September 18/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For Today
Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Mark 08/34/38.09,01/:" Jesus called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.’ And he said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.’

To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood,and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and eve.

Book of Revelation 01/01-08/The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place; he made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of the prophecy, and blessed are those who hear and who keep what is written in it; for the time is near. John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood,and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail. So it is to be. Amen.‘I am the Alpha and the Omega’, says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.

Question: "What is a Christian worldview?"
Answer: A “worldview” refers to a comprehensive conception of the world from a specific standpoint. A “Christian worldview,” then, is a comprehensive conception of the world from a Christian standpoint. An individual’s worldview is his “big picture,” a harmony of all his beliefs about the world. It is his way of understanding reality. One’s worldview is the basis for making daily decisions and is therefore extremely important. An apple sitting on a table is seen by several people. A botanist looking at the apple classifies it. An artist sees a still-life and draws it. A grocer sees an asset and inventories it. A child sees lunch and eats it. How we look at any situation is influenced by how we look at the world at large. Every worldview, Christian and non-Christian, deals with at least these three questions:
1) Where did we come from? (and why are we here?)
2) What is wrong with the world?
3) How can we fix it?
A prevalent worldview today is naturalism, which answers the three questions like this: 1) We are the product of random acts of nature with no real purpose. 2) We do not respect nature as we should. 3) We can save the world through ecology and conservation. A naturalistic worldview generates many related philosophies such as moral relativism, existentialism, pragmatism, and utopianism.
A Christian worldview, on the other hand, answers the three questions biblically: 1) We are God’s creation, designed to govern the world and fellowship with Him (Genesis 1:27-28; 2:15). 2) We sinned against God and subjected the whole world to a curse (Genesis 3). 3) God Himself has redeemed the world through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ (Genesis 3:15; Luke 19:10), and will one day restore creation to its former perfect state (Isaiah 65:17-25). A Christian worldview leads us to believe in moral absolutes, miracles, human dignity, and the possibility of redemption.
It is important to remember that a worldview is comprehensive. It affects every area of life, from money to morality, from politics to art. True Christianity is more than a set of ideas to use at church. Christianity as taught in the Bible is itself a worldview. The Bible never distinguishes between a “religious” and a “secular” life; the Christian life is the only life there is. Jesus proclaimed Himself “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6) and, in doing so, became our worldview.
Recommended Resource: Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview by William Lane Craig & J.P. Moreland

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on September 17-18/17
The Geagea LF, Has Nothing To Do With The Historic LF/Elias Bejjani/September 16/17
Iran pays $830 million to Hezbollah/Anna Ahronheim/Jerusalem Post/September 15/17
Bahrain king denounces Arab boycott of Israel, says countrymen may visit/
Jerusalem Post/September 17/17
Iran recruits Afghan and Pakistani Shiites to fight in Syria/Ynetnews/Associated Press/|September 17/17
Salameh’s Difficult Task in New York/Mattia Toaldo/Asharq Al Awsat/September 17/17
Fans of Iran Nuke Deal Start to Acknowledge its Flaws/Eli Lake/Bloomberg/September 17/17
Will September be Decisive for the Nuclear Agreement?/Salman Al-dossary/Asharq Al Awsat/September 17/17
North Korea’s Secret Weapon? Economic Growth./David Volodzko/Bloomberg/September 17/17
State Department Waging "Open War" on White House/Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institute/September 17, 2017
UK: How Much More Abuse of Children Do We Permit?/Khadija Khan/Gatestone Institute/September 17, 2017

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on September 17-18/17
The Geagea LF, Has Nothing To Do With The Historic LF
Iran pays $830 million to Hezbollah/Anna Ahronheim/Jerusalem Post
'Trust the state,' Aoun says, amidst security concerns
Gen. Aoun awards medals for Fajr al-Joroud operation
Lebanese Affected by Hurricane Irma Arrive in Beirut
Report: Army Preparing to Move Units from Eastern Border to Ain el-Hilweh
Bassil Says Govt. to Approve Registration Mechanism for Expat Voters
Army Reassures Citizens as Reports Say U.S. Tip behind Security Warnings
Aoun Urges Lebanese 'Not to Heed Rumors' ahead of U.S. Trip
Foucher: We trust in the capabilities of the Lebanese security forces
President Aoun bound for New York
Rahi calls on political community to rectify their practices
Kahwaji after meeting with Hariri: If they wish to reveal the State's secrets, let them do so!
Salameh from Abu Dhabi: Lebanon has all the factors to preserve its monetary stability

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on September 17-18/17
Iran leader Khamenei warns against U.S. 'wrong move' on nuclear deal
Tillerson, Lavrov Discuss Syria in Telephone Call
Egypt Aims to End Palestinian Division
Hamas Agrees to Elections in Effort to End Fatah Dispute
Kuwait to Expel North Korea Ambassador
Egypt Sentences Morsi to 25 Years in Jail
Barzani: It’s too Late for an Alternative to Kurdistan Independence Referendum
Erdogan Warns Kurdish President against Going through with Independence Vote
Washington Pledges to Restore Libyan Unity
4 U.S. Tourists Attacked with Acid in Marseille
British Police Arrest 2nd Suspect over London Train Attack
Russia Plays Up Role as Peacemaker, Donor in Syria

Latest Lebanese Related News published on September 16-17/17
The Geagea LF, Has Nothing To Do With The Historic LF/قوات سمير جعجع لا تمت بصلة لقوات بشير..القوات التاريخية
Elias Bejjani/September 16/17
Sadly and it really hurts to say it: Mr. Samir Geagea’s current LF (Lebanese Forces) is not in any way, or even close to the Historic LF by any means. not at all.
This version of the LF is proving in reality and actuality and on daily basis, as well as in every political choice, in all its moody and individualized alliances, in all that is related to the Lebanese identity, and to all that is “Lebanese Patriotic Cause” …it is proving without a shadow of a doubt that it is much, much worst than all the other feudal falsely called Lebanese Christian political parties.
What really is so dangerous and so devastating and so disappointing for our Christian societies in both Lebanon and Diaspora is the apparent below zero intellectual and faith level of the Geagea worshipper (they are worshippers and not followers or supporters and this is a proved fact) ) in all that is, free opinion, discretion, knowledge, respect of others and civilized rhetoric.

Iran pays $830 million to Hezbollah/التمويل المالي الإيراني لحزب الله يقدر سنوياً ب 800 مليوم دولار
Anna Ahronheim/Jerusalem Post/September 15/17
Hezbollah says future Israel war could draw fighters from Iran, Iraq
Two years after the nuclear deal was signed by Iran and world powers, the Islamic Republic is reported to have boosted its financial support to Hezbollah to $800 million a year, a dramatic increase from the $200m. it was said to be giving its proxy when sanctions were in place.
Hezbollah, one of the most prominent terrorist organizations in the world, has become bogged down fighting in Syria for Bashar Assad. Of its approximately 22,000 fighters, about 7,000 are fighting for the Assad regime, and some 2,000 have been killed in the four years the group has spent in Syria.
The US and European countries lifted sanctions against Iran in January 2016, releasing roughly $100 billion in assets after international inspectors found that Iran had dismantled large parts of its nuclear program. According to US media, officials say President Donald Trump is ready to extend those waivers that were issued under the Obama administration.
According to IDF assessments, while Hezbollah has increased its military capabilities due to its fighting in Syria, the group has spread its troops across the entire Middle East and is hurting financially.
The finances of the Lebanese Shi’ite group, designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by dozens of countries around the globe, also has been hit hard due to years of sanctions by the United States.
In June, a US congressional committee met to discuss enhancing sanctions targeting Hezbollah met with four security experts for advice on additional legal actions against the group’s financial network.
According to the committee, the 2015 Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act (HIPA), which threatens sanctions against anyone who finances the group in any significant way, was a good start but needs enhancing because Hezbollah continues to remain a significant threat to Israel.
Iran also is reported to be spending hundreds of millions of dollars for its militias in Syria and Iraq, as well as supporting Houthi rebels in Yemen who are fighting pro-government forces backed by a Saudi-led coalition.
Although HIPA placed major restrictions and other measures of the Lebanese banking sector, lawmakers in Washington believe it needs to be widened to cripple the group, which is involved in fighting in those countries.
Tehran, which froze its financial support to Hamas in the Gaza Strip after the group refused to support the Assad regime in 2012, is now reported to be providing the Gazan terrorist group some $60m.-70m.
In August, Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar said ties have been restored and that Iran is “the largest backer financially and militarily” to Hamas’s military wing.
Meanwhile, the IDF on Thursday afternoon announced the end of the large-scale Or Hadagan military drill in northern Israel. The exercise, with tens of thousands of soldiers from all branches of the army simulating a war with Hezbollah, was the largest IDF drill in almost 20 years.
“The objective of the exercise was to improve the Northern Command, the Northern Corps and the ability of its divisions to fight the multi-branch operational system in the Northern Command, with an emphasis on the Lebanese front,” the Spokespersons Unit said.
During the drill, large numbers of aerial, naval and land vehicles and equipment were used and troops were trained in joint exercises. Both defense and offensive capabilities, as well as fire power, intelligence and simultaneous military maneuvers were practiced in several sectors of the northern front.
The Home Front Command also practiced implementation of the plan to evacuate residents of communities that sit on the border with Lebanon.
Although the primary threat posed by Hezbollah remains its missile arsenal, which has been rebuilt with the help of Iran since the 2006 Second Lebanon War, the IDF believes the next war will see the group try to bring the fight to the home front by infiltrating Israeli communities to inflict significant civilian and military casualties.

'Trust the state,' Aoun says, amidst security concerns
The Daily Star/September 17/17/BEIRUT: President Michel Aoun called Sunday for Lebanese residents to trust the state, following a slew of security alerts issued by foreign governments to their citizens on Lebanese soil. Before departing for New York Sunday afternoon, where he is heading a delegation that will attend a session of the United Nations General Assembly, Aoun said such security warnings were designed to sully Lebanon's victory against terrorism. “Recently, rumors targeting the citizens’ trust in their institutions have been intensifying,” Aoun said, in a statement released by his press office. “[These rumors range from] engraining doubt in the national currency, to charging some state [officials] with corruption, to targeting the Army in the midst of its confrontation with terrorists, to spreading an atmosphere of fear and concern by talking about anticipated terrorist operations.” Aoun’s statement came after several foreign embassies in Beirut issued security alerts to their citizens suggesting that Lebanon faced an elevated risk of attack. The embassies of the United States, Britain, Canada and France last week advised their citizens to remain vigilant, warning of a high likelihood of imminent attacks targeting Lebanon. Following these warnings, the Lebanese Army announced Friday that it had arrested 19 people connected to a Daesh (ISIS) terror cell headed by Egyptian Fadi Ibrahim Ahmad, who is reportedly hiding in Ain al-Hilweh. The cell, the Army said, was preparing to carry out terrorist acts. But the Army on Saturday attempted to mitigate the concerns of Lebanese residents, assuring the populace that Army Intelligence units had been taking precautionary measures to maintain stability and security. The Army requested that citizens brush off any information suggesting the country was at risk. “All of this falls within a systematic program to distract attention from [our] state-building accomplishments,” Aoun said. “This method has been exposed and has been used repeatedly following every significant national achievement, such as the victory over terrorism –and it is intended to instill doubt in [Lebanon’s] ability to build a state.”
Aoun called on the Lebanese people to resist such rumors."Let their trust in the state and its institutions be great."

