September 26/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For Today
let’s not love in word only, or with the tongue only, but in deed and truth
John’s First Letter/01-24/:"See how great a love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God! For this cause the world doesn’t know us, because it didn’t know him.  Beloved, now we are children of God. It is not yet revealed what we will be; but we know that when he is revealed, we will be like him; for we will see him just as he is.  Everyone who has this hope set on him purifies himself, even as he is pure.  Everyone who sins also commits lawlessness. Sin is lawlessness.  You know that he was revealed to take away our sins, and no sin is in him.  Whoever remains in him doesn’t sin. Whoever sins hasn’t seen him and doesn’t know him. Little children, let no one lead you astray. He who does righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.  He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. To this end the Son of God was revealed: that he might destroy the works of the devil.  Whoever is born of God doesn’t commit sin, because his seed remains in him, and he can’t sin, because he is born of God. In this the children of God are revealed, and the children of the devil. Whoever doesn’t do righteousness is not of God, neither is he who doesn’t love his brother. For this is the message which you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another; unlike Cain, who was of the evil one, and killed his brother. Why did he kill him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother’s righteous. Don’t be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. He who doesn’t love his brother remains in death. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life remaining in him. By this we know love, because he laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.  But whoever has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, then closes his heart of compassion against him, how does God’s love remain in him?  My little children, let’s not love in word only, or with the tongue only, but in deed and truth.  And by this we know that we are of the truth, and persuade our hearts before him, because if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. Beloved, if our hearts don’t condemn us, we have boldness toward God; so whatever we ask, we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do the things that are pleasing in his sight. This is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another, even as he commanded. He who keeps his commandments remains in him, and he in him. By this we know that he remains in us, by the Spirit which he gave us.

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on September 25-26/17
The Majority Of Lebanon's Politicians Are Mere Thugs/ Elias Bejjani/September 26/17
Aoun calls for 'Levantine common market' and safe return of Syrian refugees
Al Monitor/September 25/17
Despite alleged Israeli strikes, Hezbollah will keep building its arsenal/Giora Eiland/Ynetnews/September 26/17
Barzani, the Independence and the Earthquake/Ghassan Charbel/Al Arabiya/September 25/17
Is Russia the US’s Best Chance With North Korea/Dmitri Trenin/Al Arabiya/September 25/17
Embarking on the Maritime Industry/Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/September 25/17
Palestinian 'Reconciliation': Jihad is Calling/Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/September 25/17
Islamists Responsible for Rohingya Refugee Crisis/Mohshin Habib/Gatestone Institute/September 25/17

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on  September 25-26/17

The Majority Of Lebanon's Politicians Are Mere Thugs
Macron after meeting Aoun: We will work with Lebanon and UN to face Syrian refugee's crisis
France launches 57 billion euro investment fund
President Aoun arrives in Paris to meet Macron
Military, refugees top Aoun-Macron talks
Refugee Crisis on Table in Aoun's State Visit to France
Bassil-Moallem Meeting Disturbs Lebanon’s Ruling Coalition
Teachers, Public Employees Declare New Strike, Call for Sit-in
Deputies who signed tax law appeal meet in Saifi, welcome Constitutional Council ruling
Appeal MPs Urge 'Immediate' Implementation of New Wage Scale
Berri Stresses that Legislation is Parliament's Responsibility
March 8 Urges Treasury Loans to Fund Wage Hike, Others Back Postponement
Teachers, Civil Servants Stage Strike to Press on Wage Scale
Aoun calls for 'Levantine common market' and safe return of Syrian refugees
Pan-Arab Newspaper Reports Hizbullah Chief Bolsters his Ranks with Shiite Fighters from Iraq
Despite alleged Israeli strikes, Hezbollah will keep building its arsenal

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on September 25-26/17
Iraq Kurds Defy Baghdad in Historic Independence Vote
Iraq Parliament Demands Troops Go to Areas Disputed with Kurds
Iran Says Land Border with Iraqi Kurdistan Remains Open
U.S.-Backed Syria Militia Says Russia Hit Forces at Gas Plant
North Korea FM Says Trump Has Declared War on His Country
Sisi Heads to UAE to Discuss Palestinian Reconciliation, Crisis with Qatar
Egypt’s Interior Minister: ‘Our Forces Lead the Fight against Terrorism’
Disputes Arise Prior to Government Assuming Authorities in Gaza
Palestinian Government to Hold Weekly Session in Gaza
Oman Expels Indian Preacher for Offending Saudi Arabia
United Nations, Arab League Agree to Activate Cooperation
‘Iron Union 5’ Continues as Joint UAE-US Military Drill Promotes International Cooperation
US Airstrikes Kill 17 ISIS Militants in Libya
Hadi Accuses Coup Militias of Taking Over 70% of Yemeni Revenue
Kirkuk declares curfew after Iraqi Kurdish independence referendum
N.Korea accuses US of declaring war, says can take countermeasures
Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi discusses regional, int'l issues with visiting Egyptian president
Erdogan accuses Myanmar of 'Buddhist terror' against Rohingya
Iran says Trump claims of North Korea links 'nonsense'
Local leadership code of honor' launched to combat celebratory gunfire
Yemeni Insurgents Accused of Raising Prices of Liquefied Gas

Latest Lebanese Related News published on September 25-26/17
The Majority Of Lebanon's Politicians Are Mere Thugs

Elias Bejjani/The majority of the Lebanese politicians are mere thugs and especially the 7 to 10 warlords who run and control the country. These warlords own Mafiosi organizations called for deception political parties...They are merciless, hungry for power, ruthless and hypocrites. Their conscience is dead and their hearts hardened . They are totally detached from reality, and in actuality they are much worst than the Pharisees. They are deluding themselves and falsely believe that they own both the people and the country and therefore evilly act accordingly. Sadly some of our puppet like creatures who are blindly and stupidly support these thugs and make things worse because they give these political wolves the power to go on their thievery acts.
Sadly both Aoun and Geagea and in actual reality are a catastrophic disaster on all levels and in all domains that hit us, we the Maronites/Still much much worse than both of them are their blind and ignorant followers.

Macron after meeting Aoun: We will work with Lebanon and UN to face Syrian refugee's crisis
Mon 25 Sep 2017/NNA - French President Emmanuel Macron indicated that his meeting with his Lebanese counterpart, Michel Aoun, at the Elysee Palace on Monday, was "rich," adding that the paid engaged in "intensive" talks. "The meeting only increased our common belief regarding the necessity to work on facing challenges," Macron told a joint press conference. "Lebanon must remain a model of pluralism, tolerance, and democracy. I commend the progress that took place in the country since the election of the president of the republic. Lebanon has made a remarkable advance on the levels of endorsing a new election law and fighting terrorism," the French President said. He also highlighted France's "keenness on the building of a strong state in Lebanon to guarantee security on the long run.""France will work with Lebanon and the United Nations to face the Syrian refugees' crisis," Macron maintained, hailing Lebanon's efforts in hosting the displaced."Lebanon weathered huge blows of terrorism, and I salute the bravery of the Lebanese military," he added.

France launches 57 billion euro investment fund

Mon 25 Sep 2017/NNA - Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced plans Monday to pour 57 billion euros ($67.8 billion) into modernizing France's economy, with a hefty chunk set aside for making it more environmentally-friendly. Spread over five years, the fund will be slightly bigger than the 50 billion euros that centrist Emmanuel Macron pledged when he was elected president in May. Philippe said the fund would have an "amplifier effect" on the new government's reform program, which includes labor law changes designed to bring down stubbornly high unemployment of 9.5 percent. "It's about giving power and visibility to our major investment priorities," Philippe told a press conference. Twenty billion euros will be used to fund a transition towards a greener economy, Philippe said, including nine billion for making buildings more energy efficient and seven billion for renewable energy development.
In a bid to cut down on pollution, French drivers will be offered a 1,000-euro cash incentive to trade in cars made before 1997 -- or 2001 for diesel models -- for newer and more efficient vehicles. The government will spend nine billion euros on digitizing the public sector, including by rolling out e-payments for more services and boosting telephone access to doctors to help patients in rural areas. Some 15 billion has been set aside for training and education, including training one million people aged over 25 for new careers as Macron's government seeks to tackle long-term unemployment. Around 13 billion will be spent on broader innovation, including five billion for modernizing the agricultural sector in Europe's biggest food producer. Another 3.5 billion of the innovation fund will be handed to scientists, including for developing the artificial intelligence industry.
Philippe said some of the funding would come from existing ministerial budgets and some from the European Investment Bank. The launch comes as Macron's government prepares to announce the first budget of his five-year term on Wednesday. ---AFP

President Aoun arrives in Paris to meet Macron
The Daily Star/ September 25, 2017/BEIRUT: President Michel Aoun arrived in France Monday to start a three-day official visit, during which he will meet with French President Emmanuel Macron. Aoun, who is accompanied by an official delegation and First Lady Nadia Aoun, arrived at Le Bourget Military Airport in Paris at 12:30 p.m. Beirut time, a statement from the Presidency’s office announced. During the trip from Beirut to Paris, Aoun told the delegation that he was delighted about the visit. "It is a victory for the truth that was trampled for 26-years," Aoun said when asked how he felt returning to France as President after having spent years in self-imposed political exile in the country from 1991-2005. Touching on the recent political and financial developments of the tax hike law that was annulled by the Constitutional Council last week, leaving the fate of a new salary scale for public employees uncertain, Aoun stressed that the salary scale will be implemented. Aoun told the delegation that he had previously noted the issues with the tax hike law that the Council based its decision on, including the need to pass a state budget before establishing new taxes. “The most notable [issue] was the need to pass a budget that included the necessary allocations to finance the salary scale,” Aoun said, according to the statement. He added that he also had referred to Article 87 of the Constitution that touches on auditing, which the Council had referenced in its decision. The president said that the government and the Parliament are taking the necessary actions to fix the faults in the tax hike law. “The salary scale will be implemented and if a technical error took place it will be [sorted] at a later time through the allocations available at the Finance Ministry,” he said. Upon his arrival in Paris, Aoun headed to Plaza Athenee where he headed a coordination meeting to place the final touches on the visit’s schedule. An official ceremony in honor of Aoun will be held at 5:20 p.m. (BT) by the Arc de Triomphe before he then heads to Elysee Palace for official talks with Macron. The meeting will be followed by a joint news conference.
They will then head to the Arab World Institute to open the “Christian of the Levant: 2000 years of History” Institute before attending dinner on their behalf.

Military, refugees top Aoun-Macron talks
Hasan Lakkis/The Daily Star/Sep. 25, 2017 /BEIRUT: President Michel Aoun begins a three-day state visit to France Monday for talks with President Emmanuel Macron and other senior French officials focusing on bilateral relations, military aid to the Lebanese Army, the Syrian refugee crisis and Saudi Arabia’s scrapped $4 billion gift to the Army, ministerial sources said Sunday. To be accompanied by Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil and Minister of State for Presidency Pierre Raffoul, Aoun will be the first head of state to visit Macron, a 39-year-old centrist, since he became France’s youngest ever president in May.
Macron’s meeting with Aoun is seen as a message of political support from France to Lebanon. In reviewing the Syrian refugee crisis with Macron, Aoun will underline Lebanon’s categorical rejection of resettlement of refugees and seek France’s help in bearing the burden of more than 1 million displaced Syrians, a ministerial source accompanying the Lebanese president on his visit to Paris said. In discussing French aid to the Lebanese Army, Aoun will raise a scrapped weapons deal worth $4 billion that would have seen Saudi Arabia fund the purchase of French-manufactured arms, equipment and training to be used by the Lebanese Army and Internal Security Forces, the source said. The Saudi military gift will be discussed between senior French officials and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman when the latter visits France, the source added.
In their talks on the 6-year-old war in Syria, the Lebanese and French presidents will emphasize their countries’ commitment to fight terrorism and its funding, the same source said. He added that Aoun would not face any problem with French officials over the status of Hezbollah as is the case with the Americans, who consider the party a “terrorist organization,” because France recognizes the party’s political role in the Lebanese state.
Aoun and Macron are expected to agree on the details of a donors’ conference to support Lebanon that could be held in the first quarter of 2018, similar to the Paris III Conference, which saw international states come together to pledge aid for Lebanon just six months after Israel’s 34-day war in 2006.
Aoun’s trip comes a few weeks after Prime Minister Saad Hariri visited Paris, where he held talks with his French counterpart Edouard Philippe and Macron centering on increasing military aid to the Lebanese Army and the safe return of Syrian refugees to their country.
One major outcome of the visit was the declaration by Macron, after his meeting with Hariri, that France will host two conferences in the first quarter of next year. The first will seek to boost the Lebanese economy and the second to discuss the issue of Syrian refugees. Macron also said that he would be traveling to Lebanon next year ahead to lay the groundwork for the two conferences. Aoun’s visit to Paris begins from President Charles De Gaulle Square Monday afternoon in the presence of French Defense Minister Florence Parly, where he will be greeted by members of the Presidential Guard before he puts a wreath on the Unknown Soldier’s tomb. At 5 p.m. Monday, Aoun and Macron will hold a bilateral meeting at the Elysee Palace to be followed by an expanded meeting with the participation of the delegation accompanying Aoun. The meeting will be followed by a joint news conference before the two presidents go to the Arab World Institute to open an “Exhibition of the Levant Christians, 2000 years of History.” In parallel with the two presidents’ talks, the French and Lebanese first ladies, Brigitte Macron and Nadia Aoun will meet at the Elysee Palace.
In the evening, Macron will host a dinner in honor of the Lebanese president to be attended by 220 French and Lebanese figures representing the Francophone political and cultural society. On Tuesday, Aoun is scheduled to meet with French Foreign Minister Jean Yves Le Drian before going to the Paris municipality where he will be received by Paris’ mayor in the presence of invited members of the Lebanese community. Ahead of his meeting with French premier Philippe, to discuss bilateral relations and issues of mutual concern, Aoun is set to attend a lunch to be hosted by French Senate leader Gerard Larcher.
Aoun will wrap up his official visit Wednesday with a meeting with the chairman of the French National Assembly. Macron met with Aoun at Baabda Palace during his presidential election campaign. His meeting with Aoun Monday will be the first official get-together between the two as presidents.
Aoun lived in self-imposed exile in Paris for several years before returning to Lebanon in 2005.

Refugee Crisis on Table in Aoun's State Visit to France
Naharnet/September 25/17/President Michel Aoun began Monday his first state visit to France and the thorny issue of Syrian refugees is expected to top the agenda of his talks with French President Emmanuel Macron. Al-Joumhouria newspaper reported that Aoun will be accompanied by First Lady Nadia Aoun, Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil, State Minister for Presidency Affairs Pierre Raffoul, Lebanese Ambassador to France Rami Adwan, Foreign Ministry political affairs director Ghadi al-Khoury, in addition to an administrative and media delegation. Apart from his meeting with Macron, the president will also hold talks with France's Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, President of the Senate Gérard Larcher, National Assembly Speaker François de Rugy, and representatives of the Lebanese expat community. Al-Joumhouria said talks will tackle “means to strengthen political, diplomatic, security, economic and cultural ties; the situations of French and Francophone institutions operating in Lebanon; the situations of Lebanese expats in Paris; the role of French UNIFIL peacekeepers; and supporting Lebanon in the issue of returning Syrian refugees to their country.”
According to information obtained by the daily, the French president will express a “positive stance on the refugee issue, contrary to the stance of U.S. President Donald Trump.”

Bassil-Moallem Meeting Disturbs Lebanon’s Ruling Coalition
Asharq Al Awsat/September 25/17/Beirut- A meeting held between the son-in-law of Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun and Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid Moallem in New York last week sparked dismay in the team of Prime Minister Saad Hariri, shaking the ruling alliance that would also deal on Monday with a general strike organized by civil servants to protest a freeze in their salary hike. On Thursday, Moallem and his Lebanese counterpart Jebran Bassil met in New York on the sidelines of the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly. Aoun spoke last week about “communication channels” with the Syrian regime concerning the issue of the Syrian refugees in Lebanon. In objection to the Bassil-Moallem meeting, Lebanon’s Interior Minister Nohad al-Mashnouq announced that he was not accompanying the president on his official trip to Paris on Monday, describing the meeting between the two foreign ministers as tantamount to a political attack on the premiership, and a violation of the political settlement.“We will not accept it [Bassil-Moallem meeting] under any circumstances and we will confront it by all means,” Mashnouk said during a meeting with Beiruti families on Sunday. Despite his harsh attack on Bassil, Mashnouq did not mention President Aoun. However, ministerial sources warned that the ruling coalition could not survive long if Lebanon remains attached to such approach vis-à-vis the Syrian regime. “The president is not alone entitled to discuss the issue of cooperation with the Syrian regime, but should present the matter to the cabinet that in return makes the appropriate decision in this regard,” sources told Asharq Al-Awsat. On Sunday, Aoun said that Lebanon would discuss with Syria the file of the Syrian refugees, who currently constitute 50 percent of his country’s population. Separately, and following the confusion produced by last week’s decision of the Constitutional Council to overturn a tax law, the cabinet currently faces a new deadlock in providing resources to fund a salary scale for public employees, who are now angry from the possibility of not receiving their financial rights. The Syndicate Coordination Committee called for a general strike Monday in all public institutions, schools and municipalities to put pressure on the government in case political forces decide to halt the salary hike during a cabinet session scheduled for Tuesday morning.
Secretary General of the Teachers Union in Lebanon Walid Jaradi predicted that around 125,000 public employees would participate in Monday’s strike.

Teachers, Public Employees Declare New Strike, Call for Sit-in
Naharnet/September 25/17/The Association of Public Administration Employees on Monday called for an open-ended strike starting Tuesday in all state institutions to press authorities not to delay the payment of a long-awaited wage hike. The Association also called for a central sit-in on Tuesday at Beirut's Riad al-Solh Square. Later on Monday, the Syndical Coordination Committee -- a coalition of civil servants and public and private school teachers -- and the General Confederation of Lebanese Workers issued a joint call for a general strike on Tuesday and for participation in the Riad al-Solh sit-in. In a statement, the Association of Public Administration Employees said its strike will continue until the payment of the salaries according to the new schedules. Public employees and private and public school teachers were already observing a strike across Lebanon on Monday to press for the same demands.
Information Minister Melhem Riachi had announced Sunday that the government is inclined to suspend the wage hike to carry out a necessary financial evaluation, after the Constitutional Council revoked a tax law that had been approved to fund the new salary scale.The Syndical Coordination Committee had decried Sunday that “some parties of the ruling class seem to have bowed to the pressures of bank and business associations and the coalition of the owners of private schools.”“Any postponement in paying the wage hike would be an injustice against the people in light of the rise in the prices of commodities that accompanied the approval of the new wage scale,” the SCC warned. The Constitutional Council has revoked a tax law aimed at funding the wage scale in its entirety after ten MPs led by Kataeb Party chief Sami Gemayel filed an appeal against it. The appeal cited alleged voting and financial auditing violations and Gemayel has warned that the new taxes would lower citizens' purchasing power “by 10 to 20%” and would also push “more than 100,000 citizens below the poverty line.”The new taxes involve hiking the VAT tax from 10% to 11%, fines on seaside violations, and taxes on cement, administrative transactions, sea imports, lottery prizes, financial firms and banks.Authorities had argued that the new taxes are necessary to fund the new wage scale but opponents of such a move have called for finding new revenues through putting an end to corruption and the waste of public money.

Deputies who signed tax law appeal meet in Saifi, welcome Constitutional Council ruling
Mon 25 Sep 2017/NNA - The ten deputies who have signed the tax law appeal lauded the recent Constitutional Council's ruling as a "bold step on the way towards reviving the role of constitutional institutions." The ten deputies met on Monday afternoon at the Kataeb central house in Saifi, to follow up on the file of the appeal. In a statement read out by MP Boutros Harb in the wake of the meeting, the ten deputies thanked the Constitutional Council members on their step, underlining beneficiaries' right to the salary scale approved by the Parliament. The Lawmakers called for not postponing the implementation of the wage scale payment. In their statement, MPs indicated that the government proposes very costly projects without controlling the spread out of corruption in state institutions. The Lawmakers called on House Speaker, Nabih Berri, to put forward the state budget draft in front of the General body for approval.

Appeal MPs Urge 'Immediate' Implementation of New Wage Scale
Naharnet/September 25/17/MPs who filed a successful appeal against taxes aimed at funding a new wage scale for civil servants stressed Monday that beneficiaries should “immediately” receive hiked salaries regardless of the Constitutional Council's repeal of the tax In a statement issued after a meeting at Kataeb Party's headquarters, the ten lawmakers hailed the Council's ruling and emphasized that the implementation of the wage scale “should not be delayed or postponed under any excuse,” pointing out that the state has enough funds to pay the wage hike. They noted that their appeal was prompted by the tax law's “violation of the Constitution and its impact on the lower classes.” “We have not revoked the law to defend banks or the encroachment on seaside properties,” MP Butros Harb said in response to a reporter's question. Public and private school teachers and public employees were on Monday observing a general strike to press authorities not to postpone the implementation of the long-awaited wage scale. Another general strike has been scheduled for Tuesday. The Syndical Coordination Committee, a coalition of civil servants and public and private school teachers, had decried Sunday that “some parties of the ruling class seem to have bowed to the pressures of bank and business associations and the coalition of the owners of private schools.” “Any postponement in paying the wage hike would be an injustice against the people in light of the rise in the prices of commodities that accompanied the approval of the new wage scale,” the SCC warned.

Berri Stresses that Legislation is Parliament's Responsibility
Naharnet/September 25/17/Speaker Nabih Berri stressed Monday that legislation is the responsibility of Parliament, while noting that the Constitutional Council's latest ruling that revoked a new tax law “was not brought by the angels.”Calling on the government to implement what he had “long called for” regarding the new wage scale, Berri noted that “whoever has the right to legislate expenditure also has the right to legislate revenues and taxes, regardless whether or not they are included in the state budget.”“Let's not forget that Parliament is constitutionally in charge of drafting laws and that restrictions cannot be imposed on it, unless the violation of the Constitution has become a normal thing, seeing as the Constitutional Council's ruling was not brought by the angels,” Berri added.

March 8 Urges Treasury Loans to Fund Wage Hike, Others Back Postponement
Naharnet/September 25/17/An emergency cabinet session held Sunday evening witnessed two viewpoints on the issue of the implementation of the new wage scale, after the Constitutional Council revoked a tax law that had been approved to fund the plan, media reports said on Monday. “There were two points of view in Cabinet -- the first endorsed by (Prime Minister Saad) Hariri, the Lebanese Forces, the Progressive Socialist Party and the Free Patriotic Movement, calling for the suspension of the wage scale until the approval of the state budget that would involve the needed revenues... and the second endorsed by the March 8 camp, Hizbullah and the AMAL Movement,” ad-Diyar daily quoted a March 8 ministerial source as saying. The source said the March 8 forces stressed the need to secure the wage scale's funds as soon as possible through “amending the (tax) law's appealed articles while earmarking treasury loans to finance the wage scale as of October.” In remarks to ad-Diyar, a March 14 ministerial source ruled out the possibility of reaching a solution in Tuesday's cabinet session. “Consultations will be held with the syndicates to agree on postponing the wage hike for a limited period, while offering them a pledge that salaries for the suspension months would be paid retroactively,” the source added. The source also noted that “the government cannot take a decision to implement the wage scale this month, because such a step would send a negative message locally and internationally about the government's financial policy.”
Public and private school teachers and public employees were on Monday observing a general strike to press authorities not to postpone the implementation of the long-awaited wage scale. The Syndical Coordination Committee, a coalition of civil servants and public and private school teachers, had decried Sunday that “some parties of the ruling class seem to have bowed to the pressures of bank and business associations and the coalition of the owners of private schools.” “Any postponement in paying the wage hike would be an injustice against the people in light of the rise in the prices of commodities that accompanied the approval of the new wage scale,” the SCC warned.

Teachers, Civil Servants Stage Strike to Press on Wage Scale
Naharnet/September 25/17/Public and private school teachers and public employees were on Monday observing a general strike to press authorities not to postpone the implementation of a long-awaited wage scale. Information Minister Melhem Riachi had announced Sunday that the government is inclined to suspend the wage hike to carry out a necessary financial evaluation, after the Constitutional Council revoked a tax law that had been approved to fund the new salary scale. The National News Agency said employees across Lebanon were largely abiding by the strike decision. In remarks to Asharq al-Awsat newspaper, the secretary general of the teachers syndicate, Walid Jradi, said there will be an escalation and a possible open-ended strike should the government decide to suspend the wage hike in its Tuesday session. “They're saying that they need one month to take a decision on the funding sources, and we say that the state can bear the cost of paying October's salaries if there are serious and honest intentions,” Jradi said. The Syndical Coordination Committee, a coalition of civil servants and public and private school teachers, had decried Sunday that “some parties of the ruling class seem to have bowed to the pressures of bank and business associations and the coalition of the owners of private schools.” “Any postponement in paying the wage hike would be an injustice against the people in light of the rise in the prices of commodities that accompanied the approval of the new wage scale,” the SCC warned.
It noted that “withholding the new salaries from public employees, teachers and the armed forces will be a forthright and decisive indication on the failure of the state, not only the failure of the government or the ruling class.”“If the government is obliged to slash spending, let that be through rescheduling the interests of public debt that cost the state 8,000 billion Lebanese pounds every year, knowing that it has been paying them steadily to the owners of banks for the past 25 years,” the Committee added. “Are the rights of banks protected contrary to the rights of the people? We call on the Council of Ministers to be at the level of people’s rights, not banks’ pressures,” the SCC urged. In remarks published Sunday by al-Mustaqbal newspaper, ministerial sources said the wage scale will be suspended until the approval of the new state budget, “which would pave the way for implementing the wage hike after adding to (the state budget) the tax amendments that were recommended by the Constitutional Council.” The Constitutional Council has revoked a tax law aimed at funding the wage scale in its entirety after ten MPs led by Kataeb Party chief Sami Gemayel filed an appeal against it. The appeal cited alleged voting and financial auditing violations and Gemayel has warned that the new taxes would lower citizens' purchasing power “by 10 to 20%” and would also push “more than 100,000 citizens below the poverty line.”Gemayel also quoted Father Butros Azar, the secretary general of Catholic schools, as saying that school tuitions would rise an average of 27%.“The prices of apartments will also rise and our youths will suffer,” the young MP cautioned.“An economic disaster has been created without any economic feasibility study for the taxes to rely on,” Gemayel lamented. The new taxes involve hiking the VAT tax from 10% to 11%, fines on seaside violations, and taxes on cement, administrative transactions, sea imports, lottery prizes, financial firms and banks.Authorities had argued that the new taxes are necessary to fund the new wage scale but opponents of such a move have called for finding new revenues through putting an end to corruption and the waste of public money.

Aoun calls for 'Levantine common market' and safe return of Syrian refugees
Al Monitor/Week in Review/September 24, 2017
Lebanon's president outlines a regional approach to combating poverty and extremism; Mahmoud Abbas nears moment of truth regarding Dahlan’s role in Fatah-Hamas talks.
Aoun: Hezbollah linked to "regional crisis"
In his address to the United Nations General Assembly, Lebanese President Michel Aoun called for an “economic common Levantine market” to support economic and social policies to combat regional poverty and extremism. He also spoke about the plight of Syrian refugees in Lebanon and other countries, saying, “It would be better if the United Nations assisted them in returning to their homeland rather than helping them remain in camps.”
Aoun had told Al-Monitor prior to his speech, “If the international community wants to help them [Syrian refugees], they may help them in Syria. It will be more economic. The cost will be lower than in Lebanon. That's what we are asking now from the international community: not to help us, but to help the people go back to their homes.”
The Lebanese president acknowledged the difficulties of assuring the safe return of refugees while insisting that planning for their return should begin immediately. Displaced Syrians, he said, should not face the same plight as Palestinian refugees, who have remained in UN camps for decades.
Aoun spoke expansively of a regional approach to combat poverty and extremism, an “economic common Levantine market” under UN auspices, as well as the establishment of a center for tolerance, coexistence, forgiveness and peace, based in Lebanon.
Aoun rejected US calls to have the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) take on an expanded role to curb Hezbollah’s activities in Lebanon, saying, “UNIFIL is not a military force to be used; they are observers. We cannot give them a combat mission or a mission to inspect the homes of the people to see if they have weapons or not. They are there to observe the borders of Lebanon and Israel and to count how many times Israeli aircraft cross Lebanese borders.”
He added, “Hezbollah has become a component of the regional crisis. If we have to solve the problem of Hezbollah, it would be within a general solution to the Middle East crisis, especially in Syria.”
Linkages involving the Syria crisis, the role of Hezbollah and regional diplomacy have been consistent themes in Al-Monitor’s reporting and commentary. We wrote over 3½ years ago in this column that “a calming of the situation in Syria would have direct consequences for Hezbollah’s role in Lebanon. You can’t solve Lebanon, or Hezbollah, without solving Syria. Gen. Michel Aoun, the head of Lebanon’s Free Patriotic Movement and a key broker of the deal this week that allowed formation of a new Lebanese government, began discussions of a plan to assimilate Hezbollah’s forces into the Lebanese army. This deal could be picked up again, at the right time, and might facilitate progress on development of energy reserves in the eastern Mediterranean, where cooperation is stymied in part because Lebanon and Israel do not have relations.” Aoun was elected president on Oct. 31 of last year.
Mahmoud Abbas moves to restore authority
Adnan Abu Amer writes, “The Palestinian situation is worsening in the face of an unprecedented political stalemate with Israel, which could push the Palestinian leadership to threaten more revolutionary actions, such as dissolving the PA. Perhaps this revolutionary rhetoric could restore the popularity of an authority that has lost its momentum and public support.
Daoud Kuttab writes that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, taking an assertive tone in his speech at the United Nations General Assembly session last week, saluted “'our glorious martyrs and our courageous prisoners in Israeli jails' … in defiance of a US anti-Palestinian congressional bill, the Taylor Force Act, which would cut off US aid to Palestinians if the Palestinian Authority continues in its decades-old policy of providing stipends to prisoners and the families of those who were killed in the Palestinian struggle.”
While Abbas made numerous references to the “occupation,” “State of Palestine” and a “two-state solution,” Kuttab notes that “neither US President Donald Trump nor Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who spoke before Abbas, ever mentioned Palestine, the occupation or the two-state solution in their respective speeches at the General Assembly.”
Abu Amer adds, “As Fatah officials talk about reinventing the PA and changing the image it has had since it was established in 1993, more Palestinians have come to criticize its performance. According to an opinion poll conducted by the Jerusalem Media and Communications Centre in September, 54% of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank consider the PA's performance to be poor; still, 65% oppose its dissolution. There is other talk, however — disturbing talk. Israel and the United States are discussing alternative options to a Palestinian state, such as establishing a self-rule enclave or a confederation with Jordan.”Shlomi Eldar writes that Hamas’s decision to disband the Gaza administration and consider general elections is a sign of its own failure of governance. “Hamas is, indeed, undergoing changes and is willing to bend somewhat to extricate itself from the isolation it faces,” Eldar writes. “What seems to its leader to be a tremendous compromise, verging on ideological sacrifice, is still far from what Abbas is willing to accept. This is not to mention the international community, which regards Hamas as a terror organization. Nonetheless, Abbas will probably keep up the ‘reconciliation talks’ being conducted in Cairo, even after the grim report by his envoys, for one simple reason. Like Hamas, he is playing the reconciliation game to prove to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi that they, Fatah, are the good guys. The Hamas leadership is between a rock and a hard place. They have to prove that they are willing to accept the conditions imposed by Egypt in return for opening its border and ending the siege of the beleaguered enclave.”
Eldar argues that former Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan is key to any reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas. “Dahlan and his supporters in the West Bank and Gaza may have been purged from Fatah,” he writes, “but in private conversations with Al-Monitor, they reiterated that Abbas’ decision was illegal, and they were and continue to be loyal members of the movement. One of them claimed that Dahlan, whom they admire, is doing everything for ‘the sacred cause’ of mitigating the suffering of his people in Gaza. He added that one way of doing so is to bring about reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah so that the two movements can wage a joint struggle against the blockade on Gaza and the Israeli occupation.”
Ahmad Melhem suggests that Abbas’ move to convene the Palestinian National Committee (PNC) “will deal a severe blow” to the Hamas-Dahlan alliance. “If convened,” Melhem adds, “new blood would be brought into the PNC. This means Abbas will make sure to block any interventions by Arab countries in the council, and maintain the independent Palestinian decision-making process. The PNC session would also guarantee the council’s legitimacy to play a pivotal role in the future in case of any emergency presidential vacuum and block all possibilities for Hamas-affiliated PLC speaker, Aziz Dweik, to make it to the presidency in the event of the death of Abbas, as provided by the Palestinian law.”
The crisis in Gaza and the divisions within the Palestinian leadership are occurring as tensions escalate between Israel and the Palestinians. Mohammed Othman writes, “Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman granted Aug. 29 hundreds of Jewish settlers in settlements in the Old City of Hebron independence from the city’s municipality affiliated with the Palestinian Authority. His decision raised Palestinian public and official ire due to its serious repercussions on the city’s already deteriorating geographic and humanitarian situation. … Liberman’s move would lead to the establishment of an Israeli-run municipality. Settlers would receive services from Israeli authorities, whereas they were previously tied to the Palestinian-run municipality of Hebron granting services to Palestinian residents and settlers alike.”Melhem reports that “in a closed meeting Sept. 14, the Jerusalem religious authorities, which consist of four Islamic institutions, warned that measures will be taken in protest against Israel, in case the latter does not retract its decision to close down the Bab al-Rahma building inside Al-Aqsa Mosque and to bring the Islamic Religious Endowments before the Israeli court, considering it to be a terrorist organization.”
Abu Amer adds that “this is not to mention that the Jewish National Union Party, a partner in the Israeli government, approved Sept. 13 a plan to deport Palestinians from the West Bank in exchange for financial compensation. The plan got the blessing of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.”

Pan-Arab Newspaper Reports Hizbullah Chief Bolsters his Ranks with Shiite Fighters from Iraq
Michael Friedson/The Media Line/September 25, 2017/Hizbullah chief Sheikh Hasan Nasrallah has worked closely with Syrian-based Iranian forces to work out a deal that has so far brought more than 1,000 Iraqi Shiite fighters to bolster Hizbullah’s ranks in Lebanon. In an editorial, the London-based pan-Arab newspaper Al-Sharq al-Awsat was critical of the Tehran-backed terrorist group for “placing its own interests above those of the Lebanese people.” The article charged that the Iraqis have been resettled in Hizbullah installations in the southern part of the country, apparently in areas where United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701 prohibits Hizbullah’s presence. Since US President Donald Trump took office, the long ignored issue of Lebanon’s flouting of Resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 war between Israel and Hizbullah, and which prohibits armed forces other than the Lebanese army and bans Hizbullah military actions in southern Lebanon, has been – in-part – on the table. American UN envoy Nikki Haley has led the diplomatic fight to curb the abuses, but has been undermined by US policy to support the Lebanese army which is increasingly subservient to the Hizbullah terrorist forces. In Friday’s edition of the French daily Le Figaro, Lebanese President Michel Aoun praised Hizbullah, at the same time confessing to his nation’s breach of the UNSC resolution. He said, “Hezbollah are not using their weapons in internal politics. They only ensure our resistance against the State of Israel, which continues to occupy part of our territory and which refuses to apply UN resolutions regarding the Palestinians’ right to return.” It was not the first time Aoun defended the arming of Hizbullah and was not taken to task by the international community. In February, Aoun told the CBC that, “as long as the army is not powerful enough to fight Israel, we feel the need to maintain the weapons of the resistance [Hizbullah] to complement the army.” For the US it’s particularly problematic since Washington provides military aid that few doubt wind up in Hizbullah’s hands. It’s also a legal quagmire since US law prohibits giving aid to entities such as Hizbullah that are found on the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations.

Despite alleged Israeli strikes, Hezbollah will keep building its arsenal/حزب الله سوف يتابع بناء ترسانته رغم ادعاءات إسرائيل باستهدافه بغارات جوية
Giora Eiland/Ynetnews/September 26/17
Op-ed: While our enemies are willing to occasionally sacrifice targets that are allegedly destroyed by Israel, they have found alternative ways to transfer advanced weapons from Iran through Syria to Lebanon. In addition to its efforts against Hezbollah’s precision missiles, Israel must ensure that the next war is short.
Last Friday, according to foreign sources, Israel attacked a military target in the Damascus airport once again. There seems to be a routine of Israeli strikes in Syria, which no longer interests anyone. The Syrians, Iran and Hezbollah don’t seem too excited by it either. Have they come to terms with the successful Israeli preventive measures? Are they failing to respond because the Israeli deterrence is still very effective? Is Russian pressure stopping them from acting? I’m afraid there may be a different explanation.
Our enemies are willing to occasionally sacrifice means or targets that Israel allegedly manages to destroy, but at the same time, they have found other ways to transfer the advanced weapons from Iran through Syria to Lebanon. This isn’t particularly complicated in light of three things: One, the Syria-Lebanon border is 300-kilometers long, and most of the area is tree-covered and mountainous; two, hundreds of trucks travel from Syria to Lebanon every day; three, there is no one between Tehran and Beirut who is interested in and capable of thwarting this activity.
There’s no escape from concluding, therefore, that despite the alleged Israeli thwarting operations, Hezbollah will continue building its power almost undisturbed. The Israeli activity is reportedly focused on an attempt to prevent Hezbollah from receiving or producing precision missiles. That is, undoubtedly, the preferred target. There is a huge difference between the damage potential of precision weapons and statistical weapons. Israel is a small country with a small number of vital sites and low redundancy. If power stations, airport, seaports, railway stations or hospitals are damaged in the next war, Israel will pay an almost unbearable price—in addition to hundreds of casualties.
There are two conclusions from this serious change in the nature of the threat. First of all, Israel should keep trying to stop Hezbollah from arming itself with accurate weapons. However, as I doubt we will be able to prevent that over time, the second conclusion should be stressed: If someone opens fire at Israel from Lebanon, dragging us into the “third Lebanon war,” we must not let the war last 33 days like in 2006. A long war will cause intolerable damage to Israel’s military and civilian infrastructures.
The only way to ensure that the next war is short requires us to fight the state of Lebanon, not just Hezbollah. Israel can destroy Lebanon’s infrastructures and army within several days. Since there is no one in the world—neither the Lebanese nor Hezbollah, Syria or Iran, and of course Saudi Arabia, France, Russia and the United States—who wants to see Lebanon destroyed, it will lead to massive international pressure to reach a ceasefire within a week or less, and that’s just what Israel needs.
Reaching such a decision in real time, when the conflict erupts, is insufficient. Israel should already start conveying this message, for two reasons: First of all, we will achieve deterrence and possibly prevent the next war since, as mentioned, no one in the world wants to see Lebanon destroyed. Second, if a war does break out in the end, it’s important that the Western states—at least the US—understand in advance that Israel chose this strategy having no other choice. Unfortunately, Israel is conveying the opposite messages.
About a week ago, at the end of the major military exercise in northern Israel, the defense minister and army chiefs conveyed the message that Israel is capable of defeating Hezbollah. That’s a mistake. Even if Israel wins, but the war lasts about five weeks like in 2006, we will all pay a huge price which we will have trouble living with.
*Major-General (res.) Giora Eiland is a former head of Israel's National Security Council.,7340,L-5020144,00.html

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on September 25-26/17
Iraq Kurds Defy Baghdad in Historic Independence Vote
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/September 25/17/Iraqi Kurds voted in an independence referendum Monday, defying warnings from Baghdad and their neighbors in a historic step towards a national dream.The non-binding vote, initiated by veteran leader Massud Barzani, has angered not only Iraq's federal government but also neighboring Turkey and Iran, who are concerned it could stoke separatist aspirations among their own sizable Kurdish minorities.Turkey's president on Monday said Ankara would close its border with northern Iraq and threatened the Iraqi Kurds with blocking their key oil exports, after Iran closed its frontier with the region. The United States and other Western nations have also raised concerns, saying the vote could hamper the fight against the Islamic State jihadist group in which cooperation between Baghdad and the Kurds has been key. Kurdish flags were festooned in all the streets, on cars and outside homes across Iraqi Kurdistan. Voters headed to the polls early Monday, many men dressed in traditional Kurdish dress of brown shirt and billowing trousers for the occasion. Young girls wore caps emblazoned with the Kurdish colors of red, white, green and yellow, and regional flags around their necks and shoulders. "I came very early to be the first to vote for a Kurdish state," Diyar Abubakr, 33, said outside a polling station in regional capital Arbil. "It's a day of celebration today. That's why I've put on our traditional outfit, which I bought for the occasion," he said.
Cow slaughtered
One voter even brought a cow to slaughter before the start of the referendum.
"I brought this cow as today the state is born and it's tradition to slaughter a cow for a birth," Dalgash Abdallah, 27, said. Initial results are expected to be announced 24 hours after polls close. An overwhelming "Yes" outcome is expected, but Kurdish officials have said there are no plans for an immediate declaration of independence. Barzani, smiling and wearing a traditional outfit, cast his vote early in the morning. Polling stations are scattered across the three northern provinces of autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan -- Arbil, Sulaimaniyah and Dohuk -- as well as in disputed bordering zones such as the oil-rich province of Kirkuk. In Sulaimaniyah, second city of the autonomous region, 40-year-old Diyar Omar came to cast his vote also wearing traditional clothes. "We will seize our independence through the polls," he said. "I'm so happy I could take part in this independence vote during my lifetime," he added. A total of 12,072 polling stations are open for more than 5.3 million registered voters. In disputed Kirkuk, mosque loudspeakers blared a prayer normally reserved for religious celebrations, but participation in the vote was limited. Those who did take part showed off their ink-stained fingers after casting their vote. "If I had 20 fingers, I would have voted 20 times for my state," Ibtissam Mohammed, 45, said. Kirkuk governor Najm Eddine Karim, who was fired by Baghdad after his provincial council decided to take part in the poll, also voted. But in Khanaqeen, another disputed territory in Diyala province, Um Ali, 30, said she feared the outcome of the vote and its consequences for her and her children.
"I don't want separation from Iraq, violence or war," she said.
'Necessary measures'
Left without a state of their own when the borders of the Middle East were redrawn after World War I, the Kurds see themselves as the world's largest stateless people. The non-Arab ethnic group number between 25 and 35 million people spread across Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Sunday pledged to take all the "necessary measures" to protect the country's unity as his government urged all countries to deal only with it on oil transactions.Abadi said the Kurds' unilateral decision to stage a referendum affected both Iraqi and regional security, and was "unconstitutional and against civil peace."Hours later, the Iraqi government called on all countries "to deal only with it on matters of oil and borders".The Iraqi Kurds export an average 600,000 barrels per day (bpd) through a pipeline running through Turkey to Ceyhan on the Mediterranean. Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday threatened to halt these oil exports, angrily denouncing an "illegitimate" referendum. He also said Turkey's Habur border crossing with Iraqi Kurdistan would be closed. Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim earlier said sanctions could also be "with regard to air space." Tehran closed its border with Iraqi Kurdistan after saying on Sunday it had blocked all flights to and from the region at Baghdad's request. Iranian news agency IRNA said Iran's President Hassan Rouhani had called Abadi late Sunday to reiterate his support. But Barzani said the Kurds' "partnership with Baghdad" since the ouster of dictator Saddam Hussein in a 2003 U.S.-led invasion had failed. He however said the vote was "not for defining borders or imposing a fait accompli." "We want a dialogue with Baghdad to resolve the problems, and the dialogue can last one or two years," Barzani said of zones such as Kirkuk.

Iraq Parliament Demands Troops Go to Areas Disputed with Kurds
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/September 25/17/Iraq's parliament demanded Monday that troops be sent to disputed areas in the north controlled by the Kurds since 2003 as the autonomous Kurdish area staged a referendum on independence. "Parliament demands that the head of the army (Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi) deploy forces in all of the zones the autonomous region of Kurdistan has taken control of since 2003," a resolution said. Under Iraq's constitution, the government is obliged to comply with the parliamentary vote. Asked about the risks of armed conflict, Abadi's spokesman Saad al-Hadithi told AFP: "If there are clashes in these zones, it will be the job of federal forces to apply the law."Karim al-Nuri, a head of the Badr Brigade which forms part of the powerful Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary units that have fought alongside the army in the drive against the Islamic State (IS) group, pointed to the flashpoint region of Kirkuk. "Out next objective is Kirkuk and the disputed zones occupied by armed gangs, outlaws who do not respond to the army command," he said. The zones disputed between the Kurds and the federal government in Baghdad are not part of the three provinces in northern Iraq that form the autonomous Kurdish area. The disputed areas are the oil-rich province of Kirkuk, as well as parts of Nineveh, Diyala and Salaheddin provinces. Most of the disputed areas were conquered by Kurdish peshmerga forces in 2014 in the chaos that followed a sweeping offensive by IS jihadists.

Iran Says Land Border with Iraqi Kurdistan Remains Open
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/September 25/17/Iran's foreign ministry said Monday that its border with Iraqi Kurdistan remained open despite its independence referendum, reversing an earlier statement. A statement by the ministry said: "The land border between Iran and the Kurdistan region of Iraq is open." "For now, only air borders between Iran and this region are closed," it added. That went against an earlier statement by foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi, who had told reporters: "At the request of the Iraqi government, we have closed our land and air borders." Iran had already announced on Sunday that it was stopping all flights to and from Iraqi Kurdistan in response to the independence referendum. The vote is "illegal and illegitimate," Ghasemi said. President Hassan Rouhani spoke overnight with Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi, saying: "The Islamic republic of Iran fully supports the central government of Iraq." The referendum went ahead on Monday despite strong opposition from Baghdad and its neighbors, as well as Western governments including the United States.Iran fears the vote could encourage separatists in its own Kurdish region, and said last week that independence could mean an end to all of border and security arrangements. Iranian security forces have faced regular attacks by militant Kurdish separatists, primarily based across the border in Iraqi Kurdistan.

U.S.-Backed Syria Militia Says Russia Hit Forces at Gas Plant
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/September 25/17/The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces militia on Monday accused Russia of bombing its fighters at a gas facility it captured two days ago from the Islamic State group in eastern Syria. "Russian air strikes and mortar fire hit the Conoco gas plant where a large number of our forces are stationed, and the preliminary toll is at least six wounded," SDF spokeswoman Lilwa Abdallah told AFP. She said Syrian regime forces carried out additional bombardment of SDF positions after the initial Russian bombing. "We reserve the right to respond," added Abdallah. The SDF, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters, captured the Conoco plant in Syria's Deir Ezzor province on Saturday. The militia is fighting a campaign against IS on the eastern side of the Euphrates river that cuts diagonally across Deir Ezzor, a resource-rich province that borders Iraq. Syria's regime, backed by its ally Russia, is carrying out its own campaign against IS in Deir Ezzor, largely on the western side of the Euphrates, including in the provincial capital Deir Ezzor city. A "de-confliction" line is supposed to prevent the two campaigns from clashing, but Monday's alleged bombardment is the second time the SDF has accused Russia and the regime of hitting its fighters. On September 16, the group said six of its fighters were wounded in air strikes by regime and Russian warplanes in the Al-Sinaaiya area around seven kilometers from the eastern bank of the Euphrates.

North Korea FM Says Trump Has Declared War on His Country
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/September 25/17/U.S. President Donald Trump has "declared a war" on North Korea, the country's foreign minister said Monday while conveying a threat to shoot down U.S. bombers.
"Trump claimed our leadership would not be around much longer," North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho told reporters outside his hotel in New York. "He declared a war on our country.""All the member states and the whole world should clearly remember it was the United States that first declared war on our country," Ri said. "Since the United States declared war on our country, we will have every right to take counter-measures including the right to shoot down U.S. strategic bombers even when they are not yet inside the airspace border of country," he said. "The question of who will be around much longer will be answered then."

Sisi Heads to UAE to Discuss Palestinian Reconciliation, Crisis with Qatar
Cairo– Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is heading to the UAE on Monday on a two-day official trip. While parliamentarians said the visit would focus on the reconciliation between the Palestinian factions and the stance regarding the ongoing crisis with Qatar, Egyptian Presidency spokesperson Ambassador Alaa Youssef, said Sisi would discuss the close bilateral ties between the two states, as well as various regional and international issues. “The president will discuss with senior UAE officials close bilateral relations between the two countries, as well as cooperation on a number of issues including combating terrorism along with regional and international crises,” Youssef said in a statement. He also noted that the visit “reflects the two countries’ keenness to consult one another on the current challenges faced by the region today,” according to the statement. In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, Political Analyst for Regional Affairs, MP Samir Ghattas, said reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas will be on the agenda of the Egyptian president’s talks in the UAE. He pointed out that the road was still long before the completion of the Palestinian reconciliation, which should be considered by Cairo and Abu Dhabi, especially in light of Hamas’ insistence on the handover of the Gaza Strip to the Palestinian Authority to get rid of the burdens of salaries and electricity bills. For his part, member of the Arab affairs parliamentary committee, Sameh Habib, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Qatari crisis was one of the main focal points of coordination among the four major countries boycotting Doha (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE and Bahrain), noting that Sisi’s visit to the UAE would yield tangible and strong results with regards to forcing Qatar to respond to the demands of the Anti-Terrorism Quartet. Separately, Egypt’s Prime minister Sherif Ismail issued an order on Sunday revoking the nationality of three Egyptians for taking Israeli citizenship without a permit. According to the provisions of Law No. 26 of 1975 regulating the Egyptian nationality, “an Egyptian may not become a foreign citizen unless he obtains a permit issued by a decision of the Minister of the Interior.”

Egypt’s Interior Minister: ‘Our Forces Lead the Fight against Terrorism’
Cairo- Egyptian Interior Minister Lieutenant-General Majdi Abdul Ghaffar said his country is engaged in a fierce and unprecedented fight with terrorism, stressing “the police have taken the lead and succeeded in the past in carrying out pre-emptive attacks.”Meanwhile, an Egyptian court has sentenced two members of the Muslim Brotherhood to five and 10 years in prison after being convicted of acts of violence south of Cairo. Since the ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, Egypt has witnessed a wave of violence and bombings, usually targeting military and police elements, particularly in the northern Sinai province. Egyptian authorities hold the Muslim Brotherhood, which is officially classified as a terrorist group, responsible for violent acts in the country, in addition to other extremist organizations that the authorities say are linked to the Brotherhood, most notably Ansar Beit al-Maqdis in Sinai and the Hasm movement, which has recently claimed responsibility for armed operations in Cairo and the Nile Delta. During his meeting Sunday at the police academy with a number of new officers, Abdul Ghaffar said “Egypt is engaged in a fierce and unprecedented battle with terrorism, which seeks in various ways to undermine the stability of the state.” The minister reviewed with the officers the current security situation. He pointed out that police had a national duty to eliminate terrorism along with members of the armed forces. The minister stressed the need to preserve the efforts aimed at enhancing stability and developing measures to confront the dangers of terrorism and crime in all their forms. He warned of “the spread of extremism and terrorism, especially with the modern means of communication, and exploiting them in the falsification of youth awareness.” He also urged the necessity to understand security plans put forth to avoid terrorist threats, especially in light of the current challenges and the increasing dangers that threaten the stability of the region, and the attempt by terrorist elements to exploit the status quo to commit acts of violence with the aim of destabilizing not only the region but the whole world.

Disputes Arise Prior to Government Assuming Authorities in Gaza
Ramallah- The issue of Hamas employees resurfaced to block the reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Fatah, especially after the Finance Minister announced that the employees can’t be included within the government. Hamas warned Prime Minister Rami al-Hamdallah of failing once again. Mousa Abu Marzouk, a member of Hamas’ political bureau, sent a direct message to Hamdallah saying that unity is a priority. Marzouk’s message came a few hours after Minister of Finance Shukri Bshara said that the authority was not concerned with the inflation and didn’t have the capacity to include 40,000 or 50,000 new employees, meaning Hamas’ government employees. Shukri told the state TV that the Palestinian Authority (PA) and government are suffering from a financial crisis and the debt exceeded $3 billion. He added that it is currently difficult to include 40,000 employees explaining that this needs years of study. The minister suggested establishing a special fund for Gaza’s employees not linked with the authority’s budget. Bishara’s statement could indicate that the reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah will fail. Hamas wants to include 43,000 military and civil employees within the government, however, Fatah refused this, claiming that it can’t encompass all the employees immediately. PM Hamdallah suggested earlier that employees return to their jobs until vacancies had been accounted for in all ministries with a priority to hire Hamas’ employees. However, the movement refused this suggestion. Hamas announced dissolving the administrative committee ruling Gaza and asked the government to be in charge, but the government didn’t set a date for that. Palestinian leadership met on Sunday and said they would ask Egyptian authorities to oversee the government assuming its duties, according to sources. Speaking to Asharq al-Awsat, the sources stated that everything will be determined according to the development of matters. Hamas wasn’t thrilled about this and issued a statement on Sunday criticized President Mahmoud Abbas for not canceling punitive measures against the group including budget cuts for essential services in Gaza. The statement stressed that PA President needs to make positive and responsible decisions to end all the measures. “There is no longer any justification for stalling or procrastination,” added the statement. The movement then issued another statement saying that a week after Hamas announced the dissolution of its governing body in Gaza Strip, the government didn’t lift the measures against the movement. Hamas’ spokesperson Abdul Latif al-Kanou’ said that currently nothing prevents the government from honoring its duties in Gaza especially after the administrative committee had been dissolved.

Palestinian Government to Hold Weekly Session in Gaza
Asharq Al-Awsat/September 25/17/Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah speaks with Reuters in Doha. Photo: Reuters Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah will travel to Gaza on Monday as part of a fresh push to end a decade-long split between the Fatah and Hamas movements, his government announced. “Hamdallah has decided after consulting with president Mahmoud Abbas that the government will hold its weekly meeting in Gaza next week,” government spokesman Yusuf Al Mahmoud said in a statement published by official Palestinian news agency WAFA. “Hamdallah and members of the government will arrive in Gaza next Monday to start taking over government responsibilities after Hamas announced its agreement to dissolve the administrative committee and enable the government to assume its full responsibilities.” Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip, has made concessions after discussions with Egypt that has urged it to take steps towards reconciliation with Abbas’ Fatah, based in the occupied West Bank. Hamas said a week ago that it had agreed to steps towards resolving the split with Fatah, announcing it would dissolve the administrative committee, a body seen as a rival government, and was ready to hold elections. Hamdallah, who is not believed to have traveled to the enclave since 2015, also wrote about the visit on his Facebook page. “I am heading to the beloved Gaza Strip next Monday with the government and all bodies, authorities and security services,” he wrote. “We hope all parties and all Palestinians will focus on the national interest to enable the government to continue carrying out all of its functions in a way which serves the Palestinian citizens first.” It remains unclear whether the steps will result in further concrete action towards ending the deep division between Fatah and Hamas.

Oman Expels Indian Preacher for Offending Saudi Arabia
Dammam- Oman expelled Indian preacher Sulaiman al-Nadawi after he delivered a provocative speech against the Gulf States, including Saudi Arabia. “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs expresses its condemnation of the speech delivered by Sulaiman bin Taher al-Husseini al-Nadawi, an Indian national, before the College of Shari’ah Sciences,” the Ministry said in a statement. “The speech was delivered on Tuesday, September 19, and it came out of the context of the lecture and inconsistent with the principles, approaches, and policies of the Sultanate,” the Ministry said. “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs affirms that the competent authorities in the Sultanate of Oman have taken action on the matter and asked him to leave the country,” added the Foreign Ministry. Husseini verbally attacked some Muslim countries, especially Saudi Arabia, wondering how the Kingdom can ally with the United States and with US President Donald Trump. He doubted Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates’ right to oppose Qatar, adding that anti-Qatar comes only because it harbors and welcomes Hamas, Qaradawi and the Muslim Brotherhood. On his official Twitter account, Saudi Permanent Representative to the United Nations Ambassador Abdullah al-Moalimi immediately thanked Oman for “the decisive action it has taken towards those who have insulted the Kingdom.”

United Nations, Arab League Agree to Activate Cooperation
Cairo- Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit and UN chief Antonio Guterres have agreed to activate the cooperation agreement signed between the two organizations last year. Aboul Gheit met Guterres at the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly, the Cairo-based organization’s spokesman Mahmoud Afifi said.Afifi added that the agreement comes in the framework of seeking to strengthen UN-Arab League cooperation in several areas, such as preventing and settling disputes, combating terrorism, preserving, building and making peace, protection of human rights and assisting refugees and those displaced. The officials also discussed developments in a number of important international and regional issues, especially those related to the Palestinian issue and the crises in Syria, Libya, Yemen and the situation in Iraq. Aboul Gheit and Guterres agreed that the coming period demands more efforts to be exerted by the international community in order to pressure Israel to respect resolutions issued under international legitimacy and return to the negotiating table with the Palestinians. International efforts need to be exerted to push for a political settlements for crises in Syria, Libya and Yemen, especially in light of the rising phenomenon of terrorism and extremism, and the effects and implications of humanitarian cases worldwide. Aboul Gheit stressed that the Arab League seeks to re-engage strongly in dealing with the crises experienced by some Arab countries, while welcoming the positive role that the United Nations can play in dealing with them.

‘Iron Union 5’ Continues as Joint UAE-US Military Drill Promotes International Cooperation
Asharq Al-Awsat/September 25/17/Abu Dhabi- The joint military drill between UAE and US ground forces has continued as part of their efforts to consolidate their bilateral relations and exchange their training and military expertise, to raise the combat efficiency and readiness of both armies.
Codenamed “Iron Union 5,” the joint military exercise is an extension of a series of “Iran Claw” exercises, which fall under the plans and programs of the UAE ground forces to conduct such exercises with friendly countries, to exchange and develop their skills and enhance the combat readiness of their personnel, according to the latest advanced military systems. Major General Saleh al-Amiri, commander of UAE ground forces, said the exercise is greatly important for developing and strengthening bilateral relations between the UAE and the US, particularly in the military and defense fields, raising efficiency and combat readiness, and exchanging military expertise. He pointed out that the implementation of a number of joint exercises with friendly countries is a result of keenness of concerned authorities to raise the level of performance and efficiency of armed forces and to work in a team spirit with the armies of brotherly and friendly countries. Such a move embodies a clear strategy aimed at improving the overall level and combat readiness of UAE armed forces. During the visit, the commander of the ground forces met with a number of officers and members of the UAE and US ground forces and listened to brief tasks and duties carried out during the course of the exercise. The “Iron Union 5,” which was launched on the ground of the UAE on September 16, will last for several days. It includes the implementation of a number of tasks and duties to train, plan, execute and manage joint operations between different units of land forces in both countries and achieve the desired goal in facing challenges and crises which the world is witnessing today. The exercise is also part of the vision of President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and the monitoring of Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, to upgrade the capabilities and boost the readiness of the UAE armed forces.The exercise will also allow both armies to promote their international cooperation in joint military operations, to address current global challenges and crises.

US Airstrikes Kill 17 ISIS Militants in Libya
Asharq Al-Awsat/September 25/17/Cairo – US Africa Command (Africom) said in a statement that strikes on Friday targeted an ISIS camp southeast of Sirte, killing 17 ISIS militants and destroying three of their vehicles. However, Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) didn’t comment on the statement. The command headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany, issued the statement saying that in coordination with GNA and aligned forces, US forces conducted six precision airstrikes in Libya against an ISIS camp on Friday, September 22, killing 17 ISIS militants and destroying three vehicles. The statement explained that the camp was located approximately 150 miles southeast of Sirte and was used by ISIS to move fighters in and out of the country stockpile weapons and equipment; and to plot and conduct attacks. “ISIS and al-Qaeda have taken advantage of ungoverned spaces in Libya to establish sanctuaries for plotting, inspiring and directing terror attacks,” the statement said. Africom stated that while Libya has made considerable progress against ISIS, most notable by dislodging ISIS fighters from Sirte last year, the terrorists have tried to take advantage of political instability there to create safe havens in parts of the country. The statement justified the attack claiming that had the issue been left unaddressed, it would have allowed for ISIS to plan attacks against the US, its allies and its interests around the world. This is the first US strike in Libya since President Donald Trump took office in January. The US’ last-known air raid in Libya was few days before the end of Barack Obama’s term on camps outside Sirte killing more than 80 ISIS militants, according to the Pentagon. ISIS moved into areas southeast Tripoli exploiting the chaotic situation in Libya where two governments compete for gaining authority. Meanwhile, Defense Ministry of Sarraj’s government called for a ceasefire in Sabratha and declared total rejection of the ongoing clashes. The ministry issued a statement denying the reports saying it had issued orders to any party to begin the fight. It called for an immediate cease-fire and termination of all military operations in the city to put an end to bloodshed and destruction. The ministry warned that any party that doesn’t abide by its orders to immediately and completely cease fire will be legally and morally responsible.

Hadi Accuses Coup Militias of Taking Over 70% of Yemeni Revenue
Asharq Al-Awsat/September 25/17/New York- Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi said coup militias control about 70 percent of the war-torn country’s national income resources, such as taxes and revenues of companies and public factories and yet demand the government to pay salaries of state employees in the provinces under their control. Iran-aligned Houthis along with loyalists backing deposed president Ali Abdullah Saleh overran Yemen’s capital in 2014 in an armed insurgency aiming to overthrow the constitutionally elected government. Speaking to UN special envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, Hadi reviewed the option concerning handing over the port of Hodeidah to a neutral party under the supervision of the United Nations. He confirmed his government’s approval, however, said that coup militias continued to snub the proposal. Speaking in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, Hadi also told the Saudi-owned al-Arabiya channel that a plan to hand over control of the country’s main port to a neutral party remained blocked by the Houthis and their ally Saleh. “The military solution is the more likely one for the Yemen crisis in light of the intransigence of the Houthi and Saleh coup militias which continue to take orders from Iran,” Hadi said in the interview, according to a text provided by the Yemeni state-run Saba news agency. President Hadi also told Al Arabiya according to Saba news agency that coup militias rejected the plan because of the size of incoming financial revenues related to the port. All of which are taken by the militias and used to finance their military operations against civilians in the provinces. “Despite that, the legitimate government continues to extend its hand for peace because it is responsible for the Yemeni people and for lifting the suffering from it,” he added. He pointed out that the militias also rejected a proposal to supply Revenues of the port to the branch of the Central Bank of Yemen in Hodeidah. President Hadi said the guerrillas had looted public money and withdrew nearly $ 5 billion from the Central Bank of Yemen in Sana’a. This prompted the legitimate government to take the decision to move the Central Bank of Yemen to the interim capital of Aden. He added that the legitimate government, despite its limited potential, was able to pay salaries of employees in the liberated provinces. On that note, in his UN General Assembly address, Hadi accused former US President Barack Obama of turning a blind eye to what he described as Iranian expansion that allowed the Houthis to seize the Yemeni capital Sanaa as he was only preoccupied with the success of nuclear talks with Tehran. “But the position under the current administration is better because it stands on the basis that there should be pressure on the Houthis and Iran so their expansion in the region would stop.” Hadi said the Houthis still had a chance to join the political process if they agreed to hand over weapons and formed a party to help pursue national reconciliation. The Houthis say they are willing to hand over their weapons to a national unity government formed to represent the whole country.

Kirkuk declares curfew after Iraqi Kurdish independence referendum
Mon 25 Sep 2017/NNA - The governorate of Kirkuk declared an overnight curfew in the Iraqi oil city as tension simmered following a referendum on independence organized by the local Kurdish authorities. The curfew was announced in statement from the Kurdish-led governorate of the northern Iraqi city.--Reuters

N.Korea accuses US of declaring war, says can take countermeasures

Mon 25 Sep 2017/NNA - North Korea's foreign minister said on Monday that President Donald Trump had declared war on North Korea and that Pyongyang reserves the right to take countermeasures, including shooting down U.S. strategic bombers even if they are not in the country's air space. "The whole world should clearly remember it was the U.S. who first declared war on our country," Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho told reporters in New York. "Since the United States declared war on our country, we will have every right to make countermeasures, including the right to shoot down United States strategic bombers even when they are not inside the airspace border of our country."--Reuters

Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi discusses regional, int'l issues with visiting Egyptian president

Mon 25 Sep 2017/NNA - Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Armed Forces, on Monday discussed with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi the strengthening of fraternal relations and a number of regional and international issues of mutual interest, UAE state news agency WAM reported. El-Sisi arrived in Abu Dhabi on Monday for a two-day official visit to the UAE.WAM said that during the meeting, "the relations of brotherly cooperation in various aspects and other vital areas of interest to both countries were discussed."The two sides also reviewed a number of regional and international issues of common concern, especially with regard to regional interventions that destabilize the region and the region. In addition, the two sides discussed combating extremism, violence and terrorism, drying up sources of funding, platforms and ideologies. For his part, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan stressed "the depth of relations between the UAE and the Arab Republic of Egypt.""Over the past years, the UAE-Egyptian coordination has proved its strength in the face of the various challenges in the region, foremost of which is the challenge of terrorism, which has become a serious global threat that can not be tolerated." "The UAE stands firmly with Egypt in its war against terrorism, which can not stop or disrupt its vision of development, progress and prosperity for its people," he said. In a related context, the Egyptian president affirmed the "role of the UAE under the leadership of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan in promoting joint Arab action." Al-Sisi stressed Egypt's keenness to continue developing bilateral relations at all levels and to continue intensive coordination between the two countries on various regional and international issues, stressing that "the security of the Gulf states is an integral part of Egypt's national security." Xinhua

Erdogan accuses Myanmar of 'Buddhist terror' against Rohingya
Mon 25 Sep 2017/NNA - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday accused the security forces in Myanmar of waging a "Buddhist terror" against the Rohingya Muslim minority in the country, hundreds of thousands of whom have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh. Erdogan, who has repeatedly highlighted the plight of the Rohingya, again accused the Yangon government of carrying out a "genocide" against the people in Rakhine state. In a speech in Istanbul, Erdogan lamented the failure of the international community to lay sanctions against the Myanmar government over its campaign.
"There is a very clear genocide over there," Erdogan said. Erdogan, who has held talks by phone with Myanmar's key leader the Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung Sang Suu Kyi, added: "Buddhists always get represented as envoys of goodwill." "At the moment, there is a clear Buddhist terror in Myanmar... I don't know how you can gloss over this with yoga, schmoga. This is a fact here. And all humanity needs to know this." More than 430,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled across the border to Bangladesh from a military campaign which the UN says likely amounts to ethnic cleansing of the stateless minority. Before the most recent surge of violence, there were over one million Rohingyas in Myanmar's restive Rakhine state in the west of the overwhelmingly Buddhist country. Erdogan, himself a pious Muslim, takes a sharp interest in the fate of Muslim communities across the world and notably sees himself as a champion of the Palestinian cause. Returning for a key personal theme, he lambasted the international community for being quick to denounce "Islamic terror" but not "Christian terror", "Jewish terror" or "Buddhist terror". ---AFP

