October 20/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations
But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Mark 04/26-29/:"He also said, ‘The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.’

When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we speak kindly. We have become like the rubbish of the world, the dregs of all things, to this very day.

First Letter to the Corinthians 04/01-13/:"Think of us in this way, as servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they should be found trustworthy. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. I do not even judge myself. I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgement before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive commendation from God. I have applied all this to Apollos and myself for your benefit, brothers and sisters, so that you may learn through us the meaning of the saying, ‘Nothing beyond what is written’, so that none of you will be puffed up in favour of one against another. For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift? Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! Quite apart from us you have become kings! Indeed, I wish that you had become kings, so that we might be kings with you! For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, as though sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels and to mortals. We are fools for the sake of Christ, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honour, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we are hungry and thirsty, we are poorly clothed and beaten and homeless, and we grow weary from the work of our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we speak kindly. We have become like the rubbish of the world, the dregs of all things, to this very day.

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on October 19-20/17
Lebanese Prime Minister Joins Coalition Government With Hezbollah/Jerusalem Post/October 18/17
President Trump should support Iranians opposing their brutal government/Walid Phares/News English Review/October 18/2017
The Fall of Kirkuk: Made in Iran/Jonathan Spyer/The American Interest/October 18/17
Terrorist groups planning another 9/11-style attack, top US official warns/The Telegraph/Foreign Staff /October 19/17
Struggle Over Kirkuk Puts the U.S. and Iran on the Same Side/David Zucchino and Eric Schmitt/October 19/17
Why Are So Many Claiming That Iran Is Complying with the Deal, When Evidence Shows They Aren't/Alan M. Dershowitz/Gatestone Institute/October 19/17
Germans Debate Muslim Public Holidays/Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institute/October 19/17
The Big New Palestinian Lie/Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/October 19/17
The Dangers of Refusing to Link JCPOA to Tehran’s Behavior/Eyad Abu Shakra/Ashareq Al Awsat/October 19/17
What Congress Should Do Now About Iran/Jennifer Rubin/The Washington Post/October 19/17
The Kurdistan Quagmire Proves Newton’s Third Law/David Ignatius/The Washington Post/October 19/17
Iran is a paper tiger and not a regional power/Mohammed Al Shaikh/Al Arabiya/October 19/17
The populist Trump versus an international Trump/Mamdouh AlMuhaini/Al Arabiya/October 19/17
Political instability and unlikely allies in the Middle East/Shehab Al-Makahleh/Al Arabiya/October 19/17
UN’s dubious role in the Muslim world/Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi/Al Arabiya/October 19/17

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on October 19-20/17
Lebanese Prime Minister Joins Coalition Government With Hezbollah
U.S. Congress Delegation Stresses 'Importance of Lebanon's Security, Stability and Prosperity'
State Security Apprehends Terror Cell in Hasbaya
Israeli Troops Scrapping Activity Along Barbed Wire
Lebanese Parliament Approves Lebanon's 1st State Budget in 12 Years after Thorny Debate
Hariri: Those who Assassinated Rafik Hariri, Wissam al-Hassan are Cowards
Merehbi Walks Out Angrily of Parliament Session over Akkar Funds
ISF Says Seized Stolen Dali Painting
Geagea Affirms 'Staunch' March 14 Alliance, Says Syrian 'Tutelage' Exiled Aoun, Confined Him
LF Says Adwan's Remarks 'Not an Accusation' Against Salameh
Berri receives phone call from Al Ghanem
Riachi takes up with Jreissati Shartouni's interview by Al Akhbar newspaper
Army Commander, UAE Ambassador tackle overall situation
Bassil tackles developments with U.S., Russian Ambassadors
Riachi, TL Employees Syndicate tackle Station situation
Aoun tells Knights of Malta looking forward to role of organization facilitating return of Syrian refugees

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on October 19-20/17
Tillerson off to Middle East, South Asia with eye on Iran, Iraq
Saudi-Iraqi military talks held in Riyadh
Emir of Qatar: We are ready for dialogue to solve the crisis
UAE appoints minsters for AI, Advanced Sciences in new cabinet reshuffle
Khamenei: We Will Shred 'Nuclear Deal' if Trump Tears it Apart
Iran Revolutionary Guard: Trump's 'Hostile Approach' to Be Met With Acceleration of Missile Program
Foreign ISIS Fighters Captured, Turned over to Western Countries in Raqqa
British Intelligence Investigates Over 500 Cases of Terrorism
Egypt’s International Conference for Fatwa Warns Against Circulating Misleading Fatwas
Putin: Russia Hopes to Broaden Cooperation with US
Israeli Army Shuts Down Eight TV Production Companies, Outlets
US Says Palestinian Unity Govt Must Recognize Israel, Disarm Hamas
Fighters in Syria's Raqa Prepare for Civilian Handover
Spain Govt Says Will Press Ahead to Suspend Catalan Autonomy

Latest Lebanese Related News published on October 19-20/17
Lebanese Prime Minister Joins Coalition Government With Hezbollah
Jerusalem Post/October 18/17
"We have put aside differences to serve the country," said Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri.
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri will join a coalition government with Hezbollah, conceding defeat and handing the terrorist organization more political power than it ever had before.
Hariri, in an interview with the Italian newspaper La Repubblica while on a visit to Rome to meet with his Italian counterpart, Paolo Gentiloni, said that he and the Shi’ite jihadist group have “put aside” their differences to serve the country. “The prime minister only thinks of the good of Lebanon, of finding the formulas and making the agreements that allow us to handle the problems of the country,” he was quoted as saying. Thousands of Lebanese Shia rely on Hezbollah – deeply embedded into politics and society – for social, medical and financial support. According to the Italian newspaper, Hariri said that as premier, he seeks to find a national formula that preserves Lebanese unity. Hariri succeeded his father, former prime minister Rafik Hariri, who was murdered in a 2005 car bombing blamed on Hezbollah. When asked about being in a government with the party accused of murdering his father, he responded by saying that he trusts that the Special Tribunal for Lebanon will find those responsible and “condemn the criminals.”
Formed in the 1980s with the help of Iran as a “resistance” group against the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon, Hezbollah has since morphed into a semi-military organization with thousands of battle-hardened fighters and weaponry spread across the Middle East. Lebanese President Michel Aoun in February defended Hezbollah’s massive arsenal in an interview with an Egyptian TV channel, calling it “an essential component” of the country’s efforts to defend itself. “Hezbollah weapons are not contradictory to the state, but are an essential part in defending the country,” Aoun told the Egyptian TV network CBC Satellite Channel. “As long as a part of the territory is occupied by Israel, and as long as the army is not powerful enough to fight Israel, we feel the need to maintain the weapons of the resistance to complement the army.” Lebanon claims that Mount Dov (Shaba Farms), part of the Golan Heights, belongs to Lebanon. Hezbollah fighters “are originally from the south and whose land was occupied” by Israel, Aoun added. When Hezbollah-friendly Aoun was elected in November, he vowed to “release what is left of our lands from the Israeli occupation.” Last week Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman accused the Lebanese Army of coming under Hezbollah’s control.
“We’re talking about Hezbollah and about the Lebanese military, and unfortunately this is the reality,” Liberman said, adding that the “Lebanese Army has lost its independence and has become an integral part of Hezbollah’s network.”In August, the Lebanese Army, along with Hezbollah, recaptured an Islamic State enclave in the Qalamoun mountains on the Syrian border. The Lebanese Army said that it was not coordinating Syrian or Hezbollah photos being posted on social media, which show armored personnel carriers carrying a Hezbollah flag alongside a tank with a flag of Lebanon. Turning to Syria, Hariri said that despite Iran’s mobilization there, it was Moscow that saved the Assad regime. “Russia is now pushing for a political solution, and as Putin says, their work is in the interest of the entire country, not just one person,” he said, adding that he met with President Vladimir Putin, who has “committed himself to the stability of the region. Putin’s words on Syria count, for Iran and the region, and at this moment the unity of the Arab world is decisive.”
But according to Hariri, allowing Bashar Assad to remain the leader of Syria would be a major mistake. “In Syria, everything started with the people demanding reform [and] democracy. The regime began killing their own citizens and a civil war began.”As for the increased tensions between the United States and Iran, Hariri said that Lebanon “wants good relations with all countries in the region, and we hope that in the midst of the confrontation between the United States and Iran, we will avoid any negative repercussions on our country. “However,” he continued, “I also say that interference in the internal affairs of Arab countries is absolutely unacceptable, and Iran should play a positive role that will help in economic development and security, and not contribute to destabilization.” Israel and Hezbollah fought a deadly 33-day war in 2006, which came to an end after UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which called for the disarmament of Hezbollah, the withdrawal of the Israeli army from Lebanon, and the deployment of the Lebanese Army and an enlarged UN force in the south.

U.S. Congress Delegation Stresses 'Importance of Lebanon's Security, Stability and Prosperity'
Naharnet/October 19/17/The Chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee (HAC), Rodney Frelinghuysen, led a Congressional delegation visit to Lebanon on October 16-19, the U.S. Embassy said on Thursday.
Frelinghuysen was joined by fellow HAC member, Representative Henry Cuellar. During the visit, the delegation met with Commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces General Joseph Aoun. They discussed “the effectiveness of U.S. military assistance to Lebanon,” the Embassy said. The delegation visited Hamat Air Base and observed the newly-arrived M2A2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles and the A-29 Super Tucano aircraft provided by the United States. In their meetings, Representatives Frelinghuysen and Cuellar reinforced the United States' “intention to maintain a strong partnership with the people and institutions of Lebanon and the importance of Lebanon’s security, stability and prosperity,” the U.S. Embassy in Beirut said in its statement.

State Security Apprehends Terror Cell in Hasbaya
Naharnet/October 19/17/The State Security Directorate said it arrested in the district of Hasbaya a 4-member cell comprised of Syrian nationals who had been monitoring “strategic locations with the intention of carrying out terrorist attack plots,” the National News Agency reported on Thursday. During interrogation, the mastermind who was identified as Kh.M., confessed to having formed groups affiliated to the Islamic State organization via social media. He said he has posted instructions and images illustrating the fabrication of explosive belts and devices. He has also said that he promoted sectarian content encouraging incitement against President Michel Aoun and the Army. The suspect admitted to having links to terror groups inside the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain el-Hilweh in Syria and Iraq. He also confessed to having planned terrorist acts against a Lebanese party, Casino du Liban, and a number of nightclubs.

Israeli Troops Scrapping Activity Along Barbed Wire
Naharnet/October 19/17/An Israeli bulldozer carried out digging works in Wadi Qatamoun across the town of Rmeish in the Bint Jbeil district, the National News Agency reported on Thursday. According to NNA the bulldozer started digging works inside the border of occupied Palestinian territories adjacent to the U.N. demarcated Blue Line. The Blue Line is a border demarcation between Lebanon and Israel published by the United Nations on 7 June 2000 for the purposes of determining whether Israel had fully withdrawn from Lebanon.

Lebanese Parliament Approves Lebanon's 1st State Budget in 12 Years after Thorny Debate
Naharnet/October 19/17/The parliament on Thursday approved the 2017 state budget – Lebanon's first state budget in 12 years – following three days of arduous debate. Sixty-one MPs voted in favor of the bill, four lawmakers from the Kataeb Party voted against as eight other lawmakers abstained from voting.
Al-Jadeed television said the MPs who abstained from voting were MP Antoine Zahra of the Lebanese Forces, independent MP Butros Harb of Batroun and six lawmakers from Hizbullah's Loyalty to Resistance bloc. Kataeb Party chief MP Sami Gemayel described the approval of a state budget without a final account for the year 2016 as a “violation of the Constitution, the public auditing law and the parliament's by-laws.” The three-day parliamentary debate had witnessed heated arguments over the issue of approving a state budget without the submission of final accounts for the past 12 years. A final account details spending and revenues for every fiscal year. Earlier on Thursday, Gemayel announced that he intends to file an appeal before the Constitutional Council over the approval of a state budget without the submission of a final account. Gemayel also tweeted that “it seems that covering up for the spending of $11 billion without final accounts was also a part of the presidential settlement” that led to the election of President Michel Aoun, describing the alleged secret agreement as a “collective violation of the Constitution.” Disagreements over final accounts and an acute political rift between the March 8 and March 14 forces were behind the long-running failure to approve a state budget.

Hariri: Those who Assassinated Rafik Hariri, Wissam al-Hassan are Cowards
Naharnet/October 19/17/Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced Thursday that “those who assassinated Rafik Hariri and Wissam al-Hassan are cowards.”“Wissam was a brother to me, and his loss on the personal level was very big. But it is a greater loss at the national level, because he was the man who worked to protect Lebanon from all dangers,” Hariri told reporters after visiting the tombs of al-Hassan and his companion Ahmed Sahyouni on the 5th anniversary of their assassination. He added: “Today we tell his family that we will not forget this cause, and will carry it to the end.” “We will continue this journey and we will continue their message,” Hariri vowed. The premier's father, ex-PM Rafik Hariri, was assassinated in a massive suicide truck bombing on February 14, 2005. The U.N.-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon has indicted five Hizbullah suspects in the case and an in-absentia trial is underway. The 2012 murder of Maj. Gen. Wissam al-Hassan, who was the head of the Internal Security Forces Intelligence Branch, has been largely blamed on Damascus.

Merehbi Walks Out Angrily of Parliament Session over Akkar Funds
Naharnet/October 19/17/Akkar MP and State Minister for Refugee Affairs Moein al-Merehbi walked out angrily of a parliament session on Thursday evening in protest at failure to earmark funds for projects in the impoverished regions of Akkar and Baalbek-Hermel. Speaker Nabih Berri clarified that the law prevents the Parliament from adding funds to the state budget, but Merehbi walked out, announcing “his withdrawal from his ministerial and parliamentary posts.”Merehbi however returned to the session after a brief time following mediations from some al-Mustaqbal Movement figures. The Parliament has been debating the 2017 draft state budget since Tuesday. Lebanon has not had a state budget since 2005 due to political bickering and disputes over financial auditing.

