October 05/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For Today
Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly,like a trap
Saint Luke 21/34-38/:"‘Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.’ Every day he was teaching in the temple, and at night he would go out and spend the night on the Mount of Olives, as it was called. And all the people would get up early in the morning to listen to him in the temple."

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on October 04-05/17
Mercenary Lebanese Politicians & the Sheep/Elias Bejjani/October 03/17
Moderate Hariri faces economic problems and political obstacles/Michael Young/The National/October 03/17
Despite Jewish Alarm Britan Refuses To Outlaw Pro Hezbollah Demonstration/Jerusalem Post/October 04/17/
Newton’s Third Law in a Country Held Captive/Eyad Abu Shakra/Asharq Al Awsat/October 04/17
A Poor Judge in Character/Michael Young/Carnegie Middle East Centre/October 04/17
More Jihadists in the West - Why/Majid Rafizadeh/Gatestone Institute/October 04/17
Palestinians: A State Within a State/Khaled Abu Toameh/Gatestone Institute/October 04/17
The Potential Hezbollization Of Hamas In Gaza/Charles Bybel ezer/ The Media Line/Jerusalem Post/October 04/17
Gaza Opens its Doors after Years of Deprivation/Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat/October 04/17
Return of the German Volk/Roger Cohen/The New York Times/October 04/17

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on October 04-05/17
Mercenary Lebanese Politicians & the Sheep
Sami Gemayel In An interview with MTV: We Are Open to Anyone Seeking Sovereignty, Independence and Reforms
Report: President 'Determined' to Prioritize Return of Displaced Issue
Berri Calls for Legislative Session Monday
Hariri Will Visit the Vatican
Hizbullah Commander Killed Fighting IS in Syria
Houri: No Turning Back, October Wages to Be Paid According to New Scale
People Assault Police During a Property Violation Removal in North MetnMustaqbal Criticizes 'Harsh Verdicts' against al-Asir and His Group
Hariri chairs infrastructure program meeting, receives Kuwaiti ambassador
Rahi from Baabda: I was assured that elections will take place in May
Renewal of cooperation agreement between Lebanese University, Sassari University
Othman meets French security official, Qatar's ambassador
Telecommunications Ministry, European Union TAIEX Programme organize workshop on 'Lebanon Digital Strategy for Sustainable Development Goals'
Riachi meets Shamsi, receives invitation to attend Holy Family University conference
Kataeb president, Ambassador of Germany tackle displacement dossier
Khalil meets economic bodies, Swiss Ambassador
Moderate Hariri faces economic problems and political obstacles
Despite Jewish Alarm Britan Refuses To Outlaw Pro Hezbollah Demonstration
Newton’s Third Law in a Country Held Captive
A Poor Judge in Character

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on October 04-05/17
King Salman arrives in Moscow on official visit
King Salman, President Putin to sign 10 major agreements Thursday
Trump Weighs 'Decertifying' Iran Nuclear Deal
Head of Syria ex-Qaida Group 'Critical' after Russia Strike, Says Moscow
Erdogan Visits Iran as Ties Warm Amid Shared Fears
Four Dead in Suicide Bombing in Libya's Misrata
Syria Army Ousts IS from All of Hama Province
Boris Johnson Under Fire for 'Dead Bodies' Libya Gaffe
Russia Accuses US-Led Forces of 'Bloody Provocations' in Syria
Catalan Crisis 'Bigger Threat to EU than Brexit', MEP Warns
Vegas Gunman Transferred $100K, Set Up Cameras at Hotel Room
Salameh Reviews with Libyan Leaders Means to Resolve Differences
Iraq’s PM Suggests Joint Administration for Disputed Areas
Iraq eases financial curbs on Kurdistan region, in a sign of de-escalation

Latest Lebanese Related News published on October 04-05/17
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.

Sami Gemayel In An interview with MTV: We Are Open to Anyone Seeking Sovereignty, Independence and Reforms
Thursday 05th October 2017/
Kataeb leader Samy Gemayel on Wednesday slammed the performance of the present government as flawed and erroneous, saying that the scandals that have been uncovered so far are enough to topple it.
In an interview on MTV, Gemayel stressed that the ongoing political performance has undermined the country's sovereignty, boosted partitioning and allowed shady deals, saying that the Kataeb party was totally convinced of its choice not to be part of the government given that 17 out of 30 ministers are staunch defenders of Hezbollah's role as a non-state armed faction.
“Given that none of the political forces has clear goals, the Kataeb party chose to give a new example and to have the people as its only ally,” he said, affirming that the party is committed to defending Lebanon's sovereignty, foiling destructive schemes targeting the state institutions and overhauling the political system. “I promise the Lebanese not to relinquish the political correctitude that we are currently abiding by,” Gemayel vowed. “I am living by my political convictions now more than ever; hope won't be restored until a real change is made.”
"The most dangerous thing we are facing is that people are getting used to constitutional violations and political wrongdoings," he warned.
Gemayel stated that the ongoing political performance brings back to minds the acts that were carried out during the Syrian tutelage, deploring the fact that judges, public servants and state officials had paid the price for stances and viewpoints that do not converge with those of the ruling authority.
"What happened with the head of Beirut port's grain silos, Shukri Sader and Sakr Sakr prove my statement," he noted.
The kataeb leader accused the political authority of using power to tighten its grip over the country, voicing fear that it might suspend the Constitution to pass its dubious, tyrannical schemes.
“It is shameful to see that the political authority is attempting to disregard the Constitution clause stipulating the need for an in-depth auditing before approving a new state budget,” he said. “Suspending this clause would be a major and unprecedented constitutional violation."
Gemayel deemed full abidance by the laws as key to building a developed state, saying that consensus reached to the detriment of the Constitution and the laws is flawed and impaired.
He reiterated that the funds needed to finance the salary scale are secured, noting that the state has many choices that it can resort to before imposing taxes.
“Why isn't the salary scale funded through either the $825 million bank profits or the budget surplus that was admitted by the Budget and Finance parliamentary committee?” Gemayel asked.
Gemayel took pride in the challenge submitted before the Constitutional Council to abrogate the taxes law, adding that roll-call voting has now become binding in the Parliament and that, consequently, citizens will get to know the stance of each lawmaker and enforce accountability accordingly.
The kataeb chief assured that he was invited, not summoned, to visit Saudi Arabia, affirming that the invitations addressed to the party by the Kingdom and Russia imply a clear acknowledgment of the Kataeb's role as an opposition force.
“What matters is one's stances, not the people he meets with or the countries he visits,” he said. "As long are your stances are patriotic, sovereign and independent, then you can meet with the whole world."
Gemayel stressed that visits to Saudi Arabia are not to be approached in the same way as visits to Syria where the regime is accused of plotting attacks in Lebanon in the Michel Samaha case.
"It is abnormal for a Lebanese official to re-establish ties with a regime that is convicted by the Lebanese judiciary."
“As an opposition force, we have the right to tell each country we visit that there is a total surrender to Hezbollah by the state,” he added, saying that Saudi officials are concerned over the blatant encroachment of the state's prestige after Hezbollah was allowed to assume negotiations in the wake of the recent border battles.
“By allowing terrorists to leave the Lebanese territory without any sanction, the state committed an act that is punishable by the laws,” he noted.
Gemayel stressed that the Kataeb does not consider itself isolated as long as it is doing what serves the people's welfare, saying that the party's duty is to offer the Lebanese a new choice that they can be proud of.
“Had the Kataeb party been so clinged to power, it wouldn't have resigned from a government in which it had three ministers affiliated to it,” he pointed out.
Gemayel stressed that by conspiring against the Kataeb, the authority is actually targeting the people knowing that the party is seeking what is in the best interest of the Lebanese, reiterating that the Kataeb is seeking to safeguard Lebanon's sovereignty, halting corruption and developing the political system.
“We are open to anyone who shares with us these same aspirations,” he said. “What we really want is to unite all the reformist forces so as to make the change that we are looking forward to."
“The Kataeb party is seeking to restore the people's confidence in politics after they had lost hope,” Gemayel affirmed.
The Kataeb leader stressed that it is normal that the party has better ties with opposition forces than with those that are part of the ruling class, stating that President Michel Aoun took a biased stance by defending Hezbollah's arms.
Gemayel noted that the Kataeb party and the Lebanese Forces share the same historical struggle, adding that it was the LF which skid off when it had decided to shore up a March 8 candidate for presidency.
“The main divergence we have is the settlement the Lebanese Forces got involved in; the one that led to the election of a March 8 president and the formation of a government that is dominated by Hezbollah,” he added.
Gemayel stressed that the Lebanese Forces and the Free Patriotic Movement have failed to agree on the main issues, notably Hezbollah's arms and ties with Syria, adding that any political alliance based on transient interests and goals is prone to collapse.
"Although I highly respect Prime Minister Saad Hariri, I disagree with him on the political path he has recently taken," he said. “The political settlement in which Hariri was a key player was stab to the March 14 coalition."
Asked about the refugee crisis, Gemayel noted that it is important to establish temporary camps at the border until refugees return to their homeland, saying that talks must be launched with Arab countries to resettle refugees as a short-term solution.
“As a long-term solution, UN-brokered talks with the Syrian regime and opposition factions will be needed to secure the return of refugees to safe zones,” he said.
Gemayel saluted the residents of Mansourieh and Ain Saade who are experiencing hard times due to the high-voltage power lines project that is jeopardizing their lives, saying that the subsequent energy ministers who approved this plan are to blame for this issue.
“I wonder why the Free Patriotic Movement officials, who previously opposed to said project, are now keeping mum and standing idly by,” he added.

Report: President 'Determined' to Prioritize Return of Displaced Issue
Naharnet/October 04/17/President Michel Aoun is “determined” to put the return of displaced Syrians issue on the “implementation path” now that safe areas inside Syria can receive them, knowing that refugees “will not be forced to return shall they feel threatened,” al-Joumhouria daily reported on Wednesday. “The file of the return of displaced Syrians will be a priority at the current stage and Aoun is determined in the near future to put the file on the track of implementation after information obtained by the Lebanese state about safe zones inside Syria that can receive them,” reported the daily. “The Lebanese state has not received any negative response from the Syrian state regarding its readiness to receive its citizens back. It is also known that the Lebanese state, which is also keen on the security of the displaced, will not force any displaced person who feels threatened by security to return at present,” added the daily. An “assessment meeting” is expected to be held to identify “several operational options that would reconcile between the security of Lebanon and the security of the displaced.” The daily added that Lebanon will present these options to the representatives of the major powers and the United Nations in order to sponsor such returns and participate in securing their financial, social and health requirements. For his part, Aoun is keen on taking into consideration the points of view of Lebanon's various political faction so as to evade any dispute over the matter. “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Social Affairs and a security agency, may be responsible for coordinating the project for the immediate repatriation of displaced persons to Syria,” according to the daily. According to information, Lebanon's determination comes at a time when the security and intelligence reports confirmed the danger of the continued presence of Syrian refugees on Lebanese territory. “The state will benefit from the recent security incidents in some areas of Lebanon in order to speed up this return and put the international community in front of its responsibilities,” it added. Aoun had previously presented data at the Cabinet meeting showing statistics about the displaced persons and the increase in crimes committed. An official source said the Lebanese state is interested in creating a new reality for this subject before the investment conference promised by French President Emmanuel Macron during Aoun's visit last week to Paris.

Berri Calls for Legislative Session Monday
Naharnet/October 04/17/Speaker Nabih Berri invited lawmakers for a legislative session on Monday to discuss draft laws strictly related to the wage scale, the National News Agency reported on Wednesday. NNA said the parliament will look into three draft laws linked to the controversial wage scale crisis as referred by the Cabinet. On Tuesday the Cabinet has sent to Parliament a draft law calling for the postponement of the payment of public sector employees’ salaries until revenues are secured. It has also sent an expedited draft law that includes amendments to the tax hike law that is supposed to fund the wage scale for public sector employees. Sources to fund the newly approved salary scale for civil servants has been a contentious issue after the Constitutional Council revoked a tax law aimed at funding the scale following an appeal filed by ten MPs led by Sami Gemayel.

Hariri Will Visit the Vatican
Naharnet/October 04/17/Prime Minister Saad Hariri is expected to visit the Vatican during the first half of October where he will meet with Pope Francis, al-Joumhouria daily said on Wednesday. “The visit is of great importance at this stage, especially that it is the first visit by a Muslim Arab official to the Holy See, at a time when the world is experiencing tensions in the face of growing extremist currents," a source told the daily on condition of anonymity. The source added that through this visit, the Prime Minister would be “dedicating that he represents moderation which should prevail on the surface of the earth, as he rejects all extremist frameworks and groups to any party they belong." Issues of concern for Lebanon will top the talks, said the source and “Lebanon will be a major item on Hariri's agenda, where he will focus on presenting the Lebanese image, which reflects the model of dialogue, convergence and coexistence.”The papal ambassador, Monsignor Gabriel Caccia, had visited both President Michel Aoun and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri in September, after the end of his duties in Lebanon.

