September 30/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

The Bulletin's Link on the lccc Site 

News Bulletin Achieves Since 2006

Bible Quotations For Today
An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 12/38-42/:"Some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.’ But he answered them, ‘An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was for three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so for three days and three nights the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth. The people of Nineveh will rise up at the judgement with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the proclamation of Jonah, and see, something greater than Jonah is here! The queen of the South will rise up at the judgement with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to listen to the wisdom of Solomon, and see, something greater than Solomon is here!"

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on September 29-30/17
MP, Nadim Gemayel: Greatest Threat Facing Lebanon is Iran and Syria/International Policy Digest/September 29/17
The Urgent U.S. Role in Post-Referendum Kurdistan/Michael Knights/The Washington Institute/September 29/17
Europe: What do Islamic Parties Want/Judith Bergman/Gatestone Institute/September 29/17
Switzerland: The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Jihad/Bruce Bawer/Gatestone Institute/September 29/17
Too Much Democracy may Damage your Health/Eyad Abu Shakra/Asharq Al Awsat//September 29/17
Kurdish Referendum: What is the Lowdown/Amir Taheri/Asharq Al Awsat//September 29/17
Trump Evangelizes for American Exceptionalism/Eli Lake/Bloomberg/September 29/17

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on  September 29-30/17
US House Committee Approves Sanctions against Hezbollah
Lebanese cleric Ahmed Al-Assir sentenced to death
Aoun Meets Brown, Says Lebanon Is Fighting Terrorism, Pursuing Sleeper Cells
Riachi: Christians Must Create Genuine Peace with Muslim Partners
Khalil: Legislative Sessions Should Convene Next Week to Approve Agreed Laws
Bassil Defends Muallem Talks, Reassures on Ties with Hariri, Hizbullah
Cabinet Approves Salaries Disbursement Based on New Wage Scale
LF Say Resources for Wage Hike Must be Secured, Warn of 'Financial Deterioration'
UK launches social enterprise project 'SoUK.LB' in Lebanon
Lassen discusses waste management challenges with MP Chehayeb
Hariri: We achieved the solution thanks to political consensus
Marotti meets Military Police Commander, attends conclusion ceremony of two courses on inspection
Sarraf, CENTCOM Deputy Commander tackle military cooperation
MP, Nadim Gemayel: Greatest Threat Facing Lebanon is Iran and Syria

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on  September 29-30/17
Russia’s Lavrov Says Cooperation with US on Syria ‘Not without Problems’
Tillerson: US does not recognize Kurdish independence vote in Iraq
US willing to ‘facilitate’ talks between Baghdad, Kurds
Coalition spokesman: Kurdish referendum caused loss of focus fighting ISIS
Abadi calls travel ban constitutional, Kurdistan refuses to relinquish borders
Macron: France ready to help Baghdad ease tensions with Kurdish region
Monitor: 58 Syria government fighters killed in ISIS attacks
ISIS Releases Audio for Baghdadi
Syria: Linguistic, Cultural Conflict in Areas of Influence
France Stresses Commitment to ‘Celle Saint-Cloud Agreements’ during Haftar’s Visit
Libyan Parties Set Conditions for Accepting to Amend Skhirat Agreement
Libya Dismantles Network Involved in Beheading of Copts
Iraq Forces Attack IS-Held Town of Hawija
Palestinians Slam 'False' Comments by US Israel Envoy
Britain 'Unconditionally' Committed to EU Security, Says May
UN Chief Tells Myanmar to End 'Nightmare' as 19 Drown in Rohingya Boat Capsize

Latest Lebanese Related News published on  September 29-30/17
US House Committee Approves Sanctions against Hezbollah
Asharq Al Awsat/September 29/17/Washington – Members of the US House of Representatives Foreign Relations Committee voted on Thursday in favor of two draft-laws that impose further sanctions on Hezbollah.  The first bill restricts Hezbollah’s ability to fundraise and have access to the international financial system and deal with financial institutions, while the second bill condemns Hezbollah for using civilians as human shields during warfare. The two bills, which were introduced by the committee’s chairman Ed Royce along with Democrat Representative Eliot Engel, are expected to receive bipartisan support when they reach the US House. “Hezbollah and Iran are reportedly introducing game-changing facilities into the region—independent factories that can produce rockets to be used against Israel and our allies. We also have reports of missile factories opening up in Lebanon near mosques, homes, hospitals, and schools … So today the Committee is taking action against Hezbollah and its sponsor Iran, by passing legislation that tightens the screws on Hezbollah’s financial operations globally,” Royce said.  Bill number HR 3329 suggests imposing mandatory sanctions with respect to fundraising and recruitment activities of Hezbollah.  Article 101 of the bill imposes sanctions on any foreign person who assists, sponsors, or, provides significant financial, material, or technological support for Hezbollah’s Bayt al-Mal, Jihad al-Bina, the Islamic Resistance Support Association, the Foreign Relations Department of Hezbollah, the External Security Organization of Hezbollah, al-Manar TV, al-Nour Radio, or the Lebanese Media Group, or any successor or affiliate. HR 3342 imposes sanctions on foreign persons who are responsible for gross violations of the use of civilians as human shields by Hezbollah.  The bill dictates: “Identification of foreign persons who are responsible for gross violations of internationally recognized human rights by reason of the use by Hezbollah of civilians as human shields, and for other purposes.”

Lebanese cleric Ahmed Al-Assir sentenced to death
MEM/September 29/17/A cleric has been sentenced to death in Lebanon for his role in violence between his supporters and soldiers in the city of Sidon, according to Lebanese authorities. Ahmed Al-Assir was tried in a military tribunal along with 38 others and accused of killing a number of Lebanese soldiers in June 2013 after he was arrested in 2015. The court also sentenced to death two defendants and five people in absentia, including Assir’s brother and popular Lebanese singer Fadel Shaker, who was given a 15-year prison sentence whilst the remaining were handed life sentences. On 24 June 2013 18 Lebanese soldiers, 40 of Assir’s supporters and two civilians were killed. According to reports the violence was the deadliest to spill over from the war in neighbouring Syria – Assir has been vocal in his criticism of the Assad regime and his support for Hezbollah. In 2014 an arrest warrant was issued for his arrest on the basis of “forming an armed group with the objective of committing acts of terrorism and killing or attempting to kill Lebanese soldiers”. After being on the run for two years he was arrested in 2015 at Beirut International Airport after he attempted to disguise himself after allegedly trying to leave the country on a fake passport. There have been no executions carried out in Lebanon since 2004, despite a number of verdicts. Capital punishment is still legal in Lebanon and can only be approved by the president.
According to reports Lebanese President Michel Aoun does not have the political weight needed to approve the death sentence against Assir.

Aoun Meets Brown, Says Lebanon Is Fighting Terrorism, Pursuing Sleeper Cells
Naharnet/September 29/17/President Michel Aoun stressed during a meeting with US Central Command, General Charles Brown at the Baabda Palace, that Lebanon is continuing its efforts to combat terrorism and pursue sleeper cells, the National News Agency reported on Friday. "Lebanon is continuing to fight terrorism after liberating its eastern border from the Islamic State group," said Aoun, pointing out that "the current efforts are focused on pursuing sleeper cells and arresting their members." "The Lebanese Army demonstrated great efficiency during the Dawn of the Outskirts,” operation against the Islamic State jihadists, said Aoun during the meeting held in the presence of US Ambassador to Lebanon, Elizabeth Richard. "Good training, courage and support have all resulted in ending the battle with minimum losses," said the President. Aoun also praised "the US support for the Lebanese Army in training and ammunition provision." Stressing Lebanon's commitment to the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, he said “Lebanon appreciates the role played by the UNIFIL to establish peace on the border.”For his part, Brown congratulated Aoun on the army's achievement pointing out to the "direct follow-up by President of the Republic to the military operations in the border mountains which were occupied by the Islamic State elements."Brown added: "We will continue to provide support to the Lebanese Army at all military levels to strengthen its role in extending the sovereignty of Lebanon and protecting the Lebanese State.”

Riachi: Christians Must Create Genuine Peace with Muslim Partners
Naharnet/September 29/17/Minister of Information Melhem Riachi said on Friday that it is the "duty of Christians" to look beyond worldwide extremism and to opt for real peace with Muslim partners, the National News Agency reported. Speaking during a conference titled “Christian Media...Towards Unity” under the patronage of Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi, Riachi said: “Christians must create a mystical situation and look beyond extremism worldwide. It is our duty as Christians to create real peace with our Muslim partner.” "Take your time issuing the conference recommendations within the next few days and send them to the Information Ministry to be broadcast to the whole world by NNA and other local media outlets," Riachi told participants at the conference.“Let these recommendations be binding to help build positive and civilized media,” he concluded.

Khalil: Legislative Sessions Should Convene Next Week to Approve Agreed Laws

Naharnet/September 29/17/Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil said on Friday that the parliament is supposed to convene next week so as to approve the draft laws related to the wage scale agreed during Friday's cabinet meeting. “Legislative sessions are supposed to be held next week at the Parliament so as to approve the laws agreed upon,” he said. The parliament is supposed to look into draft laws that include tax amendments related to the wage scale law. Khalil's comments came before the government held its meeting Friday at the Grand Serail to tackle the wage hikes crisis. The cabinet –that reached an agreement on the disbursement of the wage scale according to the new law--has greed on an expedited draft law during its Friday session that will be referred to the parliament.

Bassil Defends Muallem Talks, Reassures on Ties with Hariri, Hizbullah

Naharnet/September 29/17/Free Patriotic Movement chief and Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil on Thursday strongly defended his latest meeting with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem, which sparked controversy in Lebanon, as he reassured on the firmness of the FPM's ties with each of al-Mustaqbal Movement and Hizbullah. “I don't want anyone to attack the premiership, but I won't accept that my jurisdiction be encroached on,” Bassil said in an interview on LBCI “No one should believe that they can deal with us as 'dhimmis' by attacking us and not daring to attack others,” Bassil added, referring to the criticism of his New York meeting with Muallem. “We have a political and diplomatic relation with Syria and I don't need the Cabinet's permission to meet with Walid Muallem at the U.N.,” he stressed. He added: “I'm keen on Lebanon more than Syria and I want the Lebanese people's approval before the approval of any other people.” Asked about the relation with Prime Minister Saad Hariri, Bassil said: “Our rapprochement with PM Hariri is still ongoing and we are keen on it, and if the situation is otherwise, let him act accordingly.”
Turning to the relation with Hizbullah, Bassil said: “We will preserve our strategic agreement with Hizbullah and the partnership agreement with al-Mustaqbal Movement.”As for the thorny issue of returning Syrian refugees to their country, the Foreign Minister said “we cannot maintain the waiting policy that they other camp has endorsed.” “I have informed PM Hariri that we will no longer accept to stand idly by regarding the refugee issue,” he revealed. Separately, Bassil pointed out that there is an attempt to “revive the previous political alignments” but emphasized that “it will be thwarted because it has no place.” Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq, who is close to Hariri, had recently boycotted President Michel Aoun's visit to France in protest at the Bassil-Muallem meeting. He described the talks as as “political attack on the prime minister.” “We will respond to it with all the available means,” he vowed.

Cabinet Approves Salaries Disbursement Based on New Wage Scale
Naharnet/September 29/17/After four cabinet meetings dedicated to address the controversial wage hike crisis, Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced Friday that the cabinet has reached an agreement on the issue. Hariri announced that the “cabinet has agreed on an expedited draft law that includes tax adjustments,” noting that “it will be referred to the parliament.” He assured that revenues for the salary scale “will be secured,” noting “keenness on preserving the State's finances.”"We have set three basic criteria to address the issue," he said, referring to a "revised bill containing tax amendments that will be sent to the Parliament as soon as possible.” The cabinet convened at the Grand Serail Friday, in a session dedicated to study the legal measures needed to address the controversial file. “Consensus on solutions would save the country from crisis and enable us to make decisions to maintain the financial situation while securing the wage scale,” said Hariri at the beginning of the meeting. “What is happening requires all of us to work in this spirit, whether in politics or economy or to secure the basic requirements of citizens such as electricity and other things,” he added. He stressed that “rivalry does not fall in the interest of the administration of the state or citizens.” The Cabinet on Thursday reached a solution to the wage hike crisis and scheduled another session Friday to discuss the sources of funding.
The crisis had erupted after the Constitutional Council revoked a tax law aimed at funding the scale following an appeal filed by ten MPs led by Sami Gemayel. The ruling prompted the Cabinet to hold several emergency sessions in a bid to find alternative funding sources, amid protests and an open-ended strike that was declared by private and public school teachers and public employees.

LF Say Resources for Wage Hike Must be Secured, Warn of 'Financial Deterioration'

Naharnet/September 29/17/After the cabinet agreed on Thursday to pay the salaries according to the new wage hikes, the Lebanese Forces emphasized the need to secure revenues to fund the scale for future disbursement of salaries to “prevent financial deterioration,” al-Joumhouria daily reported on Friday. “Disbursing salaries based on the new wage scale requires a legal measure that prevents the government from disbursing salaries in the future without securing the needed revenues,” unnamed Lebanese Forces sources told the daily. They said that failure to do so “will lead to financial deterioration and the monetary stability will tumble down.”The Cabinet on Thursday reached a solution to the wage hike crisis where the salaries of public sector employees will be paid this month according to the new wage scale. But due to lack of sources to fund the hikes, it has been agreed to pay this month's salaries to public sector employees on condition that they be suspended should no revenues be secured. Deputy Prime Minister Ghassan Hasbani confirmed after the cabinet meeting that the wage hike “could be suspended” in the coming months “should no revenues be secured to fund it.”The crisis had erupted after the Constitutional Council revoked a tax law aimed at funding the new wage scale following an appeal filed by ten MPs led by Sami Gemayel. The ruling prompted the Cabinet to hold several emergency sessions in a bid to find alternative funding sources, amid protests and an open-ended strike that was declared by private and public school teachers and public employees.The Cabinet will hold another session Friday to put the final touches.

UK launches social enterprise project 'SoUK.LB' in Lebanon
29 Sep 2017/NNA - In a press release by the British Embassy, it said : "What do you need to get your business idea off the ground? The UK has launched SoUK.LB project to help entrepreneurs make social change with an impact. There is one week to go to apply for a grant to launch and drive the growth of your social enterprise."Release added: "SoUK.LB - Social Enterprise Hub is a pioneering project on social enterprise in Lebanon. As part of its long term investments in Lebanon's economy to further job creation, this new initiative by the British embassy in Lebanon will support social enterprises with $15,000 to $40,000 grant per finalist. The project aims to strengthen and promote this unique and growing sector by supporting enterprises that seek to create transformational social or environmental change for the benefit of society."
Release said: "The UK is committed to Lebanon's stability and security and believes in its prosperity given Lebanon's long tradition of trade, business and entrepreneurship. Today Lebanon faces regional, socio-economic challenges, and ever greater pressure on the economy. The UK has already seen the benefits that social entrepreneurship offers for local communities, and has become a world leader in this sector, an experience it is now offering to share with Lebanon. Through social entrepreneurship, Lebanon can benefit from this model for effective and sustainable solutions to some of these challenges."
Release concluded: "We invite you to put forward your applications today. The selected applicants will be provided with training, mentorship and grants for finalists. Details on how to apply: , Facebook/Twitter/Instagram: souklbco"

Lassen discusses waste management challenges with MP Chehayeb

Fri 29 Sep 2017/NNA - Ambassador Christina Lassen, Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Lebanon, met today with the Head of the Environment Parliamentary Committee, MP Akram Chehayeb, and discussed with him the urgent challenges that Lebanon is facing in managing solid waste, particularly in Beirut and Mount Lebanon. In a press release by the EU Delegation to Lebanon, it said: "Ambassador Lassen addressed with MP Chehayeb the need to move forward with the review and adoption of the law on integrated solid waste management." Lassen said: "It is crucial to get the legal and regulatory framework in place in order to establish the necessary standards." She also highlighted the importance of "paving the way for long-term financing for the whole sector" and underlined the importance of working hand in hand with all concerned parties towards finding suitable solutions. The Ambassador added: "The discussion would certainly benefit from the experience accumulated by the private sector and the civil society in recent years. The EU stands ready to assist in organising consultations and to provide expertise."

Hariri: We achieved the solution thanks to political consensus
Fri 29 Sep 2017 at 16:48 Politics
NNA - The President of the Council of Ministers Saad Hariri chaired at 10:30 today at the Grand Serail an extraordinary cabinet meeting to continue discussing the decisions reached during yesterday's session and study the regular agenda.
Hariri started by thanking everyone for the great effort exerted to reach a consensus on the discussed solutions. He said that "the consensus would save the country from a crisis and enable us to take decisions to maintain the financial stability while securing the payment of the salaries and providing the required revenues. What is happening requires all of us to work in this spirit, whether in politics or economy or by securing the basic requirements of the citizens such as electricity and others. Rivalry and disagreement are the enemies of the country and are not in the interest of the state nor the citizens".
After the meeting, Hariri said:
"From the first day of the decision of the Constitutional Council to annul the law financing the ranks and salaries scale, I put 3 basic criteria to address this issue:
1- The government is determined to implement the Ranks and salaries scale, because it is entrusted with the implementation of laws issued by Parliament.
2- The Government is entrusted with the Constitution and therefore respects the decision of the Constitutional Council.
3- The Government is entrusted with the interests of all Lebanese, and most importantly the preservation of monetary and financial stability, which preserves the value of their income and savings.
I said, based on these criteria, that the government will look for a solution that ensures the implementation of the scale and provides the revenues to maintain monetary and financial stability in cooperation with Parliament.
After four cabinet sessions, we reached today an expedited draft law that includes the necessary tax adjustments. We will send it to Parliament for approval as soon as possible.
These amendments are essentially those that existed in the previous law, taking into account the observations of the Constitutional Council.
We also agreed in the Council of Ministers on a formula to settle the account that will enable us with Parliament to approve the budget quickly.
I wanted to speak to the Lebanese and tell them:
The problem that we faced was part of the constitutional institutions game, and therefore it is not an expression of a fundamental political problem or a problem of political consensus. I would like to say that if the political consensus did not exist in the country, the country would have entered a complex and difficult phase. Each side would have stood behind its political position and we would have had a problem in the salaries and rank scale and a problem to approve taxes and reach a consensus in the problem of account settlement.
This political consensus that continues and on which we are keen, the President of the Republic, all the parties in the government and I, has produced this solution, which some thought would be complicated, but in the end we reached it. This political consensus will determine how we govern this country and put the interests of the citizens before the interests of all parties and see how we can preserve the state finances, monetary system, the Lebanese pound and the rights of all Lebanese.
Therefore, I want to tell the unions that took to the street that I know that you had worries about the fate of the scale, but be sure that this government, with parliament and with the president, was keen on approving the scale, reforms and taxes. It is this government, under this term, that approved the ranks and salaries scale, reforms and taxes. You have been protesting for five years without any result, and this government fulfilled these demands. The salaries will be paid on the basis of the scale and this led us to hold intensive meetings this week and we accomplished what had to be achieved.
I repeat that everything that happened is due to the political consensus between all the parties in the Council of Ministers who made efforts day and night to reach this solution. No one was working against this solution but unfortunately there are persons who tried to say that a political team wants to pay the series and another one refuses to pay it. Today the Council of Ministers showed solidarity and took the necessary decisions, and Parliament will do the same hopefully. I am talking to Speaker Nabih Berri and yesterday the President of the Republic opened the doors for the solution and next week we go to Parliament to vote all these laws".
Question: What is the formula you have reached regarding the account settlement?
Hariri: In Lebanon, there is a special situation in the matter of account settlement. We had a civil war in the country. To regularize the situation, accounts were brought to zero in 1993. A settlement was supposed to take place after a year or two but that did not happen. Parliament settled the account, and always kept an item within the settlement of account saying that the Audit council has the right to audit the accounts and approve them whenever it wishes. But this did not happen all these years. Therefore, since we started this government, we tried to organize all these things. We have not been able to find the time to achieve it in the 2017 budget. There must be a settlement of account in accordance with the constitution, but the lack of a budget is also a breach of the constitution. For all these years, we have been working on the twelfth rule and violating the Constitution because of the lack of budget.
What we are doing is that we approved the budget in Cabinet and we will approve it in Parliament so we can accomplish all the necessary actions in terms of budget and account settlement within six months or eight months or a year.
Question: Is it true that there was a presidential crisis during this period?
Hariri: I am allied with President Michel Aoun, Speaker Nabih Berri and with all the political forces in this government. But this is democracy, if not everyone has an opinion and if the prime minister does not try to assemble all the opinions then what is his job, or job of the President of the Republic and Parliament Speaker? Our work is to try to convince all the political parties to agree on one opinion. And then why should we say that there is a disagreement between the President of the Republic and Parliament Speaker? This is not true. There was an appeal. When we voted the scale, reforms and tax, did anyone talk about a disagreement? The problem is that there was an appeal and the Constitutional Council invalidated the law. For our part, we respected the decision of the Constitutional Council.
Imagine that there was no consensus in the country today and this appeal happened and the Constitutional Council annulled the law, where would the country be? We took the necessary decisions and there is no problem between the Presidency of Parliament and the Presidency of the Republic.
Question: You seem to have separated the economic and social work in the government from the political action because in politics there are contradictory views?
Hariri: There are political disagreements. You know my position. I am not ready to deal with the Syrian regime at all. This is clear and this government is clear and our ministerial statement is also clear.
Yes, there is a political disagreement in this matter.
Question: How do you see Minister Gebran Bassil's meeting with Minister Walid Al-Moallem?
Hariri: I confirm that there is a political disagreement, and I disagree with Minister Bassil meeting with Walid al-Moualem.
Question: Will you visit Saudi Arabia?
Hariri: I always visit Saudi Arabia, I was there two weeks ago.
Question: What prevents the Constitutional Council from annulling the new law?
Hariri: Nothing prevents it, but as a government and parliament, our position is clear. There are things that Speaker Berri talked about very clearly, and we also did as a government. Parliament has the right to approve taxes whenever it pleases. This comes in article 81, and even the Constitutional Council had to clarify this. So we know what we are doing and we will continue until the end.
Question: Regarding the taxes on banks, are they still on the agenda?
Hariri: We took all the observations made by the Constitutional Council and hopefully no one will be able to appeal again.
In conclusion, I say to all the Lebanese: This is democracy, there are appeals, there are reactions, there is a consensus. But more importantly and what proved that we are on the right track is that this political consensus was able to find in the very difficult stages all the solutions to get out of the crises that would have harmed us.
Question: What do you say to the unions?
Hariri: I call on all unions to suspend their strikes and to reopen administrations and schools because everything you did was useless because the government was working properly. Today, if I want to see as a government how much these strikes have cost me, I will blame the unions. We were serious in finding a solution, but I tell them today that the salaries will be paid as approved and on time.
US military delegation
Later on, Hariri met with US Central Comman (CENTCOM) Deputy Commander, Lieutenant General Charles Brown, at the head of a large military delegation in the presence of US Ambassador Elizabeth Richard.
The meeting focused on US military assistance to the Lebanese Army.
China-Pakistan economic corridor
Hariri also received the Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, Senator Mushahid Hussein Sayed, who is currently visiting Lebanon at the invitation of the Prime Minister Hariri.
The meeting took place in the presence of Minister Jamal Al Jarrah, former Minister Raya Al Hassan and advisors Fadi Fawaz, Nadim Al Monla and Abdul Ghani Kabara. The discussion focused on the "Belt and Road" project which redraws the Silk Road and links China with a number of countries including Pakistan and Lebanon, and the economic benefits on the Lebanese economy.
The talks continued over a lunch hosted by Hariri.

Marotti meets Military Police Commander, attends conclusion ceremony of two courses on inspection

Fri 29 Sep 2017/NNA - Italian Ambassador to Lebanon, Massimo Marotti, met the Military Police Commander B. General Nabil Abdallah at the MP Headquarters in Baabda. Ambassador Marotti attended the ceremony for the conclusion of the "Crime Scene Inspection (CSI) and collection specialist" and the "Management and evidence collection" training courses organized by the Italian Bilateral Military Mission in Lebanon (MIBIL). The Carabinieri specialized instructors attended the event as well. In a press release by the Italian Embassy, it said: "During the six-week course, 29 Lebanese officials from the Military Police, the Engineering Regiment of the Intelligence Directorate of the State Security and from the General Security, were able to optimize their capacities in the fields of scientific investigations and their technical skills to operate on the scene of crime." The Italian instructors have illustrated the concepts related to the crime scene's screening, to the finds' collection and to the laboratory tests to be conducted on the evidence. Wide space was devoted to practical exercises, materials and techniques for accessing and examining the crime scene as well as researching, highlighting, storing and documenting biological, ballistic, chemical, and firearm residues. Ambassador Marotti stressed the Italian commitment to support the Lebanese Armed Forces and the role of the Italian Training Mission in helping the LAF acquiring modern capacities. The value of the training activities and equipment donated to the LAF reached €20 million in last two years.

Sarraf, CENTCOM Deputy Commander tackle military cooperation

Fri 29 Sep 2017/NNA - National Defense Minister, Yaacoub Riad al-Sarraf, on Friday met at his ministerial office with CENTCOM Deputy Commander General Charles Brown, on top of a delegation, in the presence of US Ambassador to Lebanon, Elizabeth Richard. Talks reportedly touched on the overall situation in Lebanon and the broad region, in addition to bilateral cooperation between the two countries, notably at the military level. General Brown lauded the Lebanese army's recent achievement in its battle against terrorism, and underlined continual military cooperation between the two countries. Brown also relayed the United States' keenness on Lebanon's stability and its constant support to consecrate this stability. He also noted that "the profits of the US military aid to the Lebanese army are the highest among the countries receiving aids from the American side." Minister Sarraf, for his part, thanked General Brown on his country's permanent support for the military institution, stressing the importance of enhancing and boosting this support. Sarraf also underlined the Lebanese state and army's determination to continue to fight terrorism and prevent tampering with the security and stability of Lebanon. "Lebanon is one of the most stable and secure countries thanks to the efforts of its armed forces." On the current southern situation, the Minister brought to attention the permanent Israeli violations of Resolution 1701 and the Lebanese sovereignty, reiterating "Lebanon's commitment to the provisions of this resolution and its categorical rejection of Israeli practices." Sarraf hailed "the existing cooperation between UNIFIL forces and the Lebanese army, which has anchored calm in the south and cooperation between UNIFIL and the people at the various levels."

MP, Nadim Gemayel: Greatest Threat Facing Lebanon is Iran and Syria
مقابلة بالإنكليزية مع النائب نديم الجميل
International Policy Digest/September 29/17
In the arena of domestic policy, in which the old and experienced politicians are the main role players and influential people, he is considered as one of the youngest political activists. Nadim Gemayel is 35 years old. He is one of the most prominent members of Lebanese Kataeb Party, which was previously known as Lebanese Phalange Party, one of the rightist Christian parties in Lebanon. He believed in a specific type of Lebanese nationalism preserving the interests of the Maronites.
Being the son of the late-Bachir Gemayel, the former president of Lebanon, Nadim is one of the most famous political characters of the country. Other Hezbollah members and he are opposed to Syria’s intervention in Lebanon’s internal affairs, are strongly against Lebanon Hezbollah, and constantly criticize Iranian government policy about Beirut.
There are many claims about his party (Kataeb) and its role during Lebanon’s eight-year internal war, namely the cooperation of Phalange Party with Israel and its contribution in the massacres.
Nadim Gemayel’s answers have been translated from the original French.
*Your party and you are one of the main opponents of Syria’s intervention in Lebanon’s internal affairs. Now, what do you think about Syria’s situation and its troubles due to getting involved in the crisis?
We do not like Syria to be in crisis because of two major reasons. First, our opposition is against Syria government, while the main victims of this crisis are Syrian people, who are in trouble. Second, Syria’s intervention in Lebanon’s internal affairs has not stopped yet. Syria is continuing its interventions indirectly through its allies, namely Lebanon Hezbollah. The Syria crisis has clearly resulted in mass immigration of Syrian refugees to Lebanon. This is direct threat against Lebanon.
*Presence of Salafi groups in Syria might have a direct influence on similar groups in Lebanon. Are you worried about it?
I do not worry about this matter as our security forces are very efficient, are able to defeat most of terroristic forces in Lebanon territory, and will keep on this job. Kataeb Party and I have always been opposed to the actions of the Syrian regime and its policies in Syria and Lebanon since we believe that it was Syrian regime policies that helped Salafi development in Syria and other parts of the world.
*Lebanon was the arena of rivalry between the foreign powers for their higher influence in the country. Do you think this situation would be ceased someday?
It has been one my major goals in my political activities: independency and political decision making without foreign intervention. Unfortunately, we cannot argue that it is possible today, since Iran and Syria are trying to gain the control of our country by the political parties and Lebanese organizations, which are their allies.
*What do you think about the presence of Hezbollah forces in Syria civil war?
Hezbollah acts independently, and is a government within another government. It has a parallel economy, its own military forces, and has developed its own structures in all aspects of public and social life. This group gets order directly from Tehran. Lebanon government doesn’t argue about the intervention of Hezbollah militias in Syria. It is very important to remind them they are Lebanese above all, and their main goal should be to defend the interests of their country against other countries, groups, or forces. Therefore, they must confine their activities to synchronizing with the Lebanon army. We express our opposition against Lebanon Hezbollah by a political stance. But if we feel they are a threat to our free presence in Lebanon, we will use other tools to resist against them.
*Are you worried about probable temptation of Hezbollah to establish an Islamic government is Lebanon?
Hezbollah ideology is establishing a government is Lebanon similar to Islamic government in Iran. They have clearly and explicitly stated this purpose. It was announced by its leaders since the beginning. I think it is the time for Hezbollah to discern that the democratic and political structure of Lebanon inhibits implementation of this project. It is very important to note that a significant number of Shia society condemn Hezbollah’s ideology. We, the Lebanese citizens and politicians, are responsible for defending the Lebanese democratic and free idea, i.e., a country without a religious government, if not secular in its thorough sense.
*What do you think about Trump’s policy against the Middle East?
Trump does not have taken a clear policy about the Middle East and its developments. However, America’s policy in the region has always been closeness to Israel and Saudi Arabia. I see no reason for Trump to change this policy as there is no necessity in this regard. In the end, any country is seeking its own interests and the USA interests in the region hasn’t changed either. We expect to compare Trump’s activities in the Middle East with Obama. We haven’t seen any significant activity from his side yet. We hope to see a positive achievement about Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, and see the results practically.
*The opponents of Gemayel family accuse the members of your family of stimulating the opposite thoughts and creating a severe internal war. They have accused you of collaborating with Israel since 1982. What is your opinion in this regard? What do you think about Israel and Israel-Palestine Conflict?
We haven’t lured anybody and have done nothing to start the war. It was the Palestinian military organizations who acted provocatively since the collapse of Cairo in 1969 (when Arafat was selected as the leader of Palestine Liberation Organization). The events contributing in Lebanon civil war were not related to the Lebanese parties, but were attributed to the fact that the armed Palestinian forces had violated the governance, freedom, and resistance of Lebanese, who were mainly Christian. I want to remind you a famous sentence from Arafat. He said that Jerusalem path passes through Jounieh (a city 15-kilometer from north of Beirut, whose residents are mostly Christian).
We defended our land and country against the strangers who wanted to get us out of it. We cannot talk about cooperation with Israel when we were defending our country and identity on this planet. In this case, cooperation has a real meaning when someone sacrifices the interests of their own country for those of another one. We had to buy weapons from Israel since other countries refused to sell us weapon. It was a very critical situation for us and presence of Christians in Lebanon. We accept our previous actions. If our presence in this country faces some risks and threats again, we will contact with any government perceiving this matter and will use anything to preserve our independence and dignity. We shouldn’t forget that we offered and proposed nothing to Israel in return. Today, Israel is the enemy if Lebanon. We have never questioned this fact and doubted about it.
I believe that the conflict between Israel and Palestine should be resolved soon as it might decrease the pressure on Lebanon and reduce the tension in the whole Middle East.
*Your critics argue that Lebanon Falange cooperated with Israel in 1982, and Bachir Gemayel met Ariel Sharon. Is there any relationship between you and Israel now?
I want to repeat that there was no “cooperation” with Israel, and we still have no relationship with Israel government.
*Some people still believe that Lebanon Falanges contributed in the massacre of the Palestinian and Lebanese Muslims. One of Falange members stated that your father ordered to massacre a number of Muslims to retaliate the killing of four Christians. What is your opinion in this regard?
I highly doubt that Bachir has ordered so. He was always aware of the fact that Lebanon cannot pass the fight unless all Lebanese are united together. Such order for massacre was against Lebanon, and Bachir definitely didn’t wish for such an action against Lebanon. Nothing beyond the historical background and platform of the war at the time can be discussed in this regard.
The past has passed. Our actions today show that we wish for union of all Lebanese residents under the flag of this country. Today, the main threat to Lebanon is the influence of Iran and Syria in the policies of our country, which has an armed group supported from Tehran and Damascus through Lebanon Hezbollah.

*What do you think about the fact that most Lebanese leaders are old, and Lebanese youth have no effective role in policy?
The political structure of the country is very complex. It takes so many years to change it. I believe that the youth participation in the power is the first necessary step for this change. The youth have a broader view than the old people, and show greater tolerance and compromise in different societies. Currently, the youth have a nominal political role, which is mainly due to the economic crisis we are facing now. This crisis has made some of them to leave their country and immigrate for living. A quick review over the last 10-15 years shows that participation of the youth in policy is increasing.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on September 29-30/17
Russia’s Lavrov Says Cooperation with US on Syria ‘Not without Problems’

Asharq Al Awsat/September 29/17/There are problems with cooperation between Russia and the United States in Syria, Interfax news agency cited Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as saying on Friday. “How we are cooperating on Syria – yes, not without problems of course, because not everyone takes things the same way,” Interfax quoted Lavrov as saying. “Nevertheless, it is an example of how you can set aside differences and concentrate on common interests.”On that note, Syria’s regime struck a deal to buy 3 million tons of wheat from its ally Russia over three years and is working to secure credit finance from Moscow for the grain, Syria’s internal trade minister told Reuters. Beside providing Syrian regime head Bashar al-Assad with vital military support in the country’s six-year conflict, Moscow has also supplied some wheat, which is critical for the production of the country’s heavily subsidized staple flat bread. “There are contracts being followed up with Russia,” Abdullah al-Gharbi, the minister of internal trade and consumer protection, said in an interview. “Now, there is a three-year contract we signed, and we are trying to secure finances for it from the Russian side,” he said, adding the overall deal was for 3 million tons. “We are importing around 1.7 million tons this year from Russia,” Gharbi said. US and EU banking sanctions and asset freezes against Syria have made it difficult for some commodity trading houses to do business with the Syrian government, though trade with Russia poses fewer problems.
Russia’s Agriculture Ministry declined to comment. Syria has announced several large commercial deals for Russian wheat in the past twelve months, but none has so far been fulfilled, according to Russian customs data.

Tillerson: US does not recognize Kurdish independence vote in Iraq
Reuters Friday, 29 September 2017/The United States does not recognize the independence referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan and urges an end to "threats of reciprocal actions," US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement on Friday. "The United States does not recognize the Kurdistan Regional Government’s unilateral referendum held on Monday. The vote and the results lack legitimacy and we continue to support a united, federal, democratic and prosperous Iraq," Tillerson said. "We urge calm and an end to vocal recriminations and threats of reciprocal actions," he added.

US willing to ‘facilitate’ talks between Baghdad, Kurds
AFP, Washington Friday, 29 September 2017/Washington is willing to “facilitate” talks between Baghdad and Iraq’s Kurdish region to calm soaring tensions surrounding a controversial independence referendum, the US State Department said Thursday. Iraqi Kurds overwhelmingly chose independence in a non-binding vote on Monday, drawing condemnation from Baghdad and neighboring countries. “If asked, we would be willing to help facilitate a conversation between the two” sides, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told journalists in Washington.
Calm on all sides
“We would like to see some calm on all sides,” Nauert said, noting that the US had opposed the referendum “because we thought it would be destabilizing.”The fallout from the vote has so far been largely political, though a flight ban Baghdad plans to impose on Kurdistan from Friday will take an economic toll as well. Also read: Erdogan and Putin agree Iraqi Kurdish referendum has no legitimacy. The US-led coalition against the ISIS group has also said that the referendum has taken focus away from the war against the militants. Kurdish forces have previously clashed with federal pro-government paramilitaries, and with tensions high, there is a significant risk of violence.

Coalition spokesman: Kurdish referendum caused loss of focus fighting ISIS
Reuters Friday, 29 September 2017/The Kurdish referendum for independence has decreased focus on fighting ISIS militants in Iraq, a spokesman for the US-led coalition fighting the militant group said. “The focus which used to be like a laser beam on ISIS is now not 100 percent there, so there has been an effect on the overall mission to defeat ISIS in Iraq as a result of the referendum,” said coalition spokesman Colonel Ryan Dillon. Dillon added that there had been no impact on current military operations out of Erbil’s airport. Iraq’s Transport Ministry ordered international airlines to halt service to Irbil, the Kurdish regional capital, and Sulaimaniyah, its second city, beginning Friday evening.Kurdish forces have also availed themselves of the opportunity the war offered to gain or solidify control over northern territory claimed by both them and Baghdad. The issue of borders and territorial control would be a major source of contention if Iraqi Kurdistan decided to move forward with independence.Turkey, Iran and Syria -- neighboring countries that also have substantial Kurdish populations -- have like Baghdad come out against Kurdish independence, adding a regional dimension to the dispute.The fallout from the vote has so far been largely political, but Kurdish forces have previously clashed with federal pro-government paramilitaries, and with tensions high, there is a significant risk of violence.(With agencies)

Abadi calls travel ban constitutional, Kurdistan refuses to relinquish borders
Reuters, Erbil Friday, 29 September 2017/As the Iraqi Prime Minister on Friday said the direct air travel ban is not “a punition against the citizens of the region” the Kurdistan Regional Government refused to relinquish control of its border crossings. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in a statement that the action was a constitutional measure decided by the government in the interest of the residents of Kurdistan. Erbil-based TV Rudaw said on Friday, citing a KRG official that the regional government refused handing over the border crossings with Turkey, Iran and Syria to central government officials.
Backed by Ankara and Tehran, the Iraqi government has demanded that the Kurdish leadership cancel the result of the referendum or face sanctions, international isolation and possibly a military intervention. An embargo on direct international travel to Kurdistan is set to begin at 6:00 pm local time 1500 GMT imposed by the Iraqi government to force the KRG to hand over the control of its airports to Baghdad. Al-Sistani urged the Kurdistan Regional Government “to return to the constitutional path in solving disputes”. (Supplied)
Sistani says no to independence
During a Friday sermon in the holy city of Kerbala, Iraq’s top Shi’ite cleric, announced his opposition to the secession of the Kurdistan region.
Ahmed al-Safi, a representative of the reclusive octogenarian, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, said in the sermon that “any attempt to make secession an accomplished fact will lead to undesired consequences affecting Kurdish citizens”.
He urged the Kurdistan Regional Government “to return to the constitutional path in solving disputes” such as self-determination for the Kurdish people, Safi said.
It is the first direct political sermon by Sistani since early 2016, in a clear sign that he attaches importance to the crisis pitting the KRG against Baghdad and Iraq’s neighbors. Sistani stopped making direct political comments in Feb. 2016, in protest at the widespread and deep-rooted corruption within Iraqi government institutions.
Most Iraqi Kurds are Sunni Muslims but Kurdish northern Iraq is also home to some Shi’ite Turkmens and Arabs. Masoud Barzani’s KRG says Monday’s referendum, which delivered an overwhelming yes for independence, was meant to pave the way for a peaceful secession from Iraq, through talks with Baghdad and neighboring states Turkey and Iran. Barzani said last week one reason for holding the referendum was because he feared Iraq, split between a Shi’ite majority and Sunni minority, was becoming a sectarian-based “theocracy”, not a proper democracy as promised after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that ousted veteran ruler Saddam Hussein. The Iraqi government has rejected any talks with the KRG and demanded that the Kurdish leadership cancel the result in order to avoid sanctions, international isolation and possibly a military intervention.
Last flight departs
The last international flight left Erbil airport on Friday as the Baghdad government imposed an air ban on Iraqi Kurdistan in retaliation for an independence vote that has drawn widespread opposition from foreign powers. Iraq’s Kurds overwhelmingly backed independence in Monday’s referendum, defying neighboring countries, which fear the vote could lead to renewed conflict in the region. Foreign airlines suspended flights to Erbil and Sulaimaniya in the Kurdish region, obeying a notice from the government in Baghdad, which controls Iraqi air space.

Macron: France ready to help Baghdad ease tensions with Kurdish region
Reuters Saturday, 30 September 2017/French President Emmanuel Macron offered on Friday to help ease tensions between Baghdad and the Kurdish regional government over an independence vote held in Iraqi Kurdistan, warning that any further escalation should be avoided. In a statement after a telephone call with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi, Macron’s office said he had invited Abadi to Paris on Oct. 5 to discuss the issue, but warned that the two sides should remain united in their priority to defeat ISIS and stabilize Iraq. “All escalation should be avoided,” Macron said in the statement.

Monitor: 58 Syria government fighters killed in ISIS attacks
AFP, Beirut Friday, 29 September 2017/ISIS militants killed at least 58 Syrian government troops and militia as the militants put up fierce resistance to a Russian-backed offensive against some of its last bastions, a monitor said Friday. Most of Thursday’s dead came south of the desert town of Sukna, east of the ancient city of Palmyra, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. ISIS put out a statement claiming to have killed scores of regime fighters in the area and also released what it said was an audio recording of its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi urging resistance, his first in months. Syrian troops pushed through the vast desert that separates the main cities of the west from the Euphrates Valley this summer and broke a three-year ISIS siege of government enclaves in the eastern city of Deir Ezzor earlier this month.
Supply lines
Thursday’s attacks targeted government forces around Deir Ezzor and on their supply lines through the Sukna area from the west, the Observatory said. “The first attacks were carried out against checkpoints manned by loyalist troops in Al-Shula,” a village near Deir Ezzor, the Britain-based monitoring group said.
“ISIS then carried out a series of attacks against checkpoints along the length of the motorway from Al-Shula to south of Sukna.”The attacks by the militants came as they face multiple offensives against the last bastions of their self-proclaimed caliphate -- by US-backed fighters and Russian-backed government forces in Syria and by troops and paramilitaries in Iraq.

ISIS Releases Audio for Baghdadi
Asharq Al Awsat//September 29/17London- ISIS issued on Thursday what appears to be the first recording in nearly a year of its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The message released was his first purported audio communication in almost a year during which his group has lost much of its self-proclaimed “caliphate.” The date of the 46-minute recording, released via the al-Furqan news organization, was not clear. But in it, Baghdadi made an apparent reference to recent events including North Korean threats against Japan and United States and the recapture two months ago of Mosul by US-backed Iraqi forces, according to top Reuters. The audio, partly dedicated to religious scriptures, came after several reports Baghdadi had been killed. His last recording was in November 2016, two weeks after the start of the battle to recapture the city of Mosul from ISIS. “Oh Soldiers of the Caliphate, fan the flames of war on your enemies, take it to them and besiege them in every corner and stand fast and courageous.”“Beware of retreat, or the feeling of defeat, beware of negotiations or surrender. Do not lay down your arms,” Baghdadi said, referring to his followers. Instead of pondering his group’s losses, Baghdadi emphasized the threat the West still faces from ISIS, making indirect references to recent attacks on the Underground in London, in the heart of Barcelona and in Russia. Since Baghdadi proclaimed the caliphate stretching across Iraq and Syria in 2014, Iraqi forces have retaken a string of cities in western and northern Iraq including Mosul, where Baghdadi made his announcement from the city’s El Nuri mosque. Officials have said they believed it could take years to capture or kill Baghdadi as he is thought to be hiding in a vast swathe of sparsely-populated desert between Mosul and Raqqa, where attacking drones are easy to spot. Russia’s defense ministry said earlier this year it might have killed Baghdadi in an airstrike on a gathering of ISIS commanders on the outskirts of Raqqa. However, US officials said they could not corroborate the death and other Western, as well as Iraqi officials, were skeptical. In June, the Russian military said it might have killed Baghdadi in a strike on ISIS leaders in May near Raqqa. In July, a British-based monitoring organization, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said senior ISIS commanders had confirmed that Baghdadi had been killed in Deir Ezzour Province.

Syria: Linguistic, Cultural Conflict in Areas of Influence
Asharq Al Awsat//September 29/17/Beirut, Ankara, Damascus, London- A Cultural and linguistic conflict has emerged recently among competing forces in addition to the rapid military and economic conflict in various regions of Syria, which have become areas of regional and international influence. In the areas that are controlled by the Syrian regime, the Russians have begun boosting their cultural presence alongside their direct military presence since the end of 2015. They have obtained a license to teach Russian in public schools and to promote the cultural activities of the Russian Cultural Center, which inherited the Soviet Cultural Center in central Damascus. This has constituted a competition for Iranians, who have been trying to spread the Persian culture and the Shiite ideology, focusing on the poor and the countryside, amid a decline in their civilian deployment after the Russian intervention. However, Tehran’s attempts still exist amid the spread of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard-backed militias, whose members have exceeded 60,000, and official interest in the US and French schools has declined. The opposition areas are culturally divided into different “schools”.In northern Syria, the Kurds are in conflict with time. After being deprived of speaking their Kurdish language, they are now studying it in areas controlled by the “Syrian Democratic Forces” which are dominated by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units. In the areas of the Euphrates Shield, which constitute about 2,000 square kilometers north of Aleppo and are controlled by the Free Syrian Army factions that are supported by Ankara, the Turkish language has spread in existing schools. Ankara has also obliged refugees, around three million, to learn the Turkish language in Turkish camps, towns, and villages. While the opposition areas in Damascus, southern Syria and Idlib maintained government curricula, some Islamic schools have been established by Islamic groups in addition to the progress of English learning, thanks to the presence of civil institutions and associations supported by Western countries.

France Stresses Commitment to ‘Celle Saint-Cloud Agreements’ during Haftar’s Visit

Asharq Al Awsat//September 29/17/Paris – France is maintaining pressure on the Libyan parties to push for a political settlement, in continuation of the Celle Saint-Cloud summit in July, which brought together Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar, the commander of the Libyan armed forces, and Prime Minister of the National Accord Government, Fayez al-Sarraj, under the auspices of President Emmanuel Macron. Last week, the Elysee Palace hosted technical meetings aimed at following up on recent developments in the Libyan file, according to French official sources. On Thursday, Haftar arrived in Paris, where he met with Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, to brief him on his latest talks in the Italian capital. French diplomatic sources told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that Le Drian has stressed the need to abide by the agreements reached in Celle Saint-Cloud, namely the ceasefire and the holding of legislative and presidential elections next spring. During the July summit, Sarraj and Haftar committed to a conditional ceasefire and to work towards holding elections under UN supervision. Last week in New York, UN Envoy for Libya Ghassan Salame underlined the primacy of the United Nations in any initiative to resolve the Libyan conflict. He noted that the multiplicity and dispersion of initiatives between Paris, Rome, and capitals of neighboring countries, would weaken the role of the UN and its envoy. French sources stressed that the Paris diplomacy wanted to convey the same message to all parties, and believed that the circumstances today were “more appropriate” for the success of an international mediation than they were in the past. During his trip to Italy earlier this week, Haftar met with a number of Italian political and security officials, who called on the army commander to disarm and abandon military action against the UN-backed government, and to participate in the country’s political process, according to local sources.