ISF Says Seized Stolen Dali Painting

Naharnet/October 19/17/Lebanon's Internal Security Forces have seized what they said was "probably an original" painting by surrealist master Salvador Dali and arrested four people suspected of attempting to sell it. The 1954 painting, named "Portrait de Mrs Reeves", dates from his classical period and is not considered one of his most important works. The ISF said in a statement that it could fetch millions of dollars if confirmed to be an original, but records from the global auction house Christie's show it was sold for a more modest 89,500 British pounds 20 years ago.
The painting is a full-length portrait of a high-society woman from the time during which the extravagant Spanish artist lived in the United States and painted many commissioned works of limited value. The ISF said the painting had been stolen "from a country neighboring Lebanon" and added it had detained three Syrians and a Lebanese national.

Geagea Affirms 'Staunch' March 14 Alliance, Says Syrian 'Tutelage' Exiled Aoun, Confined Him
Naharnet/October 19/17/Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea stated that the Syrian “tutelage” has exiled President Michel Aoun back in 1990 and ordered his own detention, as he reassured that the March 14 alliance “has not died but is alive" and well. “March 14 alliance is alive for the sake of Lebanon. If March 14 dies, Lebanon will die, but Lebanon will remain forever. March 14 will continue in spirit and goals. It will stay and we will stay committed on this project until it is fully realized,” said Geagea during an LF festival held in Sidney, Australia Thursday. Turning to the Syrian occupation in Lebanon which ended in 2005, Geagea said: “The tutelage era and the regime of Hafez Assad have exiled Michel Aoun, disbanded the Lebanese Forces party, arrested Samir Geagea and his comrades and persecuted many including my wife,” said Geagea during the ceremony. Referring to calls of some political parties to normalize ties with Syria in order to return displaced Syrians back home, the LF leader said: “It is a pity how some Lebanese today forgot that the Asaad regime has bombed Ashrafiyeh, Zahle, Qannat, Tripoli, Sidon and killed Bashir Gemayel, Kamal Jumblat and Rafic Hariri. "All they care about today is to find a way to weave ties with the Assad regime under hundreds of pretexts of returning the displaced back to Syria." “Most of all, they are finding arguments to re-establish relations with the Assad regime. The only way to return the displaced is to stay away from politicizing this issue, especially by moving away from Assad and cooperating with the countries that will be the corridor for the return of Syrian refugees to their homes,” concluded Geagea.

LF Says Adwan's Remarks 'Not an Accusation' Against Salameh
Naharnet/October 19/17/The Lebanese Forces party stressed on Thursday that remarks made by deputy chief MP George Adwan about BDL's possible tax evasion are not aimed at indicting its governor Riad Salameh but were mere questions that needed answers, the pan-Arab Asharq al-Awsat reported on Thursday. “Adwan's remarks are not political nor personal, nor is it a charge against the bank's governor Riad Salameh whom we respect and have already agreed to renew his term,” LF sources told the daily. They said the MP's remarks were mere “questions that the Lebanese Forces and others have a right for an answer,” they added. “All we ask is that the fiscal policy and the economic vision, including that of Banque du Liban, are the responsibility of the government and not the ruler's responsibility,” concluded the sources. On Tuesday, Adwan accused Banque du Liban 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. Adwan called on Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil to put everyone 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. Adwan's remarks prompted a swift reply from Salameh who told LBCI television that 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.

Berri receives phone call from Al Ghanem
Thu 19 Oct 2017/NNA - House Speaker, Nabih Berri, on Thursday received a phone call from the head of the Kuwaiti National Assembly, Marzouq Al-Ghanem, thanking the Speaker and the Parliament for appreciating his position where he expelled the Israeli delegation at the Inter-Parliamentary Union Conference held in the Russian city of St. Petersburg.

Riachi takes up with Jreissati Shartouni's interview by Al Akhbar newspaper
Thu 19 Oct 2017/NNA - Information Minister, Melhem Riachi, took up with Justice Minister, Selim Jreissati, the special interview published this morning by "Al-Akhbar" newspaper with Habib Al-Shartouni. "I spoke to the Minister of Justice about 'Al Akhbar' interview with the assassin of the martyred President Bachir Gemayel," Minister Riachi said, adding that Jreissati pledged to take the necessary measures.

Army Commander, UAE Ambassador tackle overall situation
Thu 19 Oct 2017/NNA - Army Commander, General Joseph Aoun, on Thursday met at his Yarzeh office with the UAE Ambassador to Lebanon, Hamad Saeed Al-Shamsi, with talks reportedly touching on the general situation in Lebanon and the broad region. Bilateral relations between the armies of both countries also highlighted their talks.

Bassil tackles developments with U.S., Russian Ambassadors
Thu 19 Oct 2017/NNA - Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Minister, Gebran Bassil, welcomed on Thursday US Ambassador to Lebanon, Elizabeth Richard. Talks between the pair featured high on the most recent developments at the local and regional scenes. For her part, Richard briefed Bassil on the U.S. stance vis-a-vis the forthcoming phase in the Middle East region and Iran. Separately, Bassil had an audience with Russian Ambassador to Lebanon, Alexander Zasypkin. "We discussed developments in the region, especially normalization efforts in Syria in light of the successful fight against terrorism," the Russian diplomat said on emerging. "We need to develop and activate the Syrian national dialogue with the participation of all groups and components of the society, and we are working towards this end with the Syrian authorities and the United Nations," he said, stressing that everyone can contribute positively. Moreover, Zasypkin pointed to unified positions on the part of the international community on the need to have Syrian refugees return to their homeland. "What is mostly important is to arrange their return. In the meantime we are working on normalizing relations with Syria," he said
"We agree with the Lebanese state concerning the large burdens incurred, which is a case that could explode soon," Zasypkin warned, confirming that this issue is very urgent. In addition, Minister Bassil met today with President of the General Labor Union, Bishara Asmar. He also welcomed Christophe Martin, head of the ICRC delegation in Lebanon. "I had an opportunity to meet with the foreign minister today and the debate was exciting. I have the honor to represent the ICRC and explain its activities," Martin said in the wake of the meeting. "We exchanged views on the problems in Lebanon and how the International Red Cross can be a key partner in supporting both host communities and Syrian refugees through different types of projects and approaches," Martin added.

Riachi, TL Employees Syndicate tackle Station situation
Thu 19 Oct 2017/NNA - Information Minister, Melhem Riachi, on Thursday met at his ministerial office with Television of Lebanon (TL) Employees' Syndicate, with whom he discussed the Station's current financial predicaments. On emerging, Syndicate Dean, Kamal Al Aswad, said that talks touched on the current situation endured by TL employees in the absence of the Station's Board Chairman for 5 months. "The situation is very worsening due to the absence of the legal element that usually addresses the Company's financial and legal problems... Such a situation can no longer be tolerable," Al Aswad said, beseeching the Minister and President of the Republic to resolve this matter. Aswad also hoped that House Speaker, Nabih Berri, and Prime Minister, Saad Hariri, would intervene to resolve this issue.

Aoun tells Knights of Malta looking forward to role of organization facilitating return of Syrian refugees
Thu 19 Oct 2017/NNA - President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun, on Thursday hailed the "effective and distinguished role played by the Sovereign Order of Malta at the humanitarian and social levels."The President confirmed to the international leader of the Order, Frà Giacomo Dalla Torre del Tempio di Sanguinetto, who visited Baabda Palace earlier today, Lebanon's continued coordination with the order to help achieve its humanitarian goals.Aoun also said that he was looking forward to seeing the order help facilitate the return of Syrian refugees to their country at the humane and social levels, especially now that Lebanon has begun to coordinate with the international community and the United Nations towards this end. Furthermore, the President hailed the projects carried out by the Knights of Malta in Lebanon, including the order's medical and health centers, which provide services to both Lebanese citizens and Syrian refugees. For his part, President di Sanguinetto expressed his utter delight being in Lebanon. "Lebanon is at the heart of the international organization, which confirms its readiness to provide all the required health projects in cooperation with the Lebanese official departments and humanitarian institutions," he said. "We will do everything in our power to help Lebanon overcome the difficult circumstances that it currently endures and to respond to the wishes and priorities of the Lebanese state," di Sanguinetto added.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on October 19-2017
Tillerson off to Middle East, South Asia with eye on Iran, Iraq
The Associated Press, Reuters, WashingtonThursday, 19 October 2017/US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson heads to the Middle East, South Asia and Europe this week on a diplomatic mission focused on conflicts in Iraq and Syria and blunting Iranian influence in the region, the State Department said on Thursday. Tillerson departs on Friday for travel to Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Pakistan and India before returning home through Switzerland on Oct. 27, the department said in a statement. In Riyadh, Tillerson will explore ways of improving relations between Saudi Arabia and Iraq by participating in the first meeting of the two countries’ new coordination council, it said. That effort, which US officials say Tillerson has pushed for months, is aimed reducing Iran’s increasing influence in Iraq by encouraging Baghdad to align more closely with Riyadh. Tillerson will also meet Saudi officials to discuss their ongoing military campaign against Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen and the crisis between the Gulf Arab states and Qatar. Tillerson has since June been attempting to mediate the dispute between the traditional US partners in the Gulf, two of which host major US military bases. The Qatari capital of Doha will be his next stop, followed by Islamabad and New Delhi. This trip also marks Tillerson’s first visit to South Asia as secretary, according to the department. Syria and other humanitarian crises, like the desperate situation for Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslim population, will top Tillerson’s agenda at his final stop in Geneva, where he will meet officials from the N refugee agency, the International Organization for Migration and the International Red Cross.

Saudi-Iraqi military talks held in Riyadh
Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnglishThursday, 19 October 2017/The Iraqi Defense Ministry said that Army Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Othman Al-Ghanmi headed a high-level military delegation on Monday for a two-day official visit to Saudi Arabia at the invitation of his Saudi counterpart General Abdul Rahman Al-Bunyan, Chief of Staff of the Saudi Armed Forces. The visit was the first of its kind in decades for a senior Iraqi military official, according to Alsharq Alawsaat newpaper. The visit aimed to “discuss important issues through cooperation and coordination in combating terrorism and opening border crossings,” the statement said, adding that the visit “is an important step to enhance relations between the two countries and exchange intelligence, and discuss regional issues”.

Emir of Qatar: We are ready for dialogue to solve the crisis
Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnglishThursday, 19 October 2017/Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani said during the conclusion of his Asian tour in Indonesia that Doha is ready for dialogue to resolve the Arab boycott crisis. Sheikh Tamim tried once again to present his country as a victim under siege and in need of dialogue, saying: “Qatar is open to dialogue in accordance with agreements binding on all parties and respect for the sovereignty of states, we are open to this”. However, Qatar’s position since the beginning of the crisis has obstructed mediation efforts more than once, including that of Kuwaiti emir’s attempts to resolve the crisis as Doha categorically rejected the conditions and demands of the boycotting countries. Contradictions were plentiful during the Qatari Emir’s Asian trip as Sheikh Tamim said that the Arab boycott had a negative impact on the life of the citizen, despite his previous assertions that normal life was not affected in back in Doha. “The unjust siege on the state of Qatar had humanitarian effects on our people of Qatar,” the emir said during his trip while during his first public speech to his citizens that: “State institutions provided all the needs of the population”.So far, Qatar’s efforts to round up support in Asia has been unsuccessful as Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo chose to make no comments on the crisis while Malaysia simply called on the parties to resolve the crisis.

UAE appoints minsters for AI, Advanced Sciences in new cabinet reshuffle
Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnglishThursday, 19 October 2017/Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Prime Minister and Vice-President of the United Arab Emirates and ruler of Dubai, has reshuffled the cabinet and announced new ministries on Thursday. The Dubai ruler tweeted that the new structural shake-up came after the Government’s recent annual meetings and launch of the UAE Centennial plan 2071.
The new government appointment Omar Bin Sultan al-Olama, 27, as State Minister for Artificial Intelligence. “We want the UAE to become the world’s most prepared country for artificial intelligence,” Sheikh Mohammed said.
This is the thirteen government in UAE history.
Sara al-Amiri, 30, has been appointed as Minister of State for Advanced Sciences.
Zaki Nussaibah has been appointed as Minister of State.
Mariam al-Muhairi has been appointed as Minister of State for Food Security.
Hessa Bint Eisa Bu Humaid has been appointed as Minster of Community Development.
Shaikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak al-Nahyan has been appointed as Minister of Tolerance.
Nasser Bin Thani al-Hameli appointed as Minister of Human Resources and Emiratization.
Noora al-Kaabi will be the Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development.

Khamenei: We Will Shred 'Nuclear Deal' if Trump Tears it Apart
Asharq Al Awsat/Thursday, 19 October, 2017/Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday Tehran would commit to its 2015 nuclear deal with international powers as long as the US Congress did not impose sanctions against his country. However, he threatened to “shred” the agreement if the United States pulled out, state TV reported. Khamenei’s remarks came five days after US President Donald Trump decertified the Iranian nuclear deal, asking the Congress to address the “many serious flaws” in the international agreement. “I am directing my administration to work closely with Congress and our allies to address the deal’s many serious flaws,” Trump warned. “In the event, we are not able to reach a solution working with Congress and our allies, then the agreement will be terminated.”In his first response to Trump, Khamenei said: “I don’t want to waste our time to respond to the rants and whoppers of the foul-throated president of the United States.”“If the US tears up the deal, we will shred it... Everyone should know that once again America will receive a slap in its mouth and will be defeated by Iranians,” the Iranian leader added. Although Khamenei expressed his relief with the position of the European Union countries in support of the nuclear agreement, he said that it not enough to tell Trump not to tear up the agreement. “European states stressed their backing for the deal and condemned Trump ... We welcomed this, but it is not enough to ask Trump not to rip up the agreement. Europe needs to stand against practical measures (taken) by America,” he stated. Following a closed-door meeting on Monday, EU foreign ministers appealed to the US Congress to maintain the nuclear deal with Iran and avoid a return to the sanctions option. “This agreement is necessary for the security of the region,” EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini said, without elaborating on the role the EU could play in countering Iran’s regional activities. In a joint statement, Paris, London, and Berlin have also expressed concern about the “repercussions on the security of the United States and its allies” that would result from the actions demanded by Trump. In decertifying the nuclear deal last week, Trump gave the US Congress 60 days to decide whether to impose economic sanctions on Tehran, which were lifted under the 2015 agreement. During their meeting on Monday, EU foreign ministers also discussed the need to dismantle Iran’s missile program. “They must avoid interfering in our defense program ... We do not accept that Europe sings along with America’s bullying and its unreasonable demands,” Khamenei said, as reported by Reuters. “They (Europeans) ask why does Iran have missiles? Why do you have missiles yourselves? Why do you have nuclear weapons?” He asked.