Hizbullah Commander Killed Fighting IS in Syria
Associated Press/Naharnet/October 04/17/Hizbullah has announced that one of its top commanders has been killed while fighting Islamic State militants in Syria. The 44-year-old Ali al-Hadi al-Asheq is the latest fatality for the Shiite group that has fought alongside Syrian government forces in the civil war next door since 2012. Hizbullah said on Wednesday that he was killed fighting IS in the central desert of Palmyra on Monday. Hizbullah sent thousands of fighters to Syria, helping government forces in major battlefields victories against armed opposition and jihadist militants. More than 1,000 Hizbullah fighters have been killed there.Al-Asheq, also known by his nickname al-Haj Abbas, was among first Hizbullah commanders sent to Syria and he took part in the key battle in al-Qusayr, near the Lebanese border. He also fought against Israel.

Houri: No Turning Back, October Wages to Be Paid According to New Scale
Naharnet/October 04/17/Al-Mustaqbal MP Ammar Houri assured on Wednesday that the civil servants' wages for the month of October will be paid according to the newly approved wage scale.“The October salaries will be paid according to the newly approved salary scale, there will be no turning back,” Houri told VDL (93.3) radio in an interview. Houri clarified that the “government's suspension of implementing the scale was a provisional move to compel the Parliament into endorsing the state budget or the amendments to the salary funding resources.”On Tuesday the Cabinet has sent to Parliament a draft law calling for the postponement of the payment of public sector employees’ salaries until revenues are secured. It has also sent an expedited draft law that includes amendments to the tax hike law that is supposed to fund the wage scale for public sector employees.

People Assault Police During a Property Violation Removal in North Metn
Naharnet/October 04/17/Security Forces were pelted with stones and sticks on Wednesday during an attempt to remove a property violation in al-Rwaisat area in Jdaidet al-Metn injuring one serviceman. A dispute erupted between the security forces and residents in the area who started pelting them with stones, plastic bottles and wooden sticks in a bid to prevent them from implementing an order to remove the violation. The violators were previously notified several times to clear-off a two storey building they illegally built on someone else's land but failed to comply with the warning, reports said.
According to media reports, an engineer identified as Karl Abou Jawdeh from Jdaidet al-Rwaisat has filed a complaint about a group of Arabs raising construction on the property of his father, Jean Abou Jawdeh, without any interference from the local authorities despite submitting a legal removal request. People started throwing plastic bottles, wooden sticks and stones at the police injuring one.

Mustaqbal Criticizes 'Harsh Verdicts' against al-Asir and His Group
Naharnet/October 04/17/Al-Mustaqbal parliamentary bloc criticized Tuesday what it called the “harsh and severe verdicts that were issued by the Military Court against Sheikh Ahmed al-Asir and his group.”“The bloc stresses the importance of enforcing justice on everyone without exception and the need to respect the right to defense, topped by examining all evidence presented by the Defense,” said Mustaqbal in a statement issued after its weekly meeting. It said it was surprised that the said verdicts were issued “amid the continued absence of any measures, rulings or even charges against other parties affiliated with the so-called Resistance Brigades, who took part in violating the law, carrying arms, opening fire and committing murders against a number of unarmed Sidon residents who were peacefully expressing their condemnation of the interference and practices of those Brigades in Sidon.”
The bloc appeared to be echoing claims by al-Asir that members of the Hizbullah-affiliated Resistance Brigades had taken part in the deadly 2013 clashes between the army and his group in the Sidon suburb of Abra. “Those crimes were committed by individuals who are known by everyone in the city of Sidon, under the eyes of people and in front of cameras, and yet they are still roaming freely without any prosecution. Among the victims were the Sidon residents and two martyrs Lebnan al-Ezzi and Ali Samhoun,” Mustaqbal added, referring to two Asir supporters who were killed in a Sidon clash with gunmen loyal to Hizbullah. The bloc also lamented that alleged Hizbullah supporters have not been prosecuted over other murders, including the killing of Hashem al-Salman outside the Iranian embassy and the killing of army pilot Samer Hanna. Al-Asir was on Thursday sentenced to death in the case of the 2013 Abra clashes as pop star-turned-Islamist militant Fadel Shaker was sentenced in absentia to 15 years of hard labor. The court also sentenced to death two other defendants and five Islamists who remain at large, including the cleric's brother Amjad. Another 30 defendants were handed life sentences.
The Abra fighting killed 18 Lebanese soldiers and 13 pro-Asir gunmen.

Hariri chairs infrastructure program meeting, receives Kuwaiti ambassador
Wed 04 Oct 2017/NNA The President of the Council of Ministers Saad Hariri chaired today at the Grand Serail a meeting dedicated to the investment program for infrastructure.
The meeting was attended by Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Ghassan Hasbani, ministers Nohad Machnouk, Gebran Bassil, Hussein Hajj Hassan, Michel Pharaon, Ayman Choucair, Inaya Ezzeddine and Cesar Abi Khalil, the Secretary General of the Council of Ministers Fouad Fleifel, the President of the Council of Development and Reconstruction (CDR) Nabil al-Jisr, Hariri's advisors Nadim Mounla and Fadi Fawaz and representatives from "Dar al-Handassa". This meeting was held after the government, in cooperation with the concerned ministers and the Council for Development and Reconstruction, completed the draft of this ambition program, which has been presented to the various political forces as a first step to start a broad national debate to submit it to cabinet before sending it to parliament. During the meeting, Hariri stressed the importance of this program and the need for a wide national consensus around it to meet the economic challenges facing Lebanon. He added that this program would lead to economic revival on the eve of the international conference that will be held at the beginning of next year to support Lebanon economically, which was announced by French President Emmanuel Macron during the visits of President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister Saad Hariri to Paris last month. During the conference, Lebanon will ask for grants and soft loans. On the other hand, Hariri met separately with the Minister of Information Melhem Riachi, and the Minister of the Displaced Talal Arslan who said after the meeting: "I registered at the General Secretariat of the Council of Ministers a draft law concerning the stages to close the Ministry of the Displaced, to be submitted to the Council of Ministers for approval". Hariri also met with the Kuwaiti Ambassador to Lebanon Abdel Aal Al-Kinai and discussed with him the situation and the bilateral relations. Hariri also received the Chairman of the Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Committee, former Minister Hassan Mneimneh who said after the meeting: "We reviewed the situation of the refugees in Lebanon and the problems facing them. We invited Prime Minister Hariri to adopt the document issued by the work group on the Palestinian refugees, which included the various political parties in Lebanon.  We also discussed the importance of approving this document in the cabinet and issuing the laws and decrees that may help in alleviating the suffering of the Palestinian refugees, with full emphasis on the rejection of resettlement and the adherence to the right of return, which are stated in the document. Talks focused on the need to register the Palestinian births in Lebanon, that were not registered previously, in the relevant official departments. Discussions also tackled Lebanon's support to cover UNRWA's deficit, especially by communicating with donor countries so that the deficit will not reflect negatively on its work in Lebanon. Prime Minister Hariri promised to acquire some lands in Nahr al-Bared camp for the Lebanese state to launch the fourth phase of the reconstruction of the camp."
Later on, Hariri met with MP Wael Abu Faour and discussed with him the situation in the country.

Rahi from Baabda: I was assured that elections will take place in May
Wed 04 Oct 2017/NNA - Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rahi said in a statement, after his meeting at the Baabda Palace with President Michel Aoun, that the latter has assured him "the elections will take place next May," pointing out that "President Aoun holds in his heart great concerns and aspirations, and carries solutions for all problems." On emerging, Patriarch Rahi announced that he supports the positions proclaimed by President Aoun in France and the United Nations, notably his stance on the Syrian refugee crisis and the need to find adequate solutions to their ordeal. Rahi also renewed support for Aoun's proposal to render Lebanon an international center for dialogue of civilizations, races and religions. The patriarch also branded Aoun "a sign of hope for all Lebanese." Rahi arrived at the Baabda palace this afternoon, where he held with the President a tour d'horizon on the general situation in the country. Rahi briefed the President on his forthcoming visit to Rome and the United States of America, which he shall commence upcoming Friday.

Renewal of cooperation agreement between Lebanese University, Sassari University
Wed 04 Oct 2017/NNA - In a press release by the Italian Embassy in Beirut, it said: "The Italian Ambassador to Lebanon, Massimo Marotti, participated today in a ceremony held at the Lebanese University, leading to the renewal of the cooperation agreement between The Lebanese University and Sassary University, in the presence of the President of the Lebanese University, Fouad Ayoub, and the president of the University of Sassari, Massimo Carpinelli. A few Italian professors and their Lebanese colleagues were also present, as well as the Mayor of Nuoro (Sardinia), Andrea Soddu, and the Mayor of Zouk Mousbeh (Kesserwan, Mount Lebanon), Abdo El Hajj. Ambassador Marotti underscored the excellent state of bilateral relationships between Italy and Lebanon. He also emphasized that Italian and Lebanese universities, by developing international joint agreements, expand their horizons and advance their educational mission. The agreement has fostered a mutually enriching exchange of researchers and students - a few Lebanese students are currently following Ph.D. programs at Sassari, particularly in the field of agriculture and environmental studies.
This event took place in the framework of a wider project of Italian-Lebanese cooperation, which will lead tomorrow to the signing of a twinning agreement between the cities of Nuoro and and Zouk Mousbeh, under the auspices of the Lebanese University. The aim is to involve local communities in the exchange of environmental and agricultural expertise, as well as sustainable development."

Othman meets French security official, Qatar's ambassador
Wed 04 Oct 2017/NNA - Internal Security Forces (ISF) chief, Imad Othman, met on Wednesday at his Barracks office with the Director of Security Cooperation and Defense at the French Foreign Ministry, General Didier Brosse, on top of a delegation, in the presence of Embassy Security Attaché. Talks reportedly touched on the general situation in Lebanon and the broad region, and means of cooperation and coordination. Later, General Othman received the Qatari Ambassador to Lebanon, Ali Ben Hamad Al-Merri, with talks reportedly touching on the general situation in the country. The General then met with MP Elie Marouni.

Telecommunications Ministry, European Union TAIEX Programme organize workshop on 'Lebanon Digital Strategy for Sustainable Development Goals'

Wed 04 Oct 2017/ NNA - The Ministry of Telecommunications and OGERO Telecom in cooperation with the European Union TAIEX Programme organized a workshop on "Lebanon Digital Strategy for Sustainable Development Goals" on 2-3 October, 2017. The aim of this workshop is to promote a national consultation with EU experts and relevant stakeholders on the role of ICT in reaching the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Lebanon. The workshop will contribute to (i) draft a comprehensive ICT plan and (ii) define ICT projects aimed at fostering SDGs and (iii) reinforce the capacity building in line with the central role of digital technologies for the economy and society and their predominant role in development. The workshop was attended by over 60 participants. During the opening session, the Director General of Operations & Maintenance at the Ministry of Telecommunications, Bassel Al Ayoubi, thanked the EU for supporting this initiative and welcomed the European and Lebanese experts, while stressing on the role of ICT in reaching the SDGs. OGERO then presented its projects, and discussions followed for 2 consecutive days with the different sectors' representatives.

Riachi meets Shamsi, receives invitation to attend Holy Family University conference

Wed 04 Oct 2017/NNA - Information Minister, Melhem Riachi, on Wednesday met at his ministerial office with the UAE Ambassador to Lebanon, Hamad Al-Shamsi, with talks between the pair reportedly touching on most recent developments in Lebanon and the broad region. On the other hand, Minister Riachi received the President of the University of the Holy Family in Batroun, Sister Hilda Shalala, accompanied by the Dean of the Faculty of Education, Dr. Joziane Abi Khattar. The delegation handed the Minister an invitation to patronize and attend the University's conference marking the first centennial of the declaration of the Greater Lebanon- entitled "Lebanese Identity and Citizenship"- at the University's campus in Batroun upcoming November 18.

Kataeb president, Ambassador of Germany tackle displacement dossier
Wed 04 Oct 2017/NNA - President of the Lebanese Kataeb Party, MP Sami Gemayel, met on Wednesday the German Ambassador to Lebanon, Martin Huth, with talks touching on local issues, mainly the role of the opposition in recent developments on the Lebanese arena. Discussions also dealt with the issue of displaced Syrians, with an emphasis on the need to work hard to secure their return to their country, with the assistance of relevant international organizations.

Khalil meets economic bodies, Swiss Ambassador
Wed 04 Oct 2017/NNA - Finance Minister, Ali Hasan Khalil, on Wednesday met with a delegation of economic bodies, led by Head of the Beirut and Mount Lebanon Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture, Mohamed Choucair. Talks reportedly touched on the proposed tax law issue. On emerging, Choucair described the meeting with Minister Khalil as "positive and fundamental", voicing keenness on preserving cohesiveness amongst all the political forces. He said that they agreed with the Minister on maintaining dialogue with the economic bodies to propose modern ideas on taxation.
Later, Khalil met with the Swiss Ambassador to Lebanon, Monica Kirgoz, with whom he discussed issues of mutual concern.

