October 30/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field
Saint Matthew 13/44-46/:"‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. ‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls;on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.
First Letter to the Corinthians 10/01-13/:"I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them, and they were struck down in the wilderness. Now these things occurred as examples for us, so that we might not desire evil as they did. Do not become idolaters as some of them did; as it is written, ‘The people sat down to eat and drink, and they rose up to play.’We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did, and were destroyed by serpents. And do not complain as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. These things happened to them to serve as an example, and they were written down to instruct us, on whom the ends of the ages have come. So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall. No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it."

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on October 29-30/17
How to get away with Hariri’s murder/Makram Rabah/The Arab Weekly/October 29/17
Why Are We in Niger/Shoshana Bryen/Gatestone Institute/October 29/17
Terrorism in Europe/Drieu Godefridi/Gatestone Institute/October 29/17
China Unveils Leadership Ambition/Amir Taheri/Gatestone Institute/October 29/17
Abadi’s Riyadh visit augurs well for Iraqi-Saudi relations/Sami Moubayed/The Arab Weekly/October 29/17
Iraqi PM must do the right thing/Khairallah Khairallah/The Arab Weekly/October 29/17
Does Washington have a plan for the partition of Syria/Tom Regan/The Arab Weekly/October 29/17

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on October 29-30/17
Lebanese Nabbed in Iraq Freed in Joint Lebanese-Iraqi Operation
Interior Ministry: Joint operation between Information Branch, General Security and Iraqi Intelligence result in the release of Kidnapped Lebanese
Hezbollah-affiliated football team hires German biologist as coach
Foucher: We will set an ambitious roadmap for 'Francophonie' in Lebanon
Bassil from Chouf: We are partners in reconciliation
US Embassy: House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry Leads Congressional Delegation in Visit to Lebanon
Historic victory for Lebanon over France in the Rugby World Cup
Al-Sabhan Says Surprised by ‘Govt., People Silence’ on Hizbullah
Hariri: Cyprus Can Help Us Cope with Refugee strain
Bassil Urges 'Restoring Balance' in Chouf, Jumblat Welcomes His Visit
Two Syrians Held on Suspicion of Spying for Israel
Beirut's Hamra District Saved from 'Major Disaster'
How to get away with Hariri’s murder/
Makram Rabah

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on October 29-30/17
Iraqi Kurdistan leader Barzani will hand over presidential powers on Nov. 1
Protesters storm Kurdistan parliament after Barzani announces resignation
Iraq prepares to attack Al-Qaim after destroying ISIS defenses
Israel to postpone controversial ‘annexation’ bill
Hamas official: Unity deal to remain on track despite car bomb
Reports: Iranian support of Houthi militias in Yemen reaches its peak
Saudi Arabia Accuses Iran of Blocking Yemen Peace
Syria Army, IS Clashes in Deir Ezzor Kill 73
Somalia Says Gunmen Killed after Hotel Siege that Left 14 People Dead
Puigdemont 'Still President' of Catalonia, Deputy Says Slamming 'Coup'
Israel Looks to Expand Demolitions of Palestinian Attackers' Homes
Iraq, Kurds Negotiate Peshmerga Pullback
Moroccan Social Justice Movement Seeks Relief from Crackdown
Tropical Storm Philippe bringing heavy rains and flood threat as it crosses South Florida

Latest Lebanese Related News published on October 29-30/17
Lebanese Nabbed in Iraq Freed in Joint Lebanese-Iraqi Operation
Naharnet/October 29/17/Three Lebanese men kidnapped in Iraq were liberated at dawn Sunday in a "joint operation" carried out by Lebanese and Iraqi intelligence agencies, Lebanon's Interior Ministry said. “In a joint operation between the Internal Security Forces Intelligence Branch, General Security and Iraqi intelligence, and under the direct supervision of Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq, the three Lebanese citizens Imad al-Khatib, Nader Hamadeh and George Batrouni were liberated at dawn today,” the ministry said in a statement. The three men, who were abducted by a gang last Sunday upon their arrival in Baghdad, were expected to arrive in Beirut at 2:30 pm, according to Voice of Lebanon radio (93.3). “The security operation, which was carried out by Iraqi intelligence, resulted in the arrest of some captors and the death of one of them, while the rest of the gang's members are being pursued,” the Interior Ministry said. “The operation involved around-the-clock coordination between the three agencies and between Baghdad and Beirut throughout the past week until the moment of their liberation,” it added. The statement said Mashnouq applauded “the work of Lebanese security agencies under the leadership of the major generals Imad Othman and Abbas Ibrahim.” He also called the chief of Iraqi intelligence to thank him for his efforts, hailing “the role of the Iraqi government in restoring the abductees' freedom and their return to Lebanon.”Druze leader MP Walid Jumblat meanwhile took to Twitter to welcome the release of the captives. "Thank God the case of the abductees has ended safely. I thank everyone who contributed, especially Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim," Jumblat said.

Interior Ministry: Joint operation between Information Branch, General Security and Iraqi Intelligence result in the release of Kidnapped Lebanese
Sun 29 Oct 2017/NNA - The media bureau of the Interior Ministry issued on Sunday a press release announcing the return of the Lebanese abductees in Iraq to Beirut this afternoon. "In a joint operation between the Information Branch of the Internal Security Forces, General Security and Iraqi Intelligence, and in a direct follow-up by Minister of Interior and Municipalities Nohad Machnouk, the three Lebanese businessmen Imad Khatib, Nader Hamadeh and George Batrouni were released today after they were kidnapped by a gang when they arrived in Baghdad last Sunday," the statement said. The statement added that the security operation which was carried out by the Iraqi Intelligence resulted in "the arrest of some the kidnappers, while the remaining members of the gang are being pursued." "Machnouk praised the work of the Lebanese security apparatuses led by General Imad Othman and Abbas Ibrahim and thanked the Iraqi government for its efforts in returning the Lebanese abductees to their homeland," the statement concluded.

Hezbollah-affiliated football team hires German biologist as coach
Jerusalem Post/October 29/17/A former German soccer player and biologist, Robert Jaspert, has been hired as the new head coach of the Hezbollah-backed Lebanese football team Al-Ahed. The Rheinische Post reported on Saturday that Jaspert, who worked for Al-Ahed ten years ago, is back this time as the team's top coach. The RP wrote that "Al-Ahed is supported by Hezbollah."The US, Canada, Israel, the Arab League and the Netherlands classify Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. The EU and Germany designated Hezbollah's so-called military wing a terrorist entity. It is unclear if direct Hezbollah funds are to pay for Jaspert's salary.Al Ahed vs Al Muharraq (AFC Cup 2016: Quarter-final first-leg). (YouTube/The AFC Hub) According to the RP, Jaspert agreed to first work for Al-Ahed in 2007-- a year after the Second Lebanon War fought between Israel and Hezbollah. He told the RP that "when my team was traveling on the bus to the match, and listened to old fighting songs of Hezbollah, that was motivation for the team. I accepted that."He said an attack killed two players of Al-Ahed's rival team Nejmeh SC. After one season, Jaspert left Lebanon. In 2016, Jaspert returned to work for Al-Ahed. He stayed for a season and then departed to coach in Bahrain.  Jaspert previously worked for the German research organization Robert Koch Institute as a molecular biologist. Germany's domestic intelligence agency reported that as of 2017, there are 950 active Hezbollah members in the country.

Foucher: We will set an ambitious roadmap for 'Francophonie' in Lebanon
Sun 29 Oct 2017/NNA - French Ambassador to Lebanon, Bruno Foucher, said Sunday that his country would set an ambitious road map for the "Francophonie" in Lebanon. "The French President has asked for the development of an ambitious Francophone roadmap in Lebanon, with the aim of consolidating the relationship with this country," said Foucher. Speaking during a luncheon banquet organized by the French Business Forum and in the presence of his counterparts from Belgium and Morocco, Foucher also spoke about the policy of France in the Arab world. "France has the strength to maintain deep and close relations with the Arab world, at the cultural, political and diplomatic levels," Foucher added. He went on to say, "French President Emmanuel Macron is adopting the legacy of his two predecessors, Mitterrand and De Gaulles, in terms of foreign policy in the Arab world." The diplomat also deemed that his country's politics "is based on three pillars, namely, distinction from American positions, more coldness towards Israel and the commitment to play the role of mediator in all crises."

Bassil from Chouf: We are partners in reconciliation
Sun 29 Oct 2017/NNA - Touring various villages of Mount Lebanon's Chouf region on Sunday, Free Patriotic Movement Head, Foreign Affairs Minister Gebran Bassil considered his Movement as a partner in the reconciliation of the Mountain, having paid the price for said reconciliation. Accompanied by Ministers of Water and Energy Ceasar Abi Khalil and Environment Tarek Khatib, Minister Bassil received a popular welcome upon arrival in Deir el-Qamar, where he saluted its people for their important contribution to Lebanon's history and Mountain heritage. Bassil noted that the Chouf region could only survive based on consensus and agreement, adding that the new electoral law ensured citizens' right to good representation, achieving balance between all parties concerned. He indicated that his Chouf visit comes to continue and consolidate the reconciliation of the Mountain. Over the awaited legislative elections, Bassil asserted that the FPM was fighting to preserve several reforms adopted in the new electoral law, namely to prohibit the falsification of the elections by means of electoral cards, to preserve the freedom of the elector and to raise voting rates. He concluded by highlighting the significance of the call for a large participation in the upcoming elections, whether by Lebanese citizens residing in Lebanon or abroad. It is to note that Minister Bassil's Chouf tour today also included the villages of Maaser Beiteddine, Majd el-Ma'ouch, Freidis and Barouk.

US Embassy: House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry Leads Congressional Delegation in Visit to Lebanon
Sun 29 Oct 2017/NNA - Representative Mac Thornberry (R-TX), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC), led a Congressional delegation visit to Lebanon on October 27-29, an issued statement by the United States Embassy in Beirut indicated on Sunday. Representative Thornberry was joined by Representative Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee (HAC). During the visit, the delegation met with Commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) General Joseph Aoun and received a briefing on the LAF's recent "Dawn of the Hills" operation from several high-ranking LAF officers who commanded the successful offensive. The commanders showcased the LAF's ability to execute increasingly sophisticated operations utilizing U.S.-provided equipment and training.
The delegation visited LAF units that are fighting terrorism, and observed the newly-arrived A-29 Super Tucano aircraft at Hamat Air Base. In their discussions, Representatives Thornberry and Frelinghuysen reinforced the United States intention to maintain a strong partnership with the people and institutions of Lebanon and the importance of Lebanon's security, stability, and prosperity, the statement concluded.

Historic victory for Lebanon over France in the Rugby World Cup
Sun 29 Oct 2017/NNA - Sydney - Lebanon's Rugby Team achieved a historic victory over their French counterpart (29-18) in a Rugby League World Cup Match in Canberra on Sunday. More than 5,000 Lebanese expatriates came from Sydney to cheer up their Cedar team players. With its World Cup victory, the Cedar Team is just about to move on to the quarter final, if France loses two matches to England and Australia.

Al-Sabhan Says Surprised by ‘Govt., People Silence’ on Hizbullah
Naharnet/October 29/17/Saudi State Minister for Gulf Affairs Thamer a-Sabhan announced Sunday that he is surprised by what he called the “silence of the government and people” of Lebanon over Hizbullah’s verbal attacks against Riyadh. “It is not strange for the terrorist militia party to declare and take part in the war against the kingdom at the instructions of the masters of global terrorism,” the firebrand minister tweeted, referring to Hizbullah and its regional backer Iran. “But what’s strange is the silence of the government and people over this!,” al-Sabhan added. Al-Sabhan has taken to Twitter to blast Hizbullah several times in recent months. “In order to rein in the 'terrorist militia party', those who work and cooperate with it politically, economically and journalistically should be punished,” al-Sabhan tweeted on Thursday. “Serious efforts must be exerted to clip its wings domestically and externally and to confront it with force,” the minister added.

Hariri: Cyprus Can Help Us Cope with Refugee strain
Associated Press/Naharnet/October 29/17/Prime Minister Saad Hariri has said that Cyprus can help Lebanon drum up support from other European Union member states for its economy that's coming under heavy strain from hosting around 1.5 million Syrian refugees. Hariri said after overnight talks in Nicosia with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades that Lebanon needs international support to prop up the economy and help with job growth. He said Cyprus can "play an important role" in rallying assistance for Lebanon. Anastasiades announced Cyprus will deliver a new military assistance package to the Lebanese armed forces. The package includes light arms and ammunition. Next week, the two countries will also sign an intelligence-sharing agreement. The war in Syria has left at least 400,000 people dead and driven more than 11 million people from their homes.

Bassil Urges 'Restoring Balance' in Chouf, Jumblat Welcomes His Visit
Naharnet/October 29/17/Free Patriotic Movement chief and Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil called Sunday for “restoring balance” in Chouf, which contains Druze and Christian towns, as Druze leader MP Walid Jumblat welcomed the FPM leader's “very important ” visit to the region. “The electoral law will do justice to Chouf, because this region has always been built upon consensus,” said Bassil in the Chouf town of Deir al-Qamar, referring to a complex proportional representation electoral law that was reached recently after years of political wrangling. “Chouf will return to its strength and unity when the natural balance returns to it, and the electoral law will restore your right in representation,” the FPM chief added. Jumblat meanwhile moved to pacify the latest tensions between the FPM and his Progressive Socialist Party that followed recent remarks by Bassil about the 1983 Christian-Druze bloodshed. “Minister Bassil's visit to the Chouf region is very important for consolidating dialogue and openness and asserting the reconciliation,” Jumblat tweeted, referring to the Christian-Druze Mount Lebanon reconciliation that was reached in the year 2000. "The proportional representation law ensures the right of every group without any monopolization," Jumblat added. In addition to Deir al-Qamar, Bassil's visit to Chouf will take him to Naameh, Damour, Maaser Beiteddine, Majdal al-Meoush, Barouk, Fraydis, Maaser al-Chouf, Hasrout and Chehim.

Two Syrians Held on Suspicion of Spying for Israel
Naharnet/October 29/17/Two Syrian citizens have been arrested on suspicion of spying for Israel, the Internal Security Forces said on Sunday. “The Bureau for Combating Terrorism and Serious Crimes has arrested the Syrians Kh.S. and H.S. in the South,” the ISF said via Twitter. They were detained “on suspicion of collaborating with the Israeli enemy” and “a probe got underway under the supervision of the judiciary,” the ISF added.

Beirut's Hamra District Saved from 'Major Disaster'
Naharnet/October 29/17/Beirut's busy Hamra district has been spared a “major disaster” thanks to efforts by the Beirut Fire Brigade, the Beirut Municipality said on Sunday. The catastrophe was averted when the Brigade managed to contain a huge blaze that erupted in a three-story X-ray medical center near the American University of Beirut Medical Center, preventing the flames from reaching “a large and modern X-ray machine of the RMI-3 Tesla type, whose tank was holding around 1,200 liters of helium gas,” the Municipality said in a statement. The flames would have caused “a very huge explosion” upon contact with the helium, the Municipality noted. The building contains clinics and offices in addition to the X-ray center, it said. “And during cooling operations at around 8:00 am Sunday, firefighters encountered a huge helium leak due to a malfunction that hit the aforementioned machine although it was disconnected from power when the fire erupted, which prompted them to take all the necessary precautions to prevent a possible disaster,” the Municipality added. It reassured citizens that “the situation is now under full control” and that the Beirut Fire Brigade stands ready to intervene quickly whenever the need arises.

How to get away with Hariri’s murder
Makram Rabah/The Arab Weekly//October 29/17
As long as I can remem­ber my late maternal grandmother kept a picture of a young Rafik al-Hariri in her kitchen. For this semi-educated housewife, Hariri resem­bled one of her sons and was a good and generous man who helped rebuild post-war Lebanon and gave scholarships to thousands of stu­dents in the country and abroad.
As in the aftermath of previous political assassinations, however, my grandmother assumed Hariri’s killers would escape punishment.
On February 14, 2005, a huge explosion rocked Beirut and killed Hariri and 21 others. The attack exposed dramatic shortcomings in the Lebanese state and its judiciary to react and deal with such crimes. So it was that, four years later, the United Nations and the interna­tional community established the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), dedicated to bringing the killers of the former prime minister to justice.
Fifteen years of Syrian occupa­tion had taken a toll on Lebanon. The state that remained after the Syrians’ departure was weak and government institutions were riven with schisms. Nobody looked especially qualified to investi­gate Hariri’s assassination. As a consequence, the investigation was referred to a special tribunal of four senior Lebanese judges and an array of international judges and forensic investigators.
Despite the international nature of the tribunal, the full cooperation of the Lebanese state and its judici­ary remained vital. Any executive measure, such as the arrest or detention of individuals in Lebanon had to be authorised and executed by Lebanese authorities.
Over the years the Lebanese judiciary has fully cooperated with the STL, including financing 49% of the court’s expenditures. However, the tribunal’s recent naming of four senior members of Hezbollah’s intelligence services — Mustafa Badreddine, Salim Ayyash, Hussein Oneissi and Assad Sabra — as key suspects in the matter complicated circumstances.
To Hezbollah and other op­ponents of the STL, the Lebanese judiciary had exhibited laxity in handing over its sovereign rights to a UN quango with little true interest in seeing justice served in Lebanon. One of the principal challenges the STL faces is, ironically, that Lebanese Minister of Justice Salim Jreissati, a member of Lebanese President Michel Aoun’s bloc, is head of the defence team for the four accused Hezbollah members.
Jreissati has repeatedly ques­tioned the legitimacy of the tribunal and demanded the immediate cessation of all Lebanese funding, claiming that all evidence the court possesses is essentially circum­stantial and cannot be said to truly implicate Hezbollah.
However, having failed to stop the tribunal, its opponents are exploring potentially more sinister methods to block its work.
Recently, the Lebanese cabinet, headed by Saad Hariri, the son of Rafik Hariri, passed a series of ostensibly routine judicial appoint­ments. A closer examination shows them to be part of a wider trend, however, blocking the advance of officials who supported the work of the STL.
Nearly all the judges who have cooperated with the STL found themselves sidelined and, rather than assuming more senior posi­tions as they might have expected, were replaced by judges who orbit Aoun and his political bloc.
Some might dismiss this as the natural consequence of any transfer of power, with new presidents preferring to appoint and promote their own people. However, such actions undermine the perception of the judiciary and demonstrate, yet again, its persistent inability to check the executive and halt its dancing to a tune of its own calling.
Strangely, one is left wondering why Saad Hariri would sanction such measures, which can only fur­ther complicate the task of finding his father’s killers.
During a recent trip to Rome, Hariri declared that he had decided “to put aside our differences to best serve Lebanon.” These differences are neither trivial or so easily sur­mounted. Not least as they include the fact that Hezbollah, which serves in Hariri’s cabinet, is the main suspect in the killing of Leba­non’s larger-than-life statesman.
Hariri’s logic, it must be assumed, rests on the premise that Hezbollah presents a regional and internation­al challenge that he and his govern­ment alone can do little about. Con­sequently, the STL, representative of the international order, stands the better chance of proceeding, despite Hezbollah’s meddling.
While part of this logic might be sound, Hariri’s approach to the killing of his father exposes two essential flaws: The assas­sination of Rafik Hariri was not a family matter, which he or any members of his family can place on the backburner, and more impor­tantly, punitive measures against those associated with the STL set a precedent and will be a reminder to all judges within Lebanon that the only means to promotion will be to accept Hezbollah’s very particular interpretation of what Lebanese justice looks like.
Ultimately, politicians need be reminded that at the entrance of all Palaces of Justice, a motto is clearly visible: “Justice is the Pillar of Governance.” Hence a weak and politically enslaved judiciary can only disadvantage the rise of the state.
**Makram Rabah is a lecturer at the American University of Beirut, Department of History. He is the author of A Campus at War: Student Politics at the American University of Beirut, 1967-1975.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on October 29-30/17
Iraqi Kurdistan leader Barzani will hand over presidential powers on Nov. 1
Reuters, SulaimaniyaSunday, 29 October 2017/Iraqi Kurdistan’s veteran leader Masoud Barzani will not extend his presidential term beyond Nov. 1, a Kurdish government official said on Saturday. His decision came just weeks after a referendum on Kurdish independence backfired and triggered a crisis for Iraq’s Kurds who had been enjoying a period of unprecedented autonomy. A plan to divide up the president’s powers was outlined in a letter Barzani sent to the Kurdish parliament on Saturday, the official told Reuters. The plan asks parliament to distribute the president’s powers among the government, parliament and judiciary. Barzani’s current term was set to expire in four days, the same date that presidential and parliamentary elections were due to be held. However, those elections were delayed indefinitely last week, amidst an escalating regional crisis. Critics say the Sept. 25 independence referendum, orchestrated and championed by the 71-year-old Barzani, has left a bleak outlook for Iraq’s Kurds. Less than four weeks after Kurds in the region voted overwhelmingly to break away from Iraq, the central government launched a military offensive to wrest back the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, which the Kurds regard as both their spiritual homeland, and a key source of revenue for their would-be independent state. It was one of several retaliatory measures taken by Baghdad, which vehemently opposed the referendum. In a matter of days the Iraqi government has transformed the balance of power in the north of the country, exerting tremendous pressure on Barzani to step aside and wrecking decades-old dreams of Kurdish independence. Iraqi forces have continued to advance on all Kurdish-held territory outside the autonomous region’s borders. Iraq’s prime minister demanded on Thursday that Kurds declare their independence referendum void, rejecting the Kurdish autonomous region’s offer to suspend its independence push to resolve a crisis through talks. Earlier this year, Barzani said he did not intend to stand in the November elections. However, prior to the referendum, few expected he would stick to his promise. Barzani has held the office of the presidency since 2005. The region last held a presidential election in 2009, in which Barzani won. His term of office expired in 2013 and was extended twice.

Protesters storm Kurdistan parliament after Barzani announces resignation
Al Arabiya English and agenciesSunday, 29 October 2017/Demonstrators, some carrying clubs, stormed the Iraqi Kurdistan parliament building in Erbil on Sunday, angry at the decision of Masoud Barzani to step down from the presidency of the region, witnesses said. Gunshots were heard as protesters who claimed they were "Peshmerga" Kurdish fighters forced their way inside the building, they said. Barzani, the president of the autonomous Kurdish region in Iraq, told a closed-door session of parliament Sunday he was stepping down amid the fall-out from a controversial independence referendum. “After November 1, I will no longer exercise my functions, and I reject any extension of my mandate,” the 71-year-old said in a letter read out to parliament in the Kurdish capital Arbil, a copy of which was obtained by AFP. “Changing the law on the presidency of Kurdistan or prolonging the presidential term is not acceptable,” said the architect of the September 25 independence vote, which led to the Kurds losing to Baghdad’s forces disputed territory to which they laid claim. “I ask parliament to meet to fill the vacancy in power, to fulfil the mission and to assume the powers of the presidency of Kurdistan”, said the letter. Barzani also said he would continue “remain a peshmerga (Kurdish fighter) among the ranks of the people of Kurdistan and I will continue to defend the achievements of the people of Kurdistan”. Sunday’s parliamentary session was held behind closed doors because of “sensitive questions” that would be discussed, deputies said earlier. Officials from Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) had told journalists ahead of the session that the letter to be read out would announce he was stepping aside. Kurdish parliamentary sources noted that both the Movement of Change and the Islamic Group, that boycotted the previous sessions, will take part in Sunday’s meeting. The time limit of 24 hours between Baghdad and Erbil has been extended for further hours due to disagreement on the powers of the negotiators and has been handed the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi and Barzani. According to the joint operations, the technical meeting, which was divided into two phases, concluded with understandings that handed over disputed areas, including Makhmour, Dabkeh, Kuwair, Zamar and Rabia, apartfrom Sheikhan, Hamdania and Talkaif.
The dispute remained pending agreement on Feshkhabur crossing as Baghdad insists on restoring it, while Erbil refuses. Feshkhabur is set to return to Zakho district of the province of Dohuk, one of the provinces of Kurdistan and giving it up means Baghdad occupies Kurdish areas and thus violates the constitution of the country, which may cause future outbreak of new confrontations. Kurdish parliamentary sources said that the parliament may resolve in the coming hours many differences and real threats against the region and its presidency. It might announce the abolition of the post of President of the region and the distribution of powers of the President to parliament and the government after President Barzani stated he is not going to run for a new term after the end of his mandate early next month. While the Iraqi Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Osman al-Ghanmi, said that progress was made at the meeting of the delegations of Baghdad and Erbil, with an American presence.(With AFP and Reuters)

Iraq prepares to attack Al-Qaim after destroying ISIS defenses

Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnglishSunday, 29 October 2017 /Iraq’s joint operations forces announced its arrival near Al-Qaim after destroying ISIS defense forces and groupings around the judiciary vicinity. This comes in lieu of an attack that was carried out within 48 hours in the location, as well as the return of Rawah’s besieged judiciary, which leaves government forces with the task of sweeping the Anbar desert from terrorist cells. Government forces confirmed a fast move towards ISIS west of the country, while the terrorist organization continues to resist using explosives after they have exhausted their supply of suicide bombers, and explosive cars. The heads of the joint operation stated that only a few kilometers separate their forces from the Al-Qaim borders, ISIS’s last stronghold location. This is due to efficient organizational deployment points around the country that impeded the terrorist organization’s progress. Security sources have stated that government forces may raise the Iraqi flag in Al-Qaim within the next two days, and at the same time attack the besieged Rawah district. Following Rawah district, the Anbar desert, which is said to house some factions of ISIS who have fled the confrontations, will be next. The sources added that special units succeeded in evacuating Al-Qaim residents amid news of the terrorist organization surrounding about 4,000 civilians in the location. Iraqi forces are working on getting these civilians out using secure pathways.

Israel to postpone controversial ‘annexation’ bill
AFPSunday, 29 October 2017/Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided to postpone a vote on a controversial bill that critics say would amount to the de facto annexation of Israeli settlements surrounding Jerusalem, an official said Saturday. The bill had been expected to be voted on by a ministerial committee on Sunday, in a move that would fast-track its progress through parliament. But the Israeli official said on condition of anonymity that the bill needs “diplomatic preparation,” declining to elaborate further. It was a signal that Netanyahu wants to first discuss the bill with the US White House, which has been seeking to restart long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. “The law also needs diplomatic preparation and thus will be postponed for the moment,” the official said. The bill would absorb major Israeli settlements currently in the occupied West Bank into Jerusalem by enlarging the city limits. Its opponents argue that it is a step towards full unilateral annexation of the West Bank settlements affected -- a move that would be sure to spark international outrage. For the vast majority of the international community, the status of Israel’s settlements, built on land the Palestinians see as part of their future state, is to be decided in peace negotiations. The bill has drawn harsh criticism from Palestinians and those hoping to salvage the two-state solution. Settlements affected are Maale Adumim, Beitar Illit, Efrat, Givat Zeev, and the Gush Etzion settlement bloc. Intelligence and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, who has pushed for the bill, says it would add an additional 150,000 people to Jerusalem’s population, strengthening its Jewish majority. Israel occupied the West Bank, including east Jerusalem, in the Six-Day War of 1967. It later annexed east Jerusalem in a move never recognized by the international community. It sees the entire city as its indivisible capital, while the Palestinians want the eastern sector as the capital of their future state.

Hamas official: Unity deal to remain on track despite car bomb
AFP, Gaza City, Palestinian TerritoriesSunday, 29 October 2017/Hamas security chief Tawfiq Abu Naim left hospital Saturday after being wounded in a car bombing and pledged that an agreement aimed at ending a decade-long rift with rivals Fatah would remain on track. The Friday explosion that moderately wounded Abu Naim was branded by the Hamas interior ministry as “a failed assassination attempt.”Hamas chief Ismail Haniya signaled Israel was to blame, but no one has claimed responsibility. Abu Naim said in a statement on Saturday that “the objectives of those who committed this despicable act will not be achieved.” “We are determined to leave the split behind and realize the important national unity at all costs,” he said. Abu Naim said a November 1 deadline for Hamas to hand over border crossings to the Palestinian Authority would be adhered to. Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas's Fatah movement signed a reconciliation accord on October 12 with Islamist movement Hamas, which has run the Gaza Strip for 10 years. Under the deal, the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority is to resume control of Gaza -- which Hamas seized in a near civil war with Fatah in 2007 -- by December 1. The fate of the Hamas security forces after it transfers power to the PA in the territory is one of the most delicate issues facing the reconciliation process. Abbas wants the handover to be comprehensive and include all security institutions, but the Hamas leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, has said “no one” can force his group to disarm. Israel and the United States have meanwhile said that Hamas must disarm as part of any unity government. They have also said it must recognize Israel. The Abbas-led Palestine Liberation Organization has recognized Israel, but Hamas has not. Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since 2008.

