September 10/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For Today
Jesus said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 07/36-50/:"One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him that she is a sinner.’Jesus spoke up and said to him, ‘Simon, I have something to say to you.’ ‘Teacher,’ he replied, ‘speak.’ ‘A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?’ Simon answered, ‘I suppose the one for whom he cancelled the greater debt.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘You have judged rightly.’Then turning towards the woman, he said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.’ Then he said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, ‘Who is this who even forgives sins?’And he said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’

Brothers and sisters beloved by God, our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction
First Letter to the Thessalonians 01/01-10/:"Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace. We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labour of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.For we know, brothers and sisters beloved by God, that he has chosen you, because our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of people we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for in spite of persecution you received the word with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place where your faith in God has become known, so that we have no need to speak about it. For the people of those regions report about us what kind of welcome we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming."

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on September 09-10/17
May Almighty God Bless The Souls Of Our Lebanese Army Martyrs/Elias Bejjani/September 09/17
IDF Team Yo Pose Hezbollah Honeypots During Northern Drill/Jerusalem Post/September 09/17
Qatar Stabs Kuwaiti Mediation/Salman Al-dossary/Asharq Al Awsat/September 09/17
Trump Enters Qatar Crisis Mediation Efforts/Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat/September 09/17
Terrorists in Germany's Parliament/Bruce Bawer/ Gatestone Institute/September 09/17
Trump’s Big Decision in Syria/David Ignatius/The Washington Post/September 09/17
Trump Can’t Solve North Korea by Just Making a Deal/Meghan O'Sullivan/Bloomberg View/September 09/17
North Korea’s cheat and retreat game/Amir Taheri/Al Arabiya/September 09/17
Russia and Turkey: Convergence of interests in Syria/Huda al-Husseini/Al Arabiya/September 09/17

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on September 09-10/17
Lebanon to file UN Security Council complaint against Israel
Lebanese army to deploy along entire eastern border, says army chief
US Affirms Continued Support for Lebanon's Army
Salam Hits Back at Aoun: Our Stance was Not Ambiguous on Captive Servicemen
Hariri Meets Qatari Ambassador
Aoun to Visit Moscow
Qaouq: Lebanon Won't Heed Saudi Strife Calls
De Freige: President Will be Surprised at Cabinet Session Content Held over Servicemen
Al Khalil congratulates Lebanese on historic victory
Army: Ali al Hujairi arrested based on one of the detainees' confessions
US strategic official visits Army Commander, lauds military success
Hasbani calls for calming down political rhetoric
Army arrests Ali Hujairi in Arsal
Army seizes arms cache in Wadi Hmayyid
Israeli spy device found inside rock in Kfer Shuba
Sarraf: Transparent Investigations into Martyrdom of Servicemen Will be Conducted

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on September 09-10/17
SDF Launches Anti-ISIS Operation in Syria’s Deir Ezzor
Trump Warns Emir of Qatar on Threats Posed by Iran
Ireland Wants EU Role in Palestinian-Israeli Peace Negotiations
Saudi Arabia Suspends Dialogue with Doha after Qatar News Agency Report
Crown Prince, Trump Stress Need for all Countries to Abide by Riyadh Summit Commitments
Moscow Rejects ‘Contact Group’ on Syria
Israeli Attorney General May Indict Netanyahu’s Wife for Fraud
Israel Recuperates ‘Spy Eagle’ from Syria
Russia Supports Iraq’s Unity, Waits to Assess Kurdish Referendum Results
Yemeni Ambassador Blocks Selling of Government Property in London
5.6 mn Floridians Ordered to Evacuate as Irma Closes In
Qatari, Saudi Leaders Have a Phone Call, Start New Dispute

Latest Lebanese Related News published on September 09-10/17
May Almighty God Bless The Souls Of Our Lebanese Army Martyrs/
مراسيم ووقائع تأبين شهداء الجيش اللبناني في وزارة الدفاع ونبذة عن حياة هؤلاء الأبطال

Elias Bejjani/September 09/17
Yesterday Lebanon buried its Army Martyrs with unanimous public participation sadness and anger. May Almighty God Bless the souls of our heroic Lebanese Army Martyrs. We must not as Lebanese ever forget that our beloved heroes were brutally kidnapped and killed by Terrorists with cold blood while they were in captivity. This savage act of Cowardice, and barbarism is totally condemned by all ways and means. Our Martyrs are a symbol of bravery and devotion.. We extend our Heartily felt condolences to their families and our prayers go for them.

IDF Team Yo Pose Hezbollah Honeypots During Northern Drill
Jerusalem Post/September 09/17
While the IDF holds its largest exercise in nearly 20 years, its Information Security Department will be simulating Hezbollah terrorists trying to compromise soldiers online during wartime.
Dubbed “Social Network Vaccine,” the operation’s purpose is to raise the security awareness among IDF officers, especially during operational activities and wartime.
“In recent years we have witnessed an increase in enemy activity on social networks,” a senior intelligence officer familiar with the campaign said. The officer explained the effort is similar to the sophisticated Hamas virtual “honeypot” operation the army revealed in January.
Information Security Unit members started in August targeting 350 soldiers and commanders online, attempting to lure them into accepting friend requests on social networks and downloading applications that compromised their cellular phones.
Unit members interacted with their targets before sending them links to download files to their computer or cellphones. If a soldier clicked on the link, he or she would be redirected to an IDF information security page that warned soldiers not to click on unfamiliar links “which could serve the enemy in taking control” of their devices.
According to the senior officer, the goal of the operation was to “burn the severity of the threat into the victim’s consciousness.”
Most of those who were targeted informed their commanders and military intelligence of the suspicious contact. Of the 350 soldiers targeted during Social Network Vaccine, only 6% accepted friend requests. Of those, only 3% clicked on the links to download the files.
Following Operation Combat Hunter, which identified dozens of Hamas accounts, the IDF began a campaign to raise awareness of soldiers – especially in combat – to the risk of social networks. Soldiers were instructed to adopt stricter guidelines in order to thwart enemy groups, including Hamas and Hezbollah, from gaining access to classified information through them.
As part of the guidelines, soldiers were told to only confirm friend requests from people they know personally and not to download any file from strangers. But according to the senior officer, the majority of soldiers who accepted the friend requests and clicked on the links during the operation were combat soldiers.Steps the military took to combat virtual threats included broadening restrictions on the use of social media by enlisted soldiers. For example, soldiers with the rank of major and above will now be prohibited from uploading any pictures showing themselves in uniform or publishing that they are part of the IDF.
The senior officer stated that soldiers have since posted less pictures of themselves in uniform.
“In general, IDF soldiers are aware of information security threats,” he said, but the few who clicked the links “shows that there is still work to be done as there is still the potential to leak information from social networks to enemy elements.”
In January, the IDF revealed a sophisticated Hamas operation which used false or stolen identities.
Operatives would reach out to soldiers online, sometimes in romantic ways, asking them to accept friend requests on Facebook and then to download applications which led them to compromise their cellphones.
Once on the phone, the virus would give Hamas operatives access to all pictures, the soldier’s location, text messages – including the history of sent messages – and contacts. The virus also gave access the phone’s camera and microphone, taking pictures and recording conversations without the soldier’s knowledge. It also had the ability to download hidden applications so if the application with the virus would be deleted, the phone would remain compromised.
While the threat posed by that plot was minimal and considered to be foiled, a similar campaign three years earlier targeted Syrian rebels, stealing not only personal information but intelligence and battlefield plans against President Bashar Assad’s troops.
According to a 2015 report by cybersecurity firm FireEye, group members posed as Muslim women on social networks such as Facebook and Skype. Operatives would send a file claiming it is a picture of “her,” when in reality the file would compromise the victim’s device once it was opened.
While the report said it was unclear if the hackers were Hezbollah members, it did say they stole details on military hardware and the position of rebel fighters, hundreds of documents and thousands of logged Skype chat sessions, which included detailed discussions of plans and logistics of the Syrian opposition’s attacks on Assad’s forces.