Moderate Hariri faces economic problems and political obstacles//الحريري المعتدل يواجه مشاكل اقتصادية وعوائق
Michael Young/The National/October 03/17
Lebanon's prime minister faces is under siege and facing a difficult dilemma, writes Michael Young
Since he took office as Lebanon’s prime minister, Saad Hariri has faced a number of dilemmas. His ability to continue to manage them will have a bearing on his political popularity in the run-up to Lebanon’s parliamentary elections, which are scheduled to be held, after multiple postponements, in spring next year.
Mr Hariri’s problems can be summarised fairly concisely. The recent bankruptcy of his Saudi Oger contracting company, one of Saudi Arabia’s largest, undermined his credibility, but also most importantly his power of patronage. That is why the prime minister’s first priority today is to remain in office, to reconstitute the patronage networks that would allow him to finance his political campaigns and retain a solid political base in his Sunni community.
However, this insistence on remaining in office is also a vulnerability. His main rivals, above all Hizbollah, understand that Mr Hariri will go to great lengths to avoid any confrontation that might bring his government down. That means the party is in a position to ratchet up its demands on him. Similarly, Mr Hariri, who had consolidated a political alliance with Michel Aoun, Lebanon’s president, is equally susceptible to Mr Aoun’s imposing conditions on him.
This situation is disheartening to the prime minister’s communal base, with many in the Sunni community wanting him to take a more confrontational approach with Hizbollah and Mr Aoun. Yet that might not only threaten the government, and therefore Mr Hariri’s political future; it could heighten sectarian tensions in Lebanon at a time when the country is dangerously close to economic collapse.
Making matters worse for Mr Hariri are two other developments. First, the trial of suspects in the assassination of the prime minister’s father, Rafik, in 2005 is going forward, with several Hizbollah members accused of participation in the crime. In this context, Mr Hariri’s collaborating with the party in government comes across to many of his partisans as unseemly.
At the same time, the prime minister’s avowed eagerness to be involved in Syria’s reconstruction process is no less controversial. Such a process would doubtlessly bolster the regime of Bashar Al Assad, so that Mr Hariri’s enthusiasm appears to signal his abandonment of those Syrians opposed to the regime, despite his claims to the contrary. That is why when Mr Hariri reacted negatively to a recent meeting between the Aounist foreign minister, Gebran Bassil, and his Syrian counterpart, the prime minister’s outrage did not seem very persuasive.
Mr Hariri is a victim of two simultaneous developments. First, a leadership change in Saudi Arabia, the prime minister’s regional patron. The new leadership was unwilling to throw money at the problems of a political client while Saudi Arabia faced economic challenges. This was a main reason for why the kingdom remained hardnosed about Saudi Oger, despite Mr Hariri’s loyalty.
Mr Hariri has also paid the price for his long absence from Lebanon between 2011 and 2016, which devastated his political networks. During a highly sensitive time for the country, with war raging in Syria, he was nowhere to be seen. This was compounded by the contraction of Mr Hariri’s powers of patronage, so that when he returned to Lebanon late last year, he had lost much sympathy.
For all of the criticism directed at Mr Hariri, he has shown respectable traits as well. Amid calls to raise the heat against Hizbollah, the prime minister has understood that such an approach would almost certainly fail to change the party’s behaviour, while heightening sectarian tensions. In other words, he has avoided playing the destructive populist, regardless of what it does to his appeal.
Mr Hariri has also tried to maintain cross-sectarian amity with the Maronite Christian community through his rapprochement with Mr Aoun and his son-in-law Mr Bassil. The prime minister has apparently tried to play a game of triangulation, positioning himself between Mr Aoun and Hizbollah. While this hasn’t worked and the latter two remain allies, Mr Hariri’s calculation perhaps was that the distance between them would grow as Mr Aoun defended the presidency against a Hizbollah invariably keen to undermine the institution for its own gains.
Perhaps the greatest threat to Mr Hariri is the economy. The prime minister has been unable to introduce much-needed reform in an economic system racked by corruption and heavily in debt. If the value of the pound collapses, it is Mr Hariri who will likely pay the heaviest price, given that he is regarded as a warden for sound economic policy. Saudi Oger’s fate will hardly be reassuring in that regard, but it is an open question whether Mr Hariri can use the growing fears of national bankruptcy to strengthen his political hand.
Some have accused Mr Hariri of wanting to postpone elections so as not to show how much support he has lost. But the decision will not be his. If one had to guess, Mr Hariri’s dilemmas mean he will shed many parliamentary seats in 2018. He remains a true moderate, but he must also worry about becoming a powerless one.

Despite Jewish Alarm Britan Refuses To Outlaw Pro Hezbollah Demonstration
Jerusalem Post/October 04/17/
The annual al-Quds march promotes support for terrorism, yet the British government doesn't see any cause to call the questionable protest off
The United Kingdom’s home secretary rejected in early September London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s request to ban the annual al-Quds Day march because it is a pro-Hezbollah demonstration that promotes antisemitism and support for terrorism. “The group that reportedly organized the parade, the Islamic Human Rights Commission, is not a proscribed terrorist organization. This means they can express their views and demonstrate, provided that they do so within the law,” wrote Home Secretary Amber Rudd in a letter to Khan that was first published Monday on the website of The Jewish Chronicle. According to the London newspaper, a source close to Khan said he was “extremely disappointed” that the Home Secretary will allow the al-Quds Day march to continue. Rudd said: “The flag for the [Hezbollah] organization’s military wing is the same as the flag for its political wing. Therefore, for it to be an offense under Section 13 of the Terrorism Act of 2000, for an individual to display the Hezbollah flag, the context and manner in which the flag is displayed must demonstrate that it is specifically in support of the proscribed elements of the group.” The United Kingdom banned Hezbollah’s entire military structure in 2008. The UK government said at the time: “Hezbollah’s military wing also provides support to Palestinian terrorist groups in the occupied Palestinian territories, such as Palestinian Islamic Jihad.”The UK permits Hezbollah’s so-called political wing to legally operate in England. The European Union proscribed only Hezbollah’s military wing as a terrorist organization in 2013. In February of that year, Bulgaria’s government charged Hezbollah’s military wing with executing a terrorist attack against Israelis at the seaside resort town of Burgas, committing the murders of five Israelis and their Bulgarian bus driver. Another 32 Israelis were injured in the attack. The Netherlands, the US and Canada have designated Hezbollah’s entire organization a foreign terrorist entity. The Jewish Chronicle reported that Andrew Dismore, a Labour Party London Assembly member, said: “I have spent over a decade campaigning for the complete proscription of Hezbollah, as I believe the distinction made between the ‘political’ and ‘military’ wings to be utterly bogus.” Mayor Khan wrote in his July letter to Rudd that extremist groups were “exploiting a loophole” because they carried Hezbollah’s flags. “Hezbollah is an illegal, proscribed organization, yet many perceive that it was actively celebrated during the Al Quds Day march,” Khan wrote, adding, “I would appreciate a response from the government that acknowledges the hurt that is felt and your plans to close any loophole.”

Newton’s Third Law in a Country Held Captive
Eyad Abu Shakra/Asharq Al Awsat/October 04/17
I would have preferred today to write something about the Iraqi Kurdistan referendum and its likely consequences; as it presents a true landmark regardless how one looks at it. However, the sentences passed by Lebanon’s Military Court against the hardline sheikh Ahmad Al-Asir and his followers after convicting them of “confronting the army” is worth some deliberation.
For a start, I would like to say that I do not support sheikh Al-Asir, who has been sentenced to death, nor do I believe he represents the Sunni Muslims whether inside or outside Lebanon. I would even venture further to say that Sunni Muslims benefit nothing by being represented by the sheikh or those like him.
In fact, it is precisely because I regard sheikh Al-Asir an extreme sectarian phenomenon, I am deeply concerned that the above-mentioned sentence – directed exclusively at his person and his sectarian and political current – would recruit hundreds, perhaps thousands to his cause after he becomes a wronged martyr. The Lebanese, whether they are willing to admit it or rather continue with their acts of denials which they have mastered, know only too well the circumstances surrounding the verdict.
They realize the present huge imbalance on the ground in Lebanon. They know where the “legitimate arms’ stand vis-à-vis the ‘illegitimate arms’. Who rules the land and issues orders. Who is ‘guiding and directing the population’ in order to fit its conditions set for the homeland, citizenship, and its ‘certificates’ in patriotism and morals, including his teachings with regard to family life and upbringing. Who escapes justice thanks to its arms-backed power and influence… and who are those solely accused of extremism, ‘terrorism’, ‘takfirism’(i.e. religious extremism), and of course being ‘agents of Israel and America’.
The Lebanese are fully aware of all the above. Indeed, if one thing was missing, it was brought home through social media recently by the footage of a lecture given by sheikh Naim Qassem (the Deputy Secretary General of Hezbollah). In this lecture, sheikh Qassem unequivocally uncovered his candid views about the Lebanon he seeks, its ‘Islamist’ society and politics … from ‘resistance’ (i.e., fighting against Israel and USA), to preventing divorced women from teaching children!
Of course, in such a situation there is no need to ask whatever happened to the suspects in the assassination of Rafic Hariri and his colleagues sought by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL). No need either to question why the killer of Lebanese air force officer Samer Hanna in 2008 was set freed on bail 10 months after the “manslaughter”; or what became of the ‘identified’ suspect in the assassination attempt against MP and ex-cabinet minister Butrus Harb, or those who carried out the massive explosions in the Taqwa and Salaam mosques in the city of Tripoli in 2013, in which 49 were killed and more than 800 injured. Furthermore, is it not strange that Al-Asir was sentenced to death amid ‘doubts’ about the role claimed to have played by his armed adversaries in his case with the Lebanese Army?
Then, if defending the safety and security of the homeland were behind the death sentence, is it not strange that retired Brigadier Fayez Karam was only sentenced to three years imprisonment, later commuted to two, after being actually convicted of “giving information to Israel’ without any objection from Hezbollah which both is an ally of Karam’s party (the Aounist ‘Free Patriot Movement’) and the self-proclaimed sole enemy of Israel? Is it not strange that ex-MP and cabinet minister Michel Samaha, a close friend of the Syrian regime, was only sentenced for 13 years imprisonment despite being convicted to transporting arms and explosives intended for use in a bombings and assassinations campaign aimed at inciting civil strife in Lebanon?
Worse still, is it not curious that many suspected Sunni ‘terrorists’ and ‘Islamists’ jailed in Roumieh Prison (East of Beirut), have never been legally accused, not even of crimes the sentences for which are shorter than the period they should serve had they been actually convicted?!
Facing a preposterous situation like this, I reckon this must be the surest way of recruiting new members for extremist organizations like ISIS. This huge injustice drives many into the bosoms of extremist and terrorist organizations and movements.
This has, in fact, been successfully tried before in Iraq and Syria. The Iranian leadership, whether directly or through its subservient agents in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, had striven to weaken the nationalist, liberal and moderate leftist Sunni Muslims through methodical marginalization and intentional humiliation in order to frustrate and dispirit them; and then accusing them of religious extremism and terrorism … to justify crushing them.
Former Iraqi prime minister Nuri Al-Maliki used this method with the Sunnis of Al-Anbar Province (western Iraq) thus creating an unwilling sectarian ‘incubator’ for Al Qaeda; however, after the ‘Sahwat’ (the Awakening Uprisings) rebelled and expelled Al Qaeda, al-Maliki carried on his policies of intentional marginalization and persecution until ISIS appeared on the scene. The same ISIS Al-Maliki’s government and Iran’s General Qassem Suleimani allowed to attack and occupy the (Sunni) city of Mosul and its environs, which were almost handed over without a shot fired in anger!
In Syria, Al-Assad’s regime invested heavily, for years, in self-proclaimed (Sunni) Islamists, such as Mahmoud Qul-Aghassi “Abu Al-Qa’qa’”. Their task was to smuggle extremists across the borders into Iraq in order to hassle American troops and push for its withdrawal; thus, leaving Iraq an easy trophy for Iran and its subservient Shi’ite ‘Popular Mobilization Forces’ (PMF).
Last but not least, in Lebanon, the same strategy has been adopted to paint the Sunnis as ‘ISIS sympathizers’; although this is completely untrue. Lebanon’s Sunni Muslims are the furthest from religious and sectarian extremism. One of their great ‘muftis’ (religious leaders) was the late Pan-Arabist prime minister Abdul-Hamid Karami, whose two sons Rashid and Omar also became prime ministers.
Indeed, it is ironic that the statue of Abdul-Hamid Karami which stood in his city, Tripoli, for years was taken out by extremists nurtured by the Syrian intelligence agencies. In addition to Karami, it is worth mentioning that at present one of Lebanon’s Sunni ‘muftis’ is the son of a Christian mother, and another has Shi’ite sons-in-law and daughters-in-law! Even as far as prime ministers go, Lebanon has had prime ministers who converted from Sunnism to Shi’ism for reasons connected to inheritance.
Yes, Lebanon’s Sunnis are not ‘extremists’, but there are certainly those who are keen to push them to that corner, without realizing that this is a double-edged sword.
Those pushers betting on Isaac Newton’s ‘Third Law of Motion’ where “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction” are risking a lot.
They, through pushing Sunnis to extremism in order to incriminate and destroy them, are not only gambling with the fate of the Middle East and Muslim world; but are also cultivating within their own communities ills that will prove fatal sooner or later.