Libyan Parties Set Conditions for Accepting to Amend Skhirat Agreement
Asharq Al Awsat//September 29/17/Tunis– Libyan political dialogue sessions have focused, for the third consecutive day, on the restructuring of the High Presidential Council, the proposal to elect a president and two vice-presidents, and the future relation between the government of national accord and the council. Political discussions, which are held in Tunis under the supervision of UN Envoy to Libya Ghassan Salame, have concealed an early dispute over who would occupy the Council’s presidency and who would be its members. Among the proposals submitted on Thursday is that Fayez al-Sarraj, who currently heads the council, remains in office, provided that two of the council’s deputies – one from the east and the other from the southern part of the country – remain in the same institution.  The meetings kicked off earlier this week, gathering a delegation from the Libyan Parliament and another from the High Council of the State, in addition to representatives of other Libyan factions and tribal leaders.  Observers said that on Thursday, no direct dialogue was held between the Libyan factions, as several political parties addressed letters to the dialogue committees representing Parliament and the State Council, in order to present their stance on the main discussion issues and “set early conditions before moving to the upcoming phase of elections”. In this context, Abdulrahman al-Suwaihli, head of the High Council of the State, called on the United Nations Support Mission in Libya to “grant legislative powers to the Council of State, in equal share with the Parliament, in exchange for its approval to maintain Article 8 that specifies the powers of the commander of armed forces, as well as to retain the subjection of the army leadership to Parliament”. The spokesman for the High Council of Libyan Tribes and Cities, Khaled Ramadan Abou Amid, issued a statement welcoming Salame’s initiative, and provided seven conditions for the full engagement in the UN roadmap, most important of which is the holding of intra-Libyan dialogue without any foreign interference. Other conditions he cited included the unconditional release of all Libyan regime prisoners and the lifting of all security and legal restrictions and international criminal warrants against wanted persons.” Last week, Salame outlined an action plan of three phases to resolve the crisis in the country, during a high-level meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session in New York. The three phases include the ongoing round of talks to amend the Skhirat Agreement, the holding of a national conference under the UN auspices and the organization of a referendum to adopt a new constitution, paving the way to general elections. In a news conference on Thursday, the UN envoy to Libya said that the Libyan political agreement, known as the Skhirat Agreement, would be referred to Parliament, after the completion of its amendment.

Libya Dismantles Network Involved in Beheading of Copts
Asharq Al Awsat//September 29/17/Cairo- A Libyan official revealed on Thursday that the authorities have dismantled a network that had carried out several terrorist attacks in the country, mainly the beheading of 21 Coptic Christians from Egypt in Sirte in February 2015. Sadiq Al-Sour, head of investigations for the Attorney General’s office, said in a press conference he held in the Libyan capital Tripoli that authorities had arrested a senior ISIS commander who supervised the beheadings. “He gave details on the incident and indicated their place of burial,” Sour said. “We are seeking with military authorities in the central region to discover where the bodies are, and hopefully we will find them, despite the time that has passed.”Investigators learned that ISIS had established a “desert army” led by Libyan militant Al-Mahdi Salem Dangou, also known as Abu Barakat, Sour said. The force includes three brigades operating under Dangou, each with its own commander. “This army was established after the liberation of the city of Sirte… Now they are in the Libyan desert,” said Sour. Al-Sour said security forces have also detained militants who were involved in the 2012 attack on the US Embassy in Benghazi, which killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. “Among them were several Egyptians,” who had been receiving direct orders from al-Qaeda leader Ayman and Zawahiri, he added.On the fate of missing Tunisian journalists Sufian Shuwarbi and Nathir Gutari, the chief prosecutor said that the two men had been killed by ISIS. Meanwhile, Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano told the Senate foreign affairs and defense committees that he would visit Libya for talks with Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, his deputy and the Libyan foreign minister.

Iraq Forces Attack IS-Held Town of Hawija
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/September 29/17/Iraqi forces on Friday launched an assault on the northern town of Hawija, one of the last bastions still held by the Islamic State group in the country, its commander said. "A huge military operation has begun to liberate Hawija and its surrounding areas," Lieutenant General Abdel Amir Yarallah said in a statement. Iraqi forces began an operation to retake the jihadist enclave around Hawija on September 21, swiftly taking the town of Sharqat on its second day before pushing on towards Hawija itself.

Palestinians Slam 'False' Comments by US Israel Envoy
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/September 29/17/The US ambassador in Tel Aviv has angered Palestinians with a comment downplaying Israel's 50-year occupation of the West Bank, the second such spat in a month. In a video interview with Israeli news site Walla, broadcast in full on Friday, ambassador David Friedman said the Jewish state is "only occupying two percent of the West Bank". It brought an angry response from Palestine Liberation Organisation secretary general Saeb Erekat after an excerpt from the interview was aired on Thursday evening. "Israel is internationally recognised as the occupying power over 100 percent of Palestine, including in and around occupied east Jerusalem," Erekat said. He said Friedman's latest comment was "not only false and misleading but contradicts international law, United Nations resolutions and also the historical US position". "It is not the first time that Mr David Friedman has exploited his position as US ambassador to advocate and validate the Israeli government's policies of occupation and annexation," Erekat added. Early in September, Friedman caused a stir when in an interview with the Jerusalem Post he referred to the "alleged occupation". A US official told AFP then that the ambassador's comment "does not represent a shift in US policy". This time too, the State Department appeared to distance itself from its envoy. "His comments... should not be read as a way to prejudge the outcome of any negotiation that the US would have with Israel and the Palestinians," spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters in Washington on Thursday. "It should not be read as a change in US policy."Israel occupied the West Bank in the Six-Day War of 1967 and later annexed east Jerusalem in a move never recognised by the international community.
More than 600,000 Israelis now live in settlements in the territory which are regarded as illegal by most of the international community. US President Donald Trump is seeking to restart frozen peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Friedman said the president remained committed to a peace agreement but had not set any formal timeframe. "I would expect (a deal) within months," he said. "But we're not going to limit ourselves to any hard deadline. We're trying to get it done right, not done fast." The Palestinians have grown increasingly concerned by Trump and his team, including Friedman, who have yet to publicly commit to the idea of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel, the so-called "two-state solution." "I think that phrase has lost its meaning," Friedman told Walla. "It means different things to different people."Asked by the interviewer what the phrase meant to him, Friedman replied, "I'm not sure. I'm not focusing on labels I'm focusing on solutions."

Britain 'Unconditionally' Committed to EU Security, Says May
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/September 29/17/Britain is "unconditionally committed" to European security despite Brexit, Prime Minister Theresa May told British troops stationed with NATO in Estonia on Friday, as EU leaders met to discuss the future of the bloc. Visiting troops with French President Emmanuel Macron, May reiterated Britain's position that security cooperation is not up for debate in London's tense divorce negotiations with the European Union as she seeks to improve the mood and unlock the next stage of talks. She and Macron visited NATO forces posted just 100 kilometres (60 miles) from the Russian border as part of a mission to reassure Baltic states the alliance will protect them from any Kremlin aggression. "While we are leaving the EU, as I have said many times, we are not leaving Europe," May told forces at the Tapa base in northern Estonia. "The UK is unconditionally committed to maintaining European security and we will continue to offer aid and assistance to EU member states which are the victims of armed aggression, terrorism and natural or man-made disasters." NATO has deployed four battle groups -- around 4,000 troops -- to Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and Poland in recent years in response to growing Russian assertiveness in the region, particularly after it annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. The alliance has had around 800 British and 300 French soldiers posted at the Tapa base since the spring. Macron told French troops their presence was proof that NATO was committed to protecting its members in the face of a mounting threat from Russia. The two leaders were in Estonia for a summit of EU leaders in Tallinn where the future of the bloc without Britain was set to be the key topic on the agenda.