Iran Revolutionary Guard: Trump's 'Hostile Approach' to Be Met With Acceleration of Missile Program
Haaretz/Reuters/October 19/17/Iran's elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard said on Thursday that the country's ballistic missile program would accelerate despite pressure from the United States and European Union to suspend it, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported. "Iran's ballistic missile programme will expand and it will continue with more speed in reaction to (U.S. President Donald) Trump's hostile approach towards this revolutionary organisation (the Guards)," the Guard said in a statement published by Tasnim. In a policy shift alst week, Trump said that he will decertify the Iran nuclear deal, and announced new sanctions on the Revolutionary Guard. The Trump administration imposed new unilateral sanctions targeting Iran's missile activity, calling on Tehran not to develop missiles capable of delivering nuclear bombs. Iran says it has no such plans. Tehran has repeatedly pledged to continue what it calls a defensive missile capability in defiance of Western criticism. Trump's decertification announcement gives Congress 60 days to decide whether to reimpose economic sanctions on Tehran that were lifted under the pact. New sanctions would increase tension with Iran and put Washington at odds with other signatories of the accord such as Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and the EU. The leaders of France, Britain and Germany warned the U.S. against making decisions that could harm the Iran nuclear deal, such as re-imposing sanctions. But they also said in a joint statement that they shared U.S. concerns over Iran's ballistic missile program and regional destabilizing activities and were ready to work with Washington to address those concerns.

Foreign ISIS Fighters Captured, Turned over to Western Countries in Raqqa
Asharq Al Awsat/Thursday, 19 October, 2017/Syria’s Kurdish-Arab rebels fighting under the banner of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced on Wednesday initiating combing operations to clear Raqqa from ISIS members. A number of foreign militants captured in the former ISIS stronghold have already been handed to Western countries, said SDF sources. Despite the US-backed SDF claiming full control over Raqqa, the fate of dozens of foreign ISIS fighters who were known to be located in the area remains unknown. The British-based Observatory for Human Rights says that no one has spotted foreign fighters in particular, but apprehended French and Belgian militants were turned in to intelligence forces of their respective countries. As battles continue to drag around Syrian terrain, the latest loss suffered by regime forces was the death of Brigadier General Issam Zahreddine in Deir Ezzor. The Republican Guard’s Zahreddine, who also commanded regime operations in Deir Ezzor, was killed in a mine explosion in the Hawija-Sakr area inside the city, according to Syrian media. Zahreddine played a role in the progress made by the Syrian pro-regime army forces in Deir Ezzor city and the surrounding areas. Zahreddine led army operations against the armed opposition in Homs and Aleppo, before moving to the eastern region to fight ISIS. On the other hand, the regime launched raids against Deir Ezzor’s eastern oil field, racing SDF units for control over oil and gas fields in eastern Syria. More so, the US is expected to lead efforts in clearing out and restoring basic public services in Raqqa after its liberation. SDF search teams have at the same time announced combing the city for “sleeper cells" hiding among civilians. "We will assist and take, essentially, the lead in bringing back the water, electricity and all of that," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told a briefing. "But eventually the governance of the country of Syria is something that I think all nations remain very interested in." "The United States and our allies have prepared for next steps and will continue to work with partners to provide humanitarian assistance to those in need and support the stabilization efforts in Raqqa and other liberated areas," Nauert said. Additionally, SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali said preparations were underway for a formal declaration of the city's liberation. The SDF said Tuesday that military operations in Raqqa have ended and that their troops have taken full control of the city. The US-led coalition cautioned that the clearing operations would continue, saying some 100 militants may still be hiding in the city.

British Intelligence Investigates Over 500 Cases of Terrorism
Asharq Al Awsat/Thursday, 19 October, 2017/
The United Kingdom's intelligence services are facing an "intense" challenge from terrorism, the head of MI5 has warned. He noted that Britain is running more than 500 live operations targeting 3,000 individuals involved in extremist activity in some way with 20,000 more, who have been on the counter-terrorism radar and others who are not even known to law agencies. Director General of MI5 Andrew Parker said there was currently "more terrorist activity coming at us, more quickly" and that it can also be "harder to detect". Speaking in London, Parker said the tempo of counter-terrorism operations was the highest he had seen in his 34-year career at MI5. The UK has suffered five terror attacks this year, and he said MI5 staff had been "deeply affected" by them. Twenty attacks had been foiled in the last four years, including seven in the last seven months, Parker revealed, adding that all were related to what he called Islamist extremism. Britain has experienced five attacks using knives, cars and bombs since the beginning of 2017, four in London and one in Manchester. Twenty major acts have been detected in the past four years and 379 suspects have been arrested in the first six months of this year, Parker stressed. Parker recalled that he had said in a speech two years ago that despite a string of successful operations he feared “that we had not yet reached the high-water mark”. He said Tuesday: “Sadly that has proved to be the case. Islamist terrorism is an acute and enduring challenge that requires a sustained and comprehensive approach.” The internet has provided terrorists with access and immediacy. “They can go online to get explosives and learn how to build a bomb”, said the director general. As a result, they can “accelerate from inception to planning to action in just a handful of days, exploiting safe space online which can make it harder to detect and gives us a smaller window to intervene”. MI5 is under pressure to demonstrate its effectiveness after four Islamist terrorist attacks escaped its detection this year. Parker’s speech to specialist security journalists on Tuesday was his chance to frame the debate about Britain’s battle against Islamist terrorism at a time when the agency’s staff numbers are already expanding from 4,000 to 5,000, according to The Guardian. This month the government will receive reports on whether chances to thwart the atrocities were missed and what lessons could be learned. Ministers and the National Security Council wanted independent oversight of the review, in essence not allowing MI5 or counter-terrorism police to assess themselves. Oversight is being provided by the barrister David Anderson QC, a former government appointment as independent reviewer of terrorism legislation.

Egypt’s International Conference for Fatwa Warns Against Circulating Misleading Fatwas
Asharq Al Awsat/Thursday, 19 October, 2017/The International Conference for Fatwa continued its second day of activities early on Wednesday. Participants used the platform to send out an important message on prohibiting and stopping self-styled and unauthorized Fatwas from being circulated among the public, especially in light of surging Islamophobia. The three-day conference, held by General Secretariat for Fatwa Authorities Worldwide, was attended by delegations from 80 countries to face misleading fatwas and their impacts on societies. Attending Islamic scholars valued the speech given by MWL Secretary-General Mohammed bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa. “Issa’s speech has a great impact and is very important in shedding light on the most important issues facing the Islamic world,” Secretary-General of the Islamic European Council Dr. Mohammed Al Bashari told Asharq Al-Awsat. “Issa's demand to unify fatwas and establish regulations is a request made in the right place and time to eliminate fatwas issued occasionally by extremist organizations,” he added. Fatwas in the Islamic faith are a nonbinding but authoritative legal opinion or learned interpretation that scholars, such as a qualified jurist or mufti, can give on issues pertaining to the Islamic law. Grand Imam of Azhar Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb, Egypt's Mufti Shawky Allam, Secretary-General of the Muslim World League (MWL) Muhammad bin Abdul Karim, and the chairman of the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments (GAIAE) in the UAE Mohammed Matar al-Kaabi Issa inaugurated the conference on Oct 17. Addressing the conference, Egypt’s Mufti Shawky Allam said that the challenges Egypt and the world are facing are due to “misleading fatwas” that threaten security and peace. “Since the world rises up against terrorism, religious intellectuals too should confront extremist thoughts and spread the teachings of our tolerant religion instead,” Allam added. He further noted that the conference is considered an “opportunity to achieve this goal, as the conference’s importance is not limited to discussing the issues of terrorism and extremism, but it expands to include misleading fatwas that confuse our society.”

Putin: Russia Hopes to Broaden Cooperation with US
Asharq Al Awsat/Thursday, 19 October, 2017/Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday he hoped Moscow could cooperate with Washington in a broader range of fields. "We have dialogue at the work level and on the level of the special services, the defense ministries, the foreign ministries. We achieve joint results," Putin said at a forum with scholars. "We have to expand our cooperation to other spheres."Putin also said that Moscow was not concerned about a US military build-up in the Baltic region. "We are analyzing it, watching this closely. Every one of their steps are known and clear to us," Putin said at a forum with scholars. "This doesn't worry us. Let them train there, everything is under control." Commenting on the chances of closing of Russia's borders with rebel regions in eastern Ukraine, Putin said it would result in a "Srebrenica-like massacre", referring to the mass killing of Muslims during the 1992-95 Bosnian War. He said Europe was to blame for the Ukraine crisis and that only European powers could act to change the situation. Putin added that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was being pressured by the US to prevent Russia from taking part in the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. "We are seeing that the IOC is under strong pressure," Putin said at a forum with scholars. "It relies on advertisers, television channels, sponsors, and so on. And these sponsors are receiving unambiguous signals from certain American institutions."

Israeli Army Shuts Down Eight TV Production Companies, Outlets
Asharq Al Awsat/Thursday, 19 October, 2017/The Palestinian authority and some media institutions denounced the attack of Israeli occupation forces on eight media outlets and warned against this violent step that aims to silence journalists and the press. The Israeli army raided on Wednesday eight offices of TV channels and production companies in Ramallah, Bethlehem, Nablus and Hebron, arresting some journalists and staff. Commander of the Judea Brigade Col. Itzik Cohen stated after the end of the operation that the closed outlets helped main Palestinian channels in incitement and encouraging terrorism. He said the incitement was a source of annoyance but the response was quick. “We see incitement as an integral part of encouraging terrorism and that’s why we continue to fight it,” Cohen added. For its part, the Palestinian Ministry of Information considered the Israeli raids the peak of terrorism and piracy. It rejected the so-called closure decision, which contradicts international law and degrades UN Resolution 2222. Upon the ministry’s request, all national media institutions united their broadcast for one minute (12:00 noon) as a protest. Further, the Palestinian Authority said it condemned the raids “in the strongest terms”. PA government spokesman Youssef al-Mahmoud said in a statement that “occupation forces committed a blatant aggression and gross violation of all international laws when they stormed Palestinian cities and raided media offices.” He added that the measures were a “clear challenge to the international efforts, especially the American efforts, to seek an opportunity for compromise and lay the foundations for peace and security with the agreement of all sides.”

US Says Palestinian Unity Govt Must Recognize Israel, Disarm Hamas
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/October 19/17/A top aide to US President Donald Trump said Thursday that an emerging Palestinian unity government must recognise Israel and disarm Hamas, Washington's first detailed response to a landmark reconciliation deal signed last week. A Hamas official immediately rejected the comments as "blatant interference" in Palestinian affairs, but did not say directly whether the Islamist group planned to comply with any of the demands. Trump's special representative for international negotiations Jason Greenblatt, who has repeatedly visited the region to seek ways to restart peace talks, laid out a series of conditions. "Any Palestinian government must unambiguously and explicitly commit to nonviolence, recognise the state of Israel, accept previous agreements and obligations between the parties -– including to disarm terrorists -- and commit to peaceful negotiations," Greenblatt said in a statement. The US conditions were roughly in line with principles previously set out by the Quartet for Middle East peace -- the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations.
"If Hamas is to play any role in a Palestinian government, it must accept these basic requirements," Greenblatt said.The statement was also similar to the Israeli government's response this week in which it vowed not to negotiate with a Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas unless the Islamist group agrees to a list of demands. The demands included recognising Israel and renouncing violence, but also returning the remains of two Israeli soldiers killed in Gaza, among other conditions. Senior Hamas official Bassem Naim condemned Greenblatt's statement and accused the United States of adopting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's positions. "This is blatant interference in Palestinian affairs because it is the right of our people to choose its government according to their supreme strategic interests," Naim told AFP. "This statement comes under pressure from the extreme right-wing Netanyahu government and is in line with the Netanyahu statement from two days ago." - Gaza humanitarian crisis -Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas's Fatah movement signed a reconciliation deal with Hamas in Cairo a week ago aimed at ending a bitter 10-year split. The Abbas-led Palestine Liberation Organisation has recognised Israel, but Hamas has not and is blacklisted as a terrorist organisation by the United States and the European Union. Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since 2008, and the Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli blockade for more than a decade. Egypt has also kept its border with Gaza largely closed in recent years. Hamas has run the Gaza Strip since seizing it in a near civil war in 2007 with Fatah, based in the occupied West Bank, following a dispute over elections won by the Islamist movement. The Palestinian Authority, currently dominated by Fatah, is due to resume control of the Gaza Strip by December 1 under the deal. Talks are also expected on forming a unity government, with another meeting between the various Palestinian political factions scheduled for November 21. Previous attempts at reconciliation have repeatedly failed, and many analysts are treating the latest bid with caution, waiting to see if actual change will occur on the ground.
A major sticking point is expected to be Hamas's refusal to disarm its 25,000-strong armed wing. Diplomats say it would be possible to form a unity government that they could deal with that does not officially include Hamas. A previous attempt at a unity government in 2014 was made up of technocrats deemed acceptable by the international community, though that bid fell apart. Hamas has faced increasing isolation and deteriorating humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip in recent months, including a severe electricity shortage. Abbas has imposed a series of sanctions on the Gaza Strip to pressure Hamas, including cutting electricity payments, which has worsened the power cuts. Hamas has reached out to Cairo for help, hoping to have the Rafah border with Egypt opened. In return, Cairo has pressed Hamas to move forward on reconciliation with Fatah. Greenblatt said "all parties agree that it is essential that the Palestinian Authority be able to assume full, genuine and unhindered civil and security responsibilities in Gaza and that we work together to improve the humanitarian situation for Palestinians living there."In a briefing to the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday, UN assistant secretary general Miroslav Jenca welcomed the reconciliation deal and spoke of the urgency of addressing the "humanitarian crisis" in Gaza.

Fighters in Syria's Raqa Prepare for Civilian Handover
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/October 19/17/US-backed forces who captured Raqa from the Islamic State group prepared Thursday to hand the Syrian city over to a civilian authority, with some of their fighters already headed to the next battle. Inside the city, positions that had long been manned by fighters of the Kurdish-Arab Syrian Democratic Forces were abandoned, though some remained in the central Al-Naim square, dancing and ululating as they celebrated their victory. The SDF battled for more than four months, with US-led coalition support, to capture the city that was once the de facto Syrian capital of IS's self-styled "caliphate". They announced the end of combat on Tuesday, though operations to clear explosives and seek out sleeper cells were ongoing. Raqa's capture leaves the jihadists with little remaining territory in Syria, most of it in neighbouring Deir Ezzor province, where some SDF fighters were already headed to continue the campaign. "Some of the forces withdrew, others will remain in the city until we finish the minor combing operations, then the city will be handed over to the civil council," said SDF commander Rojda Felat. "After the end of military operations, a large part of the forces have moved out of Raqa to other areas, including Deir Ezzor," added Mustefa Bali, spokesman for the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), the main component of the SDF. SDF spokesman Talal Sello said two days of mopping-up operations had so far uncovered no additional IS fighters, but that interrogations of those who were captured or surrendered during the battle were ongoing. "SDF intelligence is investigating them, including a number of foreigners," he told AFP. Responsibility for the city, which lies in ruins and empty of civilians, will be assumed by the Raqa Civil Council, a body of local officials formed six months ago.
The official handover is expected to come as early as Friday, but the body has already spent months working on reconstruction plans.
They will inherit responsibility for a ghost town that lacks basic services and infrastructure. On the city's streets on Thursday, blankets that had been hung in front of windows to shield residents from the view of snipers fluttered in the wind, but there was no movement otherwise. A few scrawny cats and dogs picked their way over the rubble that is strewn across the city, up to 80 percent of which was described as uninhabitable by the UN last month. - Raqa 'liberated by free women' -In Al-Naim square, fighters of the Kurdish Women's Protection Units (YPJ), the female branch of the YPG, gathered to hold a press conference celebrating their contribution to the city's capture. Some of the battle's commanders were female, a point of pride for Kurdish forces, particularly given IS's infamous oppression of women.
"Raqa was liberated by the will of free women," the YPJ said in a statement. SDF flags now cover Al-Naim, where the jihadists once displayed the severed heads of their enemies. In the centre of the square, a large yellow flag has been raised, featuring a photograph of jailed Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan. Ocalan heads the Kurdistan Workers Party, which has waged a decades-long insurgency in Turkey, where it is considered a "terrorist" group. He is idolised by many in the YPG, which Ankara says is the Syrian branch of the PKK. IS captured mostly Sunni Arab Raqa in 2014, and under its rule the city became infamous for gruesome abuses and as a planning centre for attacks abroad. Its loss deals a major blow to the jihadists' dreams of statehood, and comes after their July defeat in Iraq's second city Mosul, their other major urban stronghold. In Syria, they are now confined largely to Deir Ezzor province, where they are under attack by both the SDF and Russian-backed government forces. In neighbouring Iraq, they hold only a small stretch of the Euphrates valley adjoining the Syrian border, a far cry from their peak in 2014, when their "caliphate" was approximately the size of Britain.

Spain Govt Says Will Press Ahead to Suspend Catalan Autonomy
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/October 19/17/The Spanish government said Thursday it would press ahead with steps to suspend the autonomy of Catalonia, minutes after the region's separatist leader threatened to unilaterally declare independence from Spain if Madrid continued its "repression."
"The Spanish government will continue with the procedures outlined in article 155 of the Constitution to restore legality in Catalonia's self-government," it said in a statement, referring to an article that allows for Madrid to take direct control over a region in exceptional circumstances.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on October 19-20/17
President Trump should support Iranians opposing their brutal government
Walid Phares/News English Review/October 18/2017
Now that President Trump has decertified the Iranian nuclear deal and asked Congress to decide if the U.S. should snap back economic sanctions on the Islamic Republic, he is faced with a critical decision on what future U.S. policy toward Iran should be.
Following an administration review of U.S. policy toward Iran now underway, the president should make a commitment to show greater support for the Iranian people in their struggle for freedom against the brutal and oppressive extremist regime that governs their nation.
The outlines of what future U.S. policy to Iran might look like point to positive and long overdue changes. The president’s speech before the United Nations General Assembly last month was one of several preliminary signs that the U.S. will be more assertive with the Iran, even to the point of promoting domestically driven regime change.
Trump’s U.N. speech pointedly described the Iranian regime as an enemy of its own people and a major contributor to regional instability. Responding to the speech, a leader from the pro-democracy opposition characterized Trump as the first American president to ever “underscore the need for regime change in Iran by the Iranian people.”
Regardless of the specific steps that the Trump administration takes in the weeks and months ahead, there should be little doubt of the need for dramatic change. President Trump has already spearheaded a notable shift away from the conciliatory policies that led to the Iran nuclear deal and that effectively swept other issues, including ballistic missile development and human rights abuses, under the rug.
In a series of remarks delivered before his decertification of the Iran deal, President Trump said the Tehran regime is at odds with the aspirations of its own people – a position diametrically opposed to the Obama administration’s abandonment of the popular opposition to the regime, particularly since June 2009.
President Trump has said the Tehran regime is at odds with the aspirations of its own people – a position diametrically opposed to the Obama administration’s abandonment of the popular opposition to the regime, particularly since June 2009.
Furthermore, President Trump blasted the Iranian regime’s central power network, the Revolutionary Guards, and marked it for potential terrorist designation.
But there is still a long way to go, in part because the task before the current president isn’t just to compensate for the mistakes of his predecessor, but to compensate for the mistakes made by all of his predecessors since the 1979 Iranian Revolution.
Perhaps the centerpiece in decades of flawed U.S. policy toward Iran is an overarching inattention to the Iranian people. President Trump’s U.N. speech already put more emphasis on these forgotten figures than any previous American president. He said, for instance, that “the day will come when the people will face a choice: Will they continue down the path of poverty, bloodshed and terror, or will the Iranian people return to the nation's proud roots as a center of civilization, culture and wealth, where their people can be happy and prosperous once again?”
The Trump administration has previously pointed to the desirability of regime change, with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson even telling a congressional committee in June that American policy should include “support of those elements inside of Iran that would lead to a peaceful transition of that government.”
But neither Tillerson nor any other White House official has gone as far as outlining the means by which this might be done.
There are some things that we should expect if the Trump administration is serious about following up on its preliminary statements regarding “peaceful transition” and the future choices that the Iranian people will face. The U.S. government must be prepared to make more concrete gestures of support for the entire citizenry of that country and, by extension, the opposition movement.
Toward that end, perhaps the most imperative such gesture is American leadership in the push for an international inquiry into past Iranian government crimes against the nation’s pro-democracy movement.
In the summer of 1988, approximately 30,000 Iranian political prisoners were executed, in response to a fatwa from Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic. Human rights organizations have recognized the incident as a crime against humanity, but it has been largely ignored in Western media and certainly within Western policy circles.
The world has also ignored the Iranian government killings of protesters and opposition figures in Iranian Kurdistan, the Ahwaz province and in Iranian Balushistan. Add to it the brutal repression of the Green Revolution and the several assassination plots against Iranians in exile as well as the killing and torturing of demonstrators during the June 2009 protests in Tehran and other cities
President Trump has already proven himself willing to break the silence on the topic of regime change in Iran. It is not much of a stretch to ask him to also break the silence on some of the most blatant human rights violations in modern history. There is no more essential means of showing solidarity with the Iranian people than to join their call for justice on this issue, while also pushing for recognition of such crimes as representing the nature of the Iranian regime.
There is considerable reason for optimism about the Trump administration’s intentions, but until the veil is lifted on its policy review of our relationship with Iran, it remains important for concerned citizens and policy advocates throughout the world to keep up the pressure on the U.S. and its allies to make the necessary broad and dramatic changes.
First published at Fox News.
**Walid Phares, Ph.D., joined Fox News in January 2007 and serves as Middle East and terrorism expert. He is a foreign policy adviser to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and author of several books including "Future Jihad: Terrorist Strategies Against the West" (Palgrave Macmillan Trade 2006).

The Fall of Kirkuk: Made in Iran
Jonathan Spyer/The American Interest/October 18/17
Tehran’s strategizing pays off again, as several of its clients strike a deal that undermines Kurdish hopes of independence.
Iraqi forces took Kirkuk city from the Kurds this week with hardly a shot fired. Twenty-two Kurdish fighters were killed in the sporadic and disorganized resistance, while seven Iraqi soldiers also lost their lives. It is a remarkable setback for the Kurds, who just a few weeks ago held an independence referendum. The loss of Kirkuk especially, given the city’s vast oil resources, lessens the likelihood that an independent state will emerge from the Kurdish Regional Government area in northern Iraq.
Now the Iraqi forces are rolling into other areas conquered by the Kurdish Regional Government in the course of the war against ISIS, including Sinjar city, close to the border with Syria. Meanwhile, an exodus of Kurdish civilians is streaming in the direction of Erbil and Suleymaniya cities. Kurdish forces are withdrawing from the areas of Makhmur and Khanaqin as well. Yezidi civilians, who bore the brunt of the ISIS assault in the summer of 2014, are again uncertain of their fates as they wait for the arrival of Iraqi forces.
The capture of Kirkuk recalls other swift and decisive assertions of control that the Middle East has witnessed in recent years. Perhaps the closest parallel might be the Hezbollah takeover of west Beirut in May-June 2008. Then, too, a pro-Western element (the March 14 movement) sought to assert its sovereignty and independent decision-making capabilities. It had many friends in the West who overestimated its strength and capacity to resist pressure. And in the Lebanese case as well, a sudden, forceful move by an Iranian client swiftly (and, it seems, permanently) reset the balance of power, demonstrating to the pro-Western element that it was subordinate and that further resistance would be fruitless.
There is, of course, a further reason to note the similarity between Kirkuk in October 2017 and Beirut in 2008. Namely that in both cases, the faction that drove its point home through the judicious use of political maneuvering and the sudden application of force was a client of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. In Lebanon, the client was Hezbollah, the prototype of the IRGC-sponsored political-military organizations that Iran is now using to exert its influence across a huge swathe of the Middle East. In Iraq, the equivalent force is the PMU (Popular Mobilization Units) or Hashd al-Shaabi. These fighters spearheaded the entry into Kirkuk, working in close coordination with the Iraqi army’s 9th Armored Division, the Emergency Response Unit of the Federal Police, and the U.S.-trained counterterrorism service.
The Shi‘a militias of the PMU were raised in June 2014, following a fatwa from renowned Iraqi Shi‘a cleric Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. At that time, ISIS was heading for Baghdad, hence the need for the rapid mobilization of auxiliary fighters. The PMU’s forces now consist of about120,000 fighters in total. And while dozens of militias are associated with it, a handful of larger formations form its central pillars. The three most important groups are all pro-Iranian and directly connected to the Revolutionary Guards. These are Ktaeb Hizballah, headed by Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis; Asaib Ahl al-Haq, headed by Qais al-Khazali; and the Badr Organization, commanded by Hadi al-Ameri. All three of these leaders are closely linked to Qods Force Commander General Qassem Suleimani. They are, as one region-based diplomat put it, “Iran’s proconsuls” in Iraq.
Al-Ameri, al-Muhandis, and Suleimani himself were all present in Kirkuk on October 15 and16, laying the groundwork for the takeover of the city. Badr and Ahl al-Haq fighters also played a prominent role in the incursion into the city. However, they were not the only Iran-linked element in Kirkuk. The Kurdish retreat appears to have been the product of a deal between the Iraqi central government and the Kurdish party that dominates in Kirkuk, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. According to eyewitness reports, the PUK’s peshmerga forces abandoned their positions, rendering a coherent defense of the city impossible.
The PUK-Iran relationship dates back 25 years, to the days when both were engaged against the Saddam Hussein regime in Baghdad. Due to this alliance, the PUK only reluctantly supported the Kurdish independence referendum of September 25. Indeed, the fractured nature of Kurdish politics, the absence of a single, united military force, and the differing international alliances and orientations of the two main parties in the KRG—namely the Kurdish Democratic Party of President Masoud Barzani and the PUK—have long constituted a central vulnerability of the Kurdish system in northern Iraq. We appear to have witnessed a masterful exploitation of this vulnerability, a sudden and decisive turning of the screw.
Details have emerged in the Kurdish media of a supposed agreement reached between Bafel Talabani, eldest son of former PUK leader and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, and Hadi al-Ameri of the PMU. (Some sources claim that it was al-Muhandis, not al-Ameri, who represented the PMU.) The deal would establish a new authority in the Halabja-Sulaymaniyah-Kirkuk area, to be jointly administered by the Iraqi government and the “Kurds” (or rather, the PUK) for an undefined period. The federal government would manage the oil wells of Kirkuk and other strategic locations in the city, while also overseeing the public-sector payroll.
The establishment of such a client or puppet authority would put paid to any hopes for Kurdish self-determination in the near future. The deal was intended to split Iraqi Kurdish politics in two, and make impossible any further moves toward secession. The latter cause is vehemently opposed by Iran, which wants to control Iraq from Baghdad and maintain its unfettered access to the Levant and the Mediterranean Sea.
This deal was only feasible because of smart investments that Iran made in the politics of both Iraqi Shi‘a Arabs and Iraqi Kurds during previous decades, plus the judicious mixing of political and military force, an art in which the Iranians excel. Indeed, Iran’s influence in Iraq, both political and military, goes beyond the PMU and the PUK. The Federal Police, another of the forces involved in the march on Kirkuk, is controlled by the Interior Ministry. The Interior Minister, meanwhile, is one Qasim al-Araji—a representative of the Badr Organization, Hadi-Al Ameri’s group, which sits in the government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. And of course, Abadi’s own party, Dawa, is a Shi‘a Islamist outfit with strong ties to Iran.
So the long-developed, mostly unseen influence that Iran exerts on both Iraqi and Kurdish political and military life is powerful indeed. All we are seeing this week is its abrupt activation.
As Andrew Bernard noted in a TAI article earlier this week, President Trump’s response on the clashes was to assert that the United States was “not taking sides, but we don’t like the fact that they’re clashing.” This is in effect to accede to the Iranian ascendancy in Iran, given the discrepancy in power between the sides and the deep Iranian and IRGC involvement with Baghdad. Such a stance does not, to put it mildly, tally with the President’s condemnation in his speech this past week of Iran’s “continuing aggression in the Middle East.” It remains to be seen if anything of real consequence in policy terms will emerge from the President’s stated views. For the moment, at least, the gap between word and deed seems glaring.
Meanwhile, the advance of the Shi‘a militias and their Iraqi allies is continuing. The demoralized KRG has abandoned positions further west. In Sinjar, Khanaqin, Makhmur, Gwer and other sites on the Ninawah Plain, the Iraqis are pushing forward. The intention appears to be to take back the entirety of the Plain, where the peshmerga of the ruling KDP, not the PUK, were dominant. Yet they too have so far retreated without resistance. It is not clear at present how far the PMU and the Iraqis intend to go, or at what point the peshmerga will make a stand.
It is a black day for the Kurds, from every point of view. The fall of Kirkuk confirms the extent to which Iraq today is an Iranian-controlled satrapy. And it vividly demonstrates the currently unrivaled efficacy of the Iranian methods of revolutionary and political warfare, as practiced by IRGC throughout the Arab world.
**Jonathan Spyer is the director of the Rubin Center for Research in International Affairs at IDC, Herzliya, and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.