Lebanon to file UN Security Council complaint against Israel
Agencies/BEIRUT — Lebanon's Foreign Ministry says it will file an "urgent complaint" against Israel with the United Nations Security Council.  Lebanon said in a statement Saturday that Israel violated its air space when it conducted an air strike against a Syrian government installation on Thursday.Israeli jets flew struck an installation that former Israeli military and intelligence officials said was producing weapons possibly bound for the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, Israel's chief rival in the region. The Syrian army said at the time that two soldiers were killed. Meanwhile, army chief General Joseph Aoun said on Friday that Lebanon's army will deploy along the country's entire eastern border with Syria and remain stationed there after recently recapturing areas from Daesh militants. The remarks appeared to confirm comments by the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah that it was handing over points it had controlled along the border to the military. "The army will deploy from now onwards along the extent of the eastern borders, to defend them," Aoun said at a ceremony commemorating Lebanese soldiers killed by Daesh. An army offensive last month ended with the militants withdrawing from their last foothold along the border under a ceasefire deal. The Syrian army and Hezbollah fought the militants separately on the Syrian side. Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said in July it would be ready to hand over territory it captured if the Lebanese army requested it. Security sources said Hezbollah had begun handing over points it controlled. Lebanon's southern border with Israel, a Hezbollah foe, is patrolled by the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon. — Agencies

Lebanese army to deploy along entire eastern border, says army chief

MEE and agencies/September 09/17/Lebanon’s army will deploy along the country’s entire eastern border with Syria and remain stationed there after recently recapturing areas from Islamic State (IS) group militants, army chief General Joseph Aoun said on Friday. The remarks appeared to confirm comments by the Lebanese Shia group Hezbollah that it was handing over points it had controlled along the border to the military. “The army will deploy from now onwards along the extent of the eastern borders, to defend them,” Aoun said at a ceremony commemorating Lebanese soldiers killed by IS. The bodies of the 10 soldiers captured and killed by IS were recovered late last month following an army offensive to wipe out hundreds of IS militants who had occupied parts of the Lebanese-Syria border region since 2014. The army offensive ended with the militants withdrawing from their last foothold along the border under a ceasefire deal. The Syrian army and Hezbollah fought the militants separately on the Syrian side. Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said in July it would be ready to hand over territory it captured if the Lebanese army requested it. Hezbollah led a campaign in the same area that month to oust the Nusra Front militant group from their last foothold along the border. Security sources said Hezbollah had begun handing over points it controlled. Iran-backed Hezbollah has played a critical role in vanquishing Sunni Muslim fighters in the border region during the six-year-long Syrian war, part of its military support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The group, an ally of Lebanese President Michel Aoun, was key to the defeat of militants in the Qalamoun area further south in 2015, and at the Syrian town of Qusair, in 2013. Lebanon’s southern border with Israel, a Hezbollah foe, is patrolled by the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon.

US Affirms Continued Support for Lebanon's Army
Naharnet/September 09/17/Major General George Smith, the CENTCOM Director of Strategy, Plans, and Policy reiterated the United States support for the Lebanese army during a short visit he paid to Beirut, a US embassy statement said on Saturday. Smith met with General Joseph Aoun on Thursday, September 7, the press release said. “Major General Smith offered his compliments to the LAF's recent military success. General Smith also expressed his condolences to General Aoun for the fallen Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) soldiers, captured by ISIS, in August 2014 and for the soldiers who were killed in the line of duty during the “Fajr al-Jouroud” operation,” it added. “During the two-day visit to Lebanon, Major General Smith met with senior Lebanese military counterparts to discuss areas of cooperation to further develop LAF’s capabilities as the sole defender of Lebanese territory and borders,” it concluded.

Salam Hits Back at Aoun: Our Stance was Not Ambiguous on Captive Servicemen
Naharnet/September 09/17/Ex-PM Tammam Salam stressed Friday that his stance was “not ambiguous” on the need to liberate the troops and policemen who were nabbed by jihadists during the 2014 clashes, in response to remarks by President Michel Aoun. “I join my voice to that of the president on the need to clarify all facts, and I call for launching an extensive probe and declassifying the meeting minutes of the cabinet sessions so that the Lebanese, topped by the martyrs' families, can look into them, and so that the fallacies of today do not appear as the facts of yesterday,” Salam said in a statement. “Our stance in the government of national interest... was not ambiguous at all and was rather clear as the sun on the need to exert efforts to liberate the captive servicemen with all available means, while showing keenness on the lives of the residents of the dear town of Arsal, in order to preserve stability and protect civil peace – in the Bekaa in particular and in Lebanon in general,” the ex-PM added. He noted that the “ambiguity” that Aoun referred to can be used to “describe the stances and roles of the political forces who obstructed the cycle of life and citizens' interests for around three years, and who today are permitting what they had prohibited in the past, allowing themselves to launch accusations in all directions.”Salam added: “Lebanese citizens have the right to know who supported negotiations with the terrorist kidnappers and who rejected them. They have the right to know who foiled the efforts that were exerted by the Muslim Scholars Committee and other parties.”Aoun had on Thursday called on authorities to probe the 2014 abduction of around 30 troops and policemen during clashes that were fought in and around the eastern border town of Arsal. The president's move came after Lebanon recovered the bodies of nine troops who were kidnapped by IS in 2014 before being eventually executed. The fate of the soldiers was unveiled as part of a Hizbullah-led ceasefire agreement with IS that followed separate but simultaneous offensives by the Lebanese army and Hizbullah and the Syrian army on both sides of the Lebanon-Syria border. Hizbullah, the Free Patriotic Movement and some of their allies have pinned the blame for the abduction of the servicemen on Tammam Salam's 2014 government, former army chief General Jean Qahwaji and al-Mustaqbal Movement, accusing them of preventing the army from continuing a military operation against IS and al-Nusra Front. Hizbullah, meanwhile, has been accused of facilitating a smooth withdrawal “in air-conditioned buses” for the IS militants who surrendered during last month's border battles.

Hariri Meets Qatari Ambassador
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/September 09/17/Prime Minister Saad Hariri met with Qatari Ambassador to Lebanon Ali bin Hamad al-Meri at the Center House, the National News Agency reported on Saturday.Talks between the two men focused on the situation in Lebanon and the region, NNA said. Bilateral ties between Lebanon and Qatar were also highlighted. Hariri's meeting with Qatari ambassador comes in light of tense ties the latter is witnessing with Arab gulf countries.The Qatar crisis began June 5, with boycotting nations cutting off Doha's land, sea and air routes over its alleged support of extremists and close ties to Iran. Qatar long has denied funding extremists and recently restored full diplomatic relations with Iran, with whom it shares a massive offshore natural gas field.

Aoun to Visit Moscow
Naharnet/September 09/17/President Michel Aoun is expected to travel to Moscow and the Russian leadership has informed its ambassador to Lebanon Alexander Zasypkin to begin preparations for the visit knowing that a specific date has not been set yet, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Saturday. “Russian sources in Moscow said the capital prepares to receive President Aoun pointing out that preparations have already begun in that context,” the daily quoted unnamed sources. “Contacts between the Presidential Palace and the Kremlin have begun. The Russian leadership directed Russian ambassador to Lebanon too prepare for the visit,” it added. Whether the date of Aoun's visit to Moscow had been decided after Prime Minister Saad Hariri's visit, Russian diplomatic sources said: “So far the principle of the visit has been decided. The timing still awaits some logistical and procedural arrangements, especially those related to (Russian President Vladimir) Putin's schedule and choosing the appropriate time to meet the Lebanese president.” Hariri is scheduled to travel to Russia on Monday to rally support for Lebanon in light of the refugee crisis. He is expected to meet with Putin, his Russian Counterpart Dimitri Medvedev and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Qaouq: Lebanon Won't Heed Saudi Strife Calls
Naharnet/September 09/17/Lebanon will not be “dragged into the internal strife that Saudi Arabia is betting on,” senior Hizbullah official Sheikh Nabil Qaouq stressed Friday, the same day a Saudi minister posted a new anti-Hizbullah tweet. “Saudi Arabia is trying to push the Lebanese to a new domestic rift,” Qaouq charged, voicing relief that “all Lebanese officials have refused to heed the Saudi calls for strife.”“This has dealt Saudi Arabia a new defeat and a new failure,” Qaouq, who is a member of Hizbullah's Central Council, added. Saudi State Minister for Gulf Affairs Thamer al-Sabhan on Friday tweeted anew against Hizbullah. “Iran and its eldest child, Hizbul Shaitan (Party of Satan), are the cradle of terrorism and extremism in the world. The same as the world has dealt with Daesh (Islamic State group), it should also deal with its cradle. Our peoples need peace and security,” Sabhan said. A previous tweet by the minister had created confusion in Lebanon about its real target and objectives. Accusing Hizbullah of committing “inhumane crimes in our nation that will definitely affect Lebanon,” Sabhan said “the Lebanese must choose whether they want to support or oppose (Hizbullah), seeing as the blood of Arabs is precious.”As politicians and journalists close to Hizbullah said the tweet was directed at Prime Minister Saad Hariri in connection with his stances on the latest military operations on the eastern border, al-Mustaqbal Movement described the tweet Thursday as a “warning message” over Hizbullah's actions.

De Freige: President Will be Surprised at Cabinet Session Content Held over Servicemen
Naharnet/September 09/17/Al-Mustaqbal lawmaker Nabil De Freige said on Saturday that shall the minutes of a government session held during the term of ex-PM Tammam Salam about the slain servicemen be declassified, “President Michel Aoun will be surprised by the content of the recordings.”
De Freige, in an interview to VDL (93.3), has called for declassifying the content of said government session, “President Michel Aoun will be the first person to be surprised by the content of the recording,” said the MP. Aoun had accused Salam of ”ambiguity” on the need to liberate the troops and policemen abducted by the IS during the 2014 battles. On Thursday, Aoun had called on authorities to probe the 2014 abduction of around 30 troops and policemen during clashes that were fought in and around the eastern border town of Arsal. For his part, Salam affirmed Aoun's request to launch a probe and has also called for declassifying the session's content. Salam reasoned:”Our stance in the government of national interest... was not ambiguous at all and was rather clear as the sun on the need to exert efforts to liberate the captive servicemen with all available means, while showing keenness on the lives of the residents of the dear town of Arsal, in order to preserve stability and protect civil peace – in the Bekaa in particular and in Lebanon in general.”The president's move came after Lebanon recovered the bodies of nine troops who were kidnapped by IS in 2014 before being eventually executed. The fate of the soldiers was unveiled as part of a Hizbullah-led ceasefire agreement with IS that followed separate but simultaneous offensives by the Lebanese army and Hizbullah and the Syrian army on both sides of the Lebanon-Syria border. Hizbullah, the Free Patriotic Movement and some of their allies have pinned the blame for the abduction of the servicemen on Tammam Salam's 2014 government, former army chief General Jean Qahwaji and al-Mustaqbal Movement, accusing them of preventing the army from continuing a military operation against IS and al-Nusra Front.Hizbullah, meanwhile, has been accused of facilitating a smooth withdrawal “in air-conditioned buses” for the IS militants who surrendered during last month's border battles.