A Poor Judge in Character
Michael Young/Carnegie Middle East Centre/October 04/17
A recent indictment prompts questions about the real value of the investigation and trial of Rafik al-Hariri’s assassins.
September 25, 2017
On September 11, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) revealed that last July, its prosecutor, Norman Farrell, had submitted a confidential indictment to the pre-trial judge. This was the first indictment since June 2011, when the STL accused four Hezbollah members (one of whom was reportedly killed last year) of alleged involvement in the assassination of Lebanon’s former prime minister, Rafik al-Hariri, in 2005.
When the STL was established in 2009 it was an anomaly. Never before had a special tribunal been set up under United Nations authority to deal with a political assassination. Now, more than twelve years after Hariri was killed, the process continues to grind on, with none of those indicted under arrest and many people legitimately wondering whether the STL experience has actually benefited the UN and international justice.
My information on the UN investigation that preceded the STL, which I published in a book on the 2005–2009 period in Lebanon titled The Ghosts of Martyrs Square: An Eyewitness Account of Lebanon’s Life Struggle, was not reassuring. Legal processes are slow, and the Hariri investigation and trial were never going to be an exception. However, I also learned that there were other reasons for the snail’s pace of the inquiry, which ensured it was far less competent than it should have been.
My main conclusion was that the second commissioner of the UN investigation of the Hariri assassination, the Belgian judge Serge Brammertz (currently the prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia), slowed his investigation, most probably because he sensed that there was no appetite at UN headquarters to uncover the guilty. He also ensured that the most sensitive aspect of his investigation, the analysis of telecommunications evidence, be handed over to the Lebanese Internal Security Forces (ISF), even though Brammertz had sealed off his team from the ISF, fearing leaks.
Indeed, a prominent news program aired by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in 2010 corroborated much of my information. However, Brammertz’s reluctance to move ahead on the telecommunications failed to hinder the investigation. Singlehandedly, a Lebanese ISF officer, Wissam Eid, conducted his own analysis and drew a link between the many different telephones used in the assassination. That information, later confirmed by an analysis team appointed by Brammertz only near the end of his term in 2008, served as the basis of the indictment against the Hezbollah members.
Eid would pay for the breakthrough with his life. He was assassinated in February 2008 in a suburb of Beirut. His superior, Samir Shehadeh, was luckier. He had survived a bomb attack in September 2006 while driving towards the city, though four of his bodyguards were killed.
During much of Brammertz’s term between 2006 and 2008, I later learned from people involved in what was going on, there was virtually no progress in the investigation, despite the fact that the commissioner was telling the Security Council the contrary in regular reports. My own misgivings grew in late 2007, largely because I had become friendly with Brammertz’s predecessor, the German judge Detlev Mehlis. In an email exchange with me that November, he expressed grave doubts about the Belgian’s investigation. This was exacerbated by the fact that he had recommended Brammertz to the UN as his replacement, so his reaction could in no way be written off as professional resentment. Rather, it was regret.
Mehlis observed that he did “not see any trial in the foreseeable future.” He based his assessment on the fact that since 2006 no new suspects had been identified by Brammertz and “[n]o visible new elements seem to have been added” to the case. Mehlis concluded that “the perspective does not look good to me, and it seems that out of political reasons a lot of people [outside Lebanon] want it exactly like that. I see no desire to return to the original pace of the investigation.”
In February 2008, I flew to Berlin to interview Mehlis for the Wall Street Journal. By then he was willing to go on the record, as Brammertz was about to leave his post. The German didn’t pull any punches. He still knew people in the investigation, which allowed him to say, “From what I am hearing, the investigation has lost all the momentum it had [when Brammertz took over] in January 2006.” Mehlis added, “Unfortunately, I haven’t seen a word in his reports during the past two years confirming that he has moved forward. When I left, we were ready to name suspects, but [the investigation] seems not to have moved forward from that stage.”
Among those suspects, Mehlis informed me, was the former head of Syria’s military intelligence network in Lebanon, Rustom Ghazaleh. Mehlis had expected Brammertz to arrest Ghazaleh, which he had failed to do, nor had the Belgian taken down the formal testimony of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, as Mehlis had also intended him to do. In 2015, Ghazaleh was killed by the men of another intelligence chief in Syria, in what would one in a string of deaths of Syrian intelligence officers who likely had been involved in the Hariri assassination. While no connections with the crime were ever proven, the disappearances were highly convenient.
What does all this have to do with the on-going trial today before the STL? Everything. Had Brammertz used the initial momentum of his investigation to make arrests, secure testimony, and advance quickly on the telecommunications analyses, it is very probable that the prosecution would have had a case that was much fuller, much sooner, while keeping the likely culprits off balance. Instead, when an indictment was finally released in 2011, after a long delay given that the prosecution never really built up an adequate file on what had happened, it was mainly focused on the telecommunications, with no decisive witness testimony. Worse, the prosecutor at the time, a Canadian named Daniel Bellemare, offered no motive for the crime, confirming that a full-bodied investigation had not been conducted. Farrell is said to have been incensed with the initial indictment, and later shored it up. But by then the damage had been done.
So while one can applaud Farrell for his continuing efforts to carry through with a trial that may at least identify some of the guilty, the reality is that it will almost certainly be too little too late. Moreover, time has erased any lingering value of the investigation and trial of Hariri’s assassins. They will have no deterrent value, they won’t end impunity, and they won’t convince anyone in the international community to invest in similar tribunals in the future. If anything, the STL’s record has actually made matters worse.
Mehlis summed up the situation best in an interview with Diwan in October 2016, in which I asked him for his thoughts about the trial. He ended his reply with a warning of sorts: “I would favor a universally accepted code of criminal procedures for international cases, which should enable the trials to proceed more rapidly, without endangering the rights of the accused. In my view, justice delayed is justice denied.”

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on October 04-05/17
King Salman arrives in Moscow on official visit

Staff writer, Al Arabiya/4 October 2017/Saudi King Salman arrived in Russia on Wednesday for a two-day official visit at the invitation of Russian President Vladimir Putin. During the historic visit, he will discuss the issues of the region and bilateral cooperation and will witness the signing of a number of important economic agreements. The Kremlin announced that military cooperation is on the agenda of the meeting between King Salman and President Vladimir Putin. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that the visit of King Salman to Moscow would contribute to stability in the Middle East. Lavrov said in his remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat that the visit constitutes a real turning point in the relations between the two countries. He expected the cooperation between Riyadh and Moscow to move to a completely new level. He also pointed out that the political dialogue at the highest levels between the Kingdom and Russia continues to be out of the limelight. The two sides are intensifying their efforts to strengthen trade ties and common humanitarian ties, he said. For his part, the Saudi king expressed his hope that his visit to Russia and his talks with President Vladimir Putin and Moscow officials will help the two countries to promote and develop bilateral relations in all fields in a way that serves the common interests, and efforts to achieve international peace and security.

King Salman, President Putin to sign 10 major agreements Thursday
Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnglishWednesday, 4 October 2017/It is expected that Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz and Russian President Vladimir Putin will sign more than 10 major agreements that will map the future of the relationship between the two countries. The signing of the agreements comes on the sidelines of the Saudi monarch’s visit to Russia. King Salman left Riyadh on Wednesday for an official visit to Russia. Among the companies expected to sign a number of agreements are the Saudi oil giant Aramco, whose chief executive, Amin al-Nasser, disclosed that memorandums of understanding will be signed. Nasser pointed out that oil, gas, petrochemicals, renewable energy and advanced technology are areas of particular interest, underlining that there were significant opportunities in a number of these areas for cooperation between Aramco and major Russian companies. King Salman’s visit, during which he will hold talks with President Vladimir Putin, is an endorsement of the ties between Russia and Saudi Arabia, driven by common interests, including the restoration of stability in world oil markets. The two countries led the agreement between OPEC and non-OPEC producers to cut crude production till the end of March 2018. The Russian government said in a statement on its official website on Tuesday that the visit of the Saudi monarch would include “discussing issues of bilateral trade, economic and industrial cooperation in the fields of energy, agriculture and others, and will review the progress made in the implementation of major infrastructure projects.”

Trump Weighs 'Decertifying' Iran Nuclear Deal
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/October 04/17/President Donald Trump has railed against a deal to curb Iran's nuclear program, but officials say that far from scrapping it, he is considering kicking the decision to Congress. Ahead of an October 15 deadline, several officials familiar with White House deliberations told AFP Trump has made it clear he does not want to certify Iran's compliance with the accord. The 2015-era Obama agreement offered Tehran relief from punitive economic sanctions, in return for limits to uranium enrichment and intrusive inspections. Every 90 days Trump must decide whether the Iran is living up to its end of the bargain, something that has already caused him political pain on two occasions. The Trump administration has publicly accused Iran of violating the "spirit" of the accord -- known as the JCPOA -- although some officials privately admit there is a thin line between testing the limits and a material breach. Trump's top military advisor, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, General James Dunford, has told Congress the briefings he has received "indicate that Iran is adhering to its JCPOA obligations." But Republicans are under domestic political pressure to fulfil campaign and donor promises to scrap the accord. - The case against -Trump has called the deal an "embarrassment to the United States" and had urged allies and fellow signatories in London, Paris and Berlin to renegotiate it, something they are unwilling to do. But now a middle path is being explored, which would make Trump's opposition clear, but stop short of scrapping the deal outright and perhaps clear the 90-day-review off his desk. Under the plan, Trump could find Iran in breach or -- less provocatively -- refuse to certify Tehran's compliance, giving Congress 60 days to decide whether to impose sanctions. The issue has prompted fierce debate inside the administration, and with this mercurial president, anything is still possible between now and the deadline. But "it seems like he was leaning that way," said one official, echoing the accounts of others who refused to speak on the record, because of the sensitivity of the subject.
Hawks are urging confrontation with Iran, while others warn of inflaming the Middle East and seriously damage ties with European allies who consider the agreement in their vital national interest. Some aides are also warning against escalating tensions at a time when an analogous nuclear stand-off with North Korea worsens. 'Yes, senator, I do' -The debate appeared to spill out into the open on Tuesday when Defense Secretary Jim Mattis contradicted Trump's claim that the deal "poses a direct national-security threat."Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee that "at this point in time, absent indication to the contrary, it is something that the president should consider staying with." Asked whether he believed the Iran deal was in the national interest, Mattis replied: "Yes, senator, I do." In kicking the ball to Congress, Trump could still open the door to rupturing the deal. Lawmakers could decide to impose sanctions that, if implemented, would shatter the terms of the international agreement and leave the United States in breach. In July, four influential Republican Senators -- Tom Cotton, David Perdue, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio -- sent a letter to the administration claiming Iran had broken the accord on four counts. But behind closed doors, the proposal is being greeted coolly by some Republicans on Capitol Hill, who have an already testy relationship with the outsider president. A Congressional source said it was "too early to say" whether there would be enough support to pass sanctions. Much depends on how Trump frames their decision -- if he demands Congress do their job and sanction a "nefarious" Iran, then pressure will grow.
"I can absolutely see why the White House wants to kick it to Congress: the President gets the advantage of not certifying, but Congress has to take responsibility for what that means," said Kori Schake, formerly of the White House for the National Security Council and now the Hoover Institution.
"It seems to be a questionable strategy for the White House to set in motion, where the President gets to be reckless but banks on Congress to act heroically and prevent disaster." Doing so, she added, requires "an awful lot of trust that the President won't turn around and campaign against them for it."
The White House hopes to use the threat of sanctions to gather support for a harder international line on Iran. It would like to see curbs on Tehran's ballistic missile program, and end to its support for militias across the Middle East and a revision of "sunset clauses" that would permanently end sanctions without a permanent end to the nuclear program. They are issues that allies believe should be addressed separately or in a successor agreement. There is also growing concern that if the deal survives, the same issue does not come every 90 days. Some of the deal's reluctant supporters inside the White House are pressing for the certification requirement to be removed in any congressional action, a move that could also make life easier for Trump.

Head of Syria ex-Qaida Group 'Critical' after Russia Strike, Says Moscow

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/October 04/17/Russia said on Wednesday it had killed 12 field commanders of al-Qaida's former Syria affiliate, adding the group's top leader Abu Mohammed al-Jolani had lost an arm and was in a "critical condition." Defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said the strike was the result of a special operation to avenge an attack on Russian military police in the so-called Idlib de-escalation zone in Syria on September 18. "As a result of the strike, the leader of Jabhat al-Nusra Abu Mohammed al-Jolani received multiple serious shrapnel wounds, lost an arm and is in a critical condition, according to several independent sources," Konashenkov said in a statement. He said 12 field commanders including al-Jolani's security chief were also killed along with some 50 guards. More than 10 fighters received moderate and serious blast injuries, he said, adding that Sukhoi Su-34 and Su-35 jets were used to target the jihadists. The Moscow-led forces were able to hunt down the jihadist group using data obtained by Russian military intelligence on Tuesday and struck just when the fighters convened for a meeting. The Jabhat al-Nusra, or al-Nusra Front, shed its status as al-Qaida’s Syrian affiliate in 2016 and became Fateh al-Sham Front. Since 2017, it dominates a coalition of jihadist factions called Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS). The alliance controls most of the northwestern province of Idlib after expelling former allies earlier this year. - 'Minister of War' -Washington and the UN did not recognize the break from al-Qaida and retained the jihadists on their terror blacklists. Over the past months Russia has claimed to have killed several top jihadist commanders. Russia reported in June its jets had possibly killed the leader of the Islamic State group Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi during a bombing raid near the IS stronghold of Raqa in Syria and said in July it was struggling to confirm if he was dead or alive. Earlier this month the IS group released an audio recording of what it said was its leader al-Baghdadi. Last month Russia claimed to have killed several top IS commanders in an air strike including the US-trained "minister of war" Gulmurod Khalimov. Since the assault on Russian military police, Idlib has been the target of heavy air strikes by the Syrian regime and Russia. The Russian defence ministry said three officers were wounded in the September 18 attack and would be decorated, while the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human rights said three Russian soldiers had been killed in clashes with IS jihadists. Idlib province and some adjacent areas form one of four so-called de-escalation zones agreed in May by rebel backer Turkey and government allies Russia and Iran. Russia intervened in support of the regime of Bashar al-Assad in September 2015 and has helped government forces win back large parts of the country. Over the past weeks, Russia has lost a number of officers in the conflict including a general, Valery Asapov, believed to be the country's highest-ranking casualty of the Syrian campaign. More than 330,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011 with anti-government protests.