Iran says Trump claims of North Korea links 'nonsense'
Mon 25 Sep 2017/NNA - Iran said Monday that suggestions by US President Donald Trump that it was working with North Korea on missile development were "nonsense". Foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi was responding to a tweet by Trump over the weekend in which the US president wrote: "Iran just test-fired a Ballistic Missile capable of reaching Israel. They are also working with North Korea." Ghasemi said there were "no similarities nor resemblance" with the actions of North Korea, and that claims they were working together on ballistic missile development amounted to a "clear lie".
"It is very clear that this is a nonsense and baseless claim," he told reporters.
Iran said on Saturday that it had tested its Khorramshahr missile with a range of 2,000 kilometres (1,250 miles). The indigenously-built Khorramshahr was first announced by the defence ministry in September 2016, and US officials said it was this ballistic missile was tested in January, sparking international condemnation. However, Iran never confirmed that the January test was the Khorramshahr missile. There has been speculation, particularly from hawks in Washington, that the Khorramshahr was based on North Korea's intermediate-range Musudan missile. In 2010, a diplomatic cable released by Wikileaks showed that US intelligence officers believed North Korea had shipped Musudan missiles to Iran. But analysts say the differing ranges cast doubt on those concerns. A detailed report earlier this year by the US-Korea Institute at John Hopkins University in the United States found: "The available evidence cannot verify speculation that the Iranian missile is similar to North Korea's Musudan".
Iran and North Korea have cooperated on military technology in the past.
During Iran's war with Iraq in the 1980s, it turned to North Korea as one of the only sources of military assistance, importing a stockpile of Nodong missiles.
Iran used the Nodong to develop its own medium-range Shahab-3 missile, first tested in 1998, and it has continued to improve on the design since.
But there has been scant evidence of direct cooperation between the two countries in recent years, with Iran seemingly keen to distance itself from the East Asian pariah state.
Instead, Iran has emphasised its home-grown missile programme, and denied that this breaches any international laws.
"Since the criticism of American officials, the speed of missile development has increased several times," said General Amir Ali Hadjizadeh, head of aerospace forces for the Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards, according to state television on Monday. "All the materiel and pieces for our missiles are manufactured locally and do not come from abroad," he said. He said the Khorramshahr missile was 13 metres (43 feet) long and could carry an 1,800 kilogram (almost 4,000-pound) payload. ---AFP

Local leadership code of honor' launched to combat celebratory gunfire

Mon 25 Sep 2017/NNA - Under the patronage and in the presence of the President of the Council of Ministers Saad Hariri, a "Local leadership’s code of honor, a set of rules to combat the hazardous usage of weapons on occasion", was launched today at the Grand Serail, in the framework of the national campaign to limit the risks of firearms, organized by the "Permanent peace movement" and Friedrich Ebert Foundation.
The ceremony took place in the presence of MPs Amin Wehbe and Bassem Chab, representatives of the Security leaders, the director of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Beirut, Achim Vogt, the head of the Permanent Peace Movement, Fadi Abi-Allam, and a number of heads of municipalities and mayors.
After the national anthem, a documentary about celebratory gunfire in Lebanon was presented. Ghida Suleiman, the mother of one of the victims Sarah Suleiman, spoke about her daughter, her love for life and her education on the principles of humanity and called on all officials to put an end to celebratory gunfire.
Vogt gave the following speech: "Under normal circumstances, I would begin my welcome remarks by emphasizing how happy I am to be among you today. But the circumstances are not normal and they should never become normal. So, while it is an honor for the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung to be a partner in this event, I can NOT be happy because there should never be the need to host an event like this!
When Fadi Abi Allam and the Permanent Peace Movement approached us some months ago with the idea of a conference, which would address the topic of Small Arms, we were immediately ready to support it. Today, for this follow-up event, our concern and commitment to discuss this crucial topic are unwavering.
We had and we still have a very strong feeling that the question of the possession and the use - or should we better say abuse? - of small arms has developed into one of the crucial issues in Lebanon. It has become a fundamental source of anxiety, fear, and apprehension for all Lebanese. The feeling of being terrorized by the threat of using small arms has become a nationwide concern.
We all know that there is a second element to the disturbing situation of small arms in Lebanon. The sound of celebratory gunfire - be it because of a speech of one of Lebanon’s politicians, be it because of a wedding, because of elections, the end of school or because of a funeral - is still an all too common noise in Lebanon, though it has become less frequent in Beirut.
One of the reasons for possessing small arms and light weapons seems to be a cultural habit and tradition. Yet, do we ever feel the pain of parents who lost their children, their brothers, sisters or their parents due to such incidents? How do we explain to the relatives of the victims who lost one of their loved ones in such a tragic way?
And then, there is the mistrust among Lebanese. More than a quarter century after the end of the civil war, the number of guns in civilian hands seems to equal the number of Lebanese. I would like to stress again here today two stunning figures, which shed light on the relationship between arms laws and death rates. In the U.S., with one of the loosest laws on arms possession, there were more than 33,000 deaths by gunshots reported in 2014. In Japan, a country of more than a hundred million people, but with one of the strictest laws, only 6 - yes, 6! - deaths were reported for that same year 2014.
My thesis would be that the possession of small arms inevitably leads to a related increase in small arms crime. Indeed, the "small arms race" that Lebanon has been witnessing for so long after the end of the Lebanese civil war is destructive on the social, political, and economic levels. Guns should be limited to state institutions and security forces, and weapons in private hands must be a strictly regulated exception.
The more difficult task, though, will be to educate citizens to de-escalate a situation and not to react with anger and violent outrage to all kind of conflicts. This needs education, sensitization and motivation of all, but especially of the youth to be raised in a way that will finally lead to a peaceful generation.
This again will only be achieved if citizens feel they are efficiently protected by the state and the security apparatus. On the other hand, let us not put all the blame and the responsibility on the state! It is also the responsibility of parents, schools, universities, political parties, political leaders, religious institutions and civil society to support and to take the lead.
Today, we are pleased to see the readiness of you, the heads and representatives of cazas and municipalities to accept your task and responsibility in this regard. The municipality is considered to be the closest and most familiar governing body and authority for its residents. Hence, through its close cultural and familial ties with people, it could constitute a wall of prevention and protection against the random and illegal use of weapons by citizens. Furthermore, and with the authority, though limited, vested in the municipalities as the custodian of safety and security, local authorities can and should play a fundamental role in preserving peace in the community.
The fact that all of you are gathering here today, at the Serail, is a huge step forward and will grant further legitimacy and political support to our common cause. But it also reflects the degree to which you, Your Excellency, Prime Minister Saad Hariri, are keen to preserve communal peace and stability all over Lebanon. We count on the Heads of Municipalities to move forward with the Code of Honor and implement it in their respective cities and villages. The fundamental goal rests on the development of a peaceful culture and the adequate enforcement of laws and regulations.
Working on implementing existing laws in a better and more reliable way than what is the case today while sharpening them where needed, combined with a decisive policy to change mentalities and to enhance trust between citizens is, in my humble opinion, the good way forward for this beautiful country.
Let me end by congratulating our partners in this activity, the Permanent Peace Movement. It stands for non-violence, reconciliation, and peace. Thank you, Fadi Abi-Allam and your team, for having brought together all these eminent invitees to address and discuss those fundamental issues. I would like to add my sincere thanks and appreciation to Prime Minister Saad al Hariri for endorsing our endeavor and welcoming us here in the Serail.
As Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, we work with Civil Society Organizations, but also with government and parliament to spread the principles of democracy, peace, and social justice. In this respect, we hope that peace, stability and what is called today "human security" will be achieved. I am hopeful that with the launching of this national campaign today we will be able to form a coalition of like-minded actors in Lebanon, including government, parliament, municipalities, the security forces, the media and civil society who will, together, be initiating firm steps for the long journey towards peace and stability. We look forward for the efficient implementation of the Code of Honor to be adopted by the municipalities and we confirm our continuous support for the implementation of this initiative all over Lebanon. I am hopeful and convinced that our joint endeavor will render fruitful results for this initiative.
For his part, Fadi Abi-Allam read out the contents of the code: "The Lebanese arena is recently witnessing a clear phenomenon of uncontrolled weapons and an increase of celebratory gunfire to express joy and sadness, in addition to growing organized crime, which leads to the death of innocents and has negative effects on the various human security aspects, economically, socially, environmentally and politically. It also imposes increasing burdens on the security forces and jeopardizes the lives of its members.
Whereas this phenomenon is considered one of the customs and traditions that are not related to our cultural heritage and civilization, which must be addressed at all levels and by all leaders concerned with human security,
Whereas local leaders, especially municipal and elective councils, have a key role to play,
We, the heads and members of municipal, elective and other local councils, and based on our legal, ethical, human and national duty, and our concern about the security and safety of our citizens, commit to the following:
1- To consider celebratory gunfire a non-heroic and unworthy act, but rather a reckless act that disregards the lives of the people and constitutes a crime that deserves condemnation by law.
2 - To report on each shooter in any occasion and help hand him over to the competent security authorities.
3- Not to interfere with the various political, security, administrative and judicial bodies to help violators of the law get impunity.
4 - To immediate leave any event where shooting takes place.
5- To hold the person in charge of the event responsible of informing the security authorities about the shooter and help them identify the perpetrator.
6 - To carry out appropriate preventive measures on occasions when some citizens may resort to firing shots, for example: raising banners or printing warning on invitation cards and others.
7. To call upon citizens to express their feelings through various literary, poetic, artistic and other cultural means, reflecting the extent of progress and advancement of society and not jeopardizing the security and health of people.
8. To raise awareness of the dangers of possession and use of firearms and their consequences on the person, his family and society.
9. To raise awareness of the relevant legal penalties resulting from the violation of these laws."
Premier Hariri gave the following speech: "Let us talk straightforwardly: All the Lebanese from all the sects and regions are against terrorism. The reason is clear: terrorism blindly affects innocent civilians, children, elders, young men and women. Let me ask you: what do we call the stray bullet that kills an innocent child, a man, a woman or an elder? Why should an innocent child playing in front of his house receive a stray bullet, if a couple is getting married? Or an innocent young girl sitting in her house, if someone passes the baccalaureate or the brevet? Or the father or mother working hard to secure a decent life for their children, if there's a funeral or a wedding in a distant or nearby area? Yes, the stray bullet is terrorist. The stray bullet is terrorist against all Lebanese from all regions, sects, social classes and political affiliations. Not a day passes by without hearing about a tragedy in our country caused by indiscriminate shooting during events or without events! This terrorism must stop! We should all stand in its face, and we will like we stand before all terrorism.
There is no difference between the terrorism hiding behind religion or politics, and the terrorism hiding behind joy, sadness, success or ignorance. We are used to saying during these tragedies: Where is the State? And today the state is saying: Where is society? Where are the religious leaders? The mayors? The members of municipal councils? The MPs? The citizens? Are they making pressure to prevent interference with the police or the judiciary for the benefit of random shooters? Are they boycotting events that witness random shooting? Are they reporting every random shooter? Are they raising awareness before and after each occasion on the dangers of this terrorism that is claiming daily the lives of our children and our parents, our elders and young people, without any cause?
All the world is saying today that Lebanon is living a small miracle, compared to what is happening in the region, thanks to the daily work to maintain stability and to the sacrifices of the Lebanese army, to the sacrifices of the Internal Security Forces and all the security forces.
But what is the use of all the work to maintain stability, to enhance economy, secure employment opportunities for the Lebanese? What is the use of traveling the world to mobilize international support for investment in infrastructure and public services, to secure education and medical care for our children? What is the use of all of this if any Lebanese is exposed to death at any moment and any place by a stray bullet?
The army and security forces are doing their job and even more, and we praise them for their efforts. But it is not enough. The whole society must do its work. We believe that our army is heroic, because it knows when to use weapons, whether to defend the country or attack any terrorist. The real man is the one who respects the law and the lives of people. Men are the soldiers who know when to use their guns and when to shoot, but those who shoot randomly are not men. They think they are asserting their manhood by shooting indiscriminately but this indicates that they have a lack of manhood.
A few days ago we celebrated World Peace Day and Lebanon is among the country committed to the United Nations sustainable development goals, in particular Goal 16 related to Peace, justice and advocacy to control small arms and light weapons. Today, we are launching a campaign with you, you the local leaders, municipalities and mayors, to sign a code of honor that links ethical restrictions and legal restrictions, the citizens and the state. What we are launching today, will move to other provinces.
From here as well, we launch a consultative legislative path that starts with people's opinion polls, and meetings with all the concerned people, with the best local and international experts, to get the best draft law, to combat this terrorist phenomenon, not just for Lebanon, but to be a model for our entire Arab region. We will work with all those who influence the behavior of people: parties, associations, scouts, media and educational institutions, Unions to raise awareness, to work, to pressure, so the random shooter becomes rejected by his environment. Time has come to stop this phenomenon, to save our children and people in all of Lebanon, from the terrorism disguised in habits that are not related to our religious beliefs, neither to our cultural traditions nor to what we all deserve, a dignified and safe life free of stray bullets and random fear."
Prime Minister Hariri, and the mayors and presidents of municipality, then signed the Code of honor.

