August 02/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives
John 14/27-31: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, "I am going away, and I am coming to you." If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe. I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over me; but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us be on our way."

Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on August 01-02/18
World Bank Official: Lebanon Economy Fragile, Needs Reform/Reuters/August 01/18
As Cabinet formation stalls, Berri alludes to extraordinary parliamentary sessions/Georgi Azar/Annahar/August 01/2018/
Lebanon's Hash Farmers Fear Going Legal May Hit Profits/Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 01/18
Russia: Iran-backed forces withdraw from Golan frontier/Associated Press/August 01/ 2018
Veterans in Congress know what it means to put country first/David Ignatius/The Washington Post/August 01/18
Spain: New Gateway to Europe for Mass-Migration/Thomas Paul Wiederholen/Gatestone Institute/August 01/18
Trump heads for summit with Rouhani. Israel caught by surprise/DEBKAfile/August 01/18
Nation-state Law Backlash: Netanyahu Offers Israel's Druze New Legislation to Enshrine Their Status/Noa Landau and Jack Khoury/Haaretz/August 01/2018
Trump’s surprise: Negotiating with Rowhani/Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/August 01/18
A new Arab system/Amr Moussa/Al Arabiya/August 01/18
The Brotherhood’s news in German land/Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/August 01/18
The ones who lost the Palestinian cause/Fares bin Hezam/Al Arabiya/August 01/18
Netanyahu Warns Iran: Block Mouth of Red Sea and Be Met by Force/Noa Shpigel/Haaretz/August 01/18

Titles For The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on August 01-02/18
President Aoun Says He's Determined to End Government Formation Crisis
Aoun Says No Party Will 'Monopolize' Representation in New Govt.
Lebanese Army celebrates 73rd anniversary
World Bank Official: Lebanon Economy Fragile, Needs Reform
Hariri: You Will Never See Me in Syria
South, Mount Lebanon Mayor Visit Bickfaya's Waste Sorting Plant
Lebanese Army Faces Challenge of Protecting Stability
Lebanon's PM-Designate Insists on Forming National Consensus Cabinet
As Cabinet formation stalls, Berri alludes to extraordinary parliamentary sessions
Maronite Bishops: To overcome differences, agree on government formula capable of facing challenges
Hariri receives a delegation from the Association of Building Traders in Lebanon
Mikati from Diman: Talks about legislation in absence of executive authority not serious
Shamsi, Bukhari offer condolences to Jumblatt on Sweida martyrs
Berri: Council has full right to legislate in present situation
World Bank Warns Some Lebanon Projects May be Canceled
Hariri, Jumblat and Geagea Insist on Govt. Demands, Backed by Berri
Lebanon's Hash Farmers Fear Going Legal May Hit Profits
Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on August 01-02/18
Iran death penalty charges in economic crisis ‘breach international law’: Amnesty
Iranian Forces Pulling Back From Israel Border, Says Russia
Iran says Trump offer of talks is ‘humiliation’, without value
US slaps sanctions on Turkey ministers over detained pastor
Russia: Iran-backed forces withdraw from Golan frontier
Sochi Focuses on Aid, Return of Syrian Refugees
IS Ambush Kills 4 Regime Fighters near Damascus
Videos Released of Japanese, Italian Captives in Syria
UN Plans September Talks on New Syria Constitution in Geneva
'Victory is Near,' Assad Tells Troops
ISIS Routed in Syria’s Yarmouk Basin
Debate Rages among Shiite Iraqi Powers over Largest Parliamentary Bloc
Egypt: 4 Brotherhood Members Get Life Sentences for Torching Giza Church
Ban on Face Veil Takes Effect in Denmark
Investigation Report on Malaysian Plane Crash Disappoints Families
Growing Protests Against UNRWA’s Policies
Palestinians Call for Massive Flow to Khan al-Ahmar
Israeli military faces Druze uproar over Jewish nation bill
Israeli Court Jails Arab Woman over Facebook Poem
Yemen: Houthis to Halt Red Sea Attacks for Two Weeks
Yemen Rebels Announce Temporary Red Sea Ceasefire
U.S. to Urge Pressure against N. Korea at Asia Talks
Trump Calls on U.S. Attorney General to End Russia Probe 'Disgrace'
Egyptian forces kill five suspected militants north of Cairo
The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on August 01-02/18
President Aoun Says He's Determined to End Government Formation Crisis 01st August 2018/ Wednesday 01st August 2018/President Michel Aoun on Wednesday stressed his determination to pull the country out of the crisis resulting from the government formation delay in cooperation with PM-Designate Saad Hariri, hoping that all political factions would contribute to ending this stalemate. In a speech delivered at the Shukri Ghanem barracks in Fayyadieh marking the 73rd Army Day, Aoun said that the votes cast by the Lebanese in the recent parliamentary polls should be reflected in the new government, adding that it shouldn't be controlled or dominated by any faction. "We are determined to have an all-inclusive government without excluding or eliminating the role of any of the local political components, and without monopolizing the representation of any of the sects," he said.

