October 07/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations
All who are in their graves will hear his voice and will come out those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 05/24-30/:" Very truly, I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgement, but has passed from death to life. ‘Very truly, I tell you, the hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For just as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself; and he has given him authority to execute judgement, because he is the Son of Man. Do not be astonished at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and will come out those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. ‘I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge; and my judgement is just, because I seek to do not my own will but the will of him who sent me."

Question: "How can I believe in the goodness of God when there is so much evil in the world?"
Answer: The evil in the world did not come from God. If Adam and Eve had only obeyed God, then they may have lived on earth forever, walking with God, tending the garden, working together—what might God’s “Plan A” have been? After they sinned, the created ones were just not on the same page with God anymore. God cannot tolerate sin and has no sin within Himself, so mankind hid from God in guilt and fear. One could perhaps blame Adam and Eve for the evil in the world, as they blamed each other and the serpent; however, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). It is safe to say that, had we been in the garden instead of Adam and Eve, we would have sinned in the same way.
God is good in that He has a plan to redeem fallen mankind. The salvation Jesus provides attests to His goodness and love (Romans 5:8). The effect of the Fall is universal, but so also is the offer of divine grace (John 3:16). The Bible clearly indicates the devastating effects of sin upon man and the hopelessness of man in solving his own sin problem. The proper understanding of the doctrine of sin is essential to understanding God’s remedy for it.
God is good in that He has sent His Son “to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). Jesus called Satan “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31), which means Satan has been allowed a certain amount of authority over this earth. The blame for the evil in this world should be placed squarely upon Satan. Much is written about the devil—he comes only to kill, steal, and destroy (John 10:10). He is a fierce enemy (1 Peter 5:8). He is a liar and a murderer (John 8:44). By contrast, Jesus is the Good Shepherd who gives His life for the sheep (John 10:11). He is the Lamb of God, sacrificed for us (Revelation 5:6). He is the truth and the life (John 14:6). Jesus is the “seed of the woman” to crush the serpent’s head (Genesis 3:15). Jesus is Goodness incarnate.
God is good in that He is implementing a plan to rid the universe of evil once and for all. He is the God of justice, and He will one day make all things right (Psalm 89:14; Revelation 21:5). Sin and evil will be dealt with in perfect judgment (Revelation 20:13). Because of Christ, we have the promise of Romans 16:20, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.”
God is good in that He provides for His children (Matthew 6:33). He gives life to all and upholds all things by His wisdom and power (Hebrews 1:3). He is patient with sinners, desiring them to come to repentance and find eternal life (2 Peter 3:9). God gives us eternal life and abundant life now, free from the death penalty of sin (Romans 6:23). He is “rich in mercy” because of “His great love for us” (Ephesians 2:4).
Just picture the Sinless One who created everything, willfully hanging on a cross and spilling His blood for the sin of those who put their faith in Him. Who can charge Him with injustice (Romans 9:14)? Jesus proves God’s love. “Love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:7-8).
Recommended Resource: If God, Why Evil?: A New Way to Think about the Question by Norman Geisler

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on October 06-07/17
Qatar’s economy in a downward spiral/Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/ArabNews/October 06/17
Why do they only focus on our terrorists/Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/October 06/17
Threats to Kurds made independence referendum inevitable/Huda al-Husseini/Al Arabiya/October 06/17
After the Saudi-Russian Summit/Ghassan Charbel/Asharq Al Awsat/October 06/17
Why Has Qatar Chosen Defiance/Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat/October 06/17
The Goal of Western Leaders: Avoid Change, Duck Accountability/Douglas Murray/Gatestone Institute/October 06/17
Palestinian "Reconciliation": Hamas Free to Fight but Now Abbas Accountable/Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/October 06/17
The nuclear issue isn’t the real Iranian challenge/David Ignatius/The Washington Post/October 05/17
Are Shia Dynamics in Iraq and Lebanon Turning Against Iran/Hanin Ghaddar/The Washington Institute/October 05/17
Reform in Iran: Wetsminster Style or Imamate/Amir Taheri/Asharq Al Awsat/October 06/17
Kurdish Secession and Mysteries of Identity/Amir Taheri/Asharq Al Awsat/October 06/17
Iran and the Ikhwan: The ideological roots of a partnership/Amir Taheri/Asharq Al Awsat/May 31, 2014

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on October 06-07/17
'Return Nizar with You', Family of Iran-Held Man Urges Aoun
Cabinet approves expenses of electoral supervisory authority
Aoun: Rendering Lebanon center of civilizations' dialogue aims to promote culture of peace
Rahi from airport: Lebanon can no longer bear brunt of refugees
Army Commander, interlocutors tackle overall situation
Italian Embassy: Sarraf visits MIBIL in Samaiyah on Tuesday
Aoun meets with Defense Minister
Ibrahim meets UNTSO Chief of Staff
Foucher visits Baalbek Municipality: We seek to activate developmental projects
Judge Indicts 9 Syrians, One Lebanese over Smuggling Terrorists
Geagea in UAE for Talks with Emirati Officials, LF Cadres
Al-Rahi: Refugees May be Exploited Politically, Sectarianly or by Terrorists
UK, U.S. Announce More Support to Lebanese Army
Soldiers Injured as Army Bus Rams into Pole in Jezzine

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on October 06-07/17
Abadi Does Not Want to Fight Kurds, Erdogan Supports Closing Borders
Paris: Freeing Raqqa of Last ISIS Holdouts May Take ‘Weeks’
Saudi FM meets Duma foreign relations panel
Saudi Arabia Signs Deal to Purchase S-400 Air-Defense System
Saudi-Russian Summit Opens Door for Partnership… Agreements Worth Several Billion Dollars
Saudi Arabia Dismantles ISIS Cell
Salameh Shows Optimism about Solving Libya Crisis after Meeting Haftar
Renewed De-Escalation Deal in Homs, Hama’s Countryside
Spain Apologizes to Injured Catalans, Urges Elections
Syria Regime Enters IS-Held Town in 'Severe Blow' to IS
Tens of Thousands in Kurd City for Iraq ex-President's Funeral
HRW Says Aid Workers Helped Iraq Point Out IS Families
Russian Strikes Kill 14 Civilians in Eastern Syria
Freeing Raqa of Last IS Holdouts May Take 'Weeks', French Minister Says
Israel to Ease Holiday Restrictions for Palestinians

Latest Lebanese Related News published on October 06-07/17
'Return Nizar with You', Family of Iran-Held Man Urges Aoun
Naharnet/October 06/17/The family of a Lebanese man held in Iran for more than two years now has urged President Michel Aoun to exert efforts to secure his release during his upcoming visit to Tehran. “Nizar Zakka is a Lebanese citizen who does not possess any other nationality, and he went to Iran under a visa placed on his Lebanese passport by the Iranian Embassy in Beirut,” Zakka's family said in a letter addressed to Aoun. “He hopes the Lebanese state will shoulder its responsibility, end injustice against him and restore the dignity of Lebanese citizens outside their country so that any Lebanese citizen can regain confidence in their country, state and Lebanese passport,” the family added. Zakka, a U.S. permanent resident who used to live in Washington, is the head of the Arab ICT Organization, or IJMA3, an industry consortium from 13 countries that advocates for information technology in the region. After being detained for around a year without trial over spying allegations, Zakka was sentenced to 10 years in prison and a $4.2 million fine on September 20. “Ever since he was detained in September 2015, the Lebanese state has been fully absent and has not issued a single statement about his abduction and detention, in contravention with all international norms and laws,” Zakka's family added in its letter. “The presidents of Azerbaijan and Brazil, and even Kuwait's foreign minister, have liberated their citizens and returned them with them during their visits to Iran, and we urge you to return Nizar with you,” the family said, addressing Aoun. It added: “We are fully confident that the Islamic Republic of Iran will not reject your request for the release of Nizar should it be made in a serious manner, especially that there are special ties between the two countries.”“Had the roles been reversed, and an Iranian citizen was detained in Lebanon, you would not have hesitated for a single moment to return them to their country,” the family said. “The aggrieved Lebanese citizen Nizar Zakka is longing to return to his family and country, and his only hope is your help, Mr. President.  This hope is the oxygen that is keeping him alive, especially that he has been observing a hunger strike since September 29,” Zakka's family added. During an official visit to Lebanon in November 2016, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif described Zakka's detention as a “U.S.-Iranian problem.”Zakka had been invited to attend a conference at which President Hassan Rouhani spoke of providing more economic opportunities for women and sustainable development. In November 2015, Iranian state television aired a report saying he was in custody and calling him a spy with "deep links" with U.S. intelligence services. It also showed what it described as a damning photo of Zakka and three other men in army-style uniforms, two with flags and two with rifles on their shoulders. But that turned out to be from a homecoming event at Zakka's prep school, the Riverside Military Academy in Georgia, according to the school's president.In February 2017, an Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander claimed that Zakka had confessed that he had tried to "encourage decadence" in the Iranian society. The alleged confession has not been independently verified. Zakka's supporters deny accusations he is a spy and note he was invited to Tehran by the government. The Mehr news agency quoted Gen. Sayyari of the Guard's intelligence service as saying that Zakka tried to corrupt "Iranian women and families." The general was not identified by his first name.

Cabinet approves expenses of electoral supervisory authority
Fri 06 Oct 2017/NNA - The President of the Council of Ministers Saad Hariri chaired on Friday at the Grand Serail a cabinet meeting to discuss 63 items on its agenda. Before the meeting, Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk told reporters that the agenda includes the expenses of the electoral supervisory authority, and said: "I want to emphasize that elections will take place on time. What we are discussing is the mechanism and not the date of the elections. Also the biometric card is being discussed with the political parties."At the end of the meeting, Minister of Information Melhem Riachi read the following official information: "The Council of Ministers held its ordinary meeting at the Grand Serail chaired by the President of the Council of Minister Saad Hariri and approved its agenda. It will hold its next meeting in the Presidential Palace to discuss current issues." Question: Did you approve the item regarding the electoral supervisory authority? Riachi: This item was approved, and all pending issues will be discussed during next meeting. Today most items on the agenda were approved.
In a chat with journalists, Minister Marwan Hamade said: "The Council of Ministers and the presidency of the Republic are not dealing correctly with the files of the Ministry of Education. There is a draft decree to enroll 207 professors who succeeded in the Lebanese University and joined the Faculty of Education to replace those who retired this year in high schools. The issue is complete and no one is giving explanations on thousands of teachers who were appointed during the last decades. I will ask Parliament to explain article 95 from the Constitution that restricts the balance between sects to the first category only. I cannot ensure a balance in the remaining categories, that is the second, third, fourth and fifth and if there anyone in Lebanon who can make a demographic change and ensure this then I will accept it.
The appointment of guards, public school teachers and accountants is being obstructed due to the explanation of article 95."

Aoun: Rendering Lebanon center of civilizations' dialogue aims to promote culture of peace
Fri 06 Oct 2017/NNA- President of the Republic, Michel Aoun, on Friday said that rendering Lebanon a center of dialogue of civilizations, religions and ethnicity, aims to promote the culture of peace in the world, at a time when hatred is spreading and wars are ravaging countries. President Aoun's fresh words on Friday came during his meeting with a delegation of Arab and Foreign Dentists' Unions participating in the 27th Annual International Dental Conference, hosted by Beirut under the auspices of the President of the Republic. On the other hand, the Head of State met with Minister of National Defense, Yaacoub al-Sarraf, with whom he discussed issues related to the Defense Ministry. Aoun also received MP Farid Elias el-Khazen. Discussions focused on the latest political developments in the country, as well as the needs of the Keserwan-Ftouh district.

Rahi from airport: Lebanon can no longer bear brunt of refugees
Fri 06 Oct 2017/NNA - Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rahi on Friday left Beirut, commencing a pastoral visit to Rome and the United States of America. Speaking at the airport prior to departure, Patriarch Rahi said that Lebanon can no longer bear the burden of the refugees, especially with the already simmering economic conditions in the country and the ongoing immigration trend. He also warned from the danger of exploiting refugees politically and confessionally, as well as by terrorist organizations. "It is essential to communicate with the persons concerned with refugees' return... and it is necessary to separate between the political and strategic causes, on one hand, and those which jeopardize Lebanon, on the other hand", concluded the Patriarch.

Army Commander, interlocutors tackle overall situation
Fri 06 Oct 2017/NNA - Army Commander, General Joseph Aoun, on Friday met at his Yarzeh office with Head of Mission and chief of staff of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization, (UNTSO), Major General Arthur David Gawn.
Talks reportedly touched on the current situation on the southern border and cooperation relations between the army and the mission, under the armistice agreement and resolution 1701. General Aoun also met with Australian Ambassador to Lebanon, Glenn Miles, accompanied by Embassy Military Attaché, Buxton Christopher, with talks majorly touching on the current situation in Lebanon and the broad region. Means of bolstering cooperation relations between both countries' armies also highlighted their talks.

Army Commander meets with US, British Ambassadors
Fri 06 Oct 2017/NNA - Army Commander General Joseph Aoun on Friday met at his Yarzeh office with the U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon, Elizabeth Richard, and the British Ambassador to Lebanon, Hugo Shorter, with talks reportedly touching on the general situation and the bilateral military ties.
Afterwards, General Aoun chaired the meeting of the High Level Steering Committee of the US and UK aid program for the protection of the Lebanese ground borders, in the presence of Ambassadors Richard and Shorter, as well as joint work team. The discussions markedly focused on the military aids provided so far by the US and UK during the previous stages and their future steps to meet the needs of the army units assigned to control the eastern and northern borders. General Aoun thanked the American and British authorities for the qualitative military support to the army, which greatly contributed to the victory realized by the army against terrorism in the recent "Fajr El Jouroud" Operation. Aoun highly appreciated the US and British keenness to continue their support to the military, to ensure military units' full readiness in charge of securing the borders, in terms of control and observation.
Both Ambassadors Richard and Shorter hailed "the extraordinary combat efficiency demonstrated by the Lebanese Army in the Fajr El Jouroud Operation against terrorism."Both Ambassadors also underlined US and UK continual support to strengthen the capabilities of the military and to support its efforts to defend Lebanon and maintain its stability and territorial integrity.

