sanctions Congress could reimpose, he still characterized it as “very sweeping.”
Tellingly, even some of the deal’s most vocal critics have started to warn against rash congressional action. In a joint Wall Street Journal op-ed Sept. 25, Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security proposed that Trump refuse to certify compliance with the nuclear deal — but as a means to make it stronger by adding new conditions and slapping Iran with new non-nuclear sanctions, not kill it.
“Congress should do its part to help fix the deal,” they wrote. “Reinstating the JCPOA sanctions after decertification would ruin the ‘decertify, waive, slap and fix’ approach. To persuade Republicans, who are the most likely to vote to reinstate JCPOA sanctions that have been waived or lifted, the administration needs to demonstrate a comprehensive strategy to fix the deal and use all instruments of American power to neutralize and roll back Iranian aggression.”
But lawmakers say they’ve seen nothing from the Trump administration to inspire confidence that the White House has any strategy beyond passing the buck to Congress.
“I am not aware of any conversations that have taken place between the administration and the Democratic leadership … or between the leadership of our committee,” said Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “I have not been involved in any discussions.”
Cardin led a group of Senate Democrats in penning a letter to Trump administration national security officials Sept. 20 noting that INARA requires the president to notify Congress of Iranian noncompliance within 10 days.
“To date, the Senate has received no such notification, and the administration has provided little public testimony to Congress on the status of Iranian compliance with the agreement,” the senators wrote.
House Republicans have also been reticent to discuss INARA contingencies.
When asked if House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., intends to put Iran sanctions on the floor if Trump does not certify Iranian compliance, spokeswoman AshLee Strong said that the House Foreign Affairs Committee is taking the lead on the issue. Committee staffers, however, said they don’t know how they’re going to proceed as they don’t know what case Trump intends to make.
Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told Al-Monitor that he was still “formulating” his decision on using INARA to re-impose sanctions on Iran. Engel was one of 25 House Democrats to vote against the deal in 2015.
“Iran should not be able to get away scot-free, but whether … not certifying is the way to go, we’ve gotta see,” Engel told Al-Monitor. “And I haven’t really decided one way or another.”
Senate staffers, meanwhile, have put in semi-weekly requests to the administration to hold JCPOA briefings for members of Congress and their staff for the past several months. The Washington Post reported that they are unlikely to receive such a briefing before Trump makes his decision.
Ironically, Cardin was one of four Senate Democrats who voted against the deal in 2015. Today, he says the United States should stay in as long as Iran isn’t overtly violating its nuclear-related commitments.
“I think I speak for a lot of us who oppose the agreement,” Cardin told Al-Monitor. “We thought it was the wrong decision, [but] once it was entered into, once it was implemented, we want to see it enforced. We don’t want to see the United States violate it.”
The situation is further complicated by the fact that INARA was written with the expectation that the president would only decline to certify Iranian compliance if Tehran was clearly cheating on its end of the deal.
The International Atomic Energy Agency and several top Trump administration officials, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Joint Chiefs Chairman Joseph Dunford, have said Tehran is in “technical compliance” with the deal. But hard-liners such as Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley want a debate over whether the deal is in America’s national security interest, which would provide another rationale for kicking it back to Congress under the 2015 Corker law.
“INARA,” the Senate aide said, “wasn’t written for this scenario.”
*Bryant Harris is Al-Monitor's congressional correspondent. He was previously the White House assistant correspondent for Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan's largest newspaper. He has also written for Foreign Policy, Al Jazeera English and IPS News. Prior to his stint in DC, he spent two years as a US Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco.