October 19/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations
There is nothing hidden, except to be disclosed; nor is anything secret, except to come to light
Saint Mark 04/21-25/:"The Lord Jesus says: ‘Is a lamp brought in to be put under the bushel basket, or under the bed, and not on the lampstand? For there is nothing hidden, except to be disclosed; nor is anything secret, except to come to light. Let anyone with ears to hear listen!’ And he said to them, ‘Pay attention to what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you. For to those who have, more will be given; and from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.’"

You are God’s temple and God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple
First Letter to the Corinthians 03/10-23/:"According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. Each builder must choose with care how to build on it. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw the work of each builder will become visible, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done. If what has been built on the foundation survives, the builder will receive a reward. If the work is burned, the builder will suffer loss; the builder will be saved, but only as through fire. Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. Do not deceive yourselves. If you think that you are wise in this age, you should become fools so that you may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, ‘He catches the wise in their craftiness’, and again, ‘The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.’ So let no one boast about human leaders. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future all belong to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on October 18-19/17
The USA Serves Up Kurdistan To Iran On a Silver Platter/Bernard-Henri Lévy /Tablet /October 18/17/
Iran and America: What next/Mahan Abedin /MEM/October 18/17
Europe's New Official History Erases Christianity, Promotes Islam/Giulio Meotti/Gatestone Institute/October 18/17
From Monty Python to Allah: London's New Mega Mosque/Judith Bergman/Gatestone Institute/October 18/17
What the KRG’s Loss of Kirkuk Means for Iraq/Max J. Joseph/Syria Comment/October 18/17
Win-Win: How Tax Reform Will Help Defense Spending and the Economy/Peter Huessy/Gatestone Institute/October 18/17
The Old Arab Fear Tactic That Came to Washington/Nonie Darwish/Gatestone Institute/October 18/17
Beware of the closet Muslim Brotherhood member/Ahmad al-Farraj/Al Arabyia/October 18/17
Balanced words and a clear vision/Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabyia/October 18/17
To succeed, US needs to rediscover itself as a ‘smart power’ country/Dr. Naif Alotaibi/Al Arabyia/October 18/17
Are Iranian people aligned with US national interests/Hamid Bahrami/Al Arabyia/October 18/17
Qatar Foreign Minister's CNBC interview/NNA/Wed 18 Oct 2017/

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on October 18-19/17
STL Appeals Chamber Rules on Pre-Trial Judge Questions on New Indictment
Aoun receives credentials of six ambassadors, receives invitation to visit Iran
Hariri Defends Govt. Productivity, Says Sunnis 'Not Frustrated'
Hariri, Estonian Minister of Defense tackle bilateral relations
Army Commander, US Congress delegation tackle military aids
Ibrahim, Shorter tackle latest developments
Bassil, Estonian Defense Minister tackle Syrian refugee crisis
Berri, Hariri chat in wake of Parliament session
Fadallah meets IRIB delegation
US Congress delegation attends combat exercise at Hamat Air Base
PSP Affirms Commitment to 'Mountain Reconciliation'
Hariri Holds Talks with Estonian Minister of Defense
Caccia Leaves to Rome as Lebanon Mission Ends
Salameh Hits Back after Adwan Accuses BDL of Tax Evasion
Mashnouq Says Syrians Committing Less Crimes than Lebanese
Zimbabwe First Lady Sues Lebanese Mogul over Diamond Ring

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on October 18-19/17
Iran's military chief: Israel can't violate Syria anytime it wants
Khamenei: Iran will 'shred' nuclear deal if US quits it
Bahrain Accuses Iran of Harboring 160 'Terrorists'
Palestinian Shot While Trying to Stab Israeli Troops in W.Bank
Brigadier General Issam Zahreddine, Commander of Syrian forces, killed in Deir al-Zor
Abadi orders the withdrawal of all military forces from Kirkuk
Iraqi Kurds postpone polls in face of crisis
Kurdish forces withdraw to June 2014 lines: Iraqi army commander
EU calls on Israel to stop plans for new West Bank settlements
SDF: Campaign against ISIS in eastern Syria to speed up
Turkey says will not submit to ‘impositions’ from United States in visa crisis
US judge blocks latest version of Trump travel ban

Latest Lebanese Related News published on October 18-19/17
STL Appeals Chamber Rules on Pre-Trial Judge Questions on New Indictment
Naharnet/October 18/18/The Appeals Chamber of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon has issued a decision on 15 questions of law submitted by the Pre-Trial Judge and pertaining to a new indictment that has been submitted by the STL Prosecutor, the STL said on Wednesday. “The Pre-Trial Judge sought clarification of certain aspects of the applicable law in order to examine and rule on an indictment submitted for confirmation by the Prosecution,” an STL statement said. In reaching this decision, the Appeals Chamber considered the oral submissions made by the Prosecution and the Defense Office at the public hearing held on October 11, as well as their prior written submissions. The questions submitted by the Pre-Trial Judge related principally to the crime of criminal association under Article 335 of the Lebanese Criminal Code and the criteria for reviewing the indictment.
Below are key rulings of the Appeals Chamber:
1. The definition of the crime of criminal association
The Appeals Chamber clarified that the crime of criminal association is composed of the following material elements:
(i) an agreement, oral or written, between two or more people;
(ii) a particular purpose of the agreement, being the commission of one or more felonies against persons or property, or felonies undermining the authority of the State, its prestige or its civil, military, financial or economic institutions;
Regarding these material elements, the Appeals Chamber specified that under Lebanese law it is not necessary to identify all of the members of a criminal association, nor is it important what form the agreement takes – what matters is the meeting of the minds of two or more persons to act collectively for the purpose of committing the felonies mentioned in Article 335. Neither the commission of material acts nor the identification of the means for achieving the criminal purpose of a criminal association are required for such an agreement to qualify as criminal association.
Regarding the intentional elements of the crime, the Appeals Chamber clarified that criminal association requires an intention to join the association or agreement aimed at committing one or more of the felonies mentioned in Article 335, and the knowledge that the purpose of the association or agreement is to commit such a crime. A participant in the criminal association does not need to know precisely the crimes intended to be committed.
2. The distinction between criminal association and conspiracy
The Appeals Chamber stated that criminal association and conspiracy, though similar, are separate crimes under Lebanese law. While both are forms of agreement to commit crimes, their distinctive characteristics are twofold: (1) a criminal association can be directed at a broader range of crimes than a conspiracy; and (2) in a conspiracy, the members have to agree on the means to commit the crime, whereas in a criminal association they do not. The assassination of a political figure is not an element of conspiracy or criminal association.
The Appeals Chamber clarified that, in circumstances where the underlying conduct is the same and can qualify as both conspiracy and criminal association, it would not be appropriate to allow that these crimes be charged cumulatively. This is without prejudice to the right of the Prosecution to charge these crimes in the alternative.
3. The criteria for reviewing the indictment
The Appeals Chamber held that the Pre-Trial Judge must assess whether the materials provided by the Prosecutor in support of the indictment demonstrate a credible case which could, if not contradicted, be a sufficient basis to convict the suspect on the charges in the indictment. It is irrelevant whether any particular supporting materials have also been submitted as evidence in the Ayyash et al. case.
Finally, the Appeals Chamber stated that the Pre-Trial Judge can only review material that has been provided to him by the Prosecutor. He cannot take into account, nor assess, materials that have not been submitted to him, including material that is in the public domain. The confidential indictment was filed for confirmation on July 21.
According to media reports, the new indictment is linked to the bomb attacks that targeted Elias Murr, Marwan Hamadeh and George Hawi. The indictment names “a new suspect from Hizbullah,” the reports claim. The STL was set up in 2007 to try suspects charged with the murder of former premier Rafik Hariri, who was killed with 22 others in a massive suicide truck bombing on the Beirut waterfront on February 14, 2005. The tribunal later established jurisdiction over three attacks relating to Minister Marwan Hamadeh, former Lebanese Communist Party chief George Hawi and former defense minister Elias Murr, deeming them of similar nature to Hariri's assassination. Five suspected members of Hizbullah have been indicted by the court over Hariri's murder. The party has slammed the court as an American-Israeli scheme and vowed that the suspects will never be found. A trial in absentia opened in January 2014, but despite international warrants for their arrest, the Hizbullah suspects are yet to appear in court.

Aoun receives credentials of six ambassadors, receives invitation to visit Iran
Wed 18 Oct 2017/NNA - President of the Republic, Michel Aoun, on Wednesday underlined Lebanon's keenness to bolster ties with the Islamic Republic of Iran in all spheres, hailing Iran's support to Lebanon at the international and regional platforms.
President Aoun's fresh words came during his meeting at the Baabda palace with the Director General of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), Abdulali Ali-Asgari, and the accompanying delegation, in presence of Iranian Ambassador to Lebanon, Mohammad Fathali. Aoun hoped that Iran's efforts to reach a political solution to the Syrian crisis would succeed in order to "end the suffering of the Syrian refugees and facilitate their return to their homeland, as well as to ease the socio-economic and security repercussions on Lebanon as a result of this displacement." Asgari conveyed to the President the greetings of the Supreme Leader of the Iranian Revolution, Sayed Ali Khamenei and Iranian President, Sheikh Hassan Rouhani, wishing Lebanon further prosperity and progress. Asgari renewed invitation to President Aoun from his Iranian counterpart Rouhani to visit Tehran. Aoun duly accepted the invitation on a date to be fixed later via the diplomatic channels. The Iranian official also hailed the wise political positions adopted by Aoun, renewing Iran's support to Lebanon and its desire to consolidate bilateral relations. Asgari also congratulated the President on the liberation of Lebanon's outskirts from terrorist organizations. On the other hand, Aoun received this morning, in the presence of Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gebran Bassil, the credentials of the ambassadors of Malawi, Panama, Albania, Lithuania, Nepal and Ethiopia.

Hariri Defends Govt. Productivity, Says Sunnis 'Not Frustrated'
Prime Minister Saad Hariri defended his government on Wednesday in the face of criticism from several MPs, as he denied claims that the Sunni community in Lebanon is “frustrated.”“I cannot accept the claim that this government is not productive because it is the most productive government, despite the fact that it was formed less than a year ago,” said Hariri after the end of parliamentary debate sessions on the 2017 state budget. “The government approved an electoral law, a new wage scale, diplomatic and judicial appointments, a socio-economic council and today a state budget,” Hariri explained. He noted that since its formation, the government has been exerting efforts to “confront the repercussions of the Syrian refugee crisis and to solve the electricity problem and the country's problems.”Responding to criticism from opposition lawmakers, Hariri lamented that “some are acting as if only today they discovered our difficult financial situation, the refugee crisis, the electricity problem and the absence of yearly final accounts.”“You cannot take part in previous governments and then discover all these problems and their 'easy solutions' when you don't take part in the new government,” the premier added, addressing some opposition MPs. Hitting back at MPs who spoke of Sunni “frustration,” Hariri stressed that the Sunni community in Lebanon is “not frustrated.”“I'm responsible for my words. Perhaps some colleagues are frustrated but I call on them not to project their frustration on the Lebanese or on an essential and founding religious community in this country,” Hariri added. “Those who were not frustrated by the assassination of Rafik Hariri cannot be frustrated by anything! The Lebanese were not frustrated by the assassination of the martyr premier, they rebelled, achieved and carried on,” the PM said.

Hariri, Estonian Minister of Defense tackle bilateral relations
Wed 18 Oct 2017/NNA - Prime Minister Saad Hariri received on Wednesday the Estonian Defense Minister, Juri Luik, accompanied by an official delegation, in the presence of the Estonian Ambassador to Lebanon, Marin Mottus, and the Honorary Consul of Estonia in Lebanon, Fuad Fadel. During the meeting, conferees discussed the work of the Estonian battalion within the framework of the UNIFIL force operating in southern Lebanon. They also tackled the general situation and ways to promote bilateral relations.

Army Commander, US Congress delegation tackle military aids
Wed 18 Oct 2017/NNA - Army Commander, General Joseph Aoun, on Wednesday met at his Yarzeh office with a delegation from the US Congress Finance Committee, led by Rodney Frelinghusysen, in the presence of the US Ambassador to Lebanon, Elizabeth Richard. Talks reportedly touched on the general situation in Lebanon and the region, in addition to the US Aids Program for the Lebanese army. Major General Aoun then met with the visiting Estonian Defense Minister, Juri Luiq, on top of a delegation, in the presence of Estonian Ambassador to Lebanon.
Means of military cooperation between the armies of both countries highlighted their talks.

Ibrahim, Shorter tackle latest developments

Wed 18 Oct 2017/NNA - General Security chief, Abbas Ibrahim, on Wednesday met at his office with British Ambassador to Lebanon, Hugo Shorter, with talks between the pair reportedly touching on the latest local and regional developments.
Later, Major General Ibrahim met with the newly accredited Swiss Ambassador to Lebanon, Monika Schmutz Kirgoz, who came on a courtesy visit.
Talks dwelt on the overall situation in the country and means of coordination between the Embassy and the General Security.

Bassil, Estonian Defense Minister tackle Syrian refugee crisis
Wed 18 Oct 2017/NNA - Foreign and Expatriates Minister, Gebran Bassil, on Wednesday afternoon met with Estonian Defense Minister, Juri Luiq, in the presence of Estonian Honorary Consul Fouad Fadel. Talks reportedly touched on the Syrian refugee crisis and Lebanon's stance vis-a-vis this predicament. Both sides also discussed how Estonia can help in resolving this crisis through the European Union system. The role undertaken by the Estonian Contingent operating within UNIFIL in south Lebanon also highlighted their talks.

Berri, Hariri chat in wake of Parliament session
Wed 18 Oct 2017 /NNA - After the lifted parliament session, House Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister, Saad Hariri, chatted for a short while, in the presence of Finance Minister, Ali Hassan Khalil, and MP George Adwan.

Fadallah meets IRIB delegation
Wed 18 Oct 2017/NNA - Head of the Information and Telecommunications House committee, MP Hassan Fadlallah, on Wednesday met with a delegation comprising head the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) Abdulali Ali-Asgari, its members, and Iranian Ambassador to Lebanon, Mohammad Fathali. Conferees reportedly dwelt on the relations between Iran and Lebanon on the media level, and the means to bolster bilateral cooperation. During the meeting, Fadlallah broached "Lebanon's particularity" pertaining to information and media, stressing on the freedom of expression in that respect. For his part, Asgari explained the reality of media in Iran and the role of IRIB. He also presented his host with an invitation to visit the Islamic Republic. It is to note that MPs Ammar Houri, Hani Qobeissi, Emile Rahme, Qassem Hashem, and Kamel Rifai attended the meeting.

US Congress delegation attends combat exercise at Hamat Air Base

Wed 18 Oct 2017/NNA - A delegation of the US Congress Finance Committee, chaired by Rodney Frelinghusyen, visited on Wednesday Hamat Air Base, accompanied by the US Ambassador to Lebanon, Elizabeth Richard. The US delegation attended a combat exercise with live ammunition, carried out by the Commando Regiment in conjunction with the Air Force in the Hannoush shooting field. Afterwards, the delegation listened to a briefing by the Air Force Commander on the capabilities of the Lebanese Air Force and its various missions.

PSP Affirms Commitment to 'Mountain Reconciliation'
Naharnet/October 18/18/The Progressive Socialist Party on Wednesday stressed keenness on preserving “reconciliation, cooperation and civil peace in the Mountain” voicing calls to shun political rhetoric with the aim of gaining popularity in the elections. “It is always our concern to preserve the peace that we have established in the Mountain through the historic reconciliation, which the Maronite Patriarch (Sfeir) has repeatedly stressed in more than one visit to the Mountain, as well as the President of the Republic,” PSP sources told the daily. “We have opened our hands to all and cooperated with all, and we are still ready to cooperate and partnership with all political forces,” they added. The sources who spoke on condition of anonymity stated: “Through all of our political path since the end of the war until today, we have always worked for reconciliation. Any jolt in the Mountain, God forbid, means the country is gone.”Referring to statements made by Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil, the sources concluded: “Let us keep the populist and electoral rhetoric away. The Christians are more disturbed than the Druze by that rhetoric. People want to live they do not want to open the graves of the past.” The PSP's remarks came after comments made by Free Patriotic Movement and Minister Jebran Bassil regarding the killings and displacement that took place in Mount Lebanon during the civil war and the Mountain Reconciliation in 2001. Bassil had called for a “political return to Mount Lebanon” during a visit to the Aley District town of Rechmaya. The Minister's remarks were highly criticized by PSP and the Lebanese Forces who argue that Bassil's rhetoric aims to “dig graves” or “build glory on the achievements made by Patriarch Sfeir.”Several violent clashes have occurred between Druze and Christians during the Lebanese Civil War (Mountain War). Reconciliation between the Druze and Christian communities came to fruition on August 8, 2001, when the Maronite Patriarch Mar Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir made a historic visit to the Chouf and met with the Druze and Chouf leader, Walid Jumblat.

Hariri Holds Talks with Estonian Minister of Defense

Naharnet/October 18/18/Prime Minister Saad Hariri held talks Wednesday at the Center House with the Estonian Minister of Defense Jüri Luik. Luik was accompanied by an official delegation and the meeting was held in the presence of Estonian Ambassador Marin Mõttus and the Honorary Consul of Estonia in Lebanon Fouad Fadel. The meeting focused on the work of the Estonian battalion operating within the UNIFIL forces in south Lebanon and the situation there as well as the bilateral relations between the two countries.

Caccia Leaves to Rome as Lebanon Mission Ends

Naharnet/October 18/18/Papal ambassador Gabriele Caccia left Beirut Wednesday morning returning to Rome after the end of his posting in Lebanon and his appointment as ambassador to the Vatican in the Philippines, the National News Agency reported. The Pope has appointed Caccia as apostolic nuncio in the Philippines, titular archbishop of Sepino. Caccia, has been Apostolic Nuncio to Lebanon since July 16, 2009 and was consecrated bishop on September 12, 2009. The Philippines is home to Asia’s largest Catholic population, with some 81 percent of its over 100 million population professing Roman Catholicism.

Salameh Hits Back after Adwan Accuses BDL of Tax Evasion

Naharnet/October 18/18/Lebanese Forces deputy chief MP George Adwan on Tuesday accused Banque du Liban, Lebanon's central bank, of possible tax evasion, drawing a swift response from BDL Governor Riad Salameh. “Controlling tax evasion can change the financial situation in Lebanon,” Adwan said during a parliamentary session on the 2017 state budget. “It is shocking to know that the revenues from BDL are LBP 61 billion. We have treasury bonds worth LBP 27,000 billion and the bank is obliged to pay a billion dollars to the state treasury from its profits that result from treasury bonds,” Adwan added. “Where is inspection and accountability? It is nonexistent because BDL has relations that are bigger than everyone. We are busy with taxes while BDL should pay $1 billion every year,” the MP went on to say. He called on Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil to “put us in the picture of BDL's profits throughout the past 20 years through a detailed report.”Speaker Nabih Berri then asked Adwan to submit a request for the formation of a parliamentary panel of inquiry and the MP said that he would file a request within 48 hours. In remarks to LBCI television, Salameh said BDL has submitted yearly auditing reports to the Finance Ministry for the past 20 years. “The bank's records are subject to auditing by two international firms that have nothing to do with BDL,” Salameh noted, stressing that the central bank has never refrained from paying its obligations to the state treasury.

Mashnouq Says Syrians Committing Less Crimes than Lebanese
Naharnet/October 18/18/Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq noted Tuesday that “the rate of crimes committed by Syrian refugees is lower than the rate of crimes committed by Lebanese citizens.”“The Syrian refugee population did not grow this year at all,” Mashnouq added during a ceremony at the Grand Serail. The minister also reassured that “Lebanon is one of the safest countries due to the efforts of security forces and coordination between them.” At least one million registered Syrian refugees live in Lebanon, almost 25 percent of its population. Many more are believed to live unregistered, straining the country's already fraying infrastructure.

Zimbabwe First Lady Sues Lebanese Mogul over Diamond Ring
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/October 18/18/The wife of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has sued a Lebanese businessman for failing to deliver a $1.35-million diamond ring she ordered for her wedding anniversary, state media reported Wednesday. "First lady Dr Grace Mugabe is suing fugitive businessman Mr. Jamal Joseph Ahmed for $1.23 million (1.05 million euros) over a diamond ring deal that went sour last year," The Herald newspaper said. "In breach of the agreement, Mr. Ahmed failed to deliver the ring, triggering a legal wrangle." In 2015, Grace Mugabe placed an order for a 100-carat diamond ring worth $1.35 million to mark the anniversary of her wedding to the 93-year-old leader. "The plaintiff wanted to purchase a unique diamond ring for her wedding anniversary celebrations," said court documents seen by The Herald. "The defendant tendered a diamond ring worth $30,000 and naturally, the plaintiff refused to take possession of an inferior ring." Grace Mugabe demanded a refund but Ahmed paid back just $120,000. In court documents filed last year, Ahmed said he had offered to repay the money in installments and claimed he had already paid back $150,000. In January Ahmed went to court to stop Grace Mugabe from seizing his properties over the diamond ring spat. Grace Mugabe has however denied attempting to seize Ahmed's properties, saying police had been guarding his premises because he was wanted for alleged crimes. The Lebanese businessman holds a Zimbabwean permanent residence permit, but no longer lives in the southern African country. Ahmed also claimed to have received threats from officials from Zimbabwe's spy agency -- the Central Intelligence Organization -- as well from Grace herself and a son from her first marriage, Russell Goreraza. She has denied the allegation. Grace, 52, married Mugabe in 1996. She now heads the ruling ZANU-PF party women's league. She has said that she has the right to rule the country like any other Zimbabwean and is now seen to be among those maneuvering to replace her husband.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on October 18-19/17
Iran's military chief: Israel can't violate Syria anytime it wants
Reuters/Ynetnews/October 18/17/After IAF carries out retaliatory attack on Syrian SA-5 battery, Iranian General Mohammad Baqeri makes rare visit to Damascus to 'assert and coordinate and cooperate to confront our common enemies, the Zionists and terrorists.'Iranian military chief of staff General Mohammad Baqeri said Wednesday the Islamic Republic would not accept Israeli violations in Syria, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA). "It is not acceptable for the Zionist regime to violate Syria anytime it wants," Baqeri said during a meeting in Damascus with his Syrian counterpart, Ali Abdullah Ayyoub. Earlier this week, the Syrian army launched an SA-5 anti-aircraft missile at Israeli Air Force planes on a reconnaissance mission over Lebanon. In retaliation, the IAF bomb the SA-5 battery, destroying its fire control radar. Baqeri, on a rare visit to Syria, pledged to fight Israel and Sunni insurgents. "We are in Damascus to assert and coordinate and cooperate to confront our common enemies, the Zionists and terrorists," he said. "We drew up the broad lines for this cooperation."Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu followed up the IDF's retaliation strike against Syria on Monday by stating, "Whoever strikes at us, we strike at them. Today they tried to harm our planes—unacceptable. "The air force acted precisely and swiftly, destroying what needed to be destroyed. We will continue to act in the space as much as necessary to defend Israel's security."

Khamenei: Iran will 'shred' nuclear deal if US quits it
Reuters/Ynetnews/October 18/17/Iranian Supreme Leader says Iran will 'shred' nuclear deal should US withdraw from it; Ayatollah welcomes support of other Western nations, but cautions it does not suffice: 'It is unacceptable for Europeans to join America in its bullying.' Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday Tehran would stick to its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers as long as the other signatories respected it, but would "shred it" if the United States pulled out, state TV reported. Khamenei spoke five days after President Donald Trump adopted a harsh new approach to Iran by refusing to certify its compliance with the deal, reached under Trump's predecessor Barack Obama, and saying he might ultimately terminate it. Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said his country would 'shred' nuclear agreement if US abdicated it
Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said his country would 'shred' nuclear .The move put Washington at odds with other parties to the accord—Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and the European Union—who say Washington cannot unilaterally cancel a multilateral accord enshrined by a UN resolution. Khamenei, Iran's highest authority, welcomed their support but said it was not sufficient. "Europe must stand against practical measures (taken) by America," he said. If Trump ditched the deal, "Iran will shred it". The Khorramshahr missile test. Khamenei said Iran would not abandon its missile program. Khamenei also said Iran was determined to continue its disputed ballistic missile program despite the pressure from Europe and the United States to suspend it. Tehran has said it is developing missiles solely for defensive purposes. "They must avoid interfering in our defense program, " Khamenei said. "They (Europeans) ask why does Iran have missiles? Why do you have missiles yourselves? Why do you have nuclear weapons? We do not think it is acceptable for the Europeans to join America in its bullying."'

Bahrain Accuses Iran of Harboring 160 'Terrorists'
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/October 18/18/Bahrain's interior minister accused Iran of harbouring 160 Bahrainis convicted of terrorism and stripped of their citizenship, in an interview published Wednesday. All 160 "fugitives" had been stripped of citizenship in "terrorism cases" targeting Bahraini police and security forces, Sheikh Rashed Al-Khalifa told the Arabic-language daily Asharq Al-Awsat. He accused Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards of having trained the group, who were convicted of attacks that killed 25 security personnel and wounded 3,000 others, according to Asharq Al-Awsat. Bahrain, a Shiite-majority kingdom ruled by a Sunni dynasty, has seen sporadic violence since the repression in 2011 of a protest movement demanding a constitutional monarchy and an elected prime minister. Authorities have since tightened their grip on dissent, jailing hundreds of protesters and stripping a string of high-profile activists and clerics of citizenship. Bahrain has drawn harsh criticism for its treatment of demonstrators but maintains it does not discriminate against the country's Shiites. The kingdom, a key US ally located across the water from Iran, regularly accuses Shiite Iran of meddling in its internal affairs, an allegation Tehran denies. US President Donald Trump has eased restrictions on arms sales to Bahrain, which on Tuesday announced it had signed a $3.8 billion deal with US company Lockheed Martin to acquire 16 upgraded F-16 fighters. Bahrain is home to the US Navy's Fifth Fleet and a British army base is currently under construction.

Palestinian Shot While Trying to Stab Israeli Troops in W.Bank
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/October 18/18/A Palestinian ran towards Israeli troops while brandishing a knife in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday and soldiers shot and wounded him, the military said. "An assailant armed with a knife ran towards troops adjacent to the Gush Etzion junction," an army statement said. "In response to the immediate threat, soldiers fired shots towards the suspect. Subsequently, the suspect was injured and taken to hospital for medical treatment," it said. A military spokeswoman told AFP that the attacker was a Palestinian and that no soldiers were injured. Israeli media said the man was moderately to seriously wounded. The Gush Etzion junction is a busy intersection near a large bloc of Israeli settlements in the southern West Bank and the scene of repeated attacks. A wave of unrest that erupted in October 2015 has claimed the lives of at least 295 Palestinians or Arab Israelis, 51 Israelis, two Americans, two Jordanians, an Eritrean, a Sudanese and a Briton, according to an AFP toll. The last fatal incident was the October 4 stabbing of Israeli settler Reuven Schmerling, 70, in what the Shin Bet security service said was "a terrorist attack". Two Palestinians from Qabatiya in the northern West Bank were arrested as suspects. The violence, however, has largely subsided in recent months. Israeli authorities say most of the Palestinians killed were carrying out knife, gun or car-ramming attacks. Others were shot dead in protests and clashes, while some were killed in Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip.

Brigadier General Issam Zahreddine, Commander of Syrian forces, killed in Deir al-Zor
Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnglishWednesday, 18 October 2017/Brigadier general of the Republican Guard and the commander of operations in Deir al-Zor, Issam Zahreddine, was killed in a mine explosion in the Hawija-Sakr area inside the city of Deir al-Zor, according to Syrian media. Zahreddine played a role in the progress made by the Syrian army forces in the city of Deir al-Zor, and the surrounding areas, which reached strategic fields in the city. Zahreddine led army operations against the armed opposition in Homs and Aleppo, before moving to the eastern region to fight ISIS.

Abadi orders the withdrawal of all military forces from Kirkuk
Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnglishWednesday, 18 October 2017/Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi on Wednesday ordered the withdrawal of all armed groups in Kirkuk, including the Popular Mobilization Militias, and the handover of security to local police and counter-terrorism units only. Al-Abadi confirmed in a statement that “security in Kirkuk is under the control of the local police with the support of counter-terrorism units". In his statement, Abadi, ordered the prevention of any armed group presence in the province and to pursue elements that spread hatred and racism amongst the people. Popular militia groups have been widely deployed in the city over the past two days, raising concerns among the Kurds.

Iraqi Kurds postpone polls in face of crisis
AFP, Erbil, IraqWednesday, 18 October 2017/Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region on Wednesday postponed presidential and legislative elections because of the current crisis with Baghdad, its electoral commission said. The region’s Independent High Electoral Commission said it had “decided to suspend temporarily preparations for the elections set for November 1 because of the current situation”. Iraqi government forces said Wednesday they had retaken from Kurdish fighters almost all the areas disputed between Baghdad and the autonomous Kurdistan region in response to a September independence vote.