Italian Embassy: Sarraf visits MIBIL in Samaiyah on Tuesday
Fri 06 Oct 2017/NNA - In a press release by the Italian Embassy in Beirut, it said: "The Lebanese Minister of Defense, Yaacoub Sarraf, will pay a visit to the Italian Bilateral Mission to Lebanon (MIBIL) in Samaiyah (South Lebanon), on Tuesday October 10th, 2017, in the presence of the Italian Ambassador Massimo Marotti."Transportation service will be provided by the Embassy for journalists. A minibus will be leaving Beirut at 08:30 in the morning.

Aoun meets with Defense Minister
Fri 06 Oct 2017/NNA - President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun, is currently meeting at the Baabda palace with National Defense Minister, Yaacoub Al-Sarraf.

Ibrahim meets UNTSO Chief of Staff
Fri 06 Oct 2017/NNA - The General Security Chief, Major General Abbas Ibrahim, received at the headquarters of the Directorate this morning, the Chief of Staff of UNTSO, Major General Arthur David Gawn, accompanied by a delegation of advisers. Ibrahim tackled with his guests the security updates in Lebanon and the region, in addition to the situation in southern Lebanon.

Foucher visits Baalbek Municipality: We seek to activate developmental projects
Fri 06 Oct 2017/NNA - French Ambassador to Lebanon, Bruno Foucher, highlighted the paramount importance of the Francophonie in the Bekaa region during his visit to the Municipality of Baalbeck on Friday. "We constantly seek to activate development projects, on one hand, and spread the concept of the Francophonie on the other hand," Ambassador Foucher said, hoping that the historic city would preserve its heritage sites reflecting the art of structural design and architecture. The Ambassador also thanked Baalbek locals and dignitaries for their support for the French cultural Center in its mission to promote Francophonie.

Judge Indicts 9 Syrians, One Lebanese over Smuggling Terrorists
Naharnet/October 06/17/Military Investigative Judge Fadi Sawwan indicted nine Syrians and a Lebanese over their involvement in “terror crimes,” the National News Agency reported on Friday. Sawan indicted two Syrians and a Lebanese for smuggling “terrorists from Lebanon to Syria through the Wadi Khaled region for the aim of joining the ranks of the Islamic State terror group,” said NNA. Another Syrian was indicted for his affiliation to al-Nusra Front group. He and another Syrian were accused of engaging in fighting against Syria's army. In providing terrorists of al-Nusra Front with food supplies, aid and logistical assistance, Sawan accused three Syrians. Two other Syrians were suspected of smuggling terrorists from Lebanon to Syria through the country's border. Sawan issued arrest warrants against the defendants and referred them to the military court for trial.

Geagea in UAE for Talks with Emirati Officials, LF Cadres
Naharnet/October 06/17/Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea arrived Friday in the United Arab Emirates for talks with “Emirati officials and LF cadres,” a media report said. The regional developments and the outcome of Saudi King Salman's meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin will be the focus of Geagea's talks with the UAE officials, al-Markazia news agency reported. A terse statement issued by the LF's media department in the morning had only said that Geagea had left for the UAE along with his wife, MP Sethrida Geagea. The visit comes eight days after Geagea held talks in Saudi Arabia with the kingdom's powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. “The visit to the UAE is not separate from the course of the meetings that Geagea held in Saudi Arabia in terms of looking into the developments in the region, which is at the brink of major changes,” LF sources told al-Markazia. Geagea will discuss “the military developments in Syria, which are going in parallel with diplomatic action moving from one influential capital to another with the aim of finding a solution to the crisis,” the sources added. “Saudi Arabia and the UAE are the spearhead of the Arab and Gulf confrontation against Iran and its expansionist schemes in the region, which means that the coming developments and changes in the region will definitely go through them, that's why Geagea's visit to the UAE today is a completion of his visit to the kingdom a week ago,” the LF sources explained. The sources also revealed that Geagea will stay in the UAE for several days during which he will meet with top Emirati officials and LF cadres based in the UAE and other Gulf countries.

Al-Rahi: Refugees May be Exploited Politically, Sectarianly or by Terrorists
Naharnet/October 06/17/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi on Friday began a pastoral visit to Rome and the U.S., warning that Syrian and Palestinian refugees in Lebanon could be “exploited” to harm the country. “Lebanon can no longer withstand the refugee crisis, seeing as it was already suffering from dire economic and social conditions as well as a high rate of emigration,” al-Rahi said ahead of his departure from Beirut's Rafik Hariri International Airport. “The possibility of exploiting the refugees politically and sectarianly and also at the hands of terrorist groups poses a great threat,” the patriarch warned. He also said that “it is necessary to talk to those concerned with the return of the refugees” to their country, urging Lebanese officials to “know how to differentiate between political and strategic issues and other issues that pose a great danger to Lebanon.”

UK, U.S. Announce More Support to Lebanese Army
The British and U.S. ambassadors to Lebanon held talks Friday with Army Commander General Joseph Aoun and announced additional support to Lebanon's military institution. "Within the framework of the High Level Steering Committee, British Ambassador to Lebanon Hugo Shorter, and the U.S. Ambassador Elizabeth Richard met the Lebanese Army Commander Joseph Aoun to discuss the security of the Lebanese-Syrian border and the recent army operation 'Fajr El Jouroud' (Dawn of the Outskirts)," the British embassy said in a press release. The discussions focused on the Lebanese Army’s plan to secure 100% of the Lebanese-Syrian border by 2019. During the meeting, Shorter announced £1.8 million and Richard undertook to provide U.S. support to help the Lebanese Army secure the newly liberated border areas east of the outskirts of al-Qaa and Ras Baalbek. "This funding and support will help the LAF construct and equip Protected Border Observation Posts and Forward Operating Bases throughout this area. The UK has committed over £60 million to this project, with significant contributions from the U.S., and support from other partners," added the statement. Shorter also announced additional UK resources to help the LAF open routes through the significant fields of the Islamic State explosive ordnance, and discussed what could be provided to clear these ordnances, and help return this area to its previous use as agricultural land. "Throughout the project so far, over 70% of the Syrian-Lebanon border has been secured, and an increased sense of security has given many Lebanese the chance to resume their daily lives, and return to their homes and land not seen in years," the statement said. After the meeting, Ambassador Shorter said: “It is always a privilege to meet the Commander of the Lebanese Army General Joseph Aoun and discuss progress on the Land Border Project to which the UK has committed over £60 million. The Lebanese Army has developed and modernized over the past ten years, to become a respected, professional army that has shown it is able to protect Lebanon from the biggest threat it faces, terrorism, both on the borders and inside Lebanon." “I am also pleased that the UK and the U.S. will help the LAF construct border towers and Forward Operating Bases in the areas of Qaa and Ras Baalbek liberated in ‘Fajr el Jouroud’ (Dawn of the Outskirts). We are also offering new UK expertise on explosive hazards clearance,” he added.

Soldiers Injured as Army Bus Rams into Pole in Jezzine
Naharnet/October 05/17/Several soldiers were injured Thursday when an army bus rammed into a pole on the Anan-Jezzine road, state-run National News Agency reported. The injured soldiers were rushed to hospitals in Sidon and Jezzine, NNA said. An investigation has since been launched to determine the causes of the incident.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on October 06-07/17
Abadi Does Not Want to Fight Kurds, Erdogan Supports Closing Borders
Asharq Al-Awsat/October 06/17/Paris, Ankara — Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi confirmed on Thursday that he does not want an armed confrontation with the Kurds in relation to the crisis of the referendum on independence held in the Kurdistan region on Sept. 25. Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that his country would soon close the border with the region, and also spoke about a tripartite mechanism discussed between Ankara, Tehran, and Baghdad on closing the flow of oil from northern Iraq. The Kurdish file governed al-Abadi’s talks with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Thursday, although Iraq had in principal negatively responded to the French suggestion that stipulates Macron’s mediation in the crisis between Baghdad and Irbil. Still, Paris did not amend its position regarding the crisis between the two sides. Macron again expressed the French position during his joint press conference with the Iraqi prime minister on Thursday. He said France insists to mediate between Baghdad and Erbil, it refuses any escalation, particularly at the military level, and it is attached to the sovereignty of Iraq and the stability and integrity of its territories. For his part, al-Abadi said: “We do not want an armed confrontation, we don’t want clashes, but the federal authority must prevail and nobody can infringe on the federal authority.” The Iraqi prime minister discussed with the French president the Kurdish crisis, the war on ISIS and the need to annul the referendum on independence, and he urged Kurdish Peshmerga forces in disputed areas to work with Iraqi security forces under the authority of the central government in Baghdad. “I call on the Peshmerga to remain an integral part of the Iraqi forces under the authority of the federal authorities, to guarantee the security of citizens so that we can rebuild these zones,” he said. Meanwhile, in Turkey, Erdogan announced that his country would soon close its border with northern Iraq and shut its airspace in response to last week’s Kurdish independence referendum. The Turkish president added: “We are demanding that the Kurdish government learn a lesson from their mistakes and take the appropriate steps to compensate them.” Erdogan also announced that Turkey already established a tripartite mechanism with Iran and Iraq that would decide jointly whether to cut oil exports from Kurdish northern Iraq.

Paris: Freeing Raqqa of Last ISIS Holdouts May Take ‘Weeks’

Asharq Al-Awsat/October 06/17/French Defense Minister Florence Parly said Friday that the battle to flush ISIS militants of their last holdouts in the northern Syrian city of Raqqa could drag on for “weeks.”“It’s probably a question of weeks,” Parly told France Inter radio.
“It’s a slow, difficult battle but which is nonetheless effective,” she said, adding the continuing fight for the city center was “obviously the hardest.”The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters, stormed ISIS’ Syrian bastion in June and has since wrested 90 percent of the city from the terrorist group. France is part of the US-led coalition that has been pounding ISIS positions in Iraq and Syria from the air in order to help local forces flush out the extremists. Parly estimated that around 500 French militants remained in Iraq or Syria. “Many are thrown onto the frontlines,” she said, adding those who want to flee are forced by ISIS to fight. Aid agencies said Thursday that Syria is in the throes of its worst fighting since the battle for eastern Aleppo last year, with heavy air strikes causing hundreds of civilian casualties. Hospitals, schools and people fleeing violence have been “targeted by direct air strikes” that may amount to war crimes, the United Nations said, without apportioning blame. Russia and the US-led coalition are carrying out separate air strikes in Syria ostensibly aimed at defeating ISIS. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) also said in a statement that up to 10 hospitals were reported to have been damaged in the past 10 days.

Saudi FM meets Duma foreign relations panel
Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnglishFriday, 6 October 2017/Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubair Friday met with the head of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Russian Duma, Leonid Slutsky, at the Duma in Moscow on the sidelines of the State visit to the Russian Federation by King Salman bin Abdulaziz. During the meeting, the two discussed issues of mutual interest and the interest of the two countries to strengthen cooperation, a statement by the Saudi Press Agency read..The meeting was attended by the Director of the Department of Information Affairs, ambassador Usama Naqali, the Saudi ambassador to the Russian Federation, ambassador Abdulrahman al-Rassi and the Director General of the Minister of Foreign Affairs’ office, ambassador Khaled bin Mus'ad al-Anqari.

Saudi Arabia Signs Deal to Purchase S-400 Air-Defense System
Asharq Al-Awsat/October 06/17/Moscow — Saudi Arabia has agreed to purchase Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile systems, the TOS-1A, the AGS-30 and the Kalashnikov AK-103. A memorandum of understanding was signed between Russia’s state company for exporting military products Rosoboronexport and state-owned Saudi Arabian Military Industries as well as other agreements. Under the guidance of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the two parties signed these agreements, which are expected to play a pivotal role in the growth and development of the military systems industry in Saudi Arabia. The MoU focuses on localizing the manufacturing and sustainment of advance armament systems in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in line with the objectives of Saudi Vision 2030. Educational and training programs for Saudi citizens will also take place according to the agreement, to ensure the sustainability and development of the military industries sector in Saudi Arabia. These agreements are expected to have tangible economic contributions and create hundreds of direct jobs. They will also transfer cutting-edge technologies that will act as a catalyst for localizing 50 percent of the Kingdom’s military spending as targeted by Vision 2030; which was launched by the Crown Prince, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense. The Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia announced in March establishing a new national company for military industries, Saudi Arabian Military Industries, which represents a significant component of Vision 2030 and a transitional point in the development of military products and services that meet the highest international standards. The strategic target of the company is to become among the top 25 military industry companies worldwide by 2030 to transform the kingdom into a strong partner in the military sector on the world level. It is expected to contribute to the GDP with more than QAR14 billion (USD3.733 billion).

Saudi-Russian Summit Opens Door for Partnership… Agreements Worth Several Billion Dollars
Asharq Al-Awsat/October 06/17/Moscow- Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud stressed Thursday the importance of bilateral cooperation between his country and Russia during a historic summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin Palace in Moscow.
In a speech delivered during official talks held with Putin in the Russian capital, King Salman said: “We are confident that there are vast opportunities for expanding and diversifying economic cooperation between our countries and establishing an economic, commercial and investment base in order to increase exploitation and consolidate the relative advantages in the interest of the two countries.”For his part, Putin highlighted the importance of the King’s visit to Russia and the talks made between the two sides, describing them as rich and trustworthy. “I am confident that the visit will give a fresh impetus to the development of bilateral relations between the two countries,” Putin said. In Russia, King Salman also called on Iran to “stop interference in the region’s affairs and destabilizing the region,” stressing that the security and stability of the Gulf region and the Middle East are an absolute necessity for achieving international security and stability. The King concluded his speech by officially inviting the Russian president to visit the Kingdom and to continue consultations towards the issues of common interest and enhance bilateral cooperation between the two countries in all fields. The Saudi-Russian Summit saw the signing of a number of memorandums of understanding and joint investment deals worth several billion dollars for the establishment of Saudi-Russian platforms in the fields of military, energy, space, commerce, communication, technology, culture and investment. Meanwhile, during a joint press conference with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir said that Saudi Arabia and Russia agree on the need to preserve Syria’s territorial integrity and state institutions.The Saudi foreign minister also uncovered that his country is working closely with Russia on uniting Syria’s opposition. “We are certain that the further strengthening of Russian-Saudi relations will have a positive impact on strengthening stability and security in the region and the world,” Al-Jubeir said.

