September 28/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For Today
Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 16/09-12/:”I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes. ‘Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own?”

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on September 27-28/17
Congress warns Kurds against further steps after independence vote/Bryant Harris/Al-Monitor/September 27/17
Women driving: A huge leap forward for Saudi Arabia/Faisal J. Abbas/ArabNews/September 27
With friends like Syria, who needs enemies/Diana Moukalled/ArabNews/September 27/17
Saudi Arabia and Qatari-Muslim Brotherhood propaganda/Mamdouh AlMuhaini/Al Arabiya/September 27/17
Erdogan: Kurds don’t know how to rule/Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/September 27/17
How Saudis refused to suppress patriotic joy/Salman al-Dosary/Al Arabiya/September 27/17
Iran nuclear deal may be dead within weeks/Simon Constable/MEE/Monday 25 September 2017
Confronting North Korean and Iran/Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat/September 27/17
Westerners: Guilty of Reading the News/Douglas Murray/Gatestone Institute/September 27/17
Self-Described "Progressive, Mainstream" Muslim Groups in America Are Homophobic and Racist/Samantha Mandeles//Gatestone Institute/September 27/17
Facebook Marks the End of Social Media’s Wild West/Conor Sen/Bloomberg View/September 27/17
Germany’s Nationalists Join the 13-Percent Club/Leonid Bershidsky/Bloomberg View/September 27/17

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on September 27-28/17

Aoun, Macron exchange high ranking citations during state visit
Aoun winds up visit to Paris, meets with French National Assembly President
Geagea and Gemayel Travel to Saudi Arabia for Political Talks
Report: More Politicians to Visit Saudi, Riyadh Seeking Balance with Tehran
Report: Sabhan Aide to Become Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon
Report: March 8 Says 'No Choice' but to Hold Talks with Syria over Refugees Crisis
GLC calls for sit in tomorrow in front of its headquarters
Hamadeh Says Bassil-Muallem Meeting Has 'No Connection to Refugees' Return'
Hariri Welcomes Fatah-Hamas Reconciliation
MEA to Suspend Flights to Iraq's Arbil
Army Seizes Explosives in Arsal Outskirts

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on September 27-28/17
92% Vote 'Yes' in Kurdistan Independence Referendum
Iraq PM Demands Annulment of Kurdish Independence Vote
Rockets Land at Kabul Airport after Mattis Arrives
Israel Holds Controversial Ceremony Marking 50 Years of Settlement
Interpol Approves Palestinian Membership Bid
Russia Says Killed Commanders of ex-Qaida Affiliate in Syria
Top US general warns against leaving Iran nuclear deal
Trump welcomes Saudi driving decree as positive step for women’s rights
Qatari officials give conflicting statements over Gulf boycott
UN chief Guterres welcomes Saudi Arabia’s lifted ban on women drivers
Ivanka Trump applauds driving decree: ‘A historic day for Saudi women’
Congress warns Kurds against further steps after independence vote

Latest Lebanese Related News published on September 27-28/17
Aoun, Macron exchange high ranking citations during state visit
Wed 27 Sep 2017/NNA - President of the Republic, Michel Aoun, and French President, François Macron, on Wednesday exchanged high ranking citations before the end of President Aoun's state visit to France. President Aoun decorated his French counterpart with the citation of the 'National Order of the Cedar', the highest citation of the Lebanese Republic. The French President, for his part, conferred upon Aoun the citation of the Order of the French Legion of Honor of the Rank of the Great Cross, the highest citation of the French Republic. Both presidents also awarded citations to the two First Ladies.

Aoun winds up visit to Paris, meets with French National Assembly President

Wed 27 Sep 2017/NNA - President of the Republic, Michel Aoun, on Wednesday winded up a state visit to Paris, whereby he met at noon with the President of the French National Assembly, François de Rugy, at the Assembly's headquarters, Hôtel de Lassay. The meeting took place in the presence of the Lebanese and French delegations. At the beginning of the meeting, de Rugy highlighted the importance of the Lebanese-French ties, branding President Aoun's visit to Paris a "key landmark to launch a new orientation in the Lebanese-French relations and a momentum that will benefit the two countries." Aoun, for his part, deemed the Lebanese-French relations as deeply consolidated, saying that his state visit shall have practical results that will reflect positively on the Lebanese-French relations. Aoun and de Rugy held a tour d'horizon bearing on most recent political developments in Lebanon and the broad region, notably with regard to the issue of the Syrian refugees. de Rugy hosted a lunch banquet in honor of President Aoun, attended by the Lebanese and French delegation members. In his delivered word, de Rugy lauded the extraordinary friendship between France and Lebanon as deeply entrenched in history, hailing freedom of expression and opinion that characterize Lebanon. At 3:00 pm, Aoun and First Lady left Paris, heading to Beirut.

Geagea and Gemayel Travel to  Saudi Arabia for Political Talks
Naharnet/September 27/17/Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea and Kataeb Party chief MP Sami Gemayel on Wednesday traveled to Saudi Arabia for political talks. Geagea and Social Affairs Minister Pierre Bou Assi “traveled via the Rafik Hariri International Airport, beginning a foreign tour whose first stop will be the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” an LF statement said.A Kataeb statement meanwhile said Gemayel had arrived in the Saudi city of Jeddah accompanied by his adviser Albert Kostanian. Gemayel arrived in Jeddah “at an official invitation addressed to him by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the statement said. Arab Tawhid Party leader ex-minister Wiam Wahhab, who is close to Damascus and Hizbullah, meanwhile took to Twitter to voice concern over the previously unannounced visits. “We hope the sudden Saudi invitations to some Lebanese figures are not an attempt to re-inflame tensions in the Lebanese arena,” Wahhab said.

Report: More Politicians to Visit Saudi, Riyadh Seeking Balance with Tehran
Naharnet/September 27/17/More politicians from the pro-Saudi camp will visit the kingdom in the coming days, following Wednesday's surprise visits by Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea and Kataeb Party chief MP Sami Gemayel, a media report said. MTV identified the political figures who will visit Saudi Arabia as Prime Minister Saad Hariri, Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat, Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq, ex-minister Maj. Gen. Ashraf Rifi, ex-MP Fares Soaid and Hariri's adviser for Islamic affairs Radwan al-Sayyed. Mashnouq later denied receiving an invitation to visit the kingdom. The TV network said the visits aim to “rally the kingdom's allies, create a framework for political balance that is now tipping towards Iran, find a framework to confront the attempt to drag Lebanon into Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's orbit, and finding common denominators among the leaders of the March 14 camp so that they run in the parliamentary elections together.”

Report: Sabhan Aide to Become Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon
Naharnet/September 27/17/An aide to firebrand Saudi State Minister for Gulf Affairs Thamer al-Sabhan has been nominated to become Riyadh's new ambassador to Lebanon, a media report said on Wednesday. “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has decided to appoint the diplomat Walid al-Yaaqoubi as its ambassador to Lebanon,” al-Markazia news agency reported. “It has sent his credentials to the Foreign Ministry via its embassy in Beirut,” the agency said. “He will arrive in Lebanon once the kingdom receives the (Lebanese) Foreign Ministry's approval,” al-Markazia reported.
According to information obtained by the news agency, Yaaqoubi had worked as a diplomat at the kingdom's embassy in Beirut in the past and is currently an aide to Minister al-Sabhan. Sabhan had recently posted blistering anti-Hizbullah tweets, with al-Mustaqbal Movement describing his remarks as a Saudi “warning message.” “The Lebanese must choose whether they want to support or oppose (Hizbullah), seeing as the blood of Arabs is precious,” said the minister in a September 4 tweet. And in a September 8 tweet, Sabhan said “Iran and its eldest child, Hizbul Shaitan (Hizbullah), are the cradle of terrorism and extremism in the world.”Hizbullah has not issued an official response to the Saudi minister's remarks. Riyadh did not appoint a new ambassador to Lebanon after the departure of its envoy Ali Awadh Asiri in 2016.Walid al-Bukhari is currently serving as the Saudi Embassy's charge d'affaires.

Report: March 8 Says 'No Choice' but to Hold Talks with Syria over Refugees Crisis
Naharnet/September 27/17/The crisis of Syrian refugees in Lebanon has taken a heavy toll on the country's society, and figures from the March 8 camp believe that the controversial issue of initiating talks with the Syrian government are “necessary to solve the crisis,” al-Joumhouria daily reported on Wednesday. “Do we want to address the problem of displaced Syrians or not? If we want to deal with that, dialogue with the Syrian government is necessary and every other word is a kind of anesthetizing the people,” a ministerial source from the March 8 alliance told the daily. “Similarly, if we want to address some of our economic crises, especially the issue of agricultural products we export to Syria, we have no choice but to dialogue with Syria,” added the source as he denounced the latest campaigns against a meeting between Lebanon's Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil and his Syrian counterpart Walid al-Muallem in New York.
“We have already suffered from danger of terrorism, we always called for the need to coordinate with Syria to face it, where is the problem if Minister Bassil met Minister al-Muallem?” remarked the source. “There is a need for dialogue with the Syrian government on this file and on other common economic files, and about the dangers that threaten us, whether the Israeli threat or the terrorist threat,” concluded the source who spoke on condition of anonymity. The source's remarks came against the backdrop of a controversial meeting that Bassil held with al-Muallem on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly that Lebanon took part in. The move angered many in Lebanon. In what media reports described as a “protest” at Bassil's move, Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq refrained from accompanying President Michel Aoun on a trip he paid to Paris Monday. Although Lebanon has not cut diplomatic or trade ties with Syria, but it has kept relations at “arms length” avoiding official contacts with the Syrian government. Lebanon has also adopted a dissociation policy in order to keep the country away from regional conflicts after the Syria war broke in 2012. Some political parties in Lebanon including Hizbullah have been pushing the government into normalizing relations with Syria.

GLC calls for sit in tomorrow in front of its headquarters
Wed 27 Sep 2017/NNA - The General Labor Confederation (GLC) called on all workers and employees of state institutions, independent establishments, municipalities and gov-run hospitals to participate in the sit-in tomorrow [Thursday] in front of its headquarters, simultaneously with the holding of the Cabinet's session. The sit-in comes to confront the unjust decisions by the government towards the Lebanese people, as per a statement by GLC.

Hamadeh Says Bassil-Muallem Meeting Has 'No Connection to Refugees' Return'
Naharnet/September 27/17/Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil is expected to comment on the uproar in Beirut over his meeting with his Syrian counterpart Walid al-Muallem in New York, a meeting which Education Minister Marwan Hamadeh said “falls in the context of stepping away from Lebanon's dissociation policy,” and does not serve the issue of refugees' return, al-Joumhouria daily reported Wednesday. “Bassil-Muallem meeting has nothing to do with the return of refugees because there will be no return until safe areas are secured under a political solution. The Syrian regime has abandoned them because it wants to change Syria's demographics,” Hamadeh told the daily.. “Antagonism towards the Arab world and hostile positions towards Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, and then this normalization with the Syrian regime, will only lead to deterioration of political consensus and the collapse of the economic situation in Lebanon,” added the minister. “Bassil-Muallem meeting takes a course different from visits made by (two) ministers (Industry Hussein Hajj Hasan and Agriculture Ghazi Zoaiter) that were categorized as personal to Damascus. It compliments series of statements and positions that all fall in the scope of distancing (Lebanon) from the dissociation policy, from the spirit of the ministerial statement and even from the oath of office,” he said. Hasan and Zoaiter visited Damascus on their personal capacity in August. Minister Hamadeh said he “fears for the state, especially of what is coming from the side of the foreign ministry.”He said that the danger facing Lebanon is economic as the result of “erroneous foreign policies and hostility towards the Arab world.” Bassil held talks with his Syrian counterpart in New York on the sidelines of the annual UN General Assembly meeting. Media reports said the Syrian side agreed that the refugees should return to their country from Lebanon but noted that Syrian authorities need to make some internal arrangements before the displaced can return home.

Hariri Welcomes Fatah-Hamas Reconciliation
Naharnet/September 27/17/Prime Minister Saad Hariri welcomed the Palestinian reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas, and hoped it would be a “step towards achieving full Palestinian unity and establishing a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital,” Hariri's media office said Wednesday. In a statement issued on the occasion of this reconciliation, Hariri said: “The blessed reconciliation, which was achieved thanks to Egyptian efforts, ends a decade of division and divergence between the two parties. We hope it constitutes a good beginning for Palestine, its people and the Arabs.” “The Palestinians have paid a high price for this division, which was exploited by Israel to redouble its settlement plans, seize more Arab lands and target Islamic and Christian holy places, especially attempting to change the features of the al-Aqsa Mosque and escalate campaigns of oppression and assassination against Palestinians,” he added. “We call on the leaderships of Fatah and Hamas to take additional steps to consolidate the climate of reconciliation and trust, in response to the aspirations of the steadfast Palestinian people, and work together in all Arab and international forums to achieve the historic dream of the Palestinian people of establishing an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital,” he concluded. Islamist group Hamas made concessions after discussions with Egypt, which has urged it to take steps towards reconciliation with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas's Fatah, based in the occupied West Bank. Fatah and Hamas have been divided for more than a decade, with separate administrations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

MEA to Suspend Flights to Iraq's Arbil
Naharnet/September 27/17/Lebanon's and Egypt's national carriers will halt flights to the Iraqi Kurdish regional capital Arbil this week at the request of the Baghdad authorities, they said on Wednesday. Their decision comes after Iraq's government threatened to ban international flights to and from Iraqi Kurdistan after the region held an independence referendum on Monday. Lebanon's Middle East Airlines and EgyptAir both said their flights to and from Arbil would be affected.MEA chairman Mohammed al-Hout confirmed "the suspension of all flights to and from Arbil from Friday, upon the request of the Iraqi aviation authorities for the halt of all international fights to and from the airport." In a statement, EgyptAir also said its flights would halt from Friday "until further notice."The move comes a day after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi threatened to order a halt to all flights serving airports in Iraqi Kurdistan in response to the independence vote, which is expected to produce a resounding "yes."Abadi said he would ban "international flights to and from Kurdistan" from Friday unless the airports in Arbil and the city of Sulaimaniyah were placed under the control of the federal government in Baghdad. The transport minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government, Mawloud Bawah Murad, expressed bafflement at the move by Baghdad. "Arbil and Sulaimaniyah airports were built from the budget of the Kurdistan government," he told a press conference in Arbil. "We want more clarifications from the Iraqi government on its demand to hand them the two airports, because we don't understand how to give them the two airports, when they are already subject to the Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority. Hout said MEA would work to ensure Lebanese citizens could leave Iraqi Kurdistan through other Iraqi airports. "We will not leave any Lebanese stranded. They will be able to go to Baghdad, Basra or Najaf as transit points," he said. Baghdad has reacted with anger to Monday's Kurdish independence vote, saying there would be no negotiations on wider autonomy for the Kurds in its wake. Abadi demanded on Wednesday that the vote be annulled.

Army Seizes Explosives in Arsal Outskirts
Naharnet/September 27/17/confiscated explosive devices and suicide explosive belts in the Khirbet Yunine town in the outskirts of Arsal, the Army Command-Orientation Directorate said Wednesday. “A patrol from the army intelligence directorate confiscated six explosive devices that were prepared for detonation each weighing 500 kg,” said the statement. Moreover, a number of explosives were found inside one of caves used and abandoned by terrorist groups, added the statement. Military experts have dismantled the explosives.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on September 27-28/17
92% Vote 'Yes' in Kurdistan Independence Referendum
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/September 27/17/Iraq's Kurds announced a massive "yes" vote for independence on Wednesday following a referendum that has incensed Baghdad and sparked international concern. Official results showed 92.73 percent of voters backing statehood in Monday's non-binding referendum, which Iraq's central government rejected as illegal. Turnout was put at 72.61 percent. Longtime Iraqi Kurd leader Massud Barzani said the vote would not lead to an immediate declaration of independence and should instead open the door to negotiations.But Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi told lawmakers on Wednesday there was no question of using its results as the basis for talks. "The referendum must be annulled and dialogue initiated in the framework of the constitution. We will never hold talks based on the results of the referendum," Abadi said. "We will impose Iraqi law in the entire region of Kurdistan under the constitution," he said. Pressure has been mounting on the Kurds since the vote, not just from Baghdad but also from Ankara, with Turkey threatening a range of measures including cutting off key export routes for the region. An overwhelming "yes" vote had been widely expected. Pursuing a long-cherished dream of statehood, the Kurds went ahead with the referendum in defiance of widespread objections, including from the United Nations and United States. It has raised fears of unrest and the possibility of a military confrontation involving the Kurds, who are key allies in internationally backed offensives against the jihadists of the Islamic State group. In a televised address late on Tuesday, Barzani had urged Abadi "not to close the door to dialogue because it is dialogue that will solve problems." "We assure the international community of our willingness to engage in dialogue with Baghdad," he said, insisting the referendum was not meant "to delimit the border (between Kurdistan and Iraq), nor to impose it de facto."
Airlines cancel flights
Baghdad has steadily pushed back against the vote. Lawmakers on Wednesday passed a resolution calling on Abadi to "take all necessary measures to maintain Iraq's unity" including by deploying security forces to disputed areas.  The resolution also called for the closure of border posts with Turkey and Iran that are outside central government control. Abadi said Tuesday he would ban all international flights to and from Kurdistan in three days unless airports in its main cities Arbil and Sulaimaniyah were placed under his government's control. Lebanon's Middle East Airlines and EgyptAir both said Wednesday they would halt flights to Arbil this week at the request of Baghdad. Turkey fears the vote will stoke the separatist ambitions of its own sizeable Kurdish minority and on Tuesday President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned that Iraq's Kurds risked sparking an "ethnic war." "If Barzani and the Kurdistan Regional Government do not go back on this mistake as soon as possible, they will go down in history with the shame of having dragged the region into an ethnic and sectarian war," he said.Erdogan had earlier warned that Turkey would shut its border with Iraqi Kurdistan and threatened to block oil exports from the region through Turkey.
Erdogan even suggested the possibility of a cross-border incursion similar to the one Turkey carried out against IS and Kurdish fighters in Syria. Monday's vote took place across the three northern provinces of autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan -- Arbil, Sulaimaniyah and Dohuk -- and in disputed border zones such as the oil-rich province of Kirkuk. Opponents have accused Barzani of seeking to empower himself through the vote, and said he should have accepted a UN-backed plan to postpone the referendum in favor of negotiations with Baghdad. Iran, which also has a large Kurdish minority, condemned the vote as well and on Sunday stopped all flights from its territory to and from Iraqi Kurdistan. Analysts say that despite their threats, Baghdad, Ankara and Tehran are proceeding cautiously in reacting to the vote, wary of sparking a serious confrontation with the Kurds that would further destabilize an already volatile region. Closing their borders with Iraqi Kurdistan would also hurt Turkey, which exports more than $8 billion worth of goods every year to the region, and Iran, which exports about $6 billion. 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 of between 25 and 35 million is spread across Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria.

Iraq PM Demands Annulment of Kurdish Independence Vote
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/September 27/17/Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi demanded Wednesday that this week's vote on independence for the autonomous Kurdish region be annulled. "The referendum must be annulled and dialogue initiated in the framework of the constitution. We will never hold talks on the results of the referendum," he told Iraqi lawmakers. "We will impose Iraqi law in the entire region of Kurdistan under the constitution," he said. The results of Monday's referendum have not yet been announced but an overwhelming "yes" vote was widely expected. Pressure has been mounting on the Kurds since the vote, not just from Baghdad but also from Ankara, with Turkey threatening a range of measures including cutting off oil exports from the region.

Rockets Land at Kabul Airport after Mattis Arrives
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/September 27/17/An Afghan official says at least six mortar rounds have landed in the eastern part of the Kabul international airport. Najib Danish, spokesman for the Afghan Interior Ministry, says Wednesday there are no reports of casualties from the attack. Zabihullah Mujahid, Taliban spokesman, claimed responsibility for the attack on his official Twitter account. The attack comes as U.S. secretary of Defense James Mattis and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg are in Kabul for a visit and were scheduled to hold a joint news conference with Afghan president Ashraf Ghani. Tumor Shah Hamedi, director of the Kabul airport, says all flights have been halted as result of the mortar attack at the airport.

Israel Holds Controversial Ceremony Marking 50 Years of Settlement
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/September 27/17/Israel on Wednesday hosted a celebration of 50 years of Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank and Golan Heights, angering the Palestinians and triggering a row with the supreme court. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing government considers the commemoration a state occasion. An estimated 5,000 guests attended the event next to a military base in the Gush Etzion settlement bloc, where the leftist Israeli government at the time encouraged the establishment of the first settlement in the occupied West Bank in September 1967.
Singers performed and fireworks lit the sky. A few settlers from the nearby rogue settlement outpost of Netiv Haavot protested against a court ruling that several buildings there were built on private Palestinian land and must be demolished. "Today (there are) promises, tomorrow demolitions," read a briefly hoisted banner in Hebrew, an AFP reporter said. It was not clear if Netanyahu saw the message, but he repeated a previous pledge to settlers that they would not be moved out of their homes. "There will be no more uprooting of settlements in the land of Israel," he said to applause. "It's not just a matter of connection to the homeland, but it's first and foremost not the way to make peace." It was unclear if Netanyahu was suggesting no settlements would be dismantled in any peace deal with the Palestinians, which would raise further doubts over chances of a two-state solution.Gush Etzion has over the years grown into a large bloc of settlements south of Jerusalem, and officials expect it will be part of Israel under any future peace deal with the Palestinians. Supreme court president Miriam Naor earlier said that she had turned down an official invitation to send a representative to the festive event, which a court statement said contained the wording "to celebrate the jubilee of the liberation of Judea, Samaria, the Jordan Valley and the Golan Heights."
Palestinians demand U.S. action
The biblical term Judea and Samaria is used by the Israeli government to refer to the West Bank, of which the Jordan Valley is also part. The territories were occupied by the Israeli army in the 1967 Six-Day War, along with Syria's Golan Heights, which were later annexed in a move never recognized by the international community. "The settler celebrations on our occupied lands are unacceptable and make the atmosphere very tense," Palestinian presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina told AFP. "We ask the American administration to urgently intervene to stop these provocations." Leftist and centrist politicians stayed away from the event, which Labor MP Eitan Cabel wrote on Facebook is "totally meant to glorify Bibi and his group of extremists who lead us to the abyss," using Netanyahu's nickname. A few dozen activists from the anti-settlement Peace Now organization protested at a road junction about two kilometers (1.25 miles) from the celebration. They held placards reading, "50 years are enough, Peace Now" and "There's no reason to celebrate, settlements ruined Israel." Chief Justice Naor's decision to keep the court at arm's length drew outrage from the right. But she was quoted in a court statement as saying that she was acting in accordance with established procedure and not taking a stance. "The president reached the conclusion that the event deals with an issue that is the subject of public controversy," it said. "Therefore, without the president or justices of the supreme court taking a position on the controversy itself, the president decided that it would be appropriate for the judiciary not to participate in the event." About 430,000 Israeli settlers live in the West Bank among 2.6 million Palestinians. Tens of thousands of settlers also live in the Israeli-ruled zone of the Golan. The settlements are illegal under international law and seen by a large part of the international community as a main obstacle to peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Interpol Approves Palestinian Membership Bid
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/September 27/17/Interpol on Wednesday approved the Palestinian Authority's membership bid, a new victory in its drive for international representation despite strong Israeli opposition. Israel lobbies hard against Palestinian efforts to join global organisations to advance their goal of statehood. It claimed victory last year when the Palestinian bid to join the global police body was suspended. Interpol approved the Palestinian application along with a bid by the Solomon Islands during its annual general assembly in Beijing. "New member countries State of Palestine and Solomon Islands bring INTERPOL's membership to 192," it said on its Twitter account. It did not detail the voting but candidacies require the approval of a two-thirds majority of countries present at the general assembly, excluding abstentions. The Palestine Liberation Organisation's negotiations affairs department said on Twitter they had received more than 75 percent of the vote. "Palestine's membership is the outcome of members defending this organisation's raison d'etre and advancing its core values, and a clear rejection of attempts at cynical manipulation and political bullying," Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Malki said in a statement.
Israel's foreign ministry did not immediately comment. Palestine gained observer status at the United Nations in 2012 and since then has joined more than 50 international organisations and agreements, according to the Palestinian foreign ministry.  Among them are the International Criminal Court and the United Nations heritage body UNESCO. Interpol, which is based in the French city of Lyon, eases the exchange of information between police forces and issues "red notices" -- non-binding notifications of arrest warrants -- at the request of a member state or an international tribunal. - 'Israel blocks progress' -Senior Palestinian official Jibril Rajoub had told AFP on Sunday that "we're looking to be in all of the international institutions, including Interpol, as an organised state." "We are looking for the Palestinian state to be a positive contributor toward security and stability in the region and in the international community," he said. Regarding Israel's opposition, he said: "They don't want any progress toward a Palestinian state." "Israel does not want us to be in FIFA. How would they want us to be in Interpol?" he said. Alan Baker, a former senior Israeli diplomat and legal expert, said the membership application was "just a political PR move" on the part of the Palestinians. "Because they're not interested in negotiating (with Israel) they're trying to achieve the end result, which is a state, through international organisations," he said ahead of Wednesday's vote. Baker rejected the notion that Palestinians would be able to initiate arrest warrants at will against Israelis by joining Interpol. He said the attempt by the Palestinians "to politicise what is a super-professional organisation is very harmful to Interpol".

Russia Says Killed Commanders of ex-Qaida Affiliate in Syria
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/September 27/17/Russia's defence ministry on Wednesday said it had killed five field commanders and 32 fighters from a group formerly affiliated with Al-Qaeda in strikes on Syria's Idlib province. A British-based monitor said Monday that Russian strikes had killed 37 civilians including children in Idlib in northwestern Syria -- the highest civilian toll since the region was designated in May as a "de-escalation" zone."As a result of a strike, five field commanders were liquidated," the Russian defence ministry said in a statement. It said the strike took place as the jihadist field commanders of the group formerly known as Al-Nusra Front met to the south of the city of Idlib. "Along with them 32 more fighters were killed," the ministry said. The defence ministry did not say when the strikes took place. It named the five senior figures killed including the commander of the southern sector of Idlib. The former Al-Qaeda affiliate, which renamed itself Fateh al-Sham Front and became the backbone of the coalition that rules much of Idlib, is designated a "terrorist" group by the United Nations. The Observatory said Russian air strikes on Idlib on Monday killed at least 37 civilians including 12 children. Moscow said the strikes were carried out after a September 18 jihadist attack on Russian military police deployed in neighbouring Hama province.Since the Hama assault, Idlib has been the tart of heavy air strikes by the Syrian regime and its Russian ally. Idlib province and some adjacent areas form one of four so-called de-escalation zones agreed in May by rebel backer Turkey and government allies Russia and Iran.

Top US general warns against leaving Iran nuclear deal
Ynetnews/Reuters/September 27/17/Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford acknowledges Iran's 'malign influence' in Middle East, but says it's complying with obligations stipulated in agreement; says US walking away 'would have an impact on others willingness to sign agreements.'
The top US military officer said on Tuesday Iran was complying with the pact curbing its nuclear program and warned that any American decision to walk away from it would make other nations less likely to enter into agreements with the United States. President Donald Trump is considering whether to withdraw the United States from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, calling the accord an "embarrassment." Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee that Iran was complying with its obligations under the nuclear deal, but had increased its activity in other areas. "Iran is projecting malign influence across the Middle East, threatening freedom of navigation, while supporting terrorist organizations in Syria, Iraq and Yemen," Dunford said. The committee's top Democrat, Senator Jack Reed, asked Dunford whether walking away from the Iran nuclear pact would affect the US ability to negotiate with North Korea or come up with a non-military solution toward Pyongyang. "It makes sense to me that our holding up agreements that we have signed, unless there is a material breech, would have an impact on others' willingness to sign agreements," Dunford said during his reappointment hearing. Trump this year also announced he would withdraw the United States from the international Paris climate agreement.  US officials, including senior military leaders, have said that the first option to deal with the threat posed by North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile program is through diplomacy. The ambassadors to the United States from Britain, France, Germany and the European Union all strongly backed the nuclear agreement with Iran on Monday as long as Tehran continues to comply with the pact. If Trump does not recertify by October 16 that Iran is complying with the pact, Congress would have 60 days to decide whether to reimpose sanctions on Tehran suspended under the accord. That would let Congress, controlled by Trump's fellow Republicans, effectively decide whether to kill the deal. Although congressional leaders have declined to say whether they would seek to reimpose sanctions, Republican lawmakers were united in their opposition to the deal reached by Democratic former President Barack Obama.
A collapse of the deal could trigger a regional arms race and worsen Middle East tensions.

Trump welcomes Saudi driving decree as positive step for women’s rights
Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnglishWednesday, 27 September 2017/US President Donald Trump on Tuesday commended Saudi Arabia's decision to allow women to drive. The change came in a royal order that takes effect next June. The statement from the White House press secretary's office says Trump viewed the change as "a positive step toward promoting the rights and opportunities of women in Saudi Arabia."The royal decree issued also ordered the establishment of a high-level committee of involving the ministries of internal affairs, finance, labor and social development. They will be tasked with studying the arrangements of the edict within 30 days and to ensure the full implementation of the order by June 2018. “The royal decree will implement the provisions of traffic regulations, including the issuance of driving licenses for men and women alike,” the Saudi Press Agency said.

Qatari officials give conflicting statements over Gulf boycott
Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnglishWednesday, 27 September 2017/Khalid bin Mohammed al-Attiyah, Qatari Minister of State for Defense, said Tuesday that what he refered to as a "siege" imposed on his country by the four countries (UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt) since June has made Qatar "much stronger than before". In this context, he contradicts a speech delivered by the Emir of Qatar at the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly held on 19 September stating that his country is "suffering under the seige".Suffering or strong? The Qatari minister's speech came during a lecture he gave on Tuesday at a private university in Qatar. The minister stressed that Qatar has proved its ability to withstand the crisis, presenting a model in the strength of its economy, forgetting many economic reports and ratings that indicated the decline of Qatari economy during three months of the boycott. The countries took a collective decision to boycott Qatar after several attempts to warn Doha of the consequences of supporting terrorist groups and undermine the stability of those States. While Al Attiyah spoke about the "strength" of Doha and its economic power following the crisis, his country's ambassador to Brussels Abdul Rahman bin Mohammed Al-Khulaifi said that the crisis has hindered several joint projects that would have been easy to accomplish with the Gulf countries.

UN chief Guterres welcomes Saudi Arabia’s lifted ban on women drivers
Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnglishWednesday, 27 September 2017/UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres welcomed Saudi Arabia’s decision to lift the ban on women drivers, calling it a positive move. Guterres made this statement on Twitter after Saudi Arabia’s King Salman issued a historic royal decree granting driving licenses for women in the kingdom as of next June. The royal decree issued on Tuesday also ordered the establishment of a high-level committee of involving the ministries of internal affairs, finance, labor and social development. They will be tasked with studying the arrangements of the edict within 30 days and to ensure the full implementation of the order by June 2018. Similarly, speaking to Al Arabiya, Latifa Shaalan, a Saudi female member of Saudi Arabia’s Shoura Council said: “This is a great victory for many Saudi women. This was the one file and issue which Saudi women have fought not just years, but decades for. Every time we asked, we were told the time was not right. When we asked those previous from this men and women who said we didn’t need to drive, King Salman.”

Ivanka Trump applauds driving decree: ‘A historic day for Saudi women’
Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnglishWednesday, 27 September 2017/US President Donald Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, has congratulated Saudi women on their government’s decision to lift the ban on women drivers. In a tweet on her official twitter handle, the advocate for the education and empowerment of women and girls described the announcement day as a “historic” one for Saudi women.Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has issued a historic royal decree granting driving licenses for women in the kingdom as of next June. The royal decree issued on Tuesday also ordered the establishment of a high-level committee of involving the ministries of internal affairs, finance, labor and social development. They will be tasked with studying the arrangements of the edict within 30 days and to ensure the full implementation of the order by June 2018. “The royal decree will implement the provisions of traffic regulations, including the issuance of driving licenses for men and women alike,” the Saudi Press Agency said.

Congress warns Kurds against further steps after independence vote

Bryant Harris/Al-Monitor/September 27/17
The KRG has enjoyed bipartisan US support and a great deal of autonomy ever since the first Gulf War in 1991. Its decision to go ahead with a referendum that threatens to unravel the regional unity against the Islamic State (IS), however, has ruffled feathers on Capitol Hill.
“Obviously it was not something we felt like was in our national interest,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., told Al-Monitor. “We felt like it would weaken [Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi] as he runs for re-election in [2018], and we didn’t think the timing of it was good.”
“We’ve been very, very clear [with KRG President Massoud Barzani and others] that this is not something we support,” Corker added.
Although the results of the nonbinding referendum are not yet available, the “yes” vote is expected to easily prevail amid estimates of a 72% voter turnout. Corker indicated that congressional action — including possibly blocking a pending $296 million arms sale to arm two peshmerga brigades — would be contingent on Erbil’s next moves. “It’s too early [to talk about specific repercussions]. We’ll see what steps they take after the fact,” Corker told reporters on Capitol Hill on Sept. 25. “Hopefully they won’t make an abrupt move toward true independence.”
Heightened tensions with Baghdad aren’t the only US concern. KRG neighbor and NATO member Turkey has been particularly vehement, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatening economic and even military repercussions.
Senate Foreign Relations member Chris Coons, D-Del., voiced his concerns over the referendum’s impact on regional stability.
“While I respect the right to self-determination of people around the world, I’m very concerned how this may well destabilize the region and pose real challenges to Iraq’s future,” Coons told Al-Monitor.
The KRG has also drawn condemnation from both the Iraqi central government and the international community for including disputed territories, such as the oil-rich Kirkuk province, in the vote.
“The Kurds did a great job of protecting those [disputed areas] from [IS], but the facts on the ground are that they now have control of those [disputed areas],” said Corker. “So we’ve got a number of issues there that hopefully will be worked out in an appropriate way.”
The House started signaling its own displeasure with the referendum over the summer when it passed an annual defense authorization bill in July. The bill contained report language stipulating that continued US military and nonmilitary funding is “contingent upon KRG participation in the government of a unified Iraq.”The Donald Trump administration meanwhile has requested $365 million for peshmerga salaries and equipment for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1. The administration has also raised concerns about the referendum, however, with White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders denouncing the vote in disputed areas as “particularly provocative and destabilizing.”Meanwhile, the Senate’s pending foreign aid spending bill raises its own questions about the future of US aid by axing previous language directing the State Department to provide the KRG with military and security assistance. Committee aides insist the updated language won’t have a practical on-the-ground impact for the Kurds, but the bill’s report language directs the State Department to provide economic and refugee assistance funds to the KRG even as it conspicuously leaves out language directing funds to go to military assistance.
Despite the negative legislative implications for Kurdish independence, some House members have doubled down on their support for Iraq’s Kurdish population and praised the referendum.
“I firmly believe in the Kurdish right to self-determination,” Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement. “With so many urgent issues at hand, including [IS’] final defeat, the return of displaced people, a recovering economy and political complications in the KRG, I urge Kurdish leaders to use the mandate created by this referendum to address these important issues.”
And Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., who sits on the House committee that drafted the defense bill, pointed to Baghdad’s past failure to facilitate military aid directly to Kurdish peshmerga forces as they fought IS. Franks has previously sponsored legislation to bypass Baghdad and directly arm the peshmerga as well as Iraqi Christian militias fighting alongside the Kurds. “While the [Barack] Obama administration dithered and fought efforts to arm and support the Kurds, the [Donald] Trump administration has the opportunity to stand with a noble people in their time of need,” Franks said in a statement. “A free and independent Kurdistan can represent hope for peace in the Middle East.”

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on September 27-28/17
Women driving: A huge leap forward for Saudi Arabia

Faisal J. Abbas/ArabNews/September 27
The royal decree to finally allow women to drive in Saudi Arabia will definitely be remembered as a landmark, positive moment in the Kingdom’s history. This courageous decision will single-handedly end what was regarded as a form of discrimination against females, and solve a long-lasting logistical nightmare for many Saudi women who will — from June 2018 — be able to travel the streets of their own country freely.
Much can be said in criticism of the illogical ban and the extremely long time it took to reverse it. This is however certainly a case of “better late than never”; and we should not for a single moment underestimate the significance of this bold move by Riyadh.
We should also not isolate this decision from a series of rapid reforms which have literally transformed many aspects of daily life in the Kingdom. In less than two years — and as part of the ambitious Vision 2030, which Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman spearheads — we have seen the powers of the religious police curbed, an entertainment authority established, women’s sport encouraged and many Saudi females appointed to top jobs in the country. Just a few days ago, we saw women being allowed to enter football stadiums and others dancing in the street as they celebrated the Saudi National Day.
Are all targets of this vision achieved? Absolutely not. Is what was achieved so far sufficient? No. However, no reasonable person can deny the significance of the changes mentioned above — particularly given the speed at which they were introduced and the challenges that surrounded them. Let us not forget that while there many reforms introduced in the past, one of the criticisms was that Saudis always took one step forward and then two steps back; well, it is certainly great to see that for the past two years, Riyadh has been determined to take leaps in one direction and that direction, once again against all odds, has been forward.
Indeed, with low oil prices, regional wars and political conflicts, many observers expected internal social reforms to take a back seat; clearly, they were shown to be wrong when Riyadh proved that there is no better time to reform than when your back is against the wall.
With low oil prices, regional wars and political conflicts, many observers expected internal social reforms to take a back seat; clearly, they were shown to be wrong when Riyadh proved that there is no better time to reform than when your back is against the wall.
The decision to allow women to drive makes it clear that internal reforms and development are at the forefront of the national transformation plan. It also makes it clear that the Saudi government is adamant that there cannot be any reform unless it involves the whole society, i.e. women must be included.
On the other hand, the way society has accepted and absorbed the rapid and massive changes that have occurred in the past two years is a clear indicator the Kingdom is opening up on all levels. Indeed, we as a society have successfully provided the correct answer to all those who warned us about such reforms, saying that rape, corruption and sins will spread as soon as we open up. The answer was that such warnings were all unfounded.
The same fear-mongering came with calls to allow women to drive. However, as the official statement declared, the decision took time to brew and will take nine more months to implement to ensure that all the traffic safety requirements are met, driving academies are set up and the proper infrastructure is put in place.
What is also remarkable, according to the official statement, is that the majority of Saudi Arabia’s Council of Senior Scholars endorsed the decision. This definitely sends the right message, and one we knew all along: There is nothing in Islam that religiously prohibits women driving, and the driving ban was a temporary social matter which will now no longer exist.
So — with a new dynamic leadership, an ambitious vision and a more literate, open society — the stars were aligned for this historic decision to be made, and the government made it clear it didn’t want to waste the chance.
• Faisal J. Abbas is the editor in chief of Arab News. He can be reached on Twitter @FaisalJAbbas