Al Khalil congratulates Lebanese on historic victory
Sat 09 Sep 2017/NNA - "Development and Liberation" bloc MP Anwar al-Khalil congratulated the Lebanese on the historic victory of the liberation of large areas of Lebanese lands in Arsal, Al-Qaa and Ras Ein outskirts from the terrorist organizations. "Such a historic achievement has been realized thanks to the resolute decision by the political authority- led by the President of the Republic- as well as the clear and firm decision of the Prime Minister... in addition to the unity of the Lebanese and their rallying around the national army," MP Khalil said during a national, spiritual ceremony held on Saturday in the district of Hasbaya, Merje'youn, under the patronage and presence of Druze sect Sheikh Naiim Hassan. Attending the ceremony, which took place at Hasbaya Dar, had been MP Khalil representing House Speaker, Nabih Berri, MP Amine Wehbe representing Prime Minister, Saad Hariri, former PM Fouad Siniora, MP Wael Abu Faour and scores of political, army, parliamentary, religious and local dignitaries.The ceremony is held annually in Hasbaya, Merjeyoun district marking Eid Al-Adha. Turning to the forthcoming parliamentary elections, MP Khalil called for early legislative polls as soon as possible in the case the magnetic card was far-fetched. The Lawmaker called on all the Lebanese political forces to unite around the project of a strong, just and capable state, in order to face the challenges and difficulties surrounding Lebanon in all fields.

Army: Ali al Hujairi arrested based on one of the detainees' confessions
Sat 09 Sep 2017/NNA - Army intelligence patrol arrested on Saturday at 13:00 pm the former head of Arsal Municipality, Ali al-Hujairi, on the basis of the outcome of investigations conducted with one of the detainees and his confessions, army command said in a communiqué. Investigation with Al-Hujairi was initiated under the supervision of the concerned judiciary.

US strategic official visits Army Commander, lauds military success
Sat 09 Sep 2017/NNA - USCENTCOM Director for Strategy, Planning and Policy Major General George Smith, met with Army Commander General Joseph Aoun. Major General Smith hailed the recent military success of the Lebanese army, and expressed his sincere condolences on the martyr soldiers who were abducted in 2014 by the "Daesh" Organization and the fallen soldiers during the "Fajr Jouroud" operation. During his two-day visit to Lebanon, Smith met with senior army officers to discuss prospects of cooperation to further develop the capabilities of the Lebanese army, as the sole defender of Lebanon's territory and borders.

Hasbani calls for calming down political rhetoric
Sat 09 Sep 2017/NNA - Vice Prime Minister, Public Health Minister, Ghassan Hasbani, warned of disintergation that will certainly entail the government anytime it deviates from the dissociation and impartiality policy. Minister Hasbani's words on Saturday came in an interview to the "Al Sharq" Radio Station, stressing the dire need to calm down political rhetoric. Hasbani saluted the Lebanese army martyrs and their families, hailing the army as "capable of protecting the nation." Hasbani expressed belief in the army's credibility, voicing the Lebanese Forces' keenness on the army's independence of its decision, solely taking guidance from the government combined. The Minister also underlined the dire need to calm down the current rhetoric in a bid to restore balance, and return to the constants and foundations on which the government has been formed. Hasbani said: "We are working to preserve the sovereignty of Lebanon and restore public confidence in the Lebanese system as a whole."

Army arrests Ali Hujairi in Arsal
Sat 09 Sep 2017/NNA - A Lebanese Army patrol arrested on Saturday, former Arsal Municipality head, Ali al-Hujairi, known as "Abu Ajineh", National News Agency correspondent said. The army arrested "Abu Ajineh" in Arsal, and was transferred to one of the military barracks in said town, NNA reporter added.

Army seizes arms cache in Wadi Hmayyid
Sat 09 Sep 2017/NNA - Army Intelligence Directorate seized on Saturday at 12.00 pm an ammunition depot in Arsal's Wadi Hmayyid, army command said in a communiqué. The army found inside the cache a number of mortar shells, multi-type missiles and five explosive devices ready for detonation.

Israeli spy device found inside rock in Kfer Shuba
Sat 09 Sep 2017 /NNA - Hezbollah elements found on Saturday noon an Israeli spy devise, equipped with day-time and thermal camera, placed inside a rock in Kfer Shuba, west of Rwaiset Alam post in Shebaa Farms, NNA reporter said.

Sarraf: Transparent Investigations into Martyrdom of Servicemen Will be Conducted
Naharnet/September 09/17/Defense Minister Yaaqoub al-Sarraf stressed on Saturday that investigations will be conducted regarding the file of servicemen kidnapped and executed afterward by the Islamic State extremist group, the National News Agency reported on Saturday. "The blood of army martyrs will not go in vain... A scientific and transparent investigation will be certainly conducted," Minister Sarraf asserted. He made his remarks from the Akkar town of Fneideq, where he offered condolences on the martyrdom of army soldiers, Hussein Ammar and Khaled Al Hassan, NNA added. Sarraf saluted the “great sacrifices and sense of commitment demonstrated by the Akkari people, men and women.”

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on September 09-10/17
SDF Launches Anti-ISIS Operation in Syria’s Deir Ezzor
Asharq Al Awsat/September 09/17 /The US-baked Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) launched a new offensive on Saturday to oust ISIS from swathes of Syria’s eastern Deir Ezzor province, a top commander announced. The SDF, which is backed by US-led air cover and special forces on the ground, is already fighting for ISIS’ de facto capital in Raqqa, and its fighters will now aim to clear the militants from territory east of the Euphrates River, close to the Iraqi border, said Ahmad Abu Khawlah in a statement. A senior SDF official told Reuters on Friday they would launch attacks from the south of Hasaka, which is controlled by the Kurdish YPG militia, as part of a wider offensive to drive ISIS out of Raqqa city and territory to its southeast. Spearheaded by the YPG, the SDF says it has taken 65 percent of Raqqa city from ISIS. Syrian regime forces are fighting a separate offensive to oust the terrorist organization from the Deir Ezzor provincial capital. The Syrian forces and their Iran-backed allies recaptured the Teym oilfield from ISIS near the city on Saturday in further advances against the militants, state TV reported. Regime forces also seized part of a main highway running from Deir Ezzor down to the city of al-Mayadeen, to which many ISIS militants have retreated, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said. The British-based group said that advance would block potential ISIS reinforcements from al-Mayadeen. The dueling battles for Deir Ezzor highlight the importance of the oil-rich province. The race to reach the Iraqi border will also shape future regional dynamics, determining whether the US or Russia and Iran will have more influence in the strategic area once the extremist group is defeated.

Trump Warns Emir of Qatar on Threats Posed by Iran
Asharq Al Awsat/September 09/17/President Donald Trump stressed to the emir of Qatar the importance of unity in fighting terrorism, the White House said on Friday, a day after the US president offered to mediate the Gulf country’s dispute with its Arab neighbors. In a telephone call Thursday with the emir, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, “The President underscored the importance of all countries following through on commitments from the Riyadh Summit to maintain unity while defeating terrorism, cutting off funding for terrorist groups, and combating extremist ideology,” the White House said. They also discussed the continued threat Iran poses to regional stability, it said. The four anti-terror Arab States, including Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt, had rejected on Thursday that Qatar sets preconditions for a dialogue on the implementation of the 13 demands. The Arab Quartet’s response came after Qatari Foreign Minister announced that his country rejects dialogue unless the four countries lift the boycott measures, which were taken to protect their interests legally and politically. On Thursday, Kuwait’s Amir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah said from Washington that Qatar was ready to negotiate 13 demands set forth by the three Gulf countries and Egypt. However, an anti-terror Quartet statement said later that the comments of Qatar’s foreign minister in setting preconditions for dialogue confirms Doha’s lack of seriousness in dialogue, combating and financing terrorism and interfering in the internal affairs of countries. On the other hand, Kuwait’s foreign ministry acknowledged the Quartet’s efforts to end the dispute with Qatar while confirming its role as mediator. The ministry said Kuwait would continue its attempts to “heal the rift and end the dispute” and stressed that its mediation had helped to prevent an escalation in the crisis. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, after meetings with senior Kuwaiti officials, said the US and Kuwait would take new steps to resolve a three-month-old dispute that pits a Saudi-led coalition, including the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt, against Qatar over its alleged support for terrorist groups and Iran. Kuwait has been serving as mediator, with US backing, but without results thus far. “The United States and Kuwait both recognize the important of GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] unity, to meet the challenges of the region that we all face together,” Tillerson said.

Ireland Wants EU Role in Palestinian-Israeli Peace Negotiations
Asharq Al Awsat/September 09/17/Tallinn (Estonia) – Ireland called on the European Union to play a greater role in US-led efforts to revive the Palestinian-Israeli peace process. Speaking to EU foreign ministers at a meeting on Middle East policy in Tallinn, Ireland’s Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said that the union has a task to get its voice heard in any new American initiative as the Palestinians’ biggest aid donor and Israel’s top trade partner.. Israelis and Palestinians will face more unrest over the next year without a revival of a long-fractured Middle East peace process that the EU must be part of, he added. Coveney, who met Israeli and Palestinian leaders less than a month after taking up his post in June, is leading the charge to involve the EU in a fresh attempt at peace talks and overcome divisions that have weakened the bloc’s influence. “My concern is that it will be a much more difficult political challenge in a year’s time or in two years’ time,” Coveney told Reuters. “If you look at cycles of violence in Gaza, for example, without intervention and new initiatives in my view, we are heading there again,” he stated, describing the Israel-Palestinian situation as an “open sore” that could erupt at any time. Coveney has also met Jason Greenblatt, US President Donald Trump’s Middle East envoy, and said it was crucial that the EU sought to influence US plans that are being drawn up by Greenblatt and Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner. Coveney stressed that EU governments had to pull together and keep the focus on a two-state solution. “Now is the time for the European Union … to become more vocal,” said Coveney, who met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in July. Coveney explained that the European Union had a right to be heard because EU governments and the European Commission spend 600 million euros ($724 million) a year on aid to the Palestinians and on projects with Israel. “We cannot simply wait for the US to take an initiative on their own, we should be supportive of them and helping them to shape it and design it in a way that is likely to have international community support,” he said, although he added he still did not know what the US proposals would look like. “In the absence of the US being able to bring forward a new initiative, I think the EU will have to do that itself.”Hurdles for the European Union include its range of positions, ranging from Germany’s strong support for Israel to Sweden’s 2014 decision to officially recognize the state of Palestine, something Ireland considered three years ago. Coveney said the European Union is also perceived by some in Israel as being too pro-Palestinian, partly because of the EU’s long-held opposition to Israeli settlements. But Coveney noted that the European Union could build trust with Israel by deepening ties in trade, science, scholarships for students and to pursue what he called “a positive agenda”.
The EU aims to hold a high-level meeting with Israel to broaden trade and other economic links later this year, although a date is still pending. It would be the first such meeting since 2012.

Saudi Arabia Suspends Dialogue with Doha after Qatar News Agency Report
Asharq Al Awsat/September 09/17/Saudi Arabia announced that it has suspended any dialogue or contact with the Qatari authority until it clarifies a report that was released by the Qatar News Agency (QNA) on the telephone call received by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman from Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. An official from the Saudi Foreign Ministry said that the QNA report “did not have any relevance to truth,” according to the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) on Saturday. What QNA published is the Qatari authority’s continuation of the distortion of the facts, he added. It clearly shows that the Qatari authority has not yet understood that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is not ready at all to tolerate the change of agreements and facts by the Qatari authority. This is evident in the distortion of the content of the contact received by the Crown Prince from the Emir of the State of Qatar minutes after its completion. The contact was made at Qatar’s request and its call for dialogue with the four countries over their demands. This proves that the Qatar authority is not serious in its dialogue and that it is still adopting its old policies, which are rejected, stressed the source. Saudi Arabia therefore announces its suspension of any dialogue or contact with the authority in Qatar until it makes a clear statement in which it openly declares its stance. Its declared stances should match what it commits to, added the Foreign Ministry source. He also noted that the discrepancies in the Qatari policy do not help in building the trust needed to hold dialogue. Prince Mohammed had received a telephone call from Sheikh Tamim, who voiced a desire to hold dialogue to discuss the demands of the four boycotting countries in a way that ensures the interests of all sides. Prince Mohammed welcomed the call. SPA had prior to the QNA report said that the details of the talks between the Saudi and Qatari officials will be revealed after Riyadh reaches an understanding with the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt.

Crown Prince, Trump Stress Need for all Countries to Abide by Riyadh Summit Commitments

Asharq Al Awsat/September 09/17/Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, has received a telephone call from US President Donald Trump, Saudi Press Agency reported on Saturday. During the call, they reviewed bilateral relations between the two friendly countries and developments in the region and the world, SPA said. According to the news agency, the Crown Prince and Trump stressed the need for all countries to abide by the commitments they made at the Riyadh Summit aimed at defeating terrorism, financing it and combating extremist ideology. They also asserted the need to strengthen the security of the region and the danger of the Iranian regime, SPA said. The Crown Prince and the US President stressed the depth of the strategic relations between the two countries and strengthening them to serve the two friendly peoples, the agency added.

Moscow Rejects ‘Contact Group’ on Syria

Asharq Al Awsat/September 09/17/Moscow, Beirut- Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has stressed “the importance of spurring up the operation of all mechanisms on Syria to make them more efficient,” a position seen as a rejection of the French-initiated Contact Group on Syria.
Lavrov, who according to his ministry’s spokesperson Maria Zakharova is planning to visit Saudi Arabia and Jordan between September 9 and 11, spoke during a meeting with his French counterpart in Moscow about the Geneva format, which he said “has accumulated critical mass to make it possible to establish, before long, a dialogue between the Syrian regime and the opposition based on the agreement on the de-escalation zones.”The Russian minister said that much help comes from regional partners, “especially Saudi Arabia that came up with an initiative to unite Syrian opposition groups, namely the so-called High Negotiations Committee, the Moscow and the Cairo platforms.”In mid-July, French President Emmanuel Macron said at a meeting with US President Donald Trump that Paris and Washington suggest establishing an international Contact Group that will forward after-war settlement in Syria by supporting corresponding UN actions. While a senior Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) official told Reuters on Friday that US-backed Syrian militias are set to announce an operation against ISIS in the north of Deir Ezzor province to drive the militants out of Raqqa city and territory to its southeast, the Russian Defense Minister announced that 40 ISIS members, including four commanders, have been killed in a Russian air attack in Deir Ezzor. Also on Friday, the International Coalition against ISIS said that its reconnaissance aircrafts have left the area where a convoy of 17 buses carrying ISIS militants and their families, who had been evacuated from the Qalamoun area, is currently present in the Syrian desert. The US-led coalition said that its move came in line with a Russian request. The announcement came few hours after a US military official announced that 85 ISIS militants from the convoy were killed.

Israeli Attorney General May Indict Netanyahu’s Wife for Fraud
Asharq Al Awsat/September 09/17/Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has not ruled out the possibility of indicting Sara Netanyahu for using state funds for personal dining and catering services amounting to some $100,000, the ministry added. Mandelblit was considering prosecuting Sara Netanyahu for offenses that include fraudulently procuring items, fraud and breach of trust. A similar notice was issued to Ezra Saidoff, a former official at Netanyahu’s official residence, for suspected involvement in the case. Friday’s announcement is the procedural first step ahead of leveling formal charges against Sara Netanyahu. A post on the prime minister’s Facebook page published late on Thursday in response to media reports about a forthcoming announcement by Mandelblit, said the claims against Sara Netanyahu were “absurd and will be proven to be unfounded”. Investigations that Netanyahu improperly hired a political supporter as an electrician, used government money to buy furniture for their private beach house, and used state funds to pay for her late father’s medical care were dropped for lack of evidence, the attorney general’s office said. It was unclear what political impact Friday’s announcement might have on Netanyahu, who himself is under investigation in two corruption cases. One of those, known as Case 1000, involves gifts that the prime minister and his family may have received from businessmen, while Case 2000 deals with alleged efforts by him to secure better coverage from an Israeli newspaper publisher.
Netanyahu – who has been prime minister for 11 years over four terms – has denied any wrongdoing. Netanyahu leads a relatively stable coalition government and presides over a buoyant economy. His conservative Likud party has rallied behind him in the absence of clear rivals for the leadership, rebuffing calls for his departure from the center-left opposition. Likud’s religious-nationalist coalition partners, seeing no threat to their agenda with Netanyahu as prime minister, are likewise sticking with him for now. In a case dubbed “the meals-ordering affair” by the Justice Ministry, Sara Netanyahu with help from an aide allegedly created a false impression between 2010-2013 that no cooks were employed at the prime minister’s official residence, while indeed there were, according to the ministry statement. This was done, the statement said, to procure state funding for outside catering that would have been covered had there been no chef. “In this way, hundreds of meals from restaurants and chefs worth 359,000 shekels ($102,399) were received from the state fraudulently,” said the justice ministry statement. Sara Netanyahu has the option to plead her case in a hearing with the attorney general. The potential indictment threatens to reinforce the unflattering reputation the Netanyahus have gained for enjoying an expensive lifestyle out of touch with common Israelis. The Netanyahus have repeatedly charged that they are victims of a political witch hunt and hostile media.