Yemeni Insurgents Accused of Raising Prices of Liquefied Gas
Asharq Al-Awsat/September 25/17/Jeddah- The manipulation of liquefied natural gas prices by Houthi rebels has led to a drastic rise in the prices of gas canisters, 60 percent of which are sent to areas under insurgent control. This has led the prices to rise more than 400 percent from 1,200 Yemeni riyals ($4.8) to 5,000 riyals ($20).Undersecretary of Oil and Minerals Ministry Eng. Shawqi al-Mekhlafi told Asharq Al-Awsat that the legitimate government has been taking care of all the Yemenis. Based on this responsibility, the Yemen Gas Company (YGC) provided the entire country with domestic gas, but the Houthi militias have systematically destroyed the institutions and practiced illegal bill collection and competition in the black market, leading to unreasonable prices. Mekhlafi pointed out that the official prices are still the same and have not been modified by the Ministry of Oil, which is currently producing about 75 gas tank trucks, each loaded with 25 tons of gas. One ton is used to fill 86 canisters, distributed according to the density of the population in each governorate and city. He said that the official price of the gas cylinder is 1,200 Yemeni riyals ($4.8), and this price goes to all Yemeni provinces, including areas that fall under the control of Houthis and Saleh’s forces. Those areas receive more than 60 percent of the volume of production, Mekhlafi added. In the worst case scenario, the price of each gas canister in the liberated areas amounts to 1,500 riyals ($6), Mekhlafi explained, noting that in areas under the control of the militias the prices have amounted to 5,000 Yemeni riyals ($20) in recent weeks. He stressed that the legitimate government, in cooperation with the Saudi-led Arab coalition and the United Nations, allows vessels carrying petroleum products to dock at the port of Hodeidah, but the Houthi militias sell the shipments double the price.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on September 25-26/17
Barzani, the Independence and the Earthquake

Ghassan Charbel/Al Arabiya/September 25/17
Today, he will be the center of attention. He will be the star of discussions and media screens. Opinions will be divided about the storm that he triggered.
Some people will say that the man chose the wrong time. Others will say that he was quick to reveal his real program and misjudge his neighbors’ calculations. There are those who believe that he is risking gains that cost the Kurds a heavy price, that he escaped a problem and fell into a bind, and that his intransigence would lead him into an imposed siege similar to what Yasser Arafat lived in his last days.
Others will say that the establishment of a Palestinian State, despite its difficulty, remains easier than founding a Kurdish state.
His supporters will affirm that he is the guardian of the Kurdish dream and that at least this right is reinstated.
Once again, reactions have highlighted the consensus that Kurds should not be allowed “to leave the prisons they were taken into a century ago.”
Masoud Barzani does not need anyone to remind him of the gravity of geography. He fell in its fire too soon. He was born in the summer of 1946, in the “Republic of Mahabad” declared by the Kurds on Iranian soil.
His father, Mullah Mustafa, was the commander of the armed forces in that republic, which disappeared before it blew out its first candle. Mullah Mustafa will leave the defeated land of the republic with hundreds of gunmen. They will walk hundreds of days before reaching Armenia in the Soviet Union following clashes with Iranian and Turkish border patrols. In Iraq, Masoud will wait 11 years to see his father return at the end of the Iraqi revolution in 1958.
Masoud graduated from Al-Mararat School. In 1970, he was next to his father, who asked him to welcome a young man from Baghdad. His name was Saddam Hussein. He was a deputy at that time. The visit ended with the March 1970 statement that gave the Kurds autonomy. However, the wedding will not last long. The following year, Mullah Mustafa received a delegation from Baghdad. Suddenly the delegation exploded and many were killed and injured. Mullah Mustafa survived as a tea distributor was standing between him and the bomb that was planted around a visitor’s waist.
Another lesson in geography: In 1975, the Shah of Iran and Saddam Hussein signed the Algiers Agreement as a result of efforts exerted by Henry Kissinger. Tehran stopped its support for the Kurds. Consequently, their revolution collapsed and the horrors of their tragedies unfolded. When Mullah Mustafa died, defeated in his American exile, Masoud had no choice but to find him a temporary grave in Iran until he is returned to his hometown.
The world after World War I issued a harsh verdict on the Kurds. It distributed them into four countries: Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria. Since then, the Kurds have been in the custody of the Geography Court.
Past experiences show that historical judgments are reversible. They can also be revised or corrected. However, geographic provisions do not budge. The four countries differ on many issues, but they all agree on their rejection of the establishment of an independent Kurdish State.
Developments witnessed over the past decades have been very significant. Even though the rulers have changed in these four countries, their policy towards the Kurds’ dream remains unaffected.
Everything is possible, but not for the Kurds. There is an irony in this context. A ruler may support the Kurds in a neighboring state and use them to weaken the regime under which they live. His understanding of the injustice they face there has never affected his rejection to any serious change in the situation of the Kurds living in his own country.
Iran, under Shah’s term, supported Iraq’s Kurds against Saddam’s regime; then it abandoned them. Under Khomeini’s rule, Iran has once again backed the Kurds, and now it ditches them because Tehran has become so present in Baghdad and its decision-making process.
Tehran has also supported the PKK to weaken Turkey, but it does not show any tolerance towards the aspirations of Iranian Kurds.
Syria, under Hafez al-Assad, backed Iraq’s Kurds and the Ocalan Party to enfeeble Saddam and Turkey, then it abandoned them. Now Bashar al-Assad is preparing to face a not-so-simple confrontation with the Kurds.
Years ago, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in Erbil that the time when the existence of the Kurds could have been denied was gone. But Turkey does not tolerate its own Kurds, whether its president was General Kenan Evren or Erdogan.
Over a quarter of a century, Barzani tried to reassure Baghdad, Tehran, Ankara and Damascus, saying that the experience of Iraq’s Kurdistan is not a model to be spread in other countries.
He advised these countries to improve the situation of the Kurds, who are residing in their territories. He encouraged Erdogan to open the door of dialogue with a prisoner named Abdullah Ocalan. But time showed that the four countries were unable to accept the minimum required by the Kurds to get rid of the feeling of injustice and move forward.
Whenever a Kurdish leader utters the word “independence”, the line of earthquakes shakes. The Geography Court wakes up to remind the Kurds of the verdict handed down to them.
Iran has sent Qassem Soleimani to advise the Kurds and later to warn them. It then closed its airspace to Iraqi Kurdistan flights. This was preceded by Iranian military maneuvers along the region’s borders.
Turkey extended its army’s mandate to carry out operations outside the borders and Barzani heard the echo of Turkish army maneuvers.
However, this time, the international community is sympathizing with Baghdad rather than the Kurds. The United States and Western countries are keen not to divert attention from the war on ISIS. They are also keen not to threaten the chances of Haider Al-Abadi to stay in office after the parliamentary elections next spring. Barzani does not need to be reminded of the gravity of geography. But he refuses to back down, perhaps because he has given up the hope of an understanding with Baghdad and he has had enough listening to the advice from international doctors.
Perhaps he wants to re-install the right to independence for the new generations of Kurds and for the new generations of world rulers.
It is a crisis of components within Iraq, a crisis of components within the terrible Middle East.
Persians have their own state. Turks have their own state. Arabs have their own countries. However, more than 30 million Kurds live without a state. Whenever a leader utters the word independence, he shakes the line of earthquakes.

Is Russia the US’s Best Chance With North Korea?
Dmitri Trenin/Al Arabiya/September 25/17
Russia is usually seen as relatively unimportant to most discussions about the North Korea nuclear crisis, yet it is in a unique position to help de-escalate it.
Despite rising tensions between Moscow and Washington — over Russia’s interventions in Crimea and Syria, and the very principles of the world order — Russia has voted twice in recent weeks at the United Nations to impose sanctions on North Korea. In the summer of 2015, in the midst of the crisis over Ukraine, Moscow was careful not to do anything that might derail the Obama administration’s efforts to cinch a nuclear deal with Iran.
Russia, in other words, is not simply the spoiler it has often been described as in recent years. It plays its hand with Washington much more subtly than that — often adopting an adversarial pose, especially of late, but sometimes a cooperative one. And it has good reason to help with North Korea.
In any discussion of how to handle the increasing belligerence of North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, attention usually turns to China. Beijing and Pyongyang have long been allies, and China is North Korea’s main trade partner. But for a host of strategic reasons, there are inherent limits to what Beijing will do. It is wary of the fallout it would suffer if North Korea imploded, and it wants to preserve a buffer between itself and the United States forces based in South Korea.
Russia is both like and unlike China in just the ways that could make it an effective broker with Pyongyang.
Like China, Russia is a nuclear power, a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council and a neighbor of North Korea with established lines of communication to Pyongyang. During World War II, Kim Il-sung (Kim Jong-un’s grandfather) served as a captain in the Red Army; Kim Jong-il (Kim Jong-un’s father) traveled to Russia several times in the early 2000s. President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia himself went to Pyongyang in 2000. Although he failed to work out a deal to limit North Korea’s missile program at the time, his visit helped restore links with Pyongyang, which had been neglected after the fall of the Soviet Union.
Russia is not among the countries most directly or most intimately affected by North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, such as the United States, South Korea or China. And unlike China, Russia never was an imperial overlord on the Korean Peninsula. Moscow may have less direct influence with Pyongyang than does Beijing, but it evokes far less nationalistic resentment and suspicion among North Koreans.
Russia also has a clear and immediate interest in helping de-escalate the current crisis. Vladivostok, its gateway to the Asia-Pacific region, the headquarters of its Pacific Fleet and a hub for its energy trade, is just a couple hundred miles away from several of North Korea’s nuclear and missile sites. Any malfunction or other mishap with North Korea’s nuclear tests or missile launches could mean contamination in Russia itself. The Russian government is also eager to curb the further deployment of American missile-defense systems in South Korea and Japan, which both those countries are pursuing to protect themselves against North Korea.
North Korea will not denuclearize; it’s too late for that. Neither will it ever formally be recognized as a nuclear power. But it will eventually have crude nuclear weapons with which to strike United States territory.
Sanctions, no matter how strict, will not stop Pyongyang from pursuing its program, which it sees as the key to its very survival; as Mr. Putin said recently, North Koreans will “eat grass” before they give up nuclear weapons. Pyongyang’s latest missile launch on Friday was a direct rebuke to the new sanctions, notably on oil imports, that the UN Security Council passed last Monday.
This is not to say that sanctions are a mistake. They remain a valuable expression of collective condemnation and reassert the goal of nuclear nonproliferation. But they will not halt North Korea’s nuclearization.
A total blockade of the country might, but it is too risky to even attempt. It could push North Korea to start a war or cause the country’s collapse, a prospect that China, for one, cannot tolerate.
And so the only viable strategy left is to convince the North Korean leadership that it already has the deterrent it needs, and that going beyond that — by developing more nuclear weapons and longer-range missiles — would only be counterproductive.
This is where Russia comes in: It can help nudge Pyongyang toward strategic restraint, and help defuse tensions in the meantime, by offering it new economic prospects.
One project that has been discussed in the past involves building gas pipelines from Russia to South Korea through North Korea. Another would be to restore an old rail link that used to connect South Korea to the Tran-Siberian. Both would generate transit fees, in foreign currency, for Pyongyang. As another expression of good will, the Russian government could also authorize more North Koreans to work in its eastern provinces: An estimated 30,000 to 50,000 already do, many as construction workers and laborers.
The North Korean economy is doing better than is commonly thought. Its gross domestic product has grown recently — by 3.9 percent between 2016 and 2017 — and market forces are emerging, for the trade of food and real estate, for example. That means not only that North Korea may be better able to withstand sanctions today than it was in the past, but also that economic overtures could hurry its transformation along — and perhaps in time soften its stance internationally.
Washington and Pyongyang will eventually need to resume direct talks. With neither party ready for that yet, at first secret contacts will have to be organized in third countries. In the meantime, de-escalation is the order of the day, and Russia one of its unlikely brokers.

Embarking on the Maritime Industry
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/September 25/17
It is only natural for a country like Saudi Arabia surrounded by water to consider investing in maritime industries and services. The kingdom overlooks about 2600 kilometers of very long shores from Ras al-Khafaji in the Gulf to the Gulf of Aqaba in the Red Sea.
This is the first time Saudi Arabia aims to benefit from its naval location near the three continents: Asia, Africa, and Europe with their huge markets.
By announcing an alliance with major international companies to establish King Salman International Complex for Maritime Industries and Services, Aramco added a new task in addition to its activity in oil.
According to Aramco, execution of the initial phase of the contract will be completed by the end of next year in Ras al-Khair, near Jubail in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia on the banks of Gulf waters.
This project paves the way for many other big projects promised in Vision 2030 to enhance resources and enable the country to enter new fields relevant to the Kingdom’s economies. The important point is to establish the correlation between these giant projects and their tributaries.
This maritime project will provide 80,000 direct and indirect job opportunities of which a huge percentage is supposed to be attributed to locals.
As long as the project will be finalized over stages, meaning its production capacity will be completed five years from now, we can assume that local educational institutions, including those specialized in maritime engineering and sciences, can focus their studies on serving this project in particular to meet human resources’ expectations.
Five years after the project is completed, we can’t justify unemployment claiming there are no trained and qualified competencies in the field.
As many as 80,000 jobs is a good number, however, it is still not enough to meet the market’s needs, assuming that 1 million students will graduate from university within the next five years.
However, it is all a series of projects and plans that complement one another in one market.
Just as King Salman International Complex for Maritime Industries and Services, we look forward to the government getting ahead in line and building large institutions that combine the local content and are capable of succeeding without the need for the government’s support.
It should not be a burden on the local economy. It must excel with quality and efficiency to compete in the international markets as the Vision 2030 promised to build an economy that doesn’t depend on oil revenues.
The complex, as part of the Vision’s projects, doesn’t deny its connection with oil. A large part of the international maritime market is dedicated for oil transportation and part of the promised complex’s projects will be to construct and maintain oil carriers.
The purpose is not to take oil out of the economic equation, but rather reduce dependence on crude oil revenues, as the situation is today.
This brings us back to the talk about multiple oil industries and services like manufacturing sectors.
Manufacturing is an old-new option through which the market can greatly expand on the basis of “comparative advantage” theory.
Oil is still a major economic merit of any economic program of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. But it is no longer enough as almost the sole commodity to depend on for the country’s incomes.
Oil is a dream we should wake up from. We should wake up to the reality that there might not be enough oil revenues anymore.