Reports: Iranian support of Houthi militias in Yemen reaches its peak
Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnglishSunday, 29 October 2017/Iran has not stopped backing Houthi militias till today since their takeover of Sanaa, despite international efforts and decisions to deter its interference. And with the restoration of more than two thirds of Yemen, Iran’s involvement in arming and training Houthi militias has been clearly exposed. This is what coalition leaders highlighted in one of their documents, as well as stating that Hezbollah members are supervising the training of the Houthi militias. Iran’s support peaked by supplying the militias with more long-range ballistic missiles that were smuggled into Yemen. This came in the midst of the rising defeat of the Houthis on battlefronts as well as the militia’s strong disagreements with ousted president Saleh. These were the same missiles used to attack Saudi lands, as well as in the failed attempt to attack the holy city of Mecca. A report published by the ‘Center for Research on Armed Conflict’ in London also revealed that the militia are using Iranian technology. They were supplied with unmanned drones called Qasif. They claim that they have built these drones, however it was later discovered that they were Iranian drones Ababeel1. Remotely controlled explosive boats were used in several operations against relief and monitoring coalition ships. The boat bombs also came from Iran, but were not used until 9 months after the war had started.
The longer this war continues, the longer Iran is in violation of Security Council resolution number two thousand two hundred and sixteen, which condemns sending arms to Houthi Militias and Saleh. And after failed attempts at misleading the international community, the Houthis have no choice but to mislead their own community by claiming that they are at war with the Unites States of America, and not Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Iran’s gain at the end of this war will be the creation of destruction and instability in the region.

Saudi Arabia Accuses Iran of Blocking Yemen Peace
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/October 29/17/Saudi Arabia on Sunday accused Iran of blocking peace efforts in Yemen, slamming its political archrival over support for the Yemeni rebels Riyadh is fighting against. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir accused Tehran of smuggling arms to Yemen's Shiite Huthi rebels, who control northern Yemen, and to the rebels' ally former president Ali Abdullah Saleh. "Iran is destroying all attempts to find a solution in Yemen, which has led to the failure of all political negotiations between the government and these militias," Jubeir told a gathering in the Saudi capital of foreign ministers and military officials from countries including Egypt, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Senegal. "These militias would not have continued operations without the support of the greatest sponsor of terrorism in the world -- the Iranian regime," Jubeir said. The Yemen war has claimed more than 8,600 lives since a regional military coalition, led by Saudi Arabia, joined the Yemeni government's fight against the rebels in 2015. A cholera outbreak has also claimed more than 2,100 lives since April as hospitals struggle to secure supplies amid a blockades on ports and the country's main international airport. The United Nations has warned Yemen now stands at the brink of famine. Both sides in the Yemen conflict have come under harsh criticism for their neglect of civilian safety, but the Saudi-led coalition has in particular been accused of bombing schools, markets and hospitals in support of Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi. The United Nations this month placed the coalition on a blacklist over its "killing and maiming of children." Sunday's gathering in Riyadh comes a week after U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with Gulf officials in the Saudi capital for talks that largely focused on Iran's role across the region. The U.N. Human Rights Council in September agreed to send a group of experts to investigate alleged violations and abuses in Yemen, overcoming strong resistance by Saudi Arabia's representative.

Syria Army, IS Clashes in Deir Ezzor Kill 73
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/October 29/17/Heavy clashes between Syria's army and the Islamic State group in Deir Ezzor city have killed at least 73 fighters in the last 24 hours, a monitor said Sunday. Syria's army controls most of Deir Ezzor city, capital of Deir Ezzor province in the country's east, and made further advances after responding to an IS attack that began Saturday, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said. The monitor said the fierce fighting Saturday killed at least 50 IS fighters, as well as 23 Syrian soldiers and pro-regime militiamen. Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said government forces had captured two new neighborhoods and the municipal stadium."IS is now encircled in an area between the city and the (Euphrates) river," Abdel Rahman said. IS once held large sections of Deir Ezzor city, and for nearly three years laid siege to other parts of it that remained under government control. In early September, advancing government forces broke the siege, and they have been working since to expel the jihadists from the rest of the city. Abdel Rahman said the fighting that began Saturday was the fiercest in the city since government troops broke the siege, adding that clashes were continuing Sunday, with regime ally Russia carrying out heavy air strikes in support of the army and allied fighters. Deir Ezzor, an oil-rich province that borders Iraq, was once a stronghold of IS, but the jihadist group faces twin assaults there, from the regime and the U.S.-backed Kurdish-Arab Syrian Democratic Forces. The jihadists have already been expelled from neighboring Raqa province, and are now confined to just a few pockets of territory in Deir Ezzor. More than 330,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011 with anti-government protests.

Somalia Says Gunmen Killed after Hotel Siege that Left 14 People Dead
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/October 29/17/Somalia's security ministry said Sunday that forces had killed two gunmen and captured three after a siege at a Mogadishu hotel following a twin car bombing that left at least 14 dead. Spokesman Abdiasiz Ali Ibrahim said a number of people had been rescued from Shabaab gunmen at the Nasa Hablod Hotel 2. The attack began when a car bomb exploded outside the hotel entrance, followed by a minibus loaded with explosives going off at a nearby intersection. "Five gunmen stormed the building, two of them were killed and the rest captured alive. The security forces are still working on retrieving the casualties, we don't have exact number of the casualties so far," the spokesman told reporters. Another security official Mohamed Moalim Adan had put the death toll at 14, "most of them civilians", as the operation was still ongoing Saturday night. One senior police official and a former MP were among the dead. The al-Qa8da-affiliated Shabaab claimed the bombing and hotel assault in a statement on its Andalus radio station. "The Mujahedeen fighters are inside Nasa Hablod 2 hotel where... apostate officials are staying," said the brief statement. The hotel is popular among government officials, several of whom were rescued by the security forces. Somalia's President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed condemned the attack which comes two weeks after a massive truck bomb killed at least 358 people in the capital, the worst attack in the troubled country's history. "The violent terrorists carried out this attack to scare our people who are united to support security after the disaster on october 14. Such atrocities will neither deter nor discourage our will to fight the terrorists," the president said in a statement.

Puigdemont 'Still President' of Catalonia, Deputy Says Slamming 'Coup'
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/October 29/17/Deposed Catalan president Carles Puigdemont "is and will remain" the president of the regional government, his deputy said Sunday, and rejected what he called a "coup d'etat" by Madrid. "The president of the country is and will remain Carles Puigdemont," his deputy Oriol Junqueras wrote in Catalan newspaper El Punt Avui. Junqueras used the word "country" to refer to Catalonia, whose lawmakers pushed Spain into uncharted waters Friday with a vote to declare the region independent. "We cannot recognize the coup d'etat against Catalonia, nor any of the anti-democratic decisions that the PP (Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's ruling Popular Party) is adopting by remote control from Madrid," Junqueras wrote. He signed the article as the "vice president of the government of Catalonia." The Catalan crisis was triggered by a banned independence referendum on October 1 that was shunned by many, and marred by police violence. Then on Friday, Catalan lawmakers passed a motion, by 70 votes out of 135 in the secessionist-majority regional parliament, to declare the region of 7.5 million people independent from Spain. Rajoy responded by deposing the regional government, dissolving its parliament, and calling December 21 elections to replace them. Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria, was temporarily put in charge of administering the rebel region.
As prosecutors prepared to file charges of rebellion against Puigdemont next week, he too was defiant on Saturday, calling for "democratic opposition" to Madrid's power grab. Puigdemont accused the central government of trampling on the will of independence-seeking Catalans with the first curtailment of regional autonomy since Francisco Franco's brutal 1939-75 dictatorship. An opinion poll published in center-right newspaper El Mundo Sunday said separatist parties would lose their majority in Catalonia's regional parliament if elections were held today. Roughly the size of Belgium, Catalonia accounts for about 16 percent of Spain's population and attracts more tourists than anywhere else in the country. It produces about a fifth of Spain's economic output -- equivalent to that of Portugal. Before the upheaval, Catalonia enjoyed considerable autonomy, with control over education, healthcare and policing. But while fiercely protective of their language, culture and autonomy, Catalans are divided on independence, according to polls.  Rajoy drew sweeping powers, approved by the senate, under a never-before-used constitutional article designed to rein in rebels among Spain's 17 semi-autonomous regions. He used these to ax Puigdemont, his deputy, regional ministers, heads of departments, and the chief of police in a move that angered some Catalans. Far-left supporters of Puigdemont have threatened "mass civil disobedience" if Rajoy carries out the power grab, but have yet to announce any plans. In Madrid, several thousand people gathered on the central Plaza Colon Saturday, waving the Spanish flag, and calling for Puigdemont to be jailed. Spain enjoys the backing of the United States and allies in a secession-wary European Union still reeling from Britain's decision to leave its fold. Many fear the economic impact as the standoff drags on, with some 1,700 companies having moved their legal headquarters out of Catalonia so far.

Israel Looks to Expand Demolitions of Palestinian Attackers' Homes
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/October 29/17/Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Sunday he wants to expand the controversial policy of demolishing homes of Palestinians involved in fatal attacks to include perpetrators who seriously wound Israelis. The minister has instructed the army and defense ministry to "examine the possibility to demolish the homes of terrorists who carried out attacks in which Israeli civilians were seriously wounded," Lieberman said in a statement. "Destroying the homes of terrorists who carried out murderous attacks is an effective and proven means in the fight against terror and deters those planning attacks," the statement said. "There's no difference between an attack that ends in murder and one that ends in a serious injury," Lieberman said. "In both cases the homes of the terrorists must be demolished."Israel says the demolition policy, in place since 1967, is a means of deterring future attackers. Critics of the policy say it is a form of collective punishment, forcing family members to suffer for the acts of relatives, and illegal under international law. They also question whether the policy acts as a deterrent or if it creates more potential attackers due to the anger it provokes. In 2005 Israel halted the practice at the recommendation of a military panel. There were essentially no demolitions until 2014, with the exception of 2009, when a number of homes were sealed and razed in east Jerusalem. A wave of Palestinian attacks prompted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to announce the resumption of demolitions in the occupied West Bank as a policy in 2014. According to Israeli NGO Hamoked, since renewing the policy in 2014 and until the end of 2016, Israel has carried out punitive demolitions of 35 homes in the West Bank and east Jerusalem and sealed another seven homes in the two territories.

Iraq, Kurds Negotiate Peshmerga Pullback
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/October 29/17/Iraqi and Kurdish commanders held talks Saturday on a withdrawal of Kurdish fighters from disputed areas after a truce was declared in clashes over a key border post, the premier's office said. "The main task of this joint technical committee is to allow the deployment without violence of federal forces along the borders," Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's spokesman, Saad al-Hadithi, told AFP. "Commanders of the federal forces and of the (Kurdish) peshmerga (fighters) are meeting to allow for this redeployment in a peaceful and humane fashion," he said. On Friday night, Abadi ordered the 24-hour ceasefire as his troops and the peshmerga faced off on the second day of an Iraqi drive to capture the vital oil export point of Fishkhabur on the Turkish frontier. The two sides -- both armed and trained by the US -- had exchanged heavy artillery fire in the latest flare-up of a crisis sparked by a Kurdish independence vote on September 25. Hadithi said the aim of Saturday's talks was to negotiate the return to a 2003 "blue line" restricting autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan to the three northern provinces of Arbil, Dohuk and Sulaimaniyah. According to a Kurdish official, the US-led coalition that has backed both the Kurds and Iraqi forces in fighting the Islamic State jihadist group pushed them towards negotiations. Since mid-October, Iraqi forces have reclaimed the entire oil-rich province of Kirkuk, stripping the Kurds of a major chunk of their oil revenues and dealing a crippling blow to their hopes of independence. On Friday, the Iraqi military gave the Kurds an ultimatum to withdraw from the Fishkhabur border area where rival pipelines belonging to the two sides cross into Turkey. Since the US-led invasion of 2003 and especially in the thick of a lightning advance across northern Iraq by IS in 2014, the Kurds had taken control of the territories disputed with Baghdad. But Iraqi forces have over the past two weeks recaptured all of the disputed lands, much of its without Kurdish resistance. Iraqi's constitution adopted during the US-led occupation of 2003-2011 provides for plebiscites in the disputed areas on their possibile incorporation in the autonomous Kurdish region. Baghdad insists, however, the constitution provides for Iraqi federal control of the country's borders.

Moroccan Social Justice Movement Seeks Relief from Crackdown

Associated Press/Naharnet/October 29/17/It all began with a fish seized by the police. Morocco is marking one year since a fisherman's gruesome death spawned a social protest movement against police abuse — an event that has drawn comparisons to the 2010 death of a Tunisian vendor that sparked the Arab Spring democracy uprisings. Since October 2016, the northern Moroccan town of Hoceima in the ethnically Berber Rif region has seen unrest stemming from the death of 31-year-old Mouhcine Fikri, an impoverished local fish seller. Fikri was crushed in a garbage truck while trying to retrieve a valuable swordfish seized by police, who said its sale was illegal. Since then, a protest movement called Hirak Rif has held demonstrations to demand social justice and economic development. In May, Moroccan authorities cracked down on Hirak Rif's leaders and a large number of protesters, arresting between 330-400 people, according to the Moroccan Human Rights Association (AMDH). Yet the movement's influence is still being felt. On Tuesday, Moroccan King Mohammed VI fired four government officials following alleged delays in development programs for Hoceima. This week also saw the start of the trial of Hirak Rif's charismatic leader, Nasser Zefzafi, which is being closely followed by the Moroccan public. The Rif region enjoys a strong regional identity and has historically always enjoyed some level of independence from the central government. In 1921, when Morocco was colonized by France and Spain, the legendary rebel leader Abd el-Krim installed a republic in the region after defeating the Spanish army. Although the Rif Republic was dissolved just five years later in 1926, it deeply marked the collective memory. In 1959 and 1984, uprisings broke out in the Rif that were brutally suppressed by King Hassan II, the current king's father. The Hirak Rif movement has its roots in the region's marginalization, as well as in the evolution of a political consciousness and a desire for social justice, a redistribution of wealth and respect for the rule of law. Inspired by the Hirak Rif, activists from other marginalized areas have launched their own groups. In southern Morocco, the city of Zagora has seen multiple protests in recent weeks over access to clean water — and the Zagora Hirak was able to get the city's drinking water service back to normal. "The Hirak has put a spotlight on the lack of local democracy," said Kenza Afsahi, a sociologist at the University of Bordeaux and the author of several works on the Rif. But Afsahi said the movement's achievements have limits. "Despite Hirak's popularity in national and international public opinion, the movement has failed to reverse the balance of power. The authorities continue to be relatively repressive. There is also a widespread concern about the decline of human rights," she said. Several local and international organizations are now looking to the monarch as the person who can free the Hirak detainees. "In the parliament, we have discussed the possibility of addressing a request for pardon of the Hirak detainees to the king," said Abdellatif Ouahbi of the PAM opposition party, who added the proposal does not yet have enough support. Abdellah Bouanou of the ruling Justice and Development Party (PJD) suggested "we must go ahead and make a reconciliation" for those arrested activists so the situation in Hoceima does not fester.

Tropical Storm Philippe bringing heavy rains and flood threat as it crosses South Florida
Sun 29 Oct 2017/NNA - Tropical Storm Philippe was passing over the Florida Straits about 75 miles southwest of Key West as of 11 p.m. Saturday, the National Hurricane Center said. The storm formed just before 5 p.m. Saturday, and soon shifted west, putting more of South Florida in the cone; a tropical storm watch was issued for coastal South Florida from Miami-Dade to the Upper Keys on Saturday. Heavy rains across parts of South Florida began Saturday afternoon from the fringes of the fast-moving storm as it raced across Cuba at about 29 mph. By 11 p.m., it had slowed to 24 mph.
The rains were expected to be heavy overnight Saturday and into Sunday. A flood watch has been issued for Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties through 8 a.m. Sunday, with two to four inches of rain possible, and six inches in isolated areas. An isolated tornado threat continues through Sunday morning. The winds have already damaged some structures, including several mobile homes in Boynton Beach, according to Palm Beach County Fire Rescue. Crews responded just after 6 p.m. to reports of damaged homes near the 4000 block of 88th Court South inside Parry Trailer Village.
Crews reported moderate damage to the homes and debris throughout the neighborhood. Firefighters went through the neighborhood looking for any possible victims and assessing the damage, Captain Albert Borroto said. The worst of the storm was forecast to pass closest to South Florida from until about 2 a.m., with Miami-Dade expected to experience the highest winds, and Broward and Palm Beach facing the possibility of a few inches of rain. The storm had top sustained winds of 40 mph after reaching tropical storm strength by 5 p.m., which means winds of 39-73 mph, the hurricane center said. --- Sun-Sentinel

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on October 29-30/17
Why Are We in Niger?