UN Chief Tells Myanmar to End 'Nightmare' as 19 Drown in Rohingya Boat Capsize
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/September 29/17/UN chief Antonio Guterres exhorted Myanmar's leaders to end the "nightmare" faced by Rohingya refugees fleeing an army campaign, after at least 19 people drowned with scores more feared dead when a boat carrying Rohingya families capsized off Bangladesh.  More than half a million Rohingya Muslims have poured into Bangladesh in the last month, fleeing a vicious Myanmar military crackdown on Rohingya rebels that has gutted villages across northern Rakhine state. Scores have drowned while trying to cross waters separating the two countries, while those who survive face new dangers as they cram into squalid refugee settlements where food and clean water are in short supply. The billowing humanitarian crisis prompted the UN Security Council to hold its first meeting on Myanmar in eight years, though the member countries failed to arrive at a joint resolution.  The US slammed the army for trying "to cleanse the country of an ethnic minority", while Beijing and Moscow offered support to Myanmar authorities who have vehemently rebuffed allegations that ethnic cleansing is underway. Speaking to the 15-member council, Guterres urged Myanmar to halt military operations and open humanitarian access to the conflict-wracked western region. "The situation has spiralled into the world's fastest developing refugee emergency, a humanitarian and human rights nightmare," he said, while calling for those displaced from the conflict to be allowed to return home. The UN chief noted that the "systemic violence" could cause unrest to spill south to the central part of Myanmar's Rakhine state, threatening 250,000 Muslims with displacement. Some of the strongest criticism came from US envoy Nikki Haley, who accused Myanmar authorities of waging a "brutal, sustained campaign to cleanse the country of an ethnic minority". "It should shame senior Burmese leaders who have sacrificed so much for an open, democratic Burma," she added, in what appeared to be a rebuke to the country's civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, whose reputation as a human rights champion has been battered by the crisis.Burma is an alternative name for Myanmar. But Myanmar received strong backing from Russia and China, a close ally and key trade partner. "The international community must be aware of the difficulties faced by the Burmese government, be patient and provide its assistance," Chinese envoy Wu Haitao said. "We must be very careful when we talk about ethnic cleansing and genocide," added Russian ambassador Vassily Nebenzia, taking the Myanmar government line as he blamed Rohingya militants for "burning villages".
Fires have razed hundreds of communities in northern Rakhine over the past month, in what rights groups say is an army-led effort to drive out the stateless minority that has faced decades of persecution. Myanmar, a mainly Buddhist country, has denied the allegation and defended its operations as a proportionate crackdown on the Rohingya militants whose deadly raids on police posts on August 25 sparked the military backlash. Authorities have restricted access to the epicentre of the violence but agreed this week to allow a UN visit to the conflict zone. The trip has been postponed to October 2 due to bad weather, state media reported Friday. - Boat tragedy -The drowning tragedy is the latest in a series of deadly accidents as desperate refugees surge into Bangladesh, where they are penned into ramshackle tent cities amid dire shortages of nearly all forms of aid.
Witnesses and survivors said the vessel that overturned Thursday was just metres from the coast in rough waters, after it was lashed by torrential rain and high winds. There are fears the death toll could rise sharply with the International Organization for Migration saying about 100 people, mainly children, were believed aboard the downed vessel. The bodies of 16 people -- mostly children -- were found Thursday and brought to a local school, said coastguard commander Nasir Uddin. Two more bodies of young boys were retrieved Friday morning, he added, while another woman was washed ashore in a separate location. "They drowned before our eyes. Minutes later, the waves washed the bodies to the beach," said Mohammad Sohel, a local shopkeeper. One distraught survivor told AFP that his wife and one of their children had been killed when the ship sank. "The boat hit something underground as it came close to the beach. Then it overturned," said Nurus Salam, who had set off for Bangladesh from a coastal village in Myanmar late Wednesday with his family.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on  September 29-30/17
The Urgent U.S. Role in Post-Referendum Kurdistan
Michael Knights/The Washington Institute/September 29/17
The Iraqi Kurds have angered their neighbors, but imminent punitive measures could quickly strengthen Iran and disrupt the campaign against the Islamic State.
The September 25 statehood referendum in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq passed overwhelmingly, with 92.7 percent of voters choosing "yes." Although the outcome does not trigger any administrative changes and is explicitly not a declaration of independence, the central government and parliament in Baghdad have reacted fiercely, while neighboring states such as Turkey and Iran are coordinating punitive measures with Iraqi officials. Some of the suggested punishments could damage U.S. interests and hand more influence to Iran, where Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan will visit on October 4. Before that trip, the United States needs to act quickly to shape Turkish and Iraqi calculations on post-referendum policy, preferably with backing from the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq and the coalition fighting the Islamic State (IS)
In Baghdad, the volatile parliament issued a thirteen-point resolution in response to the vote. Although the resolution is not a full law because it did not originate in the cabinet, it includes a host of dire steps: taking military action against Kurdish-held disputed areas such as Kirkuk, sacking Kurdish federal government employees who voted in the referendum, removing Kirkuk governor Najmaldin Karim "by force," closing the borders of the Kurdistan Regional Government with the help of neighboring states, cutting off its oil exports, closing foreign consulates inside the KRG, taking legal action against KRG president Masoud Barzani, and making preparations to remove the ethnically Kurdish president of federal Iraq, Fuad Masum.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is unlikely to follow through on the request for military escalation, but he has signaled that "economic measures" will be taken, and demanded that the KRG hand over all border entry points, airports, and oil exports. The Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority has indicated that Kurdish airspace will be closed to international flights beginning 6 p.m. local time on September 29, and airlines worldwide are likely to suspend flights to and from the KRG.
For their part, Turkey and Iran seem ready to back Abadi's handover demand. Baghdad is already working with Tehran and Ankara to establish shadow customs facilities inside Turkey that would collect fees before the KRG can levy them. These posts would also comply with Iraqi and Turkish wishes to prevent KRG leaders from leaving the area without permission from Baghdad. Meanwhile, Turkish road trade with federal Iraq is being redirected via Iran, and Baghdad may begin metering KRG-administered oil exports inside Turkey. In the latter case, Ankara may transfer custodianship and marketing rights over KRG oil to Iraq's State Oil Marketing Organization; in exchange, Baghdad would offer payments to KRG public employees.
If the KRG is subjected to a de facto economic blockade, the negative impact on U.S. interests could be severe. The campaign against IS would suffer, including the ongoing Hawija operation, which aims to reduce the group's largest and most dangerous pocket in northern Iraq. Coalition artillery, intelligence, and logistical efforts based in the KRG could be halted if the Kurds react badly to the blockade. Unless the potential losses in oil and customs revenue were rapidly replaced by Baghdad, they would bankrupt the KRG within weeks or months, resulting in instability, protests, and factional fighting. The Peshmerga units that hold long stretches of frontline against IS would immediately lose their pay, and many would be compelled to leave in order to support their families.
In addition to giving IS space to regroup, a blockade would hand more influence to Tehran, which seeks to punish the KRG severely for holding a referendum that could stir up Iranian Kurds. Many officials in the U.S.-led coalition resent the added complications wrought by the referendum, but they should not acquiesce to any such snuffing out of the KRG's capacity for independent action, which may prove vital if Iranian proxies gain ascendancy in Iraq following the April 2018 national elections. The KRG will always be America's "Plan B" in Iraq should Baghdad slip fully into the Iranian orbit, and the Kurds are the only local actors who have stood up to Qasem Soleimani, commander of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force. Although Washington must be mindful of protecting the bigger prize -- relations with Baghdad -- the KRG backup plan remains valuable to U.S. interests, and potentially to Turkey as well if its own sudden infatuation with Baghdad falters. The Trump administration should therefore take immediate action to preserve international confidence in and connections to the KRG.
The Iraqi Kurds now face a new reality: they have created distance between themselves and their closest allies, the U.S.-led coalition and Turkey, whether temporarily or not. They chose to take that risk by holding the referendum and must now accept the consequences. But the threatened punitive campaign against them poses severe dangers to U.S. and coalition interests in Iraq.
Going forward, Washington should not play the role of Kurdistan's lawyer in Baghdad. Instead, the focus of U.S. mediation should be in Ankara, since Turkey's next steps will be decisive for the KRG's continuing functionality. Erdogan met with Russian president Vladimir Putin in Ankara on September 28 and will visit Tehran on October 4. Following these consultations, he will presumably decide how many of the threatened punitive measures to implement immediately, perhaps by the end of next week. It is decidedly not in America's interest to allow Russia and Iran to dominate Turkish views on this crisis, especially since neither actor has a stake in the counter-IS campaign succeeding, and both seek to reduce U.S. influence in the region.
The Trump administration's most urgent step is to dispatch a civilian envoy to resolve the crisis, one who has no negative background with the Turks, Kurds, or Baghdad. This envoy should focus on the following steps:
Acknowledge domestic political drivers. U.S. mediation needs to identify measures that satisfy the real domestic political concerns expressed by Erdogan, Abadi, and Barzani. Each of these leaders took strong positions for or against the referendum primarily to satisfy political constituencies at home, and these reasons remain valid. The crisis was not defused before the vote because key actors failed to correctly read each other's domestic political drivers; the new U.S. envoy should not repeat that mistake.
Take immediate de-escalation measures. Erdogan and Abadi need to show their publics that the referendum will not trigger short-term Kurdish moves toward full independence or permanent annexation of disputed areas. Accordingly, the United States should push Kurdish leaders to quickly and publicly reaffirm that they will not take such steps. They may only get one shot at placating Erdogan, so the message must be clear. The Trump administration also needs to discourage any steps that could further aggravate Erdogan, such as statements of support for Kurdish independence issued in Congress or by Israel. In addition, Washington should work to keep the Syrian Kurds quiet at this time.
Establish a negotiating committee. Viewed constructively, the demands levied by Baghdad center on the same concerns voiced by the KRG: namely, reaching a permanent settlement on airspace control, energy exports, administration of disputed areas, and Kurdish access to international security assistance. Washington's envoy should therefore form a U.S.-Iraq-KRG negotiating committee to focus on immediate crisis management regarding potential punitive measures that could disrupt the war against IS and other American interests. In time, as tempers cool and normal politics resume, the committee could evolve into a mechanism for negotiating the core issues of the Baghdad-KRG dispute. Such a process has been sorely needed for years, and its absence allowed moderate disagreements to fester into the current crisis. By taking action right away, the parties can still turn Iraq's lemons into lemonade, in the process keeping the counter-IS campaign on track and maintaining the coalition's relevance in the face of Iranian and Russian challenges.
**Michael Knights, a Lafer Fellow with The Washington Institute, has worked in all of Iraq's provinces and spent time embedded with the country's security forces.

Europe: What do Islamic Parties Want?
Judith Bergman/Gatestone Institute/September 29/17
Sweden's Jasin party is not unique. Islamist parties have begun to emerge in many European countries, such as the Netherlands, Austria, Belgium, and France.
In the Netherlands, Denk ran on a platform against the integration of immigrants into Dutch society (instead advocating "mutual acceptance", a euphemism for creating parallel Muslim societies); and for establishment of a "racism police" that would register "offenders" and exclude them from holding public office.
"I consider every death of an American, British or Dutch soldier as a victory". — Dyab Abu Jahjah, leader of a group called Movement X and possibly starting an Islamist party in Belgium. The Belgian political magazine Knack named Jahjah the country's fourth-most influential person.
The "I.S.L.A.M" party, founded in 2012, is working to implement Islamic law, sharia, in Belgium. The party already has branches in the Brussels districts of Anderlecht, Molenbeek and Liege. The party wants to "translate religion into practice".
In France, as the journalist Yves Mamou recently reported, the PEJ has already approved 68 candidates and wants to abolish the separation of church and state, make veils mandatory for schoolgirls in public schools, introduce halal food in all schools and fight "Islamophobia".
Sweden's brand new first Islamic party, Jasin, is aiming to run for the 2018 parliamentary elections. According to the website of the party, Jasin is a "multicultural, democratic, peaceful party" that is "secular" and aims to "unite everyone from the East... regardless of ethnicity, language, race, skin color or religion". Jasin apparently knows what the Swedes like to hear.
In an interview, the founder and spokesperson of the party, Mehdi Hosseini, who came from Iran to Sweden 30 years ago, revealed that the leader of the new political party, Sheikh Zoheir Eslami Gheraati, does not actually live in Sweden. He is an Iranian imam, who lives in Teheran, but Jasin wants to bring him to Sweden: "I thought he was such a peaceful person who would be able to manifest the peaceful side of Islam. I think that is needed in Sweden," said Hosseini.
The purpose of the Jasin party, however, does not appear to be either secular or multicultural. In its application to the Swedish Election Authority, the party writes -- with refreshing honesty -- that it will "firstly follow exactly what the Koran says, secondly what Shiite imams say". The Jasin party also states that it is a "non-jihadi and missionary organization, which will spread Islam's real side, which has been forgotten and has been transformed from a beautiful to a warlike religion..."
In mid-September, the Swedish Election Authority informed Jasin that it failed to deliver the needed signatures, but that it is welcome to try again. Anna Nyqvist, from the Swedish Election Authority, said that a political party with an anti-democratic or Islamic agenda is eligible to run for parliament if the party's application fulfills all formalities. Nyqvist considers it unproblematic that the leader of the party lives in Iran. "This is the essence of democracy, that all views should be allowed. And it is up to them to choose their party leader", Nyqvist said.
Sweden's Jasin Party is not unique. Islamist parties have begun to emerge in many European countries, such as the Netherlands, Austria, Belgium, and France.
In the Netherlands, two Dutch Turks, former members of the Socialist party, founded a new party, Denk, only six months before the Dutch parliamentary elections. Despite the short timeframe, they managed to get one-third of the Muslim vote and three seats in parliament. The party does not hide its affinity for Turkey: Criticism of Turkey is taboo just as is their refusal to name the Turkish mass-slaughter of the Armenians during the First World War a genocide. The party ran on a platform against the integration of immigrants into Dutch society (instead advocating "mutual acceptance", a euphemism for creating parallel Muslim societies); and for establishment of a "racism police" that would register "offenders" and exclude them from holding public office.
In Austria, Turkish Muslims also formed a new party, the New Movement for the Future (NBZ), established in January 2017. According to its founder, Adnan Dincer, the NBZ is not an Islamic party or a Turkish party, despite being composed mainly of Turkish Muslims. Several of the party's Facebook posts are written only in Turkish. Dincer has made no secret of the fact that his party strongly backs Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whom it publicly supported at the time of the coup attempt in August 2016, and the subsequent clampdown by the Erdogan government.
In Belgium, several Islamic parties are preparing to run in the next elections. Dyab Abu Jahjah, apparently behind one of them, while not having presented a formal platform yet, has said he wants to "be part of an egalitarian radical renaissance that will conquer Brussels, Belgium, Europe and the whole world, with new politics of radical equality... defeat the forces of supremacy... of sustained privileges ... of the status-quo... in every possible arena".
Jahjah is a Lebanese immigrant, who emerged on the European scene, when he founded the now defunct Brussels-based Arab-European League in 2001. It was a pan-European political group aiming to create a Europe-wide "sharocracy" -- a supposedly sharia-based "democracy". In 2001, after the September 11 terror attacks, Jahjah said that he and many Muslims had felt a "sweet revenge feeling". In 2004, Jahjah said that he supported the killing of foreign troops in Iraq. "I consider every death of an American, British or Dutch soldier as a victory". He has also been opposed to the assimilation of Muslims, which he has described as "cultural rape".
Jahjah used to be considered a Hezbollah-supporting extremist, and, although he describes himself as a "political friend" of Jeremy Corbyn, he was banned from entering Britain. In Belgium, however, he is seen as a respectable activist, leader of a group called Movement X, and formerly with his own weekly column in the Belgian daily De Standaard. The Belgian political magazine Knack named Jahjah the country's fourth-most influential person, just behind Manchester City footballer Vincent Kompany. In January 2017, however, De Standaard fired Jahjah after he praised a terror attack in Jerusalem. "By any means necessary, #freepalestine," Jahjah had tweeted after an Muslim ISIS-affiliated terrorist plowed a truck through a crowd of young Israeli soldiers visiting Jerusalem, killing four and injuring countless others.
Dyab Abu Jahjah, named by the political magazine Knack as Belgium's fourth-most influential person, said after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks that he and many Muslims had felt a "sweet revenge feeling". In 2004, he said that he supported the killing of foreign troops in Iraq. (Left-pane image source: Han Soete/Wikimedia Commons)
Jahjah will likely experience fierce competition from the "I.S.L.A.M" party, founded in 2012, and working to implement Islamic law, sharia, in Belgium. The party already has branches in the Brussels districts of Anderlecht, Molenbeek and Liege. The party wants to "translate religion into practice". One member explained that, "It's no coincidence that we started in Brussels. Here there are a lot of Muslims... who are not allowed to come forward with their identity too much...They are therefore frustrated. That can lead to radicalization".
The party has put forth a mayoral candidate for the Brussels municipal elections in 2018: Michel Dardenne, who converted to Islam in 2002. In his program, Dardenne speaks mainly of how much the party respects Belgian democracy and its constitution, while simply wanting to help an undefined populace against "the elites". He may have found it easier to appeal to "progressive" non-Muslims that way. Brussels, 25% Muslim, has enormous potential for Islamic parties.
In France, several Islamic parties are also preparing to run in elections. One party is the PEJ, established in 2015 by French-Turkish Muslims and reportedly connected to Recep Tayyip Erdogan's AKP. As the journalist Yves Mamou recently reported, the PEJ has already approved 68 candidates and wants to abolish the separation of church and state, make veils mandatory for schoolgirls in public schools, introduce halal food in all schools and fight "Islamophobia".
How many Europeans are even paying attention to their agendas?
**Judith Bergman is a columnist, lawyer and political analyst.
© 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.