Erdogan Visits Iran as Ties Warm Amid Shared Fears
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/October 04/17/ Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Iran on Wednesday in a sign of warming ties between the two neighbours who support rival camps in Syria but both strongly oppose last week's Iraqi Kurdish vote for independence. The two governments fear the secession of Iraq's Kurds would stoke separatist sentiment among their own large Kurdish minorities and are eager to work together with the federal government in Baghdad to block it.Erdogan is due to meet both his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani and supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say in all matters of state. He was preceded in Tehran by Turkish armed forces chief of staff General Hulusi Akar, who arrived on Sunday. Both countries have held military manoeuvres close to their borders with Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region in recent days to ratchet up the pressure on Kurdish leaders.Those exercises have also involved forces of the federal government in Baghdad, which has demanded the annulment of the September 25 vote, which returned a 92.7 percent majority for independence. "Cooperation between Iran, Turkey and Iraq can create stability and security in the region and block moves for secession," Iranian Defence Minister General Amir Hatami said as he held talks with Akar on Tuesday.Baghdad imposed a ban on all international flights to Kurdish airports on Friday prompting an exodus of foreigners. Iran has ordered a halt to all trade in fuel products with Iraqi Kurdistan and has said it will allow Iraqi federal forces to deploy at its border crossings with the region. Turkey has threatened to close its land border and halt the export of oil from Iraqi Kurdistan to the Turkish port of Ceyhan, an economic lifeline. Erdogan vowed on Saturday that Iraqi Kurdistan "will pay a price" for the "unacceptable" referendum. Since 1984, Turkey has battled rebels of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) which has rear bases in northern Iraq and which initially sought to create a breakaway state. Two Kurdish rebel groups are active in Iran -- the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI) and the Party of Free Life in Kurdistan (PJAK). - Pragmatism -Iran and Turkey have been rivals for centuries but have recently sought to forge a pragmatic relationship, with the Islamic Republic strongly supporting Erdogan after last year's failed coup. The two governments have taken opposing sides in the six-year civil war in Syria but relations have thawed this year with them both joining Russia as co-sponsors of peace talks which began in Kazakstan in January. Those talks have led to the setting up of three safe zones and plans for a fourth, with Iran and Russia keeping the government and its allies on board and Turkey doing the same with the rebels. Iran and Turkey also both share sympathy with Qatar in a diplomatic crisis that erupted between the Gulf emirate and its neighbours in June. Qatar, a longtime Turkish ally, hosted Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif for talks on Tuesday as the crisis pushes it closer to Tehran. "We are on an upward and positive path in bilateral relations and regional cooperation between Iran and Turkey," which is dictated by "reality", Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghassemi told the ILNA news agency. Iran's reformist Shargh newspaper said Erdogan's visit was an "opportunity to establish the basis for a new regional order and new alliances." The two sides are also expected to discuss new economic projects in a bid to meet their goal of boosting bilateral trade to $30 billion in 2018 from $10 billion last year. The atmosphere for the talks is a far cry from Erdogan's last visit to Tehran in January 2015 when a speech he gave just days before sparked demands from some Iranian lawmakers for it to be cancelled. The Turkish leader had accused Iran of seeking to "dominate the region" and demanded that it withdraw its troops from Iraq and Syria.

Four Dead in Suicide Bombing in Libya's Misrata
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/October 04/17/At least four people were killed and 15 others wounded Wednesday in a suicide bomb attack at the main court building in Libya's third-largest city Misrata, security sources told AFP. The sources said a suicide bomber detonated an explosive vest inside the building, which is in the centre of Misrata, a coastal city about 200 kilometres (125 miles) east of Tripoli.

Syria Army Ousts IS from All of Hama Province
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/October 04/17/The Syrian army and allied fighters drove the Islamic State group from their last positions in the central province of Hama on Wednesday after heavy fighting, a monitor said. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor of the war, said IS was no longer present anywhere in the province for the first time in three years. The army, backed by ally Russia, launched a campaign against IS in Hama in early September, capturing some 50 villages and the strategic town of Uqayribat, the Observatory said. "On Wednesday, regime forces managed to take control of all the last remaining villages in the hands of Daesh (IS) in eastern Hama province after more than a month of fierce clashes between the two sides," Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said. The monitor said more than 400 IS fighters and nearly 190 Syrian soldiers and allied militiamen had been killed in the fighting. There was no immediate announcement in Syrian state media, but the al-Watan newspaper, which is close to the government, reported that "the army has taken complete control of eastern Hama province.""Daesh is no longer present in Hama province," it added. The government holds large parts of Hama province, and all of the provincial capital. But jihadists and other rebels hold pockets of territory in the northeast and south. IS's loss of Hama province comes after they were forced in June to withdraw from their last positions in Aleppo province further north. The jihadist group is also facing multiple offensives elsewhere in the country. The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters, is battling to oust IS from their onetime stronghold of Raqa. The SDF is also fighting IS in neighboring Deir Ezzor province, where the regime is waging its own campaign against the jihadist group as well. More than 330,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began with anti-government protests in March 2011.

Boris Johnson Under Fire for 'Dead Bodies' Libya Gaffe
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/October 04/17/British foreign minister Boris Johnson came under fire Tuesday for saying Libya could become a magnet for tourists and investors -- if it can "clear the dead bodies away" first. Reflecting on his August visit to Libya, strife-torn since the toppling of longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011, Johnson said British businesses wanted to invest in the city of Sirte. "They have got a brilliant vision to turn Sirte into the next Dubai," he told Conservatives attending the party's annual conference in Manchester, talking up its "bone-white sands, beautiful sea" and "brilliant young people". "The only thing they have got to do is clear the dead bodies away," he added, before laughing. Johnson's political career has been characterised by outspoken comments and personal controversy, which have won voters over but also led to despair among both detractors and colleagues. His comments on Sirte, from where Islamic State militants were driven out in December, were slammed by shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry. "For Boris Johnson to treat those deaths as a joke -- a mere inconvenience before UK business people can turn the city into a beach resort -- is unbelievably crass, callous and cruel," said Thornberry, a Labour MP. "There comes a time when the buffoonery needs to stop, because if Boris Johnson thinks the bodies of those brave government soldiers and innocent civilians killed in Sirte are a suitable subject for throwaway humour, he does not belong in the office of foreign secretary," she added.  'Unbelievably crass' -Johnson travelled to Tripoli and Benghazi, becoming the first British foreign minister to visit the latter city since 2011, the year Kadhafi was overthrown and killed in a NATO-backed uprising. MP Jo Swinson, the Liberal Democrats foreign affairs chief, said Johnson lacked the diplomatic skills necessary for his role and called on Prime Minister Theresa May to fire him. "This latest unbelievably crass and insensitive comment about an issue of such importance is further proof Boris is not up to the job. May needs to get her house in order and sack him," Swinson said. Johnson later turned to Twitter to defend his comments, accusing people "with no knowledge or understanding of Libya" of wanting to "play politics with the appallingly dangerous reality in Sirte". "The reality there is that the clearing of corpses of Daesh (Islamic State) fighters has been made much more difficult by IEDs and booby traps. "That's why Britain is playing a key role in reconstruction and why I have visited Libya twice this year in support," he said in a series of tweets.
- Success among Conservatives -Tory minister Damian Green said that "lessons needed to be learned" from Johnson's comments. "Boris and every politician should at all times be sensitive in their use of language," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme. Johnson's appointment last year as Britain's top diplomat has added a global dimension to his gaffes, at a sensitive time as the country negotiates its exit from the European Union. The foreign minister's Brexit diplomacy has seen him tell a Czech newspaper it was "bollocks" to claim that freedom of movement of people was an EU founding principle.
He also told Italy's economic development minister the country should support Britain's access to the single market if it wants to keep selling Prosecco to the UK. But Johnson's unorthodox approach has proven a success among Conservatives, with frequent debate about whether he will be the next party leader.

Russia Accuses US-Led Forces of 'Bloody Provocations' in Syria

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/October 04/17/Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov accused US-led forces of carrying out "bloody provocations" against Russian troops in Syria in an interview published by the Saudi-owned newspaper Asharq al-Awsat on Wednesday. "The activities of US-led forces raise many questions... In some cases, these forces have indirectly encouraged other terrorists to attack strategic positions rightfully regained by Damascus, or they have deliberately engaged in bloody provocations against our forces," Lavrov said. The Russian foreign minister appeared to be referring to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which the US-led coalition is backing in a drive against Islamic State jihadists in eastern Syria, mainly in the city of Raqqa. Russia last month accused the SDF of trying to sabotage a separate offensive by its ally, the Syrian military, against IS jihadists around the city of Deir Ezzor, where Russia lost one of its own generals in late September. To prevent the two operations from clashing, the coalition, the SDF, Syria's government and Russia have agreed on a "de-confliction line" in northeast Syria, though the US-led coalition has since accused Russian aviation of bombing its SDF allies. "Today all actors must abandon their geopolitical ambitions and contribute fully to the restoration of stability and security of Syria and throughout the Middle East and North Africa," Lavrov told Asharq al-Awsat, calling for a lifting of sanctions against Assad's regime to help Syria's recovery. Last month the SDF, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters, accused Russia of killing one of its fighters and wounding others in strikes on a gas facility it captured two days earlier from IS in eastern Syria. The alleged bombardment was the second time the SDF has accused Russia and the regime of hitting its fighters. A week before the group said six of its fighters were wounded in air strikes by regime and Russian warplanes in the Al-Sinaaiya area around seven kilometres (four miles) from the eastern bank of the Euphrates. Moscow warned Washington of reprisals after accusing the SDF of firing on Syrian regime forces in the province.

Catalan Crisis 'Bigger Threat to EU than Brexit', MEP Warns

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/October 04/17/The crisis in Catalonia poses a bigger threat to the EU than Brexit, a senior MEP warned Wednesday as the European Parliament prepared to hold an emergency debate on Spain's worst political crisis in decades. Catalonia's leader has vowed to declare independence within days, claiming a mandate from a weekend referendum which was declared illegal by Madrid and the Spanish courts and marred by violence. Images of the police crackdown on the vote drew a vocal reaction from some MEPs, with Belgium's Philippe Lamberts, the head of the Green grouping in parliament, warning the crisis "threatened the spirit of European integration, even more than Brexit." Several Green and far-left deputies criticized the Spanish police for their actions. But Esteban Gonzalez Pons, an MEP from Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's Popular Party, rejected calls for mediation, saying Spain did not need "looking after.""Deciding is Spain should break up or stay united is a matter for Spaniards and only for Spaniards," he said. "If today you let Spain break up with Catalonia, a domino effect will follow across the continent. Instead of a Europe of 27 we will have a non-Europe of mini-states."The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, broke weeks of silence on Monday to call for dialogue but stressed that it still regarded the vote as an "internal matter" for Spain, drawing criticism from Catalan separatists. Wednesday's crisis debate in parliament is due to kick off at 3pm (1300 GMT), but Catalonia dominated a morning session on preparations for a summit of EU leaders later this month. After a proposal by the three main political groups in the European Parliament -- the conservatives, the socialists and the liberals -- the debate will consider "constitution, rule of law and fundamental rights in Spain in the light of the events in Catalonia."This watered-down motion was preferred to a tougher motion criticizing Madrid, proposed by the Greens.