Kurdish forces withdraw to June 2014 lines: Iraqi army commander
Kurdish Peshmerga forces have retreated to positions they held in northern Iraq in June 2014 in response to an Iraqi army advance into the region. (Reuters)
Reuters, BaghdadWednesday, 18 October 2017/Kurdish Peshmerga forces have retreated to positions they held in northern Iraq in June 2014 in response to an Iraqi army advance into the region after a Kurdish independence referendum rejected by Baghdad, a senior Iraqi commander said on Wednesday. An Iraqi military statement said government forces had taken control of Kurdish-held areas of Nineveh province, which includes the major city of Mosul, on Tuesday after the Peshmerga pulled back. The Mosul hydro-electric dam, northwest of the city, was among the positions recaptured, it said. The Peshmerga had taken the territory over the past three years as part of the war against ISIS militants, filling a void left by a collapse of the Iraqi army in the face of an ISIS offensive across much of Iraq’s north. With US backing, the Peshmerga rolled back ISIS and took further territory outside the official Kurdish autonomous entity, mainly in Kurdish-populated areas including oil-rich Kirkuk, claimed historically by the Kurds. On Monday, Iraqi government forces, acting on Baghdad’s orders to counter the Sept. 25 Kurdish referendum, retook the Kirkuk area, just outside the boundaries of the Kurdistan Regional Government, after the Peshmerga retreated. Baghdad government forces then retook control of all of Nineveh. “As of today we reversed the clock back to 2014,” the Iraqi army commander, who asked not to be identified, told Reuters. There was no immediate comment from the Kurdish side. The Peshmerga pullback meant its forces were deployed once again roughly along KRG boundaries. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered the recapture of Kirkuk and all other disputed areas claimed by both the Kurdistan Regional Government and the central authorities in Baghdad in response to the referendum. The United States sided with Abadi in rejecting the Kurds’ secessionist vote. KRG President Masoud Barzani has stood by it, saying the overwhelming “yes” for independence “won’t be in vain” and would be pursued by peaceful means.

EU calls on Israel to stop plans for new West Bank settlements
Reuters, BrusselsWednesday, 18 October 2017/Israel must halt new building plans for settler homes in the West Bank, the European Union’s foreign service said in a statement on Wednesday, warning that such settlements threatened any future peace deal with the Palestinians. “The European Union has requested clarifications from Israeli authorities and conveyed the expectation that they reconsider these decisions, which are detrimental to on-going efforts towards meaningful peace talks,” the statement said. “All settlement activity is illegal under international law, and it undermines the viability of the two-state solution and the prospect for a lasting peace.”The EU maintains that the lands Israel has occupied since the 1967 Middle East war - including the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights - are not part of the internationally recognized borders of Israel.

SDF: Campaign against ISIS in eastern Syria to speed up
Reuters, BeirutWednesday, 18 October 2017/A US-backed campaign against ISIS in eastern Syria will accelerate now the extremist group has been defeated in its former capital Raqqa, a spokesman for US-allied Syrian militias said on Wednesday. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which announced the defeat at Raqqa on Tuesday, will redeploy fighters from the city to frontlines with ISIS in the eastern province of Deir al-Zor, Talal Silo told Reuters by telephone. The SDF is fighting ISIS in Deir al-Zor in areas to the east of the Euphrates River. The Syrian government, supported by the Russian air force and Iran-backed militias, is waging a separate campaign against extremists in the province, focused mostly in areas to the west of the river. ISIS has lost ground rapidly there in recent weeks. The Syrian army and its allies are battling for control of the last remaining ISIS-held areas of Deir al-Zor city, and have also captured the town of al-Mayadin from ISIS. Silo said the Raqqa victory would have a “positive impact” on the SDF’s campaign in Deir al-Zor because it meant fighters could be redeployed as internal security forces take control of Raqqa. “Most of the military forces will head towards these areas to continue the participation in the campaign with the Deir al-Zor Military Council,” he said. The Council is a militia leading the SDF’s campaign in the province. “This is all to the benefit of the campaign and accelerating the end of this campaign,” he said.

Turkey says will not submit to ‘impositions’ from United States in visa crisis
Reuters, AnkaraWednesday, 18 October 2017/Turkey will not submit to “impositions” from the United States over an on-going visa crisis and will reject any conditions it cannot meet, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Wednesday. A delegation from the United States is visiting Turkey in an attempt to repair diplomatic ties between the NATO allies after both countries stopped issuing visas to each other’s citizens this month. Washington first suspended visa services at its missions in Turkey, after Turkish authorities detained two Turkish nationals employed as US consular staff. The US delegation has asked Ankara for information and evidence regarding the detained staff, private broadcaster Haberturk reported. “We will cooperate if their demands meet the rules of our constitution but we will not succumb to impositions and we will reject any conditions that we cannot meet,” Cavusoglu told a news conference, when asked about the report of requests from the US delegation. A translator at the consulate in the southern province of Adana was arrested in May and a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) worker was detained in Istanbul two weeks ago. Both were detained on suspicion of links to last year’s failed coup, allegations the United States has rejected. Haberturk said the US delegation, which arrived in Turkey this week, laid out four conditions to solve the visa crisis, including that Turkey must provide information about its investigations into the detained workers, and evidence related to DEA worker Metin Topuz. President Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman said last week Topuz had been in contact with a leading suspect in last year’s failed military coup. Turkish media reported similar accusations against the translator in May. The US delegation told Ankara that if the contacts which Turkish authorities are seeking to investigate were undertaken on the instructions of the consulate, the employees should not have been arrested, Haberturk said.

US judge blocks latest version of Trump travel ban
AFP, WashingtonWednesday, 18 October 2017/A US judge on Tuesday barred the White House from implementing yet another version of Donald Trump’s controversial executive order on immigration, hours before it was to go into full effect. The decision by Hawaii federal judge Derrick Watson – which the White House signaled it would appeal – marks the latest blow to Trump’s long-running efforts to restrict entry of travelers from targeted countries into the United States. Watson said the third rendition of the travel ban -- covering people from six mainly Muslim countries, as well as North Korea and some officials from Venezuela -- could not be justified under law. In his decision Watson wrote the ban “suffers from precisely the same maladies as its predecessor: it lacks sufficient findings that the entry of more than 150 million nationals from six specific countries would be ‘detrimental to the interests of the United States.’”
The ruling meant the Trump administration will again be forced to ask the Supreme Court to decide whether his immigration orders are legal. The newest order was announced last month to replace an expiring 90-day temporary ban on travelers from the Muslim-majority nations of Sudan, Syria, Yemen, Iran, Somalia and Libya.
The September decree
The September decree removed Sudan from the list, but added Chad and North Korea for full bans and Venezuela for a ban limited to certain classes of officials. The White House justified the measure by citing the protection of US national security -- but critics said it appeared virtually the same as the original order of January 27. Courts shot that version down saying it targeted Muslims, violating the US constitutional protections for religious freedom. A second version was only slightly adjusted and was quickly tied up in similar legal wrangling. In June the Supreme Court accepted to review the case but let the 90-day ban go mostly into effect in the meantime. When the ban expired the court decided there was nothing to rule on. Trump went forward with a new version with no expiry date, tacking on North Korea and Venezuela to the list of targeted countries and implying the updated measure did not simply target Muslim countries.People wait for flights in advance of the incoming travel ban to the US at John F. Kennedy airport in the Queens borough of New York City, New York, US June 29, 2017. (reuters)
Antithetical to US laws
But Watson -- who also issued freezes on the first two attempts -- said the order does not improve US security, since individuals who pose risks can already be denied entry under existing law. The order “plainly discriminates based on nationality” in a manner antithetical to US laws “and the founding principles of this nation,” he wrote. Watson placed a freeze on the ban on travelers from the six countries, but allowed it to be implemented on North Korea -- which sent only a handful of people to the United States last year -- and Venezuela, where US sanctions have also already made travel to the United States difficult for many officials. The White House quickly rejected his argument, calling it “dangerously flawed” and promising to fight the action. “The entry restrictions in the proclamation apply to countries based on their inability or unwillingness to share critical information necessary to safely vet applications, as well as a threat assessment related to terrorism, instability, and other grave national security concerns,” it said. “We are therefore confident that the Judiciary will ultimately uphold the President’s lawful and necessary action and swiftly restore its vital protections for the safety of the American people.”

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on October 18-19/17
The USA Serves Up Kurdistan To Iran On a Silver Platter
أميركا قدمت كردستان لإيران على طبق من فضة
By: Bernard-Henri Lévy /Tablet /October 18/17
On Monday of this week, what had been feared transpired: paramilitary units supported by elements of the Iraqi army attacked in the vicinity of Kirkuk.
Baghdad’s putatively federal army put into action the threats of the country’s leaders and, at the risk of ruining any chance of future coexistence with the Kurds, responded to the peaceful referendum of Sept. 25 with a dumbfounding and vengeful act of force.
Not long ago, it was Saddam Hussein operating with gas and deportations. And then on Monday Saddam’s Shi’ite successors, answering to Tehran, sent tanks, artillery, and Katyusha rockets into the oil fields that are the life blood of Kurdistan. Today they are doing the same in the Sinjar mountains, in the southern city of Jalawla, and in the Bashiqa area on the Plain of Nineveh, which the Kurds only just reclaimed from ISIS.
Of course, this disaster would not have occurred had the Kurds not been tragically divided. We know today that Baghdad’s quick victory is largely due to what President Masoud Barzani, in a statement released on Oct. 17, called the “treason” of several commanders loyal to the PUK, the party founded by Barzani’s old rival, former president Talabani. The Iraqi-Iranian coalition was able to take advantage of these dissensions, using the commanders close to Talabani as Trojan horses to gain entry to Kirkuk and other targets. Be that as it may, the main issue—and the real scandal—lies in the fact that the central government of the pseudo-state of Iraq, whose sovereignty consists of little more than vague and hollow rhetoric, have used force to crush the country’s Kurdish citizens.
And now, scandal mounts around the fact that Kurdistan’s “friends,” the countries that for two years running relied on it to keep the Islamic State at bay and then to defeat it, the people who swore by the Peshmerga, by its heroes and by its dead, have, as I write these lines, responded with nothing more than deafening silence, appearing willing to abandon to their fate the men and women who fought so valiantly for them.
Whether one agreed or disagreed with the referendum that President Barzani consistently described as a democratic prelude to negotiation with Baghdad, it is completely unacceptable that the response to that referendum should be an act of force piled onto the blockade of Irbil’s skies and borders, the relentless economic and political pressure, and the transformation of Kurdish territory into an open-air prison over the past three weeks.
Whether one is for or against the independence of Kurdistan; whether one favors total independence or limited autonomy; whether one has in mind a clean break from Iraq or one of several federal arrangements preferred by some leaders in Irbil and Sulaimaniyah, one thing is beyond comprehension: that the world should watch while an entire nation is seized peremptorily by the throat, attacked on all fronts, dismembered, devastated, and humiliated.
In the face of this unprecedented act of punishment, the international community should have immediately sounded a solemn warning to Iraq (and to its Iranian masters and their ally of convenience, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan): Cease the aggression. Pull back the militias and the regular forces supporting them to the lines that existed on Oct. 15.
In response to an advance aimed at choking Kurdistan’s second-largest city and at breaking through the Peshmerga’s lines with support from Iraq’s 9th Armored Division, the federal police, and counterterrorism units, the West—notably the United States and France—should have called immediately for a ceasefire and denounced this replay of Danzig in the Middle East.
And, seeing that the Iraqi forces and the militants of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq did not stand down, the international forces that were deployed in the area as part of the battle against the Islamic State should have been positioned to help our oldest and bravest ally in the region. For two years now, the Kurds have stood against the Islamic State almost alone along a thousand-kilometer front line, serving as the West’s rampart against barbarism.
One thing is beyond comprehension: that the world should watch while an entire nation is seized peremptorily by the throat, attacked on all fronts, dismembered, devastated, and humiliated. When the Iraqi army fled before the Caliphate’s troops in the summer of 2014, it was the Kurds who held on and retook the territory.
And if they were in Kirkuk on Monday it is, first of all, because they had been a majority there until the Arabization imposed by Saddam Hussein, but also because it is owing to the Kurds—and the Kurds alone—that the city did not become a fiefdom of the Islamists like Mosul and Raqqa.
In other words, coming to their rescue was a matter of honor and justice.
On one side we had the sinister new Gang of Four (Iran, Turkey, Syria, and Iraq), who are bound together by their hatred of democracy and human rights; on the other we have a small but great people who aspire only to liberty, ours as well as their own, and who harbor no aim to divide neighboring empires. What form of blindness—or what base calculations—could have caused us to hesitate for a second between the two?
I repeat: on one side, a clutch of dictatorships with which we, United States and Europe, are engaged in a delicate balance of power that permits no lowering of our guard and no concession on matters of principle; on the other, a proud people who for a century have resisted successive attempts at subjugation and whose crime today is to have voiced a desire to live in a society guided by the very same principles that we in the West embrace. Who in Washington, Paris, or London could have had any doubt? Who would have dared oppose calling the Security Council into emergency session for a resolution to halt a war launched by Baghdad while the corpse of the Islamic State was still twitching?
We should not have abandoned Kurdistan, the only real pole of stability in the region.
We should not have allowed its population—nor the million and a half Christian, Yazidi, and Arab refugees who have sought asylum among them—to be taken hostage.
This advance of Iraqi forces, and of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard that supports them, in a part of the world where no troop movement, however infinitesimal, escapes the eye of American satellites, would not have been possible without the prior agreement of the U.S. State Department. And there—in serving up Kurdistan on a silver platter to a state, Iran, that is otherwise considered an adversary—lies an astonishing political miscalculation as well as a glaring and appalling moral failure.
Before it is too late, let us extend a fraternal hand to this exemplary people who, after a century of struggle, believed that they had finally glimpsed light at the end of the tunnel.
When I say fraternal, I am thinking particularly of the United States, a nation historically so close to Kurdistan in its struggle and whose image still burns brightly in the hearts of Kurds of all faiths and persuasions.
***Translated from the French by Steven B. Kennedy.
**Bernard-Henri Lévy is a writer and documentary filmmaker. His Peshmerga! (2016), a Special Selection at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, portrayed the struggle along the thousand-mile front line separating the Kurds from Islamic State. His subsequent La Bataille de Mossoul (2017) explored the fight to retake the city.

Iran and America: What next?