Switzerland: The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Jihad
Bruce Bawer/Gatestone Institute/September 29/17
What you would never know, from all this hand-wringing about "Islamophobia," is that only a few weeks before the conference, the country's media had reported on a popular imam in Biel who, in his sermons, "asked Allah to destroy the enemies of Islam -- Jews, Christians, Hindus, Russians, and Shiites."
The imam in question, Abu Ramadan, preached that Muslims who befriended infidels were "cursed until the Day of Judgment" -- which, of course, is not radical at all, but is straight out of the Koran.
The crisis is real. But, says Swiss Muslim author Saïda Keller-Messahli, Swiss politicians, "especially on the left," refuse to address it. Instead of trying to defend their country from radicalism, they think their job is to "protect minorities and multiculturalism."
Mosque kindergartens and youth groups, too, are "places of religious indoctrination" for Swiss Muslims. So are the German-speaking public schools, in which imams are permitted to teach classes in Islam using instructional materials from Saudi Arabia or Turkey.
If you listen to some of Switzerland's pollsters and government officials, the country is suffering from a serious and ever-intensifying crisis -- anti-Muslim bigotry.
In August, a study concluded that Swiss Muslims "are generally well integrated into Swiss society." Their main problem? They face "Islamophobia."
Another study the same month found that the percentage of Swiss non-Muslims who feel "threatened" by Islam had more than doubled since 2004, from 16% to 38%.
At a September 11 conference, Switzerland's Federal Commission against Racism (FCR) issued an explicit alert: "hostility toward Muslims," it warned, was rising – and was "fed by facts that have nothing to do with Muslims themselves."
Conference organizers blamed this "hostility" on online "propaganda"; Interior Minister Alain Berset accused Swiss citizens of erroneously holding "Islam responsible for all the extremist acts committed in its name."
What you would never know, from all this hand-wringing about "Islamophobia," is that only a few weeks before the conference, the country's media had reported on a popular imam in Biel who, in his sermons, "asked Allah to destroy the enemies of Islam -- Jews, Christians, Hindus, Russians, and Shiites." The imam in question, Abu Ramadan, preached that Muslims who befriended infidels were "cursed until the Day of Judgment" -- which, of course, is not radical at all, but is straight out of the Koran. Abu Ramadan has been living in Switzerland for almost two decades. In 1998, he came to the Alpine country from Libya as an asylum seeker, but over the years has returned home several times -- in addition to visiting Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries. This fact should have automatically negated his right to asylum and resulted in his expulsion. But the years went by, and the government, ignoring the evidence right there on his passport, did nothing.
On the contrary: over the years, in fact, the Swiss state had given Ramadan the equivalent of $620,000 in welfare payments.
Reportedly, some public officials were well aware of his hate sermons -- but until the content of those sermons surfaced in the media, nobody in the government had made any effort to do anything about him. Instead, people such as Interior Minister Berset and the members of the FCR had kept busy going to conferences and tarring the general public as "Islamophobes".
At least one high-profile individual in Switzerland has long rejected the official line about successful Muslim integration and unfounded infidel Islam-hatred: Saïda Keller-Messahli. Of Tunisian descent, living in Zurich, she has spent years investigating institutional Islam in Switzerland and urging politicians to take action against it. Asked in a recent interview whether Abu Ramadan is an isolated case, Keller-Messahli said no: such preaching, she explained, is common in Swiss mosques, part of an international strategy to plant a "discriminatory" and "violent" Islam in Switzerland and elsewhere in the West.
Keller-Messahli has just published a book entitled, Switzerland: An Islamist Hub ("Islamistische Drehscheibe Schweiz"). It is sort of a field guide to Islam in Switzerland. The country's mosques belong to various networks based here and there in the Muslim world; many of the imams have been trained in Egypt or Saudi Arabia; many of the mosques receive funding -- and take orders -- from organizations in Turkey. In her book, Keller-Messahli draws all the connections, follows all the money trails, and spells out the poisonous articles of faith. And she prescribes strong medicine: monitor the mosques, cut off the foreign cash, and expel the preachers of jihad.
Saïda Keller-Messahli, the Swiss Muslim author of Switzerland: An Islamist Hub, has spent years investigating institutional Islam in Switzerland and urging politicians to take action against it. (Switzerland photo by Monk/Wikimedia Commons)
Keller-Messahli has not only probed the mosques. She has also visited prisons. In some of the prison libraries, she reports, she had found not a copy or two but hundreds of copies of pro-jihadist works. When she told a reporter that imams who work as prison chaplains are past masters at turning Muslim inmates into jihadists, and argued that the position of Muslim chaplain should therefore be eliminated, her interviewer asked whether that wouldn't amount to "unequal treatment." Keller-Messahli pointed out that the concept of prison chaplain does not even exist in Islam but "was invented precisely for the sake of equality."
Mosque kindergartens and youth groups, too, are "places of religious indoctrination" for Swiss Muslims. So are the German-speaking public schools, in which imams are permitted to teach classes in Islam using instructional materials from Saudi Arabia or Turkey: "All they do," complains Keller-Messahli, "is give them suras to learn by heart, the veil for the girls and the segregation of the sexes as soon as possible. And all the 'students' do is learn words without understanding them." The result: "social segregation, exclusion, contempt for women, honor crimes."
The crisis is real. But, says Keller-Messahli, Swiss politicians, "especially on the left," refuse to address it. Instead of trying to defend their country from radicalism, they think their job is to "protect minorities and multiculturalism." Keller-Messahli actually took part in the design and implementation of a course that warned prison employees about the dangers of Islamic radicalization. It was, she said, "a huge success" -- but an order by a Zurich court put an end to it. "Right and center," she laments, "politicians prefer to stay in their comfort zone and close their eyes."
Keller-Messahli does not mince words. The relentless spread of jihadist Islam in Switzerland, and the see-no-evil response by Swiss authorities, give her "a tremendous sense of betrayal. We trusted these people, we opened the doors of our country and our institutions. They say they want to be our partners in dialogue. But none of it is true." She reports that some Swiss residents with Muslim backgrounds have thanked her for speaking up and have told her that organized Islam does not speak for them. She is grateful for their support, she says, but she "would prefer it if they did not keep so silent."
The picture Keller-Messahli paints is a grim one. Is there any hope for change? Well, during the last few days it has become clear that at least some Swiss officials do not wish to remain silent about the enemy within. On September 21, it was reported that federal prosecutors had brought charges against the president and two members of the board of the Islamic Central Council of Switzerland (ICCS), the country's largest Islamic organization. The charge: making videos in Syria featuring a top Al-Qaeda member and posting them on YouTube and other sites.
Only days later, the lower house of the Swiss parliament voted by a narrow margin to prohibit mosques from taking foreign money and to require that imams preach in the local language. The upper house has yet to debate the bill; the Federal Council, which constitutes the government's executive branch, opposes the measure on the grounds that it places Muslims "under general suspicion" and "fuels the argument of extremists."
It will be interesting to see where these developments lead. Will the bill pass the upper house? Are federal prosecutors looking into non-ICCS mosques? Stay tuned.
*Bruce Bawer is the author of the new novel The Alhambra (Swamp Fox Editions). His book While Europe Slept (2006) was a New York Times bestseller and National Book Critics Circle Award finalist.
© 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.

Too Much Democracy may Damage your Health!
Eyad Abu Shakra/Asharq Al Awsat//September 29/17
One quote widespread in the Arab region, a few decades ago, was that it was facing the danger of ‘partitioning what has been already partitioned. Those days, several Arab capitals were run by leaders who cover their tribalism and sectarianism by claiming to be ‘Pan-Arabists’ as well ‘Anti-imperialist Globalists’!
No doubt the region was affected by the demise of the Arab Nationalist project after the defeat of 1967, and later the end of the ‘east – west’ rivalry in the late 1980s and 1990s as a result of the collapse of the ‘Berlin Wall’ and later the USSR. Thus evaporated all fake slogans, and emerged the true chemistry of most of these regimes. It did not take long before the discourse of armed ‘Political Islam’ began establishing itself at the expense of that of ‘Arabism’ and the ‘liberation of Palestine’ as well as globalist discourse of the Socialist Left and Liberal Right. However, there was no place for any armed groups under state authority; which meant that this kind of armed ‘Political Islam’ – namely, Sunni –, bolstered by some electoral successes, became the ‘democratic choice’ in the struggle for political change against regimes unwilling to accommodate reform. On the other hand, the states’ legitimate armies and security forces (and later Shi’ite militias, as we have witnesses in Iraq and Syria) became the effective means of stemming the tide of Sunni ‘Political Islam’.
What has been called the ‘Arab Spring’ has been a turning point.
While many Arab intellectuals continue to debate the true meaning of this term, many have been questioning and arguing some serious issues, such as:
Why seek change if the human, political and economic cost was so high? What’s wrong in tolerating dictatorships if the alternative is chaos? Aren’t we immature nations that hardly deserve democracy anyway .. so why ask for what we don’t deserve? Why must we show empathy with other suffering Arabs who trouble us and let us down instead of looking after our own interests? And last but not least, what’s wrong in being weak – even against regional challenges – when we can always rely on Super Powers that are always ready to protect us?
I reckon that being able to address these questions would ‘enrich’ our political culture, and refocus our outlook to the challenges faced by the Region and its peoples. On a negative note, however, we are approaching these questions neither in a responsible way nor with a commitment to accountability.
For example a lot has been written about the Palestinian Conflict and the ‘nature’ of Israel to the extent that many have lost interest. Later, we lived and continue to live under the Iranian project for hegemony which today runs four Arab capitals. We also read and follow Turkey’s tumultuous hankering to go back to Ottoman times after turning the page of the Ataturk Experiment with all its possible regional ramifications. In the meantime, Arab division and disintegration gather pace, against a back drop of inflated snippy individualism, and delusions about what the future might hold for the Region.
In Sudan, the South has already seceded and this may only be the beginning; and in some North African ‘Magharebi’ countries there are stirrings of dormant factional problems.
In Yemen, too, the Houthi phenomenon, coming hard on heels of the Qaeda phenomenon is surely a worrying sign. However, the real catastrophe is that taking hold of Iraq and the Levant. The Kurds have decided on full independence from Iraq, and had things been more conducive, would have done the same in Syria. The truth is that as ‘inventing’ ISIS has brought down the Syrian popular uprising and rehabilitated Al-Assad Regime under US-Russian auspices and Iranian firepower, the transgressions of the reigns of Saddam Hussein and Nuri Al-Maliki have provided the leaders of Iraqi Kurds ready-made excuse to seek an independence that had really worked for all along, regardless of what they diplomatically claim today. Sure, there is no moral or political justification to oppose the Kurds’ right to seek independence, whether in Iraq or Syria, or even Iran and Turkey for that matter. But, as it is often said, ‘the devil is in the detail’. What sort of country will the new Kurdistan be? What are its borders going to look like? What political system will it have? What are non-Kurds to expect in a ‘nationalist’ Kurdish entity?
The early signs in the ‘disputed areas’ are not encouraging.
Indeed, during ‘the war on ISIS’ Iraqi Kurds made haughty pronouncements such as “the Peshmerga (the powerful Kurdish militias) will never withdraw any territory they liberate”; and then there is the volatile situation in the oil-rich mixed-race city of Kirkuk, and the issues of Tel Afar and the towns of the Nineveh Plain, without forgetting the bouts of ethnic and sectarian ‘cleansing’ in Diyala Province. Not to be outdone, Syria’s Kurds are steadily working to establish their ever-expanding Rojava ‘autonomous region’ at the expense of Arab, Turkmen and Syriac/Assyrian/Chaldean towns and villages; changing their mostly Arabic names in the process. Mr Masoud Barzani, president of ‘Iraqi Kurdistan Region’, who has insisted on including the ‘disputed areas’ in the independence referendum, is continuing to reassure world leaders that the new independent ‘Kurdistan’ would be a Northern Europe-style pluralistic democracy… but under the arms and banners of the Peshmerga. The Kurdish parties working for a Kurdish ‘autonomous area’ in northern Syria, which are also trying to impose its hegemony over mixed areas, claim they too are committed to ‘democracy’ and have been conducting ‘elections, under the watchful eye of what is attractively called “Syrian Democratic Forces’ which are actually dominated by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia.
This brand of ‘democracy’ does not reassure many living whether within or outside the Kurdish dominated areas. In fact, if helpless minorities find themselves willing to accept a ‘lesser of two evils’ when faced with two worse options: either living under Iran’s Shi’ite militia led by Qassem Suleimani or under ISIS, others do not feel compelled to accept such a scenario. Honest aspirations and goodwill, aside Kurdish leaders today face many serious doubts and strong opposition, and if Arab lamentable weakness cannot save the identity and sovereignty of Iraq and Syria, Iran’s and Turkey’s national interests may be capable of disturbing Kurdish calculations, and impose conditions of their own. On their part, it may be in the interests of the Kurds to be cautious in over-relying on international promises of support. They may be wise not to burn all their boats… even with the Arabs who are now the weakest player in the Near East.