Aoun Says No Party Will 'Monopolize' Representation in New Govt.

President Michel Aoun announced Wednesday that the new government will “bring together the Lebanese components” without any “marginalization” or “monopolization.”“Some demands have so far delayed the formation of the government,” Aoun said in a speech marking Army Day. “I reiterate my determination, in cooperation with the PM-designate, to pull out the country of the government delay crisis, counting on the cooperation of all parties and their patriotic sense, because any regress in this period of our history would be betrayal of the country and the people's aspirations,” the president added. He underlined that the new government should “bring together the Lebanese components without marginalizing any component... or monopolizing the representation of any sect.” “The voice of the Lebanese which has been represented in parliament should also be reflected on the new government's line-up,” Aoun went on to say, stressing that he will seek to prevent “any hegemony of one camp over another.”“It should not achieve the interest of a certain party seeking to monopolize its decisions or to impede the state's rise,” the president added. PM-designate Saad Hariri was tasked with forming a new government on May 24. The main obstacle hindering his mission is political wrangling over Christian and Druze representation.
Lebanese Army celebrates 73rd anniversary
The Daily Star/August 01/18/BEIRUT: The country’s top brass gathered at the Shukri Ghanem barracks in Fayyadieh Wednesday morning to celebrate the Lebanese Army’s 73rd anniversary.
Army Commander Gen. Joseph Aoun led the ceremony, which was attended by the president, speaker and prime minister-designate. President Michel Aoun issued the graduating class of officers their sabers. The class is named “Fajr al-Joroud,” after last year saw the Army push out terrorists, who had been holed up since the beginning of the Syrian war, from Lebanon’s northeastern border. During a speech at the ceremony, the president called for continued cooperation with the United Nations peacekeeping force in Lebanon to protect the country. "Your role is always paramount in protecting our south from Israel's covetousness, as part of a complete and coordinated cooperation with international forces," Aoun said. He also commended the Army for "safeguarding Lebanon's commitments, including the implementation of [UNSC] Resolution 1701, while Israel continues to violate this resolution and still occupies part of our territories." Aoun praised the Army as the country's most stable bulwark in times of crises. "In times of war, the Army defends the borders, preserves the land, restores the dignity and sovereignty and repairs the loopholes in the wall of national unity and coexistence,” he said. “In times of peace, the Army has to shoulder the responsibility of preserving the security, the gains of stability as well as the aspirations of the Lebanese citizens."
World Bank Official: Lebanon Economy Fragile, Needs Reform
Reuters/Wednesday 01st August 2018/
Lebanon’s economy is fragile, unsustainable and needs the state to enact reforms, a senior World Bank official said on Tuesday as the country neared three months without a government since parliamentary elections in May.
“Lebanon has been defying gravity for quite some time,” World Bank Group Vice President for the Middle East and North Africa Ferid Belhaj said, and a day would come when “gravity materialises”.“Clearly this is not a situation which is sustainable and things need to be done,” he told journalists at the World Bank’s offices in Beirut, though he added that the central bank has a good buffer of foreign reserves. “I’m not worried about the economy, but it is in a state of fragility,” Belhaj added. Lebanon has been suffering weak growth since 2011, hit by regional turmoil. The IMF has estimated growth rates of 1-1.5 percent in 2017 and 2018, saying traditional drivers of the economy - construction and real estate - remain subdued. The IMF has also called for “an immediate and substantial” fiscal adjustment to improve the sustainability of public debt, which stood at more than 150 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) at the end of 2017. Leaders from across Lebanon’s divided political establishment have said they recognise the urgency of the situation and the need to start reforms, but a new unity government has yet to be agreed following parliamentary elections on May 6. In April international donors meeting in Paris pledged more than $11 billion of investment for Lebanon, but they want to see reform first. At that meeting Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri promised to reduce the budget deficit as a percentage of GDP by 5 percent over five years. The World Bank has a $2.2 billion investment portfolio in Lebanon, but the lack of government means $1.1 billion of that amount — to be spent on jobs, health and transport projects — is still awaiting approval by Beirut before it can be used. “We need to make sure these projects move forward. Not only is it a loss for Lebanon having these investments stay idle, but the government is paying commitment fees on these,” Belhaj said, adding there may come a time when those projects have to be cancelled.

Hariri: You Will Never See Me in Syria 01st August 2018/Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri on Tuesday renewed his hard-line position against the Syrian regime, saying that he would never visit Damascus. “It’s impossible to see me in Syria even if the whole political equation in the region changes. Should this be in Lebanon's interest, then you will have to search for someone other than me,” Hariri told media reporters following the Future bloc's weekly meeting. Hariri voiced determination to form a national consensus government, adding that he did not get nominated by 112 lawmakers so that he would form a majoritarian one.
"The consensus that we gained and the political settlement that we made are aimed at having an all-inclusive government. Otherwise, we would be jeopardizing an effective thing [settlement] that allowed us to hold the parliamentary elections, approve a new voting law and achieve the CEDRE and Rome conferences." Hariri deemed the ongoing obstruction of the government formation as "intentional", noting, however, that some of those hindering this process may have justified demands. Hariri said that he "had not yet the chance" to meet with FPM leader Gebran Bassil, praising the latter's meeting with Speaker Nabih Berri as good for the country.

South, Mount Lebanon Mayor Visit Bickfaya's Waste Sorting Plant 01st August 2018/The mayors and members of municipalities in several towns and villages in the south and Mount Lebanon visited Bickfaya’s Bi-Clean waste sorting plant, in a tour organized in collaboration with ACTED organization. ACTED is an international non-governmental organization committed to immediate humanitarian relief to support those in urgent need. The visiting group was given an in-depth insight into the work mechanism at the sorting plant. Bi-Clean is an initiative launched by Bickfaya's municipality, and is aimed at handling waste management according to the system of integrated waste management. The Bi-Clean waste management center is now treating eight tons of daily waste sorted from source. “The determination and perseverance to complete what we’ve started are the two main catalysts for our success, despite all the hardships facing us,” Bickfaya Mayor Nicole Gemayel said, noting that the center was established because Bickfaya refused to yield to the garbage crisis that plagued the country. “We must refuse the status quo through our willpower and our efforts to address the problems facing us,” Gemayel concluded.
Lebanese Army Faces Challenge of Protecting Stability
Beirut - Youssef Diab/Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 1 August, 2018/Lebanon celebrates this first of August the 73rd anniversary of the establishment of its army. This year’s celebration has a special meaning as it coincides with major achievements by the army in the fight against terrorism and the ousting of terrorist groups from the eastern Lebanese borders. The Lebanese Army has proved its combat effectiveness, starting with the battle against Fatah al-Islam in the Nahr al-Bared camp in northern Lebanon in 2007, leading to the fierce battle against ISIS which took place in Arsal on the eastern borders in August last year. In the last three years, the army has recorded a series of achievements that have raised the interest of major international powers, which are now seeking to strengthen the Lebanese military institutions by providing it with training, arms and information capabilities.
The qualitative operations carried out by the army in recent years are the result of the bulk of military, security and intelligence work that the organization has achieved. A military source told Asharq Al-Awsat that the most significant achievement under the leadership of General Joseph Aoun was in the battle of “Fajr al-Jouroud” in Arsal, in addition to stopping the flow of car bombs inside the country and easing the security pressure on Lebanon. The sources emphasized that the army’s fast victory in Arsal has allowed it to focus its efforts on the protection of internal security, by chasing terrorist networks and uncovering dormant cells in successful preemptive operations. Although the achievements of the army are a source of confidence for the Lebanese, the army has many challenges ahead, according to its leader General Joseph Aoun. The military sources noted that among important challenges facing the army were security concerns and the protection of the borders, to prevent the risk of the infiltration of armed militants into Lebanon. The army is also facing the threat of any Israeli attack on Lebanon’s southern border, and chasing espionage networks operating for Israel. The director of the Middle East Institute for Strategic Affairs, Dr. Sami Nader, said that the army “has become the last resort for the Lebanese and is constantly present to protect national sovereignty, and thus lacks a single political decision to extend its absolute authority over the entire Lebanese territory.”Since 2006, Lebanon has been trying to develop a defense strategy that would give the state a decision on war and peace, and prevent any weapons from being left outside the legitimacy. However, all dialogues have so far failed because Hezbollah refuses to handover its weapons.

Lebanon's PM-Designate Insists on Forming National Consensus Cabinet

Beirut - Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 1 August, 2018/Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri has said that the problems facing the formation of the government are fabricated by all those who put obstacles in its way. In remarks to reporters following al-Mustaqbal parliamentary bloc’s meeting at the Center House in Beirut, Hariri stressed that he received the votes of 112 deputies to form a national consensus government. He said: “I am not with a majority government. On the contrary, the consensus we obtained and the compromise we made is to have all the parties in the government, and we all bear the responsibility of what happens in the country.”“Or else we would be neglecting an important issue that allowed us to carry out the elections, the electoral law and CEDRE and Rome conferences. Thus, we would be losing our credibility.”Hariri rejected criticism that President Michel Aoun is demanding a majority government, asserting that the only criterion for him is the national partnership and national accord. As for the obstructing parties, Hariri said that the parties he supports may be among those hindering the formation, “but they have rightful demands.” Stressing that no side has pressured him to make a decision, he said: “If some want to hold me responsible, the Lebanese people know who is actually responsible for the obstruction.” As for the anticipated meeting with Caretaker Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil, Hariri said: “We didn’t have the chance to meet yet.”
As Cabinet formation stalls, Berri alludes to extraordinary parliamentary sessions
Georgi Azar/Annahar/August 01/2018/
Speaker Nabih Berri prefaced his comments by maintaining the "importance of forming a new Cabinet in light of the delicate times we live in."
BEIRUT: Amid the lack of progress in the formation of a new Cabinet, House Speaker Nabih Berri alluded Wednesday to the possibility of calling Parliament to extraordinary legislative sessions in line with the Consitution.
Berri prefaced his comments by maintaining the "importance of forming a new Cabinet in light of the delicate times we live in.""I hope that everyone deals with this situation responsibly and facilitate the process [of forming a new Cabinet] to lift the country out of this state." The Speaker based his argument on Article 66 of the constitution, which states that if "the Council [Cabinet] resigns or is considered resigned, the Chamber of Deputies [Parliament] shall automatically be considered convened in extraordinary session until a new Council [Cabinet] has been formed and has gained the Chamber's [Parliament] confidence."Lebanon's Cabinet entered its caretaker mode on May 21, 15 days following the conclusion of the country's parliamentary elections on May 6. Despite the possibility of calling extraordinary sessions, Berri stressed that he would "rather wait until a new Cabinet is formed in order to avoid any frictions."Prime Minister-designate Hariri has been tasked with forming an all-inclusive Cabinet comprising of the country's different political factions yet has faced several hurdles in the process, mainly in respect to the Lebanese Forces and Free Patriotic Movement's demands. The LF, who saw their bloc expand to 15 MPs, have been pushing for a significant share of ministries including one of four key portfolios (Interior, Defense, Foreign and Finance Ministries) to rival the FPM. The FPM, with its 29 MPs however, remains the biggest Christian coalition in Parliament. President Michel Aoun has been adamant in his refusal to grant the LF's wishes and limit their representation despite Hariri's commitment to an all-inclusive Cabinet. The President has also been trying to secure at least three other ministries to go alongside the FPM's seven, including that of the deputy premier position which is currently occupied by the LF.

Maronite Bishops: To overcome differences, agree on government formula capable of facing challenges
Wed 01 Aug 2018/NNA - The Maronite Bishops held their monthly meeting at the Diman Patriarchate under the chairmanship of Maronite Patriarch, Cardinal Mar Bechara Boutros Rahi, with talks touching on church and national affairs. At the end of the meeting, participants issued a statement in which they congratulated the Lebanese on the Army Day, and relayed congratulations to the Army leadership, officers and soldiers. Bishops commended the efforts and responsibilities of the army and the security forces in their quest to defend the homeland, fight terrorism and safeguard the wellbeing of all citizens.
Bishops regretted "the passage of more than two months on the designation of a Prime Minister to form the government, without consultations and political contacts leading to results as to forming that new government, while the economic conditions are deteriorating, and regional developments are crucial."
They thus called on official and political references "to overcome disputes arising from quotas, the distribution of ministerial portfolios and others, and to accelerate the agreement on a formula for a government capable of facing the most pressing challenges."
Moreover, Bishops tackled the issue of legalizing the cultivation of cannabis for medical use and to help the State treasury. Accordingly, they "deemed this issue extremely dangerous for various social and ethical reasons and called to approach it in a more objective, scientific and practical way and study the negative aspects of this agriculture as well as its advantages, so as to avoid harming the health of the citizens, especially the younger generations."

Hariri receives a delegation from the Association of Building Traders in Lebanon
Wed 01 Aug 2018/NNA - Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri received today at the "Center House" a delegation from the Association of Building Traders in Lebanon, headed by the President of the Association, Elie Soma, in the presence of Hariri's Advisor for Development Affairs, Fadi Fawaz. After the meeting, Souma said: "We were honored to visit Prime Minister Hariri today, after our visit to the President of the Republic and the Speaker of the Parliament to inform them about the difficult situation in the country, especially the construction sector, which is the mainstay of the economy. This sector is facing stagnation and we are doing our best to bring the economic wheel back into the country. There are some difficulties we are facing from the banks and the suspension of housing loans, but fortunately, the three presidents have shown their willingness to keep housing loans, as promised, and this will make the economic wheel turn. We are relying on PM Hariri who was positive and assured us to follow up things to make the ship reach the safety shore. We are satisfied with the atmosphere of our visit to Prime Minister Hariri and we will remain in constant contact with him to convey our concerns. We consider him as the protector of the construction sector, which is the mainstay of the Lebanese economy, there are sixty professions related to this sector, and we are very hopeful about the views of his Excellency to reach the safety shore."

Mikati from Diman: Talks about legislation in absence of executive authority not serious

Wed 01 Aug 2018/NNA - Former Prime Minister, MP Najib Mikati visited on Wednesday the Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Mar Bechara Boutros Rahi at his summer residence in Diman in the presence of members of the "Center Independent" Parliamentary bloc: Jean Obeid, Nicolas Nahas and Ali Darwish. In the wake of the meeting, Mikati delivered a statement in which he said "Everyone is talking about quotas and not about competencies and policies that should be followed in the future in the light of the great challenges that await the upcoming government.""No one can launch any warnings to the premier-designate, who was tasked by the majority, and looks forward to forming a government that is at the level of challenges," he said. "It is normal for the government to represent different political groups and bodies."Pertaining to the possibility of holding parliamentary sessions in the presence of an outgoing government, Mikati said "We do not want to get into this controversy because I think Speaker Berri has the wisdom not to raise such an issue at the present time. In principle, the constitution confirms the separation of powers. I believe that when the House of Representatives convenes under Strong legislative authority and in the absence of an executive authority because of resignation, this means imbalance. I also believe that Speaker Berri is keen not to cause any imbalances in Lebanon."Asked whether this proposal was serious, Mikati replied: "This is something I do not regard as serious."

Shamsi, Bukhari offer condolences to Jumblatt on Sweida martyrs

Wed 01 Aug 2018/NNA - The UAE Ambassador to Lebanon, Hamad Saeed al-Shamsi, and Saudi Minister Plenipotentiary Charge d'Affaire, Walid Bukhari, on Wednesday afternoon visited Progressive Socialist Party head, Walid Jumblatt, at his residence in Clemenceau, to offer condolences on Sweida's fallen martyrs.Both Shamsi and Bukhari expressed solidarity with the sons of Jabal al-Arab at these intricate times.

Berri: Council has full right to legislate in present situation
Wed 01 Aug 2018/NNA - Speaker of the House, Nabih Berri, reiterated during his Wednesday parliamentary meeting "the importance of working with all means to speed up the formation of the government due to the delicacy of the situation in which we all live, hoping that "everyone will deal flexibly and responsibly with this issue so as to facilitate the process of formation and thus the exit from the state of stagnation experienced by the country."As for what is raised by some media outlets with regard to legislation, Berri was quoted as saying: "Article 69 of the Constitution is clear in terms of the right of the House of Representatives to legislate in similar situations.""Despite this unambiguous right, according to the text of the Constitution, I do prefer to follow the policy of slowdown, so as not to interpret matters outside their context," he said at the Wednesday Gathering. On the other hand, Speaker Berri telephoned Paraguayan Congress President, Silvio Adalberto Ovelar Benitez, congratulating him on his election. He also received a cable from German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
World Bank Warns Some Lebanon Projects May be Canceled
Associated Press/Naharnet/August 01/18/A senior World Bank official has said that the Lebanese economy is "not doing great" and urged the country's leaders to approve some $1.1 billion worth of projects put forward by the international lender, saying otherwise they could be canceled. Ferid Belhaj, the bank's vice president for the Middle East and North Africa, told reporters in Beirut that the economy is "in a state of fragility." Lebanon's economy has suffered from the seven-year civil war in neighboring Syria, which has caused occasional spillovers of violence and has sent more than 1 million refugees across the border. Syrian refugees now make up about a quarter of Lebanon's population. The refugees' presence has been a burden on Lebanon's already crumbling infrastructure. Power outages are common, and many residents must have water brought to their homes by tanker truck. Belhaj said Lebanon should take steps to reform the electricity sector, where the state-owned provider operates on a $1.5 billion annual deficit. Corruption-plagued Lebanon has one of the highest debt ratios in the world, worth $80 billion, or 152 percent of the gross domestic product, and growth has been slow since 2011. Belhaj said the World Bank has a portfolio of more than $2 billion of projects in Lebanon, including about $1.1 billion which is still "not converted into actual investment, meaning they are sitting with parliament and the council of ministers."He said the World Bank wants to make sure that projects move forward, not only because Lebanon needs them, but because the government is paying commitment fees on them. He said that if the projects are not approved by the government and parliament they will have to be canceled. "This is not our preference, obviously. We would really want to have these projects move ahead as soon as possible," he said. Saroj Kumar Jha, the World Bank's regional director for the Mashreq, or Middle East, said the projects include improving roads in rural areas, building rapid bus transit across Beirut and improving the electricity sector. Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri has been trying to form a Cabinet since after the May 6 parliamentary elections, with no success due to political bickering. On Tuesday, Lebanese media reported that Iraqi intelligence in collaboration with the Lebanese General Security have revealed a scam network spreading false information to blackmail a number of Lebanese banks, including one of the country's largest. Investigations were continuing, and the head of Lebanon's General Security, Maj. gen. Abbas Ibrahim, told reporters in Beirut the plot was to undermine Lebanon's banking sector, one of the country's economic pillars. Iraqi intelligence has reportedly arrested some members of the network, who had falsely claimed they had accounts in Lebanese banks worth millions of dollars.