Mahan Abedin /MEM/October 17/17
Donald Trump’s incendiary attack on Iran last Friday stands out as his most important action to date as US president. Whilst his decision to decertify the landmark nuclear accord of 2015 was expected, it was Trump’s concerted effort at projecting the Islamic Republic as darkly as possible that has raised eyebrows.
Trump’s stark depiction of Iran fits into the reductive “good and evil” narrative which he first set out back in May. In diplomatic terms, this is the boldest attack yet by any US president on the Islamic Republic. Inevitably it will have profound consequences.
This article looks at the nature of Iran-US relations and Trump’s determination to bring tensions to a head. The focus of analysis is not the nuclear accord, or even Iran’s regional posture, but the underlying issues in Iran-US relations.
The contention is that what unfolds in the next three years will be crucial in Iran-US relations, and may even partially settle the enmity. Either the US grudgingly accepts Iran’s complex role in the region, or conversely Iran adapts its policies, if not its overall approach, to grudgingly embrace a status quo role.
Trump’s challenge
In keeping with his “America first” mantra, Donald Trump set out a list of American grievances against Iran starting from the American hostage crisis of 1979-1980 to alleged Iranian attacks on US forces in Iraq. In diplomatic terms, this is unoriginal stuff, not least because the Iranians have a long list of grievances of their own which stretch back much further than 1979.
Starting with the Anglo-American engineered coup of August 1953 which overthrew Iran’s first democratically-elected government, to American support for Iraq in the long-running Iran-Iraq War and America’s special relationship with Israel, Iran too has much to complain about.
But Trump’s speech went beyond diplomatic grandstanding to betray a level of hostility, underpinned by multiple distortions and downright untruths, not shown by any US president toward Iran since the Iranian revolution of 1979.
From fully embracing the Israeli and Saudi narrative on Iran, to simplifying the Islamic Republic as a “corrupt dictatorship” and continually referring to it as the “regime”, Trump’s rhetorical flourish was boundless. Moreover, his provocative and calculated gesture of naming what Iranians refer to as the Persian Gulf as the Arabian Gulf, was a clear indication that his invective embraces the Iranian nation-state as a whole, not just the country’s ruling system. It is worth noting that Iranians from all political backgrounds are sensitive to any attempts at changing the name of the Persian Gulf.
Grandstanding and gesture politics aside, Trump has staked out an interesting position by out-matching Iranian rulers in the rhetorical game. He is right to point out that the worldview of Iran’s rulers is shaped by the slogans of “Death to America” and “Death to Israel”. In the case of the latter Iran has been more or less true to its word by pursuing policies which are deeply inimical to the Jewish state.
But in the case of the US, despite what Trump appears to believe, Iran’s rulers have gone out of their way to avoid conflict. Trump’s aggressive posture places Iran’s rulers in a difficult position inasmuch as it throws down the ideological gauntlet at them and exposes the gap in their rhetoric and actions.
Road to war?
Despite Trump’s aggressive posturing, and his apparent determination to destroy the nuclear accord notwithstanding, Iran and the USA are not heading toward a full-scale war. The prospect for war peaked three decades ago when the US destroyed a quarter of the Iranian navy in April 1988 in the closing stages of the Iran-Iraq War. There was another major spike in tensions, with a potential to spark a limited inter-state conflict, a year later when pro-Iranian groups in Lebanon hanged a member of the US marines in retaliation for the Israeli abduction of Hezbollah leader Abdel-Karim Obeid.
One of the key reasons behind the Islamic Republic’s hostility toward the US is the deeply-held belief in Tehran that the ultimate US policy on Iran is the overthrow of its government. The so-called “regime change” policy is periodically floated by US leaders and officials to intimidate the Iranians. It was most recently suggested by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in a public congressional hearing.
The US quest for regime change in Iran – quite apart from being hopelessly unrealistic – speaks to Washington’s profound misunderstanding of the Islamic Republic. Even America’s foremost veteran strategist, Henry Kissinger, displays this misunderstanding by his quip that Iran must decide “whether it is a nation or a cause”.
The Iranians don’t recognise a contradiction between expounding revolutionary values whilst at the same time pursuing the national interest by conventional means. In fact, they see it as a strength and a game changer. Thus, regionally Iran pursues clear-eyed strategic objectives in the framework of an ideologically-defined “Axis of Resistance”, whilst more broadly Iran uses the full spectrum of diplomatic, intelligence and propaganda tools to advance its interests on the global stage.
Even relatively sophisticated US analysis on Iran takes as its starting point the utility of exploiting a putative divide between the Iranian people and their government. No serious attention is given to the possibility that this divide (even if we assume it exists) may not be exploitable in a strategic context, not least because the Iranians will inevitably rally around their government in the event of a serious confrontation with the US.
In the months and years ahead, as Iran-US tensions build up, the Islamic Republic will skilfully alternate from revolutionary to status quo power with a view to containing concerted US attempts at blunting Iran’s regional strategic momentum.
Donald Trump is used to winning. In this case, he hasn’t fully reckoned with the wily and resourceful nature of Iran’s rulers who are more than his match.

Europe's New Official History Erases Christianity, Promotes Islam
Giulio Meotti/Gatestone Institute/October 17/17
"The patrons of the false Europe are bewitched by superstitions of inevitable progress. They believe that History is on their side, and this faith makes them haughty and disdainful, unable to acknowledge the defects in the post-national, post-cultural world they are constructing." — The Paris Statement, signed by ten respected European scholars.
German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière's proposal to introduce Muslim public holidays shows that when it comes to Islam, Europe's official "post-Christian" secularism is simply missing in action.
A few days ago, some of Europe's most important intellectuals -- including British philosopher Roger Scruton, former Polish Education Minister Ryszard Legutko, German scholar Robert Spaemann and Professor Rémi Brague from the Sorbonne in France -- issued "The Paris Statement". In their ambitious statement, they rejected the "false Christendom of universal human rights" and the "utopian, pseudo-religious crusade for a borderless world". Instead, they called for a Europe based on "Christian roots", drawing inspiration from the "Classical tradition" and rejecting multiculturalism:
"The patrons of the false Europe are bewitched by superstitions of inevitable progress. They believe that History is on their side, and this faith makes them haughty and disdainful, unable to acknowledge the defects in the post-national, post-cultural world they are constructing. Moreover, they are ignorant of the true sources of the humane decencies they themselves hold dear — as do we. They ignore, even repudiate the Christian roots of Europe. At the same time they take great care not to offend Muslims, who they imagine will cheerfully adopt their secular, multicultural outlook".
In 2007, reflecting on the cultural crisis of the continent, Pope Benedict said that Europe is now "doubting its very identity". In 2017, Europe took a further step: creating a post-Christian pro-Islam identity. Europe's official buildings and exhibitions have indeed been erasing Christianity and welcoming Islam.
One kind of official museum recently opened by the European Parliament, the "House of the European History", costing 56 million euros. The idea was to create a historical narrative of the postwar period around the pro-EU message of unification. The building is a beautiful example of Art Deco in Brussels. As the Dutch scholar Arnold Huijgen wrote, however, the house is culturally "empty": "The French Revolution seems to be the birthplace of Europe; there is little room for anything that may have preceded it. The Napoleonic Code and the philosophy of Karl Marx receive a prominent place, while slavery and colonialism are highlighted as the darker sides of European culture (...) But the most remarkable thing about the House is far as its account is concerned, it is as if religion does not exist. In fact, it never existed and never impacted the history of the continent (...) No longer is European secularism fighting the Christian religion; it simply ignores every religious aspect in life altogether".
The Brussels bureaucracy even deleted the Catholic roots of its official flag, the twelve stars symbolizing the ideal of unity, solidarity and harmony among the peoples of Europe. It was drawn by the French Catholic designer Arséne Heitz, who apparently took his inspiration from the Christian iconography of Virgin Mary. But the European Union's official explanation of the flag makes no mention of these Christian roots. The European Monetary and Economic Department of the European Commission then ordered Slovakia to redesign its commemorative coins by eliminating the Christian Saints Cyril and Methonius. There is no mention of Christianity in the 75,000 words of the aborted draft of the European Constitution.
The European Commission ordered Slovakia to redesign its commemorative coins by eliminating the Christian Saints Cyril and Methonius. German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière, of Angela Merkel's ruling Christian Democratic Party, recently suggested introducing Muslim public holidays. "In places where there are many Muslims, why can't we think about introducing a Muslim public holiday?", he said. "The submission is moving ahead," replied Erika Steinbach, the influential former chair of the Federation of Expellees -- Germans expelled from various Eastern European countries during and after World War II.
Beatrix von Storch, a leading politician from Alternative for Germany Party (AfD), just tweeted: "NO! NO! NO!". De Maizière's proposal shows that when it comes to Islam, Europe's official "post-Christian" secularism is simply missing in action. A few weeks ago, a European Union-funded exhibition, "Islam, It's also our history!", was hosted in Brussels. The exhibition tracks the impact of Islam in Europe. An official statement claims: "The historical evidence displayed by the exhibition – the reality of an old-age Muslim presence in Europe and the complex interplay of two civilisations that fought against each other but also interpenetrated each other – underpins an educational and political endeavour: helping European Muslims and non Muslims alike to better grasp their common cultural roots and cultivate their shared citizenship".
Isabelle Benoit, a historian who helped design the exhibition, told AP: "We want to make clear to Europeans that Islam is part of European civilisation and that it isn't a recent import but has roots going back 13 centuries". The official European establishment has turned its back on Christianity. The establishment appear unaware of the extent to which the continent and its people still depend on the moral guidance of its humanitarian values, especially at a time when radical Islam has launched a civilization challenge to the West. "It is simply a problem of a packing that tends to fill a 'void'", just wrote Ernesto Galli della Loggia in the Italian daily newspaper Il Corriere della Sera. "It is impossible to ignore that behind the packing are two great theological and political traditions -- that of the Russian Orthodoxy and Islam -- while behind the 'void' there is only the fading of the Christian consciousness of the European West".
That is why it is hard to understand the "logic" behind the official European animosity toward Christianity and its attraction to a basically totalitarian Islam. Europe could easily be secular without being militantly anti-Christian. It is easier to understand why thousands of Poles just took part in a mass protest along Poland's borders to voice their opposition to "secularization and Islam's influence", which is exactly the same as the official crazy EU credo. During the Second World War, the Allies avoided bombing Brussels, because it was to be the site of European rebirth. If the European elite continue with this cultural repudiation of their Judeo-Christian-Humanistic culture, the city could be its grave.
**Giulio Meotti, Cultural Editor for Il Foglio, is an Italian journalist and author.
© 2017 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.
N.B: The European Commission ordered Slovakia to redesign its commemorative coins by eliminating the Christian Saints Cyril and Methonius. (Image sources: Coin - European Commission; Bratislava, Slovakia - Frettie/Wikimedia Commons)

From Monty Python to Allah: London's New Mega Mosque
Judith Bergman/Gatestone Institute/October 17/17
"We do not know what they are preaching as [it is] all in Arabic." — A petitioner against the Hussainiyat Al-Rasool Al-Adham mosque, in the middle of one of London's two largely Jewish areas.
"[Ayatollah Syed Mohammed Al-Shirazi]... would constantly encourage the establishment of Hussaini centers across the world, especially in non-Islamic countries... so we can propagate the teachings of the Ahlulbayt." — Leading members of the Hussainiyat Al-Rasool Al-Adham mosque describing its 30-year history and why it was established.
The Ayatollah Sayed Sadiq Hussaini Al-Shirazi, a leading Iranian cleric who resides in the city of Qom, has a list of religious centers and mosques with which he appears to be involved. Among them is the Hussainiyat Al-Rasool Al-Adham in London.
A new Shia Muslim mega mosque and Islamic center – measuring over 3,500 square meters and with room for 3,000 people -- has opened in Golders Green, one of only two largely Jewish areas in London. The Shia Muslim religious center, Hussainiyat Al-Rasool Al-Adham, owns the mosque.
The mosque is situated in the Hippodrome, a prominent building centrally located in North London. The Hippodrome was built in 1913 as a 3,000-seat music hall and for more than 30 years housed the BBC Concert Orchestra. Two episodes of the first series of Monty Python's Flying Circus were recorded there in 1969. After the BBC left the building in 2005, a Jewish group wanted to convert the building into a place of worship but was rejected, because the planning applications stipulated that the building should be used for entertainment. In March 2007, it was purchased by an evangelical Christian center. After the church center closed, the Hussainiyat Al-Rasool Al-Adham center acquired it.
Because the building is a so-called grade II building, special permission is needed to change the purpose of the building. The Hussainiyat Al-Rasool Al-Adham has applied to the local city council for permission to use the building as a 'place of worship'. The application is still pending-- and worship there is therefore, strictly speaking, illegal -- but the mosque is operating nevertheless. It apparently officially opened on September 8, and has been in frequent use since, as is evident from the many photos shared on the Hussainiyat Al-Rasool Al-Adham Facebook page.
A partial screenshot of a post from the Hussainiyat Al-Rasool Al-Adham Facebook page, advertising the opening of the new mega mosque.
"This is a great move for us and we are very pleased and excited to be in Golders Green in such a diverse area. We can't wait to get to know our neighbours and plan to welcome them at an open day sometime in December... We will be reaching out to the local churches and synagogues so we can build strong ties with the community," Ahmed Al-Kazemi, the spokesperson for the Hussainiyat Al-Rasool Al-Adham mosque told the Jewish chronicle in September. It appears unlikely that forging ties with neighbors will be a high priority, as one young member of the mosque explained in a recent fundraising video for the new mega mosque:
"Growing up in this country, same as any other Western country, it is very difficult for the youth to stay on the straight path... it is very easy to stray yourself away from the straight path because of the friends you make at school or at work or anywhere, which is not mixed with your own people. So the Hussainiyah [the Shia mosque] was there as a backbone to us... where if they saw any of us doing anything wrong there would always be a person to advise you and put you in the right path..."
In the fundraising video, leading members of the Hussainiyat Al-Rasool Al-Adham describe the 30-year history of Hussainiyat Al-Rasool Al-Adham and why it was established. An elderly cleric, not named in the video, said:
"[Ayatollah Syed Mohammed Al-Shirazi[1]] ... would constantly encourage the establishment of Hussaini centers across the world, especially in non-Islamic countries and thus would encourage people to travel and reside in Western countries [at this point the cleric uses the term 'hijrah' to describe Islamic migration into the West]. I was one of those, who were advised to reside in the West; so we can propagate the teachings of the Ahlulbayt[2]. I arrived in London in 1993. The Hussainiah programmes then took place in an apartment in Edgware Road [in London], which we would attend. At the time these were organized by the late Ayatollah Sheikh al-Garawi..."
The apartment on Edgware Road in London was subsequently exchanged for a larger property, a former garage and car storage facility, at 120 Cricklewood Lane in North London. After 20 years at the Cricklewood property, a younger cleric explained, 'we were under pressure from various angles to sell the venue in search of a more suitable space'.
Hussainiyat Al-Rasool Al-Adham sold their old converted garage and warehouse for a remarkable £4.5 million in January 2017. The property was apparently only valued at about one tenth of that sum and properties in that area apparently sell at a fraction of that price.
The Islamic charity that runs Hussainiyat Al-Rasool Al-Adham, the Center for Islamic Enlightenment (also known as Markaz El Tathgheef El Eslami, which has at its stated purpose, 'to promote the advancement of the Islamic religion by all or any of the following means: Providing religious centers for worship of the Islamic religion, providing free booklets and supplements to followers, advancement of education of the public concerning the Islamic religious culture)[3] bought the prominent Hippodrome building with its central location in the affluent and attractive suburb of Golders Green for £5.2 million in July – not that much more than for what they had sold their old converted garage. The identity of the extremely generous buyer of the Cricklewood property remains unknown.
The conversion of the Hippodrome into a mega-mosque has created local protests in Golders Green. A petition against it has been launched, signed by more than 4,000 people. According to one petitioner:
"To place a large Muslim institution in the heart of one of London's only two Jewish communities is a highly dangerous undertaking and one that can only result in violence and terrorism."
Another petitioner wrote: "The appearance of burkas [and] veils has changed the area... the traffic is too much and we do not know what they are preaching as [it is] all in Arabic".
While Hussainiyat Al-Rasool Al-Adham poses as a local Islamic community that is interested in diversity and interfaith dialogue, it would appear that it is under the direct influence of Iran. The Ayatollah Sayed Sadiq Hussaini Al-Shirazi, a leading Iranian cleric who resides in the city of Qom, has a list of religious centers and mosques with which he appears to be involved (they are listed as his "Works" on his website). Among them are three centers or mosques in Canada and one mosque in Europe: The Hussainiyat Al-Rasool Al-Adham in London. Ayatollah Sayed Sadiq Hussaini Al-Shirazi, the brother of the late Ayatollah Syed Mohammed Al-Shirazi, is cited in the fundraising video mentioned above as the person who "would constantly encourage the establishment of Hussaini centers across the world, especially in non-Islamic countries and thus would encourage people to travel and reside in Western countries".
At the end of the fundraising video, a spokesperson for the Hussainiyat Al-Rasool Al-Adham says that the mosque is very happy with their new location and that they expect to be there for the next "100, 200 or 300 years".
*Judith Bergman is a columnist, lawyer and political analyst.
[1] A very influential Iranian cleric and Shia Muslim scholar, who belonged to the inner circle, at least initially, of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
[2] The Ahlulbayt are certain descendants of Mohammad, his 'household', among them Hussain, the grandson of Muhammad. Shia Muslims frequently call their houses of prayer and study Hussainiah centers, after Hussain.
[3] In 2014 an inquiry was opened into the charity's dealings, as it had apparently extended a very large loan to a commercial company, Ahlbayt TV.
© 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.