Kurdish Referendum: What is the Lowdown?
Amir Taheri/Asharq Al Awsat//September 29/17
Despite many efforts to stop or postpone it, the Iraqi Kurdistan referendum has become a fait accompli and must be taken into account in shaping future developments, and Masoud Barzani, the man who orchestrated the exercise, must be as pleased as Punch. In contemplating the future, it is important to know exactly what we are talking about. Supporters of the referendum have pinned their flag to two concepts: independence and self-determination. They say Iraqi Kurds want independence. However, like all other Iraqis, Iraqi Kurds already live in a country that is recognized as independent and a full-member of the United Nations. The concept of the quest for independence applies to lands that are part of a foreign empire or turned into “possession” of a colonial power. Legally speaking, at least since 1932, that has not been the case in Iraq. If, Iraq isn’t independent, then we must assume that Kak Masoud, rather than being a prominent leader contributing to the development of Iraq’s new but fragile democratic process, is a satrap for an unknown empire or an agent for a mysterious colonial power. But Kak Masoud isn’t a satrap precisely because his country, Iraq, is independent.
Then we come to the concept of self-determination which is recognized as a right under international law. It was first developed in the wake of the First World War and the beak up of the Ottoman and the Austro-Hungarian Empires. The idea was that people in the component parts of those empires should determine their own future, especially by deciding whether or not to form states of their own. The Wilson Doctrine and the so-called Briand-Kellogg Pact (between France and the US) further refined the concept. Later, in the wake of the Second World War the concept was used to provide a legal framework for decolonization as British, French and Dutch Empires broke up. In the past 100 years, thanks to the concept of self-determination, over 120 new independent countries have appeared on the global map.
Self-determination was established as the right of all peoples to choose their own governments and pass their own laws rather than be subject to distant foreign rulers and lawmakers.
Seen in that light, Iraqi Kurds already enjoy self-determination because they choose their own local and national governments and lawmakers. The first thing to understand is that the recent referendum was about independence and self-determination is bogus, to say the least. Used to hoodwink public opinion could lead to dangerous complications in the future. So, what was the referendum really about? It was about secession which is not the same thing as self-determination or independence. Its organizers want to detach the areas where Kurds form a majority and set up a new separate state.
However, while self-determination is universally recognized as a right, secession is not.
Secession is an option, not a right. At best, it could be regarded as a desire and, at worst, a folly.
But seeking secession, though unlawful in both national and international law, isn’t a crime. Also, it has little to do with the degree of democratic development of societies. The United Kingdom is a well-established democracy but still faces secessionism on the part of large number of Scots. There are secessionists in several other democracies: the Quebecois in Canada, the Corsicans in France, the Basques and the Catalans in Spain, the Frisians in Denmark, the Kashmiris in India and even Porto Allergens in Brazil. The important thing is that in all those cases, parties that support secession say so openly, seldom trying to disguise their ambition as a quest for self-determination and independence. So, the first thing that Kak Massoud should do is to stop doing taiqyeh, call a spade a spade, and openly admit that what he is seeking is secession.
He should say that his aim is to break up Iraq, which is a multi-ethnic republic, in order to create a mono-ethnic Kurdish state. Interestingly, the word Iraq, which means “lowland”, is a geographic term with no ethnic connotations. Iraqi citizenship is a civic concept, transcending ethnic, religious and racial identities.
Many countries in the world are named after their majority ethnic component. In our region Turkey is the land of the Turks and Armenia the land of Armenians. All the “stan” countries refer to ethnic majorities there. Beyond the Middle East, all but 12 of the European states are also named after ethnic components: Germany is the land of Germans and Russia the land of Russians.
However, none of the Middle Eastern countries that emerged from the break-up of the Ottoman Empire are labeled with ethnic identities. They are known under historic and/or geographic names and regard the presence of various ethnic and/or religious communities within their borders as a given. Even Israel, though a special case for obvious reasons, fits into that pattern if only because 27 per cent of its citizens are not Jews. They are Israelis but not Israelites.
The Middle East has been the sphere of multi-ethnic empires for some 25 centuries: Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Roman, Byzantines, Umayyad, Abbasid, Ottomans etc. So, the Kurdish state that Kak Massoud wishes to create would be the first over 2000 years in the Middle East to claim a purely ethnic identity. Let’s give an example of the difference between independence, which is the right of all peoples under foreign colonial or imperial rule, and secession. Morocco and Tunisia were both under the domination of the French Empire in the name of colonial protection. In the 1950s they exercised their right of self-determination and obtained their independence without a minimum of hassle. Algeria, on the other hand, was regarded as two provinces of the French Republic itself, elected its own members of parliament and enjoyed full French citizenship rights.
Thus, its demand for independence was regarded as secession and could only be granted with the agreements of the French state, later ratified in a national referendum throughout France. But before that happened, Algerians had to fight a 5-year war, with perhaps half a million dead, and go through a two-year negotiating period.
Other states have treated secession in different ways.
Canada and the United Kingdom have organized referendums in Quebec and Scotland giving the local populations a chance to reject secession. In Czechoslovakia and between Malaysia and Singapore, secession came through negotiations producing divorce by consent. In the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, secession was organized by Great Britain as the colonial power. South Sudan’s secession was ratified by the Khartoum government after 20 years of war and six years of negotiations. The international community recognizes the outcome of any secession only if it is achieved with the consent of the country concerned. Montenegro seceded from Serbia through negotiations and was immediately admitted into the United Nations. Kosovo also seceded but without consent and still remains in a limbo, rejected by the UN and recognized by only a handful of nations.
Holding referendums does not automatically bestow legitimacy on secessionist programs. Russia has held referendum in Crimea, which it snatched from Ukraine, and in South Ossetia and Abkhazia which it took from Georgia. However, no other country recognizes those secessions.
The reason is that there is no mechanism in domestic or international law to recognize non-consensual secession. The International Court of Justice at The Hague made that clear by refusing to certify Kosovo’s independence. In Canada the High Court has ruled against Quebec secession and in France Corsican secessionist demands have been thrown out by courts. In Iraq, the Constitution, drafted with the full and enthusiastic participation of Masoud, excludes unilateral secession in articles 107 and 116 and 13.
Finally, secession does not feature in the programs of any of the dozen or so parties active among Kurds who live in Iraq, Turkey, Syria, Iran, Armenia and Azerbaijan. So the next step that Masoud must take is to enshrine secession in his party’s charter and manifesto for the next Iraqi general election in 2018. If he does that and obtains mandate to seek secession he could then demand that the central government in Baghdad enter into negotiations on the issue of secession.
In other words, any attempt at a unilateral declaration of independence could lead only to impasse, a deadly impasse.

Trump Evangelizes for American Exceptionalism

Eli Lake/Bloomberg/September 29/17
If you want to get a sense of the enduring power of American exceptionalism, watch President Donald Trump’s address Tuesday to the United Nations General Assembly. Here we got a clear message from the candidate whose foreign policy platform was “America first”: He implored the regimes of weaker rogues to clean up their acts, or else.The president threatened total destruction for North Korea. Its leader, whom Trump called “rocket man,” is on a “suicide mission for himself and for his regime,” Trump warned. “The United States is ready, willing and able, but hopefully this will not be necessary.”
Iran? The deal his predecessor struck to temporarily limit the nuclear program was an “embarrassment to the United States.” But it doesn’t end there. Trump says that sooner or later revolution is coming to the Mullahs. He asserted the whole world “understands that the good people of Iran want change, and, other than the vast military power of the United States, that Iran’s people are what their leaders fear the most.” This was just the warmup. Trump went full neocon for Venezuela. Its leader, Nicolas Maduro, is a dictator “stealing power from his own people.”
Whereas Trump was vague about what his plan was for North Korea and Iran, for Venezuela he came very close to calling for regime change. “The United States has taken important steps to hold the regime accountable,” Trump said. “We are prepared to take further action if the government of Venezuela persists on its path to impose authoritarian rule on the Venezuelan people.”For a moment, I closed my eyes and thought I was listening to a Weekly Standard editorial meeting.
To be sure, this is not quite a return to the days of George W. Bush, who in 2005 made it briefly US policy to seek democratic transformation for friend and foe alike. Trump offered no critiques for the illiberal systems and strongmen that rule Russia or China. He briefly called out threats to the sovereignty of Ukraine and the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, without mentioning Russia and China by name.
And yet Trump, who ran in part against the folly of neoconservative nation-building, is also not quite ready to give up the power of America’s values in determining its interests. He calls his approach “principled realism.” And on the surface it nods to the respect traditional foreign policy realists pay to national interests. But there is also a paradox. Trump still wants nation states to serve the interests of their people. Consider this line from the speech: “We do not expect diverse countries to share the same cultures, traditions or even systems of government, but we do expect all nations to uphold these two core sovereign duties, to respect the interests of their own people and the rights of every other sovereign nation.” On the one hand, Trump is correct. States with governments that respect their own people are almost always less bellicose than states ruled by authoritarians. Dictators like Vladimir Putin often must start foreign wars to distract from their own corruption at home.
At the same time, Trump’s formulation leaves a lot of wiggle room for what traditional foreign policy realists deride as military adventurism. After all, who determines when a nation is respecting the interests of its people? Trump certainly isn’t saying that is for the UN to decide. He spent a good portion of his speech threatening unilateral action against Iran, North Korea and Venezuela. Trump’s newfound enthusiasm is familiar to the public. America has been spreading its gospel for centuries, according to Robert Kagan’s 2006 book, “A Dangerous Nation,” which traced US foreign policy from the founders to the dawn of the 20th century. Kagan argues persuasively that because America is a country founded on democratic revolution, it has always threatened unfree countries by its very existence. From the very early days of the republic, US leaders have supported a kind of American exceptionalism we usually associate with the 20th century. Trump’s speechwriters are beginning to understand this. It’s a lot better than some of Trump’s early signals on foreign policy, when he ingratiated himself to dictators like Filipino strongman Rodrigo Duterte.
Let’s hope Trump sticks with this new approach.