Terrorist groups planning another 9/11-style attack, top US official warns
The Telegraph/Foreign Staff /October 19/17
Islamic State and other terrorist groups are planning to target aircraft as they aim to carry out another major attack on the scale of 9/11, a top US security official has said. Elaine Duke, acting US Homeland Security Secretary, said the groups were using smaller attacks to raise money and “keep their members engaged”.  “The threat is still severe,” she said in London after meeting Home Secretary Amber Rudd.“The terrorist organisations, be it Isis or al-Qaeda or others, want to have the big explosion like they did on 9/11. They want to take down aircraft, the intelligence is clear on that."
Britain and Europe have seen a string of crude attacks, from the ramming and stabbing attack on London Bridge to the homemade bomb in Manchester. “In the interim they need to keep their finances flowing and they need to keep their visibility high and they need to keep their members engaged, so they are using small plots and they are happy to have small plots,” Ms Duke said. “Creating terror is their goal. A bladed weapon attack causes terror and continues to disrupt the world but that does not mean they have given up on a major aviation plot.”
Ms Duke said the US and Britain would push social media firms at a meeting of G7 interior ministers this week to do more to tackle online militant material. She said there had already been a change in the attitude of tech companies since a rally organised by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August turned deadly when a counter-protester was killed by a car driven into a crowd. "There has been a shift and for us somewhat with the Charlottesville incident," she said. "There are a lot of social pressures and they want do business so they really have to balance between keeping their user agreements and giving law enforcement what they need. "The fact they are meeting with us at G7 is a positive sign. I think they're seeing the evidence of it being real and not just hyperbole.” After a series of Islamist militant attacks this year, Prime Minister Theresa May and her cabinet have been demanding action from tech leaders like Facebook , Google and Twitter to do more about extremist material on their sites. British politicians have also called for access to encrypted messaging services like Facebook's WhatsApp, a campaign that U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein gave his backing to after meeting Ms Rudd and the head of the UK domestic spy agency MI5 last week.. Internet companies say they want to help governments remove extremist or criminal material but say they have to balance the demands of state security with civil liberties.
"We would like to have the ability to get encrypted data with the right legal processes," said Ms Duke.

Struggle Over Kirkuk Puts the U.S. and Iran on the Same Side
David Zucchino and Eric Schmitt/October 19/17
BAGHDAD — When the Iraqi military battled Kurdish forces this week to reclaim the contested city of Kirkuk, the spectacle of one American-backed ally fighting another with American-supplied weapons was not the only incongruous sight.
Another was the United States turning its back on a crucial ally in the fight against the Islamic State, the Kurds, as Washington’s goals aligned with those of a regional nemesis, Iran.
While the military action in Kirkuk on Monday and Tuesday was carried out under the banner of the Iraqi military, the ground forces included Iranian-backed Shiite militias.
American officials, including President Trump, insisted that the United States was not taking sides in the dispute, but some analysts say that the United States approved the Iraqi plan to enter Kurdish-held areas and that Iran helped broker the agreement with a Kurdish faction to withdraw its fighters from Kirkuk, allowing the Iraqi forces to take over largely unopposed.
“Abadi would not have attacked without informing the U.S.,” said David L. Phillips, a former State Department adviser who worked on Iraq for 30 years, referring to the Iraqi prime minister, Haider al-Abadi. “At a minimum, the U.S. knew that the attack was coming.”
Maria Fantappie, senior analyst for Iraq at the International Crisis Group, said, “The United States gave a green light, and that was essential.”
Iran’s goal, she said, was to insert Shiite militias into contested areas, and to divide the Kurds while solidifying Iranian influence over the Iraqi government.
Intentionally or not, the United States seems to have abetted that goal as it pursued its own aim of restoring Iraqi government authority to the disputed Kirkuk region. The United States, officials said, also declined to defend the Kurds to show its displeasure with them for rejecting an American request to cancel a referendum on independence from Iraq.
Supporters of the Kurdish Regional Government, the Kurdish enclave in northern Iraq, said they expected better from the United States after 1,700 Kurdish fighters died helping the Americans fight the Islamic State.
“I don’t want to use the word betrayal,” Vahal Ali, the communications director for the region’s president, said Wednesday, “but we definitely feel the United States has been negligent.”
He said the Kurds were “disappointed at how the United States looked at this.”
“Now they are giving Iraq to Iran as a present,” he added. “That’s as diplomatic as I can be.”
Joshua A. Geltzer, the former senior director for counterterrorism at the National Security Council, noted the irony of helping Iran just as Mr. Trump was threatening to withdraw from the Iran nuclear agreement and assailing the country for sponsoring terrorism.
“It seems like we just got out of the way as Baghdad rolled the Kurds, and that doesn’t feel right,” he said. “Plus, it makes little sense for an administration interested in getting tougher on Iran.”
The turn of events stems from the referendum the Kurds held three weeks ago, in which they voted overwhelmingly for independence from Iraq. Although the vote did not lead to a declaration of independence, it was vigorously opposed by nearly every power in the region.
Iran, which wields considerable influence in Baghdad, feared any move toward independence by the Kurds in Iraq would inflame separatist sentiments among its own Kurdish minority. The United States opposed the vote over, among other reasons, concern that it would rupture the coalition of Iraqi and Kurdish forces battling the Islamic State in Iraq.
The Kurdish Regional Government’s determination to go ahead with the referendum, chasing the dream of an independent Kurdish homeland, has backfired spectacularly.
In just two days this week, Iraqi troops took Kirkuk and most other contested areas that Kurdish forces have held since 2014, including oil fields that have provided the bulk of revenues for the Kurdish region.
The assault crushed Kurdish dreams of independence and raised serious questions about the political judgment and future of the Kurdish leader, Massoud Barzani.
In retrospect, the depth of Mr. Barzani’s miscalculations is clear if still surprising. He badly overestimated his bargaining position with Iraq and underestimated the animosity his referendum engendered among his neighbors and allies, including the United States. After the referendum, American officials told Mr. Barzani that he had forfeited the good will of the United States.
For the last three years, the Kurdish militia known as the pesh merga was a crucial ally for the United States and Baghdad in the battle against the Islamic State, often proving more effective than the Iraqi army.
But less than two weeks after the Sept. 25 referendum, Iraqi forces drove Islamic State militants out of Hawija, their last major urban stronghold in Iraq and the last battle in which the pesh merga played a role. The fight has shifted to the western desert of Anbar Province, far from pesh merga positions in northern Iraq.
“Barzani had very little leverage before and he has absolutely no leverage now,” said Denise Natali, a Middle East specialist at the National Defense University in Washington.
As Iraqi forces massed on the Kurdish border and Kurdish officials warned of an impending invasion, Mr. Abadi, the Iraqi prime minister, insisted that Iraq did not plan to assault Kirkuk and dismissed reports to the contrary as “fake news.” American officials did not dispute his assertions.
Asked Wednesday whether the United States had approved Baghdad’s military plans, Heather Nauert, a State Department spokeswoman, said, “We have long called for a unified, democratic Iraq.”
The other surprise was that much of the pesh merga in Kirkuk, loyal to a Kurdish faction opposed to Mr. Barzani, had agreed to make way for the advancing Iraqi force.
Attention has since focused on a meeting on the weekend before the Iraqi assault between a prominent Iranian military commander, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, and members of that faction, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.
Gen. Khatab Omar, the police chief in Kirkuk, said General Suleimani held talks over the weekend with the P.U.K. in Kirkuk and in the Kurdish city of Sulaymaniyah.
Mr. Ali, the Kurdish government spokesman, said General Suleimani manipulated events to bring Shiite militias into areas vacated by the pesh merga.
When the first pesh merga withdrawals began on Friday from two districts south of Kirkuk in Shiite areas, Shiite militias accompanying Iraqi troops raised their flags over former Kurdish outposts.
There has been speculation that General Suleimani brokered the deal for the Kurdish forces to abandon Kirkuk, but Saadi Bira, a spokesman for the P.U.K., said local pesh merga commanders negotiated the agreement with the Iraqi government.
General Suleimani has been a pivotal, if shadowy, figure in Iraq for years. As the head of Iran’s foreign military operations, he directed Shiite fighters who killed hundreds of American troops in Iraq. In 2014, he wrote a provision incorporating Shiite volunteer fighters into the Iraqi armed forces, the so-called Iraqi Hezbollah, a reference to the Iranian-backed Shiite militia in Lebanon.
Jennifer Cafarella, senior intelligence planner at the Institute for the Study of War in Washington, said that an agreement organized by General Suleimani was “the most likely scenario in an event this strategically significant for Iran.”
“It does also seem likely that he was instrumental in forcing the Kurds to step down,” she added.
A spokesman for the American Embassy in Baghdad said the operation had involved Iraqi troops, apparently with the cooperation of Kurdish forces, regaining government control of disputed territory.
The Iraqi operation also forced a military confrontation between two American-backed allies. Both the pesh merga and the Iraqi military have received American training, intelligence and supporting airstrikes and artillery in several joint operations against the militants.
Senator John McCain, the Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, was incensed. “The United States provided equipment and training to the government of Iraq to fight ISIS and secure itself from external threats — not to attack elements of one of its own regional governments, which is a longstanding and valuable partner of the United States,” he said in a statement.
Mr. McCain warned of “severe consequences” if American-supplied military equipment was destroyed in the operation. The Kurdish government said Monday that its fighters had destroyed five American-supplied Humvees used by the Iraqis.
**David Zucchino reported from Baghdad and Eric Schmitt from Washington. Falih Hassin contributed reporting from Baghdad, and Gardiner Harris from Washington.

Why Are So Many Claiming That Iran Is Complying with the Deal, When Evidence Shows They Aren't?
Alan M. Dershowitz/Gatestone Institute/October 19/17
The evidence is mounting that Iran is not only violating the spirit of the no-nukes deal, but that it is also violating its letter. The prologue to the deal explicitly states: "Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop or acquire any nuclear weapons." This reaffirmation has no sunset provision: it is supposed to be forever.
Yet German officials have concluded that Iran has not given up on its goal to produce nuclear weapons that can be mounted on rockets. According to Der Tagesspiegel, a Berlin newspaper:
"Despite the nuclear agreement [reached with world powers in July 2015], Iran has not given up its illegal activities in Germany. The mullah regime also made efforts this year to obtain material from [German] firms for its nuclear program and the construction of missiles, said security sources."
Frank Jansen, a prominent journalist, has reported that the "Revolutionary Guards want to continue the nuclear program at all costs."
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) recently stated that it could not verify that Iran was "fully implementing the agreement" by not engaging in activities that would allow it to make a nuclear explosive device. Yukiya Amano of the IAEA told Reuters that when it comes to inspections – which are stipulated in section T of the agreement – "our tools are limited." Amano continued to say: "In other sections, for example, Iran has committed to submit declarations, place their activities under safeguards or ensure access by us. But in Section T I don't see any (such commitment)."
It is well established that Tehran has consistently denied IAEA inspectors' access to military sites and other research locations. This is in direct contravention to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and bipartisan legislation set out by Congress, which compels the president to verify that "Iran is transparently, verifiably, and fully implementing the agreement." Yet, according to the Institute for Science and International Security, as of the last quarterly report released in August, the IAEA had not visited any military site in Iran since implementation day.
For its part, the IAEA has been complicit in allowing Tehran to circumvent the agreement and act as a law unto itself. Consider that after the deal was negotiated with the P5+1 nations, it was revealed that Tehran and the IAEA had entered into a secret agreement which allowed the Iranian regime to carry out its own nuclear trace testing at the Parchin complex – a site long suspected of being a nuclear testing ground – and would report back to the IAEA with 'selective' videos and photos. This arrangement – which went behind the back of Congress – is especially suspect when considered in light of the Iranian regime's history of duplicity.
To be sure, revelations about Iran testing the boundaries of the JCPOA – and crossing the line into violation – are not new. While many of these violations have not been disclosed by the previous U.S. administration, or by the IAEA, there is a myriad of information and analysis suggesting that Iran has previously failed to comply with several provisions of the JCPOA. It has twice been revealed that Iran exceeded the cap on heavy water mandated by the agreement, and has also refused to allow testing of its carbon fiber acquired before the deal was implemented. Moreover, it has also been reported that Tehran has found new ways to conduct additional mechanical testing of centrifuges, in clear violation of the JCPOA.
These violations are not surprising when considering Iran's belligerent posture in the Middle East. Iran continues to exploit the instability in the region to prop up and fund terror groups such as Hamas, Hezbollah and the Houthis, whose chants of "Death to Israel" are now also accompanied by vows of "Death to America." For its part, the Iranian-funded Hezbollah has an estimated 100,000 missiles aimed directly at Israel. As such, it is clear that rather than combatting Iran's threatening posture, the influx of money thrust into the Iranian economy, coupled with ambiguities in the text of the agreement, have had the reverse effect of emboldening the Iranian regime and fortifying its hegemonic ambitions. Iran also continues to test its vast ballistic missile program and deny its own people fundamental human rights.
Yet, even if Iran were to comply with the letter of the nuclear agreement, it would still be able to build up a vast nuclear arsenal within a relatively short timeframe. The approach adopted by the Trump administration – articulated in a statement delivered by the president several days ago – is justified by the realities on the ground. By announcing that he is decertifying Iran's compliance with the nuclear agreement, President Trump is giving Congress 60-days to act. Not only is President Trump giving the United States back some of its leverage, but he is also sending a powerful message to the rogue leaders in Iran and North Korea – who are believed to have cooperated on missile technology – that the era of containment and deterrence policies is over. The United States is returning to its original mission of prevention.
Interestingly, in the aftermath of President Trump's address, the Saudi Press Agency reported that King Salman called the U.S. President to offer his support for America's more "firm strategy" on Iran and commitment to fighting "Iranian aggression." Israel's Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, offered similar praise for the new U.S. posture, saying in a statement that President Trump "has created an opportunity to fix this bad deal, to roll back Iran's aggression and to confront its criminal support of terrorism." It is no secret that these two previously discordant states are now cooperating in unprecedented ways as they try to counter the threat posed by a nuclear Iran. When Israel and the Gulf States are on the same page, the world should listen.
The Saudi Press Agency reported that King Salman called President Trump to offer his support for America's more "firm strategy" on Iran and commitment to fighting "Iranian aggression." Pictured above: President Trump and King Salman of Saudi Arabia in Riyadh on May 20, 2017. (Image source: The White House)
There are those that argue that by decertifying, President Trump has undercut American credibility and sent a message to the world that it can't count on one American president following through on deals made by his predecessor. But the fault for that lies squarely with President Obama who refused not only to make his deal a binding treaty, but also to seek any congressional approval – both of which would have assured greater continuity. He knew when he signed the deal that it could be undone by any future president.
The goal, of course, is not to undo the deal but rather to undo its sunset provision and to make Iran keep the commitment it made in the prologue: never to obtain "any nuclear weapons."
The available evidence now strongly supports the conclusion that Iran is not keeping that commitment: that it is determined to develop a nuclear arsenal capable of being mounted on intercontinental ballistics missiles. If the current deal is not changed, it is likely that Iran will become the new North Korea – or worse – before very long.
**Alan M. Dershowitz, Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law, Emeritus, at Harvard Law School and author of, Trumped Up! How Criminalization of Political Differences Endangers Democracy, which is now available.
** A shorter version of this article appeared in The Hill.
© 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.