With friends like Syria, who needs enemies?
Diana Moukalled/ArabNews/September 27/17
After three years of absence due to a political standoff that left its presidential post vacant for two years, Lebanon finally took part in the UN General Assembly. But what Lebanon are we talking about when we say that it was present this year? This is not a sarcastic question, but any observer of the meetings and positions of President Michel Aoun and his delegation in New York, away from the Lebanese media clamor surrounding them, would realize how flimsy the their presence was. To put it simply, it was a gloomy picture of deep internal and regional schism.
Lebanon experienced semi-international isolation at the UN. No extensive official meetings were held for Aoun and his accompanying delegation. The Lebanese president’s meetings were limited to a small number of presidents, and the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. The same goes for the Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, who did not meet his counterparts, especially from the influential countries. The culmination of his activities came with meeting the Syrian Foreign Minister, Walid Muallem. The trip of the Lebanese delegation to New York was marked by that obnoxious picture which shows the Lebanese Foreign Minister with the Foreign Minister of a criminal regime.
A few weeks earlier, Lebanon had avoided the prospect of a government collapse after some political parties suggested sending an official delegation to Syria following the border battles in which Hezbollah and the Lebanese army fought against armed militias. Hezbollah and the Free Patriotic Movement suggested at the time that it was necessary to visit and thank Syria.
The internal division was so severe that it nearly caused the collapse of the government, so the idea of visiting Syria was set aside. Yet suddenly, Gebran Bassil appeared with the Syrian delegation in New York. No doubt this meeting raises many questions. Do the President and his team think that the answer to their international isolation comes through meeting the foreign minister of a criminal and isolated regime? The justification of coordinating with the Syrian regime to solve the refugee problem is unconvincing here; for what conditions for the return of refugees and what havens are we talking about if we ask the refugees to go back to the regime that forced them to flee their homes in the first place — and given that this regime does not want them back.
The Lebanese delegation’s performance at the UN General Assembly was flimsy and isolated, and the meeting between the Lebanese and Syrian foreign ministers will only cause more divisions in Beirut.
Whatever the reasons for the failure of Lebanon in New York, it is bound to cause more political tension back home in the days to come if the team that refuses the normalization of relations with Syria chooses to escalate its position. The Bassil-Mouallem meeting can only be taken as part of the political and moral push which Aoun gave to this axis when he said that Lebanon could not ask Hezbollah to give up its weapons as long as Israel provokes Lebanon, and that any solution for the issue of Hezbollah’s weapons should come within a comprehensive regional settlement.
Moreover, Aoun was described as the only one who dared to say “No” to the US in the most important international forum, and a media campaign surfaced highlighting the issue of the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Lebanon based on remarks by President Donald Trump in his speech to the General Assembly. The Lebanese approach to the issue was surprising because it appeared as a distortion of Trump’s stance on Hezbollah and Iran, who he accused of terrorism, and threatened to respond to and face their growing influence.
The outcome of these paradoxes has been more fragmentation and weakness. Surely, pressurizing Lebanon to return to the Syrian fold will only result in more regression and division.
• Diana Moukalled is a veteran journalist with extensive experience in both traditional and new media. She is also a columnist and freelance documentary producer. Twitter: @dianamoukalled

Saudi Arabia and Qatari-Muslim Brotherhood propaganda
Mamdouh AlMuhaini/Al Arabiya/September 27/17
If you think negatively of the Qatari-Muslim Brotherhood propaganda, you’re wrong. You need to think of it far worse than you normally would. You are also wrong if you thought this propaganda has only one mean face. For years now, the Muslim Brotherhood propaganda, supported by Qatar and its followers, have used the most brutal methods against all moderate Arab countries and Saudi Arabia. The brotherhood sought to strip Saudi Arabia’s political legitimacy by prompting a broad state of discontent using hired dissidents (more recently, exiled militants) and thousands of hired tweeters who in the event of an ordinary general protest, prompt a hashtag in the hope of turning the protest into disobedience and even rebellion. They have supported extremist currents and groups inside the country, working against any step toward modernization or pursuing an enlightening project. The propaganda has created a state of internal crisis on issues that have been dormant for years and promoted a lie of conflicting currents.
Doha and Tehran promote propaganda while linking terrorist organizations to Saudi Arabia, despite it being the biggest target
Negative image
At the same time, it has conveyed a negative image of Saudi Arabia in Western media (some of which are Qatari-owned). An image that dates back to the middle ages. This is why I am not surprised to see this scenario repeated time and time again: A Muslim Brotherhood extremist in Riyadh, strongly criticizing Saudi Arabia, inciting them if they take the necessary steps toward reforming women’s rights and social freedoms. Simultaneously, you find a Brotherhood member speaking to the media in London or Washington, launching a campaign against the kingdom for representing a dark and violent version of Islam. Followed by this, it promotes the alternative, a moderate Muslim Brotherhood Islam. This is similar to Iran’s strategy and the only difference is that Tehran promotes Shiite political Islam as a soft and modern alternative. Doha and Tehran promote propaganda while linking terrorist organizations to Saudi Arabia, despite it being the biggest target. This happens despite both countries sponsoring some of the concerned organizations with training, money and weapons.
This game plays out across different languages, which results in two contradicting speeches at the same time – both attempting to achieve one goal. This is neither new for Doha nor for Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood has been well known for conspiracy, intrigues and contradictions.
Shaking hands with Perez as well as with Qaradawi at the same time is an example. Another is Abdullah al-Muhaisni embracing a leader in al-Nursa group while attracting academics from prestigious universities such as Georgetown! The boycott has unraveled this two-faced game more and more and that is one of its benefits. Doha has also removed its mask recently, opening about this game through its official forums years after apparent camouflage.
Recruited tweeters
Hundreds of thousands of Twitter users have been recruited to attack Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt. They operate in secret and have now uncovered their identities during the last 100 days. Saudi Arabia’s national day was just a new occasion to unravel this old, regenerative role. While the Saudi’s celebrated their national day with unprecedented ceremonies, the Qatari-Muslim Brotherhood propaganda spread through its channels, websites and through Twitter. There were false news and comments describing these celebrations as disintegrations as stepping out of line.
Why do it? The answer yet again reveals these two-faced misleading roles. Because they wanted to play the role of an extremist militarist promoting that such celebrations, practiced by people around the world, are a deviation from religion. For years, this has been the exact role played by extremists and members of the Qatari-Muslim Brotherhood circle before the boycott. These people have launched outrageous inciting attacks against a simple concert, while they turn a blind eye to all the festivals and celebrations held in Doha.
Simultaneously, when a concert or theatre performance is stopped because of their pressure, the expatriate brotherhood comes into play describing Riyadh as an oppressor of art, creativity and being opposed to enlightenment. On the other hand, Qatar is praised for its museums, embracing of art and availability of foreign institutions and universities.
Prevent progression
In a rather all-cards-on-the-table game, these instigators direct a hateful and treasonous campaign against the Saudis, who are demanding to fight these stone-age ideologies. Their goal is to intimidate those who criticize them in order to strengthen their position, extend their influence, and in turn being able to achieve their biggest plan, which is to tarnish Saudi Arabia’s image in the world. All this is, of course, is surrounded by negative foreign propaganda that is constantly being promoted; a Saudi Arabia who opposes progress and questions art and creativity.Recently, someone published a Brotherhood-type rumor, claiming that Saudi Arabia is entering a police stage and searching consciences. He referred to what the Saudi diaspora called, triggering the American imagination, which is emotionally moved by such terms with a heavy historical connotation. So if you seek change and improvement, you are accused of westernization, and if you don’t seek change, they accuse you of regressive thinking. The Qatari-Muslim Brotherhood propaganda has no principles. It is a machine created to spread chaos and support extremists everywhere, (last of whom is Indian extremist Sulaiman al-Nadawi, who condemned Gulf states’ governments, accepted Baghdadi as leader and was hosted by Qardawi in Doha).It uses these multiple faces and shifting roles, which are charged with the worst intentions seeking to spread hatred and support terrorist organizations. So, no matter how negatively you think of it, you should always think much worse of it and expect the worst.

Erdogan: Kurds don’t know how to rule
Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/September 27/17
Iraqi Kurds, led by Masoud Barzani, have insisted on going through with the independence referendum which seeks to establish a separate Kurdish state. A state, which according to Barzani, is full of freedom, responsibility and independence. This rather critical step resulted in a repercussion of instability in the political scene as was expected. The consequences didn’t do the Kurds well either, and they achieved nothing. Washington, London, Paris, Riyadh and Cairo all urged Erbil to take a path of “wisdom,” and not hinder efforts to fight ISIS in Iraq, let alone ISIS in Syria behind them. The states also urged for Iraq’s unity, intensifying efforts for combating terrorism and ensuring Iraqi consensus. As for the Turks, they showed their teeth to the Kurds, while supported by leaders in the Khomeini Republic of Iran. If the Kurds don’t know ways to govern, does the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt know, or al-Nusra group in Syria, earlier, or Fath al-Sham, now?
Mistaken Barzani?
In response to the independence referendum, on Tuesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that the Iraqi Kurds don’t know how to run a state. According to Turkish television, Erdogan referred to Barzani as a traitor and said emotionally, “Until the very last moment, we weren’t expecting Barzani to make such a mistake.”What is most thought provoking about the Turkish president’s remarks, including the Kurds’ failure to run a government is his following statement: “If Barzani and the Kurdish Regional Government do not go back on this mistake as soon as possible, they will go down in history with the shame of having dragged the region into an ethnic and sectarian war.”Erdogan openly threatened the Kurds that Turkey would forbid pumping oil out of Iraqi Kurdistan. The Kurds went through with the referendum – this here is not our concern – and the Electoral Commission of the Kurdistan region announced that the referendum’s participation rate exceeded 72 percent.
Emerging question
Our concern revolves around emerging questions related to the Turkish president’s description of the Iraqi Kurdish referendum … the concern sets aside and overlooks Turkish concern over Kurdish dangers within Turkey… rather, it questions the following:
Are Kurds a Muslim nation? Sunni as well? So what sectarianism are we talking about? And if they were so – which is the case – are Turkey’s actions, or what it will do against the Kurds, an unjust blockade, or a legitimate sovereign boycott?
Another point, if the Kurds don’t know ways to govern, does the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt know, or al-Nusra group in Syria, before, or Fath al-Sham, now? Consistency in logic are indicators of wisdom in governance.