What the KRG’s Loss of Kirkuk Means for Iraq
by Max J. Joseph/Syria Comment/October 17th, 2017
Too many takes on Kirkuk have left me cringing. From Kurds, Arabs, Westerners and pretty much everyone else. Observing the mixture of hysteria and celebration was profound and jarring enough to provoke me into this small piece of commentary. This piece won’t be focused on the small details concerning logistics and troop movements ongoing throughout the northern territories at the time of publishing, but what I think they represent and how we got here.
As part of my MSc thesis 8 years ago or so, I wrote that Kirkuk should be under Federal Government control and eventually given special status in accordance with Iraqi constitutional law, satisfying all segments of its diverse population. No part of that once relatively popular solution included the complete fragmentation and breakdown of Kurdish security forces and a political sundering so vast it might spell the end of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) itself. But that’s where we are now.
There is no doubt that including the “disputed” territories in the unilaterally imposed referendum is proving to be the fatal misstep (in quotes because I’ve never accepted the “dispute”, and don’t want to dignify KRG claims on lands belonging to Assyrians and other minorities outside of the KRI). The Barzani family and its allies within the PUK and other, smaller proxies made the calculation that they would have more leverage, more clout, and a tighter grip on the aspirations of the Kurdistan Region if they delivered this particular referendum question to the people, whatever the fallout afterwards.
Western actors made no secret of their opposition to it, nevermind regional actors such as Turkey and Iran. Nevertheless, the referendum was confirmed the night before its scheduled execution in all its shambolic glory. Voting patterns betrayed endemic corruption: ballot boxes were either stuffed or shuttled away secretly according to eyewitnesses, in keeping with previous elections and referenda conducted by the KRG. Residents were harassed by Kurdish asayish calling and knocking on their doors, state employees were bused to polling stations and watched over carefully by armed soldiers.
What was meant to be an expression of the Kurdish peoples’ legitimate will was transformed into a ploy by illegitimate KRG leaders to have more cards to play in their negotiations with Baghdad. The miscalculation on the KRG’s part was thinking these negotiations would even take place given the nature of the referendum question put forward, or how much it would provide Baghdad a newfound confidence to reject any meeting using its result as a staging ground for any deal-making.
Kirkuk was the only thing the KRG could easily be isolated on, as opposed to lands further north where more complications would have arisen in response to this kind of assertive display of Federal authority. Even with these complications however, it seems Federal Government forces are pushing further north after their political victory in Kirkuk, with reports of peshmerga positions being abandoned in Sinjar and the rest of the Nineveh Plain. The KRG gambled and lost, and that was very much the Barzani family’s call. Greed is a horrible thing, and it remains their cardinal sin.
KDP vs PUK and the Rhetoric of Treachery
A lot of statements, party-focused slander and rumours are circulating among KRG media and Kurdish individuals in the aftermath of Kirkuk. The infighting and self-flagellation really is something to behold. Yet, it truly boggles the mind how this is being interpreted, especially from my vantage point (of being underground and looking up at this mess).
Some Kurds are saying that the lack of bloodshed and violence on the part of the peshmerga and its commanders represents a grand betrayal. That they should have defended the city against all comers. Ex Governor Karim desperately asked ordinary citizens to take up arms and resist before he himself fled to Erbil. Peshmerga commanders were interviewed by KRG media and they promised “massacres” if Kirkuk was approached by Federal forces. None of this happened, and there is a weird air of regret and mourning wafting around the commentary on the internet.
The relevant point here on Kirkuk remains the same for me: the city should be administered in a fair way which represents the people of the city, and not as a vehicle to fill the coffers of the Barzani family. Individuals aligned with the KDP and PUK have taken to social media and declaring each other traitors. No doubt, images of peshmerga crying after having fled can be categorized as the anguish of terrified soldiers, of stolen hopes and dreams, and worry for family members. But why has it even come to this? Why was it so important for the KRG to assert itself as the sole overseers of a clearly heterogeneous city which they could be cornered on and forced into an embarrassing withdrawal in this way?
The KRG, dominated for years by the politically bankrupt KDP, were stubborn enough to go ahead with the referendum in the face of almost universal opposition. The problem was that they went one step further by incorporating post-2014 newly conquered lands into the question. I’ve said this so many times: acquiring leverage for expansion and not independence had always been the purpose of the referendum. The KDP et al had calculated that they needed ownership of Kirkuk’s oil for any prospect of independence, so expansion was the first priority. From the peoples’ perspective, there simply is no real independence with a black market economy controlled by autocrats. The referendum was a heist, and Baghdad was gradually emboldened enough to foil it.
This is not meant to antagonize the rights, well-being and desire for self-determination of the Kurdish people. All people should have equal rights and be free to live in dignity. What is beyond doubt for me however is how people are expected to do this under the auspices of a kleptocratic mafia? Did Kurds really think it was possible?
“Big Picture” Nationalism
A phrase I’m sarcastically coining these days: big picture nationalism is a brand of nationalism which whitewashes the historical and present crimes and failures of leaders within a community (for the greater good they are hoping for).
So many people have decried the use of Western armour and weapons deployed in the reassertion of Federal authority in Kirkuk displacing the peshmerga, but where was the outrage when Western weapons were used by KDP-controlled Rojava Peshmerga units against local Yazidi fighters in Sinjar?
So many people have lamented this historic retreat from Kirkuk, but where were the lamentations for Yazidis and Assyrians when Peshmerga disarmed and abandoned them to ISIS in 2014, only to return years later and declare themselves their liberators and bosses? (Is oil is more important than lives?)
So many people have demonstrated against actions targeting the Kurdish people, but why is there so much silence in the face of an illegitimate and divisive president with countless deaths on his head?
So many people are calling the PUK traitors when big picture nationalism entails they probably support the whims of a family who collaborated with Saddam against his own people after Anfal to retain power.
In the face of genocide, absolutely untold levels of corruption, and a list of betrayals so damning nobody should be allowed back from, Barzani’s regime and its policies still enjoy the support (albeit begrudging in many parts) of large segments of the local Kurdish population. It seems to me that there is the vague hope that these lands and therefore Kurdistan’s future can and should be secured in any way possible, even if it means backing a tyrant. It is this dream of Kurdistan first and then we can deal with Barzani’s dictatorship later, when in reality, the only thing that is real right now is Barzani’s dictatorship. Yet a little voice calls out: free yourself from this ghetto and perhaps greater freedoms lie ahead.
Unless this is meaningfully addressed by the Kurdish people, dreams will remain dreams, and wounds and divisions will deepen. When Kurds voted “yes” to Barzani’s referendum, they weren’t voting on independence, they were voting on the legitimacy of the actors who were administering it and their own sordid ambitions. People know that al-Abadi can be voted out if he fails to deliver. That is reassuring and it makes him act accordingly. Barzani has never had such pressure, and that is a large part of why we are where are today.
The KRG: One of the Biggest Failures in Governance in Recent Memory?
Even with billions of dollars in funding and aid, weapons, mentoring, Western hand-holding and protection, a near enough limitless output of propaganda, media access, long-term concentrated lobbying efforts, and backing from every section of Western society, the KRG has proven to be fundamentally inept at good governance. After all, what has all of this time and energy produced? A redundant parliament, shadowy institutions, fatally divided and bickering security forces built along tribal lines— all being sucked through a fiscal black hole. That is the sum of everyone’s investment and support.
Imagine pinning your hopes and dreams regarding the protection of Kirkuk on a fighting force that’s dependent on already alienated foreign powers for its salaries. Its no wonder a faction of the PUK reportedly caved to Baghdad’s authority, setting off the unfolding domino effect in Kirkuk and the wider region. Its no wonder Federal troops have entered unopposed into Sinjar. Its no wonder Peshmerga are reportedly withdrawing from positions in Bashiqa and other areas in Nineveh.
Assyrians and many other people in territories the KRG have expanded into are literally praying for the sight of Baghdad-aligned armour rolling through their neighbourhoods and tearing down newly installed portraits of Barzani. That is the reality of how bad the KRG is perceived, but you wouldn’t know it because of all of the media noise and heckling. With Baghdad, minorities are one degree of separation from sovereign power. With the KRG, we are two degrees away, and underneath a layer of corruption and nepotism so thick we can’t see any route up and out.
Yes, there is relative security in the KRG, but that is because it is a police state. Yes, you will be safe if you swear allegiance, not to a feudal king or a lord one thousand years ago, but a political party in the information age. Yes, you might start resenting the current regime, but you can’t criticize it and there is no hope it will ever change. If there was any hope, the KDP would not still be the only dominant party, and its opposition would not be as pathetic and skeletal as they are now. Where is the alternative? Where is the anger manifesting inward and producing change?
The Federal Government, for all its innumerable faults, is more democratic. There is more potential to improve, to access things, to change things, and to work towards something than there is with the tribalism and patronage systems defining the KRG. That is backed up by democratic elections and a functioning parliament. What remains dysfunctional today in Baghdad has more scope to be fixed but the same cannot be said of the KRG. Minorities need strong central government, because strong central governments are the only bodies who can afford to decentralize. They are secure enough to do so.
With emerging reports of Federal forces arriving in Sinjar and Bashiqa and the ensuing peshmerga retreat from those areas (their second mass retreat in three years against two different forces) it still remains to be seen how far these Federal forces will go. If they arrive in Alqosh, the besieged town in the far north of the Nineveh Plain, there will be a joyous celebration by its residents. Alqosh’s residents proudly waved Iraqi flags which served to protest the removal of their mayor and imposition of the KDP stooge, Lara Yousif Zaia, as well as make clear their position on the KRG-imposed referendum on their town (which went ahead, returning over 4000 yes votes, despite reality on the ground indicating no more than 400 people voted, and overwhelmingly “no”).
Asserting Federal authority back into Nineveh after years of KDP domination represents a loosening of the noose around the necks of resident minority groups. From being sidelined and co-opted and divided politically, having their lands stolen, and their security totally unreliable — these groups were on the brink of annihilation. Going forward, this arrangement should now halt, or perhaps even reverse.
The security vacuum left by the peshmerga will now be filled by federal forces and aligned groups— meaning for Yazidis, PMU forces aligned with the Federal Government and for Assyrians, the Nineveh Plain Protection Units (NPU). With the NPU, Assyrians already have in place a trained fighting force (recognized by the US and the coalition) ready to be bolstered, equipped and expanded by the Federal Government in our ancestral lands.
Understating how important this is does the NPU’s political mission and its ideological foundation a disservice — this is a force of Assyrians from Nineveh who had formed as a response to ISIS’ onslaught on their towns. They have partaken in the liberation of Assyrian towns and villages alongside the Iraqi Army and coalition forces, but have been cut off from the Northern Nineveh Plain by the expanded peshmerga line which has isolated towns such as Telskuf, Alqosh, Batnaya, and Bashiqa, where many of the NPU’s soldiers are from.
Recent events are proving that their political positioning within the Iraqi security landscape has been astute and well-informed. Many have doubted their alignment, their purpose and even their refusal to engage in armed conflict with peshmerga forces encircling Assyrian towns, but this patience and pragmatism is seemingly paying off with the reassertion of Federal authority.
Every End is a New Beginning
I say this with no real exaggeration: Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi has played his hand masterfully. Between taking the fight to ISIS, controlling the Hash’d al Shabi, managing relationships with Western powers as well as Turkey and Iran, navigating the crash in oil prices, plus the fractious relationship with the KRG, he has genuinely proven to be a very capable leader. His re-election after four years in office looks almost a certainty now.
The KRG in had everything seemingly on its side. Any misstep by the Federal Government would have been magnified as a disaster, but these missteps have not transpired. What has instead come to pass has been a considered and assertive approach by the Federal Government, even in the face of endless provocation by the KRG and regional powers. Where people have tried to escalate matters and call for blood, al-Abadi has called for calm and reconciliation. Consider this for a moment: Federal forces marched into oil-rich Kirkuk (some commentators hilariously started dubbing it “the Kurds’ Jerusalem”, or “the new Kobane”) almost without incident. They made no secret of their intention to do this in the days preceding and it came about as a result of political deal-making headed by al-Abadi in the background.
I am not going to speculate on where the KRG goes from here, if it goes anywhere at all. It just seems cruel at this stage given the deluge of rumours abound regarding regional fractures and new alliances. What is clear is that this crisis is one the Kurdish people must address in a room full of mirrors — something I’m not optimistic about given an amplification of the ruinous siege mentality cultivated by the old parties. Nevertheless, there is nobody left to blame for this state of affairs but their own, admittedly unelected leaders.
What many Kurds deem a betrayal, I cant help but feel relieved that very little blood was shed. Kurdish affairs have long orbited around the bloated and parasitical old parties and their whims. These chronic failings, which I and others who have been attacked, derided, and mocked for repeatedly pointing out, have been endemic and unaddressed for years. Now you can see the fruits of these failings and how they have contributed to Iraq growing in confidence as a sovereign state, a state many were classifying as “failed”, in the most volatile region in the world. If the heavily maligned, “failed” Iraqi state managed to completely outmaneuver the KRG politically and militarily, how inept must the latter be, considering the support it has received?
As always, I return to the Assyrian perspective. For us, recent events illustrate a resurgent Iraq, and I think (with a healthy degree of caution and hesitation) that may be a good thing for us and our future in the country. No doubt, it’s clear that the collapse of KRG positions in the disputed territories has been welcomed by the vast majority of Nineveh’s residents and the worldwide diaspora, but much hard work lies ahead in undoing a decade of hurt and neglect by both the KRG and the Federal Government respectively. We should enter this new epoch with open minds, but with the knowledge that things may quickly descend into oppression and tyranny once again. We know the signs now. Call them out ruthlessly and say “never again.”
Max J. Joseph is an Assyrian artist and writer focusing on minority group issues within the Middle East. His work has included presenting research within the European Parliament detailing the security situation for minorities in the Nineveh Plain, Iraq. He holds a BA Philosophy and an MSc International Public Policy, where his thesis centered on addressing the Assyrian question in Iraq post-2003.