Saudi Arabia Dismantles ISIS Cell

Asharq Al-Awsat/October 06/17/Riyadh- Saudi Arabia said it had dismantled an ISIS cell in a pre-emptive security operation in Riyadh. Two were killed – one suicide bomber blew himself up – and five others were arrested in raids on three locations, the Presidency of State Security said in a statement.
Saudi security forces seized in the operation Kalashnikov rifles, live ammunition, and chemicals used in the manufacture of explosives. An official in the presidency of State Security revealed that the terrorist plot was to target two headquarters of the Ministry of Defense in Riyadh. According to the statement, the raids targeted three sites belonging to the ISIS cell, one in the neighborhood of Al Rimal east of the city of Riyadh, where a factory to manufacture explosive belts and devices was found. When trapped in the area, a suicide bomber blew himself up with an explosive belt. “The second location is a residential apartment located in the Nimar neighborhood, west of Riyadh. The security forces killed an armed terrorist in the apartment after he refused to surrender. The safety of all the residents and the armed forces were secured,” added the statement. It continued, “The third location is a stable for horses located in the neighborhood of Al-Ghanamiya in the suburb of Al-Ha’ir, south of Riyadh. The cell used it for meetings and planning their terrorist activities. The names of the five members of the cell will not be disclosed at the present time. Containers of distilled water, inflammable liquids and heavy iron molds used to assemble explosives were also found.”The Presidency of State Security stressed that it will defy any terrorist plots with God’s help and with the cooperation of citizens and residents.

Salameh Shows Optimism about Solving Libya Crisis after Meeting Haftar
Asharq Al-Awsat/October 06/17/Cairo- The United Nations special envoy to Libya Ghassan Salameh met on Thursday with Commander of Libyan National Army Khalifa Haftar in the eastern city of Benghazi. On its official Facebook page, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) confirmed Salameh’s meeting with Haftar, who is affiliated with Libya’s Tobruk-based parliament. In a series of tweets, Salemeh said that Marshal Haftar expressed support for him and the UN Action Plan for Libya, and he informed him of his views for advancing political process. Salemeh also updated Haftar on outcomes of House of Representatives and High Council of State Joint Drafting Committee meetings in Tunisia and next steps to resolve the Libyan crisis.On Wednesday, Salameh met with Aqila Saleh, speaker of the Tobruk-based parliament, which announced that its members will be invited to attend two meetings at its headquarters next week to discuss conclusions reached during the meetings that were held in Tunisia. The UN envoy’s sudden round of shuttle diplomacy comes only two weeks after he proposed a “roadmap” for resolving Libya’s ongoing political crisis. In a common matter, Head of the High Council of the State Abdulrahman al-Suwaihli is set to meet Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano in Italy’s capital, Rome, today. Alfano will receive Suwaihili at the Foreign Ministry’s headquarters in Rome, according to Italian news agency Aki, which also said that Italy has received several Libyan officials; the most recent was Ahmed Maiteeq, Vice Chairman of the Presidential Council of Libya and Deputy Prime Minister of Libya, preceded by Field Marshal Haftar. Moreover, during the celebration of the 44th anniversary of the war of October 6, 1973, Haftar pledged in a statement, issued by the Libyan National Army Command on Thursday, that “we, as military personnel, will not waste our historical gains, and we will not let go of any inch of our land.”The statement said that “the Libyan national army stands with all the glory and pride before one of the Arab nation’s eternal memories made by the Egyptian army, and we had the honor to participate in it.”“It is a glorious memory in the history of the Arab armies, which played an active role in proving the power and strength of the Arab soldier.”In the field, militant clashes between armed militias renewed overnight in Tripoli on Wednesday, where residents and security sources said skirmishes took place near the Qasr Bin Ghashir district south of the city. The Government of National Accord, which is supposed to manage the affairs of the capital, made no comment on the clashes that are the second in a week.

Renewed De-Escalation Deal in Homs, Hama’s Countryside

Asharq Al-Awsat/October 06/17/Beirut, Ankara — Syrian opposition factions in the countryside of Homs and Hama announced on Thursday signing a renewed “de-escalation” agreement with Russia, six weeks after the Syrian regime breached a similar deal. A delegation of the Syrian opposition negotiators met with a Russian delegation at Al-Dar al-Kabeer crossing and agreed on an immediate ceasefire and the opening of humanitarian corridors,” a negotiation committee created by opposition factions announced on Thursday. The delegation of opposition negotiators also submitted to the Russian side a list of over 12,000 regime-held detainees from across the province, and received “a pledge that Russia is willing to seriously work on their release.”Leading opposition representative Osama Abu Zeid told Asharq Al-Awsat on Thursday that the agreement was preceded last week by a series of meetings held between the two sides without the presence of any representatives from the Syrian regime. “The agreement, similar to previous agreements signed in other regions, did not include any deal concerning the deportation of civilians and armed fighters from their villages or the handing over of weapons,” Abu Zeid said.
He said that the negotiation committee told the Russian mediator that it completely rejects opening the Homs-Hama international road, which constitutes a part of the Aleppo-Damascus international railway. However, the regime insists on opening it, prompting the opposition to note violations of the agreement only hours after it was singed. Last August, Al-Ghad, a Syrian political opposition group based in Cairo and headed by Ahmad Jabra, brokered a deal between opposition factions and the Damascus government, sponsored by Egypt and Russia in the northern countryside of the Homs province. However, days after the deal was announced, Syrian warplanes conducted airstrikes on agricultural regions in the area, violating the agreement.Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayip Erdogan announced on Thursday that the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) would be positioned within Idlib.“In the upcoming days, the relevant departments will take the necessary steps. A division of duties has been made regarding the de-escalation zones. Steps will be taken to ensure the safety and security of the residents,” Erdogan said on his return flight from a one-day trip to Iran. The Turkish president added that TAF would be positioned within the borders of Idlib, while the Russian armed forces will be positioned outside its borders.

Spain Apologizes to Injured Catalans, Urges Elections
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/October 06/17/A Spanish government official Friday offered the first apology to Catalans injured by police during their outlawed independence vote as the sides showed tentative signs of seeking an exit from the crisis. In Spain's deepest political crisis in decades, Catalan leaders had threatened to declare independence unilaterally and Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy vowed to stop them, rejecting calls for mediation. The worsening standoff raised fears of further unrest in the northeastern region, a tourist-friendly land of 7.5 million people that accounts for a fifth of Spain's economy. But Friday saw the first signs the sides may be willing to step back from the brink in a political conflict that threatens to destabilize Europe. After days of ill-tempered rhetoric, the central government said it regretted last Sunday's injuries and suggested Catalonia should hold a regional election to settle the crisis. Catalan government minister Santi Vila, a close of ally of regional president Carles Puigdemont, meanwhile told broadcaster Rac1 that his side could consider a "ceasefire" in the dispute, to avoid a further crackdown by Madrid.
Apology for injuries
Puigdemont postponed an appearance in the regional parliament at which some leaders were hoping for a declaration of independence, a spokesman said.
Spain's central government apologized on behalf of police to people hurt in last Sunday's referendum disturbances. "I can do nothing but regret it, apologize on behalf of the officers who intervened," said the government's representative in Catalonia, Enric Millo. "I am very sad, very sorry, we deeply regret that we have arrived at this situation, it has been very hard, everything that we have experienced and seen these past few days," he said. Central government spokesman Ignacio Mendez de Vigo also said later he "regretted" the injuries. "It would be good to start mending this fracture... through regional elections," he told a news conference.
'Sedition' claims
In Madrid meanwhile, Catalonia's police chief and two prominent separatist leaders avoided being remanded in custody at a court hearing Friday over sedition accusations. The court summons raised tensions, but despite the gravity of the accusations the court did not issue a custodial order that could have further escalated the dispute. Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sanchez, leaders of Catalonia's two biggest pro-independence civil groups, and regional police chief Josep Lluis Trapero walked free from the preliminary hearing at the National Court in Madrid. A court official told AFP the judge had ordered no custody or other cautionary measures against them pending an investigation into the accusations. The two civil leaders were accused of sedition for their role in unrest during protests in Barcelona last month.Trapero's force was accused of failing to rein in the protesters. "We are convinced that sooner rather than later the Spanish state will have to sit down for a dialogue" with the Catalan regional government, Cuixart said. The government says it will not join in any talks or accept mediation until the Catalans abandon their independence drive.
Secession session
Spain's Constitutional Court on Thursday ordered the suspension of a session scheduled for Monday in the Catalan parliament at which some leaders have called for an independence declaration. If Catalonia declares independence, Spain could respond by suspending the region's existing autonomous status and imposing direct rule from Madrid.
Economic stakes
In spite of the government apology on Friday, the government in Madrid pushed ahead with a measure to pressure Catalonia economically. It passed a decree to make it quicker for businesses to shift their legal domiciles away from one region to another. Catalonia's second-biggest bank said Thursday it was shifting its legal headquarters out of the region due to the turbulence. Catalonia's biggest lender CaixaBank was also set to hold discussions on Friday about possibly shifting its legal domicile out of the region, a source close to the matter told AFP. With its own language and cultural traditions, demands for independence in Catalonia date back centuries but have surged during recent years of economic crisis. Footballers speak out Barcelona Football Club, a powerful symbol of Catalan identity, and its captain Andres Iniesta called for dialogue to settle the crisis. "Do it for all of us. We deserve to live in peace," Iniesta wrote on Facebook. His Spain team mate and Real Madrid rival Sergio Ramos said he hoped the crisis will be "resolved as soon as possible."He spoke at a news conference ahead of Friday night's World Cup qualifier against Albania. But Ramos also said "hats off" to Spain's King Felipe, who angered Catalan leaders by calling them to drop their independence drive.

Syria Regime Enters IS-Held Town in 'Severe Blow' to IS
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/October 06/17/Regime forces Friday broke into the eastern town of Mayadeen, one of the Islamic State group's last bastions in Syria, backed by Russian air raids taking a deadly toll on civilians. Mayadeen in the oil-rich eastern province of Deir Ezzor is seen as the jihadist group's "security and military capital" in Syria, and its loss would deal "a severe blow" to the jihadists, according to a Syrian military source. Over the course of months of successive defeats, Mayadeen and nearby Albu Kamal on the Iraqi border have taken in IS fighters fleeing the battle to the north for Raqa city in the face of an offensive launched by U.S.-backed Kurdish and Arab forces. "With support from Russian aviation, regime forces entered Mayadeen and took control of several buildings in the west of the town," Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told AFP.
Mayadeen, which the jihadists have controlled since 2014, sits on the western bank of the Euphrates River, between provincial capital Deir Ezzor, where the jihadists still hold several districts, and the border with Iraq. IS remains in control of half of Deir Ezzor province, despite advances by President Bashar al-Assad's forces and a separate offensive against the jihadists by the Kurdish-Arab alliance. The Observatory said the target of the regime advance was to recapture Al-Omar oilfield held by IS to the northeast of Mayadeen that was destroyed in US-led coalition air strikes in 2015. The jihadists had been drawing oil sale revenues from the field of between $1.7 million and $5.1 million a month, according to the coalition.
Civilians killed in air strikes
The advances against IS in Deir Ezzor have cost a heavy civilian death toll from Russian and coalition air raids. The Observatory said Russian air strikes on Thursday night killed 14 people, including three children, fleeing across the Euphrates on rafts near Mayadeen. Moscow has been carrying out relentless air strikes in support of its ally Damascus targeting both IS in Deir Ezzor province and rival jihadists led by al-Qaida's former Syria affiliate in Idlib province in the northwest. IS has seen its self-declared "caliphate" straddling Syria and Iraq shrink steadily over the past two years and has lost all but a few of its main hubs in both Arab states. On Wednesday, another Russian air strike killed 38 civilians trying to flee the fighting in Deir Ezzor province, according to the Observatory. The Observatory relies on a network of sources inside Syria, and says it determines whose planes carry out raids according to type, location, flight patterns and munitions used. It has reported hundreds of civilians killed in anti-IS operations in Deir Ezzor and Raqa. On Tuesday, it said a U.S.-led coalition strike in Raqa killed at least 18 civilians. Russia has not acknowledged any civilian deaths from its strikes since it intervened in Syria in 2015, and dismisses the Observatory's reporting as biased. On Thursday, the Red Cross said Syria was experiencing its worst levels of violence since the battle for the country's second city Aleppo late last year."For the past two weeks, we have seen an increasingly worrying spike in military operations that correlates with high levels of civilian casualties," said Marianne Gasser, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross delegation in Syria.

Tens of Thousands in Kurd City for Iraq ex-President's Funeral
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/October 06/17/Tens of thousands of people gathered Friday for the funeral of Iraqi former president Jalal Talabani, in an emotional send-off for the veteran of the struggle for Kurdish self-rule. Talabani died in Germany on Tuesday aged 83, barely a week after an Iraqi Kurdish vote for independence which has deepened divisions between Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region and Baghdad. Central government figures and Iraqi Kurdish leaders including longtime Kurdish rival Massud Barzani attended a funeral ceremony at the airport of Sulaimaniyah, Talabani's longtime fiefdom in Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region. After the ceremony, a vast crowd carrying portaits of the leader and the green flags of his Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) blocked the funeral procession as it headed from the airport to the great mosque of Sulaimaniyah. Many wept and some tried to kiss the car carrying his coffin, which took three hours to reach the mosque. Talabani was later buried near his office and his home. It is the first time since the fall of royalty in 1958 that the burial of a president in Iraq has aroused such fervor, as many of Talabani's predecessors were executed or forced into exile. During a decades-long political career, Talabani was a key figure in Iraqi Kurdish politics. He later became Iraq's first federal president of Kurdish origin, serving from 2005 to 2014. Barzani, president of the autonomous Kurdish region, and his prime minister Nechirvan Barzani waited at the airport as Talabani's coffin arrived on a flight from Germany despite a Baghdad-imposed ban on international flights into the Kurdish region. A red carpet and a guard of honor stood on the tarmac as his widow Hero and two sons alighted from the plane. Iraqi President Fuad Massum, also a Kurd, Interior Minister Qassem al-Araji, a Shiite, and parliament speaker Salim al-Juburi, a Sunni Arab, represented the Baghdad government. They were joined by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Kurdish representatives from Iran, Syria and Turkey. Barzani and Massum each placed a large wreath of white flowers near Talabani's coffin, which was draped in the red, white, green and yellow colors of the Kurdish flag.
Week of mourning
The Iraqi national anthem and then the Kurdish anthem were played, before the coffin was taken to the city's grand mosque. Earlier this week, Barzani said he had lost "a friend and a brother" and announced a week of mourning during which Kurdish flags would be flown at half-mast. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, a fierce opponent of last week's referendum, hailed Talabani for his role in "building a federal Iraq." Talabani had "described Iraq as a bouquet made up of several flowers," he said, referring to the country's different communities. In Sulaimaniyah, Talabani was known affectionately as Mam (Uncle) Jalal. Born in 1933 in the rustic village of Kalkan in the mountains, as a young man he was quickly seduced by the Kurdish struggle for a homeland to unite a people scattered across Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria. After studying law at Baghdad University and doing a stint in the army, Talabani took to the hills in a first uprising against the Iraqi government in 1961. But he famously fell out with Barzani after the latter sued for peace with Baghdad -- the start of a long and costly internecine feud among Iraqi Kurds. Decades later, he won plaudits for his efforts as head of state to build bridges between Iraq's warring factions at the height of sectarian bloodletting between the Sunni and Shiite communities. Talabani's death came after Iraq's Kurds voted 92.7 percent in favor of independence in the September 25 referendum. The vote was rejected as illegal by the federal government in Baghdad as well as by Iraq's neighbors. Baghdad retaliated last week by banning all international flights in and out of the Kurdish autonomous region except for humanitarian cases. But Prime Minister Abadi said Thursday he did not want an armed conflict with Iraqi Kurds, adding that "federal authority must prevail". He appealed to Kurdish peshmerga forces to work with the Iraqi army "as we have worked together against Daesh (the Islamic State group), to guarantee citizens' safety."