How Saudis refused to suppress patriotic joy
Salman al-Dosary/Al Arabiya/September 27/17
In 2005, Saudi Arabia’s late King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz acknowledged that as of the 75th National Day, the occasion will become a national holiday celebrated annually. The Saudi National Day is celebrated on every September 23 to commemorate the establishment of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia by King Abdulaziz in 1932. Establishing the holiday saw multiple opposition attempts from groups that sought to thwart every act aimed at bolstering national pride and identity. Joy for the holiday, unfortunately, was shy. Saudis were not used to freely express their happiness celebrating independence.
Shortly after, Saudis began rejoicing in a homeland that united them after dispersion and started expressing suppressed and forbidden joy openly. The joy spread nationwide, young or old, men and women, and even a large group of those who initially criticized and rejected the whole idea have become part and parcel of a national system commemorating a dear memory to all. National pride and joy filled every Saudi home. Clearly displaying double standards, they even celebrate national independence days in other countries, as if Saudis alone hold the dim duty of suppressing national pride
Promoting fatwas
Muslim Brotherhood cells played a major role in promoting fatwas prohibiting the celebration of the National Day. They aimed at spreading a culture of frustration among the Saudis, despite knowing that national pride for Saudis is untouchable given. The idea of removing any manifestations of renewed loyalty to the nation year after year contributes to the promotion of several negative concepts marketed as criticism of enforcing strong national state institutions.
They hope to reach the ultimate goal of destroying confidence in the state little by little. What is more is that those who often oppose celebrating the National Day in Saudi Arabia do not hold the same views for neighboring.
Clearly displaying double standards, they even celebrate national independence days in other countries, as if Saudis alone hold the dim duty of suppressing national pride.
Brotherhood’s influence
As soon as a policy was adopted to actively diminish the Muslim Brotherhood’s influence, patriotic feelings surged all over the kingdom. The celebration went extended beyond Saudi Arabia to all who love and admire the kingdom such as Kuwait, Egypt and others also rejoiced, in a reflection of the size and influence of Saudi Arabia. This exclusive and unprecedented joy has become a “registered trademark” for Saudis as if they want to make up for what they missed. Saudis and their sincere willingness to express their patriotism this year, in particular, seemed amazing and striking.
It was a terrible blow to anyone who believed in a false ability to manipulate national feelings in the hope of achieving dubious goals or undermined the statehood of Saudi Arabia.
The kingdom’s public spoke in a loud voice that the rules of the game had changed and it was no longer allowed for the terrible exploitation of religion to deprive them of patriotism. They completely stood against any agenda promoting a pro-group and an anti-state ideology.
Absurd equation
It is enough for Saudis to rejoice in their homeland and take pride in their kingdom without looking at their living problems as the “Brotherhood” works on spreading this absurd equation. Yes, the Saudi citizen has a fair share of living problems. Yes, Saudis have many worries about life, but all this doesn’t collide with sincere patriotism, which has long been stifled. Whether oil rates rise or fall, whether daily worries worsen or disappear, there is a big difference between a citizen making demands of his state as a natural right and his government’s right to improve their living conditions, and that this is exploited horribly to reduce patriotism. The greatness of Saudis is awe-striking! In just two years they managed to demolish an organized and years-in-the-making project to put a barrier between them and their homeland.

Iran nuclear deal may be dead within weeks
Simon Constable/MEE/Monday 25 September 2017
The Iran nuclear deal could be dead by mid-October, and the potential collapse of the agreement, which lifted sanctions on Iran last year, may send crude prices higher by $10 a barrel.
This is the assessment of one analyst who both understands how the politics of Washington work and also has deep knowledge of the global energy market.
“We think the US will not certify the current deal,” says Joe McMonigle, senior energy policy analyst at Hedgeye in Washington DC and former chief of staff at the US Department of Energy.
Each quarter, the parties to the nuclear agreement need to determine that everyone is doing what they said they would, he explains. The next certification is scheduled for the middle of October at which point McMonigle sees US President Donald Trump refusing to endorse.
“The US will largely claim that there hasn’t been the access to military sites,” he says, and hence he would use that as an excuse to nix the deal as a whole.
After the certification is denied, Iran will be hit with sanctions probably be the end of the year, McMonigle says.
His call that the deal has only months to live comes hot on the heels of Trump’s fiery speech to the United Nations General Assembly that took direct aim at Iran, calling it a “murderous regime”.
“The Iran deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the US has ever entered into. Frankly, that deal is an embarrassment to the United States, and I don't think you've heard the last of it. Believe me,” Trump said to the delegates at the UN in New York.
'No love' for Iran deal in Congress
That passage from the speech does more than hint that the administration will be looking into the deal further, and may even result in nullifying the agreement.
“I think the Trump administration’s position is that they want to look at the totality of Iran’s bad behaviour as opposed the compartmentalised view taken by Obama’s,” says Thaddeus McCotter, a former Republican US Congressman from Michigan’s 11th district, and who also was Republican House policy chair for two terms.
“There is no love for this pact in Congress,” he says. “I would see sanctions on Iran passing in Congress if they are proposed.”
Will other countries follow the US in imposing sanctions? It depends on the countries in question, but in the end, it may not matter whether there is international support or not, at least where the oil market is concerned.
US sanctions would most likely hit at a key source of revenue for Iran, namely oil exports.
“You need customers for this oil,” says McMonigle. “It won't impact the oil production, but they need customers.”
And those customers may be a problem.
You need customers for this oil
- Joe McMonigle, Hedgeye senior energy policy analyst
The real issue is that there are plenty of multinational corporations that want to continue doing business with the US. As a result, they will not want to entangle themselves with Iran’s economy in the event that Washington passes sanctions.
For instance, European oil companies, such as BP and Shell both have operations in the US, which they will want to continue even if the European Union doesn’t back sanctions. Therefore, they, like other such companies, will likely avoid buying or selling anything to Iran while US sanctions are in place.
With few well-heeled customers wanting to buy crude there’ll be less of it hitting the global market.
When Iranian oil came back to the world market last year, it added around 800,000 barrels a day to global supply in the first few months of the year, says McMonigle. So if sanctions get enacted, one would expect a similar amount to disappear in quite a short time once again.
The global market for oil is one that is finely balanced, so even relatively small changes in supply can have quite large effects on prices.
McMonigle sees sanctions adding $10 or possibly more to a barrel of crude.
Future prices for light sweet crude were recently trading at around $50 a barrel on the CME, so a jump of $10 would mean a $60 price tag.
It is also quite common to see initial market reactions to a drop in supply result in a price overshoot. That’s why McMonigle sees the possibility of even higher prices than $60.
Of course, none of this is to say that Iran won’t be able to sell oil at all. He expects the main country to aid in helping Iran’s oil leak onto the world market will be Russia, which has historical ties to Iran. In addition, Iraq may possibly be involved through its southern ports.
While the sanctions will squeeze Iran financially, the increase in oil prices will be a boon to neighbouring Saudi Arabia and Iraq. As Middle East Eye recently reported, Saudi is struggling to refocus its economy away from oil due to a lack of oil revenue. The likely higher crude prices will help increase the treasury coffers and help fund the retooling of that economy.
ANALYSIS: Saudi sale of Aramco a major economic challenge
Saudi Arabia produced 12.1m barrels of oil a day in 2015 according to the Energy Information Administration, so it should be clear that an additional $10 a barrel would bring in a lot more much-needed cash.
Likewise, Iraq, which the EIA said produced 4.1m barrels a day in 2015, will benefit from higher prices for oil.
Of course, the forecast that oil prices jump is predicated on the idea that members of the OPEC cartel don’t all start to produce more oil than their quotas allow. Such a move, which has happened in the past, would mean more supply and send prices back down again.
Whatever comes to pass, it promises to be an interesting few weeks geopolitically.