Win-Win: How Tax Reform Will Help Defense Spending and the Economy
Peter Huessy/Gatestone Institute/October 17/17
While America's adversaries have been increasing their defense budgets and the power of their armed forces, the United States has been doing the opposite.
Although the Senate and House Armed Services Committees passed a bill for 2018 that would exceed President Trump's defense budget request, there is still the problem of the 2011 Budget Control Act, which caps defense spending at an extremely low level. Modernization has been curtailed significantly.
Unfortunately, there remains a widely held assumption that unless tax reform is "revenue-neutral," deficits will increase. The trouble with this assumption is that although revenue-neutral tax reform may make the system more efficient or fair, it neither increases government revenue nor generates additional investment in the private sector. The purpose of the new tax-reform plan is to do both: increase revenue and spur economic growth at the same time.
One crucial aspect of the new tax reform bill, unveiled by President Donald Trump and the "Big Six" group of Republican tax negotiators at the end of September, is the potentially positive effect it will have on the US defense budget, which is sorely in need of an increase.
The assertion made by former President Barack Obama during his final State of the Union address in January 2016, that the United States spends "more on our military than the next eight nations combined," bolstered the belief that America's national-security needs are beyond being met. However, as a recent Heritage Foundation report reveals, such claims, which have led to the conclusion that the United States allocates an excessive amount to the defense budget, are "disingenuous," as they "give no consideration to the decisions driving defense spending or the factors contributing to costs across national economies."
As the Heritage Foundation points out, although "the U.S. military remains the largest and most capable in the world... [t]he security environment in which in which the U.S. military is expected to operate has grown increasingly complex, and national defense resourcing warrants more than a solitary sentence of discussion."
America's major military adversaries, Russia and China, pay their soldiers, sailors and pilots far less than America pays the members of its own forces, which enables Moscow and Beijing to spend more on weapons and research. In addition, unlike the U.S., Russia and China are not transparent about their defense spending at best, and lie about it at worst, with the former reportedly "cooking its defense books," and the latter publishing nothing about its nuclear weapons program. In addition, while America's adversaries have been increasing their defense budgets and the power of their armed forces, the United States has been doing the opposite. As former US Senator James Talent wrote in 2013:
"...[T]he picture isn't pretty. Congress and the president [Obama] will probably agree to increase defense spending by a small amount, but they will probably also take money away from future defense budgets. This will allow them to say that they have increased defense spending while in reality the wholesale unraveling of American power will continue."
In addition -- according to USAF Maj Gen Garrett Harencak -- during decades of a "procurement holiday," America failed to upgrade its nuclear-deterrent capabilities.
This is the bad news. The good news is:
"For the first time in nearly 35 years, the United States is back on track to modernize its entire nuclear deterrent. After previously approving the building of 12 new Columbia class submarines and a new B-21 nuclear-capable bomber, the United States has selected two contractors to compete to build the next land-based intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) nuclear deterrent. This would be the first new land-based ICBM since the Peacekeeper missile was deployed in 1986 and completes a nuclear modernization effort plan promised by the administration."
Unfortunately, however, the defense budget as it stands is not adequate to support the plan. Although the Senate and House Armed Services Committees passed a bill for 2018 that would exceed President Trump's defense budget request, there is still the problem of the 2011 Budget Control Act, which caps defense spending at an extremely low level. Even with an upward adjustment in 2014-15, the shortfall has remained, and modernization has been curtailed significantly.
The situation is further complicated by the current federal deficit, which approaches $600 billion annually. With infrastructure investment requirements and significant multiple billions now needed for hurricane relief, it is not surprising that much of the accepted narrative is that extra money for the military is impossible under these circumstances.
This conventional wisdom is wrong, however. Historically, tax reform has secured more, not less, revenue for the federal government -- and the current plan would be no different, thus enabling a restoration of military spending. Unfortunately, there remains a widely held assumption that unless tax reform is "revenue-neutral," deficits will increase. The trouble with this assumption is that although revenue-neutral tax reform may make the system more efficient or fair -- as was the aim of the Tax Reform Act of 1986 -- it neither increases government revenue nor generates additional investment in the private sector.
The purpose of the new tax-reform plan is to do both: increase revenue and spur economic growth at the same time. Months before it was proposed, however -- and it has yet to be reviewed thoroughly, debated or passed by Congress -- the Congressional Budget Office already projected an annual revenue increase of $160-$212 billion over the next decade, even with a low 2.1% average economic growth rate. A 3% growth rate created by tax reform would increase revenue by a hefty $350 billion annually. This means that it would be possible to increase defense spending by $60-70 billion per year, an increase of 11% over current spending, which is lower than the 13.2% increase in defense spending that Congress approved in 1997-2000 -- while the country was also undergoing welfare reform, balancing the budget and implementing tax cuts.
To attract sufficient votes in Congress to pass the current bill, defense-spending increases should probably be coupled with additional private and public funding for cyber- and border-security, long-term health care research, and nationwide infrastructure improvement.
It is time that the false notions that America neither needs an increase in defense spending, nor can afford it, are put to rest.
**Dr. Peter Huessy is President of GeoStrategic Analysis, a defense consulting firm he founded in 1981, as well as Director of Strategic Deterrent Studies at the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies. He was also for 20 years, the senior defense consultant at the National Defense University Foundation.
© 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 Old Arab Fear Tactic That Came to Washington
Nonie Darwish/Gatestone Institute/October 17/17
The true threat to the US, the West, and even stable Arab governments, as Egypt is realizing, is political Islam as furthered by groups such the Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS, al-Qaeda and their offshoots.
This real threat has become a terrible burden to every Muslim head of state and is behind all the political chaos, coups and revolutions currently raging throughout the Islamic world.
In a chaotic, propaganda-prone area of the world, Qatar's Al Jazeera has always reported sympathetically about Islamist groups and promoters of sharia, and against moderate Arab leaders. No moderate leader could survive under such conditions.
It is unfortunate that the tactics of the Arab media -- to accuse people of collusion in order to silence any opposition -- have now moved into US mainstream media regarding Trump and Russia, which the US media would apparently like to regard as their new "enemies." This the same media that defends sharia law and inaccurately insists that Muslim terrorists who shout "Allahu Akbar" have "nothing to do with Islam."
Now that the note supposedly showing "collusion" between the Trump campaign and Russia has been outed by Foreign Policy as mainly an attempted Russian hit-job on William Browder, what is the true threat to the United States?
For months, the lawless FBI has snubbing subpoenas (is complying with subpoenas optional?), and avoiding transparency under Special Counsel Robert Mueller[1] and his equally lawless, crime-"challenged" "investigation." The true threat to the United states -- if not Mueller and the FBI itself -- is not the president, his campaign or even the Russians. Moreover, it is not exactly a news-flash that many countries have been spying on one another for ages.
"Collusion with Russia" was just the the newest dirty word in American politics created by anti-Trump political operatives and the media. It seems intended to confuse the public in order to tarnish Trump's reputation and bring down his administration. It is an extremely old ruse.
Collusion," or the "appearance of collusion," has been a common fear tactic used by Arab media for centuries. Fear tactics are the only solution in cultures that refuse to deal with the truth in the open.
The major red line that no citizen of a totalitarian system can ever cross is engaging in behavior that might bring about an accusation of "collusion" -- collaboration with enemies or perceived enemies. Arab citizens have learned to avoid any contacts, friendships, communication, shaking hands or even being in the same room with "undesirable" enemies of the state. Try asking any Arab diplomat on how he or she acts and feels in the presence of an Israeli official. For decades, when Israeli officials gave speeches in the United Nations, Arabs left the room.
In much of the Middle East, Christians, if they refrain from praising Islam and Muslims or blame them for their oppression, get the same treatment as Jews.
In Egypt, in the days of anti-Semitic tyranny when the mere appearance of any kind of friendship, or just being in the same room with a Jew, could mean death, Christians always had to keep their distance from the Jews: the price to pay was simply too high.
After a visit to the United Kingdom in my youth, after innocently telling a journalist college friend that I had met Jews in the UK and could not believe how nice they were, her response was: "You know what happens to those who collude with Jews? They come back to Egypt in a box." Shortly after, when a few of us teenagers, speaking English combined with some French and Arabic -- not uncommon among some Cairo residents -- were stopped in a village on the way from Cairo to Alexandria, the villagers called us Jews and the police were called. It took a while to get out of that mess.
Reality, finally, has hit Egypt. Its enemies' list had to change in the face of the constant challenge to the stability of moderate governments. The true threat to stable Arab governments, as Egypt is realizing, is not Israel; it is political Islam from groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS, and so on. This real threat has become a terrible burden to every Muslim head of state and is behind all the political chaos, coups and revolutions currently raging throughout the Islamic world.
After Trump's visit to Saudi Arabia, Arab nations developed the courage to demand shutting down Al Jazeera headquarters in Qatar. In a chaotic, propaganda-prone area of the world, Qatar's Al Jazeera has always reported sympathetically about Islamist groups and promoters of sharia, and against moderate Arab leaders. In an atmosphere such as that, no moderate Muslim leader is able to bring his nation out from under the coercion of jihadist terror and sharia tyranny.
Every Arab leader knows that to bring modernity and serious reformation would be considered a violation of sharia. Islamists are not only feared because of their promotion of terror, but they are also considered the guardians of sharia. Islamic law dictates that every Muslim head of state must rule by sharia, wage jihad against non-Muslim nations and never allow himself or his citizens to collude with, or seek peace with, Islam's enemies. No moderate leader could survive under such conditions.
King Salman of Saudi Arabia is to be commended for finally issuing a decree that allows half the population of his country, women, to obtain the paperwork to drive -- but they usually still need permission from a male guardian to leave the home alone.
As the last thing the Muslim public is ready for is the truth, convoluted games and accusations are the only way that many Arab leaders think they can preserve their legitimacy. The war between moderates, who want less sharia, and Islamists, who want full sharia, consists -- regardless of "truth" -- of winning over the average Arab citizen and leading him to believe that they represent the "real Islam".
All sides thereby play the game of "collusion". When Islamists accuse moderate leaders of collusion with the West, moderates respond by accusing Islamists of being the creation of the West. On many Arab media outlets, ISIS is the creation of the West (as was Al-Qaeda before it).
As a moderate Arab leader, it is therefore not easy to survive without the constant threat of an Islamist uprising. President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt and King Abdullah of Jordan are considered moderate leaders, and many want them to stay that way, but the pressure from Islamists is immense. Recently Sisi said that he wants to promote a new form of fear, a "phobia against bringing down the State." One can sympathize with his attempt to put into words the obstacles to governing in a majority Muslim nation. Sisi seems to want to encourage Egyptians to develop a fear of succumbing to radical propaganda that aims to bring down moderate governments. What he seems to be telling Egyptians is that revolutions, coups d'état and assassinations are not the solution to every problem but rather, it is -- or should be -- the ballot box.
Egypt's President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi seems to want to encourage Egyptians to develop a fear of succumbing to radical propaganda that aims to bring down moderate governments. (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)
After a year of being ruled by Egypt's former President Mohamed Morsi, the majority of Egyptians turned against the Muslim Brotherhood -- a decision that understandably does not sit well with pro-sharia media. These, such as Al Jazeera, are dedicated to trying to save the reputation of the Muslim Brotherhood, sharia and Islam itself, at any cost. Their number-one enemy has become critics of jihad and sharia, especially those who live in Western freedom. The Arab media's "solution" to a mass defection from extremism is to accuse moderates and critics of sharia not only of being "collaborators" with infidels but also that they "collude" with terrorists.
The current goal of the Arab media, especially Al Jazeera, is to portray critics of jihad and sharia, as well as apostates, as being just as bad as Islamists, if not worse.
Because the views of the critics of sharia and jihad resonate with average Arabs, radical Arab media outlets have no choice but to counter the enthusiasm for modernity and freedom of the public with false accusations: that critics of jihad and sharia are in fact colluding with terrorist groups. The Arab media evidently see such wildly false accusations against critics of jihad as the only way, in their minds, to save radical Islam.
Today, a segment of Egyptian society, especially the vulnerable and uneducated, have been lulled into believing the propaganda that moderates and critics of jihad and sharia are colluding not only with infidel enemies of Islam, but also with radical Muslim groups such as the unpopular Muslim Brotherhood.
A prominent Egyptian magazine, Rose El Youssef, in 2007, falsely portrayed Dr. Wafa Sultan and this author in their front-page as "alt-jihadists" -- collaborators with the Taliban and the Muslim Brotherhood. Yesterday, a close friend in Egypt sent a warning of rumors in the Egyptian media, after the assassination of a journalist by the Muslim Brotherhood, that the Muslim Brotherhood has apostate "collaborators" in the West such as me. This shameless and reckless propaganda is intended to confuse the Egyptian public about who their true enemies and friends really are.
It is unfortunate that the tactics of the Arab media -- to accuse people of "collusion" in order to silence any opposition -- are now moving into US mainstream media regarding Trump and Russia, which the US media regard as their new "enemies" -- the same media that defends sharia law, Islam and Islamic terrorism in the West.
**Nonie Darwish, born and raised in Egypt, is the author of "Wholly Different; Why I chose Biblical Values Over Islamic Values"
[1] Like the false investigation that wrongly accused Scooter Libby of a leaking the name of then CIA agent Valerie Plame, that they knew all the while had been leaked by Richard Armitage.
© 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.