Gen. Aoun awards medals for Fajr al-Joroud operation
The Daily Star/September 17/17/BEIRUT: Army Commander Gen. Joseph Aoun said the Army was the root of Lebanon during a ceremony to honor the military and award medals to soldiers wounded in the "Fajr al-Joroud" operation against Daesh (ISIS).
“[If] the Army stands, Lebanon survives,” Gen. Aoun said during a speech at the event held at Riyaq Airbase in the Bekaa Valley, a video of the event released by the Army showed. The event was attended by the heads of security forces in the country and Military Council members.
It celebrated the soldiers who fought in ‘Fajr al-Joroud,’ the military offensive to free the Lebanese-Syrian border area from Daesh militants, and uncovered the fate of the nine servicemen captured by Daesh in 2014 as well as two others killed by militants in the area. The servicemen were captured when Daesh and the Nusra Front - now known as Jabhat Fatah al-Sham - briefly overran the border town of Arsal in 2014. Gen. Aoun said that during the offensive strike, politics and sectarianism took a back seat and Lebanese stood united with the Army. “You [the Army] won, and the people won,” he said. “They rushed to thank you, praise you and cherish you.”The offensive, launched on Aug. 19, was the first full-scale operation conducted against the militant group in the country and was successful in securing the northern Lebanese border and discovering the remains of the captured soldiers, who have since been buried in their hometowns. Gen. Aoun added that the victory helped the Lebanese government to become more resilient and work harder on internal issues. However, the war against terrorism is not over, he said. “We still have terrorist sleeper cells and people who wish to harm Lebanon,” Gen. Aoun said. Before the speech, Gen. Aoun awarded medals to injured soldiers and the families of the seven soldiers killed during the offensive. “You [soldiers] are the pride of Lebanon. In the face of danger, you didn’t run and you didn’t hesitate. Our brave soldiers,” Aoun said at the end of his speech.

Lebanese Affected by Hurricane Irma Arrive in Beirut
Naharnet/September 17/17/The first batch of Lebanese citizens affected by the devastating Hurricane Irma arrived Sunday morning in Beirut and a second batch was expected to arrive in the afternoon, Prime Minister Saad Hariri's office and the National News Agency said. The twenty Lebanese citizens, evacuated from the British Virgin Islands, arrived aboard a Turkish Airlines plane coming from London and were received at the Rafik Hariri International Airport by Maj. Gen. Mohammed Kheir, the head of the High Relief Commission, who was representing PM Hariri, in addition to HRC officials and members of their families. NNA identified the evacuees as members of the Tarabay and Jaber families, saying they hail from the Bekaa towns of al-Bawarej and Lala. “Ill, fatigued, tired and distressed, the affected Lebanese explained to Maj. Gen. Kheir their tragic situations and what they have suffered as a result of the destructive hurricane that gutted all their properties and the businesses they had established 50 years ago,” NNA said. Kheir for his part inquired about their needs and relayed to them the salutation of PM Hariri and his concern over their plight. “He has instructed the High Relief Commission to take all the necessary measures and exert at the needed efforts to evacuate them from the stricken islands and transfer them to Lebanon,” Kheir said. “The evacuees for their part thanked PM Hariri for his followup on their plight and the promptness of his response, especially that they were the second expat community to be evacuated from the hit island right after the U.S. expat community, despite the difficult transportation circumstances,” the agency added. Hurricane Irma was an extremely powerful and catastrophic Cape Verde type hurricane, the most intense observed in the Atlantic since Dean in 2007. It was also the most intense Atlantic hurricane to strike the United States since Katrina in 2005, and the first major hurricane to make landfall in the state of Florida since Wilma in 2005. It caused widespread and catastrophic damage throughout its long lifetime, particularly in parts of the northeastern Caribbean and the Florida Keys. The affected countries and territories were Anguilla, Barbados, Barbuda, British Virgin Islands, Cuba, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Martin and Saint Barthélemy, Sint Maarten, Turks and Caicos Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands and Florida.

Report: Army Preparing to Move Units from Eastern Border to Ain el-Hilweh

Naharnet/September 17/17/The army is preparing to redeploy some of its military units that took part in Operation Fajr al-Juroud to the vicinity of the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain el-Hilweh, a media report said on Sunday. Describing the camp as an “unrest hub,” military sources told Saudi daily Asharq al-Awsat that the situation in the camp is different than the one that was prevalent on the eastern border “due to the presence of civilians.”Any decision to act against extremist groups present in the camp “requires coordination and cooperation with the Palestinian factions, but we are always ready for any confrontation and we will immediately tackle any suspicious move,” the sources said. The report follows an announcement by the army about the arrest of a 19-member cell led by Egyptian Islamic State militant Fadi Ibrahim Ahmed, aka Abu Khattab, who is hiding in Ain el-Hilweh. The cell had been “plotting an act of terror,” the army said.

Bassil Says Govt. to Approve Registration Mechanism for Expat Voters
Naharnet/September 17/17/Foreign Minister and Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil has announced from Montreal that the Lebanese government will approve “a mechanism for electronic registration of Lebanese expats so that they can take part in the upcoming parliamentary elections.”“For the first time ever, Lebanese expats will have MPs who represent them and they will have the right to take part in their country’s decision-making process,” said Bassil at the beginning of a foreign trip to Canada and the U.S. “Vote for those who are combating corruption and servants -- those who are building a state that rejects the presence of officials who are subservient to occupiers or embassies,” Bassil added during an FPM dinner in Montreal.

Army Reassures Citizens as Reports Say U.S. Tip behind Security Warnings
Naharnet/September 17/17/The Army Command has issued a statement to reassure citizens about the security situation in the country, following security warnings issued by many Western embassies and a flurry of rumors on social media. “Rumors about security risks resulting from possible acts of terror against commercial, touristic and residential centers are being circulated on social networking websites. The Army Command reassures that the security situation is stable and that the Intelligence Directorate is continuously carrying out preemptive measures to dismantle the terrorist cells,” the Army Command said in a statement. It noted that the Intelligence Directorate had “busted a dangerous cell over the past few days,” in reference to the arrest of a 19-member cell led by Egyptian Islamic State militant Fadi Ibrahim Ahmed, aka Abu Khattab, who is hiding in the Ain el-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp. The cell had been “plotting an act of terror,” the army said. In its latest statement, the Army Command called on citizens “not to heed rumors,” reassuring that “army units have taken preventative security measures to consolidate security and stability in the country.”Kuwaiti daily al-Rai meanwhile reported that “U.S. intelligence had obtained a lead through electronic eavesdropping about an act of terror that was being plotted against Lebanon.”The newspaper also noted that the army had “upped its security measures around Ain el-Hilweh three days before the U.S. Embassy issued its warning.”A military source meanwhile told Kuwaiti daily al-Anbaa that “a terrorist network was about to stage terrorist bombings and to target commercial and touristic sites” and that “it was busted after intelligence information was exchanged among U.S., Lebanese and British intelligence agencies.”The warnings by the U.S., British, Canadian and French embassies had sparked panic among Lebanese citizens in the past two days, especially after the French embassy warned Friday of a “heightened security risk in the next 48 hours.”The warnings coincided with terror attacks in France and Britain.

Aoun Urges Lebanese 'Not to Heed Rumors' ahead of U.S. Trip
Naharnet/September 17/17/President Michel Aoun on Sunday called on Lebanese citizens “not to heed rumors” aimed at “deviating attention from the achievements that have been made on the path of building the State.”The president’s message came in a statement that he issued ahead of his travel to New York in the afternoon at the head of a delegation that will represent Lebanon at the annual meetings of the U.N. General Assembly. “Recently, rumors aimed at shaking citizens’ confidence in their state institutions have intensified,” Aoun warned. He said the rumors involved “raising doubts about the stability of national currency, accusing some state officials of corruption, attacking the army amid its confrontation with the terrorists, and finally the creation of an atmosphere of fear and anxiety through speaking of expected terrorist attacks.”“This is all part of a systematic campaign to deviate attention from the achievements that have been made on the path of building the State and to question the ability to build a State,” Aoun added. And warning Lebanese of “this destructive scheme,” the president called on citizens to “remain vigilant and not to heed rumors or repeat them,” urging them to “greatly trust their state and all its institutions.”

Foucher: We trust in the capabilities of the Lebanese security forces
Sun 17 Sep 2017/NNA - French Ambassador to Lebanon, Bruno Foucher, Sunday, expressed confidence in the Lebanese security forces' ability to abort what could be plotted against Lebanon. The French Ambassador's words came in an interview with press correspondents during the opening of the Pine Residence to the public, within the framework of the European Heritage Days. "This place is a legacy for the Lebanese, since it stores their history and their memory, which is why they should visit it. Although it is owned by the French Embassy, yet it remains the house of the Lebanese, the historic place where the great state of Lebanon was officially declared in 1920, and the Lebanese are always welcome here," said Foucher. In response to a question about some of the fears that accompanied Sunday's opening of the "Résidence des Pins," the French Ambassador affirmed that vigilance should always be exercised, but without allowing the security situation to hinder people's daily life. "At the moment, the Lebanese security forces are doing their part well. We cooperate with these forces when there are events or developments," he indicated. Regarding the warnings issued by the French Embassy to its nationals, Foucher assured that the safety of French nationals was one of his responsibilities, noting that he was coordinating the matter with Paris. He added that the Embassy officials shared their available information with the Lebanese authorities, following which arrests took place. "We have confidence in the ability of the security forces to abort anything that could be plotted against the country, but it is normal that we take into account what is happening," said Foucher.

President Aoun bound for New York

Sun 17 Sep 2017/NNA - President of the Republic, Michel Aoun, left Beirut Sunday afternoon for New York, heading Lebanon's delegation to the UN General Assembly. The President's accompanying official delegation includes: Foreign Affairs Minister Gebran Bassil, State Minister for Presidential Affairs Pierre Raffoul, Lebanon's Permanent Representative at the United Nations, Ambassador Nawaf Salam, and Lebanese Embassy Chargé d'Affaires in Washington, Ms. Carla Jazzar.