HRW Says Aid Workers Helped Iraq Point Out IS Families
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/October 06/17/Aid workers running camps for people who fled fighting in Iraq have helped authorities identify families suspected of links to the Islamic State group, Human Rights Watch said Friday. "In mid-September, security officials told several international and local organizations... to draw up lists of so-called 'ISIS families' so they can 'keep an eye on them,'" HRW researcher Belkis Wille said, using another name for the group. Many relatives of IS jihadists fled as the group suffered a string of defeats at the hands of Iraqi forces and an international coalition, most notably the fall of its Iraqi bastion Mosul in July. Some have sought refuge in camps run by aid groups south of Iraq's second city. "Several camp management teams told me they have already provided these lists, which include hundreds of families in camps that are housing at least 15,000 families displaced by recent fighting," Wille said. "It is disturbing enough to see security forces punishing families for the actions of their relatives, but it is particularly troubling to see aid workers helping them violate the rights of these families," she said. Wille urged humanitarian workers to "insist on the principles of neutrality and independence and avoid complicity in efforts to impose collective punishment on women and children." Rights group Refugees International also warned this week that Iraqi women and girls "perceived or alleged to be affiliated with ISIS are reportedly being detained and subject to sexual exploitation and abuse" by Iraqi authorities.

Russian Strikes Kill 14 Civilians in Eastern Syria
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/October 06/17/Russian air strikes killed 14 civilians as they were crossing the Euphrates river near the jihadist-held town of Mayadeen in eastern Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Friday. "They were crossing the river on makeshift rafts in a village south of Mayadeen," Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said, adding that three children were among those killed overnight. Russia has in recent days intensified its air raids in support of Syrian regime forces battling jihadists across the country. Abdel Rahman said the civilians were fleeing the village of Mahkan, south of Mayadeen, which lies about 420 kilometres (260 miles) east of Damascus and is one of the Islamic State group's main remaining bastions. Mayadeen has been under IS control since 2014, when the group swept across swathes of Iraq and Syria and proclaimed a "caliphate", but regime forces this week advanced to within five kilometres (three miles) of the town.

Freeing Raqa of Last IS Holdouts May Take 'Weeks', French Minister Says
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/October 06/17/The battle to flush the Islamic State group of its last holdouts in the Syrian city of Raqa could drag on for "weeks", French Defence Minister Florence Parly said Friday. "It's probably a question of weeks," she told France Inter radio, adding: "It's a slow, difficult battle but which is nonetheless effective."The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters, stormed IS's Syrian bastion in June and has since wrested 90 percent of the city from the jihadists. Parly said the continuing fight for the city centre was "obviously the hardest". France is part of the US-led coalition that has been pounding IS positions in Iraq and Syria from the air in order to help local forces flush out the extremists. Parly estimated that around 500 French jihadists remained in Iraq or Syria. "Many are thrown onto the frontlines. Those who want to flee are forced by Daesh to fight," she said, using an Arabic acronym for IS.

Israel to Ease Holiday Restrictions for Palestinians
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/October 06/17/Israel on Friday decided to ease restrictions on Palestinians entering during the Jewish Sukkot holiday, which began Wednesday, the army said. On Tuesday, the army said crossings from the West Bank and Gaza into Israel would be closed to Palestinians for 11 days until midnight on October 14. But on Friday they decided those with pre-existing work permits would be allowed in "according to the needs of the market", an army spokeswoman told AFP. The decision applies to Palestinians working in agriculture and hospitals, according to media reports. Tens of thousands of Palestinians work inside Israel, where they can find higher salaries. Israel, which controls access to the Palestinian territories, regularly closes them off during Jewish holidays, citing security fears.
But the closure announced Tuesday was unusual in its length.
Israeli media saw it as a reaction to a September 26 attack at the entrance of a West Bank settlement in which three people were killed. The Palestinian attacker, who was shot dead, had a permit to work inside the settlement and the incident raised fear of attacks during the holiday period. Sukkot, which continues until October 12, commemorates the Jewish journey through the Sinai after their exodus from Egypt. This year, it is followed by a weekend. The holiday sees thousands of worshipers head to the Wailing Wall, one of the holiest sites for Jews in the Old City of Jerusalem, to pray. The location is close to Islam's third holiest site, the Haram al-Sharif compound, known to the Jews as the Temple Mount, which was the focus of angry protests in July after Israeli forces limited access over the killing of two police officers.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on October 06-07/17
Qatar’s economy in a downward spiral
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/ArabNews/October 06/17
Qatar attempts to paint a picture of a national economy unaffected by the diplomatic dispute with its neighbors Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain. Yet the latest economic data and financial statistics reveal a very different story. Qatar’s economic sectors, industries and major financial institutions have been considerably impacted by the boycott of Doha over its alleged support of terror groups. First of all, Qatar’s gross domestic product (GDP), which was expected to grow by 3.1 percent before the crisis, will grow by just 2.5 percent in 2017, according to economists surveyed by Bloomberg in August. Doha’s fiscal deficit for 2017 is currently expected to increase to 5.1 percent of GDP, up from 4.6 percent, the economists forecast. Fitch Ratings in August downgraded Qatar’s sovereign credit rating, while other ratings agencies including Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s have also revised their positions in the fallout of the diplomatic crisis. In July, Moody’s reduced its outlook on Qatar to negative from stable, and downgraded the forecast for three major institutions including Qatar Petroleum (QP).
Qatar’s stock market has also been hit. The index on Wednesday sank to a five-year low, bringing total losses, since four other Arab states broke off ties with Doha on June 5, to nearly 18 percent.
Qatari industries to have been significantly impacted include tourism and transport. According to a Fitch report in August, the number of passengers carried by Qatar’s national airline had dropped by 10 percent since the start of the diplomatic row. Although Qatari leaders have attempted to show that other countries such as Turkey and Iran are providing Doha with the required imports, food and beverage prices climbed 4.5 percent from a year earlier in July, their fastest increase since at least 2014. This is due to the fact that other countries cannot offer as competitive prices as other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members do.It is in Doha’s long-term interests to change its policies in order to restore ties with other Arab countries.Qatar has approximately $340 billion in reserves to address the negative impacts on its economy, but this will not resolve the underlying issue. Furthermore, given the gloomy outlook, Qatar will increasingly find it difficult to attract foreign investment. According to Qatar Central Bank data from late July, net foreign reserves dropped by $10.4 billion in June. Qatar has been forced to deposit billions of dollars into its banks. But this is unlikely to resolve the underlying problem as foreign reserves continue to decline, and more cash is leaving Qatar’s local and commercial banks. In a nutshell, the negative economic trend in Qatar cannot continue for long. Use of Doha’s reserves and new deals with other countries will not address the major financial problems at play. Qatar’s economic outlook will continue to decline if the Gulf crisis persists. It is therefore in Qatar’s long-term interests to change its policies in order to restore ties with other GCC members. Otherwise, sooner or later, the downward financial trend will lead to major domestic discontent and resistance, endangering the Qatari leaders’ hold on power.
• Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh

Why do they only focus on our terrorists?

Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/October 06/17
Is terrorism limited to a specific culture?
People have been killed and security has been compromised under religious, ethnic, nationalist, leftist or even environmental excuses. Take the American Animal Liberation Front as an example as it is listed a terrorist organization by the FBI itself. Following the recent Las Vegas attack in which a criminal terrorist named Stephen Paddock killed 59 people and injured 500 others, columnist Thomas Friedman wrote an op-ed in the New York Times entitled “If Only Stephen Paddock Were a Muslim.” Friedman wrote: “If only Stephen Paddock had been a Muslim … If only he had shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’ before he opened fire on all those concertgoers in Las Vegas … If only he had been a member of ISIS.”Friedman then sheds light on a dark aspect and notes that the media played a substantial role in shifting attention to Islamic and Arab countries in particular while ignoring what other active terrorist groups are doing in the US.
The op-ed was shared by media outlets across the world, particularly by the Arab media due to its significant aspects.
American “local” terrorism
Let’s take a quick look at the map of American “local” terrorism as categorized by American official security institutions. One example is the Army of God whose member Eric Robert Rudolph planted a bomb in the Olympic stadium in Atlanta in 1996 killing two and injuring over a 100 people.
There is also the Black Liberation Army whose members hijacked a Delta Air Lines Flight in 1972. This organization is a terrorist group that allegedly defends African Americans. Confronting evil must be on the same pace whether here or there. However, what’s happening here is frankly deeper and more dangerous and complicated. This is in addition to the most famous terrorist and racist organization the Klu Klux Klan which was established in 1865. The KKK is the biggest white-supremacist and racist organization and it masters terrorism across the world not just in the US.
There’s also been terrorists in Europe as the case with the Norwegian Anders Behring Breivik who in 2011 killed more than 80 people in Norway for right-wing, nationalist Christian reasons.  All these “facts” must not make us (Muslim communities) sleep tight.
Harming Muslims, non-Muslims
Another fact is that most of the murder and destruction happening in the name of God – and which God is innocent of – is being unfortunately carried out by groups that raise Islamic slogans. Some of these groups are al-Qaeda, ISIS, Ansar Bait al-Maqdis in Sinai, Al-Jama'a al-Islamiyyah al-Muqatilah in Libya, Mali’s, Niger’s and Algeria’s groups, Boko Haram, the Iraqi Popular Mobilization, the Lebanese Hezbollah, Harakat al-Nujaba, Fatemiyoun, League of Righteous People, Liwa Abu al-Fadhal al-Abbas, the Revolutionary Guards, the Quds Force and Houthi gangs. All these groups as well as others kill and destroy in the name of religion. They harm Muslims first as well as non-Muslims. Confronting evil must be on the same pace whether here or there. However, what’s happening here is frankly deeper and more dangerous and complicated.