Israel Recuperates ‘Spy Eagle’ from Syria

Asharq Al Awsat/September 09/17/London- Israeli media outlets reported on Friday that a rare eagle was recuperated after it crossed from the occupied side of Syria’s Golan Heights into opposition-controlled areas, where it was suspected of being an Israeli “spying eagle.” According to some reports, the bird was captured by rebel forces when it crossed the Israeli border. In the past few days, several activists on social media shared photos of the eagle, while others wrote that the bird “carried Israeli advanced spying devices to photograph opposition-held areas,” in southern Syria. However, Israeli sources denied the claims and said the eagle is a rare bird that flew from the Golan Heights Gamla Nature Reserve. Israeli reports said the bird carries a GPS device to track its movement. The Israeli Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper clarified on Friday that “the vultures—as evidenced by the tracking devices affixed to some of them to trace their movements—occasionally fly over the border. When they do, they are sometimes caught and the electronics attached to their leg are often suspected of being espionage devices.” Later, environmental activists secured the bird’s release after they mediated with a Syrian opposition faction fighting in the area where the eagle was found. The bird was returned to Israel this week by a third party, probably linked to the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF). “News of its capture reached animal activists, who went into action and mediated between the Israeli army and the rebel organization on the bird’s behalf. Thanks to their involvement, the vulture was returned home Tuesday by a third party,” the newspaper said on its website.

Russia Supports Iraq’s Unity, Waits to Assess Kurdish Referendum Results

Asharq Al Awsat/September 09/17/Moscow, London – Russian deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov announced on Friday that Moscow will assess the results of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region independence referendum once it happens. Recognizing the results, whatever the outcome, is not on the table at the moment, he said according to the RT Russian news agency. He stressed however that he country supports the unity and safety of Iraqi territory, calling for “committing to the constitution.”The referendum, which Baghdad has deemed illegal, is scheduled for September 25. Turkey and Iran have also voiced their opposition to the vote. Top military aide to the Iranian Supreme leader Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi meanwhile warned of chaos and a long war should the Kurdish region vote for its independence. “A new conspiracy is being prepared after the defeat of the terrorists in Syria and Iraq,” he said on Thursday. “The Muslims’ Zionist, British and American enemies are thinking about dividing Syria and Iraq,” he added. This will lead to a new war and long-term chaos in northern Iraq. The Kurds in that region will be harmed the most from the independence vote, he stated. “We hope the Kurdish people will destroy the plans of the foreign countries that want to divide Iraq,” Safavi said.

Yemeni Ambassador Blocks Selling of Government Property in London
Asharq Al Awsat/September 09/17/London- Yemeni Ambassador in London Yassin Noman said on Friday that he blocked the selling bid on embassy property in the UK. Houthis, a key player in a national insurgency in Yemen, had procured the official documentation of the embassy-related asset after having raided foreign ministry offices in Sanaa. A group of Houthi-aligned brokers has already sold a valuable property which once belonged to the Yemeni government in Park Lane, central London, some 15 years ago, Noman told Asharq Al-Awsat. The ambassador contacted the British Foreign Office telling them that serious documents belonging to the Yemeni embassy in London, also relevant to two other properties, one in London and the other in Birmingham, “are now in the possession of Houthis militias in Sanaa.”Noman conveyed the embassy’s fear that those documents will be put to illicit use and demanded that necessary precautionary actions be taken. The diplomat said that as soon as Houthis knew about the measures taken by the embassy, they rushed into reacting by Hisham Sharaf – the coup-assigned foreign minister—writing to a lawyer in Britain on the topic. According to the ambassador, “the British Foreign Office has shown positive responsiveness and transferred the matter to legal affairs to complete needed procedures.” “We will now continue the next steps and will inform the British Foreign Office, which will in turn contact local municipal councils,” Noman added. He also warned against Houthis and loyalists to ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh manipulating assets of the Yemeni state abroad. The ambassador wondered why Houthis seized original documents of state property. He also stressed the importance of the papers remaining in safety from any irresponsible behavior.

5.6 mn Floridians Ordered to Evacuate as Irma Closes In
Associated Press/Naharnet/September 09/17/Florida has ordered 5.6 million people to evacuate as massive Hurricane Irma menaces the southeastern US state, according to its Division of Emergency Management. Irma regained strength as a Category 5 storm late Friday as it made landfall on the Camaguey Archipelago of Cuba, and is now swirling about 275 miles (440 kilometers) away from Miami packing maximum sustained winds of 160 miles per hour.Irma is expected to strike the Florida Keys late Saturday and Sunday before moving inland, according to the National Hurricane Center, and many residents have joined a mass exodus amid increasingly dire warnings to leave. As it roared across the Caribbean the monster storm claimed at least 19 lives, devastating a series of tiny islands like Saint Barthelemy and Saint Martin -- where 60 percent of homes were wrecked and looting broke out -- before slamming into the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Warning that Irma would be worse than Hurricane Andrew -- which killed 65 people in 1992 -- Florida's governor Rick Scott had said all of the state's 20.6 million inhabitants should be prepared to evacuate.

Qatari, Saudi Leaders Have a Phone Call, Start New Dispute
Associated Press/Naharnet/September 09/17/Leaders in Qatar and Saudi Arabia spoke by telephone early Saturday in their first high-level contact since an Arab diplomatic crisis engulfed Doha three months ago, but now even terms of what they discussed have created a new dispute. That even this small step toward a resolution creates new tension shows how deeply the boycott of Qatar has cut across the typically clubby politics of the Gulf Arab states. The call also comes after Kuwait's emir, who so far has been unsuccessful in mediating the dispute, met Thursday in the White House with President Donald Trump, who himself offered to arbitrate. Both governments acknowledged a call between Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, next in line to the kingdom's throne, and Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. After the call, the state-run Saudi Press Agency said Crown Prince Mohammed would talk to Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates — the other Arab nations boycotting Qatar — and then release details. The state-run Qatar News Agency immediately published details of the call, saying that Riyadh and Doha had agreed to send two envoys to discuss the dispute.
Qatar said that call came after Trump personally spoke with Sheikh Tamim. The White House earlier acknowledged Trump spoke with Sheikh Tamim and Crown Prince Mohammed, as well as Abu Dhabi's powerful crown prince. The Saudi and Qatari leaders "stressed the need to resolve this crisis by sitting down to the dialogue to ensure the unity and stability" of Gulf nations, the Qatar News Agency account read. Saudi Arabia reacted angrily to the Qatari statement, issuing a second message saying Doha's statement did not have "any relevance to truth." "This proves that the authority in Qatar is not serious in dialogue and continues its previous policies," the SPA said. "The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia declares that any dialogue or communication with the authority in Qatar shall be suspended until a clear statement explaining its position is made in public."The Qatar crisis began June 5, with boycotting nations cutting off Doha's land, sea and air routes over its alleged support of extremists and close ties to Iran. Qatar long has denied funding extremists and recently restored full diplomatic relations with Iran, with whom it shares a massive offshore natural gas field.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on September 09-10/17
Qatar Stabs Kuwaiti Mediation

Salman Al-dossary/Asharq Al Awsat/September 09/17
Only an hour after Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed announced in Washington Qatar’s approval of the 13 demands to end its crisis with the four countries, Doha’s foreign minister was quick to “strongly” deny the claim. He even went so far as to say that the conditions “are part of the past.”
After it seemed that Sheikh Sabah brought some form of optimism that a breakthrough was imminent and that Doha as complying a bit with his three-month mediation, the Qatari authorities returned the crisis to square one. On top of that, it also fatally stabbed the Kuwaiti mediation, dealing a blow to the efforts of Sheikh Sabah. Some may have been surprised by the shocking Qatari reaction to Sheikh Sabah’s mediation, but Doha’s manipulative stance had in reality never changed since the crisis began on June 5. Alarm bells should probably be ringing for those who believed that the Qatari authorities were serious in ending the crisis through the Kuwaiti mediation. Doha did not leave any chance for the success of the diplomatic movement led by the Kuwaiti Emir and it denied his media statements even before he left the White House. It did not even wait to personally clarify its stance to Sheikh Sabah.
Given the above, the four countries should have explained their stance before Qatar’s unyielding position, which even though it was not new, acts as another condemnation of its lack of credibility in finding a solution to the crisis.
It was significant that the four countries stated that “several other countries in the world have not been able to announce a stance because of Qatar’s infiltration of their internal affairs and their consequent fears of repercussions, especially in wake of Qatar’s record in backing coups and funding and hosting of terrorism and extremism.” This is a very important political message that the four countries are aware of what is happening behind the scenes. So why don’t some regional countries declare their real stance from Qatar? The four states’ position also justifies their fear of Qatar’s meddling in the internal affairs of regional countries, which has indeed proven how dangerous it is to them.
In my estimation, the most important thing that can be taken from the press conference between the Emir of Kuwait and American president is the latter’s assertion that the only way to resolve the crisis lies in “the need to stop the support and funding of terrorism.” This, from the White House’s perspective, should be the foundation of the upcoming phase and the basis for ending the crisis. The American declaration is enough to know that there is no need to end the crisis on the surface, with or without a mediation, without Qatar ceasing its support and financing of terror. The fires that Doha lit in the region are still burning and the firetruck, which should be filled with water, cannot instead be filled with statements that call for tolerance and that overlook disputes. These are the exact statements that allowed Qatar to spark these fires for the past 20 years.
God help the Emir of Kuwait for putting up with the ongoing Qatari contradictions as Doha’s open stance differs from its stand before western capitals. It then makes a third position to Sheikh Sabah before going against it to take a fourth and new stance.
Furthermore, its declaration that the 13 conditions “are part of the past” has undoubtedly shocked Kuwait. The statement was made without Sheikh Sabah being aware of it, meaning that Qatar has openly stabbed the Kuwaiti mediation.