Hariri, Jumblat and Geagea Insist on Govt. Demands, Backed by Berri
The new government will not be formed soon and PM-designate Saad Hariri, Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea and Progressive Socialist Party chief Walid Jumblat have closed ranks in their endeavor to get the shares that they want in the Cabinet, a media report said.
“The three parties enjoy the support of Speaker Nabih Berri, who is sympathizing with their reasonable, rational and normal demands,” MTV quoted high-ranking political sources as saying. “Saudi Arabia is not interfering to resolve the crisis and Iran is not making any initiative,” the sources added, noting that Tehran is “preoccupied with the Syria file and with the November 4 date for reimposing the U.S. sanctions on it,” the sources added. “Inside the country, the local parties are confident that there will be no government in the near future,” the sources went on to say. Turning to Hariri's relation with Free Patriotic Movement chief MP Jebran Bassil, the sources said the PM-designate is “refusing to give Bassil 10 or 11 ministers” in a bid to prevent the new presidential tenure from getting a so-called “one-third veto power” in Cabinet. “He largely agrees on this with Berri, because the parliamentary sizes do not entitle them to such a number of seats,” the sources added. As for Bassil's visit to Ain el-Tineh on Tuesday, the sources said the move “reflects the dilemma that the new presidential tenure and the FPM chief are facing,” noting that Bassil decided to “show openness to Berri after he severed his communication channels with Maarab, Clemenceau and the Center House.”

Lebanon's Hash Farmers Fear Going Legal May Hit Profits
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 01/18
The sun-soaked cannabis fields are just out of reach of a nearby army checkpoint. Its production is lucrative in Lebanon, but growers fear legalizing its medical use could slash profits. The remote territory surrounding the northeastern Lebanese town of Yammouneh is blanketed in the potent plant, harvested and sold by powerful families. "All these red-shingled houses around us have been built with marijuana money," says a local grower, speaking on condition of anonymity to avoid legal troubles. Lebanon bans growing, selling, and consuming cannabis, but the underground trade developed over decades into a multi-million dollar industry pumping resin into other countries. Lawmakers are now considering legalizing its medical use, following a recommendation this year by consulting firm McKinsey that doing so could boost Lebanon's faltering economy. But growers and distributors fear government regulation would eat away at their revenue, or see bigger corporate players run them out of business altogether. "We don't have a problem with legalization, but the primary beneficiary must be the grower," says Yammouneh's deputy mayor Hussein Shreif.
He spoke to the AFP news agency during a tour of the town, where many residents are involved in the trade. Growers prefer the current "free market" system, Shreif says, because they can sell to "big traffickers to make 10 times more money.""If the state gets involved, the profit won't be the same."
Taking root
Cannabis production blossomed during Lebanon's 1975-1990 war, and authorities struggled to clamp down on the trade after the conflict ended. Security forces regularly bust attempted drug exports at Beirut airport and have even gone to the source, destroying thousands of acres of cannabis fields. U.N.-backed programs have tried to persuade farmers to switch those fields into vineyards, with little success. Cannabis cultivators claim that no other crop can survive the arid climate of Lebanon's eastern Bekaa. "If you tossed hashish on a pile of pebbles, it'd take root. You see it on the roadside and on piles of trash," says the grower. In Lebanon, cannabis is typically planted in spring and harvested in September, then sun-dried for three days, chilled and pressed. Yammouneh's farmers say they sell their product to distributors at an average of $400 (340 euros) per kilo, more if it is of a higher quality. Distributors then either sell to local consumers for several times that price, or export it. In 2016, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime ranked Lebanon as the third main source of cannabis resin after Morocco and Afghanistan, which are both much larger. Lebanon's exports go mainly to nearby markets in Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Cyprus, Turkey, and even arch-foe Israel. Some of those countries have legalized medical marijuana, which can be used to relieve chronic pain or anxiety, nausea among cancer patients, or symptoms of epilepsy. While cannabis is usually smoked, for medical purposes it can be consumed in pills or concentrated oils. A growing number of governments are allowing its prescription, including countries across South America, Europe, and most US states.
Let us grow it
The details of potential legalization in Lebanon remain hazy, but growers are already setting a few conditions. "If cannabis production must become legal, it should at least be limited to areas it's currently growing in," says Jamal Shreif, another local official in Yammouneh. "If someone buying from us now can grow it himself, then he'll stop coming to us."Residents of Lebanon's Bekaa Valley are also hoping that a legalization bill would come with an "amnesty" for more than 30,000 people wanted on drug-related charges, says the deputy major, Hussein Shreif. The charges usually end in jail time, but earlier this month a Lebanese Army raid on a high-profile trafficker's home in the Bekaa left him and seven others dead. It came just days after Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri announced lawmakers were preparing to discuss legalizing cannabis for medical use to boost the economy. Lebanon's economy has been in a downward spiral for years, with political divisions paralyzing the government. The outbreak of war in neighboring Syria in 2011 added to those woes, keeping tourists away and triggering an influx of refugees that strained services. Public debt stands at $80.4 billion, equivalent to 150 percent of GDP, the third highest worldwide after Japan and Greece. "If you really want to legalize cannabis, then let us grow it and export it," says the deputy mayor. "Drug traders could close out the public debt in a year." Lebanon is also ranked by Transparency International as one of the most corrupt countries in the world, and cannabis croppers fear that will seep into their trade if it is regularized. "They've stolen everything in Lebanon -- there's only cannabis left, and now they want to steal that too," says Jamal Shreif.