Threats to Kurds made independence referendum inevitable

Huda al-Husseini/Al Arabiya/October 06/17
An American official asked President of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region Massoud Barzani why they held the referendum now and why they rejected all demands to postpone it. Barzani told his American guest that Baghdad’s government began to receive heavy and advanced weapons from the US, including military jets, which means that in few years, the balance will be in favor of the Iraqi army. Barzani also told the American official what worries him and said he expects “the Shiites, supported by Iran, to win and the Shiites to be defeated.” He said: “The (Sunnis’) cities like Anbar and Mosul are all destroyed, ISIS was defeated and the Shiite ‘Popular Mobilization’ has emerged. By doing a small calculation, we can see that no one will stay in the face of the Iraqi government and (the Popular Mobilization). With an armed army, the spikes will be directed against us to eliminate us. This is why we should be ahead of time and call for an independence referendum.”
This American official told me that Barzani refused Iraqi commitments and promises as he does not trust Baghdad. American guarantees came a night before the referendum as they asked the Kurds and the Iraqis to sit for unconditional negotiations to address the matters which concern them both, including the independence. The Americans proposed to sign a pledge to commit to this proposal and to the negotiations’ results. Meanwhile, Iraq Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi said he will respect the Kurds’ desire. When Barzani heard about the proposal, he said it came in late, especially that it included postponing the referendum.Barzani told his guest: “I mobilized the entire Kurdish street. They look forward to this referendum and view it as their life and future. I cannot tell them it’s postponed and if I do, I have to find an island to resort to because I will lose my people’s trust.”Following all the efforts he made, Barzani was not willing to lose what he achieved. He governed for a long time and other parties began to escalate, oppose and defect. He wanted to play a historical role as a bigger leader so he called for an independence referendum. All parties, including the opposing ones, met the call and Barzani restored his leading role.
Kurds have heard nothing but threats from neighboring countries ever since the referendum was held. All these threats aim to please Baghdad’s government but who can punish an entire region with 5 million people?
Role of Saudi Arabia
This is where the role of Saudi Arabia which has good ties with Baghdad, Abadi and the Kurdistan region comes. Saudi Arabia is the only country capable of inviting both Abadi and Barzani to negotiate under its supervision. It’s said that Abadi has become accepting of the idea of a confederal Iraq. This must be encouraged because this system grants Arab Sunnis land, rights and existence in the Arabic Iraq and it decreases Iranian influence. In a confederal Iraq, Kurds’ lands will neighbor Sunnis’ lands and they will form a linked entity that’s parallel to Shiite lands. This extended land can pave way to distribute oil from North Iraq through Sunni lands and to Jordan and it can split the Iranian “extension” from Iraq to Syria and Lebanon through Hezbollah. Regional central governments have rejected the Kurdistan referendum but Kurds in the region see it as the first sign of the domino effects on Kurdish separatist movements in the four countries where there are Kurdish presence. The Kurds in Iraq voted for a free Kurdistan. Kurds in Syria are implementing a plan to establish a Kurdish parliamentarian regime in Syria, and they’re doing so with America’s support. Turkey views these Kurds as terrorists. The concerned governments think the matter of deciding the Kurds’ fate and independence is not just about unity of land but it also paves way to more wars in the region where civil, ethnic and sectarian battles have been raging for years.
Criticism of the timing
The US and Europe did not criticize the referendum itself but they criticized its timing. Meanwhile, Israel supported it and some interpreted this as a sign of a “hidden American agenda” that aims to sow more divisions and weaken any opposition to American interests. Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah was disgruntled the most regarding this as he believes that everything outside the context of his opinions falls within the context of American, Saudi and Israeli directions against Iran. Last Saturday, he warned of an ‘Israeli-Palestinian peace’ that’s being looked into and warned the Palestinians agianst accepting it because any Palestinian reconciliation and any peace with Israel aims to target Iran and the axis of the Resistance. In a confederal Iraq, Kurds’ lands will neighbor Sunnis’ lands and they will form a linked entity that’s parallel to Shiite lands. This extended land can pave way to distribute oil from North Iraq through Sunni lands and to Jordan and it can split the Iranian “extension” from Iraq to Syria and Lebanon through Hezbollah. Turkey, Iran and Iraq threatened to take military action against the Kurdish Region. Rapprochement among the three countries is shallow and any possible individual or collective military act can lead to serious consequences. The biggest threat is that any military action by these countries will force the Peshmerga forces to shift their attention from fighting ISIS to fighting the new aggressor. This will give ISIS fighters a chance to gather again and neither the US nor Russia want this to happen.
Weak government in Baghdad
Despite its strict rhetoric, Baghdad’s government is weak and its record in terms of operations against ISIS is weak. The same applies to how it resolved ethnic divisions inside Iraq. Without foreign (Iranian) support, Baghdad’s government will not be able to stand in the Peshmerga’s face.
Meanwhile, the Russians have mutual interests with the Kurds in Iraq as the Kirkuk oil fields are under their control. In this case, it is probable that Damascus will keep the Kurds happy in Syria. Let’s keep in mind that last year Russia invested more than $4 billion in the energy sector in Iraq’s Kurdistan, thus surpassing the US as the biggest investor. As for Turkey, it has been allied with Barzani for a long time now. Barzani opposes the Kurdistan Workers’ Party while Turkey is the biggest economic supporter of Kurdistan. There are 1,730 Turkish companies in there. A Turkish company built the Erbil airport – which until the recent crisis, no plane landed in without a permission from Baghdad. If we review Erdogan’s moves since the crisis erupted, we can see that they did not reflect his fiery statements. His statements were full of rage but his actions have been calculated. Meanwhile, Iran closed its airspace and advised Baghdad to deploy Iraqi troops on the borders between it and Kurdistan. Erdogan may increase tariffs on Kurds to transfer their oil via Turkish territories and he may threaten to pay the oil revenues to Baghdad’s government. He will not execute any military operation in order not to jeopardize Russia’s and Turkish businessmen’s interests. A Turkish source said Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed with Erdogan the Kirkuk–Ceyhan Oil Pipeline. The Russian Rosneft company wants to keep the pipeline open. Meanwhile, Moscow thinks the revenues of the Kurdistan region’s government are a return on its investments and without the pipeline and open borders or payments from Baghdad to Erbil, the Kurdistan government will collapse thus seriously jeopardizing the Russian project.
Iran’s backyard
Iran may act against Barzani through Baghdad and the Shiite militias it controls. However, in this particular case, support will come from America and Israel, a point which Hassan Nasrallah addressed. Other countries will not hesitate to provide support and play in Iran’s backyard. Kurdistan’s problem which Barzani led up to put the four countries in a very difficult corner. If they act against the Kurds, they’d be risking a huge war that goes beyond proxy wars, and if they do not do anything, they’d be giving the Kurds in Iraq a chance to declare their freedom and their brothers in Turkey, Iran and Syria will follow suit. The end result of this path will be very bloody.Those who think the US is losing its influence in the region are wrong. Proxy wars via militias and that have prolonged for the purpose of dominating the Middle East will finally return “home” to Iran and Turkey.

After the Saudi-Russian Summit
Ghassan Charbel/Asharq Al Awsat/October 06/17
Several factors push the journalist who headed to Moscow to cover the Saudi-Russian Summit to describe it as an exceptional event. It is the first time a Saudi monarch walks into the Kremlin Palace.
The keenness of Russian President Vladimir Putin to receive the king with hospitality reflected Moscow’s wish to make this visit a green light for solid and deep relations to serve interests of both countries.
It is not restricted to the symbolic value of King Salman’s entrance to Kremlin, but the date has its significance based on political and economic facts. We are talking about two major petroleum-producing countries that are also among the G20.
It is no secret that each state knows the significance and strengths of the other. Russia is a country that overcame the collapse of the Soviet Union and came back as a dynamic strong, influential power in the international arena.
Two years ago, Russia became a key player in the Middle East because of its military intervention in Syria, and it is now seen as the sole and compulsory passage for a resolution in Syria. Russia is a permanent Security Council member and has the ability to block resolutions through its veto power. Moscow didn’t hesitate in recent years to underscore its right to use that power.
Russia also possesses nuclear powers and is achieving significant technological and scientific progress, as it wants to outrun the West in invading space. We shouldn’t forget that this country that sleeps under snow every year, also sleeps on a wealth of cultural mines not restricted to the fascinating novels.
Federal Russia is also concerned with Muslims who represent part of its nation and history – it is concerned with Muslims who have become its neighbors after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
In return, Russia is aware of the economic and political weight of the kingdom and its wide Arab, Islamic and international popularity — it is also aware that Saudi Arabia has the ability to take decisions in building ties based on its interests.
“Strategic Partnership” with the US and promising ties with China, Japan and many other states do not fend off tight relations with Russia. The Russian military intervention in Syria might have doubled Russia’s belief in the huge role Saudi Arabia could play in building a fair peaceful settlement.
In addition, Russia believes that a new and strong Saudi Arabia is under development and that Saudi Vision 2030 promises economic and social transformations whose impact will expand beyond the Saudi border. The Russian side doesn’t conceal its comfort towards the Saudi move, from confronting terrorism to waging a comprehensive war on extremism, its causes and roots. This builds a bridge between the two.
Matching policies are no more a condition for building ties in the current world. The Saudi-Russian cooperation to stabilize the oil market was encouraging. In the past two years, they discovered that modest trade doesn’t suit the available opportunities in the two countries willing to diversify economies and overcome dependence on oil.
A new approach became a must despite the different points of view towards Syria. Talks of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had their decisive role in launching the dialogue of interest and exchange. It is a policy of building bridges and discovering investment and cooperation opportunities in a way that serves both sides and reinforces the ability to tackle topics of disagreement.
The mutual desire to open a new page of cooperation was clear from the beginning. Saudi officials and investors brought with them persuasive, detailed and realistic studies that have left a positive impact on the Russian side and forecast further agreements.
The Russian keenness to let the summit be a success is pretty obvious. On the eve of the visit, Russian FM Sergei Lavrov expected – in an interview with with Asharq Al-Awsat – that the summit will be a turning point between the two countries and will take cooperation between them to a whole new level in a way that contributes to the stability of the Middle East.
Lavrov added that both states realize the fact that there are no alternative solutions for regional crises but political and diplomatic ways via a comprehensive national dialogue in line with international law.
Economy is the key and interests are the actual backbone. It is no more possible to build ties on wishes or matching circumstantial political stances. Russia’s Putin knows that the economy is the strongest general in upcoming battles and that a booming economy is a guarantor for status as well as stability and ability to compete and deliver military equipment.
Without a strong economy, military capabilities drop and major roles relapse as well. For that, opportunities must be discovered, ties must be established based on interests, education developed, modern technology possessed, expertise exchanged and development prospects opened.
The date in Kremlin was exceptional. Two countries discover dimensions of cooperation using the language of figures, mutual interests and the wish to build bridges. The essential question is about the level these ties will reach after the Kremlin date.

Why Has Qatar Chosen Defiance?
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat/October 06/17
Qatar has adopted one concept within its response to the Arab Quartet that has decided to boycott it: do all that it can to thwart their plan and force them to reconcile with it.
It has become closer to Iran and has restored relations with Hezbollah. It’s funding Houthi militias in Yemen and hostile Islamic extremist groups that oppose the boycotting countries. It has also been supporting the US Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) and wants to criminalize Saudi Arabia by accusing it of funding the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Qatar has also been pushing international organizations to hold Saudi Arabia accountable at the UN Security Council and the US Congress for its military activity in Yemen, knowing that it was part of the coalition there.
Doha is also paying huge amounts of money to anyone who speaks out against the Arab quartet.
Some may ask: Why do we denounce Qatar for doing so while it is defending itself after the quartet actually started the crisis by boycotting it?
It is true that we denounce what Doha is doing, but we are not surprised at all as this is how it secretly operated earlier. Doha, however, is now openly targeting these countries, and it has doubled its acts against them.
Hostility and confrontation practiced by Doha is not the only option since it can also accept the reality and live with it.
Qatar had three options from which to choose since the eruption of the crisis with the Arab quartet – Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.
The first option is to accept conditions and rearrange relations based on guaranteed interests. The problem will then end, and we would all live through a stable phase based on mutual respect and not interfering in each other’s affairs.
The second option, which Qatar could have chosen, is to boycott the countries, just like what the quartet states did, and just manage its affairs without them.
The third and most difficult option, and which Qatar has chosen, is to declare enmity and launch a war by confronting the four countries via international organizations and governments, form alliances, seal military deals against them, fund the four countries’ rivals and incite against them through every available platform.
The behavior of Doha’s authority is not surprising. This is what it has been doing for the past 20 years.
Qatar thinks it can impose its views on other countries regardless of their orientation and capabilities and risks of facing them.
Qatar has also paid huge sums of money to see this through. However, isn’t its concern justified? Can Qatar’s leadership really go to bed every night and rest assured that no one will overthrow it and take over power?
What Qatar is actually doing is provocation and antagonism. Its hostile activities against these four countries may force them to overthrow this leadership or support those with ambitions, and they are many.
The other truth is that no one wants to impose change by force unlike what the Qatar regime is claiming. This is due to several reasons, as for example changing regimes and arranging coups lead to a bad reputation for the country doing so.
Besides, if the quartet really wanted to stage a coup or an invasion, it would not have boycotted Qatar and let its security forces on alert 24/7.
Those angry at Qatar could have simply not sparked a battle and instead seized Doha in the dark within two hours.
The royal family, which used to conspire during tea sessions to topple regimes in the region and intimidate governments, including the quartet’s, is terrified like we’ve never seen it before. This fear of a “justified” revenge pushed it to scream out and appeal for help from every state, especially that now it’s been distanced and belittled.
It has been spending large amounts of money, like nothing we have ever seen before. The result, however, will be as I have written before; it will submit and sign, maybe behind closed doors. I think Qatar could have tried to live in isolation without Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain.
It could have been best friends with 200 other countries instead of being reckless and attacking the quartet everywhere. This behavior will eventually lead to its bankruptcy and make others lose respect for it. It may even provoke its rivals to do far more than what they are currently doing.

The Goal of Western Leaders: Avoid Change, Duck Accountability
Douglas Murray/Gatestone Institute/October 06/17
Political leaders across the Western world seem to have a clear set of priorities that we will not change, and therefore we must simply accept the problem.
There are several possible reasons for this, but the most likely is that they know that it is the policies of successive governments, including their own, that have caused such attacks to happen. If countries such as Canada, France and Finland had been more careful with their national security, these current attacks would not be happening.
In order to avoid the political repercussions that might follow any honest evaluation of our current situation, they seem to conclude, the only thing to be done is to pretend that terrorism is -- like the weather -- something that just happens to us, and that our principal problem is the bigotry of Europeans rather than another two women lying dead on our streets.
In Europe today, it is what goes unacknowledged and un-commemorated that reveals the trouble we are in.
There are plenty of public campaigns and calls by politicians to demonstrate "awareness" of things that are either non-existent problems or second-order problems. Earlier this year, for instance, the President of Austria came up with an eye-catching initiative. Addressing the ban on women wearing full-face coverings in public places, Alexander van der Bellen, the former leader of the Green Party, said:
"If this real and rampant Islamophobia continues, there will come a day where we must ask all women to wear a headscarf -- all -- out of solidarity to those who do it for religious reasons."
That day has not yet come. Non-Muslim women across Austria have not yet all been asked to wear the headscarf in solidarity with Muslim women who wear the headscarf. But it is possible that they will be asked to do so in the near future, whenever the President of Austria or another senior figure decides that "Islamophobia" has become even more "rampant" and that this requires all the women of Austria to cover their heads. By contrast, after real and deadly attacks on women across Europe, nobody knows precisely what to do.
Recently in Marseille, two women, aged 20 and 21, were walking past the Saint-Charles train station. The women -- named as Mauranne and Laura -- were cousins, one a medical student, and the other a trainee nurse. A man stabbed both of them to death, while shouting "Allahu Akbar" before each assault. This man -- who was shot dead by police -- is believed to hold a number of identities, including a Tunisian passport in the name of one Ahmed H, born in 1987.
The attack in Marseille is reminiscent of a number of attacks in Europe in recent years, not least the murder in August of two women and the wounding of eight others in the Finnish city of Turku. The perpetrator of that attack was a 22-year-old Moroccan, Abderrahman Bouanane, who had lied about his age, identity and asylum claims when he had arrived in Finland a year earlier.
After Turku, nothing changed. In the same way nothing will change after Marseille. On the same day that the latest two young women were butchered on the streets of France, an Islamist carried out an attack in Canada. In Edmonton, a 30-year-old Somali refugee stabbed a police officer and mowed down pedestrians with a van. An ISIS flag was subsequently found in the perpetrator's car. In response to the atrocity, the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, released a statement, saying:
"We cannot -- and will not -- let violent extremism take root in our communities. We know that Canada's strength comes from our diversity, and we will not be cowed by those who seek to divide us or promote fear."
This response was almost perfectly European in its framing -- and typical of the aftermath of any Islamist attack in Western Europe or North America.
It has no direction of travel other than "forward" and displays no evidence of returning to problems to think them over anew. It says simply that what has happened is because of something we will not change, and therefore we must simply accept the problem. "Diversity is our strength" is one part of this repetitious hymn-sheet. Another is to announce that we will not give in to "hate".
The lack of any other response is deeply telling. In reply to the phantom menace of "Islamophobia", political leaders across the Western world seem to have a clear set of priorities and proscriptions. So much so that they can even suggest every woman in the country changing their mode of dress to show solidarity against one alleged form of bigotry. Yet when it comes to responding to actual murders and stabbings of women and others they have nothing to say but "carry on".
There are several possible reasons for this, but the most likely is that they know that it is the policies of successive governments, including their own, that have caused such attacks to happen. If countries like Canada, France and Finland had been more careful with their national security, these current attacks would not be happening. If the Canadian Prime Minister had not decided to make such a virtue of blindly opening his country to the world, he would not have the current immigration challenges they have. If he had decided to think, "We should be careful with our future" rather than "Diversity is our strength", Canadian diversity would not have stretched to a Somali extremist.
If countries like Canada, France and Finland had been more careful with their national security, the current terrorist attacks would not be happening. Pictured: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (right) meets with France's President Emmanuel Macron (left), on July 7, 2017.
Likewise, it is only because European leaders have become so lax about their borders and entire immigration systems, that only after he stabs a number of women to death on European streets does anyone bother to find out how many identities the perpetrator holds and which parts of his claims for being in Europe are least true. Until then, it bothers Europe's politicians not a jot that so many people are wandering the continent with so many erroneous and concocted reasons for being there in the first place.
In order to avoid the political repercussions that might follow any honest evaluation of our current situation, they seem to conclude that the only thing to be done is to carry on as normal. Pretend that terrorism is -- like the weather -- something that just happens to us, and continue to pretend that our principal problem is the bigotry of Europeans rather than another two women lying dead on our streets.
*Douglas Murray, British author, commentator and public affairs analyst, is based in London, England. His latest book, an international best-seller, is "The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam."
© 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.