Germans Debate Muslim Public Holidays
"We have a Judeo-Christian religious character, not an Islamic one."
Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institute/October 19/17
"Germany's Christian heritage is not negotiable. The introduction of Muslim holidays is out of the question for us." — Alexander Dobrindt, a senior member of the CSU party.
"We have a Judeo-Christian religious character, not an Islamic one. Therefore, I do not understand why we are even having this debate. Instead, we should discuss something else: When will Christians in all Islamic countries have the same religious freedom as Muslims have here?" — Wolfgang Bosbach, a senior member of the CDU party.
"CDU wants Muslim holiday. This is the difference: AfD says NO! NO! NO!" — Beatrix von Storch, Deputy Chair of the Alternative for Germany party (AfD).
An off-the-cuff proposal by German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière to introduce Muslim public holidays has sparked another furious debate over the role of Islam in Germany.
Speaking at a campaign rally on October 9 for state elections in Lower Saxony, de Maizière, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), said that federal states with large Muslim populations should be allowed to celebrate Muslim public holidays:
"I am prepared to discuss the possibility of introducing Islamic holidays. In areas where a lot of Catholics live, we celebrate All Saint's Day, and in areas where not a lot of Catholics live we don't celebrate All Saint's Day. So why can't we think about Islamic holidays as well?"
A proposal by German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière to introduce Muslim public holidays has sparked another furious debate over the role of Islam in Germany. Pictured: De Maizière (right) with Sheikh Ahmad Al-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Cairo's s Al Azhar mosque, on May 26, 2017 in Berlin, Germany.
De Maizière's statement, apparently aimed at enticing Muslim voters, prompted a furious backlash from his own party and political allies, who are still reeling from the CDU's poor results in the general election on September 24. Although Merkel won a fourth term in office, the CDU, together with its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), suffered its worst electoral result in more than half a century.
Party insiders blame the election debacle on Merkel, who they say has moved the CDU too far away from its conservative roots, especially on immigration. More than a million traditional CDU/CSU voters defected to the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD), an upstart party that harnessed widespread anger over Merkel's decision to allow into the country more than a million mostly Muslim migrants from Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
Germany's Muslim population surpassed six million in 2016 for the first time ever. Germany now vies with France for the highest Muslim population in Western Europe.
The increase in Germany's Muslim population is being fueled by mass migration. An estimated 300,000 migrants arrived in Germany in 2016, in addition to the more than one million who arrived in 2015. At least 80% (or 800,000 in 2015 and 240,000 in 2016) of the newcomers were Muslim, according to the Central Council of Muslims in Germany.
In addition to the newcomers, the rate of population increase of the Muslim community already living in Germany is around 1.6% per year (or 77,000), according to data extrapolated from a Pew Research Center study on the growth of the Muslim population in Europe.
Based on Pew projections before the current migration crisis, the Muslim population of Germany was to have reached an estimated 5,145,000 by the end of 2015.
Adding the 800,000 Muslim migrants who arrived in Germany in 2015, and the 240,000 who arrived in 2016, combined with the 77,000 natural increase, the Muslim population of Germany jumped by 1,117,000, to reach an estimated 6,262,000 by the end of 2016. This amounts to approximately 7.5% of Germany's overall population of 82 million.
"Germany's Christian heritage is not negotiable," said Alexander Dobrindt, a senior member of the CSU. "The introduction of Muslim holidays is out of the question for us."
Another CSU member, Stephan Mayer, added, "Germany has for centuries been shaped and defined by the Christian tradition. Nothing has changed to this day. The notion that Islam belongs to Germany cannot anywhere be proven in our past or present history."
CSU vice-chairman, Manfred Weber, said: "Holidays above all represent the religious character of a country, not for individual population groups. Germany undoubtedly has a Christian character."
Senior CDU member Wolfgang Bosbach said: "We have a Judeo-Christian religious character, not an Islamic one. Therefore, I do not understand why we are even having this debate. Instead, we should discuss something else: When will Christians in all Islamic countries have the same religious freedom as Muslims have here?"
Deputy Chair of the Alternative for Germany (AfD), Beatrix von Storch, tweeted: "CDU wants Muslim holiday. This is the difference: AfD says NO! NO! NO!"
The Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK), by contrast, expressed openness to the idea of introducing Muslim holidays: "In a multi-religious society, an Islamic holiday can be added in areas with a high percentage of religious Muslims without the Christian tradition of our country being betrayed."
CSU Secretary General Andreas Scheuer responded: "I am deeply dismayed, even bewildered, that the Central Committee of Catholics is now also calling for an Islamic holiday."
Aiman Mazyek, the head of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, said that introduction of Muslim public holidays would foster integration. Such holidays would show that Muslims are a part of Germany and would be "a sign of mutual understanding as well as good and friendly coexistence."
The leader of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), Martin Schulz, criticized the CDU and CSU for attacking de Maizière: "We should think about this proposal."
Cem Özdemir, the German-Turkish head of the Greens, said that ​​introducing a Muslim holiday was unnecessary. "I see no need for action. Muslims today are already free to celebrate. The CDU and the CSU should deal with the important issues, above all with excellent education for all. This could strengthen social cohesion."
The German constitution establishes that all 16 federal states can decide on their own which religious public holidays are celebrated; the central government actually does not have a say on the issue. In 2012, for example, Hamburg and Bremen concluded wide-ranging agreements with their Muslim communities to establish Muslim holidays there.
De Maizière has since backtracked. In a statement issued on October 17, he said that in his opinion, German society was founded on Christian roots and will continue to be so: "That was the starting point. On this foundation, I took up an idea to discuss a Muslim holiday in regions with a very high proportion of Muslims. There is no suggestion of introducing a Muslim holiday. Nor will I will make such a proposal."
**Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute.
© 2017 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

The Big New Palestinian Lie
Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/October 19/17
It is precisely the inflammatory speech of Abbas and his senior officials, expressed at every possible podium, which has been trying to turn the conflict into a religious one.
If any side has turned the conflict into a religious one, it is the Palestinian side, which has long depicted Jews as sons of monkeys and pigs, enemies of Allah, and killers of prophets. When Abbas and other Palestinians accuse Jews on a daily basis of "storming" and "desecrating" the Al-Aqsa Mosque, they are firing the first shots in their religious war against Israel and the Jews.
By turning the conflict into a religious one, the Palestinians are hoping to avoid any discussion about important issues such as security, borders, the status of Jerusalem, anti-Israel incitement and assaults on public freedoms under the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. Palestinian leaders do not feel comfortable discussing any of these issues; that is why they prefer to make the debate appear as if it is about religious issues.
Despite vocal and self-righteous claims to the contrary, Palestinian leaders continue to incite their people and the rest of the Arab and Muslim world against Israel and Jews. For the past two and a half years, these leaders have been accusing Israel and Jews of seeking to turn the Israeli-Arab conflict into a religious one. The accusation refers specifically to visits by Jews to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The truth, however, is just the opposite: it is the Palestinians that have been aiming at every turn to transform the political and territorial conflict into a religious one.
By turning the conflict into a religious one, the Palestinians are hoping to avoid any discussion about important issues such as security, borders, the status of Jerusalem, anti-Israel incitement and assaults on public freedoms under the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas. Palestinian leaders do not feel comfortable discussing any of these issues; that is why they prefer to make the debate appear as if it is about religious issues.
Palestinian leaders are also hoping that the entire Islamic world will rally against Israel once they are told that Islamic holy sites are allegedly being targeted and desecrated by Jews.
The Palestinian Authority is toe-to-toe with Hamas in this unceasing incitement. The two rival Palestinian parties may disagree about almost everything, but when it comes to libeling Israel and Jews, they have no differences.
Jewish tours of the Temple Mount in the past two and a half years, contrary to Palestinian claims, have not affected the "status quo" or existing state of affairs at the holy site whatsoever. The Islamic holy sites, Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, have not been "defiled" or "destroyed" as the result of the presence of Jews at the Temple Mount. More significantly, Muslims' access to their holy sites on the Temple Mount remains unchanged. Every day, thousands of Muslim worshippers converge on the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock to perform prayers. On Fridays, the number of Muslim worshippers is sometimes estimated at tens of thousands.
Jewish visits to the Temple Mount are restricted to the early hours of the morning. Jewish visitors, in fact, are even banned from praying at the Temple Mount. The current regulations on the Temple Mount explicitly forbids praying by Jews, and the police have banned Jews from carrying any articles that might lead a Jew to pray. Jews who visited the Temple Mount during the recent autumn harvest holiday of Sukkot were forbidden from bringing the "Four Species" -- the citrus, myrtle, willow and palm frond -- that are mandated by the Torah to be used as part of the services on each of the seven days of the holiday.
These restrictions, however, have not stopped the Palestinians from pursuing their campaign of incitement against Israel and Jews. At the core of this campaign is the false and libelous claim that Israel is seeking to destroy the Islamic holy sites and rebuild the Third Temple on their ruins. They supplement this fabricated and malicious charge with the unholy statement that the Jews are "defiling with their filthy feet" the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Notably, it is the same excuse that Osama bin Laden used against the United States when he said that Americans were "defiling" Saudi Arabia simply by walking on the ground there.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's famous statements from September 2015 continue to reverberate: "The Al-Aqsa Mosque is ours, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is ours, and they [Jews] have no right to defile them with their filthy feet. We will not allow them to, and we will do everything in our power to protect Jerusalem. We bless every drop of blood that has been spilled for Jerusalem, which is clean and pure blood, blood spilled for Allah, Allah willing."
Shortly after Abbas made that announcement -- an echo of the same false charge issued in 1941 by the Grand Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini not only to expel Jews from the land but to murder them, and that has been dusted off and used ever since -- the Palestinians launched what has become known as the "Knife Intifada," a wave of terror attacks that has so far resulted in the murder of more than 40 Israelis.
Abbas has never retracted his blood libel, or even tried to educate his people for peace. Instead, exactly as Grand Mufti Amin al-Husseini did, Abbas has doubled down on inciting his people against Israel and Jews while using Jewish visits to the Temple Mount as a pretext.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (pictured) has never retracted his blood libel, or even tried to educate his people for peace. Instead, he has doubled down on inciting his people against Israel and Jews.
The blood of Israeli, Christian and Palestinian victims is on his hands -- including many Muslim terrorists who were inspired and driven to their deaths by his deliberately subversive rhetoric.
It is precisely the inflammatory speech of Abbas and his senior officials, expressed at every possible podium, which has been trying to turn the conflict into a religious one.
The latest example occurred this week, when one of Abbas's top associates, Fatah leader Azzam Al-Ahmed, repeated the tired old claim that Israel's actions were threatening to turn the conflict into a religious one. Al-Ahmed told parliamentarians from around the world, with his tongue in his cheek:
"We won't allow the conflict with Israel to turn into a religious conflict, as right-wing extremist Israeli groups are trying to do against Islamic and Christian holy sites under the protection of the occupation forces."
Al-Ahmed's statement is part of a Palestinian propaganda campaign designed to frame Israel and Jews and depict them as being responsible for triggering a religious war against Muslims and Christians. These libels advance anti-Semitism and provide ammunition to Israel- and Jew-haters worldwide. It is also the kind of rhetoric that drives many Palestinians to grab a knife and set out to kill the first Jew they meet.
The Palestinians are seeking to turn the conflict into a religious one as part of a strategy to rally as many Muslims and Christians as possible against Israel and Jews. By talking endlessly about a religious conflict, the Palestinians are actually revealing their true desire. They seek a religious conflict because such an incendiary situation distracts attention from the morass of problems at home, particularly the failure of Palestinian leaders to provide a better living for their people and to end corruption and bad government.
Palestinian leaders, from both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, are redirecting the conflict to the topic of religion the better to promote the blood libel that Jews are evil and supposedly even "killed some of the prophets" as is claimed in the Koran:
And [recall] when you said, "O Moses, we can never endure one [kind of] food. So call upon your Lord to bring forth for us from the earth its green herbs and its cucumbers and its garlic and its lentils and its onions." [Moses] said, "Would you exchange what is better for what is less? Go into [any] settlement and indeed, you will have what you have asked." And they were covered with humiliation and poverty and returned with anger from Allah [upon them.] That was because they [repeatedly] disbelieved in the signs of Allah and killed the prophets without right. (Koran 2:61-62)
If any side has turned the conflict into a religious one, it is the Palestinian side, which has long depicted Jews as sons of monkeys and pigs, enemies of Allah and killers of prophets. When Abbas and other Palestinians accuse Jews on a daily basis of "storming" and "desecrating" the Al-Aqsa Mosque, they are firing the first shots in their religious war against Israel and the Jews. In their false charge that Israel is conducting excavation work beneath the Temple Mount in order to bring about the collapse of the Islamic holy sites, no one but they are fanning the flames of religious war. Finally, the stalwart Palestinian denial of any Jewish link to the Temple Mount, where the Jews' first and second Temples once stood, is a clear declaration of what they hope will be received as a religious war on Israel and Jews.
*Bassam Tawil is a Muslim based in the Middle East.
© 2017 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