Rahi calls on political community to rectify their practices
Sun 17 Sep 2017/NNA - Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Beshara Boutros Rahi called on the political class in Lebanon to correct their political malpractices towards the Lebanese people. "The blood of our martyrs pleads the consciousness of politicians to be up to the level of the political, financial, social and economic challenges," Patriarch Rahi said during a Mass service at "Saint IlLige Church" in Mayfouq. Rahi urged all political components to preserve the characteristics of Lebanon compared with other Arab countries, according to its National Pact and Constitution. He also highlighted the importance of Lebanon's role in staying aloof from the regional and international conflicts, saying "let Lebanon be a role model in making peace and stability, and let it be a place for religions, civilizations and cultural meetings." The Prelate also called on politicians to exert more efforts to enhance the economic sector in Lebanon, starting with finding new job opportunities for Lebanese youth and far-reaching the decrease of public debts. Commenting on the Syrian Refugees file, Rahi wished the return of the Syrian displaced to their country, in order to recover their rights and properties. "Lebanon is in dire need of a new dawn of political class, and this could be achieved through by-elections or in the upcoming parliamentary elections," Rahi concluded.

Kahwaji after meeting with Hariri: If they wish to reveal the State's secrets, let them do so!
Sun 17 Sep 2017/NNA - Following his meeting with Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Sunday, former Army Chief General Jean Kahwaji deemed that the State possesses confidential records just like any other country in the world, which are only revealed after a long time as a safety means. "If they wish to reveal the secrets of the State at this time, let them do so," retorted Kahwaji, in response to a question posed by press correspondents in the context of ongoing investigations over Ersal events.

Salameh from Abu Dhabi: Lebanon has all the factors to preserve its monetary stability
Sun 17 Sep 2017/NNA - Central Bank Governor, Riyad Salameh, deemed Sunday that Lebanon enjoys all the component factors that allow it to preserve its monetary stability and interests on bank deposits. Speaking at the 41st Session of the Board of Governors of Arab Central Banks and Monetary Institutions held in Abu Dhabi, Salameh addressed the recent regional and international economic and financial developments and their repercussions on the Arab countries. He also mentioned in his speech the main challenges faced by banks and financial institutions in the region, arising from the political and security situation in the Arab countries, in addition to the Brexit challenge.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on September 17-18/17
Iran leader Khamenei warns against U.S. 'wrong move' on nuclear deal
DUBAI (Reuters) September 17/17/ Iran would react strongly to any “wrong move” by the United States on Tehran’s nuclear deal, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said, after President Donald Trump accused Iran of violating the “spirit” of the agreement. “The Iranian nation is standing firm and any wrong move by the domineering regime regarding the (nuclear accord) will face the reaction of the Islamic Republic,” state television quoted Ayatollah Khamenei as saying on Sunday. Washington extended some sanctions relief for Iran on Thursday under Tehran’s 2015 deal with world powers but said it had yet to decide whether to maintain the agreement. Trump, who must make a decision by mid-October, said Iran was violating “the spirit” of the deal under which it got sanctions relief in return for curbing its nuclear program. “Today, despite all the commitments and discussions in the negotiations, America’s attitude toward these negotiations and their outcome is completely unjust and amounts to bullying,” Khamenei said. “The Americans should know that the Iranian people will stand firm on their honorable positions and on important issues related to national interests, there will be no retreat by the Islamic Republic,” Khamenei said in a speech to Iranian military academy graduates. Iran said last month it could abandon the nuclear agreement “within hours” if the United States imposes any new penalties, after Washington ordered sanctions over Tehran’s ballistic missile tests. The United States imposed unilateral sanctions after saying the missile tests violated a U.N. resolution, which endorsed the nuclear deal and called upon Tehran not to undertake activities related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such technology.
It stopped short of explicitly barring such activity. Iran denies its missile development breaches the resolution, saying its missiles are not designed to carry nuclear weapons.
Reporting By Dubai newsroom; Editing by Susan Fenton

Tillerson, Lavrov Discuss Syria in Telephone Call
Asharq Al-Awsat/September 17/17/US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson telephoned on Saturday Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to discuss the situation in war-torn Syria. The Russian Foreign Ministry said on Sunday that the two officials addressed how the “anti-terrorism” battle on the ground was playing out. The call came after US-backed forces in Syria claimed that they were shelled by Syrian regime and Russian jets in the Deir al-Zour region. The Russian Foreign Ministry did not say in its statement about the Lavrov-Tillerson call if the two men had discussed that allegation and how Moscow had responded if they had. Earlier, media sources said that a Russian warship, part of the Black Sea fleet, had crossed Turkey’s Bosphorus Strait and headed towards the Mediterranean. The Yamal was destined to Syria’s Tartus. Images of the warship as it crossed the Turkish waterway were published on various websites. The sources said that it was loaded to capacity with cargo based on its incline in the water. This is the eighth trip the Yamal makes to Syria in 2017. According to the RT news agency and other foreign press, the ship usually transports ammunition to the Russian air force deployed a the Hmeimim Air Base in Syria.

Egypt Aims to End Palestinian Division

Asharq Al-Awsat/September 17/17/Ramallah – Egypt is adamant on ending the Palestinian division and aims to unite the Fatah and Hamas movements in Cairo in an attempt to reach a unified agreement, said informed Palestinian sources. The sources told Asharq al-Awsat that Egyptian authorities want both delegations to leave the country in agreement. The Hamas delegation was about to leave Egypt when authorities asked them to stay, hoping that a meeting will be held with Fatah, even though head of the Hamas delegation said that they will not meet with their rivals. On Friday, a Fatah delegation that includes international relations official Rouhi Fatouh and official Hussein Sheikh arrived in Cairo. The delegation voiced its intention to avoid meeting with Hamas and said that they were in Cairo to meet Egyptian officials to discuss ideas to achieve national unity. The movement issued a statement saying that it will focus on meeting with Egyptian authorities and discussing suggestions for a national reconciliation. Fatah also said it is planning to discuss three demands: dissolving the administrative committee formed by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, enabling the Palestinian consensual government to function in the territory and commit to holding legislative and presidential elections. Earlier, following its meetings with Egyptian officials, Hamas announced it was read to dissolve the administrative committee, enable the consensual government and hold elections. However, the movement wants to hold an expanded conference for Palestinian factions to form a national unity government. Hamas also stated that President Mahmoud Abbas must end his measures against Gaza. A few months ago, Abbas began a series of procedures against Gaza, including taxation and public servants salary cuts, in an attempt to pressure Hamas to consent to abandon its control of the coastal strip. It is still not clear whether Egypt would provide solutions with guarantees or not, but it is certain that Cairo wants to end the Palestinian division before initiating a political process in the region. Several Hamas members arrived at Cairo over the past two days, including national relations official Housam Badran and Maher Obeid. Badran stated that his movement is awaiting a positive response from Fatah concerning the three demands. He confirmed that Hamas has a clear position on the administrative committee and Egyptian officials are aware of that, adding that the ball is now in Fatah’s court.
Badran also pointed out that his movement’s delegation had postponed its departure from Cairo, granting Egyptian officials the chance to convince the Fatah movement to hold serious talks.

Hamas Agrees to Elections in Effort to End Fatah Dispute
Asharq Al-Awsat/September 17/17/The Palestinian movement Hamas announced on Sunday that it was ready to hold general elections after it dissolved its administration in the Gaza Strip. This is seen as a bid to end the long dispute with Fatah movement chief President Mahmoud Abbas. Hamas said in a statement on Sunday that it has dissolved its shadow government, that it will allow the reconciliation government to operate in Gaza and that it agrees to hold elections and enter talks with Fatah.“The administrative committee is now dissolved and the government can come to Gaza today to assume its responsibilities and duties,” Hamas official Hussam Badran told The Associated Press. “We accepted that as a sign of our good will toward reconciliation.”Fatah welcomed the Hamas’ announcement, but said it wants to see vows implemented before making the next move.
Mahmoud Aloul, a senior Fatah official welcomed cautiously Hamas’s position. “If this is Hamas statement, then this is a positive sign,” he told Reuters. “We in Fatah movement are ready to implement reconciliation.”The last Palestinian legislative election was held in 2006 when Hamas scored a surprise victory, which laid the ground for a political rupture. Armed clashes erupted between Hamas and Fatah in Gaza in 2007 and since then Hamas has governed the small coastal enclave. Numerous attempts since 2011 to reconcile the two movements and form a power-sharing unity government in Gaza and the West Bank have so far failed.Hamas and Fatah agreed in 2014 to form a national reconciliation government, but despite that agreement, Hamas’s shadow government has continued to rule the Gaza Strip. Hoping to pressure Hamas to relinquish control of Gaza, Abbas has cut payments to Israel for the electricity it supplies to Gaza. This means that electricity has often been provided for less than four hours a day, and never more than six.Representatives for Abbas, who is in New York ahead of the UN General Assembly this week, could not be reached for comment, nor could Fatah representatives presently in Egypt, which has been hosting talks with Hamas. Azzam al-Ahmed, a Fatah participant in the talks, said Hamas and Fatah agreed to meet in Cairo within 10 days, during which time the national unity government should assume its responsibility in Gaza.

Kuwait to Expel North Korea Ambassador
Asharq Al-Awsat/September 17/17/Kuwait will expel the North Korean ambassador as the US and Asian nations stepped up pressure on their allies to sever ties with the isolated state in wake of its recent nuclear test and missile launch over Japan. A Gulf-based official confirmed on Sunday that Kuwait would be expelling the diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence reports. A letter Kuwait sent in August to the United Nations also made that pledge. Kuwait’s Information Ministry did not respond to a request for comment. Kuwait’s move will potentially limit Pyongyang’s ability to earn money for its nuclear program from laborers it sends to the Gulf. Four diplomats will also be asked to leave the oil-rich state along with Ambassador So Chang Sik. That will leave four diplomats at the embassy. The embassy did not respond to a request for comment. North Korea’s Embassy in Kuwait City serves as its only diplomatic outpost in the Gulf. Pyongyang has thousands of laborers working in Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Kuwait’s ruling emir, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, traveled to Washington and met with US President Donald Trump this month. In a statement, the US Embassy in Kuwait City called Kuwait “a key regional partner on (North Korea) and many other issues.”“Kuwait has taken positive steps in regards to implementing UN resolutions related to” Pyongyang, it said. While a small market compared to China and Russia, the amount of money North Korean laborers in the Gulf kick back to the government helps Pyongyang evade international sanctions, authorities say. A 2015 UN report suggested that the more than 50,000 North Koreans working overseas earned Pyongyang between $1.2 billion and $2.3 billion a year. Other estimates put earnings in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Earlier, South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in and Trump agreed to exert stronger pressure through sanctions on North Korea following its nuclear and missile tests, South Korea’s presidential office said following a telephone call between the two leaders on Sunday. “The two leaders agreed to strengthen cooperation, and exert stronger and practical sanctions on North Korea so that it realizes provocative actions leads to further diplomatic isolation and economic pressure,” Blue House spokesman Park Soo-hyun said in a televised briefing.The Blue House said Moon and Trump had strongly condemned the latest missile launch by North Korea, and agreed that the two nations would work with the international community to implement the latest UN Security Council’s resolution 2375, Park said.

Egypt Sentences Morsi to 25 Years in Jail

Asharq Al-Awsat/September 17/17Cairo – An Egyptian court sentenced ousted President of Muslim Brotherhood Mohammed Morsi to 25 years in prison on Saturday in a final ruling over a case accusing him of espionage for Qatar. Originally, Morsi was sentenced to 40 years, but Egypt’s Court of Cassation reduced the sentence to 25 years in its final ruling. Morsi was overthrown following mass public protests in July 2013 against his one-year rule. The defendants in the case include Morsi’s head of office Ahmed Abdul Ati and his secretary Amin al-Sherafy and 11 others. Four were tried in absentia. The defendants were charged with endangering national security by leaking state secrets and sensitive documents to Qatar. Many of them worked with the Qatari al-Jazeera channel. Morsi is already serving a 20-year sentence after being convicted for the killing of protesters during demonstrations in 2012.
The court also upheld death sentences for documentary producer Ahmed Ali Abdo, Egypt Air cabin crew member Mohamed Adel Kilani and university teaching assistant Ahmed Ismail Thabet, as well as a life term and 15 years for two others. Six defendants previously received death sentences after the Grand Mufti argued that the “crimes of the defendants are similar to that of treason” in which punishment should be death. Morsi faced three other sentences and is still standing trial in a case where he and others are charged of insulting the judiciary. He received both a death sentence and a life imprisonment sentence in two other trials. Seven of the defendants were staffers of al-Jazeera, Egypt 25 and Rased channel. They are charged with espionage and directly cooperating with Qatari intelligence services as well as providing Qatar authorities with confidential documents. The court also ruled that these documents had been released from the president’s office with the knowledge of his secretary and other officials. In other news, an Egyptian court sentenced seven people to death for being members of the ISIS terrorist group. They are charged for the beheading of 21 Christians in Libya. Of the seven defendants, three were sentenced to death in absentia, while an unspecified number of those condemned were accused of taking part in the beheadings. Egypt’s Mufti will review the death sentences although his verdict is not legally binding. Prosecutors accused the seven suspects of forming an ISIS cell in Marsa Matruh, northwest Egypt, and of planning attacks after having received military training at militant camps in Libya and Syria. Rulings are to be issued on November 25 against 13 others on trial in the same case.

Barzani: It’s too Late for an Alternative to Kurdistan Independence Referendum

Asharq Al-Awsat/September 17/17/Irbil, Baghdad – Even though Kurdish President Masoud Barzani confirmed that it was too late for an alternative for the independence referendum, senior Kurdish official of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) Mala Bakhtiyar asked Kurdish authorities to seriously consider the proposal suggested by major countries. Speaking at a rally for the independence vote in Duhok in Nineveh on Saturday, Barzani said that the referendum is a means and not a goal, adding that had there been an alternative it would have been welcomed. Thus, according to Barzani, the time has passed for an alternative to replace the independence vote on September 25.He told the crowd: “We still have not received the alternative that could replace the referendum. You should therefore cast your votes on September 25 and take your decision.”Barzani added that he does not accept any state to question the legitimacy of the vote, reiterating that Kurdistan is willing to attend meetings to discuss the matter only after the vote. Meanwhile, Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi threatened to use military force in case violence erupted after the referendum.
In an interview with the Associated Press on Saturday, he said if the Iraqi people were threatened by the use of force outside the law, the government will intervene militarily.“If you challenge the constitution and if you challenge the borders of Iraq and the borders of the region, this is a public invitation to the countries in the region to violate Iraqi borders as well, which is a very dangerous escalation,” he warned. However, when asked about negotiations between Baghdad and Kurdistan, the PM confirmed that negotiations are always possible. “I will never close the door to negotiations. Negotiations are always possible. It will make it harder and more difficult. Because there are a lot of outstanding issues, there are disputed areas, there is the oil, there are the borders, there are the ports and other issues which have not been solved for years. This will be very difficult. We were together in one country and it was tough even then to resolve it. Now if you were to separate (regions), I think to resolve it will be much harder,” Abadi continued to say. The United Nations and US-led international coalition recently presented the Kurdish authorities with an alternative to the independence referendum. Asharq Al-Awsat published some of its details on Saturday. The UN urged Barzani to drop plans for the referendum and enter talks with Baghdad aimed at reaching a deal within three years.Agence France-Presse published on Saturday further details of the UN proposal, which included a “structured, sustained, intensive and result-oriented partnership negotiations.. on how to resolve all the problems and outstanding issues” between Baghdad and Irbil.UN envoy in Iraq Jan Kubis offered international backing for immediate negotiations between the country’s federal government and the autonomous Kurdish region.
Kubis called for talks, overseen by the UN Security Council, that would aim to reach a deal defining “principles and arrangements” for future relations between Baghdad and the Kurdish government. In return, the Kurdish administration agrees to postponing the referendum at least until the end of negotiations.
When asked about the alternative, Kubis said: “Here is this offer, if they accept this alternative, there will be negotiations.”
He added that he expects a reply rom Barzani within two or three days. Amid the national preparations for the referendum, Bakhtiyar said that they believe the Kurdish leadership should take the alternative offered by the US, United Kingdom and UN “very seriously.” “We from the PUK believe that the alternative should be taken very seriously,” he announced at a press conference. He added that the Kurdish leadership is going to hold several important meetings over two days to study the joint offer. He concluded that the alternative with full consent of the Iraqi government should make sure that all outstanding issues are resolved, the constitution of Iraq is upheld and democracy is respected. Meanwhile, PUK MP Khalaf Ahmad denied rumors claiming officials in Kurdistan are divided over the referendum. Speaking to Asharq al-Awsat, Ahmad confirmed that most political Kurdish parties have a unanimous opinion on this matter. Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) MP Firsat Sofi also told Asharq al-Awsat that both the PUK and KDP are looking into the matter of the alternative and Barzani confirmed that if the international community or US presented tangible evidence about a substitute that meets the needs of the Kurdish people, then they are willing to discuss it. However, Sofi said: “If they told us to go to Baghdad and negotiate the issues with authorities there, this is not an alternative. We have been discussing with Baghdad for a decade now and no progress has been achieved; not even the slightest.”He reiterated that an alternative should be limited by a timetable and backed by international resolutions.

Erdogan Warns Kurdish President against Going through with Independence Vote
Asharq Al-Awsat/September 17/17/Ankara – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned on Friday Kurdish President Masoud Barzani of going ahead with the independence referendum on September 25. He said in a television interview: “Barzani will clearly see how sensitive we are to the vote after the national security council convenes on September 22.” The national security council was set to meet on September 27, but Erdogan brought the date to September 22 to precede the Kurdish vote. Furthermore, the Turkish leader described as a “very erroneous” Barzani’s statements on the vote. Turkey will announce its next move towards the referendum after the national security council and government meet on September 22, said Erdogan. He is set to chair both meetings. Meanwhile, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said that the Iraqi Kurdistan Region was making the “wrong” move with its vote. He had agreed with his Iraqi counterpart Haidar al-Abadi on completely rejecting the referendum. The two officials had held a telephone conversation on the issue on Friday night. Yildirim added that the Kurdish government should “as soon as possible” go back on its decision to hold the vote, adding that the referendum will not benefit the region as a whole or the Kurds. Turkish Chief of Staff Hulusi Akar had telephoned his Iranian counterpart Mohammed Baqeri on Friday to also discuss the referendum. Ankara had in the past threatened to resort to force should the Iraqi Kurdistan Region fail to go back on its decision to hold the September 25 vote on independence from Iraq.

Washington Pledges to Restore Libyan Unity
Asharq Al-Awsat/September 17/17/Cairo – US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urged on Saturday the need for the international community to help the Libyan people find local solutions to allow their government to carry out its duties. He vowed that Washington will help Tripoli “restore unity in Libya.” Tillerson made his remarks before US diplomats in London after a ministerial meeting that was held there to discuss Libya. Spokesman for the Egyptian Foreign Ministry Ahmed Abou Zeid said that the gatherers in London had expressed their relief with the drop in terrorist activity in the North African country. Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri attributed the drop to the reduction of terrorism financing in recent months. Abou Zeid added in a statement that United Nations envoy to Libya Ghassan Salameh had studied the latest Libyan security and political developments. He had also presented his vision over the upcoming meeting on the crisis that will be held on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. The Assembly will convene in New York on Wednesday. Abou Zeid added that the gatherers at the London meeting were agreed on the importance of Salameh’s efforts to resolve the Libyan crisis. Shoukri meanwhile stressed that Egypt will continue to attempt to bridge the divide between the Libya leaderships on the civil and military levels. Cairo supports reaching a consensus agreement that would ensure that a political settlement is reached based on the Skheirat deal, said the FM. The deal was reached in Morocco two years ago under UN sponsorship.

4 U.S. Tourists Attacked with Acid in Marseille
Associated Press/Naharnet/September 17/17/Four young female U.S. tourists were attacked with acid Sunday in the French city of Marseille by a woman who has been arrested, the Marseille prosecutor's office said. Two of the tourists were injured in the face in the attack in the city's main Saint Charles train station and one of them has a possible eye injury, a spokeswoman for the Marseille prosecutor's office told The Associated Press in a phone call. She said all four of the tourists, who are in their 20s, have been hospitalized, two of them for shock. She said a 41-year-old female suspect has been arrested.
The spokeswoman did not release any further details about the victims or the suspect. She spoke on condition of anonymity, per the French judicial system. There was no immediate information on where the U.S. tourists were from. Marseille is a port city in southern France that is closer to Barcelona than Paris. In previous incidents in Marseille, a driver deliberately rammed into two bus stops last month, killing a woman, but officials said it wasn't terror-related. In April, French police say they thwarted an imminent "terror attack" and arrested two suspected radicals in Marseille just days before the first round of France's presidential election. Paris prosecutor Francois Molins told reporters the two suspects "were getting ready to carry out an imminent, violent action" on French territory. In January 2016, a 15-year-old Turkish Kurd was arrested after attacking a Jewish teacher on a Marseille street. He told police he acted in the name of the Islamic State group.