Vegas Gunman Transferred $100K, Set Up Cameras at Hotel Room
Associated Press/Naharnet/October 04/17/The Las Vegas gunman transferred $100,000 overseas in the days before the attack and planned the massacre so meticulously that he even set up cameras inside the peephole of his high-rise hotel room and on a service cart outside his door, apparently to spot anyone coming for him, authorities said Tuesday. Meanwhile, investigators are taking a harder look at the shooter's girlfriend and what she might have known about the attack at a country music festival, with the sheriff naming her a "person of interest"The girlfriend, Marilou Danley, 62, returned to the United States from the Philippines on Tuesday night and was met at Los Angeles International Airport by FBI agents, according to a law enforcement official. The official wasn't authorized to publicly discuss the matter and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. Authorities are trying to determine why Stephen Paddock killed 59 people in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. They have been speaking with Danley, who was out of the country at the time of the shooting, and "we anticipate some information from her shortly," Sheriff Joseph Lombardo said hours before she arrived. Lombardo said he is "absolutely" confident authorities will find out what set off Paddock, a 64-year-old high-stakes gambler and retired accountant who killed himself before police stormed his 32nd-floor room. Authorities released police body camera video that showed the chaos of the attack as officers tried to figure out the location of the shooter and shuttle people to safety. Amid sirens and volleys of gunfire, people yelled "they're shooting right at us" while officers shouted "go that way!"Clark County Undersheriff Kevin McMahill said the shooting spanned between nine and 11 minutes. Paddock transferred $100,000 to the Philippines in the days before the shooting, a U.S. official briefed by law enforcement but not authorized to speak publicly because of the continuing investigation told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
Investigators are still trying to trace that money and also are looking into at least a dozen financial reports over the past several weeks that said Paddock gambled more than $10,000 per day, the official said. The cameras Paddock set up at the Mandalay Bay hotel casino were part of his extensive preparations that included stockpiling nearly two dozen guns in his room before opening fire on the concert below. McMahill said the cameras included one in the peephole and two in the hallway. "I anticipate he was looking for anybody coming to take him into custody," Lombardo said. During the Sunday night rampage, a hotel security guard who approached the room was shot through the door and wounded in the leg. "The fact that he had the type of weaponry and amount of weaponry in that room, it was preplanned extensively," the sheriff said, "and I'm pretty sure he evaluated everything that he did and his actions, which is troublesome."Lombardo said the investigation is proceeding cautiously in case criminal charges are warranted against someone else. "This investigation is not ended with the demise of Mr. Paddock," the sheriff said. "Did this person get radicalized unbeknownst to us? And we want to identify that source." In addition to the cameras, investigators found a computer and 23 guns with him at the hotel, along with 12 "bump stock" devices that can enable a rifle to fire continuously, like an automatic weapon, authorities said. Nineteen more guns were found at Paddock's Mesquite home and seven at his Reno house. Video shot outside the broken door of the room shows an assault-style rifle with a scope on a bipod. The sheriff said an internal investigation has been launched to find out how that footage was obtained.
Some investigators turned their focus Tuesday from the shooter's perch to the festival grounds where his victims fell.
A dozen investigators, most in FBI jackets and all wearing blue booties to avoid contaminating the scene, documented evidence at the site where gunfire rained down and country music gave way to screams of pain and terror. "Shoes, baby strollers, chairs, sunglasses, purses. The whole field was just littered with things," said Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt after touring the site Monday. "There were bloodstains everywhere."More than 500 people were injured in the rampage, some by gunfire, some during the chaotic escape. At least 45 patients at two hospitals remained in critical condition. All but three of the dead had been identified by Tuesday afternoon, Lombardo said. As for what may have set Paddock off, retired FBI profiler Jim Clemente speculated that there was "some sort of major trigger in his life — a great loss, a breakup, or maybe he just found out he has a terminal disease."
Clemente said a "psychological autopsy" may be necessary to try to establish the motive. If the suicide didn't destroy Paddock's brain, experts may even find a neurological disorder or malformation, he said. He said there could be a genetic component to the slaughter: Paddock's father was a bank robber who was on the FBI's most-wanted list in the 1960s and was diagnosed a psychopath. "The genetics load the gun, personality and psychology aim it, and experiences pull the trigger, typically," Clemente said. Paddock had a business degree from Cal State Northridge. In the 1970s and '80s, he worked as a mail carrier and an IRS agent and held down a job in an auditing division of the Defense Department, according to the government. He later worked for a defense contractor. He had no known criminal record, and public records showed no signs of financial troubles, though he was said to be a big gambler. Nevada's Gaming Control Board said it will pass along records compiled on Paddock and his girlfriend to investigators. His brother, Eric Paddock, said he was at a loss to explain the massacre. "No affiliation, no religion, no politics. He never cared about any of that stuff," he said outside his Florida home. The FBI discounted the possibility of international terrorism early on, even after the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack. Eric Paddock said his brother did show a confrontational side at times: He apparently hated cigarette smoke so much that he carried around a cigar and blew smoke in people's faces when they lit up around him.

Salameh Reviews with Libyan Leaders Means to Resolve Differences
Asharq Al-Awsat/October 04/17Cairo– UN Envoy for Libya Ghassan Salameh met on Tuesday in Tripoli with the head of the National Accord government, Fayez al-Sarraj and the president of the Supreme State Council, Abdulrahman al-Suweihli. Salameh’s unannounced visit to Libya followed a series of meetings in the Tunisian capital to discuss prospects for a political solution to the Libyan crisis. In a brief statement, the UN envoy’s office said that Salameh discussed with Sarraj the ongoing political process and the work of the unified committee in charge of amending the Skhirat Agreement. The UN envoy has also met with Suweihli, with whom he reviewed the committee’s work. In remarks to Asharq al-Awsat newspaper, State Council member Ahmed al-Naqi said that Salameh’s visit to Tripoli and his talks with Suweihli “are indicative of the need to overcome some of the formal differences between the two negotiating sides of the committee, (the representatives of Parliament and the State Council), and the importance to end the division in their upcoming meeting.” Meanwhile, Brigadier General Ahmad al-Mesmari, spokesman for the General Command of the Libyan Army, said that Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar would meet the UN Special Envoy to Libya, calling for preserving Libyan military establishment and its leadership. “The Libyan armed forces will have a word in the Libyan talks because the reality now is unbearable,” Mesmari said in a televised statement. On Sunday, the first UN-sponsored meeting between the two dialogue delegations concluded with an agreement over the need to restructure the executive authority, according to Salameh. The delegations, which include representatives from Parliament and the State Council, formed a unified delegation to discuss amendments to the Skhirat Agreement, which was signed in December 2015 in Morocco. Salameh added that both sides have also agreed that the presidential council would be constituted of a president, two vice-presidents and an independent prime minister (instead of nine current members).

Iraq’s PM Suggests Joint Administration for Disputed Areas
Asharq Al-Awsat/October 04/17/Baghdad– Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called for a joint administration of Kirkuk and other disputed areas as the parliament asked the Federal Court to take legal measures against Kurdish MPs who voted for independence from Iraq in last week’s referendum. At a press conference after a cabinet meeting, Abadi called for the administration of the disputed areas to be “run jointly and by a federal command.”Abadi hailed the decision of High Authority Ali Sistani, saying it was supportive of Iraq’s unity. He warned against military mobilization in Kirkuk saying it is a dangerous issue, adding that imposing “fait accompli” in the disputed areas (including Kirkuk) by force is unacceptable. The PM reiterated that the constitution is the reference in negotiations with Kurdistan, adding that the conditions for negotiations is to commit to the constitution and cancel the results of the referendum. The parliament held a session on Tuesday without the Kurdish MPs. A parliamentary source said that MPs of Change bloc and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan entered the parliament hall, but several members of the National Alliance contested their presence for their participation in the Kurdish referendum. The source told Asharq Al-Awsat that members of that National Alliance asked the Kurdish lawmakers to agree to the decisions of the parliament, but they refused to give a written consent. The parliament voted on a parliamentary decision that adopts principles of Sistani’s statement about the referendum. National Alliance, which owns the parliamentary majority, issued a decision stating that each Kurdish MP that attends legislative sessions will be considered a supporter of all the decisions issued by the parliament regarding the referendum. Secondly, establish a list of MPs backing the referendum to be submitted to the court for withdrawal of their membership. Speaker Salim al-Jabouri told a news conference after the session that the parliament decided to collect the names of those who voted in the referendum as a step towards their impeachment by the Higher Federal Court. Jabouri said he was willing to open a dialogue with Kurdistan Regional Government to resolve disputes but ruled out talks on independence. The speaker said the parliament’s decisions against those involved in the vote were not a “collective punishment” but rather measures to maintain the unity of the country. He reiterated the importance of maintaining a united Iraq and committing to the High Religious Authority’s request to deal with the referendum. Jabouri called on Kurdish MPs to participate in the upcoming parliamentiary sessions, stating that the decisions were based on the constitution. Prior to the session, Jabouri announced that he will hold a series of calls and talks with a number of Iraqi leaders, including Kurdish officials, to discuss possible solutions for the crisis. Earlier, Iraqi President Fouad Masoum congratulated Iraqis on the occasion of National Day. He also lauded Sistani’s call to refer to the constitution for all internal disagreements. He confirmed that he will stick to his efforts to reach solutions for all conflicts between Erbil and Baghdad.