Palestinian "Reconciliation": Hamas Free to Fight but Now Abbas Accountable

Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/October 06/17
Abbas's new partnership with Hamas means that from this moment on, the Palestinian Authority (PA) president should be held responsible for everything that takes place inside the Gaza Strip.
Until now, Abbas was rightly absolved of any responsibility for what was happening in the Gaza Strip. He has been able to argue that because he is not there, he is not responsible if Hamas has tunnels and is building up its weaponry and firing rockets at Israel. Now, the jig is up.
Why shouldn't Hamas accept a deal that allows it to retain its security control over the Gaza Strip while Abbas's government is busy collecting garbage, paying salaries to civil servants and footing the bill for water and electricity?
Failing to hold the Palestinian Authority government -- and Abbas -- responsible means endorsing the Hezbollah model, where the Lebanese government is impotent and the real power is wielded by the Shiite terror group, Hezbollah.
Mahmoud Abbas's Palestinian Authority (PA) government is on its way back to managing civilian affairs in the Gaza Strip. Hamas, meanwhile, says it will remain in control of security and will not lay down its weapons or dismantle its security forces and militias.
Abbas's new partnership with Hamas -- the product of Egyptian mediation efforts between the two parties -- means that from this moment on, the Palestinian Authority president should now be held responsible for everything that takes place inside the Gaza Strip.
Abbas and his PA government should now be held accountable, among other things, for the fate of two Israeli civilians and the remains of IDF soldiers being held in the Gaza Strip by Hamas.
Now that the Palestinian Authority has reached a deal with Hamas, President Mahmoud Abbas should be held accountable for what goes on in Gaza. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
Abbas should also now be held responsible for any rockets that are fired from the Gaza Strip at Israel. Abbas cannot have it both ways. He cannot use the new partnership with Hamas to project himself as the legitimate president of all Palestinians, including those living in the Gaza Strip, but at the same time argue that he does not have "control on the ground." He cannot have his prime minister and government managing the day-to-day affairs of the Gaza Strip while at the same time claim that he cannot do anything about Hamas's security forces and militia.
Until now, Abbas was rightly absolved of any responsibility for what was happening in the Gaza Strip. Hamas expelled him and his Palestinian Authority from the Gaza Strip in 2007, and since then he has been able to argue that because he is not there, he is not responsible if Hamas has tunnels and is building up its weaponry and firing rockets at Israel. Fair enough.
Now, the jig is up. Abbas can no longer avoid responsibility for anything that happens inside the Gaza Strip. He demanded that Hamas dismantle its shadow government and allow the Palestinian Authority to assume its responsibilities as the sovereign power in the Gaza Strip. Hamas was clever enough to grab the opportunity. Hamas complied with his demand and cordially invited Abbas and his government back into the Gaza Strip.
What motivated Hamas? Love for Abbas? Love for Egypt? No, Hamas complied with Abbas's demand because doing so furthered its own interests. Why shouldn't Hamas go for any agreement that does not require it to make any meaningful concessions? Why shouldn't Hamas accept a deal that allows it to retain its security control over the Gaza Strip while Abbas's government is busy collecting garbage, paying salaries to civil servants and footing the bill for water and electricity?
Abbas knows that Hamas will not lay down its weapons or dismantle its security forces and armed wing, Ezaddin Al-Qassam, despite the "reconciliation" agreement and the presence of the Palestinian Authority government in the Gaza Strip.
Abbas nevertheless decided to proceed with the new "reconciliation" agreement to assert his status as the legitimate president of all Palestinians. He also went with the agreement to thwart any deal between Hamas and his arch-rival, Mohammed Dahlan. Abbas is prepared to do just about anything to prevent Dahlan, who, based the United Arab Emirates, sees himself as a potential successor to Abbas, from returning to the Palestinian political arena. The situation continues to cause Abbas sleepless nights.
Now that Abbas's government is back in the Gaza Strip, Israel and the rest of the world are entitled to hold him fully responsible for what takes place there.
Abbas's government is either the sovereign power in the Gaza Strip, or it is not. If Hamas is not going to hand over security control of the Gaza Strip to the Palestinian Authority government, then the whole "reconciliation" deal is nothing but a joke. Such an arrangement would turn Abbas into the mayor of the Gaza Strip, while Hamas remains the de facto ruler and sovereign authority there.
This is what is actually happening: Hamas wants to endorse the Hezbollah model in the Gaza Strip. Hamas wants Abbas to deal with the dirt of civilian affairs while it continues to dig out dirt for more terror tunnels.
If Abbas reached a bad deal with Hamas, that is his problem. It should not be the problem of Israel. It would be a mistake to return to the pre-2007 era, when both Abbas and his predecessor, Yasser Arafat, were sitting in the Gaza Strip while Hamas and other terror groups were firing rockets and missiles at Israel. Back then, both Abbas and Arafat were unable to stop the terror attacks against Israel even though the Palestinian Authority security forces were in charge.
Enough is enough. From now on, any government sitting in the Gaza Strip should be held fully accountable for what happens there. Failing to hold the Palestinian Authority government -- and Abbas -- responsible means endorsing the Hezbollah model, where the Lebanese government is impotent and the real power is wielded by the Shiite terror group, Hezbollah.
The Lebanese government should be held responsible for everything that happens inside that country. The Lebanese government, as the sovereign power, should be held accountable for what Hezbollah does. This is the precisely the policy that needs to be adopted now with Abbas. Israel should demand that he and his government return the bodies of the IDF soldiers. Israel should demand that he return also two Israelis held inside the Gaza Strip. Israel should demand that Abbas and his government stop building tunnels that are to be used to attack Israel.
If Abbas responds that although his government is back in the Gaza Strip he has no control over security matters, he should be called out for the bluff of the "reconciliation" deal. The PA president ought to be informed: If you are not in control and your government is not really in charge, then get out of Gaza and stop playing the role of legitimate president of the Palestinian people; you are really nothing but a puppet dangled by the leaders of Hamas.
**Bassam Tawil is a Muslim based in the Middle East.
© 2017 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

The nuclear issue isn’t the real Iranian challenge
David Ignatius/The Washington Post/October 05/17
Various cultures have different phrases for expressing the idea of having it both ways at once. “To take a swim and not get wet” is an Albanian proverb. Poles talk about “having the cookie and eating it.” Iranians want “both God and the sugar dates.”
The Trump administration has been weighing a contemporary geopolitical version of this straddle. Hard-liners have been urging the president to decertify the Iran nuclear agreement but insist that he wants to strengthen the deal, not break it. The idea is enticing politically, certainly, but it has as much chance of working as (forgive me) “washing your fur but not getting wet,” as a German aphorism puts it.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), a leading critic of the Iran deal, described this ambiguous diplomatic approach this week at the Council on Foreign Relations. “I don’t propose leaving the deal yet. I propose taking the steps necessary to obtain leverage to get a better deal.” Cotton wants decertification, but no sanctions, so that the United States can . . . what? Apparently, the idea is that U.S. pressure will convince Iran to make unilateral concessions that it refused during the 13 years the deal was being negotiated.
Magical thinking is always appealing in foreign policy, but it usually produces nothing more than fairy dust. In this case, there is no evidence that putting the agreement in limbo will bring any security benefits for the United States or Israel. It will introduce uncertainty where the United States and its allies should most demand clarity — in insisting on compliance by all sides with an agreement that caps Iran’s centrifuges and stockpiles of enriched material for at least another decade.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, hardly a dove on Iran, bluntly told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that the nuclear deal was “something that the president should consider staying with.” When pressed by Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) on whether he thought the pact was in the United States’ national-security interest, Mattis paused and answered: “Yes, Senator, I do.”
Officials speak truth to power at their own risk in President Trump’s Washington. So Mattis’s argument for sustaining what the president has called “one of the dumbest [and] most dangerous” deals was important, though the outcome of the debate still isn’t clear. It’s probably because of Mattis’s military advice, however, that Trump has dropped his campaign talk of simply tearing up the agreement.
How would Iran react? Seyed Hossein Mousavian, a former Iranian official who stays in close touch with his ex-colleagues, told me recently that if Trump doesn’t certify, but Congress doesn’t re-impose sanctions, and the other P5+1 negotiators assure full implementation, then Iran may continue to adhere to the agreement. But he cautioned that this line is opposed by some political factions in Iran that argue for suspending the pact if Trump challenges Iranian compliance.
As for the administration’s hope of forcing Iran to renegotiate the “sunset” provisions and other details of the agreement, Mousavian says that’s a nonstarter in Tehran.
The real challenge with Iran isn’t the nuclear issue, which was put in a box for at least a decade by the agreement, but Tehran’s aggressive behavior in the region. Iran and its proxies continue to destabilize the Middle East. They seek to manipulate and control nearly every major capital: Beirut, Damascus, Baghdad, Saana. According to the White House, Iranian proxies are mining the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, pointing missiles from Yemen toward Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, and seeking to carve a zone of influence on the ruins of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.
The administration claims to be focused on this big Iran problem. Would that it were so. Officials say that Trump has signed off on a broad strategy that makes Iran’s behavior the central issue going forward. But the decertification debate will probably dominate the headlines over the next weeks and months — needlessly focusing attention on the one part of the Iran problem that is capped and manageable, and defusing efforts on the real challenge.
There’s a final, crucial reason Trump should certify that Iran is complying with the nuclear deal: because it’s true. Even Cotton conceded as much this week, arguing against certification “not primarily on the grounds related to Iran’s technical compliance, but rather based on the long catalogue of the regime’s crimes and perfidy against the United States.”
A question for the Iran hawks: If the United States refuses to certify an agreement when a country is “technically” in compliance, why would any other country ever make a deal with us again? A great country keeps its word.