The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published
on August 01-02/18
Iran death penalty charges in economic crisis ‘breach international law’: Amnesty
Agencies/August 01/18/LONDON: Iran’s application of the death penalty to individuals arrested during the country’s economic crisis would be in “direct breach of international law,” the world’s leading human-rights organization has said.
At least 29 people have been arrested for “economic disruption,” Iranian officials announced last weekend, with many facing charges that carry the death penalty.
Amnesty International on Wednesday expressed “alarm” over the arrests, saying that the application of the death penalty for non-violent crimes would be “in direct breach of international law.”
The plunging value of the Iranian currency and worsening economic situation has prompted a string of public protests this year. In an apparent attempt to be seen to be tackling the crisis, officials announced dozens of arrests and blamed unnamed “enemies” for the rial’s decline. “Amnesty International is alarmed at the judiciary’s announcement that it has charged individuals arrested in relation to the country’s economy and currency crisis with ‘corruption on earth’ (efsad-e fel arz), which incurs the death penalty,” an Amnesty spokesperson told Arab News. “This would be in direct breach of international law, which restricts the use of the death penalty to only the ‘most serious crimes’ — those involving intentional killing. Amnesty International’s research has shown that basic fair trial guarantees are absent in death penalty cases in Iran.” The statement follows warnings from other campaign groups over the human-rights situation in Iran. “In recent weeks and months we’ve had many protests,” Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, spokesman for the Oslo-based Iran Human Rights group, told Arab News on Tuesday.
“Human rights are suffering … and every day they suffer more. Iran is among the biggest violators of human rights in the world today.”
Harvard scholar and Iranian affairs expert Dr. Majid Rafizadeh said that the arrests connected to the economic crisis amounted to a PR exercise by the Iranian government. “The arrests by the regime are mostly cosmetic actions aimed at projecting that the Islamic Republic is taking actions to address corruption and address people’s grievances,” he said. “The regime is also trying to point (the) finger at some individuals rather than on the systematic financial corruption within the political establishment.” Amid widespread public anger, demonstrations spread to the historic city of Isfahan on Tuesday, with protesters demanding an end to the Iranian regime’s costly interference in the affairs of neighboring countries in the region. Video footage showed hundreds of protesters shouting: “No to Gaza, no to Lebanon, my soul is Iran’s redemption.” The slogan refers to Tehran’s military adventures in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon, at the expense of the domestic economy. “The protests in Isfahan are significant because they highlight people’s ongoing and growing outrage and frustration with the theocratic establishment, as the economy is in shambles,” said Rafizadeh. “Despite the regime’s crackdown, people continue to take to streets as they can’t make ends meet.”

Iranian Forces Pulling Back From Israel Border, Says Russia
Reuters and Jack Khoury/Haaretz/August 01, 2018
Russia's envoy to Syria says the Iranians withdrew 85 kilometers from the Golan Heights ■ Assad says his regime is headed for 'crushing victory'
Iranian forces have withdrawn their heavy weapons to a distance of 85 km (53 miles) from the Golan Heights frontier between Israel and Syria, TASS news agency quoted Russia's envoy to Syria as saying on Wednesday. Backed by Russia, Iran, and the Hezbollah's Shi'ite militia, Syrian President Bashar Assad has retaken territory in southern-western Syria from rebels, bringing the pro-Assad forces in proximity to the Israeli border. "The Iranians withdrew and the Shi'ite formations are not there," the agency quoted Alexander Lavrentiev, President Vladimir Putin's special envoy to Syria, as saying.
Lavrentiev said Iranian service personnel whom he described as advisors could be among Syrian army forces who remain closer to the Israeli border. "But there are no units of heavy equipment and weapons that could pose a threat to Israel at a distance of 85 km from the line of demarcation," Lavrentiev said.
In the meantime, Assad said on Wednesday that his army is about to regain control over the divided country: "We are about to announce a crushing victory," he wrote in a letter on the occasion of the 73rd anniversary of the establishment of Syria's army."We have reached stability and security in most regions, from Homs to Palmyra... and other areas where terror was established with logistical and financial support over seven and a half years ago," he added. On Monday, the Syrian government regained control of the frontier with the Golan Heights for the first time in seven years after Islamic State-linked militants gave up their last pocket of territory in the area, reported by state media and an opposition-linked war monitoring group. Israeli officials see Iranian forces and Hezbollah as a direct threat to their country's security. An Israeli official deemed the pullback insufficient. "What we have laid down as a red line is military intervention and entrenchment by Iran in Syria, and not necessarily on our border," Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi told Israel Radio, citing the longer-range threat posed by Iranian missiles or drones positioned in Syria.
Israel rejected the offer, which was made during a meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and visiting Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. In an apparent riposte, Russia's ambassador to Israel, Anatoly Viktorov, said on Monday that Moscow could not compel Iran to leave Syria. "There'll be no compromises nor concessions on this matter." Last week an Israeli official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Russia had offered to keep Iranian forces at least 100 km from the Golan Heights ceasefire line. But Viktorov also signalled that Russia would continue to turn a blind eye to Israeli air strikes against suspected Iranian and Hezbollah arms transfers or emplacements in Syria. Hanegbi said Israel wanted to prevent Iran and Hezbollah from effectively extending their Lebanese front against it. "We are not ready to see a new Hezbollah front on our northern border between Israel and Syria. This is something that is dangerous. This is something that, if we don't prevent it today, when still at its outset, will a exact a heavy price of us down the line," he said.