British Police Arrest 2nd Suspect over London Train Attack
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/September 17/17/British police said Sunday they had made a second arrest in connection with the bombing of a London Underground train, as their probe into the terror attack widened. The 21-year-old man, who has not been named, was arrested late Saturday in Hounslow, on the western rim of the capital, a statement said. Officers had earlier arrested an 18-year-old man over Friday's attack at Parsons Green station, which injured 30 people, and said they were hunting for more suspects. The bomb detonated in a packed train carriage Friday morning with a large explosion followed by what an eyewitness described as a "fireball". It was Britain's fifth terror attack in six months -- a series that has claimed 35 lives.The Islamic State group claimed responsibility. The first arrest on Saturday took place at the Dover ferry terminal -- a main link to Europe. A "number of items" were recovered during the operation and the teenager is now in custody in London, officers said. Police had earlier raided a home in Sunbury, a town west of London. Local residents quoted in British media said the owners of the house were elderly foster parents.
- Terror threat 'critical' -Britain's terror threat was raised on Friday to "critical", indicating that another attack is feared, and soldiers have been deployed to guard key points to free up police for the investigation. The critical warning was last used after a deadly suicide attack at Manchester Arena, also claimed by IS, in May. Home Secretary Amber Rudd said Saturday that police had made "very good progress" in their enquiries, while appearing to dispute claims by U.S. President Donald Trump that a "loser terrorist" behind the attack was known to Scotland Yard. "It's much too early to say that," Rudd said in a televised interview.
Trump's claims, made Friday on Twitter, had already garnered a terse rebuke from Prime Minister Theresa May, who said: "I never think it's helpful for anybody to speculate on what is an ongoing investigation."May also announced on Friday that a thousand troops would be deployed to take on the responsibility for guarding key sites, including nuclear facilities. The improvized device at Parsons Green, a quiet and well-off residential district, failed to detonate fully. But the blast inflicted flash burns on passengers, and prompted dozens of others to flee in panic.
- 'Fireball' -
Twitter user @Rrigs posted pictures of a white bucket smouldering on the train and described how a "fireball flew down carriage and we just jumped out open door."The bucket, which was inside a frozen food bag, looked like the type used by builders and there appeared to be cables coming from it.
Louis Hather, 21, had been traveling to work and was three carriages down from where the explosion took place. "I could smell the burning. Like when you burn plastic," he told AFP. He was trampled on as panicking passengers stampeded out of the station and his leg was badly cut and bruised.
The bomb's remnants were examined by forensic scientists but no further details were released. Several victims were taken to hospital, though health authorities said none were in a serious life-threatening condition.

Russia Plays Up Role as Peacemaker, Donor in Syria

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/September 17/17/At a mobile medical clinic in central Syria's Homs province, a Russian doctor takes an elderly woman's blood pressure. Nearby, his colleague examines a dazed teenager on a gurney. "Take half a pill in the morning and the second half at night," the Russian doctor tells the woman through a translator. The pop-up facility outside of rebel-held Dar al-Kabira in central Syria is one of several medical units deployed by Moscow, which has remained a close ally of President Bashar al-Assad throughout the six-year conflict. Russia began an air war in support of Assad in 2015, swinging the conflict in his favor, but it is now increasingly seeking to depict itself as a peacemaker and humanitarian donor in the war-devastated country.The evidence is on clear display near Dar al-Kabira, where Russia is monitoring a "de-escalation zone" between regime and rebel forces agreed in August. This week, civilians from both sides could be seen queuing in separate lines to get sacks of food bearing the slogan "Russia is with you!"Russian army Colonel Alexander Sazonov, head of the Al-Dar al-Kabira checkpoint, said the buffer zone had been set up two months ago and was already improving the situation for civilians. "Before, there was no medical aid for five years, and people couldn't meet their loved ones," Sazonov said, during a tightly-controlled press tour organized by the Russian military.
'Help from Russia'
The zone in Homs province is part of a deal agreed in May by Russia, regime ally Iran, and rebel backer Turkey to create four "de-escalation" areas in Syria. Syria's conflict has killed more than 330,000 people since it began in March 2011 with anti-government protests, and it has wrecked the country's economy. Fighting, damage to infrastructure and the use of siege tactics have plunged parts of the population into poverty and created food and medical shortages. Sazarov says about 10 tonnes of aid is distributed weekly at Dar al Kabirah, insisting that "we would like there to be more aid.""But right now Russia is the only one doing any of this."Russian trucks marked "Help to Syria from Russia" shuttled in aid packages containing sugar, grain and canned meat. "From here it's about 500 meters (yards) to the fighters," Sazarov said. "If you're not a fighter with blood on your hands, you can go in and out."Residents crossing from the Syrian government side of the checkpoint -- adorned with portraits of Assad -- had their belongings and IDs checked before hurrying through. Nawaf Ramadan, a local resident, had arrived from the government side to collect a sack of food. "I always come here," he told AFP. "My house had some damage but I have repaired it. We don't have a lot of money to buy food."
'Only talk to the Russians'
On the rebel side, Russian officers look for influential locals who can spread the word about humanitarian aid shipments, Russian military spokesman Igor Konashenkov told AFP. He touted a recent effort to target needs at the start of the school year, with Russia providing school supplies for residents living on both sides of the checkpoint, including desks, he said. Aid convoys are protected by Russian military police. "Our job is to guarantee security. There could be somebody armed, there could be instances of a crowd crush," said one officer, who gave his name only as Artyom. "There is enough food but it's human nature (to push)." Sazonov said hostilities have ceased since the zone was established and there have been "no violations", though the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, has reported sporadic infractions. Every day, about 10,000 people cross back and forth through the checkpoint, he said.Three other de-escalation zones in Syria have been agreed as part of an accord reached earlier this year in the Kazakh capital Astana. One lies near the capital Damascus, another is in the country's south, and the final one in the northwest Idlib province was just agreed on Friday in Astana. Konashenkov said the real goal of the de-escalation zones was to get the sides to reconcile, a process in which he insisted Russian participation was key. "It starts off with them saying, 'We won't talk to each other, we'll only talk to the Russians,'" he said.
"Russians are perceived normally everywhere."

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on September 17-18/17
Bahrain king denounces Arab boycott of Israel, says countrymen may visitملك البحرين يستنكر المقاطعة العربية  لإسرائيل وأعلن بأنه مسموح للبحرينيين زيارتها
Jerusalem Post/September 17/17
The king of the island nation has plans to establish a Museum of Religious Tolerance in the capital city by the end of the year.
LOS ANGELES – Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa al Khalifa last week denounced the Arab boycott of Israel and said his subjects are free to visit the Jewish state. The head of the Persian Gulf country, which does not have diplomatic relations with Israel, made the statements to Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, at a multi-denominational event at the center to sign and support a declaration denouncing religious hatred and violence.
Cooper and his partner at the Wiesenthal Center, Marvin Hier, visited Manama, Bahrain’s capital, by invitation, in early 2017.
A walk through the city, Cooper said, was an eye-opener. There was a church, with a huge cross, next to a Hindu temple, and 90 meters on an impressive mosque. Even a small synagogue, the only one in the Persian Gulf region, still stands in an older part of the city.
Hier and Cooper met with King Hamad and discussed the ruler’s plan to establish a Museum of Religious Tolerance in the capital city by the end of this year.
At the Los Angeles event last week, delegations of Buddhists in saffron robes, Sikhs in turbans, and Muslims with keffiyehs and hijabs [Muslim head-covers for men and veils for women], mingled with Jews with kippot [skullcaps] and Christians in business suits.
Some 400 members of these diverse groups signed the declaration to support full freedom of religious choice, government protection of minorities and to ensure that religious faith “serves as a blessing to all mankind and as the foundation of peace in the world.”
The evening’s guests included officials from such predominantly Muslim nations as Kuwait, Egypt, Malaysia, United Arab Emirates and Azerbaijan, Cooper noted.
Like all others present, the Arab officials stood in respect as the colorful Bahrain National Orchestra, conducted by Field Marshal Mubarak Najem, played “Hatikva” preceded by the Bahraini and US national anthems, sung by Sumaya Meer and Cantor Arik Wolheim.
The key speaker was Shaikh Nasser bin Hamad al Khalifa, son of the king and a formidable endurance athlete, who led the Bahraini delegations, toured the Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance and met with Jewish students.
As the evening’s climax, a group of distinguished “dais guests” formally signed the Bahrain Declaration. Among them were the speakers, visiting Arab officials, clergymen of various faiths, television personality Mary Hart, the evening’s master of ceremonies UCLA Prof. Judea Pearl and Betsy Bennett Mathieson, president of This Is Bahrain.
The latter government-supported booster organization presented each guest with a lapel pin featuring symbols of the country’s seven religions, with a Jewish menorah adjoining a Christian cross and a Muslim crescent.
Bahrain has some 1,423,000 inhabitants and a breakdown of their religious faiths indicate that 70% are Muslims; 14.5% are Christians; 10% Hindus and 2.5% Buddhists. The percentage of Jews is listed in different surveys as a fraction of 1%, but the actual number is even smaller, ranging between 36 to 40 actual residents.
In spite of the small numbers, Houda Ezra Ebrahim Nonoo, who is Jewish, served as the Bahraini diplomat in the US from 2008 to 2013, becoming the first Jewish woman to represent any Arab country on a diplomatic mission. The Nonoo family is of Iraqi-Jewish heritage and financed repair work for the only synagogue in Bahrain.
Large parts of the Jewish population left the country following riots in 1947 and 1967, but Jewish, Muslim and British sources agree that the riots were triggered by pro-Palestinian outsiders and that resident Arabs went out of their way to protect their Jewish neighbors.
But with the ascendancy of King Hamad bin Isa al Khalifa to the throne in 2002, domestic and foreign observers see an almost utopian state of relationships among Bahrain’s religious groups.
The monarch, who has an impressive collection of Frank Sinatra records, has enshrined religious tolerance both in the country’s law and by personal example. For instance, since 2015, he has celebrated Hanukka with both Jews and Muslims in attendance.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, a reporter asked Cooper whether the evening’s upbeat tone and hopeful notes were warranted in the light of the Middle East’s apparently endless conflicts.
Cooper responded that Bahrain, like Israel, “Lives in a tough neighborhood. But if there is to be any hope for the future, it will have to be realized by voices of religious moderation.”