Are Shia Dynamics in Iraq and Lebanon Turning Against Iran?/
الديناميكية الشيعية في لبنان والعراق هي تنقلب على إيران
Hanin Ghaddar/The Washington Institute/October 05/17
If Iraqi Shia reject Tehran's call for a unified bloc in next year's elections, it could have welcome implications for the future of Iranian influence in Baghdad -- and Beirut.
Despite Hezbollah's powerful influence over Lebanon, much of the country's Shia community looks to the Iraqi holy city of Najaf for religious guidance and leadership. Although Najaf was never politically involved in Lebanon the way Iran is, the Shia institutions that call it home were once the only religious -- and thereby social -- reference for Lebanese Shia. Over the years, Hezbollah has used its power to turn many Shia toward Iran's Supreme Leader for guidance, but Najaf's influence endured. Prominent Lebanese religious figures such as Muhammad Mahdi Shamseddine, Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah, and Hani Fahs all had strong connections to Najaf, and their Iraqi-influenced institutions and legacy still hold considerable sway over Lebanon's Shia scene.
The United States and other outside actors have never fully utilized this Iraqi connection when looking to help Lebanon and curb Iran's influence there. Yet new political developments in Iraq could give them a golden opportunity to do so.
Since 2003, Iraqi Shia leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has largely avoided taking a stance on domestic or Lebanese politics, preferring to stick with religious and social issues. He did make a notable exception in 2006 after Lebanon's summer war with Israel, when Hezbollah was facing pressure to disarm. At the time, he called on Lebanese clerics to heed his fatwa about abstaining from political office, which many likely interpreted as a shot across Hezbollah and Iran's bow; he also said that Lebanese Shia should choose their own future without truckling to Iran.
The Amal Movement -- Hezbollah's reluctant coalition partner -- publicly agreed with Sistani's point, and other independent or anti-Hezbollah Shia leaders no doubt concurred as well. In general, however, these same leaders believe that their ineffectiveness in pushing for change in Lebanon is at least partly rooted in Najaf's "hands-off" strategy during decisive moments, including the 2005 Cedar Revolution and the events of May 2008. Yet Najaf's willingness to enter the ring may be shifting ahead of Iraq's 2018 parliamentary elections.
Iran wants Iraqi Shia parties to enter the election as one unit under the banner of the National Alliance, a coalition that will reportedly name its new leader soon. Last month, following a series of Iraqi official visits to Saudi Arabia, Tehran dispatched Expediency Council chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi to Baghdad. The surprising visit was more than just a chance to convey Iran's concerns about supposed Saudi political meddling -- Shahroudi also wanted to meet with Shia leaders in an attempt to unify them ahead of the elections. He did in fact meet with several, including Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, Islamic Dawa Party leader Nouri al-Maliki, and Ammar al-Hakim, who recently defected from the Iranian-supported Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq to head the new National Wisdom Movement.
But Shahroudi was not welcome in Najaf; he could not arrange meetings with any of the four major religious authorities there. Leading Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr also refused to meet with him.
Another obstacle to Tehran's political plans in Iraq is the wave of anti-Iranian sentiment that followed Hezbollah's recent deal with Islamic State forces in Syria. In August, 308 IS fighters and their families were permitted to evacuate the Qalamoun area along the Lebanon-Syria border to the town of Abu Kamal near the Iraq-Syria border. The operation was carried out using buses and ambulances sent by the Assad regime in collaboration with Hezbollah. This decision outraged Abadi and numerous Iraqi Shia political figures and activists, who considered the deal both dangerous for Iraq and offensive to its people. The resulting tension reached Lebanon's Shia as well, including Hezbollah supporters, some of whom vociferously criticized the group for dealing with IS. This in turn led to an unusual social media dialogue between Iraqi and Lebanese Shia.
Thus, while Iran is quite confident about its ability to influence Lebanon's May 2018 parliamentary elections, getting its way in Iraq's April 2018 contest may prove more challenging. Sistani's rhetoric has recently changed, while Abadi, Sadr, and Hakim have all expressed interest in distancing their country from Iran and emphasizing Iraqi national identity rather than Shia identity in their campaigns. Najaf clearly agrees with this view and will probably support any Shia coalition that goes the Iraqi nationalist route.
Compared to their Lebanese counterparts, Iraqi Shia seem more willing and able to stand up to Iran. This may be partly due to the powerful presence of major religious institutions in Najaf and Karbala, the city that holds their collective Shia history. Moreover, despite all their difficulties, Iraqi Shia still see their country as prosperous and independent. Yet Lebanese Shia have failed to compose a national identity of their own, instead associating themselves with the Palestinians, the Syrians, and now the Iranians to protect themselves against marginalization and injustice. Even those factions who actively oppose Hezbollah have mainly presented themselves as a Shia rather than Lebanese alternative.
To foster a viable alternative to Hezbollah, the international community has persistently tried to work with such factions inside Lebanon, investing copious funds in development, social, and political projects that openly criticized the group and its Iranian patron. Until very recently, however, Lebanese Shia were not really looking for a political alternative. The majority of them were satisfied with Hezbollah's "resistance" rhetoric and the political power that it provided, viewing the group as an acceptable authority that provided social services to needy Shia. In contrast, foreign donors were giving money to many figures who were not considered credible or reliable by the Shia community, and there seemed to be no real strategy for strengthening mechanisms that would give Shia a proper place in Lebanese civil society.
More broadly, anti-Hezbollah initiatives failed because they tried to replace one Shia group with another instead of pushing a Lebanese nationalist platform. This was a mistake -- one that Iraqi Shia may now be ready to avoid after years of watching the region's sectarian fragmentation benefit Iran.
Indeed, as more Shia civil groups in Iraq come to embrace their nationalist identity, some of their leaders -- particularly Abadi, Sadr, and Hakim -- could be considering an alternative political alliance. Despite their differences and weaknesses, these leaders may strike Iraqi Shia as a better choice than Maliki and the Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs), who are widely associated with corruption, violence, and sectarianism. Although it might be very difficult for these men to see eye-to-eye and actually win the elections, supporting such a movement may be the best bet for Washington and its allies given their continued lack of a long-term strategy for countering Iran in the region.
The future of Iranian influence in Iraq will depend on the outcome of next year's election, and if Tehran's favored candidates do not win out as a dominant bloc, it will feel the consequences in Lebanon as well as Iraq. Accordingly, the international community should consider several steps in the coming months: encouraging an Iraqi political alliance that can challenge Iran-backed candidates; empowering Abadi and state institutions; emboldening Najaf to flex itself politically; and calling for more cross-sectarian cooperation. If Shia parties remain separate or ally with Sunni, Kurdish, or secular blocs to form a cross-sectarian government (an idea that both Abadi and Sadr are considering), they could strengthen U.S.-Iraqi cooperation, raise debates about the fate of the PMUs, and generally make things more challenging for Iran.
The prospects for positively affecting Lebanon's election are much dimmer, but the international community should not lose contact with independent Shia there given Najaf's potential willingness to spur them into future action. Amal leader Nabih Berri might not come back for another turn as Speaker of the Parliament, so foreign outreach should focus on cultivating new partners -- especially ones who believe that the gap between Amal and Hezbollah is growing because of the Syria war and Iran's increased influence. Hezbollah is still the only real alternative for Lebanese Shia at the moment, but that may not be the case indefinitely if respected Shia authorities in Najaf and elsewhere increase the pressure on Iran and its regional proxies.
**Hanin Ghaddar, a veteran Lebanese journalist and researcher, is the Friedmann Visiting Fellow at The Washington Institute.

Reform in Iran: Wetsminster Style or Imamate?
Amir Taheri/Asharq Al Awsat/October 06/17
London- It was almost five years ago when Iran’s “Supreme Guide” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei launched the idea of constitutional reform to transform the Islamic Republic’s presidential system into a parliamentary one. The idea was to end election of the President of the Republic through universal suffrage and give the Islamic Majlis (parliament) the right to select a Prime Minister to head the executive branch of government.
Khamenei launched the idea in the wake of a public quarrel with then President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who had wanted to replace the Minister of Security and Information but had been ordered not to do so by the “Supreme Guide”.
Ahmadinejad’s argument was that since the president is directly elected by the people, he should also have the right to choose his Cabinet colleagues. Khamenei’s counter argument was that under the Islamic Constitution, then “Supreme Guide” had the final say on all matters and could even suspend the application of basic rules of Islam.
Ahmadinejad reacted by 11 days of sulking during which he went on strike from his duties as President. In the end, however, he had to eat humble pie, and submit to Khamenei’s order.
Sources said the open quarrel led to Khamenei ordering small group of constitutional experts to prepare a report on adopting a parliamentary system. According to the sources, the report, which has not been made public, appears to have recommended three options to the” Supreme Guide”.
The first option is to keep the title of President but have the person who will occupy the post be nominated by the “Supreme Guide” and approved by the Islamic Majlis. Keeping the word “President” is deemed important to maintain the claim that Iran will remain a republic.
The second option, for a while favored by late President Hashemi Rafsanjani, would be a merger of the position of the President with that of the “Supreme Guide” with the person occupying the post selected by a Congress consisting of both the Islamic Majlis and the Assembly of Experts. Such a system would end the apparent contradiction between an elected political executive and a non-elected religious authority.
The third option is to have the head of the executive branch directly appointed and, when needed, replaced, by the “Supreme Guide” who could assume the title of Imam. In such a system, the heads of executive would be an administrator, not a policymaker, carrying out policies determined by the “Imam.”
“The Islamic Republic created by the late Ayatollah Ruhallah Khomeini was full of contradictions from the start,” says historian Parviz Nuri. “It wanted to appear democratic so as to seduce the Westernized middle classes. But it also wanted to establish absolute rule by the Shi’ite clergy.”
Initially, the Khomeinist system included both a President, directly elected by the people, and a prime minister named by that President and approved by the Islamic Majlis. But that was a source of tension right from the start as Abol-Hassan Banisadr, the Islamic Republic’s first president who remained in office for just over a year, was in constant dispute with Prime Minister Muhammad-Ali Rajai.
Banisadr was dismissed by Khomeini, then acting as “Supreme Guide”. But the quarrel between President and Prime Minister continue. For eight years Ali Khamenei, the present “Supreme Guide”, who acted as president was in constant dispute with Prime Minster Mir-Hussein Mussawi-Khameneh. In the end Khamenei formed an alliance with then Majlis Speaker Hashemi Rafsanjani and pushed through a constitutional amendment that abolished the post of prime minister altogether.
Thus, the trend has been towards a gradual concentration of executive power in the hands of the “Supreme Guide”.
But why has the debate been re-launched now, just weeks after President Hassan Rouhani’s re-election for a second and final four years term?
One reason may be the growing concern over the consequences of Khamenei’s departure from the scene and the difficulty of choosing a successor who could pretend to the status he has gained over the past 30 years. A weak “Supreme Guide”, named by a club of second rate mullahs known as the Assembly of Experts, would wield little authority against a President elected by popular vote.
Such a president would wield immense powers that, given certain conditions, could be used to reduce the role of Shi’ite clerics in the nation’s politics. An even bigger risk is that the Iranian electorate, increasingly secular in mood and persuasion, may go for candidates who offer a policy of de-emphasizing, if not actually abandoning, the religious character of the system.
Having the head of executive named by the parliament could also lead to instability as majorities form and disintegrate within the Majlis.
“Islamic Majlis” member Abdul-Reza Hashem Zai says what matters is who controls the majority in the parliament at any given time. “It is also crucial to see which tendencies are behind the idea of a parliamentary system,” he says.
Another Majlis member Ezzat-Allah Yussefian insists that whatever change is to be introduced must reflect “the wishes of the Supreme Guide”.
Writing in the newspaper Etemad, a pro-Rouhani, daily, columnist Ali-Akbar Gorji, rejects the idea of a parliamentary system on the grounds that Iran does not have regular political parties that could ensure parliamentary discipline through stable majorities or coalitions. “Right now we should focus our attention on allowing the formation of political parties,” he insists.
Sadeq Ziba-Kalam, a prominent intellectual and supporter of Rouhani, goes further by asserting that introducing a parliamentary system in Iran at this time could be “a setback for democracy”. The reason is that hardline factions control the institutions, including the “Islamic Majlis,” leaving the direct election of a president as the only opportunity for ordinary citizens to express their wishes.
Ziba-Kalam speculates that in a parliamentary system Rouhani would not be chosen as President by the current “Islamic Majlis;” the post will go to Hojat al-Islam Radii’s, his more radical rival in the least presidential election.
However, the option of imamate may be more suitable for the Islamic Republic. In Jaafari theology, people should recognize no authority as legitimate unless it comes from the “Imam” who is “Massoum” (infallible). This was why late Ayatollah Khomeini adopted the title of “Imam” to put his authority above worldly, political and secular, consideration. In recent times a campaign has been launched to give Khamenei the same title of “Imam”. This was highly publicized when the head of the Syrian regime, Bashar al-Assad, wrote Khamenei a letter calling him “Grand Ayatollah and Imam” at the same time.
In Jaafari theology, the concept of ”infallibility” (‘ismah) is reserved for Ali, Faitmah and their 11 male descendants. However, a new campaign now aims at extending the concept to also cover Khamenei.
In a speech in Qom earlier this month Ayatollah Ali Ansarian said the concept of “Islam” also applied to all the 124,000 prophets plus many other “muqarrabin” (those close to God) and should apply to Khamenei as well.
“Introducing a full Imamate in Iran would fully reflect the true nature of the system founded by Ayatollah Khomeini,” says religious historian Nuri. “It would also resolve the inner contradictions of a system torn between imitating modern Western political practice and nostalgia for an imagery Islamic system under the Imams.”
A system of imamate existed in Yemen under Zaidi Imams for centuries. In Batinah, inner Oman, the Ibadhis also had an imamate with the last Imam, Ghalib bin-Ali al-Hanai, who died in 2009.
Khamenei seems anxious to introduce as yet unclear constitutional reforms as part of his legacy. For him, and for Iran, the clock is ticking.

Kurdish Secession and Mysteries of Identity
Amir Taheri/Asharq Al Awsat/October 06/17
An old Arab adage asserts that there is always something good in whatever happens. The secession referendum held in the autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq is no exception. It has added to tension in the region, awakened many old demons and diverted attention from more urgent problems. At the same time it has also provided an opportunity to examine and debate some important issues in a cold and clinical manner as opposed to the inflammatory style current in our neck of the wood.
One such issue concerns the relationship between ethnicity and nationality.
It is important because the Middle East which, is and has always been a mosaic of ethnicities, has arrived at the state of nation-statehood, a la Europeen, through an historic shortcut that bypasses the ethnic conundrum. In Europe, the birthplace of the modern nation-state, the concept of citizenship provided a synthesis between ethnicity and nationality. All European states are multiethnic entities; and, yet, few of them experience ethnic tension the way it affects the emerging nation-states of our region.
The assumption on the part of Iraq’s Kurdish secessionists is that statehood should coincide with ethnicity. However, if that were the case almost all Middle Eastern states would have to be divided and subdivided, by one account, to create least 18 more states.
Kurdish secessionists dismiss that account with the argument that most ethnic groups in the region are too small to merit statehood.
In other words, size becomes a justification for secession.
They also claim that Kurds represent the largest ethnic group without its own state. That, of course, isn’t true. In the Indian Subcontinent, the Dravidians, numbering over 300 million do not have a state of their own. The same is true of the Punjabis, some 100 million of them, who are divided between India and Pakistan with reference to religious differences into Muslim, Hindu and Sikh sub-groups.
In Africa, the Haussa and the Ibo who number 40 and 35 million respectively don’t have a state of their own. In China, the Uighurs, 22 million and the Manchus 12 million, not to mention the Tibetans with 4 million, have had their states wiped out by the Han majority.
There are more Pathans in Pakistan than in Afghanistan, more Irish in United Kingdom than the Republic of Ireland, and more Hungarians outside Hungary than inside it.
The second argument is that since Iraq is an “artificial country” created by Sykes-Picot there is no reason why anyone shouldn’t walk out of it. To start with, despite the fashionable buzz all over the place, the so-called Sykes-Picot “plot” has nothing to do with the current shape of the Middle East.
Sykes-Picot was a draft treaty by Britain, France, Russia and Italy to carve out the Middle Eastern possessions of the Ottoman Empire after the First World War. However, the draft never received final ratification by the four countries involved.
Before the war ended the Tsarist Empire collapsed and the new Bolshevik regime published the text of the draft as part of propaganda against “Imperialist powers.”
The draft envisaged giving large chunks of Anatolia to Russia, an ally of Britain and France and Italy. But when the Bolsheviks seized power Russia became an enemy; there was no reason to give it anything.
As for Italy, it had performed so miserably in the war that Britain and France decided it merited nothing but crumbs of the cake, in the shape of a presence in Cyrenaica and Tripolitania. With Sykes-Picot rendered inoperable, Britain and France made new deals later reflected in several treaties notably of Lausanne and Montreux.
In any case, to say Iraq is “artificial” is meaningless because all states are artificial; none has fallen from heavens fully shaped. It took the United Sates almost 200 years to assume its present shape, by admitting Hawaii, annexed in 1898, as its 50th state in 1959.
A century ago there were 32 nation-states in the world; today there are 198, the majority of which are newer and more “artificial” than Iraq.
In some cases, ethic identities are either fabricated or exaggerated in pursuit of political power. For example, the Castilians and the Catalans share the same Christian faith, speak variations of the same Latinesque language, and are hardly distinguishable from one another by outsiders. Yet, we have a Catalan secessionist movement in Spain. The reason is that Catalonia has always been a support base for leftist movements in the Iberian Peninsula while the rest of Spain, especially Castile and Galicia has been conservative.
Ironically, the more multi-ethnic a state the more successful it has proved in history. The Sumerian state was “pure” in ethnic terms but vanished without trace. The Roman Empire, open to all ethnicities up to the position of the Emperor, lasted over 1000 years, and perished when it tried to impose uniformity through its new official religion: Christianity.
Countries where citizenship is not based on ethnicity or religion offer inhabitants freedoms unavailable elsewhere. In a small street in Paris, Rue des Petites Ecurries, shops and cafes belonging to all sorts of Islamic sects, Jews and Christians exist side by side without anyone cutting anyone’s throat, at least not yet; something unthinkable in “pure” places such as the ISIS or the Taliban “emirate.”
There is nothing easier to invent than “traditions” upon which ethnic identities are constructed. To fabricate a new identity, Ataturk adopted the Latin script, purged the Turkish language of Arabic and Persian vocabulary, using French words instead.
Now, however, we see the old Ottoman ghost coming back to reassert itself.
Some Kurds, tried a similar scheme by including the vowels ( اعرابIrab in Arabic) in the Arabic script and, imitating Ataturk, purged many Arabic and Persian words. The result is that their new-speak appears more Kurdish but is hard to understand especially when it comes to classical texts of their literature.
There is much talk of identity these days.
But human identity is protean, subject to tangential twists and turns of individual and collective life.
For example, Kak (brother) Massoud Barzani’s identity is not exactly the same as the Peshmerga who drives his bullet-proof Mercedes. Kak Massoud was born in Mahabad, Iran, an Iranian subject, but spent the first 12 years of his life in the Soviet Union. He then spent a decade in Iraq before being forced out by the Ba’athist terror machine, finding refuge first in Iran and then in the United States. That does not make him any less Iraqi or any less Kurdish if only because the two are not incompatible but complimentary in his case.
An Iraqi citizen is easy to define and recognize because citizenship is a politico-judicial status that can be tested and ascertained. When it comes to ethnic and/or religious identities, however, we are often in terra incognito.
Two things are certain about anyone of us: our humanity and our citizenship. Everything else is subject to dicey speculation and convoluted definitions.