Beware of the closet Muslim Brotherhood member
Ahmad al-Farraj/Al Arabyia/October 18/17
Who is the ‘closet’ Brotherhood affiliate and why is he a threat to the security of society? Before answering this question, I need to clarify that those who infiltrate some important posts belong to this deceitful type. Their aim behind doing so is to serve the Brotherhood’s principles and goals. The threat of closet Brotherhood members is that they look like ordinary people and do not dress like conservative Islamists. Their behaviour and style of conversation does not belie their religious orientation. These figures alter their character according to circumstances as they can pose as patriots, enlightened intellectuals or mentors. Deep within, however, they remain true members of the Brotherhood, who serve the group’s agenda and abide by its orders. Many may be surprised when I use the term ‘closet-Brotherhood’. People associate commitment to any religious group with outward appearance. This is not true with these ‘closet’ members, who do not appear religious and dress like ordinary people. They master the role of the patriot and only those who understand the reality of political Islam well or who’ve had a bitter experience of them can figure them out. One of the benefits of social media is that it helps expose this category of partisans. If we take a look at these peoples’ social media activity, we can see their obvious contradictions which they cannot deny or hide. Before, social media existed, their deceit remained concealed as it is their nature to keep silent and act differently when needed. The Brotherhood has been in trouble lately and it cannot publicly defend the Qatari regime, which is actually its official sponsor
Authors as mercenaries
The boycott of the Qatari regime was an important development that has exposed the truth of these intelligencers to many as they took the lead in opposing the boycott. Some went as far as describing the patriotic journalists and authors as mercenaries! The media, however, stood up to them and tried to show us their true colours. The Brotherhood has been in trouble lately and it cannot publicly defend the Qatari regime, which is actually its official sponsor. It tried to sway the media and patriotic writers to prevent them from exposing its true nature and schemes. If it hadn’t been for the efforts made to expose these closet Brotherhood members, they would have continued to serve the organization and the Qatari regime. Now that the influence of political Islam groups, mainly the Muslim Brotherhood, has retreated, we are in a dire need of figuring out the threats posed by its affiliate organizations, of which the most dangerous is this hideous ‘closet’ branch. Will we do so?

Balanced words and a clear vision

Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabyia/October 18/17
I recently read a useful and rather unique article by Saudi writer and researcher Kamel al-Khati, the son of one of the most famous traditional Shiite clerics in eastern Saudi Arabia, the late Sheikh Abdul Hamid al-Khati. In his article, Kamel – a man I know to be wise – describes and analyzes a secular scientific trend. As far as I know, this man has never experienced an Islamicized Shiite faction of any sort. Published in Saudi newspaper Okaz, Kamel’s article was titled “Hezbollah and Arab Shiites in Gulf states.” A part of the article said: “I recall an incident I witnessed myself in late 1979. In that year, one of the al-Husseini rostrum khatibs [people who deliver a religious sermon] in Qatif warned his listeners not to respond to Khomeini's call for exporting his Islamic revolution. The khatib warned his listeners that Khomeini and his colleagues were leading a state with interests that may clash with interests of those of countries that Shiite Arabs hold an identity to.”Speaking on the Khatib’s struggle Kamel wrote: “This khatib referred to here, was one of the dignitaries of his city. He was characterized with chivalry and a sense of honor. This khatib was subjected to social ostracism after saying his opinion on Khomeiniism … a rumor spread about him regarding a story about Khomeini and Ben-Gurion.”The point of saying all of this is to demand more of the new and beneficial for a clearer vision and a more rational mind
The writer focuses on the Imam’s Line movement or the movement of those who follow the Imam’s approach. This movement is closely linked to the Khomeini center in Iran. The most trained and organized factions operate under Hezbollah’s name in places such as Hezbollah al-Hejaz, Kuwait Hezbollah and Iraq Hezbollah. Kamel gives interesting details with a refined analytical spirit. He concludes with the following: “I claim that if you study the distribution of political loyalties in Shiite communities in Gulf states accurately, the statistical result will not be in Iran’s favor.”
Social belonging
This is one of the rare articles that bring out an individual with a deep social belonging to the Saudi Shiite component with such independence, transparency and depth.
At the intellectual Shiite Khaliji level, such independent scientific approaches are rare. Perhaps Kuwaiti Khalil Ali Haidar was among the rare. A topic which requires further studies and research, for scientific and ethical purposes, is to identify the land we stand on, without getting involved in sectarian debates.
In Kuwait, there is a useful study, which assumes a journalistic approach written by researcher Falah al-Mdaires on Kuwait’s Shiites. In Saudi Arabia, a book by two Saudi Shiites, Mohammed al-Sadiq and Badr al-Ibrahim, called “Al Hirak Al Sheii” [meaning The Shiite Movement] was issued during the Arab Spring. Despite its political nature, its a worthy read. The point of saying all of this, after commending Kamel’s article, is to demand more of the new and beneficial for a clearer vision and a more rational mind.

To succeed, US needs to rediscover itself as a ‘smart power’ country
Dr. Naif Alotaibi/Al Arabyia/October 18/17
After the Second World War, the Cold War era between the US and the USSR lasted four decades and ended with the total collapse and dismantling of the Soviet Union in 1991. This epic confrontation between America and the Soviet Union was a new kind of war with no armies or battles. Instead, the tools of ‘Soft Power’ were the dominant force in the US and gave them the upper hand in the war and eventually led for them to win. In the 1990s, Harvard professor Joseph Nye coined a new term ‘Soft Power’. He wrote several books describing the American use of power in its policies and all the different variables involved, and he made a prediction about America’s power in many of his books. He warned that the US’s ‘soft power’ will be eliminated by the Iraqi and Afghan war and predicted that the US’s ‘soft power” will be transferred from the West to the East with the rise of Asian ‘soft power’ in China and India.
In this article, I will discuss the nature of the use of ‘soft power’ and how the US utilized it in its foreign policy during the eras of George W. Bush, Obama and Donald Trump; and how the administrations have variously used ‘hard power’, ‘soft power’ and ‘smart power.’
Bush and use of hard power
During the administration of George W. Bush, and after the 9/11 attacks, the US used its hard power - the US military - to avenge its fallen victims. They began with Al-Qaeda’s stronghold of Afghanistan to catch Bin-Laden. They occupied the country and destroyed the Taliban. Nevertheless, they did not stop there, but soon after invaded Iraq to destroy Saddam Hussein and his regime, although they failed to prove that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and they also failed to find a connection between the Iraqi regime and Al-Qaeda. During these wars, Bush used fancy terms like: ‘the axis of evil’ and ‘it’s a crusade’…etc. This was a way to win over public opinion inside the US and ensure their support for his wars. These wars certainly did not bring democracy to these countries but turned the two countries into failed states (‘sectarian war’ was the term to describe the civil wars in these countries). Furthermore, the Iraqi war bill exceeded one trillion dollars. After these wars, the US lost its image and popularity around the world and one poll showed that in more than 37 countries, there was a deep decline in US popularity, and that the majority of Europeans felt that the world became more dangerous after the Iraqi war. American culture and values, once believed to be one of the best in the world, were under threat. As a result, it can be said that during the Bush era, American soft power was dramatically eroded.
Joseph Nye described these wars: “They were a great show of force but they didn’t protect the US or make it immune to terror attacks.”
The Obama period
“Depending only on our hard power to achieve our foreign policy goals is not practical anymore and it’s too expensive,” Joseph Nye observes. Using the military force as a solution for conflicts had a big impact on the new American president. He had a lot of challenges to tackle; and one of them was the huge budget deficit that had accumulated since 2003 due to the Iraqi war. Another challenge was the problem with real estate mortgages in 2008. The way Obama dealt with all these challenges was to depend on the US’s ‘soft power’. His methods were clearly felt around the globe in the more moderate US policies towards Iraq. For example, he pulled out the majority of US troops and kept only a small force to train the new Iraqi army. He liked diplomatic solutions to conflicts and did not rely much on the US army to solve conflicts.
During Obama’s era, new superpowers were on the rise. Notably, China and especially Russia, who reintroduced itself into the international theatre through its military intervention in Syria supporting Assad’s regime. Obama’s strategy in using soft power in a lot of crises, especially the Syrian one, was a big mistake and it failed to bring down the Syrian regime. It even gave Russia a political gain in Syria and the Arab region. Obama was reluctant to use the military to bring down Assad, although the Syrian President was using chemical weapons against his own people.
John Brennan, Obama’s advisor said: “We will use ‘soft power’, diplomatic and economic power to defeat the extremist methods that were never used by the Bush administration.”
One indicator showing the Obama administration’s interest in ‘soft power’, was that a control room (situation room) was named the Soft Power Control Operations Room. Obama used the strategy of transforming competitors into partners, and taking into account their lack of superiority over America.
He preferred diplomatic solutions and negotiations to deal with the Iranian nuclear threat, which infuriated US allies in the Middle East. He was the first US president since 1979 to address the Iranian people directly and to use terms such as the “the Islamic republic” rather than “the Iranian regime.”
After the Arab Spring, Obama tried to contain the Islamic organizations that won the elections in the Arab world. He also promised to close Guantanamo prison and to stop torturing terrorist suspects. It should be noted, however, that those promises were not fulfilled.
In conclusion, we could say that Obama’s strategy in using soft power in a lot of crises, especially the Syrian one, was a big mistake and it failed to bring down the Syrian regime. It even gave Russia a political gain in Syria and the Arab region. Obama was reluctant to use the military to bring down Assad, although the Syrian President was using chemical weapons against his own people.
Trump and ‘Smart Power'
In 2017, President Trump arrived in the White House and he had one big promise in his campaign: making America great again. The Republican Party and Trump want to bring back the old American image as the sole super power in the world, and they think that Obama’s policies gave the US a weak image.
In his book ‘The Future of Power’, Joseph Nye thinks that economic power is the most important tool in a ‘smart power’ structured organization. Maybe, that is why we would like to see Trump as a successful businessman, rather than a politician or a political party leader. In the same book, Nye gives an advice to his country: “if the US wishes to succeed in the 21st Century it needs to rediscover itself as a ‘smart power’ country.”It is a little early to know what kind of force or power Trump is going to use; although it is predicted he will use a combination of the two (hard and soft power) or as it is also called- ‘smart power’, the first indications show Trump threatening to use power in parallel with negotiation and diplomacy.

Are Iranian people aligned with US national interests?
Hamid Bahrami/Al Arabyia/October 18/17
Following a week of political roller coaster, doubts and strategic calculations, the US foreign policy team unveiled its new policy on Iran and measures to address the catastrophic nuclear deal, better known as the JCPOA.
During a 20-minute speech on 13 October, President Trump laid out the major points of this new policy, which include the decertification of the JCPOA and designation of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) pursuant to the global terrorism Executive Order (E.O.) 13224.
Aside from decertifying the nuclear deal, the announcement of President Trump marks a major policy change that effectively ends the two-decades long failed policy of appeasement against Iranian regime and its malignant role in four corners of the world. In 1997, in order to satisfy Tehran’s ruling theocracy, the then President Clinton designated Iran’s main opposition group, the PMOI/MEK as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. This decision helped regime to spread its hegemony and terrorism around the Middle East and the world under the pretext of “Dialogue between Civilizations”. The regime has consistently prolonged its grip on power by capitalizing on international conflicts, especially disagreements between Western democracies and its allies
Now, the US policy has shifted to cut the regime’s tentacles and protect the US, its allies and their interests in the region. Immediately after President Trump’s speech, the EU expressed its concern over the US abandoning the JCPOA.
On the other hand, Israel and Saudi Arabia welcomed the new policy toward Tehran. The Iranian society and community abroad for their parts looked for the reactions on the announcement, first from the regime itself and second from the main Iranian opposition movement, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).
A few hours after President Trump’s speech, the Iranian citizens witnessed the so-called moderate President Hassan Rouhani’s twitchy eyes while he read his statement which was full of deceptive lies and obvious contradictions.
End of the appeasement era
Although, expressing support for the NCRI is punishable by death in Iran as the regime cracks down on popular dissent, a majority of Iranian social media users shared the statement by NCRI’s President-elect Maryam Rajavi as she welcomed “the end of the appeasement era.”
Indeed, the Iranian people always welcome any increased pressure on the Iranian regime and specifically its brutal paramilitary force, the IRGC, which plays a key role in suppression of civil society. Furthermore, the IRGC is the main force behind the crippling economic corruption, which have sparked thousands of popular anti-regime protests around the country during the last few months.
The designation of IRGC as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGTs) will not only affect the regime’s vital arteries but also break the ubiquitous repression and atmosphere of fear in Iran.
To uproot the cancer that is the IRGC, the US should concentrate its efforts inside Iran. Nearly all of Iran’s financial systems are in IRGC’s hands, which it utilizes to fund and arm terrorist groups, with the full knowledge of the Rouhani government that earlier this year decided to increase its budget.
Hence, all companies and countries that trade with any section of the regime are practically risking to fund and engage with the IRGC.
Anti-regime protests
Today, there is a significant growth of anti-regime protests across Iran, most of them related to economic and civic demands. Considering that the Iranian people are just weighing opportunities to overthrow the entire regime, it will be helpful if the US highlights human rights issues and recognizes the Iranian Resistance movement, the NCRI. Following these actions, the IRGC will get stuck in a domestic crisis and consequently expelling it from the region will be less expensive. The theocracy in Tehran will try to bypass sanctions and strengthen its capabilities by exploiting the lack of a coherent Iran strategy between the US and the EU. Indeed, the regime has consistently prolonged its grip on power by capitalizing on international conflicts, especially disagreements between Western democracies and its allies. In this regard, one must ask the EU countries and European leaders why they are so eager to appease a corrupt regime in Tehran that has no future and that only survives by persecuting its own people and spreading terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism. What is obvious, both the US and the Iranian people’s national interests are aligned and the EU should know that dictators will not last forever.

