October 23/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations
Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 13/01-09/:"That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the lake. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: ‘Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!’"

Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites,thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers none of these will inherit the kingdom of God.
First Letter to the Corinthians 06/01-11/:"When any of you has a grievance against another, do you dare to take it to court before the unrighteous, instead of taking it before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels to say nothing of ordinary matters? If you have ordinary cases, then, do you appoint as judges those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to decide between one believer and another, but a believer goes to court against a believer and before unbelievers at that? In fact, to have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud and believers at that. Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers none of these will inherit the kingdom of God. And this is what some of you used to be. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.".

Question: "Why do people reject Jesus as their Savior?" The decision to accept or reject Jesus as Savior is the ultimate life decision. Why do many people choose to reject Jesus as Savior? There are perhaps as many different reasons for rejecting Christ as there are people who reject Him, but the following four reasons can serve as general categories:
1) Some people do not think they need a savior. These people consider themselves to be “basically good” and do not realize that they, like all people, are sinners who cannot come to God on their own terms. But Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Those who reject Christ will not be able to stand before God and successfully plead their own case on their own merits.
2) The fear of social rejection or persecution deters some people from receiving Christ as Savior. The unbelievers in John 12:42-43 would not confess Christ because they were more concerned with their status among their peers than doing God’s will. These were the Pharisees whose love of position and the esteem of others blinded them, “for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God.”
3) For some people, the things that the present world has to offer are more appealing than eternal things. We read the story of such a man in Matthew 19:16-23. This man was not willing to lose his earthly possessions in order to gain an eternal relationship with Jesus (see also 2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
4) Many people are simply resisting the Holy Spirit’s attempts to draw them to faith in Christ. Stephen, a leader in the early church, told those who were about to murder him, “You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit!” (Acts 7:51). The apostle Paul made a similar statement to a group of gospel rejecters in Acts 28:23-27.
Whatever the reasons why people reject Jesus Christ, their rejection has disastrous eternal consequences. “There is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” than the name of Jesus (Acts 4:12), and those who reject Him, for whatever reason, face an eternity in the “outer darkness” of hell where there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:30).

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on October 22-23/17
Abandoning our Kurdish allies is a win for our Iranian enemies/Michael Pregent/Fox News/October 22/17
The Case for Assyrian Independence/Oasis of Peace in the Middle East/Amir George//Gatestone Institute/October 22/17
Czech Donald Trump" Wins Landslide Victory/"I am ready to fight for our national interests./Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institute/October 22/17
The Iran Deal: The Dog's Dinner Obama Dished Out/Amir Taheri/Gatestone Institute/October 22/2017
Trump Excludes Iraq’s Popular Mobilization from his Iran Strategy/Raghida Dergham/October 22/2017
Dangers of refusing to link the Iran Deal to Tehran’s behavior/Eyad Abu Shakra/Al Arabiya/October 22/17

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on October 22-23/17
Aoun more open to consensus: Machnouk
Australian Governor and his wife start visit to Lebanon
LF Reportedly Mulling Resignation from Government
LF, Kataeb Slam Attempt to Torch Their Offices in Akkar
Geagea: Ruling against Chartouni a Conviction against March 8 Camp
Qassem: Justifications Do Not Absolve Israeli Collaborators
Mashnouq Hails Aoun, Says STL Rulings within 2 Years
Rahi from Salt Lake City: Muslims, Christians should stay in Levant so it does not become a land for terrorists
Riachi: If Lebanese Forces' presence in government becomes unnecessary, we shall resign
Army: Three enemy gunboats violate territorial waters over the weekend
Governor of Australia and his wife arrive in Beirut on an official visit
Khouri for regulating economic relation between Lebanon and displaced Syrians

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on October 22-23/17
Soleimani Gave Military ‘Guidance’ from Kirkuk Prior to Iraqi Offensive
In Saudi, Tillerson Demands Iranian Militias Leave Iraq
Tillerson Attends Landmark Talks between Saudi, Iraqi Leaders
Iraq's Abadi: 'Hero' who Tackled Mission Impossible
Gunman Holds Hostages at UK Bowling Alley
Russian Opposition Chief Navalny Says Released from Jail
Bahrain Sends Civilian 'Cell' to Military Court
U.S.-Backed Forces Seize Major Syria Oilfield
Russia Likens U.S. Coalition Bombing of Raqa to WWII Dresden
Trump Says End of IS Caliphate 'in Sight' after Raqa's Fall
Erdogan, Putin Discuss Turkish Deployment in Syria’s Idlib
Qatar-Hamas Ties Weakening as Israel Warns Movement Will Pay for its Iran Ties
Germany 'Approves' Controversial Israel Submarine Deal- Israeli Sources
After Backlash, WHO Reconsidering Appointing Mugabe as Goodwill Ambassador
Barzani may be summoned by Iraq’s judiciary, parliamentary sources say
US Treasury Secretary to visit Middle East over Iran threats
Canada calls for Mugabe WHO appointment to be rescinded without delay

Latest Lebanese Related News published on October 22-23/17
Aoun more open to consensus: Machnouk
The Daily Star/October 22/17/BEIRUT: Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk said Sunday that President Michel Aoun has taken an open approach to all parties and shown increased understanding of the country’s constitutional mechanisms since his election.
“The settlement that brought General Aoun to Baabda was subject to minor tremors that were overcome. Every passing day shows more and more that the President recognizes all others and is committed to dealing with them politically and accepting the differences of those who disagree with him,” Machnouk said during a Future Movement event in Beirut. He added that Aoun is keen on political consensus and that his actions thus far have been in compliance with his constitutional powers. "We elected a president of the republic, we [sometimes] disagree with him and this is our constitutional right, and every day I make sure that [the settlement that brought him to power] has proven successful,” Machnouk said. He highlighted recent governmental progress in a number of areas, including the passage of a new electoral law, the formation of the Socio-economic council and the endorsement a state budget, although he said he had objected to half of the agreements. “[Prime Minister Saad] Hariri was insistent, persistent and persevered in an unprecedented manner in order to complete all these files," Machnouk said. However, Machnouk said Hariri’s Cabinet was not able to complete their goal of distancing Lebanon from regional conflicts.
“There has been a practical defect in this item, due to March 8 ministers visiting Damascus and Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil meeting with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem,” he said, adding that this had not affected “our insistence on the return of displaced Syrians to safe areas in accordance with international standards.” Responding to a question on the verdict sentencing the killers of President-elect Bachir Gemayel to death on Friday, Machnouk said that the court's decisions must be abided by. Gemayel was assassinated in a car bomb attack in 1982.
In reference to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, charged with investigating the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, Machnouk said the verdict would be expected in less than two years.

Australian Governor and his wife start visit to Lebanon
The Daily Star/October 22/17/BEIRUT: Australian Governor Sir Peter Cosgrove and his wife Lady Lynn Cosgrove begins an official visit to Lebanon Sunday. He will meet President Michel Aoun and senior Lebanese officials, according to a statement from the Baabda palace. “His [Gov.] plane will arrive at Rafic Hariri International Airport at 3 p.m,” it added, noting that “The official reception will be held at the Baabda Palace on Monday at around 11 a.m. accompanied by his wife, and will be greeted at by Aoun and first lady Nadia El Shami Aoun.” The statement said that a meeting will be held between Aoun and Cosgrove, while First Lady Nadia meets Lady Lynn in another hall. “After the official retreat, the Lebanese and Australian delegations will join the talks, followed by a joint press conference,” Baabda palace added, saying that “Gov. Cosgrove will sign the register of honor after that.”
Afterwards, Mrs. Aoun and Lady Cosgrove will join President Aoun and Sir Cosgrove in the presidential palace where Aoun holds lunch in honor of his guest at 1pm, the statement mentions. Saying that “The visit also includes Gov. meeting with Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri and Prime Minister Saad Hariri. He will visit Commonwealth War Graves and Martyrs' Square to put two wreaths, and a visit to the offices of the International Organization for Migration and UNICEF.The Australian ambassador to Lebanon, Glen Miles, will hold a reception Tuesday in honor of the governor and his wife who will leave Lebanon Wednesday morning.

LF Reportedly Mulling Resignation from Government
Naharnet/October 22/17/Amid growing tensions between the Free Patriotic Movement and the Lebanese Forces inside and outside the government, the LF is “inclined” to ask its ministers to “resign,” a media report said. LF leader Samir Geagea, who is currently in Australia, has told the LF ministers, “Prepare yourselves for resignation,” an LF source told ad-Diyar newspaper in remarks published Sunday. “He has put the LF’s senior officials in this picture in protest at the prevalent approach in running the country’s affairs,” the source said. “We have tried to reform to no avail,” the source added. Noting that LF deputy chief MP George Adwan did not express his own opinions in his latest speech in Parliament but rather those of the LF’s leadership, the LF source stressed that “the resignation of the LF’s ministers is not a rumor or a story for political circulation but rather a serious decision that will manifest itself within day, two weeks or perhaps when Dr. Geagea returns from his Australia trip.” Ad-Diyar quoted informed political sources as saying that the LF “has reservations over Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s performance and his submission to the president in all issues.”“The LF no longer sees any transparency in the government’s performance and it does not believe that the state is inclined to put an end to shady deals and the waste of public money,” the sources added. LF sources meanwhile lamented that “AMAL Movement, Hizbullah, the Progressive Socialist Party, al-Mustaqbal and (MP Suleiman) Franjieh are taking everything they want in the administrative appointments, while the LF -- the presidential tenure’s partner -- is being deprived of everything despite having three ministers in the Cabinet.”Christian “appointments are confined to the FPM and they only get approved following a meeting between the prime minister and Minister Jebran Bassil,” the sources decried. The LF sources however reassured that there will be no return to the pre-Maarab Agreement era between the LF and the FPM despite their different governance mentalities and political disagreements.

LF, Kataeb Slam Attempt to Torch Their Offices in Akkar
Naharnet/October 22/17/The Lebanese Forces and the Kataeb Party condemned Sunday an attempt to torch their offices in the northern Akkar district. “Masked and unidentified individuals attacked the headquarters of our Akkar department in the town of Miniara overnight Saturday, torching the LF flags that were hoisted outside it,” said a statement issued by the LF’s Akkar dept. “These blatant attempts have not and will not intimidate us, seeing as these are outdated practices that belong to the (Syrian) tutelage era,” the department stressed. And noting that “the verdict that has been issued in the case of the assassination of President-elect Bashir Gemayel is a clear indication that there will be no turning back,” the LF called on security forces to “arrest the perpetrators and bring them to justice to hand them the severest penalties and make them an example for anyone who tries to sow discord and threaten civil peace.”Kataeb’s media department meanwhile said “the hand of treachery and criminality tried to burn down Kataeb’s Akkar headquarters at the Miniara intersection.”Openly linking the attack to the death verdicts that were issued by the Judicial Council against Habib Chartouni and Nabil al-Alam in the case of Gemayel’s assassination, Kataeb said the torching attempt is a “materialization of the threats that were launched by groups that do not believe in Lebanon as a final homeland for all its citizens.”The attack “confirms that the criminal murderers are the same in the past and today,” Kataeb added, urging authorities to “quickly arrest the culprits, prosecute them and hand them the harshest penalties.” The party also urged its members and supporters to “show restraint,” describing the torching bid as a “cheap attempt to drag Kataeb into reactions that the perpetrators are seeking in order to push the country once again to the law of the jungle.”Tensions have been running high in the country since Friday, when Chartouni and Alam -- members of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party -- were sentenced to death in absentia. Chartouni has been on the run since he escaped from the Roumieh Prison on October 13, 1990 while Alam reportedly died of illness in Brazil in 2014. The latter’s death has not been officially confirmed. Bashir Gemayel was a senior member of Kataeb and the founder and commander of the Lebanese Forces militia during the early years of the civil war. He was elected president on August 23, 1982 while the country was torn by civil war and occupied by both Israel and Syria. At a press conference that followed his arrest, Chartouni admitted that he killed Gemayel, caling him a “traitor” and accusing him of “selling the country to Israel.” He said he was given the explosives and the fancy long-range electronic detonator in West Beirut’s Ras Beirut district by Nabil al-Alam, who was reportedly SSNP's intelligence chief at the time.

Geagea: Ruling against Chartouni a Conviction against March 8 Camp
Naharnet/October 22/17/Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea said the death sentence verdict against the assassins of president-elect Bashir Geamyel is a ruling against the whole of the March 8 camp which “seeks violence and political assassinations.”“The Judicial Council's ruling that sentenced Habib Chartouni and Nabil al-Alam to death in the assassination of Gemayel is a ruling against all of March 8,” said Geagea, as he accused the alliance of “seeking violence and political assassinations.”“The ruling issued is not only for one person but for all of March 8 because this person belongs to one of the parties of this camp. This man's party has carried out the operation as mentioned in the minutes of the investigation. He was definitely linked to one of the March 8 parties and to the Syrian intelligence at that stage,” added Geagea. The LF leader pointed out saying that March 8 resorts to political assassinations in order to each its goals. “This provision confirms the fact that March 8 group pleads for political assassination to reach its goals. We all know that there are members of a political party of March 8 being prosecuted before the International Tribunal,” added Geagea, in reference to Hizbullah members reportedly accused in the assassination of former PM Rafik Hariri. On Friday, the Judicial Council, Lebanon's highest state security court, sentenced Chartouni and al-Alam to death in absentia in the case of the 1982 assassination of President-elect Bashir Gemayel. The in absentia trial had kicked off on November 25, 2016. During that session, the Judicial Council called on Chartouni -- who confessed to planting the bomb before escaping prison -- to turn himself in. It also decided to launch in absentia proceedings against the other suspect in the case, al-Alam, after media reports said he had died of illness in Brazil in 2014. Gemayel was a senior member of the Kataeb Party and the supreme commander of the Lebanese Forces militia during the early years of the civil war. He was elected president on August 23, 1982 while the country was torn by civil war and occupied by both Israel and Syria. Gemayel was assassinated on September 14, 1982, along with 26 others, when a bomb exploded in Kataeb's headquarters in Ashrafieh.

Qassem: Justifications Do Not Absolve Israeli Collaborators
Naharnet/October 22/17/Hizbullah deputy chief Sheikh Naim Qassem stressed Sunday that any attempt to “justify collaboration with the enemy in a certain era does not absolve the collaborator.”“Israel was and will always be an enemy and anyone who justifies collaboration with it can be called a collaborator in one way or another,” Qassem said. Noting that some parties are trying to distribute “patriotism certificates,” Hizbullah number two emphasized that “those who have the right to offer patriotism certificates are the ones who resisted, liberated the land… and managed to kick out the (Israeli) enemy.”Qassem’s remarks come amid controversy in the country over the death sentences that have been issued in absentia for Habib Chartouni and Nabil al-Alam over the 1982 assassination of President-elect Bashir Gemayel. More than three decades after Gemayel was killed in a powerful explosion in Beirut, the case still sharply divides Lebanese — some see him as a national hero while others say he was an Israeli agent. The assassination came at the height of the country's 15-year civil war and Israel's invasion of Lebanon. Chartouni, a member of the Damascus-backed Syrian Social Nationalist Party who has been on the run since escaping prison in 1990, was found guilty of planting the bomb. Shortly after his arrest in 1982, Chartouni had called Gemayel a “traitor” and accused him of “selling the country to Israel.”

Mashnouq Hails Aoun, Says STL Rulings within 2 Years
Naharnet/October 22/17/Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq on Sunday lauded the performance of President Michel Aoun while noting that the Special Tribunal for Lebanon will issue its rulings in the murder of ex-PM Rafik Hariri within a period not exceeding two years. “President Aoun’s stances greatly improved this year in the direction of more openness towards all parties, understanding of all constitutional mechanisms that are necessary for the country, and political tolerance of opposing ideas,” Mashnouq said during a Mustaqbal Movement seminar. “The settlement that led General Aoun to Baabda has suffered minor shocks that we have managed to overcome,” Mashnouq added. He also pointed out that Aoun is “very keen on political consensus and is abiding by the Constitution and the laws.”“Had it not been for his support, Cabinet would not have been able to settle a lot of files,” Mashnouq added. Separately, the minister said he expects the U.N.-backed STL to issue verdicts in the Hariri case “withing a period not exceeding two years.”The court has indicted five Hizbullah members with carrying out the crime and is trying them in absentia. Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has vowed that the accused will never be arrested, dismissing the tribunal as a U.S.-Israeli scheme.

Rahi from Salt Lake City: Muslims, Christians should stay in Levant so it does not become a land for terrorists
Sun 22 Oct 2017/NNA - Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Bchara Boutros Rahi called on all those living in the Levant from different religions to unite in order not to allow terrorists to take control of their land. "We urge Muslims and Christians to stay in the Middle East because we have lived together for 1300 years and built moderation. If we leave the Middle East, it will become a land for terrorists and a base that threatens world peace," Rahi said during a Mass service at "Saint Laba" Church in Salt Lake City in the United States. Rahi also called for distinguishing between terrorist organizations fighting in the name of Islam and Islam itself. "You must know that most of the terrorist organizations, such as Daesh and al-Qaeda, are outsiders to the Middle East, to its culture and traditions. They have been trained, supported and used by foreign countries to ignite wars in the Middle East," he added. Rahi concluded by saying, "We had enough of wars and violence; it is time to build a just and lasting peace. It is our people's right and the duty of the international community."

Riachi: If Lebanese Forces' presence in government becomes unnecessary, we shall resign
Sun 22 Oct 2017/NNA - Information Minister Melhem Riachi said Sunday that if the Lebanese Forces Party's presence within the cabinet becomes unnecessary, then it would resign. Riachi denied, however, any written resignation by LF's cabinet ministers contrary to certain rumors, saying, "Nothing warrants our resignation thus far, but if circumstances entail said resignation, it shall be written." In an interview to "MTV" Channel Station, the Minister referred to LF's opposing positions and reservations towards particular dossiers within cabinet, most prominent of which is the electricity issue. "We do not accuse anyone nor do we question anyone's credibility, but we have our approach to governance which we exercise as need be," Riachi emphasized. Responding to a question regarding LF's refusal to be part of the ministerial committee in charge of the electricity tender, Riachi noted that there was "a discussion, not a debate" over the matter. He added: "Prime Minister Hariri is an ally and we stood at length with him, discussing the issue in depth. He was very understanding of the Lebanese Forces' position and considered our opinion; otherwise, the electricity dossier would not have been transferred to the tenders' department for further study." "We were the spearhead in this matter," asserted Riachi. Over the Lebanese Television board of directors' dossier, Riachi indicated that "this file has been at the Cabinet's General Secretariat's disposal for more than three months, be it the three proposed names to chair the board of directors according to the institutional mechanism that I have adopted or the board members as proposed by the Minister of Information." "The Prime Minister has promised to include this dossier on the Council of Ministers' agenda for next Thursday," he added. Responding to a question regarding the current mandate, Riachi said, "We have achieved three main points in the election of President Michel Aoun: First, we have overcome the vacuum period and the possibility of Lebanon's dissolution at a dangerous time in the region. Second, we reconciled with the Christian conscience by healing the wounds permanently, which is a historic achievement that ensures a promising future for Lebanon. Third, was the strategic balance between the Christian and Muslim partners in the country, which restored the balance of power." Over the possibility of running in the parliamentary elections, Riachi stated that he did not intend to be a candidate in said elections. He noted, however, "If the Party leader decides that my candidacy is within the interests of the Lebanese Forces, I will run."

Army: Three enemy gunboats violate territorial waters over the weekend
Sun 22 Oct 2017/NNA - An Israeli enemy gunboat breached the Lebanese territorial waters off Ras al-Naqoura between 1:35 a.m. and 1:50 a.m. on Sunday, firing a flare bomb and several shots over said waters, an Army Command communiqué indicated today. Another enemy gunboat also violated the territorial waters off Ras al-Naqoura at 4:10 a.m. to an approximate distance of 330 meters for 10 minutes, the communiqué added. In another issued communiqué, the Army Command's Orientation Directorate indicated that a similar Israeli gunboat also violated the territorial waters off Ras al-Naqoura at 5:16 p.m. on Saturday to an approximate distance of 200 meters for an interval of 7 minutes. All breaches are under follow-up by the Lebanese Army, in coordination with the United Nations Interim Force in South Lebanon (UNIFIL).

Governor of Australia and his wife arrive in Beirut on an official visit
Sun 22 Oct 2017/NNA - Australia's Governor Sir Peter Cosgrove and his wife, Lady Lynn Cosgrove, arrived Sunday afternoon at Rafic Hariri International Airport on an official visit, during which he will meet with President Michel Aoun and senior Lebanese officials. The Australian Governor and his wife were greeted at the Airport's VIP Lounge by Secretary of State for Presidential Affairs Pierre Raffoul and his wife, Australian Ambassador Glenn Miles, and several prominent military officials and a delegation from the Australian Embassy in Lebanon.

Khouri for regulating economic relation between Lebanon and displaced Syrians
Sat 21 Oct 2017/NNA - Minister of Trade and Economy, Raed Khouri, called Saturday for regulating the economic relationship between Lebanon and the displaced Syrians and for implementing Lebanese legislations. In a press conference held at his ministry office, Khouri touched on the repercussions of Syrian displacement on the Lebanese economy, particularly concerning illegal and unlicensed institutions. "As a State, we are required to regulate the economic relationship between Lebanon and the displaced Syrians, and to solely apply Lebanese laws and regulations," Khouri emphasized. "Syrian workers are entitled according to the law to work in three sectors only, namely in construction, agriculture and public wastes; yet, they are working in different sectors contrary to the law," he continued to explain. Khouri referred to several procedural steps adopted by his ministry in this context, noting, "We have asked municipalities to close down illegal institutions." "We deeply sympathize with our Syrian displaced brethrens and feel with their suffering because we have lived in wars and displacement. We wish them a safe and dignified return home, especially in the presence of secure areas in Syria. However, pending their return to their country, we are required as a State to regulate the economic relationship between Lebanon and Syrian refugees," Khouri underscored.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on October 22-23/17
Soleimani Gave Military ‘Guidance’ from Kirkuk Prior to Iraqi Offensive
Asharq Al Awsat/October 22/17/Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani had made repeated warnings to Kurdish leaders in northern Iraq, asking them to withdraw from oil-rich Kirkuk or face a fierce Iraqi government offensive. Soleimani, who is commander of foreign operations for Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, had met leaders from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in the city of Sulaimania the day before Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi ordered his forces to advance on Kirkuk, according to a PUK lawmaker briefed on the meeting. His message was clear, either withdraw or lose Iran as a strategic ally, said the lawmaker according to Reuters. The Iranian official had paid at least three visits to the Iraqi Kurdistan Region in October before the launch of the Iraqi government’s lightening operation in the North to regain regions that Kurds had seized during their fight against ISIS over the past three years.
“Abadi has all the regional powers and the West behind him and nothing will stop him from forcing you to return back to the mountains if he decides so,” the lawmaker quoted Soleimani as telling the PUK leadership. The Iranian general evoked late Iraqi president Saddam Hussein’s massive attack on a Kurdish rebellion in 1991, when almost the entire Kurdish population fled northern Iraq to the mountains, the PUK lawmaker said. “Soleimani’s visit ... was to give a last-minute chance for the decision-makers not to commit a fatal mistake,” said the lawmaker, who like others interviewed in this story declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue.
Commanders of the Kurdish Peshmerga forces have accused Iran of orchestrating the Shi‘ite-led Iraqi central government’s push into areas under their control, a charge senior Iranian officials have denied. But Iran has made no secret of its presence in Iraq. “Tehran’s military help is not a secret anymore. You can find General Soleimani’s pictures in Iraq everywhere,” said an official close to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. “Now, beside political issues, Kirkuk’s oil is a very key element for Iran, which is an OPEC member. Control of those oil fields by Iran’s enemies would be disastrous for us. Why should we let them enter the oil market?”Kirkuk fell to Iraqi government forces on Monday. Their offensive followed a referendum last month in which the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region voted to secede from Iraq against Baghdad’s wishes. But Iraq’s two main Kurdish parties have been at odds over both the referendum and the approach to the crisis in Kirkuk, which the Kurds consider to be the heart of their homeland.
The PUK, a close ally of Iran, accused its rival, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), of putting the Kurds at risk of military intervention and isolation by pushing hard for the vote, which won wide approval for independence. The KDP is headed by President Masoud Barzani. Soleimani has been allied to the PUK for years, but the referendum has drawn him even closer to Kurdish politics and expanded Iran’s reach in Iraq beyond the Baghdad government. The Iranian general is no stranger to conflicts in Iraq, which fought an eight-year war with Iran in the 1980s. He has often been seen in footage from the frontlines, and Iran has long helped Baghdad to carry out its military strategy through paramilitary Shi‘ite militias which it funds and arms. Before the referendum, Soleimani suggested to Kurdish leaders that holding a vote on secession -- which Iran feared would encourage its own Kurdish population to agitate for greater autonomy -- would be risky. “The Iranians were very clear. They have been very clear that there will be conflict, that these territories will be lost,” said one prominent Iraqi Kurdish politician who met Soleimani ahead of the September 25 referendum. On October 6, barely a week after the vote, Soleimani attended the funeral of PUK leader Jalal Talabani. Again, he wanted to make sure even his closest Kurdish allies understood the dangers of not withdrawing from Kirkuk, officials said. A senior Iranian diplomat in Iraq and an official in Iran close to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s office said Soleimani met with Kurdish leaders after Talibani’s funeral and urged them to withdraw from Kirkuk and in exchange Tehran would protect their interests. Soleimani met with one of Talabani’s sons, Bafel, a few days after his father was buried, one of the PUK officials said.
“Soleimani said Abadi should be taken very seriously. You should understand this,” the official said.
An Iranian source in Iraq said Soleimani was in Kirkuk two nights before the Iraqi government offensive for “a couple of hours to give military guidance.” Iraqi intelligence sources said Tehran sent a clear signal to the PUK. “We understand from our sources on the ground that neighboring Iran played a decisive role in making the PUK chose the right course with Baghdad,” one Iraqi intelligence official told Reuters. Tensions over the referendum and Kirkuk have deepened divisions between the two main political parties in northern Iraq. The KDP accused the PUK of betraying the Kurdish cause by capitulating to Iran and striking a deal to withdraw. “The Talabani clan were behind the offensive on Kirkuk. They asked Qassem (Soleimani) for help and his troops were there on the ground,” said a source close to Massoud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan Regional Government and head of the KDP.
“It is becoming clear that Iran is directing the operations to destroy the KDP.”The PUK strongly denies this. Talabani’s son Bafel accused the KDP of missing a zero-hour chance to avoid losing Kirkuk by failing to reach a deal over a military base which Iraqi government forces had demanded to take back.
“Unfortunately we reacted too slowly. And we find ourselves where we are today,” Bafel told Reuters. Two other Kurdish political sources gave a similar account. Iran and Soleimani offered early assistance to northern Iraq’s Kurds in the fight against ISIS, a rallying point for the Kurdish community. But after the devastating loss of Kirkuk, Iraqi Kurds have been left disillusioned. “They (both PUK and KDP leaders) just make decisions on their own and play with people’s lives. In the end, we pay the price,” said pensioner Abdullah Ahmed in Sulaimania. “This is a disaster for everyone. Everyone was united against Daesh (Islamic State). Now they are back just looking out for themselves.”

In Saudi, Tillerson Demands Iranian Militias Leave Iraq
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/October 22/17/U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Sunday demanded that Iranian "militias" leave Iraq at a press conference in Riyadh, where the U.S. diplomat is holding talks with top Gulf officials. "Certainly Iranian militias that are in Iraq, now that the fighting against (the Islamic State group) is coming to a close, those militias need to go home," Tillerson said at a press conference in Riyadh. "All foreign fighters need to go home."Tillerson's Gulf visit comes as part of concerted efforts to curb Shiite Iran's influence in the region including boosting the clout of Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia in Iraq, where Iran backs Shiite militias fighting in the north.Tillerson's visit also follows President Donald Trump's announcement of an aggressive strategy against Tehran and his refusal to certify the Iran nuclear deal.

Tillerson Attends Landmark Talks between Saudi, Iraqi Leaders
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/October 22/17/Top U.S. diplomat Rex Tillerson attended a landmark meeting Sunday between Saudi Arabia and Iraq aimed at upgrading strategic ties between the two countries and countering Iran's regional influence. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and Saudi King Salman held the first meeting of the joint Saudi-Iraqi coordination council that aims to boost cooperation after years of tensions. Abadi hailed the meeting as an "important step toward enhancing relations," echoing similar comments from King Salman. "We are facing in our region serious challenges in the form of extremism, terrorism as well as attempts to destabilize our countries," the Saudi monarch said. "These attempts require our full attention."Iraq is seeking economic benefits from closer ties with Riyadh as both countries suffer from a protracted oil slump. Saudi Arabia is also seeking to counter Iranian influence in Iraq. "This event highlights the strength and breadth as well as the great potential of the relations between your countries," Tillerson said, referring to the meeting. After years of tense relations, ties between Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia and Shiite-majority Iraq have begun looking up in recent months. After former dictator Saddam Hussein's August 1990 invasion of Kuwait, Riyadh severed relations with Baghdad and closed its border posts with its northern neighbor. Ties remained strained even after Saddam's ouster in the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, since when successive Shiite-dominated governments in Baghdad have stayed close to Tehran. But a flurry of visits between the two countries this year appears to indicate a thawing of ties. Abadi's tour coincides with Saudi Energy Minister Khaled al-Faleh's high profile visit to Baghdad on Saturday where he called for the strengthening of economic relations to boost oil prices. At the opening of the Baghdad International Fair, Falih hailed what he called "the new Iraq, on the ambitious road to prosperity and growth while strengthening its relations with the world."

Iraq's Abadi: 'Hero' who Tackled Mission Impossible
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/October 22/17/When Haider al-Abadi was tasked with forming a new Iraqi government in August 2014, just weeks after a lightning offensive by the Islamic State group, many believed he would fail. Three years later, the stocky prime minister with a close-cut white beard has transformed what many in Iraq considered "mission impossible" into a success story. He has rebuilt the crumbling armed forces, chased IS from more than 90 percent of territory it had seized -- around a third of Iraq -- and retaken disputed areas in the north from Kurdish peshmerga fighters. "The standard view of Abadi was that he was indecisive, weak and bit too conciliatory for Iraqi politics," says Fanar Haddad, a research fellow at the Middle East Institute of the National University of Singapore. When Abadi took over from Nuri al-Maliki he faced huge challenges, including rampant corruption, poor infrastructure, falling oil prices and the jihadist threat. Abadi was up against "the world's hardest job", says Sajad Jiyad, director of the Baghdad-based independent al-Bayan Center for Planning and Studies. But dressed in military garb or suit and tie, Abadi over time announced several military victories while trying to battle corruption by rolling out sweeping reform.
His policies won him supporters.
"He is the best prime minister in Iraq's history. He speaks little but acts a lot," one of Abadi's 2.5 million followers on Facebook recently wrote. Analysts say Abadi has succeeded where other Iraqi premiers failed."His calm and conciliatory manner and his openness to dealing with a broad array of actors (inside and outside Iraq) stand in stark contrast to his predecessor," says Haddad. A recent survey carried out by an Iraqi polling institute found the Shiite premier has a "75 percent approval rating," even including Iraq's Sunni minority, Jiyad notes.
From exile to politics
A member of the Dawa party, Abadi was born in 1952 in a wealthy Baghdad district but lived in exile for much of Saddam Hussein's rule, including in Britain where he earned a doctorate in engineering from the University of Manchester. Two of Abadi's brothers were arrested and executed by Saddam's regime for membership of the Dawa party, which opposed his rule, while a third was imprisoned for a decade on the same charge. Abadi returned to Iraq after Saddam's overthrow in 2003 and was communications minister in the interim government set up after the dictator's fall. In 2006 he was elected to parliament, chairing an economy, investment and reconstruction committee and then a finance committee. He was voted deputy parliament speaker in July 2014, before being tapped to form the government a month later. Perhaps his greatest accomplishment since then was to rebuild the Iraqi police and army which had been weakened by decades of conflicts, including the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. Abadi succeeded in remobilizing tens of thousands of force members with help from Iraq's allies, including the United States, which stepped in to train and equip them. Under his command, Iraq's forces chased IS jihadists from more than 90 percent of the territory they had seized, dealing a major blow to the group's self-proclaimed "caliphate." And earlier this month, Iraq's army retook Kurdish-held positions in and around Kirkuk province, outside the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq.
International player
These achievements have transformed Abadi into a hero, almost worshiped by many Iraqis. "Today there seems to be a bit of a cult following growing around Abadi," says Haddad. "One hopes it doesn't go to his head; after all, Maliki in 2008-2009 was in a similar place to where Abadi is today," he adds. Analysts say Abadi won the day thanks to his step-by-step approach. He also embarked on a battle against corruption and under his tenure several officials have been arrested and tried for graft. Jiyad notes that Abadi also "deftly positioned Iraq on the international stage" and succeeded in securing the support of international allies. Diplomats based in Baghdad describe Abadi as someone who knows how to establish himself and command respect. On Sunday, Abadi visited Saudi Arabia in a bid to ease years of tension between Shiite-majority Baghdad and the Sunni-ruled kingdom. The trip -- which Haddad says would have been "unthinkable" under Maliki -- is seen as another diplomatic coup for Abadi, whose government is allied with Saudi rival Iran. But despite his many achievements, "it is important to recognize the limits on what Abadi can do", says Haddad. Iraq, he says, faces "gargantuan challenges", including reconstruction and the issue of people displaced by fighting, "that are beyond the control of any one actor."

Gunman Holds Hostages at UK Bowling Alley
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/October 22/17/A man with a sawed-off shotgun took several people hostage Sunday at a bowling alley in the English city of Nuneaton, 166 kilometers northwest of London, British media reports said. Warwickshire Police said they were "currently dealing with an ongoing incident" at Bermuda Park and urged members of the public to avoid the area. One eye-witness, Dean Rogers, told the Coventry Telegraph there were up to 30 armed officers at the scene. Another, Lloyd Weightman, told the paper a man with a shotgun commanded him to "get the f*** out" of the bowling alley in Bermuda Park. He said he and his two sons, aged seven and three, went into a nearby cinema, which was placed on lockdown. Footage shared on social media appeared to show armed police at the scene.

Russian Opposition Chief Navalny Says Released from Jail
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/October 22/17/Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny said Sunday he had been released from the Moscow detention centre where he had served a 20-day term for organizing unauthorised protests. "Hi. I'm out," Navalny wrote on Instagram, posting a picture of himself on a street. His release was arranged by police to evade crowds of journalists waiting outside the detention center.

Bahrain Sends Civilian 'Cell' to Military Court
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/October 22/17/Bahraini authorities have referred a group of civilians accused of targeting security forces to a military court, state media said Sunday, months after a constitutional amendment expanded the court's reach. General Youssef Rashid Fleifel, the head of Bahrain's military justice department, announced a civilian "terrorist cell" had been charged and would face a military trial, state news agency BNA reported.Fleifel did not give further detail on the number or identities of those to stand trial, a date for which has yet to be announced. Bahrain's parliament in April approved a constitutional amendment, ratified by the king, granting military courts the right to try civilians on terrorism-linked charges or attacks on the country's security forces. The constitution had previously limited military trials to members of the army or security forces. Authorities sent the first civilian case to military court in May. No details on that case against Fadhel Radhi, arrested in September 2016, have been made public. A key U.S. ally located between Iran and Saudi Arabia, Bahrain since 2011 has been rocked by unrest as authorities continue to crack down on protests demanding a change in government. The tiny Gulf archipelago is home to a majority Shiite population and has been ruled for more than two centuries by the Sunni Al-Khalifa dynasty. The main island is also home to the U.S. Fifth Fleet and a British military base that is still under construction. Bahrain has accused Iran of backing the protests to destabilize the country, an accusation Tehran denies.

U.S.-Backed Forces Seize Major Syria Oilfield

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/October 22/17/A U.S.-backed Arab-Kurd alliance announced on Sunday it had retaken one of Syria's largest oilfields from the Islamic State group in the east of country.
The al-Omar oilfield in the province of Deir Ezzor produced 30,000 barrels per day before the start of Syria's conflict in 2011 and became a key source of income for the jihadists after they seized it in 2014. U.S.-led coalition air strikes destroyed the field in 2015, after the jihadists had reaped estimated oil sale revenues from it of between $1.7 million and $5.1 million a month, according to the coalition. "The Syrian Democratic Forces seize the whole of the al-Omar oilfield, the biggest field in Syria," the alliance said in a short statement. It said regime forces stood three kilometers (less than two miles) away from the field.
The SDF and Russia-backed government forces are waging separate offensives against IS in the oil-rich province of Deir Ezzor on Syria's eastern border with Iraq.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor relying of a network of sources inside Syria, said SDF fighters took control of al-Omar three days after IS members retreated. Its capture came after the jihadists led "a counterattack on regime positions near the field late Saturday, pushing them away from it," Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said. Al-Omar lies on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River, around 10 kilometers (six miles) east of the town of Mayadeen. Government forces and their allies seized Mayadeen from IS last week in an advance whose target the Observatory said was to recapture al-Omar. On Sunday, the monitor said the SDF had also seized the Sayjan oilfield to the north of al-Omar overnight. Deir Ezzor province is rich with oil and gas fields that served as a key revenue stream for IS at the height of its power. The SDF, which earlier this week forced IS from its former stronghold Raqa, has been fighting the jihadists on the eastern bank of the Euphrates. Syria's army is carrying out a separate operation mostly on the western bank of the river, including in the provincial capital Deir Ezzor city.

Russia Likens U.S. Coalition Bombing of Raqa to WWII Dresden
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/October 22/Russia on Sunday accused the U.S.-led coalition in Syria of having flattened Raqa with a Dresden-like bombing campaign and masking the destruction with a rush of humanitarian aid. In a statement, the defense ministry said that Raqa -- the capital of the Islamic State group's self-proclaimed caliphate -- "inherited the fate of Dresden in 1945, razed to the ground by Anglo-American bombings." U.S.-backed Kurdish-led forces last week recaptured Raqa, the capital of IS' self-proclaimed caliphate and its last major stronghold in Syria. U.S. officials hailed the event, led by President Donald Trump who, using another acronym for IS, said "the end of the ISIS caliphate is in sight." "The bravura statements by official representatives of the U.S. administration about the 'outstanding victory' over IS in Raqa prompt bafflement," the Russian ministry said. The U.S. is overplaying the strategic significance of the fall of Raqa, it charged. In reality, Raqa is a "provincial city" that is much smaller than Deir Ezzor, where a Russian-backed Syrian regime operation is underway, the ministry said. It accused Western countries of pumping aid into Raqa to mask the degree of destruction inflicted on the city. Moscow, it said, had previously received only refusals from the West to its requests for international humanitarian aid. "There is only one (reason) -- the aim is to sweep away traces of barbaric bombings by U.S. aviation and the 'coalition' that buried in Raqa's ruins thousands of peaceful citizens 'liberated' from the IS," the ministry claimed. Russia has been operating a bombing campaign in Syria since 2015, when it stepped in to support President Bashar al-Assad's rule and tipped the conflict in his favor. Human rights monitors say that the raids have resulted in many civilian casualties.

Trump Says End of IS Caliphate 'in Sight' after Raqa's Fall
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/October 22/U.S. President Donald Trump said overnight that a transition can soon begin to set conditions for lasting peace in Syria now that the end of the Islamic State "caliphate is in sight" with the fall of Raqa. The United States and its allies will support diplomatic negotiations "that end the violence, allow refugees to return safely home, and yield a political transition that honors the will of the Syrian people," Trump said in a statement. The declaration came four days after U.S.-backed Kurdish-led forces recaptured Raqa, the capital of IS' self-proclaimed caliphate and its last major stronghold in Syria. Trump said the entire city has been liberated from IS control, which he said marked a "critical breakthrough" in the global struggle against the militant group. "With the liberation of ISIS's capital and the vast majority of its territory, the end of the ISIS caliphate is in sight," Trump said, using an alternate acronym for the Islamic State group. "We will soon transition into a new phase in which we will support local security forces, de-escalate violence across Syria, and advance the conditions for lasting peace, so that the terrorists cannot return to threaten our collective security again."
Since capturing it in 2014, IS had used Raqa as a base for planning and conducting attacks in the west, including the November 13, 2015 suicide bombings and mass shootings in Paris that killed 130 people. French Foreign Minister Yves Le Drian celebrated IS' defeat on Friday and declared "the crimes of the Bataclan have not gone unpunished," referring to the concert venue where IS jihadists massacred 90 concertgoers.
Raqa in ruins
The more than four months of fighting have left Raqa in ruins, however, and taken a heavy toll in human lives. The Syrian Observatory of Human Rights put the number of dead at more than 3,200, including 1,130 civilians. A massive reconstruction effort will be needed to make the city habitable again, but it is unclear who will undertake it. A spokesman for the U.S.-backed Syrian Defense Forces said the city will be handed over to Raqa's civil council once clearing operations have been completed. But a French military spokesman said it will be many weeks before civilians can safely return due to "the quantity of explosive devices Daesh left behind."Trump's statement did not address whether U.S. plans include a commitment to rebuild areas in Syria retaken from IS control. Also unanswered is how Washington will deal with the Russian-backed forces of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, now that IS is effectively being cleared from the battlefield. So far, the Trump administration has focused on defeating IS, but some analysts warn the accelerated campaign is opening the way for Assad and his Russian and Iranian backers to fill the vacuum.
Assad fate unmentioned
In his statement, Trump made no mention of removing Assad from power as part of a negotiated political solution, a goal pursued unsuccessfully by former president Barack Obama. Trump had already signaled a turn away from that objective earlier this year when he shut down a clandestine CIA program to supply Syrian rebels with arms. Syrian government forces, meanwhile, are engaged in twin Russian-backed offensives against IS, mopping up the last pockets it still holds in the desert and pushing down the Euphrates Valley towards the Iraqi border in the east. On Saturday, Syrian troops and militia retook the desert town of al-Qaryatain, in Homs province, in the latest setback for IS, according to Syrian state media.The Syrian Observatory of Human Rights said more than 200 IS fighters had withdrawn during the night into the desert, which stretches all the way to the Iraqi border.

Erdogan, Putin Discuss Turkish Deployment in Syria’s Idlib
Asharq Al Awsat/October 22/17/Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan held talks on Friday with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on the latest developments in Syria and the upcoming Astana peace talks. During a telephone call to Putin, Erdogan informed him of the developments linked to Turkish troop deployment in the de-escalation zone in Idlib, said sources from the Turkish presidency. The two officials agreed to continue close cooperation and coordination between Ankara and Moscow over regional issues. Meanwhile, Turkish Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli stressed that his country’s launch of an operation in the Idlib province is aimed at countering the imminent terrorist dangers against Turkey. He explained that the threat of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) against Turkey still stands. “We will not rest until it is removed,” he vowed. Furthermore, Canikli strongly condemned the United States’ equipping of Kurdish organizations in Syria with modern weapons and gear, wondering why this armament has continued even after the majority of Iraqi and Syrian territories have been liberated from the ISIS terrorist group. Turkish Chief of Staff Hulusi Akar stressed on Friday that Ankara has taken all necessary measures to confront any threat to its security in wake of the developments in Syria and Iraq. He stated that Turkish operations in Idlib in northwest Syria will continue in order to oversee the ceasefire and cement stability and security in the region. In its continued criticism of the US, Ankara condemned the Syrian Democratic Forces’ (SDF) raising of a poster of Kurdistan Workers’ Party leader Abdullah Ocalan in Syria’s Raqqa city after it was liberated from ISIS. A Turkish government spokesman said that “terrorists” have announced their presence in Raqqa by raising that poster. He also noted that the development refutes US assertions that there were no terrorists in the city. He also spoke of a “terrorist belt” that will be formed from northern Syria to the Mediterranean, which poses a major threat to Turkey. Commenting on Ocalan’s poster being raised in Raqqa, the US embassy in Ankara said that the PKK leader is “not worthy of respect.”"We have been clear that the liberation of Raqqa is an accomplishment for all Syrians and we expect all parties to avoid actions that would be seen as offensive or create tensions," it added in a statement. "The United States Government works closely with Turkey to fight terrorism and increase regional stability. The PKK is a Designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, and Ocalan is in prison in Turkey for acts of terrorism as part of the PKK. He does not merit veneration," the embassy said on Saturday.

Qatar-Hamas Ties Weakening as Israel Warns Movement Will Pay for its Iran Ties
Asharq Al Awsat/October 22/17/Israel threatened the Palestinian movement Hamas that it will pay the greater price for continuing its ties with the Iranian regime. Israeli Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Major General Yoav Mordechai pointed out to a visit by Hamas deputy politburo chief Saleh al-Arouri to Tehran. “The visit indicates that Hamas leaders do not try to hide the truth that the Iranian regime, which has been oppressing its people for 40 years, is managing Hamas’ affairs in Gaza,” he said. “Despite the developments on the Palestinian scene, the Hamas leaders, who are in awe of the Iranian support, continue to receive orders from the extremist regime that aspires to spread its so-called Islamic revolution,” he added. “At the end of the day, who will pay the price for Hamas’ blind obedience to Iran? The residents of Gaza,” stressed the Israeli official. Meanwhile, Arouri had arrived in Iran at the head of a high-ranking delegation and as part of his first foreign tour after the signing of the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation in Cairo earlier this month. The visit signifies a new Hamas approach to bolster its ties with Iran. Arouri, who already enjoys strong ties with Iranian officials, including Revolutionary Guards Corps commanders, is expected to bridge any gaps between the movement and Tehran. Sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that Arouri and other members of the new politburo are leading a policy to restore Hamas’ ties with its old allies, including Iran and Syria. Arouri enjoys the backing of Hamas chief in Gaza Yehya al-Sinwar, who earlier this week spoke highly of Iran, stating: “Iran is the greatest arms, training and arms backer of the Qassam Brigades.”“Those who believe that we will sever our ties with it are delusional,” he added. The new Hamas-Iran rapprochement comes in defiance to Israel that had previously demanded that the movement lay down its arms and cut its relations with Tehran as conditions to its approval of the Palestinian reconciliation. Meanwhile, on Hamas’ ties with Qatar, Sinwar said that they were “not good” in wake of the Cairo-sponsored reconciliation. A Palestinian source said that Qatar’s ties with Hamas deteriorated after the latter’s rapprochement with Egypt and former Fatah official Ahmed Dahlan.This is not the first time that a Hamas official speaks of the deterioration of ties with Doha as politburo member Moussa Abou Marzouq had previously mentioned that disputes exist between the two sides.

Germany 'Approves' Controversial Israel Submarine Deal- Israeli Sources
Asharq Al Awsat/October 22/17/The German government has approved the sale of three submarines to Israel that are at the heart of the Israel Police’s Case 3000 probe of possible bribery, fraud and kickbacks on the part of former top defense officials and confidants of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli sources said on Friday. "The Germans have given their approval to the deal," an Israeli official familiar with the issue said, according to AFP. Earlier, Berlin postponed signing the MoU on the sale due to an ongoing probe into corruption allegations relating to the agreement. The deal is worth some €1.5 billion, with 27% subsidized by the German state. In July, several Israelis were arrested on suspicion of offenses including bribery and money laundering around the deal to buy the Dolphin submarines from German industrial giant ThyssenKrupp. David Shimron, a relative of Netanyahu and his family lawyer who also represented ThyssenKrupp in Israel, was among those questioned and then released. The investigation was prompted by a Channel 10 news report which alleged that there was a conflict of interests in the deal due to the involvement of attorney David Shimron. Shimron, who is Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's private lawyer, also represents ThyssenKrupp’s representative in Israel, Miki Ganor. Germany, however, has emphasized that despite the reported approval, no deal has been signed. "We had other talks about it, but a deal was not made until now," a German government spokesperson told AFP. German magazine Der Spiegel reported that Germany will wait for Israeli prosecutors to conclude all investigations in the corruption scandal involving Netanyahu before delivering the three submarines deal. Netanyahu recently lashed out at Israel's police and media over a wider investigation into graft allegations, claiming that there "is a transparent media campaign" against him.

After Backlash, WHO Reconsidering Appointing Mugabe as Goodwill Ambassador
Asharq Al-Awsat/October 22/17/After much outrage, the World Health Organization will reconsider its choice to appoint Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe as a goodwill ambassador. The move had sparked global outrage, while several former and current WHO staff said privately they were appalled at the "poor judgment" and "miscalculation" by Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus Tedros. Tedro was elected the first African head of WHO in May. Mugabe was head of the African Union (AU) when the bloc endorsed Tedros - a former health and foreign minister of Ethiopia - over other African candidates for the top post, without any real regional contest or debate, they said. Mugabe, 93, is blamed in the West for destroying Zimbabwe's economy and numerous human rights abuses during his 37 years leading the country as either president or prime minister. WHO named Mugabe to the largely ceremonial post at a high-level WHO meeting on chronic diseases, attended by both men, in Uruguay on Wednesday.
Tedros praised Zimbabwe as "a country that places universal health coverage and health promotion at the center of its policies to provide health care to all". Tedros, who has returned to Geneva, said in a tweet on Saturday evening that he was "rethinking the approach in light of WHO values" and that a statement was forthcoming. The US, which has imposed sanctions on Mugabe for alleged human rights violations, said it was "disappointed."  "He (Tedros) has to remember where his funding comes from," said one health official who declined to be identified. "This appointment clearly contradicts the United Nations ideals of respect for human rights and human dignity," the State Department said. Britain said Mugabe's appointment as a goodwill ambassador for non-communicable diseases in Africa was "surprising and disappointing" and that it risked overshadowing the WHO's global work. Health and human rights leaders chimed in. "The decision to appoint Robert Mugabe as a WHO goodwill ambassador is deeply disappointing and wrong," said Dr. Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, a major British charitable foundation. "Robert Mugabe fails in every way to represent the values WHO should stand for."Ireland's health minister, Simon Harris, called the appointment "offensive, bizarre." ''Mugabe corruption decimates Zimbabwe health care," tweeted the head of Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth.
Two dozen organizations — including the World Heart Federation and Cancer Research UK — released a statement slamming the appointment, saying health officials were "shocked and deeply concerned" and citing his "long track record of human rights violations." The groups said they had raised their concerns with Tedros on the sidelines of the conference, to no avail. Zimbabwe's government has not commented on Mugabe's appointment, but a state-run Zimbabwe Herald newspaper headline called it a "new feather in president's cap." The southern African nation once was known as the region's prosperous breadbasket. But in 2008, the charity Physicians for Human Rights released a report documenting failures in Zimbabwe's health system, saying Mugabe's policies had led to a man-made crisis. "The government of Robert Mugabe presided over the dramatic reversal of its population's access to food, clean water, basic sanitation and health care," the group concluded. Mugabe's policies led directly to "the shuttering of hospitals and clinics, the closing of its medical school and the beatings of health workers." The 93-year-old Mugabe, who has led Zimbabwe since independence in 1980, has come under criticism at home for his frequent overseas travels that have cost impoverished Zimbabwe millions of dollars. His repeated visits to Singapore have heightened concerns over his health, even as he pursues re-election next year. The US in 2003 imposed targeted sanctions, a travel ban and an asset freeze against Mugabe and close associates, citing his government's rights abuses and evidence of electoral fraud.

Barzani may be summoned by Iraq’s judiciary, parliamentary sources say
Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnglishSunday, 22 October 2017 /Sources at the Iraqi parliament said the judiciary intends to issue a summons against Iraq’s Kurdistan Region Government (KRG) President Masoud Barzani following lawsuits filed against him regarding 55 alleged violations. It is expected that the judicial summons will be issued on Sunday. The lawsuits cite affairs related to the referendum and to threatening Iraqi security and the illegal smuggling of oil, in addition to other administrative and legal violations. On Thursday, a Baghdad court issued an arrest warrant for Kosrat Rasul, the vice president of Iraqi Kurdistan, on charges of “provocation” against Iraq’s armed forces. Meanwhile, the Iraqi parliament’s Security and Defense Committee recommended the joint operations’ command to suspend arming the Peshmerga forces affiliated with the North Iraqi area after they shelled Iraqi forces in Kirkuk.

US Treasury Secretary to visit Middle East over Iran threats
Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnglishSaturday, 21 October 2017/US Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin will be visiting the Middle East this week to discuss the Terrorist Financing Target Center (TFTC) partnership and other matters on Iran. Accompanying Mnuchin is Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Sigal Mandelker. The visit is set to take place from October 25 through to October 30. The US representatives will be stopping in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar. Discussions will also touch upon national security initiatives against terrorism and illegal financial incidents. In a statement on Friday, Mnuchin said that he and Mandelker “will engage partners in the Middle East on the Trump administration’s new strategy toward countering the destabilizing influence of Iran in the region.” The Saudi Arabia visit is set to witness Mnuchin commemorating the TFTC’s inauguration. He will also be delivering the keynote address to the Future Investment Initiative summit, added the Treasury.

Canada calls for Mugabe WHO appointment to be rescinded without delay
October 21, 2017 - Ottawa, Ontario - Global Affairs Canada
Global Affairs Canada today issued the following statement on the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) appointment of Robert Mugabe as goodwill ambassador for non-communicable diseases in Africa:
“Canada condemns the unexpected appointment by the World Health Organization of Robert Mugabe as goodwill ambassador for non-communicable diseases in Africa.
“Given the serious human rights abuses under Mugabe’s regime, such an appointment is inconceivable and unacceptable. It goes against the goals of protecting the world’s most vulnerable populations.
“Canada calls for this appointment to be rescinded.”
Media Relations Office
Global Affairs Canada

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on October 22-23/17
Abandoning our Kurdish allies is a win for our Iranian enemies
Michael Pregent/Fox News/October 22/17
It makes no sense for a nation to treat its enemies kindly and its allies harshly. Any nation that tries this foolish approach will see its enemies grow stronger and more dangerous, and will lose its allies when it abandons them.
Yet for eight years, the Obama administration followed this upside-down policy, and received contempt and bad behavior in return from nations around the world. And now, unfortunately, the Trump administration is following this policy with Iran, by “not taking sides” to prevent the Iraqi government from using military force against our Kurdish allies.
Following a Sept. 25 vote by the Kurds in Kirkuk calling for independence from Iraq, Iraqi troops and Iranian-backed militias moved north into the Kurdish province to take control from the Kurdistan Regional Government. Iraqi troops and Shia militias seized the last district in Kirkuk on Friday from Kurdish fighters, known as the Peshmerga, after a three-hour battle.
The Kurds had controlled Kirkuk since 2014, when Iraqi troops fled the forces of the Islamic State terrorist group, also known as ISIS. While remaining part of Iraq, the Kurdish province operated with a high degree autonomy.
The Iraqi Kurdish independence referendum sparked fears that Kurds in neighboring areas of Iran, Turkey and Syria would want to seek independence as well and unite to form a new nation – an idea opposed by all the those countries and Iraq.
The Iraqi Kurds have been loyal U.S. allies in our fight against Al Qaeda and ISIS, and have fought bravely and effectively. American troops have fought and died with our Kurdish allies defending Iraq and we have spent blood and treasure trying to build reliable partners in Iraq’s Security Forces.
But the Iraqi forces are also supported by Iran, including that nation’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which was designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. Treasury Department earlier this month.
And Iran is clearly an enemy of the United States, Israel and many of our Arab allies. It is a state sponsor of terrorism and an oppressor of its own people, with particularly harsh restrictions on women, homosexuals and Christians. President Trump has sharply criticized the nation’s conduct and has threatened to withdraw from the agreement designed to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
It’s in America’s interest to have good and peaceful relations with and between the Kurds and the Iraqis, despite Iran’s support of Iraq. But we shouldn’t abandon our Kurdish allies to achieve this goal.
The man most responsible for the failure of the U.S. to give adequate support to the Kurds is Brett McGurk, President Trump’s special envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS. He held the same position in the Obama administration and has been allowed to keep his job.
President Obama replaced one of our most respected military leaders – Marine Corps Gen. John Allen – with lawyer McGurk. While serving as envoy to Iraq, McGurk has presided over the Iranian takeover of what’s left of Iraq.
Shamefully, the State and Defense Departments followed McGurk’s strategy and gave tacit approval for the Iraqi government and its Iranian allies to move against our dedicated Kurdish friends.
McGurk told U.S. officials and Iraq, Turkey and Iran that he could convince the Kurds not to hold their independence referendum. He told U.S. and Kurdish officials that he could stop Baghdad from using military force against the Kurds. He failed on both accounts.
As President Trump has noted, Iran received $1.7 billion from the Obama administration for signing the nuclear agreement with the U.S. and other nations
“Just imagine the sight of those huge piles of money being hauled off by the Iranians waiting at the airport for the cash,” President Trump said. McGurk was one of the U.S. officials who handed over that money to the Iranians.
One of the leaders of Iranian forces backing Iraq against its Kurdish citizens is Qassem Soleimani, who commands the Revolutionary Guards Quds Force. He is a terrorist who has been killing Americans for years in Iraq and is still doing it through the Taliban in Afghanistan. Half a world away from the NFL, Soleimani also disrespects our flag, having his forces walk on it in parades.
Last month, the Kurds believed that being a proven ally of the United States against former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, Al Qaeda and ISIS would result in America recognizing their referendum for independence from the Iraqi state.
But the hard-line that McGurk took against our Kurdish allies – warning them harshly against their peaceful independence referendum – had the effect of convincing the Iranian-backed militias and the political leadership in Baghdad that they had a green light to enter Kirkuk. In the words of former Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker, this criticism “may have emboldened Baghdad to take a harsher posture than it otherwise would.”
For the last decade, I’ve briefed Army Generals H.R. McMaster (now President Trump’s national security adviser), David Petreaus (who became CIA director) and Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno on the strong influence of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards on Iraq’s security forces.
But for years, McGurk has been downplaying this influence.
On Oct. 1, a highly lethal roadside bomb called an explosively formed penetrator (EFP) reappeared in Iraq after six years. It killed Army Spec. Alexander Missildine and wounded another U.S. soldier. Its reappearance was a warning from Iran: the Islamic Republic is prepared to begin killing Americans again. The EFP is the signature weapon of two Revolutionary Guard-led militias in Iraq.
Scandalously, these militias receive paychecks and equipment from both the U.S.-backed Iraqi Ministry of Interior and the Revolutionary Guards Quds Force. It’s Brett McGurk’s responsibility to provide that information to the president and Congress, because it’s a violation of the Leahy Law. That law was enacted to keep U.S. funds and equipment from security forces involved in human rights violations. Qassem Soleimani is smiling.
If President Trump wants to push back against Iran he should do so in the Kurdish areas of Iraq. This is where he can stop Iran from creating its highly coveted land bridge through Iraq and from eventually controlling northern Iraq as well. Stopping Iran here would save lives, save alliances and give credibility to America’s commitment to our allies. We can do that by working with our only authentic allies in the region, the Kurds.
Our Kurdish allies need strong American support and our Iranian enemies need to know we are serious about them and serious about supporting our friends.
**Michael Pregent was an embedded adviser to the Peshmerga in Mosul and an intelligence and policy adviser to Generals Petraeus and Odierno on Iranian activities in Iraq. He served 20 years as an intelligence officer in the Army and seven years with the Defense

The Case for Assyrian Independence/Oasis of Peace in the Middle East/قضية الإستقلال للأشوريين

Amir George//Gatestone Institute/October 22/17
It is a solution to the refugee problem after centuries of persecution. Not only could Assyrian Christian refugees stay where they were, but as Jews did in Israel, they could come "home".
In the rush to condemn the liberation of Iraq as a mistake, we forget the terror that Saddam Hussein and his two sons inflicted on their people. A visit to nearly every home in Iraq will have a picture of one or more family members among the nearly one million slaughtered by Saddam.
For the Assyrian Christians, this promise of Isaiah 19:23-25 is twofold. First, that "in that day" they will finally have their nation, called Assyria. Second, that their allies will be Israel and Egypt.
Nearly six million Assyrian Christians dot the world.
In 2003, according to the Iraqi government, there were 2.5 million Assyrian Christians in the country, or 10% of the population. Another approximately 3.5 million are scattered from Australia to Europe to Lebanon, Jordan, the US and more.
The Assyrian Christians -- descendants of the Assyrian Empire and the first nation to accept Christ -- are the indigenous people of Iraq.
In spite of being one of the oldest civilizations, and even today speaking Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke, they are refugees in their own homeland.
Following the recent move towards independence by the Kurdistan Regional Government, the Assyrian Christian organizations worldwide have organized formally to request, in accordance with Iraq's constitution, their own area in their homeland in northern Iraq, on the Nineveh Plain.
In the wake of the "Biden Plan", put forth by former Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair, and then Vice President Joe Biden, the Assyrian Christian area is one of the four areas envisioned as the only long-term solution for Iraq.
According to the plan, Kurdistan, Assyria, Sunnistan and Shiastan -- the four dramatically different areas of Iraq -- would each be able to evolve into their own areas.
While the Arab areas of Sunnistan and Shiastan in Iraq operate as do most Arab countries -- with corruption, terror and civil strife -- the non-Arab regions of Iraq, Kurdistan and Assyria in the north are shining examples of what all of Iraq could be, and a testimony to the sacrifice of 4,888 brave Americans who gave their lives for a liberated Iraq, as well as the 35,000 injured and the 2.5 million who served.
In the rush to condemn the liberation of Iraq as a mistake, we forget the terror that Saddam Hussein and his two sons inflicted on their people. A visit to nearly every home in Iraqi will have a picture of one or more family members among the nearly one million slaughtered by Saddam.
For the Assyrian Christians, the move toward the independence of Kurdistan is their encouragement to move forward with their independence as well.
Isaiah 19:23-25 is the promise that all Assyrian Christians, the first Christian nation, hold onto as their promise for their homeland:
"In that day shall there be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian shall come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians shall serve with the Assyrians.
"In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land:
"Whom the Lord of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance."
For the Assyrian Christians, this promise of Isaiah 19:23-25 is twofold. First, that "in that day" they will finally have their nation, called Assyria. Second, that their allies will be Israel and Egypt.
Assyrian Independence, as with Kurdish Independence, would provide two wonderful solutions to the longstanding instability in the Middle East.
First, it would provide a homeland to the Assyrian Christians and people who scattered all over the world do not want to be refugees and go to Australia, Europe, and the US, but simply want to live in their homeland.
It is a solution to the refugee problem after centuries of persecution. Not only could Assyrian Christian refugees stay where they were, but as Jews did in Israel, they could come "home".
Second, we owe it to the brave 4,888 Americans who died, the 35,000 who were injured and the 2.5 million who were ready to sacrifice their lives in Iraq so it could be free.
While the Arab part of Iraq is, like other Arab nations, an ongoing disaster, at least the northern third of Iraq, comprising Assyria and Kurdistan, is on its way to being another "shining city on a hill" in the Middle East -- an example, a source of hope and blessing to an area with so little.
For the allies of both nearby Israel and Egypt, the prophecy of Isaiah 19 could be a solution to at least part of the crises in the Middle East, as the non-Arab people there work together to bring the region back from the brink.
Today, Kurdistan. Next, Assyria!
Picture enclosed
**Assyrian Christian priest Charbel Aesso leads an Easter service at Saint John's Church (Mar Yohanna) in the predominantly Christian Iraqi town of Qaraqosh on April 16, 2017 near Mosul, Iraq. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
**Amir George, an Assyrian Christian, is the author of "Liberating Iraq - The Story of the Assyrian Christians of Iraq".
© 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.

"Czech Donald Trump" Wins Landslide Victory/"I am ready to fight for our national interests."
Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institute/October 22/17
The election outcome, the result of popular discontent with established parties, is the latest in a recent wave of successes for European populists, including in Austria and Germany. The populist ascendancy highlights a shifting political landscape in Europe where runaway multiculturalism and political correctness, combined with a massive influx of unassimilable migrants from Africa, Asia and the Middle East, have given rise to a surge in support for anti-establishment protest parties.
"It is unthinkable that the indigenous European population should adapt themselves to the refugees. We must do away with such nonsensical political correctness. The refugees should behave like guests, that is, they should be polite, and they certainly do not have the right to choose what they want to eat.... There is a deep chasm between what people think and what the media tell them." — Andrej Babis, in the Czech daily Pravo, January 16, 2016.
As prime minister, Babis would share government with Czech President Milos Zeman, who has described political correctness as "a euphemism for political cowardice."
Populist tycoon Andrej Babis and his Eurosceptic political party have won the Czech Republic's parliamentary election — by a landslide — making the "politically incorrect" billionaire businessman the main contender to become prime minister after coalition negotiations.
With all of the votes counted, Babis's anti-establishment party ANO (which stands for "Action of Dissatisfied Citizens" and is also the Czech word for "yes") won nearly 30% — almost three times its closest rival — in elections held on October 20. The Eurosceptic Civic Democratic Party (ODS), the anti-establishment Czech Pirates Party and the anti-EU Freedom and Direct Democracy party (SPD) came second, third and fourth, with around 11% each.
The Communists came in fifth with 7.8%. The Social Democrats, the center-left establishment party that finished first in the previous election, came in sixth with just 7.2%. The Christian Democrats, the center-right establishment party, won 5.8%, just enough to qualify for seats in parliament. In all, nine parties competed in the election.
The election outcome, the result of popular discontent with established parties, is the latest in a recent wave of successes for European populists, including in Austria and Germany. The populist ascendancy highlights a shifting political landscape in Europe where runaway multiculturalism and political correctness, combined with a massive influx of unassimilable migrants from Africa, Asia and the Middle East, have given rise to a surge in support for anti-establishment protest parties.
Babis's victory will also strengthen the role of the Visegrad Group (V4), a political alliance of four Central European states — the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia — committed not only to resisting mass migration, but also to opposing the continued transference of national sovereignty to the European Union. A stronger V4 will accentuate the divisions between the pro-EU states of Western Europe and the increasingly Eurosceptic states of Central and Eastern Europe. The European Union consequently will struggle to maintain an outward semblance of unity.
In his victory speech at the ANO party headquarters, Babis, who campaigned as a centrist, refused to speculate on the composition of a coalition government, but said he wanted the cabinet to be set up as quickly as possible: "This is a huge opportunity to change our country. I would like to assemble a government that will be of the people and for the people and promotes policies that are in their favor."
Babis also tried to reassure the public that he would not put the Czech Republic on the path to authoritarianism, as some of his detractors have charged:
"We are a democratic movement. We are a solid part of the European Union and we are a solid part of NATO. I do not understand why some people say we are a threat to democracy. We certainly are not a threat to democracy. I am ready to fight for our national interests and to promote them."
Babis has been sharply critical of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's open-door migration policy and has repeatedly denounced EU-imposed migrant quotas and other "EU meddling" in Czech politics. Those positions resonate in the Czech Republic, where citizens have the second-lowest trust in the European Union of all 28 member states (only Greeks have less trust in the EU), according to the latest Eurobarometer poll, published in August.
During the campaign, the 63-year-old Babis, one of the country's wealthiest people, presented himself as a non-ideological results-oriented reformer. He pledged to run the Czech Republic like a business after years of what he called corrupt and inept management. He demanded a return of sovereignty from the European Union and rejected Czech adoption of the euro single currency. He has also promised to cut government spending, stop people from "being parasites" in the social welfare system, and fight for Czech interests abroad. Babis is often referred to as "the Czech Donald Trump."
Populist tycoon Andrej Babis (pictured) and his Eurosceptic political party have won the Czech Republic's parliamentary election, making Babis the main contender to become prime minister after coalition negotiations.
Babis does not want the Czech Republic to leave the EU; he has repeatedly stressed that unimpeded access to the European single market is essential to maintaining the health of the Czech economy, which has the lowest unemployment rate in the EU: "We have six thousand German companies here, investing with us and employing people."
At the same time, Babis is opposed to the country adopting the euro because doing so would, he believes, constrain national sovereignty and competitiveness:
"No euro. I don't want the euro. We don't want the euro here. Everybody knows it's bankrupt. It's about our sovereignty. I want the Czech koruna, and an independent central bank. I don't want another issue that Brussels would be meddling with."
Babis has pledged to reform the European Union from within, especially regarding migration policy: "I want to play a more important role in Europe. But we have to fight for our interests and make proposals. If I were a prime minister, I would say: 'Close this cursed external European border at last.'"
Babis has expressed his opposition to mass migration: "I have stopped believing in successful integration and multiculturalism." He has also insisted that the Czech Republic alone should decide who will work in the country and who will receive humanitarian aid: "I do not want to have a French or German migration policy; we want our migration policy to be completely different from other countries. Every state has some interests, we have to fight for Czech national interests, we do not want to have that multicultural model."
Babis has rejected pressure from the European Commission, which has launched infringement procedures against the Czechs, Hungarians and Poles for refusing to comply with an EU plan to redistribute migrants:
"I will not accept refugee quotas for the Czech Republic. The situation has changed. We see how migrants react in Europe. We must react to the needs and fears of the citizens of our country. We must guarantee the security of Czech citizens. Even if we are punished by sanctions."
In June 2017, Babis reiterated that the Czech Republic would not be taking orders from unelected bureaucrats in Brussels:
"We have to fight for what our ancestors built here. If there will be more Muslims than Belgians in Brussels, that's their problem. I don't want that here. They won't be telling us who should live here."
In an interview with the Czech daily Pravo, Babis said:
"It is unthinkable that the indigenous European population should adapt themselves to the refugees. We must do away with such nonsensical political correctness. The refugees should behave like guests, that is, they should be polite, and they certainly do not have the right to choose what they want to eat. Europe and Germany in particular are undergoing an identity crisis. There is a deep chasm between what people think and what the media tell them."
As prime minister, Babis would share government with Czech President Milos Zeman, who has described political correctness as "a euphemism for political cowardice." In an interview with the Guardian, the 71-year-old Zeman recounted a recent conversation with Angela Merkel: "My first sentence in the meeting with Madam Chancellor was: 'If you invite somebody to your homeland, you do not send them to have lunch at your neighbors.'"
In an interview with Czech Radio, Zeman, who has called mass migration to Europe an "organized invasion," said: "The Muslim Brotherhood cannot start a war against Europe, it doesn't have the power, but it can prepare a growing migrant wave and gradually control Europe."
Like Babis, Zeman has also expressed skepticism about Muslim integration: "The experience of Western European countries which have ghettos and excluded localities shows that the integration of the Muslim community is practically impossible."
**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 Iran Deal: The Dog's Dinner Obama Dished Out
Amir Taheri/Gatestone Institute/October 22/2017
"Trump violates international treaty!" "Trump tears up pact signed by world powers!"
These were some of the headlines that pretended to report US President Donald Trump's move on the "Iran nuclear deal" last week. Some in the Western media even claimed that the move would complicate the task of curbing North Korea as Pyongyang might conclude that reaching any deal with the world powers, as Iran did, is useless.
But what is it exactly that Trump has done?
Before answering that question let's deal with another question. Is Obama's Iran "deal" a treaty?
The answer is: no.
It is, as Tehran says, "a roadmap" in which Iran promises to take some steps in exchange for "big powers" reciprocating by taking some steps of their own.
Even then, the "roadmap" or "wish-list" as former US Secretary of State John Kerry described it, does not have an authoritative text; it comes in five different versions, three in Persian and two in English, with many differences.
The "wish-list" hasn't been signed by anyone.
Nor has it been submitted, let alone approved, by the legislative organs of any of the countries involved.
The various texts do not envisage any arbitration mechanism to decide whether or not it has been implemented. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which was not involved in shaping the deal, is charged with the task of assessing and, if possible, certifying, Iranian compliance. But there is no mechanism for assessing and certifying whether other participants have done what they are supposed to do.
Legally speaking, the so-called deal doesn't exist and thus cannot be "torn up" by anybody.
The trouble with the "deal" starts with its genesis.
Jack Straw, a former British Foreign Secretary and an ardent supporter of Iran, had told me that the idea began at a meeting in his official residence in London with then US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. At that time the IAEA had established that Iran had violated the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) and had asked the UN Security Council (UNSC) to take action. The UNSC had passed resolutions that Iran had rejected because the mullahs didn't want to appear to be repeating Saddam Hussein's "mistake" of walking into "UN resolutions trap."
Straw came up with the idea of creating an ad hoc group to work out a deal with Tehran, by-passing the IAEA and the Security Council, thus flattering the mullahs that they were given special treatment because their regime was special.
It seems that Rice was receptive and initiated a "bold move" by inviting then secretary of Iran's High Council of National Security Ali Ardeshir, alias Larijani, to Washington exactly at the time that Straw was about to leave office.
Over 100 US visas were issued for Larijani and his entourage. But Iran's "Supreme Guide" vetoed the visit at the last minute.
When Barack Obama entered the White House, he revived the scheme and after secret talks with Tehran in Oman, arranged by his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, he transformed the idea into a process.
Tehran felt that in Obama it had a friend in Washington.
And, Obama really went out of his way to woo and flatter the mullahs.
He created a parallel Security Council, composed of the five "veto" holding powers plus Germany which was and remains Iran's principal trading partner.
The concoction, dubbed P5+1, was never given an official status.
It was not formally and legally appointed by anybody, had no written mission statement, implied no legal commitment for members and was answerable to no one.
Tehran accepted the trick with its usual attitude of sulking pride.
Larijani's successor, Saeed Jalili, boasted that the Islamic Republic's "special status" was recognized by "big powers", implying that such things as NPT or even international law as a whole didn't apply to Iran.
Jalili proved a pain in the neck. He saw talks with the P5+1 as a mechanism for Iran to suggest, if not dictate, the course of events on a global scale.
He was not ready to talk about Iran's nuclear cheating unless the P5+1 also discussed Iran's plans for a range of international problems. In one meeting, Jalili displayed his "package" dealing with "problems that affect humanity", from the environment to the "total withdrawal of the American Great Satan" from the region.
Somewhere along the way, the European Union, encouraged by Britain and Germany, hitch-hiked and secured a side-chair along the P5+1.
The idea was to use the EU foreign policy point-person as a punching bag against Iranians who appeared unwilling to play. Thus, the P5+1 was enlarged into a Group of 31, that is to say 28 EU members plus the US, China and Russia. (At one point Brazil, Turkey and Kazakhstan also seemed to have won side-chairs with the group but were quickly disembarked.)
Once Jalili was out of the picture, as the new Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani, named his Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif as point-man, things began to move fast.
During his long years in the US, part of it as diplomat in New York, Zarif had established contacts with the Democratic Party, including John Kerry who took over from Mrs. Clinton as Secretary of State. Zarif persuaded his bosses not to miss "the golden opportunity" provided by Obama's administration which included many "sympathizers" with Iran.
Then U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on May 17, 2016 in Vienna, Austria. (Image source: U.S. State Department)
Thus, in just two years what had proved impossible for 10 years became possible.
A vague text was established, fudging the issue, and declaring victory for both sides. The participants in the game agreed to keep the text away from their respective legislatures so as not to risk scrutiny of the witches' brew they had cooked.
The so-called "deal" was dubbed a non-binding "roadmap", implying that the "roadmap" isn't the same as the journey.
Two years after unveiling, the "roadmap" remains just that.
Neither Iran nor the G31 have delivered on their promises. Iran's path to developing nuclear weapons remains open, although this doesn't mean that Tehran is currently making a bomb. For their part, the G31 have not canceled the sanctions imposed on Iran.
Both sides have lied to one another and to their respective audiences.
Obama has left a dog's dinner of diplomatic deception. Interestingly, Trump hasn't thrown that dog's dinner into the dustbin and promises to rearrange and improve it.
Is that possible?
Amir Taheri, formerly editor of Iran's premier newspaper, Kayhan, before the Iranian revolution of 1979, is a prominent author based on Europe. He is the Chairman of Gatestone Europe.
**This article first appeared in Asharq Al Awsat and is reprinted here with the kind permission of the author.
© 2017 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Trump Excludes Iraq’s Popular Mobilization from his Iran Strategy
Raghida Dergham/October 22/2017
Trump’s exclusion of Iraq from his enumeration of Iranian violations in the Arab world and the IRGC roles there, in Syria, Yemen, and Lebanon, has interesting implications. Iraq seems to occupy a special position for President Trump. The prime minister in Baghdad, Haider al-Abadi, may have earned the trust of the US president, and even a preferential position with regard to US support, possibly at the expense of the Kurds, Washington’s erstwhile long-standing ally. Indeed, Trump has overlooked the participation of the Popular Mobilization forces in battles alongside the federal Iraqi forces to retake Kirkuk from the Kurds and other Kurdish-claimed regions in northern Iraq, bearing in mind that the US Treasury Department has now targeted the IRGC as a supporter of designated groups and stepped its sanctions against Tehran’s elite force. Clearly, the state of division within the Kurdish ranks, with accusations of betrayal and treason, is a key factor that led to the current outcome in Iraqi Kurdistan. Clearly too, the Trump administration was furious with Masoud Barzani for rejecting a compromise deal to postpone the referendum for a year – which Washington brokered as the best possible option and formalized through a UN Security Council resolution – and decided to let him bear the consequences of his mistakes alone. The situation in Iraq today indicates the presence of a secret thread not only in Kurdistan but also across the rest of Iraq, where Abadi’s ties to Iran and the PMF overlap with his relations with Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and the Trump administration.
There is something curious about the Trump administration steering clear of criticizing Abadi’s policies, to the extent of ignoring to place the PMF, which are backed by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, within Iran’s violations. That despite the fact that Qassem Soleimani continues to publicly tour all parts of Iraq. There is something curious too about the shift taking place in Iraq’s military and civilian ties with the Gulf, towards more normalization and collaboration after a 25-year estrangement. Here, US and Gulf strategies in Iraq overlap in a striking fashion, bearing in mind that Trump’s new strategy on Iran has been welcomed in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and other Arab countries, though it has caused concerns in countries that fear the repercussions of a renewed US-Iranian clash, such as Lebanon.
Betting on Trump’s strategy carries risks, however. His announcements about Iran and her adventures outside its borders needs to be coupled with mechanisms and timetables, and a Plan B. The US president himself faces political risks if his promises and pledges turn out to be impracticable.
For instance, it will not be easy to implement Donald Trump’s to delegitimize the Iranian regime, as Trump characterized it deliberately in a departure from the position of his predecessor Barack Obama, who legitimized the Iranian regime from the UN General Assembly. Obama was meeting a key Iranian demand, and implicitly pledging the US would not assist Iran’s opposition. But what can Trump, who has suggested he would do the opposite, do to match his words with deeds, not least because of his domestic woes?
Trump did not officially designate the IRGC as a terror organization, merely announcing new sanctions. On the same day however the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated 11 entities and individuals “for engaging in support of designated Iranian actors or malicious cyber-enabled activity”, including arms of the IRGC, which "played a central role to Iran becoming the world's foremost state sponsor of terror, according to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Trump and Mnuchin cited the Revolutionary Guards’ support for Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime, as well as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Palestinian territories, as grounds for the sanctions.
What will Trump do in the event of an Iranian backlash against his targeting of a key political and military arm of the regime in Tehran? Does he have a comprehensive plan and concrete steps for how to target the IRGC, which is overtly active, in addition to Iran, in Lebanon, Yemen, Syria, and Iraq, where the group and its proxies are capturing territories liberated by the US-led anti-ISIS coalition? The answer is not clear. There is a kind of contradiction between the verbal pledges of the administration and what is taking place on the ground. Former President Obama had empowered the IRGC in part through the international resolutions that accompanied the nuclear deal. And President Trump inherited a stronger and toothier IRGC.
According to senior figures in the Trump administration, the Treasury Department will trim the wings of the IRGC and its supporters through expanded sanctions based on its support for terrorism, and this will claw back some of what Obama had conceded as a byproduct of the nuclear agreement. Obama had accepted to unlock Iranian assets in advance of the implementation of the deal even though he knew the IRGC would be the key beneficiary of the windfall, and agreed to suspend UN resolutions prohibiting Iran from sending troops or proxies outside its borders.
Now, Donald Trump believes he can reverse this through measures like the ones included in his new strategy. But does that mean he could support local opposition and regional actors to enlist in that effort, and is it not too late for this, especially in Syria? The US president may have some answers to this, but he has not revealed them yet. The new strategy may have been developed while bearing in mind that the political game could require its instruments to be kept hidden.
This week, US envoy to the UN Nikki Haley called for holding Iran accountable for violating a number of resolutions that do not just concern the nuclear deal and the ballistic missile program, but also the fact that it has sent weapons to Yemen, Syria, and Lebanon, and that Qassem Soleimani has flouted the internationally imposed travel ban.
Haley said Resolution 2231 bans the transfer of conventional weapons from Iran. “Yet today we see Iran identified as a source of weapons in conflicts across the region, from Yemen to Syria and Lebanon”. “The Iranian regime has been a key source of arms and strategic military support to the Houthi rebels, both directly, through its military, and indirectly, through its Hezbollah proxy forces. Not only is this a violation of Resolution 2231, it also violates Resolution 2216, which imposes an arms embargo on the Houthi rebels. Iran has repeatedly and brazenly violated not one but two UN Security Council resolutions in Yemen.”
Today, among the strongest opponents of new US attitudes on Iran are the European allies, who want to hold on to the nuclear deal without reforming it, but they do not admit that they were Obama’s accomplices in empowering the IRGC across the spectrum. Yet, this continuation of their opposition will depend on how serious the Trump administration will be beyond verbal pledges. For the time being, all sides are in the same trench with regard to Iraq, where all indications suggest the international community is ready to celebrate victory against IS, while nodding in sympathy for the Kurdish self-inflicted reversal of statehood dreams, and being ready to support Prime Minister Abadi while turning a blind eye to Iran’s involvement in Iraq. Until further notice at least.
This in and of itself places immense responsibilities on the shoulders of Haider al-Abadi – who acts as if he gives the orders to the PMF to withdraw from the northern cities recaptured by the federal army from the Kurds led by oil-rich Kirkuk, and that the PMF obeys his orders. But if Abadi falters before the formidable PMF, Iran will be ultimately be the victorious party. It won’t be easy for Abadi not to falter, because Iran will not willingly abandon the Iraqi pie.
The Trump administration has omitted to mention the PMF or Iraq to preserve the priority of defeating ISIS. It has abandoned the Kurds and converged with Tehran, Baghdad, and Ankara over the referendum, to the dismay of Erbil. Today, the Trump administration is tacitly supporting the military measures taken by Abadi to retake Kirkuk, because the Trump administration and some Gulf countries believe Iraq could be reclaimed from Iran’s sphere of influence by supporting a strong central government under Abadi’s leadership.
It is too early to wager on the weakness of the PMF, the IRGC, or Hezbollah. The clear loser in Iraq now are the Kurds, who overplayed their hands and overrelied on allies, led by the US primarily, and Iran and Israel sometimes. Everyone has now forsaken them. Worst of all is that the Kurds are their own worst enemy. It is unfortunate that all these events were triggered because a people decided to determine their own fate through a vote, but their dream was subsequently frustrated by regional and international players, but most of all, by a stubborn miscalculation that could have chosen a better time.

Dangers of refusing to link the Iran Deal to Tehran’s behavior
Eyad Abu Shakra/Al Arabiya/October 22/17
“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 neighboring Arab countries.
Causing problems
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.
Eyad Abu Shakra (also written as Ayad Abou-Chakra) began his media career in 1973 with Annahar newspaper in Lebanon. He joined Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper in the UK in 1979, occupying several positions including: Senior Editor, Managing Editor, and Head of Research Unit, as well as being a regular columnist. He has several published works, including books, chapters in edited books, and specialized articles, in addition to frequent regular TV and radio appearances. Eyad tweets @eyad1949.