Confronting North Korean and Iran
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat/September 27/17
The weak Iranian nuclear agreement adopted by the former US administration and signed by Iran is partially responsible for North Korea’s rush to develop its own nuclear program.
Iran was rewarded $150 billion, with profits, as part of the deal after funds withheld since Shah’s time were returned. It was also granted massive contracts to develop its technical and industrial capabilities and most of the international sanctions imposed had been lifted.
Besieged North Korea chose to blackmail the world also because it seems a profitable trade. Iran used to threaten to burn Israel down, and now North Korea is threatening Japan. Its second nuclear missile test two weeks ago was successfully launched over Japan.
There is no more doubt that North Korea is dangerous.
Washington is now before two choices: either grant North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un an agreement similar to that of Iran or end the agreement with Tehran and suggest new ideas to ensure both countries are denied their nuclear capabilities.
During a seminar at the Enterprise Institute, United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikky Haley linked between the two threats. She warned that an agreement with Iran, if unchanged, will allow Tehran to pose the same threat as that of North Korea.
Can the current US administration put an end to the agreement signed between the western states and Iran two years ago?
Even Ambassador Haley stated that the agreement will not be totally abandoned. However, she called for amending the agreement in a way that it doesn’t allow the regime to secretly develop military nuclear powers. The deal is linked to Iran’s behavior in the region especially that its troops and militias are fighting in several countries.
Time is short and President Trump should announce his position. He has almost two weeks to inform the Congress whether Iran is abiding by the agreement or not. If he says no, then the Congress will re-impose sanctions, which if truly returned, Iran had threatened that it shall consider the agreement annulled and will resume its military nuclear program and production of highly enriched uranium.
Regional and Gulf countries are spectators and they do not have the capability to stop the Iranian regime or terminate the agreement.
Since the beginning, Gulf’s point of view had been that agreement is good in principle, but the signed deal is bad as it postpones production of military nuclear power and doesn’t terminate it, especially that lifting the sanctions is not conditioned by Iran’s suspension of its hostile military activity.
If, within the next few years, Tehran succeeded in gaining control or dominating major states like Iraq and Syria, Iran’s power to impose its military nuclear project will double. Then, the nuclear agreement will be rendered useless and it will be difficult for the international community to impose sanctions considering its massive influence.
Iran observes current developments because how Trump will react towards North Korea will be a message to it as well. Trump is not Obama. He won’t send gifts and won’t be silent over any insult. At least, that’s how I see things.

Westerners: Guilty of Reading the News

Douglas Murray/Gatestone Institute/September 27/17
If the public are asked whether Arabs should be profiled for security reasons, why should it be surprising if a very slight majority of the public think they should be? A large number of terrorist incidents have occurred in the Arab and Western world in recent years.
If, at some point, large numbers of, say, Czechs, Poles and Hungarians had started to export terrorism across the planet, a majority of the public in a country such as Britain might be relied on to call for increased security checks on people of Eastern European origin. In the meantime, the public would appear to be guilty of nothing other than reading the news.
Few newspaper commentaries bothered to wonder whether the people who had decapitated a soldier on the streets of London might not be responsible for the negative sentiments that followed. For Arab News, any such explanation would be an impossibility.
In August, the polling company YouGov conducted an opinion survey among 2,000 members of the British public. The poll, carried out in partnership with Arab News, the Saudi paper owned by a member of the Saudi royal family, was published September 25.
As might be expected from such a publication, the questions asked of the British public, and the answers received, suited a particular line of argument: the survey evidently sought to find evidence of "Islamophobic" attitudes. It duly found that 41% of the British public polled said that Arab immigrants and refugees had not added anything to society and 55% agreed in principle with the profiling of Arabs for security reasons. The Arab News/YouGov poll also found that 72% of the British public think that "Islamophobia" is getting worse in the UK.
Alongside this report came the surprising finding that a similar number of British people (7 in 10) believe that "the rise in Islamophobic comments by politicians and others are fuelling hate crime."
All of this presents a fascinating as well as slightly confused picture. Why should the same percentage of the public believe that "Islamophobia" is getting worse but that politicians in Britain are fuelling it? Let alone that politicians are fuelling an alleged rise in "hate crime" -- the upsurge in which is constantly promised yet mercifully never occurs? It is clearly the aim of Arab News -- as with many other media companies from the same region -- to present Britain as a bigoted and unenlightened place -- a country filled with primitive and medieval views of "the other". As opposed to, say, an enlightened and welcoming family fiefdom like that of Saudi Arabia, where attitudes towards foreigners and incomers are renowned the world over for their tolerance and good humour.
If it was possible to have genuinely free and fair polling in Saudi Arabia, carried out by a foreign newspaper and without any government interference, then doubtless the world would learn only of the amount that outsiders had brought into the country, and the extent to which security checks on any people coming to the country from outside Saudi should be entirely absent.
The idea, of course, is ridiculous. What is more ridiculous still is the idea -- consistent from a range of opinion polls over recent years -- that the British people, like those across Europe and America, are in the grip of some profoundly irrational mania. If the public are asked whether Arabs should be profiled for security reasons, why should it be surprising if a very slight majority of the public think they should be? A large number of terrorist incidents have occurred in the Arab and Western world in recent years, and despite the considerable diversity of the perpetrators of Islamist attacks across the globe, a larger number of terrorists in recent years have emerged from the Arab world than, say, Eastern Europe. If, at some point, large numbers of Czechs, Poles and Hungarians had started to export terrorism across the planet, a majority of the public in a country such as Britain might be relied on to call for increased security checks on people of Eastern European origin. In the meantime, the public would appear to be guilty of nothing other reading the news. The central conceit of a poll such as this, however, is, of course, to present the whole issue of terrorism as a misunderstanding by the general public.
The issue is not just the four Islamist attacks in the UK so far this year ("only" three when the Arab News survey was carried out). The issue is not the appearance of a Libyan suicide bomber at a pop concert in Manchester in May, or the young men of Pakistani origin who rampaged across London Bridge and into Borough Market in June, while they slit the throats of passers-by and shouted, "This is for Allah". None of those incidents would appear to be the issue for the Arab News. The question they seem to wish to get to the root of is: Why the British people might have bigoted and unpleasant attitudes? The paper's editorial response is itself reminiscent of the outcry in September 2013 when a poll carried out for BBC Radio 1 found that among 1,000 young British people polled, 44% said that Muslims did not share the same values as the rest of the population, while 27% said that they did not trust Muslims.
That poll brought forth a slew of self-analyses and experts of all backgrounds asking what could be done to change the attitudes of young people and effectively correct them. What almost no one noted -- or thought noteworthy -- was that the poll had been carried out in June. What was noteworthy, was that only a few weeks before the September 2013 poll was conducted, two young British converts to Islam had run over a serving soldier -- Lee Rigby -- in south London, and then, in broad daylight, had hacked at his body with meat-cleavers and knives.
Few newspaper commentaries wondered whether the people who had decapitated a soldier on the streets of London might not be responsible for the negative sentiments that followed. Just as few now will probably wonder whether it is not the recent waves of overtly-inspired, extremist Muslim terrorism that causes British people to have concerns -- including security concerns -- about people from the Middle East. For the time being, the problem is supposedly not the problem; the problem is supposedly their reading about the problem and drawing their own conclusions from it.
Needless to say, the fastest way to deal with any problem of perception is to address the issue of reality. For British politicians and opinion-makers, the idea of dealing with the problem still lies some way away. For Arab News, any such explanation would be an impossibility. Strangely, the problems of extremism which the British public sees and abhors would -- if traced back to their origin -- find a source of blame much closer to Arab News's own headquarters than the paper might find comfortable.
**Douglas Murray, British author, commentator and public affairs analyst, is based in London, England. His latest book, an international best-seller, is "The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam."
© 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.

Self-Described "Progressive, Mainstream" Muslim Groups in America Are Homophobic and Racist

Samantha Mandeles//Gatestone Institute/September 27/17
According to Muslim feminist bloggers, who write regularly for the site, MAS, ICNA, and ISNA are blatantly racist.
If Sarsour and her fellow Islamists in the United States are to be believed, they work to "make America better..." "...out of love" for fellow Americans. Yet, their behavior tells another story -- one of closeted bigotry and deceit -- all for the purpose of legitimizing their own false claims to the leadership of mainstream Muslims.
In an interview published on ISNA's website, Muzzammil Siddiqi called homosexuality a "moral corruption," and explicitly stated that he supports laws in countries that execute homosexuals. ISNA's annual convention included Yasir Qadhi, dean of academic affairs at AlMaghrib Institute, who has been recorded teaching students that killing homosexuals is part of Islam.
"Islam is a religion of peace, but you can't have peace without justice," said self-styled "civil rights activist" Linda Sarsour at the Muslim American Society-Islamic Circle of North America (MAS-ICNA) convention in December 2016. Sarsour, who describes herself as a "Palestinian-American feminist," is but one example of a radical Muslim in the West who has carefully cultivated an image of herself as righteously preoccupied with liberal values and social justice -- and Islamist organizations, such as MAS, ICNA and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), have tried to do the same.
A highlight reel from the MAS-ICNA convention features author Yasmin Mogahed declaring, "We have to care about the pain and struggles of others," as well as a prominent imam, Omar Suleiman, asking, "What have we done for the marginalized in this country?"
In a promotional video released in 2016, the organization's president, Azhar Azeez, boasts of "bringing a very positive impact to our communities across the nation."
According to Muslim feminist bloggers, however, who write regularly for the site, MAS, ICNA, and ISNA are blatantly racist. One such observer, in a piece titled "Mainstream Islamic Conferences Have a Longstanding History of Normalizing Anti-Blackness," writes:
"When I look at mosques that perpetuate patriarchal violence, I see it as powerless men trying to feel in control. Conferences are no different. Often times, it's non-Black Muslims (mostly Arab and Desi) who organize these tone-deaf conferences, and use them as tools of oppression to silence the voices and contributions of those who are more marginalized (mostly Black Muslims)."
She continued:
"Remember last year when ICNA asked participants in a speed dating event what skin color was preferred for their potential partner? The fact that they didn't understand why that was problematic the first time is enough of an indicator."
Another blogger on the site recounts attending the April 2017 ICNA convention in Baltimore -- "one of the most historically black cities in our nation" -- and discovering that not even a panel on "America's Original Sins: Racism and Social Inequality" included a black, Latino, or female speaker.
Although this was not true of the MAS-ICNA convention, which did feature one black Muslim on the podium, the speaker was Imam Siraj Wahhaj, who once preached that Muslims should not "take into [their] intimacy those outside [their] race," advised his followers to guard against homosexuals ("the disease of society"), and even served as a witness for the defense in the criminal trial of convicted terrorist, the "Blind Sheikh," Omar Abdel Rahman.
Nor is the shroud of progressivism hiding closeted bigotry at Islamist events restricted to racial discrimination. Despite what Linda Sarsour might have us believe --"We don't even have this [same sex marriage] conversation [in the Muslim community]" -- hateful views on homosexuality such as those expressed by Wahhaj are common among MAS-ICNA and similar groups. A case in point is this year's ISNA convention, where Sarsour spoke. At the event, representatives of an organization called Muslims for Progressive Values (MPV) were booted from the venue specifically because of their LGBTQ- and women- focused advocacy. According to MPV's press release, they and their event partners, Human Rights Campaign (HRC), were asked to leave by ISNA officials on the grounds that they "don't fit in" at the "religious, private, and family-oriented event."
Such exclusion is neither unusual nor surprising. In fact, all conferences held by these "mainstream" Islamic groups include speakers who advocate extreme violence against the LGBTQ community. Take this year's ISNA annual convention in Chicago, for instance, which hosted Muzammil Siddiqi, a former president of ISNA, who still sits on its board. In an interview published on the ISNA website, Siddiqi called homosexuality a "moral corruption," and explicitly stated that he supports laws in countries that execute homosexuals. The convention also included Yasir Qadhi, dean of academic affairs at AlMaghrib Institute, who has been recorded teaching students that killing homosexuals is part of Islam.
**Muzammil Siddiqi, a former president of the Islamic Society of North America who still sits on its board, has called homosexuality a "moral corruption" and stated that he supports laws in countries that execute homosexuals. (Image source: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
If Sarsour and her fellow Islamists in the United States are to be believed, they work to "make America better..." "...out of love" for fellow Americans. Yet, their behavior tells another story -- one of closeted bigotry and deceit -- all for the purpose of legitimizing their own false claims to the leadership of mainstream Muslims. Sarsour, like MAS, ICNA, and ISNA, might purport to seek justice, but theirs is not a justice that will ever lead to ethnic and religious tolerance. It certainly will not bring about the "peace" that Sarsour pretends to promote.
**Samantha Mandeles is based at Islamist Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.
© 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.