Iraq eases financial curbs on Kurdistan region, in a sign of de-escalation
Reuters, Baghdad Wednesday, 4 October 2017/Iraq’s central bank on Wednesday eased financial restrictions imposed on the Kurdistan region over its independence vote after receiving a pledge of cooperation from Kurdish banks, an Iraqi banking source said.
All but four Kurdish-owned banks were allowed to send and receive dollar and foreign currency transfers on Wednesday, the source told Reuters. It is the first de-escalation measure in the crisis, which erupted after voters in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq overwhelmingly backed independence in a Sept. 25 referendum. The Iraqi government has also imposed a ban on direct international flights to and from the Kurdish region. The central bank had informed the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) on Tuesday it would stop selling dollars to the four Kurdish banks, and would halt all foreign currency transfers to the autonomous region, banking and government sources told Reuters. The measures are aimed at tightening the central bank’s control over the Kurdish banking industry. The central bank will maintain its dollar sale ban for four of the Kurdish banks pending a review of their cooperation, the banking source said.
“The dollar sale prohibition will be lifted if the central bank sees that the four banks are really cooperating in disclosing their financial transactions,” the source said. Two foreign exchange counters in the KRG capital Erbil said the dollar rate was unchanged on Wednesday from the previous day.
Businessmen in Erbil had expressed concern on Tuesday that the dollar ban would cause a greenback shortage and possibly lead to a grey foreign currency market, as the Iraqi dinar is not accepted abroad.
The Shi’ite Arab-led Iraqi government has rejected an offer by the Kurdish government to discuss independence. Backed by Iran and Turkey, Baghdad has demanded that the KRG cancel the referendum result or face continued sanctions, international isolation and possible military intervention.
The international flight ban, imposed last Friday, is forcing travelers to transit through Baghdad and other airports in southern Iraq. It is mainly impacting businessmen and foreigners working in the Kurdish region. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi headed to Paris on Wednesday, his first foreign visit since the Kurdish crisis began. His office denied last week that he would hold talks with French President Emmanuel Macron about the Kurdish referendum. Before leaving Baghdad, Abadi declared three days of national mourning for Jalal Talabani, a veteran champion of the Kurdish cause who later tried as Iraqi president to heal the country’s deep sectarian and ethnic divisions. Talabani died in Germany on Tuesday aged 83. He was Iraq’s first non-Arab president, a post he took up in 2005, two years after the US-led invasion that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein, a Sunni Arab. Talbani stood down in 2014.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on October 04-05/17
More Jihadists in the West - Why?
Majid Rafizadeh/Gatestone Institute/October 04/17
Western countries are much more lenient toward the jihadists and Islamists. In the Middle East, there are severe consequences if they preach against their own political system. They are permitted to grow only if they teach antagonism towards the West, Christianity, Judaism, and Western values.
In Iran, when the Islamist party of Ayatollah Khomeini came to power, it did not embrace all other Islamist and jihadist groups. It supported and promoted only those jihadist groups that agreed to focus on promoting two major issues: anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism. Other Islamist groups, which turned against the regime itself, were immediately removed from society even though they were practicing Khomeini's version of radical Islam.
The issue becomes: Where do you draw the line? When a radical imam in the US or Europe is publicly inciting anti-Semitic, anti-American, and anti-Western hate, should they be allowed to continue? When many radical Muslim centers in the West preach jihad and terrorism, should you still let them enjoy freedom of speech and assembly? Their preaching is the major factor behind the increasing terrorism we have currently spreading throughout the West. If we allow them to continue, the vicious trend will only ratchet up exponentially.
One of the strategies of these groups is to tap into communities where young people are facing problems -- financial difficulties, family hardship, maybe psychological issues. The imams superficially embrace them as fathers, as if embracing his children. Then, they create explanations for why these young people are faced with such problems. They teach them that the problem lies in their society, their government, their own people, even their own families.
Growing up under Sharia law and in Islamist schools, we were taught that the highest level a person can reach is to be a mujahid. A mujahid is a person that God truly loves. Once, I dared to ask what exactly the term mujahid meant. The imam said that a true mujahid is a person who does not just die defensively for protecting Allah's values. A true mujahid, one who is most loved by God, is a person who acts offensively, including through violence, when he or she sees our religious values are being violated in any part of the world. That person is a true holy warrior, he explained.
That description has been echoed through the halls of schools, and whispered into the minds of children. It has followed me throughout my life. Now, as I reflect on the first time this thirst for violence was explained to me, an eerie reality comes into focus. If the teachings of these radical imams are accurate, then the rate of mujahidin in the West appears to be increasing far higher in the West than in the East.
As some clamored to reach this ideal, we were told that one major indicator of whether the number of mujahdin is increasing or decreasing in a society is to look at the rate of those who are becoming martyrs. The higher the rate, the more mujahidin are there, and the more satisfied God is. It was a powerful message delivered to young, impressionable minds, that were eager to please and learn.
Growing up in the Middle East, within Muslim-majority nations, I rarely heard of radical Islamists committing terrorist acts in the region. But in the few years that I have lived in the West, I have regularly heard of bombing and suicide missions committed by radical Islamists. Their targets have been Americans and Europeans, including attacks in London, Paris, Nice, Brussels, Boston and San Bernardino -- and often one another.
Information about these attacks is splashed across the media, discussed between concerned citizens, and echoed throughout global politics. This situation prompted me to ask: Why do there appear to be more Islamist terrorists in the West, even though the homeland of their religious teaching is on the other side of the world?
It would seem implausible that the West, with freedom of education, would become a hotbed for these violent minds, and yet the numbers are clear.
Ignoring the trend will not do anything to prevent future tragedies. The cause of this explosion of terror in the West needs to be rooted out. After careful study, it seems that there are several explanations.
First of all, Western countries are much more lenient toward the jihadists and Islamists.
When I came to the West and learned what kind of teachings the radical imams in the UK and the US preach, I was astounded. They freely lash out at the country which gives them shelter, they denounce the political system, they criticize the people they see every day in the streets.
They denigrate the way people live in the West, the way they dress, eat, every aspect of their daily lives.
In fact, these radicals do not preach about the violence and dictatorships in the Middle East where they are originally from, or claim to have escaped from. Their only target appears to be Western societies.
In the Middle East and under Islamist states where these radical ideologies actually originated, however, these groups are not allowed to operate as freely if they target their own land. In the Middle East, there are severe consequences if they preach against the domestic political system. They are permitted to grow only if they teach antagonism towards the West, Christianity, Judaism, and Western values.
In Syria, for example, politicians, including the late President Hafiz Al Assad, gave shelter to fundamentalists who founded the Muslim Brotherhood of Syria. The objective of the Syrian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood was to incite hatred toward Israel and the US. But, since jihadists will not stop until they rule over the nation and impose their own version of Islamist laws, the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood added another goal to its agenda: turning against the Syrian regime. Immediately, the rulers took action and removed the whole organization and its members from Syria, even though Syria was their homeland and they were practicing the religion of the constitution and the land.
In Iran, when the Islamist party of Ayatollah Khomeini came to power, it did not embrace all other Islamist and jihadist groups. It supported and promoted only those jihadist groups that agreed to focus on promoting two major issues: anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism. Other Islamist groups, which turned against the regime itself, were immediately removed from society even though they were practicing Khomeini's version of radical Islam.
The Islamist rulers in the region, where Islamism was actually born, are fully cognizant of the danger of letting some jihadist groups preach against their own society and system. They know how influential the Islamist ideology is in changing people, brainwashing, recruiting mujahidin, committing acts of violence, taking power and controlling the political establishment.
On the other hand, many in the West are far too lenient toward these fundamentalist groups. There is a belief that you should give them the same rights to enjoy freedom of speech, press, and assembly as everyone else. These rights in themselves are valuable. But the issue becomes, where do you draw the line? When a radical imam in the US or Europe is publicly inciting anti-Semitic, anti-American, and anti-Western hate, should they be allowed to continue? When many radical Muslim centers in the West preach jihad and terrorism, should you still let them enjoy freedom of speech and assembly? Their preaching is the major factor behind the increasing terrorism we have currently spreading throughout the West. It is this hate speech, and incitement of violence, that has taken lives of many innocent people. If we allow them to continue, the vicious trend will only ratchet up exponentially.
The West needs to understand that the Islamists do not see these rights as something to appreciate; they see them as something to exploit.
These very rights are used to manipulate and radicalize citizens and foreigners alike, to turn against the host government and the innocent people who share the land they stand on. They are brainwashed and then encouraged, if not commanded, to go out and change everything around them.
The second problem facing the West is that many people do not take the capabilities of these extremist groups and their preaching seriously. Growing up under Islamist rule, you could witness how intricate, powerful, and simultaneously simple their words can be. One of the strategies of these groups is to tap into communities where young people are facing problems -- financial difficulties, family hardship, maybe psychological issues. The imams superficially embrace them as fathers, as if embracing his children. Then, they create explanations for why these young people are faced with such problems. They teach them that the problem lies in their society, their government, their own people, even their own families.
Once they fill a young mind with their message, they show the ultimate solution: Be a true mujahid, a true holy warrior. Youths are told they will satisfy God the most and will be met in the next life with everything they do not have in this world. They dangle the glamour of a better existence in front of these young minds until it is the only goal they seek. That is where committing suicide bombings and other terrorist acts against citizens of their countries comes in. The whole process of making someone a mujahid does not take as long as people may think. Nor is it difficult, as they know exactly the type of vulnerable youth to target.
Finally, people in the West do not know what radical Islam and jihad actually are. There is this predominant notion that if you are nice enough to these radical Islamists, and if you treat them with generosity and kindness, they will rehabilitate into valuable citizens. Along with this, there is another flawed idea, that if Muslim groups that claim to be less violent and "moderate" are given more power, then the extremely radical groups will just evaporate. These theories are extremely unsophisticated and rudimentary, highlighting the ignorance of some in the West of the nuances and complexity of Islamism. The majority of people who hold these beliefs most likely have not lived under an Islamist state or in a Muslim-majority society.
In addition, many in the West think that if borders are opened and people are given citizenship, shelter and education, they will appreciate Western values and adopt them. This argument has proven to be absolutely inaccurate. The top Islamist leaders initiated their jihadist movement after they came to the West. Sayyid Qutb, for instance, who became an inspiration for Al Qaeda, the Islamic State, and similar terrorist groups, was provided a free scholarship to study, and opportunities to work in the West. Qutb attended Wilson Teachers College in Washington, D.C., Colorado State College for Education in Greeley, and Stanford University. He was given the occasion to travel across the US and Europe. The first thing he did after returning to his birthplace, Egypt, was to publish an inflammatory book, The America that I Have Seen, in which he lashed out at every aspect of America, including women, life, culture, art, lifestyle, religion, and those prized freedoms that afforded him so much.
Sayyid Qutb, a leading member of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood in the 1950's and 60's who became an inspiration for Al Qaeda and ISIS, wrote his inflammatory book, The America that I Have Seen, after he came to the US. He studied at Colorado State College for Education in Greeley, among other American schools. (Greeley image source: Bbean32/Wikimedia Commons)
As long as this leniency and the multitude of flawed perceptions are allowed to continue in the West, the number of jihadists will grow, and subsequently the number of innocent lives being taken by terrorist acts will soar. We only need to look at the not-too-distant history of the West and current Islamist states to see that if action is not taken immediately against the spread of hatred and violence, it will be too late for anything but regret.
**Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is president of the International American Council on the Middle East. He is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist, business advisor, and author of "Peaceful Reformation in Iran's Islam". He can be reached at Dr.Rafizadeh@Post.Harvard.Edu.
© 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.

Palestinians: A State Within a State?

Khaled Abu Toameh/Gatestone Institute/October 04/17
The "reconciliation" accord they reached in Cairo paves the way for creating a state within a state in the Gaza Strip. The Egyptian-sponsored deal does not require Hamas to dismantle its security forces and armed wing, Ezaddin Al-Qassam. Nor does the agreement require Hamas to lay down its weapons or stop amassing weapons and preparing for war.
This is a very comfortable situation for Hamas, which has effectively been absolved of any responsibility toward the civilian population. Hamas could not have hoped for a better deal. Like Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Gaza Strip will be permitted to maintain its own security force, while Abbas's government oversees civilian affairs and pays salaries to civil servants.
Offloading this responsibility frees up Hamas to fortify its military capabilities. Hamas is not being asked to recognize Israel's right to exist or accept any peace process.
The latest "reconciliation" deal between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas brings the Palestinians closer to creating a state-within-a-state in the Gaza Strip. The PA and Hamas will now have two separate mini-states of their own in the Gaza Strip.
This arrangement is similar to the situation in Lebanon, where Hezbollah maintains a separate mini-state of its own there.
In state-like fashion, Hezbollah in Lebanon has its own army and territory. This situation, which has gone on for decades, has enraged many Lebanese politicians.
Earlier this year, when dozens of masked Hezbollah militiamen launched a nighttime raid to arrest drug dealers in Beirut, Lebanese politicians accused their government of giving up its authority in favor of Hezbollah's "tiny state." The militiamen belonged to Hezbollah's "social security department," a police force that operates independently of the Lebanese security authorities.
"This is what a country that has given up its authority in favor of the 'tiny state' (of Hezbollah) looks like," said Ashraf Rifi, Lebanon's former justice minister. Rifi said that the pictures of the Hezbollah militiamen conducting the raid testify for the umpteenth time how the very existence of Hezbollah goes against the state and its institutions.
Hamas and Mahmoud Abbas's Palestinian Authority are now headed, willingly or unwillingly, towards plunging the Palestinians into a similar scenario as in Lebanon. The "reconciliation" accord they reached in Cairo paves the way for creating a mini-state within a mini-state in the Gaza Strip. These two "states" will be added to the mini-Palestinian Authority "state" that already exists in parts of the West Bank.
The Egyptian-sponsored deal does not require Hamas to dismantle its security forces and armed wing, Ezaddin Al-Qassam. Nor does the agreement require Hamas to lay down its weapons or stop amassing weapons or preparing for war.
All that is known thus far is that the agreement allows Abbas and his Palestinian Authority to resume civilian control over the Gaza Strip, while security remains in the hands of Hamas.
This is a very comfortable situation for Hamas, which has effectively been absolved of any responsibility toward the civilian population. Hamas could not have hoped for a better deal.
Like Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Gaza Strip will be permitted to maintain its own security establishment and security force in the Gaza Strip, while Abbas's government oversees civilian affairs and pays salaries to civil servants. It would be difficult in the extreme to imagine Hamas agreeing to relinquish security control or permit Abbas's security forces to return to the Gaza Strip.
The Lebanon case seems better than the one shaping up in Gaza for several reasons. There, the government at least has its own army and police force. In the Gaza Strip, however, Hamas is unlikely to return to the pre-2007 era, when the Palestinian Authority had multiple security forces that maintained a tight grip and kept Hamas on the defensive by regularly arresting its leaders and members.
And, despite the hugging and kissing on display during the visit of PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and his delegation to the Gaza Strip on October 2 -- the first of its kind since the violent and bloody Hamas takeover in 2007 -- much bad blood remains between the two sides.
Hamas leaders and officials -- who have repeatedly charged Abbas and his leadership with being part of a US and Israeli "conspiracy" to strangle and punish the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip -- are approaching the "reconciliation" deal with utmost caution. Hamas is prepared to give the Palestinian Authority control over various government institutions and ministries -- but that is where things end, at this point. Security matters are a whole different ballgame.
The past decade of cut-throat rivalry between the two sides has seen Hamas and the PA arrest hundreds of each other's members and followers. The quest for revenge remains as strong as ever.
Abbas's recent sanctions against the Gaza Strip, which included cutting off salaries to thousands of civil servants, thereby forcing many of them into early retirement, and his refusal to pay for Israeli-supplied electricity as well as suspending medication shipments, only aggravated pre-existing tensions between the two sides. Things came to a head last April, when a Hamas official, Marwan Abu Ras, in a public square in the Gaza Strip, openly called for the execution of Abbas for high treason. Such fury between Hamas officials and Abbas can hardly have been assuaged in four months.
For now, however, Hamas seems prepared to swallow the bitter pill -- because the name of the game for Hamas is survival. Isolated and cash-stripped, Hamas will collude with anyone who offers it "oxygen".
Abbas, for his part, has agreed to serve as the savior of Hamas. Why? One simple reason: he does not wish to see a concord between Mohammed Dahlan and Hamas. In Abbas's view, the "reconciliation" deal is a victory not because Hamas has surrendered or relinquished security control over the Gaza Strip, but because he managed to foil Dahlan's return to Gaza and the political arena. Backed by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and other Arab countries, Dahlan's return and rendezvous with Hamas would have been a severe blow to Abbas and his Palestinian Authority.
A Dahlan-Hamas alliance would have undermined Abbas's claim to be the president of all Palestinians, including those in the Gaza Strip. Moreover, such an alliance would have emboldened Dahlan, who lives in exile in the United Arab Emirates, and would have enhanced his prospects of succeeding Abbas as president of the PA.
Hamas has every reason to be satisfied with the "reconciliation" deal with Abbas. Its only concession was to dismantle its "administrative committee," which served as a shadow government in the Gaza Strip. Hamas shed no tears in this move, which absolved it from managing civilian affairs and paying salaries. Offloading this responsibility frees up Hamas to fortify its military capabilities.
Notably, the Egyptian-engineered deal does not require Hamas to make any political concessions. This in itself is a huge achievement for Hamas. Hamas is not being asked to recognize Israel's right to exist or accept any peace process.
The Gaza Strip is now headed toward a new era where it will be divided between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas – one in charge of civilian issues while the second has full security control.
This situation, if it remains unresolved, will most likely lead to the renewal of tensions between the two sides. The Gaza Strip is headed towards a situation of a state within a state. As of now, it is safe to call their arrangement a three-state solution: one Palestinian state in the West Bank and two in the Gaza Strip. Hezbollah and Hamas must be laughing their heads off as, under weak and impotent governments, they see their power grow.
Hezbollah and Hamas must be laughing their heads off as, under weak and impotent governments, they see their power grow. Left: Hezbollah leader
**Khaled Abu Toameh, an award-winning journalist, is based in Jerusalem.
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The Potential Hezbollization Of Hamas In Gaza/احتمالات حزبلة حماس في غزة
Charles Bybel ezer/ The Media Line/Jerusalem Post/October 04/17
As the two main Palestinian factions discuss reconciliation, a major sticking point remains Hamas' apparent refusal to disarm.
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah on Monday made his first visit to the Gaza Strip since 2015, the latest in longstanding efforts to forge a rapprochement between the Fatah and Hamas factions which, in turn, would set the stage for national elections and the formation of a Palestinian unity government.
Since PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah was ingloriously tossed out of Gaza by its Islamist rival in a bloody coup more than a decade ago, the two leading organizations have remained at bitter odds despite intermittent attempts to end their differences, most notably a 2014 reconciliation agreement—one of several—this one signed under the auspices of Qatar that never materialized.
This time, however, many analysts believe that both parties are serious about ending the divide with Abbas nearing the end of his career, motivated by a desire to consolidate his rule while carving out a legacy as the man who unified his people. For its part, Hamas has been beset by years of poor governance and may be prepared to relinquish its administrative responsibilities and revert back to what it does best—namely, building rockets, tunnels and an armed force to deploy against Israel.
However, Abbas has made clear that any future reconciliation agreement must be premised on the dismantlement of Hamas' military wing, whereas Gazan officials have declared that they will never give up the "arms of the resistance."
While the three most senior Hamas members—leader-in-exile Ismail Haniyyeh, Gaza political chief Yahya Sinwar and Mohammed Deif, the notorious commander of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades—all of whom reportedly favor reconciliation, Sinwar and Deif are both products of the armed struggle against the Jewish state and together hold the lion's share of influence over the terrorist organization.
Therefore, according to many observers, Hamas's disarmament is unrealistic—as it would effectively neutralize the two main players in the organization—irrespective of whether such condition is stipulated in any eventual unity deal with Abbas' PA/Fatah.
Some posit that Hamas may be playing the long game, while Abbas is looking for immediate successes. For him, taking over administrative control of Gaza would solidify his status as the "sole legitimate representative" of the Palestinians.
"Abbas' ultimate goal is to show to his public and the world that there is only one leader of the Palestinians and one voice—his voice—speaking on behalf of them," former Israeli Mossad chief Danny Yatom told The Media Line.
"Even if controlling Gaza would be difficult, Abbas' rule over the territory would empower him. He also likely thinks that governing [the Strip] would remove one of the main obstacles relating to his capability and authority to negotiate [a peace deal] with Israel."
For Hamas, unencumbered by the humanitarian situation in Gaza, the opportunity to morph into a fiercer fighting force, modeled on the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah, becomes an enticingly realistic goal.
In this respect, the prospective "Hezbolliation" of Hamas in Gaza is a major concern, as the Shi'ite Iranian proxy maintains a death grip on Lebanon, largely due to its military superiority, in contravention of UN Resolution 1701 which set the terms for the end of the 2006 war with Israel, including Hezbollah's total disarmament.
Without the need to oversee the nitty-gritty elements of day-to-day governance, the terror group has focused exclusively on expanding its weapons arsenal—aided by Syria and its primary patron Iran—which, as a result, has enabled it to acquire veto power over the Lebanese parliament.
Any unity agreement that keeps Hamas' military wing intact will thus pose a problem for Abbas, specifically in terms of the PA's ability to maintain long-term control over Gaza, as an armed Hamas will retain the ability to undermine or threaten the government at will. The optics of the arrangement could also become an issue that inhibits the PA's governance, should the populace come to understand that, in reality, it is Hamas pulling the strings from behind the scenes.
Accordingly, a senior PA official last week again discounted the emergence of such a scenario, telling the Haaretz daily that Abbas has vehemently rejected the so-called "Hezbollah model."
Conversely, in a statement released Saturday by Haniyeh, the Hamas leader explained that the organization's decision to pursue reconciliation was made with consideration to both its political and, notably, "military power."
Mussa Abu Marzuq, a senior Hamas official previously affirmed that disarmament "will [never] be up for discussion."
For Israel, the prospect of Hamas preserving any form of "security" control over Gaza, along with the Rafah border crossing into Egypt, could prevent Jerusalem from significantly easing the blockade on the Strip—which suffers from severe water and electricity shortages and unemployment of more than 40 percent. This condition is undoubtedly a prerequisite to the PA's assuming control over the enclave's impoverished masses.
According to Col. (Ret.) Miri Eisen, formerly an IDF intelligence officer and adviser to the Israeli prime minister, Jerusalem's choice to remain relatively silent on the matter does not necessarily reflect its position. "Just give them time," she told The Media Line, "Hamas will obviously be involved in [any unity government], which will pose problems for Israel, as it has always opposed this. Accordingly, even if some solution is found that works for the Palestinians, it is unlikely that it will work for Israel."
In this respect, Eisen believes that there is "no chance whatsoever [that Hamas will agree to disarm]. They will not even allow this in perception, as it is part of their raison d'etre."
Nevertheless, she does not envision a Hezbollah-like situation evolving in the Gaza Strip. "Hezbollah had a few cards that Hamas does not have right now," Eisen explained. "The Shi'ite group has always had a powerful backer in Iran, and thus more maneuverability. Hamas is starting from a point of weakness, but there are potentially parallels. But it does not have the same dynamic."
Stuck in the middle is the Trump administration, whose efforts to jump-start peace negotiations might very well be thwarted should Hamas members not only become incorporated into a national unity government, but also remain the primary military power on the ground in Gaza. Moreover, with The Taylor Force Act increasingly likely to be passed by Congress, Washington will be hamstrung in terms of funding any Palestinian entity that promotes terrorism against the Jewish state.
Likewise, the greater international community will be hard-pressed to engage with Hamas, as any distinction between its "political" and "military" wings would effectively be nullified, a technicality which Hezbollah uses to operate to some degree on European soil.
Lastly, should Israel disapprove of any eventual intra-Palestinian accord, which according to Eisen is probable, it would make it exceedingly difficult for any party to convince Jerusalem to make concessions to an entity that could be taken over—or, at the very least, significantly influenced—by Hamas, which remains ideologically committed to the Jewish state's destruction.
In this respect, Yatom contends that a Palestinian unity government incorporating Hamas "should, by contrast, get a chance [from Israel] because it might—despite the chances being small—bring the situation in Gaza under the control of a more moderate entity. Already, for example, the Hamas shadow government has been disbanded."
Overall, then, the prospect of Palestinian reconciliation is fraught with uncertainties, even as both sides express a genuine willingness to make comprises to end hostilities. The potential outcomes are numerous, including the very real possibility that the unity talks will once again fail.
On the other hand, if some form of agreement is indeed achieved, while it may bring the Palestinians a modicum of internal peace, it has the capacity to further obstruct a resolution to the conflict with Israel.