Qatar Foreign Minister's CNBC interview
NNA/Wed 18 Oct 2017/
The following is the full transcript of CNBC's interview with Qatari Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani. This interview broadcast in Asia on Wednesday, October 18.
Interviewed by Nancy Hungerford, Anchor/Correspondent, CNBC.
Nancy Hungerford (NH): Your excellency thank you for taking the time to speak to CNBC and here we are in Singapore. You were here as part of a delegation promoting ties in Southeast Asia. Undoubtedly there are still questions over the rift with your gulf allies and I just want to bring up some comments from the Saudi foreign minister at the U.N. General Assembly just weeks ago. In fact he talked and said specifically that Doha's practices are providing financial support to terrorism while disseminating violent hate speech is unacceptable. Does this sound to you like a message from a government that is ready to come to the table and try to find an agreement here?
Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani (Al Thani): Well first of all thank you Nancy for hosting me today. Just regarding these continuous statements and allegations from the Saudis and from the other blockading nations toward Qatar which has never been proven, this is something which is all of us we are against. This is something which is related to the collective security of our region, which is a priority for Qatar, as it's priority for them. But just throwing those allegations without even basing them by evidence and supporting them by evidence, is just showing inconsistency in their behavior that they don't want to solve this issue. They started the entire issue, the entire crisis with a cyber-attack. This cyber-attack is to create a foundation for the crisis. So if there was a real justification for this crisis they wouldn't need to attack our state news agency, to put a fabricated statement attributed it to the Emir in order to launch this campaign. So we are still calling them if you have any allegations, if you have anything any concerns need to be addressed by Qatar we are willing to sit on the table. Show us your concerns if there is something which needs measures being taken, it should be taken by Qatar and by other countries because it's a collective concern for everyone.
NH: Saudi Arabia has denied that a cyber-attack was behind this issue and really continues to be their word against yours and vice versa here so how does this end? How are you going to eventually get an agreement?
Al Thani: Well first of all their denial actually is not true because we were just in Riyadh two days before the cyber-attack. Why none of them has raised any concern? Before that even a few days we were also in Riyadh at the Ministerial Council for the Gulf for the GCC. So they never raised any concern about any issue. We were talking about regional issues. We were discussing the future of the GCC and none of them has raised any of those issues and those allegations. The cyber-attack was the spark for the entire crisis. There is no doubt that they have initiated this cyber-attack in order to create a basis for this crisis. Now, since this crisis is taking more than four months, everybody from our side at least we know we recognize that we want to have a solution for this - because we see that there is no winner out of this because we have a lot of other challenges in our region, and we don't we don't need a further crisis to the other open war zones. All our allies and friends they want a solution for this crisis, including the United States, even including the president of the United States was calling to bring the leaders together in order to put an end for all for this crisis. The Emir of Kuwait was leading the mediation, and he's continuing his efforts, yesterday he was in Riyadh, but there is not any result yet. This is showing a consistent behavior from the blockading nation just to continue the crisis, disrespect and bully. This is all about -- it's nothing about that they want to stop financing terrorism or to stop the hatred speech while they are promoting and doing the same by promoting incitement against my country, promoting a regime change against my country. So there are contradictions between what they are saying as statements and what's their real activities on the ground.
NH: You mentioned regime change. Do you think Saudi Arabia is actively looking at ways to bring about regime change as we speak?
Al Thani: Well we see that there are officials, government officials are talking about regime change if we see their government officials talking about protesting and inciting people to go and protest against their government. So it's about regime change. We see a country which is bringing back the Dark Ages of tribes and putting them together in order to create a pressure on a connected tribes to them in Qatar: That means that they want to destabilize this country, so their behavior as I just mentioned is just showing that they are not willing for a solution. They are into escalation, they are into thinking about regime change and other things. But from Qatar's side we are intent very content in dealing with them. We never committed against anyone. We were always calling for dialogue; we were always calling them if there is any concern that we are going to address. But from the other hand we don't see the same thing.
NH: In addition to the threat of regime change there have also been reports that the UAE was looking at an invasion into Qatar perhaps with the use of mercenaries. Also reports that Saudi could've been looking an outright invasion as well. Do you think that U.S. President Donald Trump played a role in really influencing Saudi Arabia not to go forward with an invasion?
Al Thani: Well since the beginning of the crisis based on our assessment we have seen that there were some possibilities for military activity, which whether its invasion or intervention or maybe by different means. Our allies in the United States has been active from the beginning, trying calm down the entire situation as well as the Emir of Kuwait - so there where everybody worked collectively in order to deescalate the situation and really to resort to a dialogue rather than going for escalation. Regarding the way they are dealing with the entire matter is just showing irresponsibility to the region to regional security.
NH: When you talk about the U.S. role currently as it stands we know there have been some mixed messages if you will between the U.S. secretary of state Rex Tillerson who I know you've spoken with on the matter, and U.S. president Donald Trump. Do you consider the U.S. a reliable ally in mediating this dispute?
Al Thani: Definitely, they are a reliable ally we have very strong ties with the United States, we have we are hosting more than 11,000 U.S. soldiers, we have the largest U.S. base in the Middle East, we are the center of command for the Coalition for the global coalition against Daesh. There are a lot of things, and lots of joint interests between Qatar andf the United States which make it necessarily that this region to be stable, which makes it necessarily that both of us are reliable allies to each other.
NH: And do you think the U.S. president and the secretary of state are aligned on the matter?
Al Thani: Well from from our perspective what we got from the US president since the beginning of the crisis he was calling that the situation need to be dealt by dialogue and also during his course with the Emir, as well as the different government agencies. The Defense Department, the State Department they were always an advocate for the solution to our dialogue. So we we didn't see a mixed message. If we are considering a tweet or two, is sending a mixed message, but this is something not relevant to us. What really concerned us what's what's the overall U.S. policy toward this crisis which has been consistent from the beginning of the crisis to put an end to it and to solve it by dialogue.
NH: You mentioned the fact that Qatar houses is thousands of U.S. troops in fact it's an important part of the base in the fight against terrorism against ISIS. Do you think the battle against ISIS has suffered as a result of the conflict taking place?
Al Thani: Definitely yes because. What can I say, 90 percent of our supplies of food supply, medicine supply is coming through the land border and those supplies part of it is going to the base. Second, we have the airspace which was blocked, the airplane the airplane, the Qatari airplanes which are supporting the logistic airplane for that for the military. They are not allowed to fly over their skies so it's only allowed to use one path which is toward the north, toward Iran. So this is an effect as well as our officers who were participating in the coalition activity and the Fifth Fleet in Bahrain they've been expelled because of this. So there are a lot of things which undermine the efforts of the global efforts in countering daesh by this crisis by the blockade and by the measures they have been taken against Qatar.
NH: The U.S. military has recently said it's going to suspend some drills with Gulf allies. What impact is that having and ultimately if the U.S. military were to say we're going to put a freeze in fact and some weapon sales and arms sales to our Gulf allies as well would that be enough to bring the parties to the table to talk?
Al Thani: Well we are hopeful that they don't need to do all those measures to bring the parties to the table. We hope that wisdom will prevail. At the end by the blockading countries and they come to the table and have direct talks with us about whatever their concerns. But what we have seen from the last four months now, there's a consistent systematic behavior of disrespect and bullying. So they do whatever they want despite the demands which are coming from different countries trying to put an end for this crisis. We hope that at the end they will come to the dialogue and we hope that they come at the right time. They don't even just keep keep pushing it away in order that they think that they will make Qatar weaker, Qatar became much stronger than before the blockade.
NH: When you talk about the reasons that Saudi Arabia may not be coming to table, one of the big sticking points to them is your relationship with Iran. When Qatar decided to fully restored diplomatic ties with Iran. What are you trying to achieve here?
Al Thani: Well this accusation is entirely baseless. Now we have, we have differences in our policies in Iran but with Iran sorry, there are differences. But between us as the Gulf countries we have agreed on a common policy toward Iran and it is already there and the resolutions of the GCC, which is that we need to engage in a dialogue with Iran based on certain principles which wishes non-intervention of each other's affairs, no undermining of security and exportation of any revolution and revolutionary ideology or that self-avoiding or denouncing the sectarianism. So all those principles been agreed on between the Gulf countries and this philosophy was which Qatar stick to and still sticking to. Our policy toward Iran remain the same and didn't change because of the crisis. They were trying to create just a justification to legitimize their blockade. Our restoration to our diplomatic relations with Iran. That doesn't mean that Qatar change its policy because we will go back to the reason, the original reason of our withdrawal of our ambassador, there was just a gesture of solidarity with the Saudis when they attacked their diplomatic mission, which is not exist anymore because we cannot show solidarity to a country which blockaded our people. So that's the only thing our relation with Iran we have we are neighbors. We have borders together. We are sharing a gas field together. We have to overcome and bridge the gaps in our differences by dialogue. We cannot increase the tension in the region. We have to resort to dialogue.
NH: Has the US ever expressed concerns about your support for Iran your relationships with Iran? Because we know U.S. president Donald Trump has his concerns with Iran that he's voiced in recent days.
Al Thani: Well there is absolutely no support to Iran and the Qatar and Iran relationship has been very consistent since long time. We have differences as I told you, we are opponents in what's happening in Syria. We are opponents in what's happening in Yemen, we are opponents in what's happening in their policies in Iraq. And when we are adversaries on those different political battles, we are we have been frontrunner and in this we have been on the front line in Syria. We have been the ones who are still from the beginning and we are still the lead in the region which is vocal and advocate against Bashar al Assad regime. So there is nothing being changed about our policy. U.S. They have their own policy towards Iran which is represented by consent for them. Yes we understand. But at the end, U.S. is thousand miles away from Iran. We are neighboring border with Iran. Now after this blockade, if we have just one pathway from the north toward Iran and the three sides east west and south is blocaded just because of those blockading Nations decided to isolate my country and to put in a siege. How can I assure the food supply for my country, how can I am sure that medicine supply for my country. So there are things which are forcing me to have to increase my bilateral ties with them. And in fact the ties between the GCC and Iran as a group. Ninety six percent of this bilateral trade is between Emirates and Iran. It's not between Qatar and Iran. And the 4 percent. It's ranked number four so we are fifth trade partner among the Gulf countries and the fourth from the 4 percent which doesn't represent more than 50 million dollars. By that. So what kind of a special relation between Qatar and Iran?
NH: Why in your opinion is Saudi Arabia making Iran a big part of the issue?
Al Thani: Well since the starting of the crisis they've been talking about Iran. They have been talking about everything they believe that might legitimize for them and gain sympathy to what they did to us with the West. And this is the main reason the main driver for them. They don't want to appear for the Western country that they did this out of wanting to just hijack the country's policies and keep it under its guardianship, which is totally unacceptable. They want just to show that we are doing this for the sake of the region and security why they are undermining regional security.
NH: Let's talk about the region here in Southeast Asia. What are you hoping to achieve on this trip?
Al Thani: Well Qatar is part of Asia, of course, and 90 percent of our exports are coming to Asia so Asia is representing a very important market. In fact, ASEAN countries are 50 percent of our market. So we have a continuous dialogue with the Asian countries, which is hoping to improve and develop the relationship and try to un-tap that potential and this relationship. Which as we have seen is realized now in our investments, which has been dramatically increased in the last few years in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, China. So Qatar investments are widespread in this region, which we believe this is the Asia where we belong to and it represents a very high importance for us. Singapore as well has a special status with us where we have this high level of joint committee between the two countries. Since now for 12 years more than 46 enterprises we have realized out of this joint committee, which are two of the major environmental projects of Qatar was conducted as a result for this committee. So there is a lot of progress and a lot of work between Qatar and the Asia region, Southeast Asia especially.
NH: Do you sense that some of the countries you're meeting with including in Malaysia where I know you've just come from-- are you worried that they have divided loyalties because we know that Saudi Arabia has been in the region as well and made some investments in Malaysia. Do you find yourself trying to reassure these countries that in fact they don't have to be split?
Al Thani: Well, Qatar is a matured state. We have dealt with the matter from the beginning and we have used the high moral ground and we will never try to pressure any country. While from the other hand Saudi and the blockading countries they were trying to exercise whatever kind of leverage they have on the countries especially in Africa and some countries of Southeast Asia, which we see this as a blackmailing for nations and trying to impose something on their sovereignty, which we don't accept. Countries which decided to join their club without any support for the arguments, this is something up to them but it really means that those countries are not having their full control over their decision making process. While countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, and others they've never been subject for this and we highly respect those responses, which is what it should be and how it should be for sovereign nations. No country can impose any demands or anything on another sovereign nation. So they have their own assessment and they have to decide whether Qatar is a country which is a reliable partner that they can work with, or Qatar is a country which is a source of disturbance for them.
NH: I have to ask because you mentioned that pretty soon you'll be heading to the US-- going to Washington D.C. What is the agenda for that trip. Will you be meeting with the U.S. secretary of state or other members of the administration?
Al Thani: I'll be following up on our last meeting with President Trump which took place in September between his highness, me and the president. And I'll be meeting some of the U.S. officials as well as some of the congressmen and senators in order to help to update on the situation and to follow up on matter. The secretary of state I might meet him in the region just before my trip to the U.S. as he might have a visit to Qatar as well.
NH: U.S. President Donald Trump is very confident that he could help bring about a resolution very soon I think in the coming days, weeks even, is he right to be that confident?
Al Thani: Well he was very much into the situation and he was speaking very seriously about that. He doesn't want to see this conflict prolonging but from the other hand as I told you we didn't see a positive response from the blockading nations as we still see the status quo remain. We are hopeful that things will reach to a solution and we will come to dialogue. And also we are confident that the U.S. can play a strong role and President Trump can play a positive role in this and in bringing all the leaders together.
NH: Your Excellency thank you very much for your time today. Thank you very much. -- CNBC