Shoshana Bryen/Gatestone Institute/October 29/17
It isn't only Niger. American troops are deployed in more than 150 countries, working with local partners to help them become better soldiers and meet their own threats. What is happening in Niger is happening in all the countries of the second tier of Africa -- volatile and insecure countries of mixed Christian, Muslim and traditional indigenous religions. American soldiers are there to help governments more effectively control their own territory and borders, reducing the likelihood of transnational jihad.
Iran's massive infusion of funds supports Sunni Hamas, al-Qaeda, ISIS, Boko Haram and others. Instability, chaos, anti-Americanism, anti-Westernism, and anti-Christianism are what Iran seeks -- and they are what Sunni jihadists seek. In Iraq and Syria, ISIS did the destabilizing and Iran reaped the benefits.
At the end of White House Chief of Staff John Kelly's moving briefing about the four American Special Forces soldiers killed in Niger earlier in October, he took questions. The first was, "Why are we in Niger?"
stion was too narrow; it isn't only Niger. Tens of thousands of American troops are deployed in more than 150 countries, working with America's local partners to help them become better soldiers and meet their own threats. We are on every continent except Antarctica. While we are unlikely to ever know precisely who killed the four soldiers, what is happening in Niger is happening in all the countries of the second tier of Africa -- volatile and insecure countries of mixed Christian, Muslim and traditional indigenous religions. American soldiers are there to help governments more effectively control their own territory and borders, reducing the likelihood of transnational jihad.
A U.S. Army Special Forces weapons sergeant observes a Nigerien soldier in a drill during Exercise Flintlock 2017 in Diffa, Niger, March 11, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Zayid Ballesteros)
Two broad forces are shaking the Middle East and Africa: Sunni jihadist radicalism embodied by ISIS and al-Qaeda along with smaller groups; and Shiite supremacism controlled and financed by Iran. Iran's arms transfers to Africa are well documented, as is Iran's support for Sunni jihad, including incubating both al-Qaeda and ISIS. Separately and together, they threaten not only countries, but also the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea, the two prime waterways that allow countries, including Israel and Egypt, to pursue trade with Asia and Europe.
The mullahs in Iran are not Iranian or Persian nationalists, they are Shiite supremacists. When the Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Tehran in 1979 after fourteen years of exile, he condemned all nationalism as "sherk," which means associating other beings or things with God. He said what mattered was Islam, not Iran or any other country, according to the Iranian journalist Amir Taheri, Chairman of Gatestone Europe. Khomeini declared war on the United States, on Israel, and on the West. The declaration was real and has military as well as political implications, but it was also a way of deflecting attention from Iran's declaration of war on Sunni Islam.
It was a bold move, because although Shiites are the majority in Iran and Iraq (though not in Syria), they represent less than 15% of Muslims world-wide. Iran's primary targets are the Sunni governments of Saudi Arabia, which controls the holy sites in Mecca and Medina, and Egypt, the historic intellectual center of Sunni Islam.
The 2003 overthrow of the secular-but-Sunni president of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, allowed the majority Shiite Iraqi population to rule, but the precipitous American military withdrawal in 2012 allowed Iran to move steadily into areas of more influence. Iranian-sponsored Shiite militias are now inside the Iraqi national military pushing against the Kurds in the north. In Syria, Iranian-sponsored militias are pushing Sunnis north and out of the country on behalf of the Shiite/Alawite regime of Bashar al-Assad.
But while American focus has been on Iranian expansionism to the north and west of Iran -- a "Shiite crescent" over the tops of American allies Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel -- less attention has been paid to Iranian activity to the south of those countries, through the Red Sea and into Africa toward the Mediterranean.
Following naval harassment of U.S. ships in the Persian Gulf, Iran announced that it will "defend its interests" in the Red Sea, using its position as benefactor of the Houthis in Yemen as a starting point. If successful, this would allow Iran to threaten the Red Sea and the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, the access point for Saudi Arabia, Israel, Jordan, and Egypt to the Gulf of Aden and then to the Indian Ocean and to Asia.
Iran ships weapons to and through Eritrea and Somalia on the Red Sea coast. This is important because U.S. Expeditionary Forces are based in Djibouti, which juts out into the sea. North of Djibouti and our forces is Eritrea; south of Djibouti and our forces is Somalia. Well-armed and unstable, they present a problem for the Americans.
Iran's interests are not limited to the countries along the coast.
The other waterway that concerns the United States, Israel and the West is the Mediterranean Sea. The countries along the north coast of the Mediterranean are European, all of which are in NATO. The countries facing them along the south shore of the Mediterranean, along the northern African coast, are Sunni Muslim, and, except Libya, partners in NATO's Mediterranean Dialogue. The arrangement helps keep the Mediterranean calm and free for shipping. The 2011 ouster of Libya's Moammar Qaddafi caused chaos in a previously stable -- if repressive -- country. Released weapons and fighters resulted in war in Mali, which had been an ally of the United States and France. Additional instability would make NATO's arrangements less effective and provide additional routes for African migrants seeking to reach Europe.
One way to make North Africa less stable is to make the row of countries just beneath it less stable. Chad, Mali, Somalia, Eritrea, Sudan, and yes, Niger, are all targets.
They are, to be sure, as much targets of Sunni jihad as they are of Iran, but Iran's massive infusion of funds supports Sunni Hamas, al-Qaeda, ISIS, Boko Haram and others. Iran's support for al-Qaeda goes back to the early 1990s. Instability, chaos, anti-Americanism, anti-Westernism, and anti-Christianism are what Iran seeks -- and they are what Sunni jihadists seek. In Iraq and Syria, ISIS did the destabilizing and Iran reaped the benefits.
General Kelly made a sober, passionate defense of American military honor and sacrifice. It is incumbent on the rest of us -- including journalists -- to understand where our troops serve and sacrifice, including why Niger.
**Shoshana Bryen is Senior Director of the Jewish Policy Center.
© 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.

Terrorism in Europe
Drieu Godefridi/Gatestone Institute/October 29/17
The problem, of course, resides in the European definition of terrorism. The EU definition of terrorism, wittingly or unwittingly, confuses the issue. It needs to be revised.
Under the definition of terrorism in American law (18 U.S. Code § 2331), no act can be qualified as terrorist if there is no terror intended.
Terrorism is booming in Europe — even though the European Union statistics say it is not. The EU's statistics on terrorism, simply put, confuse the issue. They are a fairy-tale.
Since 9/11, in report after report, experts, ministers and public authorities have been saying the same thing: that in Europe (meaning the EU), Islamic terrorism is merely a marginal aberration. Nothing to be afraid of, and if you show too much interest in the matter you are probably on the far-right, aren't you! Do you want to persecute the Muslims and make them the Jews of today's Europe?
As experts always do when they want to shut down a debate, they turn to statistics, preferably European statistics. Since July 1, 1999 — the date of its inception — Europol (European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation) has regularly published an assessment of terrorism in the EU.
Europol headquarters in The Hague, Netherlands. (Image source: OSeveno/Wikimedia Commons)
If you read Europol's last ten EU Terrorism Situation and Trend Reports (TE-SAT), you will find, year after year, the number of "failed, foiled or successfully executed" terror attacks and the subsequent number of victims — all you supposedly need to assess the true nature of terrorism in the EU.
For the number of terror attacks in Europe during the last ten years, here is a chart based on Europol's data:
Number of terror or terrorist attacks in the EU since 2007 (Data: EU Terrorism Situation and Trend Reports; chart D. Godefridi)
The first surprise is that according to Europol, the trend is clearly downward: far fewer terror attacks in Europe in 2016 than ten years ago!
Does that seem a bit counter-intuitive? But, hey, those are the official statistics.
Then there are the number of fatalities:
People killed by terror attacks in the EU since 2007 (Data: EU Terrorism Situation and Trend Reports; chart D. Godefridi)
This second chart looks much more in line with the feelings of the common man, don't you think? Approximately 150 dead in the EU from terror attacks in 2015 and 2016, compared to zero in 2007, or 4 in 2014. (That is what is so endearing about statistics: you can manipulate many things, such as the psychological and emotional damage or the consequences of a "foiled attack" -- but not the number of dead bodies).
If you superimpose the two preceding charts, there is, obviously, zero correlation between the number of attacks and the number of dead. Even if there are fewer attacks, more people are being killed. In 2007, there were 583 attacks but zero people killed. In 2016, there were 142 attacks with 142 killed.
Terror attacks and people killed by terror attacks in the EU since 2007 (Data: EU Terrorism Situation and Trend Reports; chart D. Godefridi)
Where is the wolf? The problem resides in the European definition of terrorism. Look at the TE-SAT report of 2009:
"What the term 'terrorist offences' includes is indicated in Article 1 of the Council Framework Decision of 13 June 2002 on combating terrorism (2002/475/JHA), which all member states have implemented in their national legislation. This Framework Decision specifies that terrorist offences are intentional acts which, given their nature or context, may seriously damage a country or an international organisation when —
committed with the aim of seriously intimidating a population, or
unduly compelling a government or international organisation to perform or abstain from performing an act, or
seriously destabilising or destroying the fundamental political, constitutional, economic or social structures of a country or an international organisation".
On this legal basis, Europol distinguishes between different categories of terror attacks; jihadist terrorism; ethno-nationalist and separatist terrorism; left-wing and anarchist terrorism; right-wing terrorism; and finally, "single issue terrorism" (such as animal rights).
There is nothing wrong with these definitions except that one thing has gotten lost: terror. We have known, ever since ancient Rome's system of law, the importance of accurate definitions; and before that, in ancient Greece, of correct hypotheses. If an attack is not intended to terrorize the public, presumably it should not qualify either as terrorism or as a terrorist attack.
Here is the EU magic: the second part of EU definition — "unduly compelling a government or international organisation to perform or abstain from performing an act" — whatever act — authorizes one to qualify as "terrorism" countless deeds that are certainly criminal but do not actually terrorize anyone.
That is why for years, the number of Islamic terror attacks has looked so ridiculously small and the other categories so impressively large. In 2007, of the 583 reported attacks, 517 were claimed or attributed to separatist groups in Spain and France. In 2012, Europol reported:
"In 2011, ETA [Basque separatists] committed one terrorist attack in France (Valliere, Creuse). Two ETA members opened fire against the Gendarmerie while trying to escape from a police checkpoint."
Criminal, no doubt! But where is terrorism? Furthermore:
"In France, 62 completed attacks and 13 attempted attacks were reported. All these attacks were carried out by Corsican terrorist groups. Their main target, however, remains the tourism sector. Holiday homes and restaurants are often targeted."
Corsican nationalists want more autonomy for their island. These "nationalists," however, never kill anyone, and they almost never hurt anyone except themselves; and when they burn a paillote (a small restaurant in the form of a hut on the beach) owned by some Frenchman from the continent, you never know if it is to preserve the beauty of Corsican nature, to take over his business, or because the kitchen was dirty. To qualify all of those acts indiscriminately as terrorism, and to classify them in the same category as the Islamist in Marseille who shouted "Allahu akbar" before slitting the throat of a girl and eviscerating her cousin, is morally repugnant. That atrocity in Marseille received worldwide press coverage and was indeed a terror attack in the purest sense of the word.
In short, the EU definition of terrorism, wittingly or unwittingly, confuses the issue. It needs to be revised. One can imagine a new category, such as "political violence," to designate acts that are neither intended to terrorize the public nor that actually do so, but are nonetheless political and violent by nature, such as public political riots, so common, in France. Or the definition of terrorism in American law (18 U.S. Code § 2331), under which no act can be qualified as terrorist if there is no terror intended.1
As for actual terrorism in the EU, it is in fact a simple matter. Here are the facts:
In 2015: Of the 151 killed by terror attacks in Europe, 150 were killed by Islamic terrorism (99%, according to TE-SAT 2016);
In 2016: Of the 142 fatalities of terror attacks in Europe, 135 were caused by Islamic terrorism (95%, according to TE-SAT 2017);
From 2007-2014: the average number of dead from terror attacks in Europe was 6.1 each year (2, 4, 7, 7, 1, 17, 7, 4; source: TE-SAT 2008-2015);
The increase in the number of dead from terror attacks in 2015-2016 compared to the period 2007-2014 is a staggering 2,291%.
The trend appears the same in 2017. The rest is EU sophistry.
**Drieu Godefridi, a classical-liberal Belgian author, is the founder of the l'Institut Hayek in Brussels. He has a PhD in Philosophy from the Sorbonne in Paris and also heads investments in European companies.
[1] "The term "domestic terrorism" means activities that— (A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State; (B) appear to be intended— (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping."
© 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.'