Iran recruits Afghan and Pakistani Shiites to fight in Syria
Ynetnews/Associated Press/|September 17/17
With as many as 6,000 Afghans and hundreds of Pakistanis fighting for Assad, counterterrorism experts worry about blowback from ISIS against the Shiites in both countries and the possibility Iran uses these militias as proxies in future wars.
ISLAMABAD - Thousands of Shiite Muslims from Afghanistan and Pakistan are being recruited by Iran to fight with President Bashar Assad's forces in Syria, lured by promises of housing, a monthly salary of up to $600 and the possibility of employment in Iran when they return, say counterterrorism officials and analysts.
These fighters, who have received public praise from Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, even have their own brigades, but counterterrorism officials in both countries worry about the mayhem they might cause when they return home to countries already wrestling with a major militant problem.
Amir Toumaj, Iran research analyst at the US-based Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, said the number of fighters is fluid but as many as 6,000 Afghans are fighting for Assad, while the number of Pakistanis, who fight under the banner of the Zainabayoun Brigade, is in the hundreds.
In Afghanistan, stepped-up attacks on minority Shiites claimed by the upstart Islamic State group affiliate known as Islamic State in the Khorasan Province could be payback against Afghan Shiites in Syria fighting under the banner of the Fatimayoun Brigade, Toumaj said. Khorasan is an ancient name for an area that included parts of Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia.
"People were expecting blowback," said Toumaj. ISIS "itself has its own strategy to inflame sectarian strife."
Shiites in Afghanistan are frightened. Worshippers at a recent Friday prayer service said Shiite mosques in the Afghan capital, including the largest, Ibrahim Khalil mosque, were barely a third full. Previously on Fridays—the Islamic holy day—the faithful were so many that the overflow often spilled out on the street outside the mosque.
Mohammed Naim, a Shiite restaurant owner in Kabul issued a plea to Iran: "Please don't send the poor Afghan Shia refugees to fight in Syria because then Daesh attacks directly on Shias," he said, using an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group. Pakistan has also been targeted by the ISIS in Khorasan province. ISIS has claimed several brutal attacks on the country's Shiite community, sending suicide bombers to shrines they frequent, killing scores of devotees.
In Pakistan, sectarian rivalries routinely erupt in violence. The usual targets are the country's minority Shiites, making them willing recruits, said Toumaj. The most fertile recruitment ground for Iran has been Parachinar, the regional capital of the Khurram tribal region, that borders Afghanistan, he said. There, Shiites have been targeted by suicide bombings carried out by Sunni militants, who revile Shiites as heretics.
In June, two suicide bombings in rapid succession killed nearly 70 people prompting nationwide demonstrations, with protesters carrying banners shouting: "Stop the genocide of Shiites."
A Pakistani intelligence official said recruits are also coming from northern Gilgit and Baltistan. Recruiters are often Shiite clerics with ties to Iran, some of whom have studied in seminaries in Iran's Qom and Mashhad cities, said a second Pakistani official.
Yet fighters sign up for many reasons.
Some are inspired to go to Syria to protect sites considered holy to Shiite Muslims, like the shrine honoring Sayyida Zainab, the granddaughter of Islam's Prophet Muhammed. Located in the Syrian capital of Damascus, the shrine was attacked by Syrian rebels in 2013. Others sign up for the monthly stipend and the promise of a house. For those recruited from among the more than 1 million Afghan refugees still living in Iran it's often the promise of permanent residence in Iran. For Shiites in Pakistan's Parachinar it is outrage at the relentless attacks by Sunni militants that drives them to sign up for battle in Syria, said Toumaj.
Mir Hussain Naseri, a member of Afghanistan's Shiite clerics' council, said Shiites are obligated to protect religious shrines in both Iraq and Syria.
"Afghans are going to Syria to protect the holy places against attacks by Daesh," he said. "Daesh is the enemy of Shias."
Ehsan Ghani, chief of Pakistan's Counterterrorism Authority, told The Associated Press that his organization is sifting through hundreds of documents, including immigration files, to put a figure on the numbers of Pakistanis fighting on both sides of the many Middle East conflicts, including Syria. But it's a cumbersome process.
"We know people are going from here to fight but we have to know who is going as a pilgrim (to shrines in Syria and Iraq) and who is going to join the fight," he said. Pakistan's many intelligence agencies as well as the provincial governments are involved in the search, said Ghani, explaining that Pakistan wants numbers in order to devise a policy to deal with them when they return home. Until now, Pakistan has denied the presence of the Islamic State group in Pakistan.
Alireza Nader, a senior policy analyst at the US-based RAND Corp., said Afghan and Pakistani recruits also provide Iran with future armies that Tehran can employ to enhance its influence in the region and as protection against perceived enemies. Despite allegations that Iran is aiding the Taliban in Afghanistan, Nader says battle-hardened Shiite fighters are Tehran's weapon should relations with an Afghan government that includes the radical majority Sunni religious movement deteriorate.
"Once the Syrian civil war dies down, Iran is going to have thousands, if not tens of thousands of militia under its control to use in other conflicts," he said. "There is a potential of Iran getting more involved in Afghanistan using militia because Iran is going to be really concerned about security on its border and it would make sense to use a proxy force."
Pakistan too has an uneasy relationship with Iran. On occasion the anti-Iranian Jandullah militant group has launched attacks against Iranian border guards from Baluchistan province. In June, Pakistan shot down an Iranian drone deep inside its territory.
In Pakistan the worry is that returning fighters, including those who had fought on the side of ISIS, could start another round of sectarian bloodletting, said the intelligence official.,7340,L-5017423,00.html

Salameh’s Difficult Task in New York
Mattia Toaldo/Asharq Al Awsat/September 17/17
This summer has seen a flurry of summits and meetings on Libya. On 25 July, Paris hosted a meeting between Sarraj and Haftar. Last week, Brazzaville hosted a meeting of the African Union with Prime Minister Faiez Sarraj, Speaker of the House of Representatives Aghila Saleh and Chairman of the High State Council Abdul Rahman Swehli attending. This week, foreign ministers and top diplomats of the US, UK, France, Italy, Egypt and the UAE met in London to discuss Libya with the new UN Special Representative Ghassan Salameh.
The most important meeting will take place next week in New York, on the margins of the UN General Assembly. Salameh is expected to present his plan to move the political process forward to the ministers of the countries most interested in Libya, including many Arab countries. His main challenge will be to resist pressure from ministers and heads of government to produce results in the short term and instead focus on a solid strategy that includes both a political process and efforts at stabilization and de-escalation.
Since starting his work in late July, Salameh has approached the Libyan file with caution and an open mind. Rather than making grand statements, he has travelled throughout Libya meeting hundreds of Libyans apart from the big political and military names. He was already familiar with the country because of his academic activity but his recent tour and the meetings with Haftar and other important stakeholders have probably injected a further note of caution in his approach.
The agenda for him was set by the work of his predecessor Martin Kobler and most importantly by the negotiations conducted between Cairo and Abu Dhabi since December 2016. First, to include Haftar and his supporters in the existing Libyan Political Agreement (also known as the Skhirat agreement), he must help the House of Representatives and the High Council of State negotiate a number of amendments to the agreement. Once amended the agreement, the same parties will have to make the appointments in the main institutions. This should lead, according to the joint declaration agreed by Haftar and Sarraj in Paris in July, to elections in early 2018. Meanwhile, the Libyan Constitutional Drafting Assembly based in Bayda has approved a draft constitution in August and in theory this should be submitted to a referendum in the coming months.
Getting all these elements in the right sequence is the first challenge for Salameh but the biggest one is navigating the apparent agreement of all the major stakeholders on this plan and the reality of big divisions on its implementation. For example, while everyone agrees that the Agreement should be amended to create the figure of the Prime Minister and to reduce the Presidency Council from nine to three members, the different factions have radically different ideas on who should cover those positions and even on how they should be allocated.
Secondly, while paying lip service to reforming the agreement, some figures have all the interest in perpetuating the status quo. All changes should go through the House of Representatives headed by Aghila Saleh, but he has shown over and over that he has no interest in changing the current situation in which he has considerable power also vis-à-vis Haftar. So either Aghila stops the reform from moving forward in the House of Representatives or even if this is approved, it would take a long time to agree on the new names. And this would be temporary names in view of the elections.
Elections are a big question mark as it is unclear whether Aghila would quickly approve the law that is required to hold them. And of course, it is unclear if elections would be both for parliament and for president. Haftar has made it clear that he would like to run for president, but it is unclear how one could hold such elections without a constitution stating the powers of the new office. Since 2011, Libya has not had a President of the Republic, not even a temporary one.
To reduce Aghila’s veto power on any agreement, the process would need to take the reform of the House of Representatives seriously. This is crucial if any roadmap is to be approved and if the Libyan government is to work according to rules and institutions. Currently, the meetings of parliament with the highest attendance gather only half of the members and the House has been unable to approve anything significant in the last year. Brokering a compromise to reintegrate all members of parliament will have to be part of the plan, perhaps including the move to a more neutral location than Aghila’s “fiefdom” in Tobruk.
All of this will require time, much more than the few months from now until early 2018. Salameh, with the cooperation of concerned countries, must be empowered to work also on stabilization of Libya even in the absence of a big political agreement. This means having a government in charge of public services, a recognized Central Bank and an economic process to share the wealth of the country alongside mechanisms to avoid military escalation, rebuild Benghazi, ensure the return of the internally displaced and address the humanitarian crisis particularly in the south.
Ultimately, Ghassan Salameh can only do this if there is, from the side of Libyan leaders, willingness to compromise and focus on solutions. The Libyan social fabric made of activists, mayors, notables and tribal leaders has often demonstrated a more constructive behavior than military and political leaders. Choosing the right mix between these components will be key but before that Salameh will need to get the right support from international leaders in New York. The message should be to do well, not quickly on the political process while showing a commitment to address the humanitarian issues that affect the daily lives of Libyans.
**Mattia Toaldo is a Senior Policy Fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations in London

Fans of Iran Nuke Deal Start to Acknowledge its Flaws/
مؤيدو الاتفاق النووي الإيراني بدأوا يعترفون بأخطائه
Eli Lake/Bloomberg/September 17/17
The public line from the supporters of the Iran nuclear deal in the last two years has been clear. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as the core agreement is known, is wonderful. As Barack Obama said after its negotiations were completed in 2015: “There’s a reason why 99 percent of the world thinks that this is a good deal: It’s because it’s a good deal.”
All of this is reminiscent of what journalist David Samuels described in 2015 as an echo chamber of prominent arms-control experts, sympathetic journalists and Obama administration staffers deployed to sell the nuclear bargain to the public and Congress. Their party line is that the deal is the best possible way to limit Iran’s nuclear rise.
Nonetheless, many of these experts and former officials are also beginning to acknowledge that the nuclear deal they sold in 2015 is flawed. Next month, the Brookings Institution will host an off-the-record meeting of policy experts — some who favored the deal, some who oppose it — to discuss how to address the nuclear agreement’s flaws.
The State Department’s former special adviser for nonproliferation and arms control, Bob Einhorn, invited these nonproliferation experts to “one or more workshops to address the nuclear deal’s ‘sunset’ problem,” which he said was the risk that, “when key nuclear restrictions of the JCPOA expire, Iran will be free to build up its nuclear capabilities, especially its enrichment capacity, and drastically reduce the time it would need to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon.”
This was a key objection voiced by Israel in 2015 when it publicly opposed Obama’s deal with Iran. Between 2025 and 2030, the agreement to limit Iran’s stocks of low-enriched uranium and the number of centrifuge cascades it can operate will expire, allowing Iran to erect an industrial-scale nuclear program if it chooses.
At the time, Israel’s objections were dismissed and derided by the White House. Obama called the deal’s critics warmongers.
Today, former Obama officials are singing a different song. Einhorn, who served from 2009 to 2013 in the Obama administration, told me: “Everyone recognizes that the deal is not ideal. I think President Obama would say the deal is not ideal.” He added: “There have been all kinds of ideas for how it can be strengthened. Strong supporters of the deal would acknowledge that. Let’s think of a strategy for how some of its shortcomings can be remedied.”
Iran has continued to test ballistic missiles and has warned it won’t allow inspections of military sites — highlighting ambiguities in the agreement. Einhorn’s quiet effort coincides with a new Trump administration strategy that looks to use the president’s de-certification of Iranian compliance with the deal as leverage to negotiate additional restrictions that address the sunset provisions.
So far, the echo chamber has opposed this strategy. The fear is that Trump’s de-certification, which would not automatically reinstate the crippling sanctions that were lifted as a condition of the deal, would potentially unravel the nuclear agreement and leave the international community with even less transparency about Iran’s nuclear program. Congress would have 60 days to debate whether to reimpose those sanctions.
Colin Kahl, who served as Vice President Joe Biden’s national security adviser in Obama’s second term, told me in an email this week that it was worthwhile to begin looking at the flaws of the agreement, but he opposed any strategy in which Trump would de-certify Iran’s compliance.
“There is no need to force a crisis over it at this very moment — as Trump and some deal opponents seem inclined to do — given that elements of the JCPOA don’t begin to sunset until 2026-2031,” he wrote. “And, as we engage in this conversation about possible arrangements to supplement the JCPOA, we should do so in a way that protects and stabilizes the current deal rather than threatening steps that would blow it up.” He added that any negotiations to further restrict Iran ought to include “possible positive inducements” for Iran.