Trump Enters Qatar Crisis Mediation Efforts
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat/September 09/17
After Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah visited Washington and met with US president, the Qatari crisis went back to square one. President Donald Trump accepted Sheikh Sabah’s invitation take part in mediating the Qatar crisis, entering the second phase in efforts meant to resolve the dispute. Assuming his role, Trump, in his distinctive style, made a public announcement on Qatar having to cease supporting terrorism. The emir’s decision to involve Trump is admirable—Doha, which had refused to make concessions with Sheikh Sabah, now will have to deal with President Trump. Sheikh Sabah noted that Kuwait has suffered from Qatar’s threat. Not only by the rabble rousing spurred by the Doha-run news channel Al Jazeera, but also earlier dispute that was kept under the radar.
The dispute revolved on Qatar’s funding of Kuwaiti opposition outside the country’s parliament house and supporting street protesters against the government.
Qatar found itself an argument in proclaimed sovereignty rights, a case which does not apply in matters of export, financing, and incitement of violence against other states. In turn, Kuwaiti authorities were forced to bare their teeth by making multiple arrests against prominent protestors, shutting down newspapers, closing television broadcasts and stripping some of their Kuwaiti nationality. Most of these problems were backed by Doha’s authorities. Sheikh Sabah told Trump and the world that Kuwait has suffered from Qatar’s interventions and from its degenerate media.
Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain echo Kuwait’s complaints, however they have vowed to confront the source. With only a mere 90 days since the Arab quartet boycotted Qatar, to some, the crisis seems to have been an ongoing burden for decades. While not a single drop of blood was shed, Qatar swayed its people’s attention away from the major wars in the region. The wars in Syria, Yemen and Libya, instead it put its own screams in the spotlight. Qatar’s screams faded within the last three months, unable to change the four countries’ decisions, they did not budge. The world now lives in less chaos without Qatar, but Qatar seems unable to adapt to the new circumstances. It wants to force the four countries to lift the boycott, running from one platform to another, from one organization to another, from one mediator to another.
All of Qatar’s campaigns achieved nothing. It was Qatar who broke the Kuwaiti Emir’s mediation when it could have accepted the Arab quartet’s demands. Most of the demands were already stipulated in the Riyadh Agreement of 2014 which Qatar signed three years ago in the presence of Kuwait’s Emir, only to then fail to meet the demands of the agreement. Qatar seeks refuge in its proclaimed sovereignty. There is no sovereignty in the export, financing and incitement of violence against other states. Sovereignty may be permissible if the Qatari government incites and finances it only within its borders. But hosting and funding personalities and organizations calling for overthrowing other countries’ regimes have serious consequences. Qatar stands alone because everyone is bored and tired. They also hate the country’s actions and their support for extremist groups. As stated in the Arab quartet’s explanatory statement, there is a unanimity in the region against Qatar. Be certain that most of the Arab states whom are officially silent, stand with the quartet and agree that Qatar’s funding of extremist groups in their countries and the region must stop. Most of these silent countries are ready to diplomatically support the countries against Qatar by advising the US administration to stand firm against its government and more.

Terrorists in Germany's Parliament?
Bruce Bawer/ Gatestone Institute/September 09/17
Even as Germany is increasingly cracking down on criticism of Islam, it appears prepared to give a genuine Islamic terrorist group the opportunity to win seats in its parliament.
In a remarkable decision taken at the end of August, Germany's Interior Ministry declined to bar the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) -- listed as a terrorist organization by the US, Canada, the European Union, and Australia -- "from campaigning as a political party in the September general election to the Bundestag."
Yes, the PFLP -- on a joint list with the Marxist-Leninist Party -- plans to field candidates in this month's elections in Germany and run for Parliament.
What is the PFLP? Formed shortly after Israel's Six-Day War through the merger of three militant groups -- The Young Avengers (Palestinian nationalists), The Heroes of the Return (based in Lebanon), and the Palestinian Liberation Front (which operated largely out of Syria and the West Bank) -- it is today, after Fatah, the second largest faction in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Described variously as a blend of "Palestinian nationalism with Marxist ideology" and as "a Palestinian nationalist organization with different ideological outlooks at different times (from Arab nationalist, to Maoist, to Leninist)," it has called for Israel's destruction and international communist revolution.
Considered more radical than Fatah, it has, ever since its founding, routinely targeted civilians without remorse. During its early days, it was on friendly terms with Germany's Red Army Faction (the Baader-Meinhof Gang) and received funding from the USSR and China. In recent years the PFLP has been chummy with Iran.
Coming soon to Germany's Parliament?
Half a century ago, the PFLP specialized in hijacking planes -- it was the first Palestinian group to do so, and the first successfully to commandeer an El Al plane. That act, in 1968, is widely considered to mark the beginning of the modern era of international Islamic terrorism. On a single day in September 1970, its members hijacked three passenger flights headed from European airports to New York. In 1972, a PFLP member took part in the Lod Airport Massacre, in which 28 people were murdered at what is now called Ben Gurion International Airport. In October 2001, it assassinated Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze'evi in retaliation for Israel's killing of its top leader at the time, Abu Ali Mustafa (after whom the group's militant wing is now named).
During the next few years, the PFLP focused on suicide bombings in Israel; more recently, it has kept busy firing rockets into Israel from the Gaza Strip.
In November 2014, two PFLP associates murdered six people in a synagogue massacre in Jerusalem. On June 16 of this year, it collaborated with Hamas on a fatal attack in East Jerusalem; on July 14, it murdered two Israeli police officers in Jerusalem's Old City and bragged that its "heroic operation" had successfully broken through "the security cordon imposed by the Israeli occupation forces on the city of Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa, breaking the arrogance of the Zionist security which sees in the city and in Al-Aqsa an impenetrable fortress."
Perhaps the PFLP's most famous operative is Carlos the Jackal, the legendary Venezuelan terrorist, currently serving a life sentence in France. Another high-profile member is Leila Khaled, who has been called "the first woman hijacker in history" and who has been allowed in recent years to enter many Western countries, including Germany, Sweden, Austria, and South Africa, to deliver speeches, meet with fellow communists, and confer with supporters of movements that try to destroy Israel economically.
If it seems exceedingly inappropriate for these countries' governments to afford Khaled such treatment, consider that the UN, the EU, and a number of European countries, including Germany, France, Britain, Ireland, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Spain, Sweden, Denmark, and Norway, have funded non-governmental organizations with links to PFLP -- among them Addameer, Al-Haq, the Alternative Information Center, the Health Work Committee, Stop the Wall, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, and the Union of Agricultural Work Committees. At least one of the groups in question, according to NGO Monitor, was founded and is run by the PFLP; others have convicted terrorists on their payrolls and/or have abetted PFLP and its members in one way or another. There has, however, been remarkably little media attention paid to the fact that at least some of taxpayer money donated by these Western countries has found its way into the PFLP's coffers, and more than $300 million annually to the salaries of terrorists.
But of all the actions taken by Western governments and international organizations that have benefited the PFLP, none has come as close to legitimizing it as Germany's decision to let it field candidates in this month's elections. "For observers of terrorism in Germany," wrote Benjamin Weinthal in the Jerusalem Post, "it is unclear why the ministry is reluctant to outlaw the Palestinian organization." After all, it is not as if the Federal Republic of Germany has no power to ban parties; it outlawed the Volkssozialistische Bewegung Deutschlands/Partei der Arbeit (People's Socialist Movement of Germany) in 1982 and the Freiheitliche Deutsche Arbeiter Partei (Free German Workers Party) in 1995.
Nor are today's German authorities shy about silencing individuals for holding views they consider inappropriate. Gatestone Institute's Soeren Kern noted in 2012 that German authorities were "monitoring... websites that are critical of Muslim immigration" and were prepared to shut them down. In 2014, Bavarian officials sought to gag critics of a new mega-mosque; in January of last year, the Washington Post reported that Germany had "reached a deal with Facebook, Google and Twitter to get tougher on offensive [read: anti-Islamic] content." German police even raided the home of a critic of Muslim refugees.
A German court had given five months' probation to a woman for her online comments "about an alleged rape of a German woman by an asylum seeker." In June 2016, German police raided the homes of thirty-six additional people guilty of "hate posting" online; in July, they raided about sixty more homes.
It is hard not to see this as a strange, ironic, and tragic historical moment. In living memory, Germany was transformed from a fearsome totalitarian power, bent on conquest and genocide, into a cornerstone of liberal democracy. Now, even more than many of its similarly misguided European neighbors, it is plainly headed in a direction that should give pause to every lover of Western freedom: even as it is increasingly cracking down on criticism of Islam, it appears prepared to give a genuine Islamic terrorist group the opportunity to win seats in its national legislature.
**Bruce Bawer is the author of the new novel The Alhambra (Swamp Fox Editions). His book While Europe Slept (2006) was a New York Times bestseller and National Book Critics Circle Award finalist.
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Trump’s Big Decision in Syria
David Ignatius/The Washington Post/September 09/17
As the US-led coalition accelerates its campaign to destroy ISIS’ remaining strongholds in Syria, the Trump administration faces a big decision about the future: Does it want to keep some US troops inside the country to help stabilize Syria after the jihadists are defeated, or does it want to pack up and come home? The dilemma is eerily like what President Barack Obama faced in Iraq in 2011, and the risks and benefits are similar. President Trump, like his predecessor, has expressed skepticism about permanent US wars in the Middle East. But he also knows that pulling out US troops from bases east of the Euphrates could create a vacuum that might trigger ethnic slaughter, regional proxy wars and a new wave of jihadist violence. The military and civilian officials who have been closest to US-Syria policy appear convinced that America should maintain a residual presence, probably something under 1,000 Special Operations forces that could continue to train and advise — and also, restrain — the Syrian Kurdish militia that has been America’s key partner against ISIS. But this alliance with the Kurds is controversial, inside Syria and out.
The political map of Syria, for now, looks like a patchwork quilt, with different bands controlled by rival groups and their patrons. The United States and its Kurdish partners dominate east of the Euphrates River. The Syrian regime, with its Russian and Iranian allies, controls the vast center of the country; Turkish-backed forces control a strip along the northern border; and a Jordanian-Russian “deconfliction” agreement has pacified the southwest. Few analysts expect that Syria can be reunified by President Bashar al-Assad. So, for the foreseeable future, the country will be divided into these zones of influence — awaiting a political transition process that can reestablish the legitimacy and authority of a new central government in Damascus.
The US piece of this puzzle is the area east of the Euphrates. The Syrian Kurdish militia known as the YPG, advised by elite American forces and backed by US air power, has swept across this area over the past three years, and in about six weeks is expected to seize the ISIS capital of Raqqa. As they advanced, the Kurds recruited Sunni Arab allies into a broader coalition known as the Syrian Democratic Forces.
The ad hoc military alliance that produced the SDF has many critics. The Syrian opposition fears that the Kurdish fighters want to create an independent state, and neighboring Turkey sees them as terrorists. But battlefield success generates its own political momentum, and as the United States and the SDF have advanced, something of a bandwagon effect has developed. Sunni opposition groups now seem eager to fight alongside the Kurdish-led forces, under overall US command. This new willingness to work in tandem with the Kurds was voiced by Riyad Hijab, the head of the Syrian opposition coalition known as the High Negotiations Committee. He said in a recent interview that his supporters want “to fight ISIS and other terrorist groups, alongside with the SDF, as long as we fight independently in separate fronts.”Hijab claimed that up to 5,000 Sunni opposition forces would be ready to join the United States and the SDF in liberating Deir al-Zour, the next big town in the Euphrates Valley southeast of Raqqa. The Sunni opposition groups apparently prefer allying with Kurds to Assad’s regime.
US officials are pleased that Hijab and other opposition leaders want to join the fight in the Euphrates Valley. But they say the new recruits aren’t ready for heavy fighting, and that Deir al-Zour will almost certainly be taken by 10,000 Syrian regime troops that are already in the town, joined by regime forces now moving east, with Russian and Iranian backing. The Iranian presence worries some US officials, but they say regime control of Deir al-Zour is probably inevitable. US commanders say the real strategic prize is further south. They say as soon as Raqqa is secure, SDF troops (joined by whatever other Arab forces are ready), hope to advance toward the lower Euphrates Valley, south of Deir al-Zour. The United States hopes that Iraqi forces across the border will help check Iranian power in the area. What happens next? That depends in part on whether U.S. military advisers stay in eastern Syria. If they remain, say US officials, they can curb the Kurds’ ambitions for independence, deter the Turks from intervening and encourage the Sunni opposition to work with all sides. A future US presence “will be essential,” says Hijab.
And if they leave quickly? We’ve seen this movie before.