China Unveils Leadership Ambition
Amir Taheri/Gatestone Institute/October 29/17
When in a recent column we speculated that the China is preparing to reveal its ambitions for global leadership we didn't expect this to happen so soon. Yet, this week Chinese President Xi Jinping informed the 19th Congress of the ruling Communist Party that the People's Republic was now ready to seek a more active presence in the international arena.
Three factors may have contributed to Xi's decision to bring forward his world leadership bid.
The first concerns Xi's desire to, ever so gingerly, build up his own status within the Chinese political system. He wants to be something more than his predecessors Hu Jintao, Hu Yaobang, Li Xiannian and Hua Guofeng were. Xi's ambition is to surpass even Deng Xiaoping, the "strongman" who, many believe, made the new China possible. President Xi may not be able to aspire to the status that Mao Zedong, the father of the People's Republic, attained; but he sure wants to get as near to it as possible.
Putting the Leader above the melee is of crucial importance in a system based on highly centralized command and control.
China's President Xi Jinping. (Image source:
After Mao's death, Hua Guofeng, though a decent leader, never managed to get above the melee.
That enabled Deng Xiaoping, who had emerged from banishment during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, to make an unexpected comeback and seize control of the levers of power by relying on the military. And while Deng was alive it mattered little who played the role of the President of the People's Republic.
After Deng's death, none of those who assumed the presidency managed to raise their status above the party factions.
Because the top layer of China's ruling elite consists of a few hundred families with revolutionary credentials, the system they run requires a father figure who has the final word on all key issues. After Deng's death "the revolutionary families" agreed on a formula under which each generation holds power for 10 years and then bows out of the stage. The rotation formula allowed more people to nurture ambitions while waiting their turn to exercise power.
For the first time, Xi now feels that he can assume the role of father figure with no clear limit to his tenure. This was highlighted when the Congress decided that Xi's "thoughts and teachings" should become integral parts of the Chinese Communist Party's charter a doctrine, a rare distinction. Before Xi, Mao Zedong had received such a distinction in his lifetime and Deng Xiaoping after his death.
More importantly, perhaps, he also believes that such a role is vital for the preservation of the current power structures.
This is why Xi speaks not only of the next five years that, under the old formula, remains of his tenure, but spells out his vision for decades to come. Such a vision, he believes, provides the stability and certainty that China needs to project its new power in the global arena.
The second factor that Xi has in mind is the need to revisit the Communist Party's narrative. Between 1949, when Mao seized power, and the 1970s, when it had become clear that Maoism was a failure, a narrative based on class struggle and the fight against imperialism, effacing the "humiliation" inflicted by Western powers, was used to give party rule some legitimacy.
With Deng's reforms, the narrative changed into one of improving the material conditions of the masses. There is no doubt that, on that account, China has been a spectacular success.
The slogan "Increase the Gross Domestic Product" has become a reality as China has experienced an incredibly high growth rate for almost two decades. With an annual GDP of around $12 trillion, China is now the world's largest economy after the United States and expected to bypass the US by 2023.
The modernization of China's infrastructure, or in many cases lack of it, is truly phenomenal. Right now, China has the world's fastest trains and is building 80 new airports. More importantly, at least a third of the population, some 400 million, has been pulled out of abject poverty for the first time since time began.
China's economic miracle, though impressive, isn't unique. France achieved its "miracle" under the mild authoritarian rule of Napoleon III. Newly-created Germany did the same under the "Iron Chancellor" Bismarck.
The authoritarian Meiji era chaperoned Japan into the modern world. Stalin, Mussolini, and even the Kim dynasty in North Korea have shown that by mobilizing resources, no matter how meager, for specific results, an authoritarian regime can achieve its lofty goals.
However, rapid economic growth, as other authoritarian regimes have found, has its downside in the form of an emerging middle class which soon demands political liberties and the gangrene of corruption that might run out of control.
Thus, Xi feels that the Communist Party can no longer justify its monopoly on power with sole reference to economic success.
So, what better than claiming a global leadership role to flatter the Chinese masses and persuade them to steer clear of politics and enjoy the fruits of their economic success?
Interestingly, President Xi told the Congress that China could promote its "model of governance" as an alternative to Western democracy. A majority of ruling elites in the world today would be more comfortable with the "Chinese model" of central control than the American model of perpetual infighting and cultural-political civil war.
The third factor that Xi has in mind is the growing vacuum left by the United States' inability or unwillingness to play its traditional world leadership role in the past decade or so.
Under President Barack Obama, who believed that America had not always been a force for good on the global stage, the US was put in a strategic retreat mode. Under President Donald Trump the same retreat has continued under the new "America First" slogan.
Filling the vacuum thus created isn't easy. The European Union is beset by its own internal contradictions, highlighted by Britain's Brexit.
Russia would love to see itself in the driving seat but lacks the economic power and the cultural dominance to make much headway beyond its nearby environs.
All that provides China with an opportunity that President Xi seems determined not to miss.
However, global leadership isn't just a matter of aspiration. It requires cultural charisma, soft power, scientific and technological innovation, and networks of social and political contacts across the world, and a solid military machine with a global reach, all things that China may not be able to offer. Nevertheless, President Xi has declared his nation's ambition. So watch this space!
** 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.

Abadi’s Riyadh visit augurs well for Iraqi-Saudi relations
Sami Moubayed/The Arab Weekly/October 29/17
Despite significant reservations over Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, who famously rained its cities with missiles in 1991, Saudi Arabia was never too happy with the politi­cal elites who replaced him in 2003, writing them off as stooges of the Iranian regime. Nearly all of them were Shias who had either spent their exile in Iran or received funds at some point of their careers from the country. For Saudi officials, they were automatic suspects, guilty of being creations of the mullahs of Tehran.
However, heralding a potential rapprochement between the Iraqi political elite and Saudi Arabia was the arrival of two senior Iraqi politicians — Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari — in Riyadh. This was the second high-profile visit in four months.
Thirteen years ago, Abadi was a minister of communications and Jaafari had a stint as prime minister. Both were members of the Dawa Party, an all-Shia movement funded for years by the Iranian government. Saudi Arabia originally refused to court either politician and both were highly critical of Riyadh, accusing it of bankrolling what was called the “Sunni insurgency” that led to the rise of al-Qaeda in Iraq.
Such opinions were also voiced by their colleague and boss, Nuri al-Maliki, a ranking member of Dawa who was prime minister from 2006-14 and is currently vice-presi­dent of Iraq. During his tenure, Sunnis were purged from a senior government office, de- Ba’athification laws were imposed and senior former regime officials — all of them Sunnis — were hanged, headed, of course, by Saddam himself. The sight of him at the hangman’s noose facing masked executioners wearing black sent shivers down the spines of Saudi officials, especially as they chanted “Muqtada, Muqtada.”
Muqtada al-Sadr was an all-time Iranian favourite who emerged to lead the urban poor of the Iraqi Shia community, becoming an overnight star, kingmaker and leader. He commanded death squads that roamed the streets of Baghdad, settling old scores with Sunni Muslims. Last April he seemed to be distancing himself from Tehran, calling on its top ally, Bashar Assad, to step down as president of Syria. This summer, Sadr visited the Saudi port city of Jeddah, meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz.
A parliamentary ally yet family foe Ammar al-Hakim, another veteran Iranian stooge, was also parting ways with Tehran, stepping down from his capacity as chief of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, an Iranian creation that was used to fight Saddam’s army in the 1980s. Then came a surprise visit by Maliki, not to Tehran but to Moscow, where he tried to breathe life into a stagnated $2 billion arms deal. Maliki was Iran’s number one ally in Iraq. By heading to Moscow, he was sending signals that he might be on the lookout for new patrons and allies.
The courting of Sadr and Hakim and the sudden honeymoon with Abadi show that something is changing — rather fast — in Riyadh, Baghdad and Tehran itself. For Iran, it clearly shows that the patronage system it carefully upheld since 2003 was showing serious cracks, mostly because of a lack of funds. Too much money was apparently spent on the Syrian battlefield, greatly affecting the sustainability of Iran’s Shia protégé in Iraq.
True, Iran had created all of those figures but it was struggling to pull through with them, prompting all three to look for help — and money — elsewhere. Within Baghdad, the rapprochement with Saudi Arabia comes ahead of parliamentary elections in April. The three ambitious Shia politi­cians are no longer satisfied with coming across as “Iran-made” or “Shia leaders.” They want to expand into a cross-sectarian power base, which might be very difficult because of their murky past, and are seeking Saudi funds to do that.
Finally, in Riyadh, it shows that the strategic hand of Crown Prince Mohammed jumping behind enemy lines and eating away at Iran’s power base within Iraqi society. For years the Saudis tried everything to dismantle Iran’s Arab fiefdoms, from character assassi­nations to accusing Tehran’s proxies of being traitors, agents and sectarian tools in the hands of the ayatollah. That led to abso­lutely nothing — the more the Saudis trashed them, the closer these figures clung to Iran — often for lack of a better alternative.
Over the past year-and-a-half, Crown Prince Mohammed has been pursuing an entirely different approach. He is courting the Iraqi Shias, treating them with respect as veteran statesmen, winning hearts, before pockets, in Baghdad. When summoned to Tehran for dictates or consultation, these men are treated as employees rather than statesmen and leaders. Turbaned patrons who created them rarely show them the respect that they expect.
Saudi Arabia is walking an extra mile to please its new friends in Baghdad. It reopened borders this year and resumed commercial flights for the first time in three decades. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir has stressed that his country wants to take part in the rebuilding of Iraq, emphasising its “Arab Gulf” identity.
Under the crown prince’s guidance, he is trying to close every channel through which the Iranians entered Iraqi politics in 2003. After 14 years, money, power and pomp matter more to these Iraqi politicians than a dogmatic discourse on Shia religious history, which remains a cornerstone for the Iranians. Unlike their Lebanese ally Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, who remains committed to Iran, both ideologically and politically, these figures go for the higher bidder and, at present, this seems to be the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, rather than Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei or President Hassan Rohani.
*Sami Moubayed is a Syrian historian and author of Under the Black Flag (IB Tauris, 2015). He is a former Carnegie scholar and founding chairman of the Damascus History Foundation.