Facebook Marks the End of Social Media’s Wild West
Conor Sen/Bloomberg View/September 27/17
The news that Facebook will turn over details of Russian ad buys to Congress recalls a column written by my colleague Eli Lake early year. He wrote that in forcing National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to resign, President Donald Trump “caved in to his political and bureaucratic opposition.” That February column warned: “Flynn is only the appetizer. Trump is the entree.” In the case of Facebook Inc., the 3,000 advertisement buys turned over to Congress are indeed the appetizer. Regulation carrying the force of law is the inevitable entree.
It was only 16 months ago when reports surfaced that Facebook employees were removing stories of interest to conservative users from its trending news section. Facebook responded by automating the section, removing humans from the editorial process. Thus began Facebook’s uneasy journey into self-regulation. Of course, removing humans from the editorial process and allowing unfiltered content to be distributed has its own issues, as Facebook learned during the election last year. Allegations of “fake news” influencing the 2016 presidential election were widespread after Trump defeated Hillary Clinton. The site was accused of being played by foreign entities promoting false articles. Facebook responded by pledging to take steps to combat fake news.
Increasingly, Facebook is finding itself in an impossible position as it tries to remain, in spirit at least, a content-agnostic platform that allows everyone to have a voice. Sometimes the company faces scrutiny when it allows certain content to remain, as in the case of fake news or neo-Nazi propaganda. Other times it faces scrutiny for removing content. Recently Facebook’s algorithmic ad targeting has been faulted as well. ProPublica reported last week the disturbing finding that algorithms allowed the existence of an ad category for anti-Semitic content. The story also noted that algorithms correlated the behavior of anti-Semites with those in a “Second Amendment” category, a finding that upset gun-rights advocates who don’t want to be seen as anti-Semites.
What’s apparent in the past 16 months is a Wild West of self-regulation. Time and time again, Facebook has shown that if confronted with a challenge, the company will listen and often respond. Partisan trending topics, fake news, neo-Nazis, Russian meddling — if it generates enough outrage, it’ll get addressed eventually. But Facebook’s power and influence seem likely to grow beyond the “self-regulation” phase. That’s why markets are willing to give the company a valuation of $500 billion when its 2017 profits will be in the neighborhood of only $15 billion. (Bloomberg data shows analysts expect Facebook’s revenue to grow to $76 billion in 2020, almost doubling projections for 2017.) The question remains how long self-regulation will be acceptable to the public and Congress. Now Facebook has tipped its hand. Large, multi-national corporations don’t turn over documents to Congress out of the goodness of their hearts. Facebook’s statement about why it’s turning over information to Congress goes to great lengths to emphasize it was the company’s own decision, and that the first priority is to protect user privacy. Don’t be fooled. Self-regulation will fail, and real regulation will begin. This is how it starts.

Germany’s Nationalists Join the 13-Percent Club
Leonid Bershidsky/Bloomberg View/September 27/17
The Alternative for Germany’s 12.6 percent result in Sunday’s election wraps up an important political season for European nationalist populists. It’s a showing that has worried many both in and outside Germany; but, all things considered, it’s another defeat for the far right, which appears to have hit its ceiling in Western Europe for now.
The AfD was promptly congratulated by Geert Wilders, whose Party for Freedom (PVV) won 13.1 percent of the vote in the Netherlands in March, and by Marine Le Pen, whose National Front won 13.2 percent in the first round of the French legislative election in June. Many see the the AfD’s performance as more significant than that of the rest of the 13 percent club, since it’s a German party and German nationalism has an especially scary history. But 72 years after the Nazis’ defeat, they’re no more dangerous than those in neighboring countries.
The AfD had an advantage compared with their allies in the rest of Western Europe. Germany contains its own eastern European nation — the former German Democratic Republic. It’s poorer than the rest of the country and subject to the same post-Communist trauma as Poland or Hungary, and thus prone to elect either leftists or nationalists. The AfD’s success is largely based on gains in the east German states. But otherwise, the parties in the 13 percent club are rather similar — not just in their anti-immigrant, anti-European Union ideology but also in the ways they win, lose and react to the wins and losses.
The AfD, the National Front and the PVV attract a lot of attention, and millions of votes, as parties — but voters don’t seem to like their candidates in direct elections. The French nationalist party ended up with just eight seats in the National Assembly. In the Netherlands, where people only vote for parties, a vote for the PVV is a vote for Wilders, the only official member the party has.
Germans get two votes in an election — one for a party and one for a candidate in a constituency; the AfD only managed to get three people elected directly, all in the eastern land of Saxony. One of the party’s two leading candidates, Alexander Gauland, ran as a direct candidate in the neighboring eastern state of Brandenburg, where anti-immigrant sentiment also runs high — and lost to Martin Patzelt, a candidate from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party who had opened his home to two Eritrean refugees. In fact, Merkel’s party, the Christian Democratic Union, and its Bavarian sister group, the Christian Social Union, won an overwhelming majority of constituencies; had the German electoral system not prioritized the party vote, the AfD would have done worse than the National Front this year and only a little better than United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) in the U.K. in 2015, when the nationalist party won one parliament seat.
Constituency voting is a test of political professionalism: It involves very personal campaigning, door-to-door, at local fairs and pubs. Plenty of nationalist parties don’t do that very well. But it’s not required to collect the protest vote, which ebbs and flows with little regard to a party’s effort, driven by news events. That’s what these parties pick up to achieve their best results; some 20 percent of AfD voters backed leftist parties in the previous election — they are hardly principled nationalists. The identity-based parties use similar techniques to keep people angry and collect their votes — they all had the highest levels of Facebook activity and engagement in their respective countries this year — but the outcomes showed the limitations of this approach, especially given low levels of penetration by social networks in Western Europe.
The dependence on voter anger can play ugly tricks on the parties: The PVV, for example, went to 10 percent in 2012 from its record high result of 15.45 percent in 2010. The AfD is in line for a similar disappointment unless there’s a steady stream of strongly negative news about immigrants and the EU.
A shortage of direct, local support has meant there is little to force these parties to behave constructively in parliament. The PVV has sponsored almost no legislation, but it has distinguished itself as a relentless questioner, putting thousands of questions to cabinet members — far more than any other political force. It has also proposed more (failed) votes of no confidence in government ministers than anyone else. That is likely the kind of activity, aimed at exploiting the parliament as a stage, that one can expect of the AfD in Germany: Gauland has promised to “hunt” Merkel so that “people on the street come to believe the parliament plays a role again.” Theatrics are guaranteed — but, in fairness, there’s not much a party can achieve with 13 percent representation except make some noise.
That tactic is not conducive to good teamwork. Internal conflicts and ego flare-ups are the norm. On Monday, one of the AfD’s three directly elected legislators, Frauke Petry, surprised her comrades by declaring at a joint press conference that she wouldn’t be part of the AfD faction in parliament. Petry represents the AfD’s moderate wing; she’s said the party would have a better future if it distanced itself from the more controversial nationalist ideas. There are others like her, who will be scared off by Gauland’s unashamed brinkmanship.
The scene starring Petry was reminiscent of the recent departure of Florian Philippot from the National Front. Philippot was once Le Pen’s right-hand man, the party’s top strategist. Like Petry, he fretted about his shrinking role in his party’s leadership.
There’s not much for the nationalists left to win or lose this year. In Austria, the Freedom Party, which led in the polls until last summer, is down dramatically — a pattern both the PVV and the AfD have also followed. Though it’ll probably do better on Oct. 15 than the 13 percent club, it won’t win the election.
Identity-based parties counted on better results after the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump. Their representation in parliaments confers no real power on them, though by being in the limelight, they become bigger targets for more established, more professional and less odious rivals. The backlash can be punishing in the next electoral cycle. Their only hope is that life in Western Europe will get far worse so they can avoid backsliding.