Will September be Decisive for the Nuclear Agreement?
Salman Al-dossary/Asharq Al Awsat/September 17/17
Two frustrating years out of ten have passed since the nuclear agreement was signed. The world is stepping into the third year of an agreement described by US President Donald Trump as the worst in ages. It is obvious that September will be decisive for the nuclear agreement as the US administration is considering a comprehensive strategy for all noxious Iranian acts – a strategy that calls for more strictness against Iranian forces and its agents of extremist Shi’ite groups in Iraq and Syria.
Through its new strategy, Washington aims to increase pressure on Tehran to curb its ballistic missiles program and its support to extremists. It also targets cyber-spying and possibly, nuclear proliferation.
According to Reuters, the new US strategy “could be agreed and made public before the end of September.” Once agreement is reached on this comprehensive strategy, then we will face a new phase of a serious attempt to downsize Iranian expansion after it lasted eight years (during the term of Obama) and, ironically, reached its zenith after signing the nuclear agreement.
Most importantly, the strategy will be the first practical step by Trump’s administration towards a stricter supervision of the nuclear agreement without letting it be an advantageous award to Tehran’s arms and militias in the region.
The real catastrophe is that Iran has already received all it had to gain from the nuclear deal, which serves its interest and doesn’t terminate uranium enrichment. Nikki Haley, US ambassador to the United Nations, said it is likely that Iran has already accumulated enough reactors to produce a nuclear bomb.
The problem with the agreement was and still is that it does not stand against Iran’s aspirations to expand aggressively in the region. Furthermore, it does not effectively tackle Iran’s previous efforts for nuclear armament at a time when it still continued to the violate the agreement.
The truth is, no one opposes a nuclear agreement that falls in the interest of the world. No one wishes to besiege Iran as long as it doesn’t violate international laws. It is in no one’s interest to call for abolishing the agreement, but the concerns that appeared when announcing the agreement in July 2015 seemed obvious after the deal was signed.
In short, Iran had violated the agreement in the first month and it continued to manipulate it under the pretext of “the spirit of the agreement”. But in fact it has been violating central details without being held accountable.
For example, the agreement stipulates that Iran be notified if it violates any of the articles, and in case it abides by it again later on then this wouldn’t be considered a breach. In this way, Iran continues to violate the agreement, and then it stops when being notified.
I think that this is the best agreement Iran has ever signed because it is benefiting from it in any way it wants, while the region is jeopardized by Iran’s use of its terrorist networks under the umbrella of the international agreement.
We can say that this is the first article that should be revised strictly so that Iran becomes aware of the consequences of its violations. Who would believe that the US navy can’t strongly respond when IRGC-affiliated armed ships provoke it (a thing that occurred several times in the past two years)? The desire not to give Iran an excuse to disrupt the nuclear agreement is the only thing stopping them. What better gift could be given to Iran?
In his famous interview with Atlantic magazine in 2015, Obama said that the long negotiations with the Iranians that led to the agreement would help restore respect to Iran and calm in the region. He pointed out that he has no excessive concerns over Iran’s corruption and that supporting the US allies against Tehran would trigger conflicts.
Two years of the agreement have proven that everything Obama said and believed in, and everyone who supported the agreement, was wrong. The region didn’t calm down, but the opposite. The agreement didn’t help Tehran respect its neighbors. The only thing that happened is that ignoring Tehran’s attitude led to an escalating threat to the world, not only the region.
Maybe it is time to call Iran to account for violating the nuclear agreement, even after two years of signing it.

North Korea’s Secret Weapon? Economic Growth.
David Volodzko/Bloomberg/September 17/17
With the United Nations imposing yet another round of sanctions on North Korea for its nuclear provocations, it’s worth asking why such penalties have been failing for more than a decade. One reason is that the North Korean economy is improving more than is commonly understood — and that will make altering its behavior through trade barriers significantly harder.
The current approach to sanctions is partly based on the assumption that North Korea’s economy is a socialist nightmare, but that’s no longer really true. Although the country is still poor, its gross domestic product grew by an estimated 3.9 percent in 2016, to about $28.5 billion, the fastest pace in 17 years. Wages have risen quickly, and per-capita GDP is now on par with Rwanda, an African economic exemplar.
This progress is partly due to continued trade with China, which remains reluctant to crack down on its neighbor, despite calls for tighter sanctions. Although China agreed in February to ban North Korean coal imports, iron imports have surged and total trade increased by 10.5 percent in the first half of the year, to $2.55 billion.
At the same time, economic reforms made in 2011 have begun to take hold, allowing factory managers to set salaries, find their own suppliers, and hire and fire employees. Farming collectives have been replaced by a family-based management system, which has led to far greater harvests. The government has even come to tolerate private enterprise on a limited basis.
The results are striking. Street vendors, once rare, are now a common site in Pyongyang. Some neighborhoods have new luxury high-rises, modern supermarkets, fashionable shops, and streets busy with Mercedes-Benzes and BMWs. Although the government denies having abandoned the old socialist system, the evidence is undeniable: By some estimates, the private sector now accounts for up to half of GDP.
Meanwhile, given the country’s still-widespread impoverishment, simple improvements in agriculture and natural-disaster management are enough to yield significant new growth. Last year’s impressive GDP gains were due largely to recovery from a bad drought in 2015.
For North Koreans, rising living standards are obviously a good thing. The problem is that the economy still has plenty of room to grow before further progress will require the removal of trade barriers. That means it could be years before new sanctions would hurt enough to cause a significant change in behavior. Until then, the nation’s ideology of self-reliance, known as juche, seems almost plausible.
Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s dictator, looks to be fashioning himself after South Korea’s Park Chung-hee or China’s Deng Xiaoping — that is, as an iron-fisted economic reformist. Despite rampant human-rights violations, Park still stands tall in the memory of many South Koreans for bringing the country into economic maturity. Deng is largely responsible for turning China into the economic powerhouse that it is today. It’s easy to imagine that if Kim’s nuclear arsenal keeps the US military at bay long enough, he’s got a shot at a similar legacy.
Of course, he still faces some enormous challenges, not least being cut off from the global system of trade. Hidebound apparatchiks may object to further reforms, a wealthier public may question the legitimacy of Communist rule in an increasingly capitalist state, and market bubbles could prove destabilizing. But faced with excruciating pressure and scant resources, North Korea has nevertheless been steadily achieving its goals for years. Further economic growth is likely to only help.