Trump Can’t Solve North Korea by Just Making a Deal
Meghan O'Sullivan/Bloomberg View/September 09/17
President Donald Trump’s tweet last weekend that the US might terminate all tradewith countries doing business with North Korea was widely derided on the grounds of realism. Given that 90 percent of North Korea’s trade is with China, the tweet was little more than a veiled threat to terminate all US trade with Beijing, ending a bilateral trade relationship valued at $650 billion a year. It would, as many correctly pointed out, mean economic disaster for North Korea — and also for the US. The “realism” argument — as well as its companion criticism that such statements call into question US credibility — is well founded. But my bigger issue with the president’s tweet lies elsewhere. Trump’s threat — particularly when viewed alongside his reported preparation to withdraw from the free trade agreement with South Korea — shows that he is willing and inclined to take on would-be allies in the hopes that the pressure he creates will force them to address a common problem on his terms.
By threatening to curtail US trade with South Korea and China, Trump seems to be trying to create some leverage, some bargaining power, over Beijing and Seoul that he can then use to get them to be tougher on North Korea. As he said back in April on “Face the Nation”: “I think that, frankly, North Korea is maybe more important than trade.” He also mused that securing China’s help in dealing with North Korea could be “worth making not as good a trade deal for the United States.”We have known for some time that the president views all negotiations through such a transactional lens. And perhaps, in some circumstance, such a transactional approach can bear fruit in the realm of foreign policy, although I am hard pressed to point to one. Some US administrations have tried to deal with Russia in this way; Moscow generally saw any concession as a sign of weakness, rather than as part of an explicit bargain.
Taking this approach with allies such as South Korea or potential partners such as China (at least in regard to North Korea) is even more problematic. In these instances, the possibilities should be greater, based on the assumption that the relationship is bigger than a cost-benefit analysis. The arrangements that make sense in a context of some trust may otherwise fall flat in a context only of short-term gain.
But what is so surprising and unsettling about the president’s statements of the last couple of days — particularly in the aftermath of North Korea’s most powerful nuclear test yet — is that Trump seems to think this transactional approach is appropriate even in a crisis that could be existential to some of the parties. Trump appears to believe he can tweak the balance sheet of these relationships in a way that both China and South Korea see no choice but to approach the North Korea problems as he would like them to do.
This is highly risky. Finding a solution to — or, more likely, the sustainable management of — a problem as high-stakes and complex as North Korea demands an entirely different approach. In the past, when collective action was required to combat a looming threat, each actor was often required to take what was sometimes an enormous leap of faith, and commit to pledges and take risks dramatically outside its comfort zone. Such leaps were possible in the context of trust and common values and purpose — such as NATO members uniting behind the idea that an attack against one is an attack against all.
Sometimes this coming together was less noble and unconditional — such as when the US and China started their rapprochement in the 1970s. But this was done against the backdrop of perceived and real common interests in an alignment against the Soviet Union, and was broad-based enough to survive some disappointments on both sides. It was bigger than the outgrowth of a series of short-term quantifiable calculations, weighed against one another on an Excel spreadsheet.
I have real sympathy for those in the Trump administration charged with addressing the threat from North Korea. It is a policy problem of enormous proportions, with no obvious right answer. There are, however, obviously wrong strategies, and adopting a hard-core transactional approach toward allies and necessary partners is among them. To the extent it is possible to imagine a positive outcome to this crisis, it involves the US, China, South Korea and others working together — and almost certainly putting some element of trust and confidence in each other to uphold promises and commitments that cannot be externally guaranteed. A transactional approach stands no chance of getting us that far.