The Dangers of Refusing to Link JCPOA to Tehran’s Behavior
Eyad Abu Shakra/Ashareq Al Awsat/October 19/17
“What is negotiation but the accumulation of small lies leading to advantage?”(Felix Dennis)
It was a nail-biting moment for many as they waited for President Donald Trump to announce his position on “certifying” the nuclear agreement between major Western powers (plus Russia and China) and Iran; officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Although many leaks and announcements about Trump’s position proved to be true, it was so important that it drew immediate responses.
In the Middle East, the region most directly concerned about Iran’s nuclear plans, contrast in reactions could not have been greater. While Iranian President Hassan Rouhani angrily condemned Trump’s position widespread applause came from Arab countries disadvantaged not only by Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but also its political exploitation of the international community’s silence towards it.
It is the silence that has allowed Iran to conquer and expand in the Region, thanks to its militias and conventional weapons.
Indeed, in the Middle East, specifically in the Gulf area, there are two serious threats posed by Iran’s ambitions for hegemony, including the nuclear agreement. The first is political, the second is nuclear.
The political threat is for all to see in the armed sectarian agitation, aided and sponsored by Tehran, whether through geographically dominant militias such as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) in Iraq, ‘Fatemiyyoun’, ‘Zaynabiyyoun’ and Hezbollah militias in Syria and Lebanon, and the Houthis in Yemen; or through gangs involved in terrorism and clandestine activities as the ones we hear about in Bahrain, other Gulf states, and North African countries.
Sure enough, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), which plays a vital role in Iran’s political, security and economic life, continuously highlights its interventions and has openly boasted its ‘control of four Arab capitals’. Moreover, Qassem Suleimani, the Commander of the ‘Quds Brigade’ of the IRGC, never misses an opportunity to appear inspecting the front lines in Iraq and Syria, although he is supposed to be ‘wanted’ and chased by the international community as a terrorist suspect!
As for the nuclear threat, it is no less dangerous from a purely scientific viewpoint.
It has a geological-seismic dimension that has adverse consequences on the safety of the Gulf region; given the fact that Iran straddles highly unstable, and thus, dangerous seismic faults. Furthermore, many Iranian nuclear reactors and installations have been built in vulnerable earthquake fault lines; and if we remember that only a short distance separates the port of Bushehr (home to one the major installations) and the eastern shores of the Arabian Peninsula, we may imagine what disaster may befall the whole region from any leakage like that we witnessed in Fukushima, Japan, in 2011.
Of course, the governments of Germany, France and the UK have every right to oppose or agree with Washington’s policies, but their insistence on defending the nuclear deal with Iran is based, in a large part, on economic interests. These governments, spurred by German, French and British companies and banks eager to enter Iran’s market of 90 million customers, refuse to acknowledge the link between the agreement and Iran’s harsh treatment of opposition at home, or its aggressive interventions in neighbouring Arab countries.
Indeed, Iran’s aggressive interventions have caused two major problems:
1- The refugee problem afflicting the countries of Western and Central Europe.
2- The problem of extremist terrorism under ‘Sunni’ Muslim slogans, provoked by Iran’s ‘Shi’ite’ Muslim slogans.
According to reliable statistics, Iran’s exports to EU countries have risen by % 375 between 2016 and 2017, European companies have invested heavily in the almost ‘virgin’ Iranian market, and there is rapid progress in banking facilities that is running parallel with these investments.
Thus, the three European governments’ positions look no different from that of Barack Obama’s administration which sponsored Tehran’s rehabilitation, accorded it all kinds of excuses, and gambled on making it a regional ally. They, just like the former US Democratic administration did before, are intentionally separating between nuclear technology and political repercussions. The three governments have ignored the fact that Iran’s lies second the World (after China) in the number of executions and first relative to population; and that many of these are of a political nature, mostly targeting ethnic and sectarian minorities.
Furthermore, the three governments, while claiming to defend human rights, have done nothing with regard to Tehran’s maltreatment of figures that were part of its regime’s elite like ex-premier Mir-Hossein Mousavi, and former Speaker Mehdi Karroubi, not to mention the first president of ‘The Islamic Republic’ Abolhassan Banisadr, still living in exile in France!
Berlin, Paris and London, which are repeating Obama’s same excuses that limit Muslim terror to Sunnis, refuse to admit Tehran’s active role in aiding and abetting even extremist Sunni Muslim groups worldwide, and co-operating with them, including Al Qaeda.
The three governments want us to accept former US Secretary of State John Kerry’s inverted logic when he stated, time and time again during the US-Iran nuclear negotiations, that they solely touched on the nuclear side and never included any “other issues”. It is the same “logic” that Kerry reiterated this week as he criticized President Trump’s refusal to “certificate” the JCPOA while taking a tough line too against the IRGC and its appendages after highlighting their destructive role regionally and globally. As for the “other issues” mentioned by Mr Kerry, and ignored then by the Obama administration, were Iran’s political, military and intelligence interventions in Arab countries.
Finally, the three European governments which have always claimed the moral high ground in welcoming refugees from the Middle East, could do better by adopting the maxim “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.
The ounce of prevention in this case, is simply, ridding the World of the evils of extremism, destruction and hatred, all of which create and fuel terrorism.

What Congress Should Do Now About Iran
Jennifer Rubin/The Washington Post/October 19/17
You’re a member of Congress who opposed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on the grounds that the plan had critical flaws and the Obama administration had in essence given away too much without permanently cutting off Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon. However, you correctly recognized that President Trump’s decertification stunt would alienate allies, give Iran the high ground and threaten to unravel the JCPOA with nothing to take its place.
What’s more, you’ve now heard that Trump is threatening to impose sanctions in January to effectively end the deal.
What in the world do you do now, especially if you are a Democrat seeing the president try to make you and your party an accessory to a foreign policy catastrophe?
Maybe Democrats go along with the proposal from Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) to create penalties for breach of the JCPOA, as well as a penalty in case Iran does not negotiate on removal of the sunset clause. That, however, seems unlikely because Congress does not trust this president and really cannot gauge whether the actions would trigger the end of the JCPOA.
Corker may work some magic, but right now that doesn’t seem to be in the cards unless Congress can manage to pull back Trump’s unilateral waiver authority. (Congress also should take the opportunity to redraft the waiver authority and the recertification requirement. Congress would need to approve reimplementation of sanctions — that is, take unilateral authority away from the president — and do away with certification in exchange for full transparency and information-sharing with Congress on the status of the deal and on Iran’s behavior.)
Democrats understandably want to be partners, not stagehands in the president’s theatrical productions. If Corker’s effort doesn’t bear fruit, Congress might ignore decertification and focus in a bipartisan way to set new standards for dealing with Iran on a list of items including its missile testing, the sunset clause, Iran’s regional aggression and so on.
In other words, Congress could craft the policy the administration won’t, with flexible benchmarks for progress.
That’s the suggestion of long-time Middle East negotiator Dennis Ross. He urges that we “invite the British, French and German ambassadors for quiet discussions before finalizing the legislation and work genuinely to make this a bipartisan product, meaning Democrats need to be involved in crafting this lest it become again not a national policy but a narrow political policy.”
Benchmarks that relate to changes to the JCPOA (e.g., enhanced inspections) would unify the United States and the European Union and provide the negotiating position to bargain with Iran. Benchmarks that are not directly covered by the JCPOA could be the basis for joint US-EU action on non-nuclear sanctions.
The real problem here is winning back the trust of Europeans so we can present a united front and pressure Iran on both nuclear and non-nuclear items.
Ross explains, “The Europeans will be open to some of our concerns as long as they can preserve the JCPOA — and here is the challenge for the administration and the Congress: how to get the Europeans to see that the key to the maintenance of the deal depends on meeting at least some of our concerns.” He suggests that “the administration requires a calibrated diplomacy that reflects our leverage but does not overplay our hand and permits the Europeans the time to see that we are making a good faith effort and not simply seeking a cover to walk away. ” But who thinks this administration is capable of doing any of that? Ross offers an intriguing proposal: “A premium needs to be put on [the] administration that can orchestrate a complicated set of discussions and in a way that they support and don’t undercut each other,” he says. “That is why I think an outside senior figure who has credibility should be appointed . . . [who] would convey a message of good faith to the Europeans and help give them an explanation with their own publics.”
That would, in essence, take the administration and the president out of the day-to-day haggling over the deal and not make Congress the fall guys if things go wrong (e.g., if legislation triggers a collapse of the JCPOA). Why not former senator Joe Lieberman or former CIA director Robert Gates or former deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams? Someone of that caliber could help defuse tensions between the United States and the E.U. and convey a level of seriousness without rattling our allies. If nothing else, appointment of a negotiator could soothe the president, who would be assured that we are doing “something.” (The trick, of course, is getting Trump to be quiet and let such a person do his job.)
Unfortunately, there are no great options here and a very, very problematic American president. We’ll need to find a way to muddle through. Corker has suggested one avenue; we’ve come up with another. Perhaps Democrats have a third approach. Everyone in the effort, however, would need to agree that the purpose is not to destroy the JCPOA and get into a military confrontation with Iran but to strengthen the deal and Western resolve to contain Iran.

The Kurdistan Quagmire Proves Newton’s Third Law
David Ignatius/The Washington Post/October 19/17
In this week’s crisis over Kirkuk, Iraqi Kurds are experiencing a painful version of Newton’s Third Law: In Middle East politics, as in physics, every action creates an equal and opposite reaction.
The initial action was Kurdistan President Masoud Barzani’s decision to push ahead last month with a controversial independence referendum, despite strong warnings from the United States, Turkey, Iran and the central government in Baghdad that the Sept. 25 vote would backfire.
The counter-reaction came Monday, as Iraqi troops, backed by Shiite militias, took control of a key military base and oil fields in the region around Kirkuk, an area controlled by the Kurdish peshmerga militias but claimed by Baghdad. For the United States, it was a dilemma of watching one friend make a damaging mistake, and another friend retaliate.
Some members of Barzani’s regional government in Irbil described the Iraqi move as a military assault, but a statement by US Central Command, which oversees operations in Iraq, reported “coordinated movements, not attacks.” A Centcom official said the Iraqi advance had been arranged in discussions with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. (The PUK, based in Sulaymaniyah, is a historic rival of Barzani’s dominant Irbil-based group, the Kurdistan Democratic Party, or KDP.)
Barzani’s allies have argued that Iran is secretly orchestrating the Kirkuk confrontation. But a US official closely involved in policy described that allegation as “misinformation.” While Tehran and its Iraqi allies may have encouraged Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to move on Kirkuk, US officials said that it was Abadi’s decision — and that he would have faced heavy Iraqi opposition if he hadn’t responded strongly to the referendum and its breakaway bid.
A measure of the breadth of Iraqi criticism of the Kurdish independence move was a statement issued two weeks ago by Ali Sistani, a moderate cleric who tries to resist Iran’s meddling. He rejected the referendum as “an attempt to divide Iraq and take its northern part by setting up an independent state.” Ever the balancer, he also urged Baghdad “to consider the Kurds’ constitutional rights.”
Having cautioned Barzani against the referendum, US officials were peeved when he went ahead anyway. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Sept. 29 criticized the “unilateral” vote and said its results “lack legitimacy.” Prior to the balloting, Tillerson had proposed an alternative “road map” for discussions to resolve tensions between Baghdad and Irbil, but this last-minute appeal was rejected, US officials say.
The Kurdish miscalculation has had unfortunate consequences. But sometimes in the Middle East, mistakes open the way for new discussions, and US officials hope this will be the case with the Kirkuk crisis. US officials were working Monday to establish joint security measures to reduce tensions near the Kirkuk oil fields, so that production can continue, and to share information on the ground and counter inflammatory reports that could escalate the conflict. Officials hope these initial military and intelligence contacts will be a prelude to a broader political discussion involving Barzani and Abadi.
“The US wants to be an honest broker between the two,” said one senior US military official. He warned that if tensions aren’t resolved soon, the confrontation could undermine the joint Iraqi-Kurdish stand against ISIS, which has seemed to be entering its final stage. “This could consume a lot of energy and cause us to lose momentum when we’ve got ISIS on the run,” the senior official said.
Iran may not be pulling all the strings in Iraq, but it has a decisive presence there and will benefit from the confrontation between Abadi and the Kurds. That’s the unfortunate irony of the Kirkuk clash: In a week when the Trump administration was trying to launch a new campaign to counter Iran’s regional behavior, US officials must struggle to extinguish a sudden flare-up between the United States’ two key partners in Iraq — one that’s all the more frustrating because policymakers in Washington saw it coming.

Iran is a paper tiger and not a regional power
Mohammed Al Shaikh/Al Arabiya/October 19/17
Iranians are such pathological liars that they delude themselves into believing their own falsehoods. They claim that they are a regional power, yet they avoid any face-to-face confrontation with their opponents. After being bitterly defeated by Iraqis, Imam Khomeini made the claim that he was forced to drink poison. In fact, he died two years after the setback. A general of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Cops (IRGC) stated about a week ago that if the United States were to designate the IRGC a terrorist group, Iranians would have no option but to treat Americans as they had treated ISIS fighters. The statement clearly smacks of self-delusion, for Iran has started believing that its forces had defeated and expelled ISIS from Iraq and Syria and not Iraqis, with support from the US-led coalition forces.
Iran’s ragtag bunch of militias
If the world had turned a blind eye on the ISIS and had not confronted them with their joint forces, especially the US Air Force, the terrorist organization would have not only gone on to annex Baghdad, but even Tehran and then Qom, just like they had taken control of Mosul and the adjoining areas within days. The Iranian military is just a paper tiger. It is only a mercenary force with few primitive missiles, which it has manufactured using North Korean technology and its ability to hit targets is very poor. It could have never defeated the ISIS on its own and could never match the doughtiness of its fighters. In fact, ISIS and Al-Nusra front had almost taken control of Damascus, and were so close to defeating the Assad army and the militias of Iran and Hezbollah that Russia had to deploy its air power to save them from bitter defeat.
No US president has been as weak, confused and hesitant as President Barack Obama
In fact, Iran and its militias were almost crushed by the gangs of ISIS in Damascus, so how can they stand up even for a few minutes in front of the strongest military known to history and mankind — the United States. However, Iranians and their Shiite proxy militia are proficient at exaggerating their military prowess, embellishing their victories, and attributing false achievements to themselves, while in fact they were supported by others.
Obama emboldened Iran
No US president has been as weak, confused and hesitant as President Barack Obama. In my assessment, it is his weakness, his betrayal, his cowardice, and his trepidation in taking any strong and critical decisions that has deceived Iranians into believing that they are a regional power that needs acknowledgement. The fact is that they are just a group of militias consisting of non-professional gangs and mercenaries, who have learnt the use of terrorist jargon well. However, when it comes to fighting organized armies, they are quite incapable and weak. They cannot pick up a fight against them even for a few hours. In fact, the entire Iranian military, including all its formations, do not have any fighter aircraft at their command, with the exception of homegrown drones which cannot provide air cover in any battle against professional armies. Ironically, Iranians are seeking to enter into confrontation with the outside world. They are deliberately playing up their aggressive rhetoric to distract the attention of their population from the terrible economic and development failures at home. However, the state of economic decline is worsening by the day. However, the people of Iran cannot be deceived forever.