Palestinian 'Reconciliation': Jihad is Calling!
Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/September 25/17
Leaders of Hamas maintain that under no circumstances will they agree to lay down their weapons. Hamas is, in fact, continuing full-speed-ahead digging tunnels under the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel. Hamas is planning to use the tunnels to smuggle armed terrorists into Israel.
The accord with Hamas requires Mahmoud Abbas to lift the sanctions he recently imposed on the Gaza Strip, such as refusing to pay Israel for the electricity it supplies to Gaza. It also requires Abbas to resume payment of salaries to thousands of Palestinians who served time in Israeli prison for terror-related offenses.
Above all, Hamas wants to use the agreement to be removed from the U.S. State Department List of Foreign Terror Organizations.
The Russians are closing their ears to what Hamas itself declares day after day: that its true goal is to eliminate Israel and that it has no intention of abandoning its murderous, genocidal agenda.
The Palestinian terror group Hamas has once again made clear that its true intention is to pursue the fight against Israel until the "liberation of Palestine, from the (Jordan) river to the (Mediterranean) sea." Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, says that despite the latest "reconciliation" agreement reached with the Palestinian Authority (PA) under the auspices of the Egyptian government, it will continue to prepare for war with Israel.
While some Western analysts have misinterpreted the agreement as a sign that Hamas is moving towards moderation and pragmatism, leaders of the Islamist movement maintain that under no circumstances will they agree to lay down their weapons. Hamas is, in fact, continuing full-speed-ahead digging tunnels under the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel. Hamas is planning to use the tunnels to smuggle armed terrorists into Israel.
Just last week, two Hamas terrorists were killed when the tunnels in which they were working collapsed, in separate incidents in the Gaza Strip. The terrorists were identified as Khalil Al-Dumyati and Yusef Abu Abed.
The news about the collapse of the tunnels coincided with the reports of the new "reconciliation" agreement reached in Cairo between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority (PA). This means that while the Egyptians and Abbas's representatives were discussing with Hamas leaders ways of ending their 10-year-long dispute and achieving "national unity," Hamas terrorists were busy tunneling under the Gaza Strip to prepare for attacks on Israel.
Pictured: On October 17, 2013, then U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro visited a tunnel penetrating Israel from Gaza, which had been discovered by the Israeli army. Shapiro said: "I was shocked from what I saw in the tunnel. It is clear that this tunnel has only one purpose: to carry out terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians and IDF soldiers." (Image source: Matty Stern/U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv)
The "reconciliation" accord does not require Hamas to stop terror attacks on Israel. Nor does it require Hamas to abandon its charter, which explicitly calls for the elimination of Israel. Instead, the agreement, which has yet to be implemented, requires Abbas's PA government to resume funding for various government institutions and civil servants in the Gaza Strip.
In other words, this agreement benefits Hamas by absolving it of its responsibilities toward the two million Palestinians living under its control in the Gaza Strip. Moreover, the agreement emboldens Hamas by allowing it to redirect its resources and energies towards amassing weapons and digging tunnels to be used for launching terror attacks against Israel. The accord requires Abbas to lift the sanctions he recently imposed on the Gaza Strip, such as refusing to pay Israel for the electricity it supplies to Gaza, reducing medical supplies and forcing thousands of civil servants in the Gaza Strip into early retirement. It also requires Abbas to resume payment of salaries to thousands of Palestinians who served time in Israeli prison for terror-related offenses. All this in return for one "concession" on the part of Hamas: dismantling the shadow government it established in the Gaza Strip a few months ago -- something to which Hamas happily agreed in return for Abbas lifting the sanctions.
Make no mistake: Hamas has no intention of relinquishing security control over the Gaza Strip. Thousands of Hamas "security officers" and members of its military wing, Ezaddin Al-Kassam, will remain the law-enforcement force in the Gaza Strip. This means that even if Abbas's government will be allowed to operate in the Gaza Strip, it would have limited civilian powers only, such as paying salaries and funding various projects.
One week after the Cairo "reconciliation" agreement, Hamas is still urging Abbas to lift the sanctions he imposed on the Gaza Strip. Why the rush? Jihad against Israel is calling. Hamas's message to Abbas: Hurry up and give us the funds because we need to invest our energies and money in building more tunnels and smuggling weapons (through Egypt) into the Gaza Strip.
Hamas has been seeking international recognition and legitimacy and is hoping that the agreement with Abbas's Palestinian Authority will facilitate this mission. Above all, Hamas wants to use the agreement to be removed from the U.S. State Department List of Foreign Terror Organizations.
This position was relayed last week to the Russian government by a senior Hamas delegation that visited Moscow. Hamas is hoping that in wake of the Egyptian-sponsored agreement with the PA, the Russians will exert pressure on the U.S. to remove Hamas from the terror list.
Musa Abu Marzouk, a senior Hamas official who participated in the Moscow discussions, confirmed that he and his friends had asked the Russians for their help. "We asked the Russians to help stop the US from keeping Hamas on the (terror) list," Abu Marzouk said. "We also asked that the Russians help remove the (Israeli and Egyptian) blockade on the Gaza Strip." Abu Marzouk and the Hamas delegation appear to have found a sympathetic ear in Moscow. They now claim that the Russians told them that Moscow does not consider Hamas a terror organization "because Hamas won a free and fair (parliamentary) election in 2006."
If true, the Russians seem to have bought the lie that Hamas is headed towards moderation and pragmatism, supposedly thanks to the latest "reconciliation" agreement. More disturbing still, concerning the reported Russian position, is that Moscow, it seems, does not view Hamas as a terror group; the reason for this omission is apparently that Hamas "won" an election. The Russians are ignoring the fact that since Hamas won in 2006, the terror movement has launched thousands of rocket and other terror attacks against Israel. The Russians are also ignoring Hamas's continued buildup and preparation for war by digging tunnels and amassing weapons in the Gaza Strip. More significantly, the Russians are closing their ears to what Hamas itself declares day after day: that its true goal is to eliminate Israel and that it has no intention of abandoning its murderous, genocidal agenda.
How do the Russians and the rest of the world define "non-negotiable"? The same way as Abu Marzouk after the Moscow visit, with regards to the Hamas weapons: "The weapons of the resistance belong to all the Palestinians and are non-negotiable," Abu Marzouk emphasized. "No one can tamper with this issue."The statement means that Hamas insists on maintaining its terror and military capabilities in preparation for war against Israel.
At the risk of overwhelming the international community with troubling facts, here is a final one: Hamas aims to use the agreement with the Palestinian Authority as a smokescreen for concealing its true goal: the destruction of Israel.
Here is how it works: Hamas is telling Abbas, "You continue to pretend as if you want to talk peace with the Jews, while we prepare for war."
In the eyes of Hamas, the "reconciliation" agreement should serve as functional sharing between the PA and Hamas, with each side playing the role it wants. Abbas will go on pretending he wants peace, while Hamas builds more tunnels and acquires additional weapons. That is their real agenda: Hamas wants to collaborate with Abbas in fooling the world. Abbas's job will be to "pursue peace" and rake in the money, while Hamas plans for the next round of terrorism against the Jews.
It remains to be seen whether the Western-funded Palestinian Authority will be complicit in this scheme to scam the world. Also interesting should be seeing whether the international community will once again fall into the web of lies woven by the master manipulators, Abbas and Hamas.
**Bassam Tawil is a Muslim based in the Middle East.
© 2017 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Islamists Responsible for Rohingya Refugee Crisis
Mohshin Habib/Gatestone Institute/September 25/17
The current crisis is being depicted -- wrongly -- as the "ethnic cleansing" of an innocent Muslim minority by Burma's security forces, and the "apathy" to the plight of the Rohingyas by Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma's foreign minister and its de facto head of state.
"Their [the Rohingyas'] tactics are terrorism. There's no question about it. [Kyi is] not calling the entire Rohingya population terrorists, she is referring to a group of people who are going around with guns, machetes, and IEDs and killing their own people in addition to Buddhists, Hindus, and others that get in their way. They have killed a lot of security forces, and they are wreaking havoc in the region. The people who are running and fleeing out to Bangladesh... are fleeing their own radical groups.... [T]he international community has to sort out the facts before making accusations." — Patricia Clapp, Chief of the U.S. Mission to Myanmar from 1999 to 2002.
The origins of the Bengali Muslim jihad in Western Myanmar in the late 19th century through the World War II era, illustrates that it is "rooted in Islam's same timeless institution of expansionist jihad which eliminated Buddhist civilization in northern India." — Dr. Andrew Bostom, author and scholar of Islam.
A surge in clashes between Islamist terrorists and the government of Burma (Myanmar) is at the root of a refugee crisis in Southeast Asia that has caused the United Nations and international media to focus attention on the Rohingyas in the northern Rakhine, an isolated province in the west of the Buddhist-majority country.
In late August 2017, a terrorist group calling itself the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) launched a series of coordinated attacks on Burmese security forces in northern Rakhine. When the Burmese Army announced that it had responded by killing 370 assailants, Rohingya activists claimed that many of the dead were innocent people who had not been involved in the attacks. They also accused the authorities of demolishing Rohingya villages -- devastation that was shown in satellite images released by Human Rights Watch -- but the Burmese government said that it was carried out by ARSA, which had committed similar attacks on Burmese police in October 2016.
Since those events, hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas -- Muslims who settled in Burma prior to its independence in 1948 -- have been fleeing for the last two years, primarily to neighboring India and Bangladesh, in an attempt to escape violence and poverty. Fearing for its national security, on the grounds that among the refugees are ARSA terrorists and sympathizers with ties to ISIS and other Islamist organizations, India issued a deportation order for the Rohingyas who had crossed the border illegally. This move, however, was met with resistance by the Indian Supreme Court. Bangladesh has addressed the problem by severely restricting the movement of the Rohingya refugees.
The outcry on behalf of the innocent men, women and children who are caught in the crossfire of the radicals -- who claim to represent their interests -- is completely justified. No humanitarian solution to their plight can be found or implemented, nevertheless, without understanding the conflict -- and the true culprits behind it.
The current crisis is being depicted -- wrongly -- as the "ethnic cleansing" of an innocent Muslim minority by Burma's security forces, and the "apathy" to the plight of the Rohingyas by Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma's foreign minister and its de facto head of state. As PJ Media reported, many critics in the media and among human rights groups are calling for Kyi to be stripped of the Nobel Peace Prize she was awarded in 1991 for her campaign on behalf of democratization and against the country's military junta rulers.
Rohingya refugees from Burma arrive in Bangladesh, on September 17, 2017. The current crisis is being depicted -- wrongly -- as the "ethnic cleansing" of an innocent Muslim minority, but the true culprits are radical Islamists among the Rohingyas themselves, who with guns, machetes and bombs are killing their own people, in addition to Buddhists, Hindus, and others that get in their way. (Photo by Allison Joyce/Getty Images)
Yet, as the report pointed out, Priscilla Clapp, who served as U.S. chief of mission in Burma from 1999 to 2002, strongly disputes the current "narrative" about Kyi and the response of her government to the terrorist attacks in Rakhine last October and August. In a September 7 interview with France 24 (a partial transcript of which was provided by PJ Media), Clapp argued that the attacks were "perpetrated by people in the Rohingya diaspora living in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia coming in through Bangladesh," with the more recent one
"timed to follow the...presentation of the recommendations of the Kofi Annan international commission on Rakhine, which Aung Sun Suu Kyi has accepted and agreed to implement [and which] call for a long-term solution there....Their tactics are terrorism. There's no question about it. [Kyi is] not calling the entire Rohingya population terrorists, she is referring to a group of people who are going around with guns, machetes, and IEDs and killing their own people in addition to Buddhists, Hindus, and others that get in their way. They have killed a lot of security forces, and they are wreaking havoc in the region. The people who are running and fleeing out to Bangladesh are not only fleeing the response of the security forces, they are fleeing their own radical groups because they've been attacking Rohingya, and in particular the leadership who were trying to work with the government on the citizenship process and other humanitarian efforts that were underway there... [T]he international community has to sort out the facts before making accusations."
Clapp's assertions are backed up by an extensive analysis in 2005, written by Dr. Aye Chan, Professor of Southeast Asian History at Kanda International University in Japan, and discussed recently in a piece by author Andrew Bostom. According to Bostom, Chan's article, "The Development of a Muslim Enclave in Arakan (Rakhine) State of Burma (Myanmar)," on the origins of the Bengali Muslim jihad in Western Myanmar in the late 19th century through the World War II era, illustrates that it is "rooted in Islam's same timeless institution of expansionist jihad which eliminated Buddhist civilization in northern India."
Bostom also referred to an open letter, penned by Chan in 2014 to then-UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, demonstrating the transparent if "strenuous efforts" of Bengali Muslim migrants to Northwestern Myanmar "to take away Rakhine's [Arakan's] own [Buddhist] ethnic identity from the Rakhine people."
To grasp the intent of the jihadists in Rakhine, it is important to look into the workings of ARSA -- formerly Harakah Al-Yaqin ("Faith Movement" in Arabic) -- which was created after the June 2012 Rohingya riots against a Buddhist community.
The group's main leader, Attaullah Abu Ammar Junnani (known familiarly as Ata Ullah), was born in Karachi, Pakistan to a migrant Rohingya father and grew up in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, where he attended a religious Islamic school and developed ties with Saudi clerics. According to the Burmese government, Ata Ullah, at some point, also received training in guerilla warfare under the Taliban in Pakistan. Although he claims to be fighting "on behalf of Myanmar's long-oppressed Rohingya Muslim minority," his methods are those of all Islamist terrorists. The danger to Burma -- and the reason that India and Bangladesh fear that the refugees pose a security problem -- is that Ata Ullah will manage to radicalize a growing number of Rohingyas, both inside and out of the country.
Rather than placing all blame on the Burmese government for this critical situation, the concerned international community and human rights groups must recognize the real threat. Only then can Kyi begin to implement the recommendations spelled out in the plan for a "peaceful, fair and prosperous future for the people of Rakhine" -- which she herself commissioned.
**Mohshin Habib, a Bangladeshi author, columnist and journalist, is Executive Editor of The Daily Asian Age.
© 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.