Gaza Opens its Doors after Years of Deprivation
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat/October 04/17
Gaza’s leadership finally welcomed the Palestinian Authority with arms wide open to end their dispute. This is a very important political and humanitarian agreement credited for the government of Egyptian President Abdul Fattah el-Sisi, the first in a decade who succeeded in doing so.
If the deal’s implementation went as planned, and Ramallah and Gaza’s leaders cooperated, one of the worst politicians-made humanitarian disasters would be over.There is no doubt that Gaza’s leaders, who were drawn into Qatar’s adventures and Iran’s exploitation, are responsible for the dark stage.
For ten painful years the densely populated strip suffered, and its people witnessed devastating wars having no political objectives. The factions in the enclave fought with extremists and radicals. Trade was banned, tunnels were blocked, swimming in the sea was forbidden, and fishermen were constrained. The suffering began when the airport, symbol of peace promise and better future, was closed. Most of Gaza’s news became about the crossing point, and when it would be open for humanitarian cases. The people’s suffering was neither a national duty nor a political necessity. It was rather a nonsensical disagreement and personal rivalry over leadership. Not until the new agreement goes into full effect for weeks and months, will we be certain that it will last. However, this remains the best thing that has happened in years.
Can Rami Hamdallah’s government run the enclave and coexist with Hamas simultaneously? Will disagreements be forgotten and replaced by a cooperation that shall unite the strip back with the West Bank?
Many old reasons make this a difficult task, and even if it succeeds today, it might not last. Gaza’s return to Ramallah is an important sign on the Palestinian leadership’s ability to speak on behalf of all Palestinians. The reconciliation puts an end to Israel’s rejection of peace claiming that “Hamas,” “Islamic Jihad”, and other armed opposition movements thwarted past attempts for peace.
Reconciliation opens the door to any international desire to launch a new initiative. Even if a serious peace plan is not produced, at least it will be possible to reform the internal Palestinian situation shattered by conflicts over authority. Egypt’s return is an important new peace factor. It was responsible for sponsoring the Gaza Strip, hadn’t it been for the Qatari-Iranian interventions that struck Egypt’s role, created a wall of fear and closed the strip. During the 10 years of intra-Palestinian conflict, Egypt tried to mediate but failed. However, this is the first time we see a sign of hope in ending the conflict between two brothers. Sincere intentions are required so that the authority isn’t tempted into total domination, nor does it become a victim of Hamas’ deception to open the crossings in order to overcome the crisis, provide its needs, and then return to disagreement and estrangement.
Reconciliation and the opening of Gaza may be the door to regional stability and a sign of an end to regional chaos.

Return of the German Volk
Roger Cohen/The New York Times/October 04/17
BERLIN— The Volk is back in its tribal sense. That was the message of Alexander Gauland, a leading politician of the extremist Alternative for Germany (or AfD) party, when he vowed on election night to “take back our country and our Volk!”
Volk means people. Sure it does. It’s a simple little word. Sure it is. Gauland was just feeling giddy because his party had won 94 seats in Parliament, a breakthrough that has reshaped German postwar politics. Sure he was.
I would like to believe in the inoffensive nature of this four-letter word. I can’t, not in Gauland’s mouth. His statement raises the question: Take back Germany from whom? The immigrant rabble, I assume, and the half-breed hordes, and the Muslims who, for the AfD, serve as today’s Jews.
The clamor of Hitler was for “Fuhrer, Volk und Vaterland.” Only membership of the Aryan Volk assured non-inclusion among the doomed masses. They, the others, were the “untermenschen,” or sub-humans: the Jews destined for annihilation, the Slavs destined for slavery.
In 1933, Victor Klemperer, the diarist of the Nazi era, wrote: “Yet again a new opportunity for celebration, a new national holiday for the people: Hitler’s birthday. The term Volk (people) is now as customary in spoken and written language as salt at table, everything is spiced with a soupçon of Volk: Volksfest (festival of the people), Volksgenosse (comrade of the people), Volksgemeinschaft (community of the people.)”
The Federal Republic has journeyed, with detours, from this exclusionary “völkisch” identity to one that is open and inclusive. German identity can never be a simple thing; history dictates that. But Germans, with each post-1945 generation, have grown more comfortable with themselves. Chancellor Angela Merkel has said flatly: “The Volk is everyone who lives in this country.”
That would include, in a population of 82 million, more than one million recent immigrants (many of them Syrian). Last year, the Federal Statistical Office said that roughly 18.6 million people in Germany had a migrant background, or 23 percent of the population.
There is a word in German for the population: “Bevölkerung.” It is as flat, straightforward and bland as “Volk” is charged, emotive and tribal. Between “Volk” and “Bevölkerung,” myth and migration, Germany has sought itself. On the whole it has done well.
And yet, as the election this month showed, even a country with a strong economy and low unemployment is not immune to the anger and fear that feeds the AfD. Looking at the world today I hear Bob Dylan’s words: “Something is happening here but you don’t know what it is.”
The something is a violent, reactionary current. It is a rightist, nativist, nationalist and, yes, “völkisch” reaction against globalization, against migration, against miscegenation, against the disappearance of borders and the blurring of genders, against the half-tones of political correctness, against Babel, against the stranger and the other, against the smug self-interested consensus of the urban, global elite.
The indecipherable swirl and cacophony of the modern world feeds unease. Technology is a wonderful thing if you are putting it to use, less so if it is putting an end to your usefulness. Gauland wants Germany back but the Germany of his fantasy is gone, baby, gone. The British wanted their country back — and got the disaster of Brexit, a delusional act of irreparable self-harm.
Enough Americans wanted something back — a weird, white-dominated pastiche of the 1950s utterly removed from the United States today — to elect Donald Trump, who keeps referring to the need to defend “our people.”
As in: “We need a travel ban for certain dangerous countries, not some politically correct term that won’t help us protect our people.”
Now, “our people,” in the American case, refers to a nation of immigrants (including Trump’s grandfather from Germany), but Trump’s “defense,” like Gauland’s, targets immigrant hordes. As Marx observed, history repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce. Still, the most dangerous thing would be to fail to take these rightist, xenophobic currents seriously, to assume they will go away because logically they should; after all, the world has moved on.
But not all the world: wired metropolises yes, vast peripheries no. The worst form of liberal arrogance is to dismiss the forces that brought Trump to power and are feeding resurgent nationalism around the world. Nobody was ever persuaded by being made to feel stupid.
On the western façade of the Reichstag, which houses the Parliament, is an old inscription: “Dem Deutschen Volke” — “To the German People.” When I lived in Germany, in 2000, there was a furor over a proposal to install in the building a work by the artist Hans Haacke with the illuminated words “Der Bevölkerung” — “To the Population.” Some Germans thought it was insulting. Today, the dedications to people and population are both there.
That’s appropriate. The slogan of the protesting East Germans who brought down the Berlin Wall was “Wir sind das Volk” (“We are the People.”) Words, like history, are many-shaded. It depends how they are used. The great danger is when they lose their meaning entirely, as with Trump; or are deployed to raise W. B. Yeats’s “blood-dimmed tide,” as with Gauland. When both happen at once, beware.