The populist Trump versus an international Trump

Mamdouh AlMuhaini/Al Arabiya/October 19/17
The most controversial issue in the US is definitely not Iran. It’s actually a matter that’s related to sports and human rights and it got embroiled into a debate on patriotism, creating wide social and political divisions, after President Donald Trump tweeted about it.
American football players decided to show their rejection of racial discrimination against African-Americans by kneeling during the playing of the national anthem. Trump viewed this as an insult to the US, to the flag and to the soldiers who scarified their lives for it. He then acted like a company director and proposed to the National Football League (NFL) to punish these errant players calling for their suspension and firing them if they repeat this behavior. If you are confused about Trump’s populist character, then this is the perfect example to gain insights into it. He chose to get involved in the most important sport, defy the most famous players and manipulate national feelings and the symbolism of the American flag.
Mobilizing supporters
Is Trump doing all that for America, which God blesses? Of course not. He’s doing that to expand his electoral base and mobilize his supporters.  Although some writers and analysts criticized him, the electoral and political scene in America changed a lot in the past years after big money, media outlets and social media platforms became strongly involved in politics, particularly amid the erosion of influence of traditional political parties. Let’s keep in mind that Donald Trump won, although the Republican Party preferred Jeb Bush over him. The phase of fair play is practically over and it’s acceptable to use all scandals and any possible means, even filthy ones, to stain your opponents’ reputation.However, the international Trump is very different from the populist Trump. It’s important to know the difference between the two characters in order to understand the American administration’s approach abroad and evaluate it properly without being deceived by the domestic campaign launched against the president.
Trump is not the only one who does that, and his rivals do that as well. An example is the audio recording, which showed Trump making sexually degrading remarks, and which was leaked by his rivals to the Washington Post a month before the presidential elections in an attempt to bury him alive.
However, the international Trump is very different from the populist Trump. It’s important to know the difference between the two characters in order to understand the American administration’s approach abroad and evaluate it properly without being deceived by the domestic campaign launched against the president. This campaign has its own logical motives and it’s related to internal affairs such as Russia’s intervention in the elections or to social matters such as his party’s stance against gay marriage but it’s not related to international affairs that harm the fate of countries across the world.
The populist Trump argues with the American media and accuses it of faking news, while the international Trump is the man who ordered striking al-Shayrat air base with 59 Tomahawk missiles after the Khan Shaykhun chemical massacre.
The populist Trump tweets until mid-night mocking and attacking others but on the next morning announces an important strategy to confront Tehran and its militias.
While he uses a popular rhetoric and asks football players to stand up to voice respect for the American flag, his team is preparing a plan to deter Pyongyang.
The populist Trump depends on himself and on his Twitter account now that his strategic consultant Steve Bannon is out of the White House.
Sklled administration team
The international Trump, however, depends on prominent administration officials like Secretary of Defense James Mattis, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster and CIA Director Mike Pompeo. These men are skilled and experienced in international matters and are not preoccupied with partisan arguments and debates between their president and the media.
There is a lot of difference between a populist Trump and an international Trump but many hold the second character accountable, based on the first character’s actions. This is because it is difficult to combine the two characters which are greatly, and sometimes intentionally, contradictory. Therefore, criticism that Trump’s administration is isolationist is inaccurate unless we get mixed up between the populist and the international personas of President Trump.
Truth be told, the former Obama administration which was commended and described as international, ended up as an isolationist administration, that was negatively viewed by many. The main problem is that it bet on the idea that a number of international axes will emerge and share the burden of maintaining the world order, as the US does not want to be the world’s police.
However, the results were disappointing as none of these new axes such as that of Russia maintained the right international norms because basically it is already opposed to them since the Peace of Westphalia in 1684, when the new world order that we know today came to be established.
Punishing the victims
The worst disappointment was in Syria where the Assad regime committed massacres for years. Instead of rising to punish the mass murderer, these new world powers punished the victims and shook the trust in the value of international justice which Western powers had protected for decades. This world order which now included several axes was witness to controversial agreements, like the Iranian nuclear agreement which ignored the horrific massacres that Shiite militias affiliated with Tehran committed.
Trump’s strategy for a war on Tehran clearly reveals the international leadership of the new and realistic American administration that seeks to maintain the liberal world order which the US inherited from the collapsed British empire and expanded by force.
It is very different than George W. Bush’s approach as he was dragged into the delusional project of creating democracies around the world, building nations as per the Western model and turning Iraq into a new Germany.
Trump wisely got rid of these altruistic ideas and resorted to the old and realistic American approach of restoring close ties with historical allies and supporting stability by eliminating the two biggest sources of chaos in the region: Shiite and Sunni terror and political Islam groups and rogue regimes like the Iranian regime.
However, these developments which are important on the international level will not be clear if the populist Trump and his tweets dominate the scene.
Trump’s populist character made a writer muse about Obama’s bed in the White House, as he asked: “How can a bed which a smart and intellectual man like Obama slept on be used by an ignorant and demagogic man like Trump?”

Political instability and unlikely allies in the Middle East
Shehab Al-Makahleh/Al Arabiya/October 19/17
Political instability in the Middle East has driven some countries to rethink their strategic relations with other countries.
Few days ago, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan paid an official visit to Iran, his regional rival, and in a joint press conference with his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rohani said: “Turkey, Iran and Iraq would work together to ensure that political boundaries of the region would not change by any means”.
The next day, an Iraqi Foreign Ministry spokesman said that Baghdad had officially informed Ankara and Tehran to issue orders for their forces to enter Iraqi borders and to cease all trade deals with Kurds, who conducted their referendum for secession last month, which resulted in a vote that favoured independence from Iraq.
Unseemly alliances
The sense of unease in Iraq is so heightened that Baghdad is moving to Ankara and Tehran to apply more pressure on Kurds. It is strange for Iran, Iraq and Turkey to find common cause when Turkey and Iraq have had several political issues with each other in recent years.
In 2015, the two countries were engaged in protracted diplomatic spat over deployment of Turkish troops inside Iraq without the approval of the Baghdad government.
It is also strange that Turkey and Iran have become partners. Though there is no stated enmity between Tehran and Ankara, both seek regional domination in the Middle East and have conflicting longstanding interests.
For instance, both support rival groups in the Syrian war. Turkey has long opposed Syrian government including al-Assad and has managed to support opposition factions. In contrast, Iran has long been a supporter of Al-Assad, fighting against those who counter the Syrian army by forming coalitions with countries and armed groups to pave the way for Tehran to reach the Mediterranean Sea.
Washington feels that depending on the execution of its security and political agendas in the Middle East is no longer sufficient to achieve the sought-after changes in the region
Shehab Al-Makahleh
Meanwhile, the Iraq-Iran relationship sounds more complex than the one between Iraq and Turkey, simply because Tehran has a close Shiite connection with Baghdad since the coup d'état against former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
On the other hand, there is a deeply entrenched level of antagonism between Arabs and Persians, which has extended for many years. This justifies the reason Baghdad was looking for rapprochement with Riyadh after relations between the two were severed in 1990 following Iraq's annexation of Kuwait.
Saudi-Iraq rapprochement
Last August, Muqtada al-Sadr paid a visit to Jeddah on the invitation from HRH Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman to forge better relations between Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Surprisingly Iraq, once a major regional power, has become very weak in the wake of sectarian conflict which has torn the country apart due to continued interventions from Iran.
Turkey’s main issue with the recent referendum in Kurdistan is that allowing Iraqi Kurds to declare independence could set a precedent for the whole Middle East region. The same applies for Iran which is facing two major threats.
The first is the American threats to pull out of the nuclear deal, which would lead to further economic sanctions on Iran and the second is the Kurdish threat which would be fatal if Kurds in Iran aspire for another referendum.
Turkey and Iran: Allies against the US
Though Iran-Turkey relations may be impermanent, both countries will try to reshape the balance of power in the Middle East at a time when the power of the US is in decline, while Russian presence is increasing. The Turkish and Iranian cooperation is quite apparent as both are seeking to revive their respective Ottoman and Persian empires at the expense of Arabs.
The questions that arises is: Will such an alliance or partnership between Iran and Turkey last? Such an alliance cannot last and survive in the long term because it is based on short-term common interests. Turkey is currently taking preventive measures against the Kurds in Syria whom the US is supporting, while Iran is seeking to forestall any Kurd movement in its territory or in any neighboring country.
In other words, neither Ankara nor Tehran is ready to deal with a Kurdish secessionist movement. Iran is now under pressure from US President Donald Trump who has announced he will review the nuclear deal with Iran, amidst expectations that he will say that Tehran does not fulfil its obligations.
In recent weeks, President Trump has appeared to be impatiently racing toward war with his Iran-phobic statements at the United Nations General Assembly when he blamed Tehran for the chaos in the Middle East.
The question that would be difficult to answer is that whether a war on Iran is in the offing or if Americans decided to militarily intervene against Iran, what will be the repercussions on the Middle East region?
It is well-known that Washington always promotes its interests when dealing with the Middle East. Will it allow Israel to act or conduct air strikes against Iran from bases within Kurdistan of Iraq, where there are already some Israeli forces? Such a confrontation between the US and Israel on one hand and Iran on the other may alter the face of the Middle East, the alliances and hostilities.
Nowadays, Washington feels that depending on the execution of its security and political agendas in the Middle East is no longer sufficient to achieve the sought-after changes in the region.
This explains why the US is seeking to counter any threats that it might face by changing the regional dynamic. The common denominator now between Iran and Turkey vis-à-vis the US is that both are now considered inimical and opposed to American policies.

UN’s dubious role in the Muslim world
Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi/Al Arabiya/October 19/17
Although Muslim and Arab countries represent the largest bloc in its General Assembly with 57 members, and Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States are the biggest donors and supporters of its humanitarian programs, the United Nations plays a suspicious role in Arab and Islamic issues.
More recently, this role has been evident in Syria, Yemen, Myanmar and earlier in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Chechnya, Turkestan, Palestine, and everywhere Muslim communities suffered injustice and tyranny. However, the UN has not provided any deterrence or helpful stand to defend Muslims and Arabs. In fact, it often seemed to stand with the oppressors, as with Serbia and Israel.
Since the UN overtook the Yemeni file, and after the resignation of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, the situation in Yemen has gone from bad to worse. The Houthis overtook Sanaa and Hodeidah, laid siege to Taiz and Aden and seized the state’s civilian and military institutions with the help of the former president. If it wasn’t for the Decisive Storm, they would have been able to take over all of Yemen and deliver it on a silver platter to Iran.
Under pressure from Arabs, the UN envoy, Moroccan, Gamal Ben Omar, was replaced after his failure in preventing the coup and imprisonment of the elected President Abedrabbu Mansour Hadi, and his government, then chasing him after his escape with orders to capture or kill. However the new UN envoy was not much better.
Former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon chose the Mauritanian, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, who has practically endorsed the coup, and continued to appease them at the expense of the legitimate government. He enjoyed the support of the Obama Administration and its State Secretary, John Kerry, who were too eager to please Iran and to appease the mullahs’ government in order to ensure their commitment to the nuclear deal.
Since the UN overtook the Yemeni file, and after the resignation of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, the situation in Yemen has gone from bad to worse.
Path of prejudice
Today, the current UN Secretary-General, Portuguese, Antonio Guterres, is going down the same path of prejudice against us. Like his predecessor, he has been influenced by assistants and commissioners infiltrated by our enemies and engaged in questionable relations with the coup leadership. They still deal with Houthis as a de facto regime and solicit from them statistics and data about the war they initiated, while ignoring the legitimate government.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Yemen, George Abu Al Zulf, has facilitated the travel of Houthi leaders and delegations outside Yemen by United Nations airplanes. He has also provided training courses for them to improve their image and defend the coup in global forums. International humanitarian assistance is given to the Houthis, knowing they give it only to their loyalists and sell the rest in the black market.
With such political bias, public/secret communication and suspicious relations, is it surprising that the UN official reports are based on statistics and data that are frequently politicized, wrong and ambiguous? Are we surprised that UN is not focusing on the crimes against humanity committed in Syria, Iran, Israel, China and Myanmar, but occupied with blacklisting those trying to correct UN wrongs, fix its failures and enforce its resolutions?
It seems that time has come for Arab and Muslim nations to work with US-led campaign to restructure and correct the course of this corrupt bureaucratic, aging organization, and renew its leadership and staff with energetic, idealist, new blood, not contaminated by ideology, politics and personal interests. We also have the right to call for replacement of UN representatives in Arab and Islamic countries who have proved their prejudice and/or incompetence.
We should turn our generous support to our Arab and Islamic organizations and nations. Our brethren deserve the billions we spent on ineffective, badly run, biased programs that do not benefit them. The recently established King Salman Center for Relief and Humanitarian Aid did much more for Yemeni, Syrian, Rohingya people than the UN with all its programs ever did. We need more of our own organizations and programs for our world to be in safer hands — much more peaceful and prosperous!
The UN is not dead, yet. It is still relevant, useful and needed. It deserves to be saved. However, if at the end of the day it continues to be unresponsive, unhelpful and ungrateful, we are better off on our own! Life goes on, with or without the UN!