Iran and the Ikhwan: The ideological roots of a partnership
Amir Taheri/Asharq Al Awsat/May 31, 2014
One sizzling summer day in 2012, Tehran was abuzz with talk of an impending “historic moment.” The venue was the brand-new Hall of Conferences, constructed to host the summit of the Non-Aligned Movement during which Egypt was scheduled to hand over leadership to the Islamic Republic of Iran. Cast as creators of the “historic moment” were Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the newly elected Egyptian president, Mohamed Mursi. The two men were supposed to symbolize the triumph of radical Islam, in its different iterations, from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean.
That Tehran was especially keen for the encounter was underlined by an orchestrated media campaign praising the visiting Egyptian leader in terms that would make professional panegyrists blush. More importantly, perhaps, the leadership in Tehran felt that it was time to claim profit from its political, propaganda and even financial investment in ensuring Mursi’s election.
Khamenei had led the way by speaking of the “Islamic Awakening” in Egypt and the creation of a special secretariat, headed by one of his longest-serving advisers, Ali Akbar Velayati, to help Islamists win power in the Arab world. In a speech, Khamenei had even claimed that modern Islam had had only three “great thinkers of importance,” one of whom was Sayyid Qutb, a theoretician of the Muslim Brotherhood whose candidate, Mursi, had just won the presidency of Egypt. (The other two great thinkers, according to Khamenei, were Ayatollah Khomeini and the Pakistani journalist-cum-cleric Abul Ala Maududi.)
To make sure that the “Islamic Awakening” cliché would stick, the Ministry for Culture and Islamic Guidance in Tehran decreed that the media should no longer use the phrase “Arab Spring.” What was happening was an “Islamic Awakening” pure and simple, and it was destined to reel back more than a century of secularization in the Muslim world.
“This is an Islamic awakening inspired by Imam Khomeini’s revolution in Iran,” Velayati asserted. Applying for a permit to publish his new book about the “Arab Spring,” Iranian philosopher Dariush Shayegan was told to change the title to “Islamic Awakening” or risk it being banned.
The fact that Islamist groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood, had played no role in the early-but-decisive stages of the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt was conveniently forgotten. More interestingly, Tehran’s propaganda side-stepped the fact that a majority of Arab Muslims had no taste for the Shi’ite system of velayat-e faqih, under which a mullah claims limitless power on behalf of the Hidden Imam.
For weeks, Tehran had deployed its propaganda machine in support of Mursi. After his election, it tried to influence his political trajectory. There were also reports, hard to confirm because of the secretive nature of the Iranian regime, that, using Egyptian businessmen in London, the Islamic Republic had funneled vast sums of money to help finance the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood’s election campaigns.
Tehran had other reasons to expect a gesture of gratitude from the global Brotherhood. For over a decade, the Islamic Republic had been a major provider of funds for Hamas, the Palestinian branch of the Brotherhood. It had played host to it leaders and provided its military units with weapons and training. For years, Tehran had also provided financial and propaganda support for the Algerian offshoots of the Muslim Brotherhood. In 1992, documents leaked in Germany showed that Tehran had deposited more than 7 million US dollars in accounts controlled by the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS).
Orphans of the Brotherhood
Under President Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian branch of Muslim Brotherhood had lost some of its ability to help its many official or semi-official offshoots around the world. In many cases, these Brotherhood “orphans” found a new source of solace and support in the regime in Tehran. In Britain, for example, Tehran financed the group led by the Pakistani “brother” Kalim Siddiqui, as well as the creation of the so-called “Muslim parliament” in London.
In the 1990s, Tehran also channeled funds to the Turkish branch of the Brotherhood, helping them create the machine needed to win local and then national elections. When Necmettin Erbakan, a Turkish politician linked to the Brotherhood, became prime minister in 1996, Tehran forged a close alliance with his government. Together they held grandiose plans for creating an Islamic G8 to challenge the G7 led by the United States.
The first contacts between the Iranian regime and the Brotherhood had been established in the late 1980s, as the Iran–Iraq War raged. The Islamic Republic’s ambassador to the Vatican, Hadi Khosrowshahi, established contacts with a number of Muslim Brotherhood figures in exile in Europe. The Iranian embassy in the Vatican also launched a publishing business that helped translate and circulate a number of Brotherhood books.
Khosrowshahi, himself a mid-ranking mullah, translated a history of the Brotherhood into Persian, the first complete account of the Egyptian movement’s birth and development. Later, the Iranian ambassador to the United Nations office in Geneva, Cyrus Nasseri, met a number of Egyptian exiles in Switzerland, some related to Hassan Al-Banna, who founded the Brotherhood in 1928. By the early 1990s, Tehran had also established contact with the Tunisian Islamist leader Rachid Ghannouchi of Ennahda and Abbassi Madani, the leader of the FIS. Another bridge to the Brotherhood for Iran was Hassan Al-Turabi, a Sudanese politician who, though not a member of the Brotherhood, had managed to charm them into supporting his quest for power.
The various strands of Islamist radicalism were brought together in April 1991 in the so-called Popular Arab and Islamic Conference, hosted by Turabi in Khartoum. Over 70 organizations from some 50 countries were represented. The gathering was a veritable who’s who of Islamist radicalism, fostered and supported by the Muslim Brotherhood and the regime in Iran. According to Muhammad Mahdavi, at the time a diplomat with the Iranian regime, Tehran contributed 3 million dollars towards the cost of the event.
The hope repeatedly expressed in the conference was that the world’s Muslims, then numbered at just over a billion, would unite to create a new superpower that would challenge the American hegemony left unchecked by the disintegration of the Soviet Empire. However, through united by their feigned or real hatred of the United States, the various participants had many different agendas. Having spent vast sums of money, Tehran hoped to establish itself as the leader of the global pan-Islamic movement and seek recognition for its “Supreme Guide” as leader of the Muslim Ummah around the world.
However, such a scenario appeared outlandish to most participants, to say the least. Sunni Muslims, who form the majority of the Ummah, found Shi’ite Iran’s claim that its “Supreme Guide” should be accepted as a watered-down version of the Caliph hard to swallow.
Turabi, the stage-manager of the occasion, had his own dreams of grandeur. He had told his French biographer that he hoped to gain control of “at least one oil-rich country” to secure the finances needed for transforming himself into a global leader for Islam. In one of the many ironies of history, Sudan itself was to become a significant oil exporter. But by the time that happened, Turabi had landed in prison.
The Egyptians present in Khartoum at the time, among them future Al-Qaeda leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri, did not represent the main body of the Brotherhood, but a number of fringe radical groups wedded to terrorism. The top priority of those groups, then engaged in an armed struggle against President Mubarak, was to radicalize the Brotherhood’s base and wean it away from any prospect of compromise with the established order.
The conference elected a nine-man steering committee that included Osama Bin Laden and Zawahiri, and planned to hold a similar gathering every two years. But in practical terms, the whole thing led nowhere and the passionate speeches made in Khartoum faded into oblivion. Nevertheless, the gathering highlighted a number of important points.
It showed that Islamist movements across the globe were, at least implicitly, united in regarding the modern world with various degrees of suspicion. They were conscious that Islam played no role in shaping the international system as we know it. The modern world is shaped by economic, political and philosophical doctrines and methods essentially developed in Western Europe, mainly in France, Great Britain and Germany, all of them predominantly Christian nations. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the international treaties that regulate virtually every aspect of life in the contemporary world are also products of a few Western Christian nations.
In other words, Islam is an outsider looking into a complex system it did not help create and does not fully understand. Among the questions this raised were how one could regard believers and non-believers as equal in front of the law of the land, and how one might reconcile oneself with the idea that men, and even worse women—mere mortals—have the right to legislate even if it meant circumventing or ignoring the Divine Law?
Seeking a compromise
Since the 19th century, many Muslim thinkers have tried to find a way that Islam could accept this new, alien world and participate in its further development while negotiating a greater space for its own specific religious and traditional requirements.
Apart from suspicion of the modern world, that 1991 gathering of radical Islamists from around the globe also indicated a high level of fear—fear that the Western civilization, in ascendance since the 17th century, might soon bulldoze its way through the Dar Al-Islam and capture the imagination of a majority of Muslims. That fear has been frequently expressed by various representatives of radical Islamism. “The enemy is attacking us on the cultural front,” as Khamenei likes to say. That fear is echoed by Muslim Brotherhood leaders, who claim that “the West,” which they never manage to define, is engaged in a cultural war against Islam.
The third theme that Islamists, ranging from the Khomeinists to various versions of the Brotherhood, have in common is their belief that all politics, domestic and foreign, consist of a series of conspiracies. To them, nothing is as it seems and nothing would or could happen without some Star Chamber plotting it in secret.
The fourth common theme of Islamists is their belief in the necessity and efficiency of violence, which in many cases would mean terrorism, in the service of political goals. “Islam achieved victory with the sword,” Banna liked to assert. He ignored the fact that a majority of those now classified as Muslims in more than 57 countries worldwide were not conquered by the sword. The common belief in the necessity and efficiency of violence has led the modern Islamists into interpreting “jihad” solely in terms of assassination, suicide bombing, kidnapping and war.
The fifth common point of Islamists is the belief in the almost magical powers of a charismatic leader, often labelled the “Supreme Guide.” Persuaded that “ordinary people” are incapable of making positive contributions to decision-making in society, both Khomeinists and Brothers, seek a system of elite rule in which the “Supreme Guide” stands at the top of the decision-making pyramid.
Finally, Islamists of all ilks suffer from a deep-rooted inferiority complex disguised with a mask of arrogant defiance. They do not seem to believe that Islam is strong enough to hold its own in competition with other religions or, if we regard Islam also as a culture, other civilizations. That inferiority complex is highlighted in a number of ways. Notice how many Islamist leaders like to use the Western academic title of “doctor.”
The way the Brotherhood leadership is presented in its literature gives the impression that we are dealing with a medical gathering, full of “doctors.” Hassan Rouhani, the current president of Iran, insists on being called “doctor” on the strength of a degree he obtained from a university in Scotland, rather than Hojjat Al-Islam. Before him, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also boasted about being a “doctor,” as did the Islamic Republic’s first president, Abulhassan Banisadr. Needless to say, Mursi, too, is a “doctor” before being a “Brother.”
Also notice how many of them spice their sermons with quotations from Western, and thus kafir (infidel), philosophers and scholars. Morteza Motahari, a mullah now regarded as the chief theoretician of the Islamic Revolution, was fascinated with Hegel, although all he knew about the German philosopher came from a short biography written by an Englishman and translated into Persian by Hamid Enayat.
Despite warning Muslims not to fall for Western culture, many Islamists have become unwitting victims themselves. They send their children to study in European and American universities, travel to the West for holidays and medical treatment, and invest their money in Western banks and real estate. When forced into exile, they end up in Paris, London and New York, rather than Dakha, Kabul or Lagos.
Now, let us fast forward to that hot August day in Tehran two years ago.
“Supreme Guide” Ali Khamenei is sitting in a room next to the conference hall waiting for the visiting Egyptian president, Dr. Mursi, to call. Such a call would enhance Khamenei’s claim that, being the “Leader of All Muslims,” leaders from other Muslim countries come to pay their respects and acknowledge his supremacy.
However, while Khamenei waits in his room, Dr. Mursi is in another room, some 15 meters away, holding his own meetings with a series of Non-Aligned leaders from around the world. The meetings having finished, Mursi announces that he is going to the airport to catch a flight back to Cairo, ending a visit that lasted just a few hours. No, he has no time to see Khamenei. That would have to wait for another time!
The reason? Mursi regards Khamenei as a politician masquerading as a religious leader, while Khamenei regards Mursi as a religious man masquerading as a politician. If one goes to the other, he would be endorsing the other’s superiority in an imaginary hierarchy of claims for the leadership of political Islam.
When President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hears the bad news, he is livid. He has lost face in front of the “Supreme Guide,” who had been promised that all participants in the summit would come and pay their respects. Iran has spent 600 million dollars building the new conference hall and paying for the gathering, and is now ending up with nothing. Worse still, Mursi has had the temerity to pronounce the names of Abu Bakr, Omar and Othman, three of the four men Sunnis see as the rashidun, the Rightly-Guided Caliphs of Islam, during his conference address that is broadcast live on the state-owned television. State television censors, who had managed to cut parts of Mursi’s speech just in time, failed to cut that bit. What a disaster for Khomeinism!
In the next part of this series, Amir Taheri looks at how the deep ideological and, more recently organizational, ties between the Islamic movement now in power in Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood were established.