State Department Waging "Open War" on White House
Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institute/September 17, 2017
It's not clear to me why the Secretary of State wishes to at once usurp the powers of the Congress and then to derail his boss's rapprochement with the Israeli government." — Foreign policy operative, quoted in the Washington Free Beacon.
Since he was sworn in as Secretary of State on February 1, Rex Tillerson and his advisors at the State Department have made a number of statements and policy decisions that contradict President Trump's key campaign promises on foreign policy, especially regarding Israel and Iran.
"Tillerson was supposed to clean house, but he left half of them in place and he hid the other half in powerful positions all over the building. These are career staffers committed to preventing Trump from reversing what they created." — Veteran foreign policy analyst, quoted in the Free Beacon.
The U.S. State Department has backed away from a demand that Israel return $75 million in military aid which was allocated to it by the U.S. Congress.
The repayment demand, championed by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, was described as an underhanded attempt by the State Department to derail a campaign pledge by U.S. President Donald J. Trump to improve relations with the Jewish state.
The dispute is the just the latest example of what appears to be a growing power struggle between the State Department and the White House over the future direction of American foreign policy.
The controversy goes back to the Obama administration's September 2016 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Israel, which pledged $38 billion in military assistance to Jerusalem over the next decade. The MOU expressly prohibits Israel from requesting additional financial aid from Congress.
Congressional leaders, who said the MOU violates the constitutional right of lawmakers to allocate U.S. aid, awarded Israel an additional $75 million in assistance in the final appropriations bill for fiscal year 2017.
Tillerson had argued that Israel should return the $75 million in order to stay within the limits established by the Obama administration. The effort provoked a strong reaction from Congress, which apparently prompted Tillerson to back down.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) "strongly warned the State Department that such action would be unwise and invite unwanted conflict with Israel," according to the Washington Free Beacon.
"As Iran works to surround Israel on every border, and Hezbollah and Hamas rearm, we must work to strengthen our alliance with Israel, not strain it. Congress has the right to allocate money as it deems necessary, and security assistance to Israel is a top priority. Congress is ready to ensure Israel receives the assistance it needs to defend its citizens."
A veteran congressional advisor told the Free Beacon:
"This is a transparent attempt by career staffers in the State Department to f*ck with the Israelis and derail the efforts of Congressional Republicans and President Trump to rebuild the US-Israel relationship. There's no reason to push for the Israelis to return the money, unless you're trying to drive a wedge between Israel and Congress, which is exactly what this is. It won't work."
Another foreign policy operative said: "It's not clear to me why the Secretary of State wishes to at once usurp the powers of the Congress and then to derail his boss's rapprochement with the Israeli government."
Since he was sworn in as Secretary of State on February 1, Tillerson and his advisors at the State Department have made a number of statements and policy decisions that contradict Trump's key campaign promises on foreign policy, especially regarding Israel and Iran.
August 10. The State Department hosted representatives of the U.S. Council of Muslim Organizations (USCMO), an umbrella group established by the Muslim Brotherhood with the aim of mainstreaming political Islam in the United States. Behind closed doors, they reportedly discussed what they said was Israel's illegal occupation of Palestine and the removal of all Israeli control of the Temple Mount and holy areas of Jerusalem. Observers said the meeting was part of larger effort by anti-Israel organizations to drive a wedge between the Trump administration and Israel. The USCMO includes a number of organizations, including American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), which promote "extreme anti-Israel views" and "anti-Zionist" propaganda, and which support boycotts of the Jewish state.
July 19. The State Department's new "Country Reports on Terrorism 2016" blamed Israel for Palestinian Arab terrorism against Jews. It attributed Palestinian violence to: "lack of hope in achieving statehood;" "Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank;" "settler violence;" and "the perception that the Israeli government was changing the status quo on the Haram Al Sharif/Temple Mount." The report also characterized Palestinian Authority payments to the families of so-called martyrs as "financial packages to Palestinian security reintegrate them into society."
Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) called on the State Department to hold the PA accountable in State Department Country reports: "The State Department report includes multiple findings that are both inaccurate and harmful to combating Palestinian terrorism.... At the highest level, the Palestinian Authority (PA) leadership incites, rewards, and, in some cases, carries out terrorist attacks against innocent Israelis. In order to effectively combat terrorism, it is imperative that the United States accurately characterize its root cause — PA leadership."
June 14. Tillerson voiced opposition to designating the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, saying that such a classification would complicate Washington's relations in the Middle East. During his confirmation hearings on January 11, by contrast, Tillerson lumped the Brotherhood with al-Qaeda when talking about militant threats in the region. He said:
"Eliminating ISIS would be the first step in disrupting the capabilities of other groups and individuals committed to striking our homeland and our allies. The demise of ISIS would also allow us to increase our attention on other agents of radical Islam like al-Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood, and certain elements within Iran."
June 13. During testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Tillerson said he had received reassurances from President Mahmoud Abbas that the Palestinian Authority would end the practice of paying a monthly stipend to the families of suicide bombers and other attackers, commonly referred to by Palestinians as martyrs. One day later, Palestinian officials contradicted Tillerson, saying that there are no plans to stop payments to families of Palestinians killed or wounded carrying out attacks against Israelis.
May 22. Tillerson sidestepped questions on whether the Western Wall is part of Israel, while telling reporters aboard Air Force One they were heading to "Tel Aviv, home of Judaism." Asked directly whether he considers the Western Wall under Israeli sovereignty, Tillerson replied: "The wall is part of Jerusalem."
May 15. In an interview with Meet the Press, Tillerson appeared publicly to renege on Trump's campaign promise to move the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem:
"The president, I think rightly, has taken a very deliberative approach to understanding the issue itself, listening to input from all interested parties in the region, and understanding what such a move, in the context of a peace initiative, what impact would such a move have."
Tillerson also appeared to equate the State of Israel and the Palestinians:
"As you know, the president has recently expressed his view that he wants to put a lot of effort into seeing if we cannot advance a peace initiative between Israel and Palestine. And so I think in large measure the president is being very careful to understand how such a decision would impact a peace process."
Critics of this stance have argued that moving the embassy to Jerusalem would, instead, advance the peace process by "shattering the Palestinian fantasy that Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel."
March 8. The State Department confirmed that the Obama administration's $221 million payment to the Palestinian Authority, approved just hours before Trump's inauguration, had reached its destination. The Trump administration initially had vowed to freeze the payment.
In July 2017, the Free Beacon reported that Tillerson's State Department was waging an "open political war" with the White House on a range of key issues, including the U.S.-Israel relationship, the Iran portfolio, and other matters:
"The tensions have fueled an outstanding power battle between the West Wing and State Department that has handicapped the administration and resulted in scores of open positions failing to be filled with Trump confidantes. This has allowed former Obama administration appointees still at the State Department to continue running the show and formulating policy, where they have increasingly clashed with the White House's own agenda."
A veteran foreign policy analyst interviewed by the Free Beacon laid the blame squarely on Tillerson:
"Foggy Bottom [a metonym for the State Department] is still run by the same people who designed and implemented Obama's Middle East agenda. Tillerson was supposed to clean house, but he left half of them in place and he hid the other half in powerful positions all over the building. These are career staffers committed to preventing Trump from reversing what they created."
Notable holdovers from the Obama administration are now driving the State Department's Iran policy:
Michael Ratney, a top advisor to former Secretary of State John Kerry on Syria policy. Under the Trump administration, Ratney's role at the State Department has been expanded to include Israel and Palestine issues. Ratney, who was the U.S. Consul in Jerusalem between 2012 and 2015, oversaw $465,000 in U.S. grants to wage a smear to oust Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from office in 2015 parliamentary elections, according to the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. Ratney admitted to Senate investigators that he deleted emails containing information about the Obama administration's relationship with the group.
Thomas A. Shannon, Jr., a career foreign service officer who serves as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs. Shannon, the State Department's fourth-ranking official, has warned that scrapping the Iran deal would lead to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. "Any effort to step away from the deal would reopen a Pandora's box in that region that would be hard to close again," he said. His statement indicates that Shannon could be expected to lead efforts to resist any attempts to renege or renegotiate the deal; critics of the deal say that Iran's continued missile testing has given Trump one more reason to tear up his predecessor's deal with the Islamist regime.
Chris Backemeyer is now the highest-ranking official at the State Department for Iran policy. During the Obama administration, Backemeyer made his career by selling the Iran deal by persuading multinational corporations to do business with Iran as part of an effort to conclude the Iran nuclear deal.
Ratney, Shannon and Backemeyer, along with Tillerson, reportedly prevailed upon Trump twice to recertify the Iran nuclear deal. The Jerusalem Post explained:
Washington was briefly abuzz on the afternoon of July 17 when rumors began to circulate that President Trump was eager to declare that Iran was in breach of the conditions laid out in the 2015 Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA).
Those receptive antennas were further heightened given the previous signals sent. After all, the State Department already released talking points to reporters on the decision to recertify Iran. The Treasury Department also had a package of fresh sanctions on over a dozen Iranian individuals and entities ready to announce to appease the hawks who were eager to cut loose from the deal.
But Trump didn't want to recertify Iran, nor did he want to the last time around in April. That evening, a longtime Middle East analyst close to senior White House officials involved in the discussions described the scene to me: "Tillerson essentially told the president, 'we just aren't ready with our allies to decertify.' The president retorted, 'Isn't it your job to get our allies ready?' to which Tillerson said, 'Sorry sir, we're just not ready.'" According to this source, Secretary Tillerson pulled the same maneuver when it came to recertification in April by waiting until the last minute before finally admitting the State Department wasn't ready. On both occasions he simply offered something to the effect of, "We'll get 'em next time."
Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute.
© 2017 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

UK: How Much More Abuse of Children Do We Permit?
Khadija Khan/Gatestone Institute/September 17, 2017
How is it that we never see demands for legislation to ban dragging young girls into a system of misogynistic beliefs?
The West accepts pampering these extremists in the name of freedom of expression when these extremists themselves do not believe in any such freedom.
Female genital mutilation (FGM), despite having been banned since 1985, takes place in the UK every hour. This criminal behavior is made possible only by the British authorities' indifference.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who is also chairman of Transport for London (TfL), has issued a belated apology for depicting -- in an advertisement launched by the Children's Traffic Club London (created by TfL to promote traffic safety) -- a small girl in a headscarf as representative of a Muslim minor. In Islam, headscarves are not usually worn until a girl has reach puberty. The Independent reported: "TfL apologised for any offence caused and said the images will be removed from the campaign. London Mayor Sadiq Khan, chair of TfL, also apologised for the campaign".
The apology, however, sounds more like just lip service: none of the British authorities has bothered to notice the escalating trend of making Muslim baby girls wear a veil.
It took a campaign advertisement to make them realize how a headscarf, the hijab, a symbol of modesty, might be abusive to the minor girls by seemingly sexualizing them at an early age.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan issued a belated apology for depicting -- in a public-service ad -- a small girl in a headscarf as representative of a Muslim minor. (Image source: Transport for London, Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Muslim parents of these baby girls, as well as the schools run by Muslims, are mainly responsible for the increase in the frequency of veils for increasing younger girls, even though to may, the requirement is nothing short of a child abuse.
The reaction of British authorities to this controversial practice was in the general mode of, "We cannot endorse this nonsense, but if you want to carry on discriminating against your girls in the name of your belief system, we will not stop you".
The current and growing trend of concealing even baby girls in the name of a religion, and then indoctrinating them, needs more than just an apology -- both from the government and the so-called left-wing fringe. It is precisely their decades-long pattern of accommodating these extremist Muslims that has led to such degenerate behavior.
It is the height of irony -- and a low state of affairs -- that even government authorities have fallen prey to the propaganda of extremists who are now covering even their infant girls with a headscarf -- and selling that practice as a symbol of modesty.
The civilized world should dread the day when burqa-clad girls and women will take over representing Muslim women. It is this attire that represents the coercive ideology that aims to subjugate women through and violence and threats of violence.
What is fortunate is that a traffic awareness campaign gone wrong exposed the plight of these girls: Islamic schools, run by the fundamentalists under the shadow of apologetic British authorities, had encouraged hiding them.
Heartbreakingly, so many people, often well-intended, seem carried away by the pro-veil campaigns of these Muslim extremists. They not only market their demands to conceal women as a symbol of modesty; they also brainwash young girls that those who do not wear these burqas or hijabs have a baser character.
In the West, where people are allowed to wear what they wish, putting a woman behind a veil looks like anything but "modesty". It looks more like coercion, control and domination.
"It's like a cage. I wish men could also be trapped like this so that they would understand how much we suffer," said a woman in Afghanistan.
The extremists who hide girls are robbing them of their childhood.
How is it that we never see demands for legislation to ban dragging young girls into a system of misogynistic beliefs?
The West accepts pampering these extremists in the name of freedom of expression, when these extremists themselves do not believe in any such freedom. Many in the West, in fact, have been trying to knock down the humane laws of the civilized world to have them with the restrictive Islamic laws of Shariah.
Muslim private schools in Britain are increasingly inspired by the Islamist ideology, which promotes beating women; killing homosexuals, apostates and blasphemers; discouraging any kind of interaction with non-Muslims; eradicating Jews and spewing hatred against people of other faiths.
In 2014, an inquiry by Ofsted, the body that regulates schools in England, to inspect the teachings of Muslim private schools, emerged with findings that are devastating. According to Ofsted, some children were unable to understand the difference between Sharia Law and British Law, and sounded more committed to religious teachings than to British laws.
That extremists get away with such manipulations seems directly connected to the lack of any legal means to curb extremist practices by conservative Muslims. Objectionable behavior is simply ignored. A British court in 2016, for instance, ruled that Ofsted was "erroneous" in viewing the segregation of boys and girls in an Islamic school as discriminatory.
Female genital mutilation, despite having been banned since 1985, takes place in the UK every hour. This criminal behavior is made possible only by the British authorities' indifference.
Just calling some practices illegal clearly does not deter anyone, unless it is followed by tough action and harsh sentences against those who violate the law.
Official, willfully-blind, political correctness is causing irreparable damage to those girls. They are being simultaneously sexualized and ranked as sub-human by these pseudo-religious and cultural practices.
Mayor Sadiq Khan did the right thing by apologizing for the misguided ad campaign -- the same way he earned respect from Londoners by supporting equality for LGBTQ community.
Now we please need him to support tough legislation to ban discrimination against Muslim children under the excuse or religious beliefs -- even if that could mean offending some of his friends.
Khadija Khan is a Pakistani journalist and commentator, currently based in Germany.
© 2017 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.