Iraqi PM must do the right thing
Khairallah Khairallah/The Arab Weekly/October 29/17
If there is one thing that distin­guishes the situation in Iraq, it is Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s narrow margin for manoeuvring regarding Iraq’s relations with its Arab neighbours. Abadi has taken advantage of that margin and made official visits to Riyadh, Cairo and Amman.
Apparently, however, that margin has shrunk dramatically. What else explains Abadi’s reaction to US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s declaration in Riyadh?
Tillerson called for the withdraw­al of all Iranian militias from Iraq but Abadi saw it differently, saying that fighters from the Popular Mo­bilisation Forces (PMF) were Iraqi, not Iranian, and that the PMF was an “Iraqi institution” and that “we should stand by the PMF fighters because they will bring hope to the country and the region.”
What hope can there be when sectarian militias become the back­bone of the state?
Where is the error in Tillerson’s declaration?
What’s wrong with inviting Iran to keep its hands off Iraq and stop meddling in its politics?
There is nothing wrong with a state, any state, refusing to hold ties with sectarian militias, regardless of the nationality of their fighters.
There will be those who say that Iraq is a sovereign state and has the right to invite in any foreign force but that talk is hogwash. There is a weird state of affairs in Iraq that Abadi seems unable to get rid of.
Iran is trying to create a fait ac­compli in Iraq by imposing its own experience on it with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The Iraqi PMF must be modelled on the IRGC. Iran’s proxy forces must have the upper hand in Iraqi politics.
Abadi is not the only one in Iraq trying to both resist Iran’s influence and go along with it at the same time. Without a quick change in the region that reduces Iran to its real size, the Iraqi prime minister’s mis­sion seems impossible.
During the Arab League summit in Jordan in March, Abadi met with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. In June, he flew to Riyadh for an official visit. After that, officials from both countries exchanged visits and the border crossing at Arar in Saudi Arabia was reopened. Another Iraqi Shia leader, Muqtada al-Sadr, was welcomed in Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Amman.
Iraq’s relations with its Arab neighbours are evolving fast, with positive results as well as disap­pointments. The Arab side can only encourage the positive flow in the hope of a miracle in which the Ira­nian nightmare is lifted off Iraq.
In the end, which version of Haider al-Abadi should we believe is authentic? He seems very sincere in his efforts even though he is a prisoner of his Dawa Party’s ideol­ogy. He must have been sincere to have undertaken reconciliation efforts with Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. He is also sincere in wanting to maintain Iraq’s unity and fight the Islamic State (ISIS).
However, his positions regarding the Kurdish question are inexpli­cable. Because of them, the Kurds had no other choice but to go as far as they could with their desire for independence. Abadi should have known that Kurdistan Regional Government President Masoud Barzani wouldn’t have taken such steps had he been negotiating with an Iraqi government willing to share power and unwilling to turn Iraq into a religious state.
Can Abadi consolidate the posi­tive results of his term and make it easy for Barzani to retract without losing face, especially after the lat­ter’s defeat in Kirkuk?
Abadi is between a rock and a hard place. He was brave enough to visit Saudi Arabia knowing that Iran considers the Saudi kingdom its arch-enemy. Now he has no choice but to bet on Iraq and on having it return to the Shia ideology headed by Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Najaf. Sistani refuses the Shia ideology coming out of Iran, supports Abadi and has doubts about Iraqi Vice- President Nuri al-Maliki.
For sure, there are forces inside Iraq that are convinced the country has been imprisoned by Iranian in­fluence. Among the Arabs, as well, there are those who say it is pos­sible to save Iraq and that it cannot be left to be ruled by Iran through a bunch of people who roared into the country on the backs of Ameri­can tanks before quickly turning their weapons on those tanks.
Iran can engage all it wants in sectarian cleansing in many areas in Iraq, starting with Baghdad but Iraq will not become another Iran. In the meantime, we can only bet on Abadi to do the right thing.

Does Washington have a plan for the partition of Syria?

Tom Regan/The Arab Weekly/October 29/17
Now that the fighting in Raqqa is down to clearing out a few pockets of Islamic State (ISIS) fighters the next important regional question is: What about the Kurds?
How that question will be answered primarily depends on two men with outsized egos and a disinclination to back down: US President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Relations between the United States and Turkey are at a low point and the Syrian Kurds are caught in the middle. Erdogan considers the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its military wing, the Kurdish People’s Protec­tion Units (YPG), extensions of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The latter is designated a terror­ist organisation by Ankara and Washington.
The United States has supported the PYD and the YPG as part of the Syrian Defence Forces (SDF) because they have been the only fighters capable of defeating the Islamic State (ISIS) and recapturing Raqqa. That was the number one concern for the United States.
What happens next with the Kurds?
The YPG will be reluctant to sur­render territory captured during the Syrian conflict. That would enrage Erdogan, who doesn’t want an independent Kurdish entity on Turkey’s border. Many of Erdogan’s supporters say the United States and Russia have a secret plan to support the creation of a Kurdish state. It would be a “second Israel,” they think, which is why Erdogan’s domestic constituency wants him to send troops into Syria and Iraq to deal with this threat as soon as possible.
Experts in Washington say the US response to any such move by Turkey would depend on two factors: The future of US military bases in Turkey, such as Incirlik near Adana, and Trump’s mood, which can change several times in one day. Trump does not like be­ing directly challenged on foreign policy issues. His Twitter war with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un is a case in point.
While Erdogan and Trump have publicly been cordial, it’s not clear how the US president would respond to a direct challenge from the Turkish leader. Would Trump be unconcerned about an impor­tant military base in Turkey?
Trump, however, is preoccupied with his domestic agenda, not least the passing of tax-reform legisla­tion. For Erdogan, this might mean it is a propitious time to move into Syria.
As for what the Kurds may want, we probably need only look to the recent referendum on independ­ence by Iraqi Kurds in the north. While this infuriated the govern­ment in Baghdad and perplexed Kurdish allies abroad, it’s not hard to see a similar situation arising in Syria.
Some in the world of Washing­ton think-tanks say the United States needs to reward the Syrian Kurds for their courage in the fight against ISIS. The United States, they say, should support Syrian Kurdistan (or Rojava) as a federal region within Syria. Anything less would be considered a betrayal by the Syrian Kurds and their allies abroad. This would undoubtedly put the United States at odds with Erdogan, however.
US Secretary of State Rex Tiller­son on October 26 said the United States sees no place for Syrian President Bashar Assad in the new Syria. Tillerson met with UN Syrian envoy Staffan de Mistura, who is expected to reconvene peace talks following the SDF’s success in Raqqa and gains by the Syrian regime’s Russian-backed forces. Tillerson said the discussions were “fruitful” but his comments on As­sad are unlikely to be received well by Russia or Iran. Turkey, however, has no love lost for Assad.
The funny thing is that this mo­ment might not have happened if Erdogan had not been so adamant about getting rid of Assad’s regime instead of simply defeating ISIS. In 2014, the United States approached him with a plan to work together. It suggested the creation of an anti-ISIS force minus the Kurds but Erdogan insisted on a no-fly zone over sections of Syria as part of his anti-Assad plan, causing the United States to back out of the deal and turn to the YPG for military reasons.
Now, the situation is very differ­ent: ISIS is all but defeated, Tiller­son may have said “no Assad” but almost no one else is talking about how to actually remove him and the Kurds are in a difficult position. It’s hard to say how long Erdogan will ignore his supporters’ de­mands to send Turkish forces into Syria and Iraq. If he decides to go into Syria, Erdogan risks a massive falling out with the United States and bad blood with Russia.
However, if Erdogan is going to continue to push back against the United States, he’ll need Russian support as a counterbalance so the next move may be up to the Syrian Kurds. Watch what they do in the coming few weeks. That will foreshadow what happens next between Turkey and the United States.
**Tom Regan, a columnist at, previously worked for the Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, the Boston Globe and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. He is the former executive director of the Online News Association and was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard in 1992.