North Korea’s cheat and retreat game
Amir Taheri/Al Arabiya/September 09/17
It is too early to guess how the latest storm triggered by North Korea’s behavior might end. Will this lead to a “surgical” strike on North Korean nuclear sites by the United States? Or will it cause “a global catastrophe” as Vladimir Putin, never shy of hyperbole, warns?
If past experience is an indicator the latest crisis is likely to fade away as did the previous six crises triggered by North Korea since the 1970s. Under the Kim dynasty, North Korea, in an established pattern of behavior, has been an irritant for the US, not to mention near and not-so-near neighbors such as South Korea, Japan, and even China and Russia. By one reading, that pattern, otherwise known as “cheat-and-retreat” could be laughed as a sign of weakness disguised as strength.
However, if only because nuclear weapons are involved, one would have to take the provocation seriously. The Kim dynasty has relied on that ambiguity as part of its survival strategy for decades.
Good options
The strategy has worked because the Kims did not overreach, sticking to strict rules of brinkmanship. Contemplating their situation, the Kims know that they had a few good options.
One option is to embark on a genuine path to the peaceful reunification of the Korean Peninsula. But in that case, the Kim regime would be doomed. That is what happened to Communist East Germany when it was swallowed by the German Federal Republic.
At 52 million, the population of South Korea is twice that of North Korea. As the world’s 13th largest economy with a Gross National Product of almost $2 trillion, it is also far wealthier than its northern neighbor. South Korea’s annual income per head is close to $40,000 compared to North Korea’s $1700 which makes the land of the Kims poorer than even Yemen and South Sudan, in 213th place out of 220 nations.
The other option is for North Korea to invade the South, to impose unification under its own system. That, too, is not a realistic option. Even without the US “defense umbrella” South Korea is no pushover. Barring nuclear weapons, the South has an arsenal of modern weapons that the North could only dream of. The South could mobilize an army of over 800,000, three times larger than that of the North.
The North, of course, has the advantage of nuclear weapons. But it won’t be easy to use such weapons against the South without contaminating the North as well. Almost 70 per cent of the peninsula’s estimated 80 million people live in less than 15 per cent of its total area of around 200,000 square kilometers which are precisely where nuclear weapons would presumably be used.
In other words, the Kims cannot rule over the whole of the Peninsula either through peaceful means or by force.
The other option the Kims have is to keep quiet and steer clear of provocations.
But that, too, is a high-risk option. For it would mean peaceful coexistence with the South which, in turn, could lead to an exchange of visits and growing trade, and investment by the South. In such a situation the South Korea’s wealth, freedom and seductive lifestyle would be a permanent challenge to the austere lifestyle that the Kims offer.
Again, the East German experience after Willy Brandt launched his Ostpolitik for normalization with the Communist bloc in Europe comes to mind.
But how could the Kims claim legitimacy and persuade North Koreans to ignore the attraction of the model presented by the South?
One way is to wave the banner of independence through the so-called “Self-Reliance” (Juche) doctrine which says that while those in the South have bread those in the North have pride because the South is a “slave house of the Americans” while the North challenges American “hegemony”.
The Kims know that by picking up a quarrel with the US they upgrade their regime. However, such a quarrel must not go beyond certain limits and force the US to hit back.
Thus in every crisis provoked by the Kims since the 1970s, North Korea has never gone beyond certain limits. And each time it has obtained concessions and favors from the US in exchange for cooling down the artificial crisis.
The pattern started under Jimmy Carter and reached its peak under President Bill Clinton who sent his Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on a pilgrimage to Pyongyang and offered to build two nuclear reactors for the Kims.
One overlooked fact is that during the past four decades the US has helped save North Korea from three major famines.
Upgrading yourself by picking up a quarrel with the US is not an art practiced by the Kims only. The Soviets did it from the 1960s onwards. The Cuban missile crisis was one example; it helped create the image of the USSR as a superpower later symbolized by “summits”.In the 1960s and early 1970s Communist China, regarding the US as a paper tiger, did the same by occasional attacks on Quemoy and Matsu and saber-rattling against Taiwan.
The Khomeinists in Tehran upgraded their ramshackle regime by raiding the US Embassy in Tehran which kept them on American TV for 444 days.
The Kims’ strategy has worked because successive American administrations have played the role written for them in Pyongyang, pretending outrage but ending up offering concessions. Clinton had a beautiful analysis: “I ask myself: can I kill these people tomorrow? If, yes, why do it today?”
The Kims have banked on that analysis and have been proven right. Regardless of what North Korea does, the US will not try to do today what it thinks it can do tomorrow. The Kim-generated crisis also suits China which does not want a united Korea which could become another Japan, an economic powerhouse and a potential military obstacle to Beijing’s regional ambitions.Russia, too, is happy to see the Kims’ shindig diverting world attention from Putin’s shenanigans while exposing the US as weak and indecisive.
And what if the Kim-scripted crisis also suits President Trump by providing weeks of diversion from other problems?
The Kims didn’t invent governance by the crisis but have proven to be among its most ardent practitioners. I know journalists aren’t supposed to predict the future. But let us infringe the rule by guessing that the latest Kim-scripted crisis will fizzle out in time for the XXIII Olympic Winter Games (Peyong Chang 2018) next February in South Korea. Kim has achieved his objective of upgrading his regime and cheated on his nuclear arsenal without suffering serious consequences. He has no interest in pushing things beyond the edge.

Russia and Turkey: Convergence of interests in Syria
Huda al-Husseini/Al Arabiya/September 09/17
The silence of Russia and Turkey on Hezbollah’s deal with the ISIS is quite remarkable. Is it because the deal sets Iraq as the destination for ISIS fighters? Forces funded by Iran in Iraq have accused the US of displaying double standard and of opening a way for ISIS fighters from Tal Afar to escape towards Kurdistan. A representative of Hezbollah Brigades in Iraq said on Al-Mayadeen television channel on Sunday that he had proof that the President of Iraqi Kurdistan, Masoud Barzani, had issued orders for receiving them. Is there a conspiracy being hatched against the Kurds in Iraq, or against the Kurds in general? Is this why Russia and Turkey have remained silent? There is enough cause for speculation.
Ganging up against the West
Last year, relations between Russia and Turkey improved. It seems the two countries think it is necessary to cooperate in different fields as their main concern has been to focus on the war in Syria where their interests converge. Improving bilateral military and economic relations is also important. According to Turkish and Russian officials, preparations have been made for Turkey to buy Russian S-400 defense system. This worries Turkey’s allies in NATO – although some analysts believe the deal may not materialize in the end. They also doubt whether Turkey will ever receive the surface-to-air missile defense batteries. It is even contended that the motive here is not the defence acquisitions but the sending of a message to the West.
According to a British political analyst, Moscow and Ankara are playing up this cooperation to show that the West is displeased with them. Ankara in particular may be doing so as it is frustrated by Washington’s continuous military cooperation with Syrian Kurds.
Russia is helping Turkey develop a nuclear station and is participating in building a Turkish gas pipeline project which will enable Russian gas exports to reach south Europe by circumventing Ukraine. The war in Syria is thus just one of the arenas where they can cooperate. Although each one has a different point of view regarding the future of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Moscow and Ankara are also cooperating to control regional aspirations of Kurds inside Syria.
Russia, Turkey wary of Iran
Russia has closely worked with Iran ever since the Syrian civil war first broke out in 2011. This cooperation distanced Turkey from Russia. However, there are increasing signs of growing disagreements between Russia and Iran over the future of Syria. The Iranian formula to support the Syrian regime does not include any concessions to the Assad family, particularly for Bashar. Meanwhile, Russia has always been willing to make concessions on the diplomatic front as long as its basic interests in Syria are guaranteed, i.e. its military bases and its political influence.
In Syria, Russian and Turkish perspectives in terms of restraining Iran’s regional ambitions also coincide. Ironically, the factor that is pushing Ankara and Moscow to cooperate is the US. Turkey is a NATO member and it is expected to be an ally of Western powers in Syria. However, Turkey has been serving its own interests, which are based on its geopolitical realities and interests in the Middle East. There is no secret that Ankara is worried of US aid to Kurds in Syria and is upset by Washington’s changing points of view regarding the future of the Assad regime. The same applies to Russia which is worried of American operations in Syria – although US President Donald Trump recently suspended military aid to the Syrian opposition and Washington and Moscow brokered a ceasefire in southwest Syria in July. Thus, Turkish-Russian rapprochement is partially pushed by the two countries’ opposition of American interests.
Apart from these problems in the Middle East, Turkey and Russia have also had difficult relations with the EU. Before Chancellor Angela Merkel said Turkey should not become an EU member, Ankara was strongly criticized by Brussels. Moscow has also had disagreements with Europe since the 2014 Russian intervention in Ukraine.
History of Rivalry
Still, age-old territorial disputes between Turkey and Russia continue to the day. Thanks to its geography, Turkey has the longest coast on the Black Sea. It naturally controls the straits of Bosphorus and Dardanelles which makes it capable of exercising its military and economic prowess over the Black Sea.
The region has historically been a battlefield between the Russian and Ottoman empires from the 18th century until the Cold War. Both countries have natural interest in expanding their influence in the Black Sea. This offers little chance for both to find a mutually acceptable solution for the long term. Since the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014, Moscow has gained the upper hand in terms of military infrastructure and capability over all Black Sea shores.
East of the Black Sea and south of Caucasus, Turkey and Russia face their long-term historical battle over Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. Ever since the Soviet Union collapsed, Turkey has worked to reconnect South of Caucasus with its growing market for energy consumption by launching different energy and infrastructure plans from the East to the West. The Baku–Tbilisi–Ceyhan pipeline and the Baku–Tbilisi–Kars railway are some of the projects which Ankara currently supports. Although it’s highly unlikely for Turkey to militarily confront Russia in the region now, it does not mean Ankara will not consider increasing Georgia’s and Azerbaijan’s military capabilities.
There are other deep-rooted disagreements between Russia and Turkey such as the conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Russia has its own interests for resolving this issue and in fact it prefers to keep the status quo for as long as possible. This is why Russia wants Turkey, Azerbaijan’s ally, to stay away from this conflict for as long as is possible. It is said that Moscow seeks to deploy its peacekeeping troops in Karabakh in lieu of having Armenia give up few areas around Karabakh. Meanwhile, east of Central Asia, Ankara is capable of seeing itself as the natural ally of all Central Asian countries as there are strong ethnic ties between Turkey and the Turkic people in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Tajikistan has always been more influenced by Iranian culture.
The Syrian Theatre
Both Russia and Turkey cannot afford to remain hostile to each other now. Turkey sees in Russia a door to Syria and the cover that Ankara needs if it has to accept Assad’s stay in power instead of accepting a Kurdish autonomy. Russia and Turkey will continue to work together in Syria whether there is peace or conflict. The two countries’ present exigencies will push them to find common ground to cooperate and oppose Iranian and American interests in the Middle East. Turkey cannot bear the loss of its last influence over an Arab territory. Economic and military communications will improve between them because Russia cannot lose the Turkish market which is very important for its gas exports. Furthermore, Russian-Turkish relations will be subjected to geopolitical pressures due to geographic and security causes. The Black Sea and south Caucasus – as well as Central Asia to a lesser degree – will be the most contentious regions between Moscow and Ankara.
There are interests, ambitions, military bases and cultures between these countries that clash and coalesce with each other. The two have taken Syria as their arena to meet, cooperate and to impose their influence. Russians, Iranians, Turks, Europeans and the Americans are involved, and there are also Chechens, Uzbeks and Kyrgyzstanis who are fighting with the ISIS and whom we’ve seen as captives in videos broadcast by the Kurdish television in Iraq. Where is the Arab role in all of this? We have not seen it yet!