Iran says Trump offer of talks is ‘humiliation’, without value
Reuters, London/Tuesday, 31 July 2018/Senior Iranian officials on Tuesday rejected US President Donald Trump’s offer of talks without preconditions as worthless and “a humiliation” after he acted to re-impose sanctions on Tehran following his withdrawal from a landmark nuclear deal.
Separately, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Trump’s repudiation of the accord reached in 2015 was “illegal” and Iran would not easily yield to Washington’s renewed campaign to strangle Iran’s vital oil exports. In May, Trump pulled the United States out of the multilateral deal concluded before he took office, denouncing it as one-sided in Iran’s favor. On Monday, he declared that he would be willing to meet Rouhani without preconditions to discuss how to improve relations. The head of Iran’s Strategic Council on Foreign Relations said on Tuesday Tehran saw no worth in Trump’s offer, made only a week after he warned Iran it risked dire consequences few had ever suffered in history if it made threats against Washington. “Based on our bad experiences in negotiations with America and based on US officials’ violation of their commitments, it is natural that we see no value in his proposal,” Kamal Kharrazi was quoted as saying by the semi-official Fars news agency. “Trump should first make up for his withdrawal from the nuclear deal and show that he respects his predecessors’ commitments and international law,” added Kharrazi, a former foreign minister. The council was set up by Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to help formulate long-term policies for the Islamic Republic.
Trump’s move to force Iran into fresh negotiations has for now reunited Iranian hardliners who opposed the nuclear deal and moderates like Rouhani who championed it to end the Islamic Republic’s economically crippling stand-off with Western powers. Ali Motahari, the deputy speaker of Iran’s parliament who is seen as part of Iran’s moderate camp, said that to negotiate with Trump now “would be a humiliation”. “If Trump had not withdrawn from the nuclear deal and not imposed (new) sanctions on Iran, there would be no problem with negotiations with America,” he told state news agency IRNA. Iran’s interior minister chimed in that Tehran did not trust Washington as a negotiating partner. “The United States is not trustworthy. How can we trust this country when it withdraws unilaterally from the nuclear deal?” Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli was quoted as saying by the semi-official Fars news agency. A senior aide to Rouhani said the only way back to talks was for Washington to return to the nuclear agreement. “Respecting the Iranian nation’s rights, reducing hostilities and returning to the nuclear deal are steps that can be taken to pave the bumpy road of talks between Iran and America,” Hamid Aboutalebi tweeted on Tuesday. Under the 2015 deal, the fruit of Rouhani’s efforts to ease Iran’s international isolation to help revive its economy, Iran curbed its shadowy nuclear program and won relief from UN and Western sanctions in return.
Nuclear pact in jeopardy
Trump condemned the deal in part because it did not cover Iran’s ballistic missile program and involvement in Middle East conflicts. He reactivated US sanctions, the most all-encompassing measures against Iran, and warned countries to stop importing Iranian oil from Nov. 4 or risk US penalties.
The three major European signatories to the 2015 deal have been searching for ways to salvage it but cautioned Tehran that they may not be able to persuade many major investors not to bolt from business with Iran to avoid US punishment. Rouhani said during a meeting with Britain’s ambassador on Tuesday that after what he called the “illegal” US withdrawal from the nuclear deal, “the ball is in Europe’s court now”. He added, “The Islamic Republic has never sought tension in the region and does not want any trouble in global waterways, but it will not easily give up on its rights to export oil.” Rouhani and some senior military commanders have said Iran could disrupt oil shipments from Gulf states through the Strait of Hormuz if Washington tries to choke off Iranian oil exports. Reiterating Tehran’s official stance, Iranian Navy Commander Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi was quoted as saying by Tasnim news agency on Tuesday that the strait would remain open “if Iran’s national interests are preserved”.

US slaps sanctions on Turkey ministers over detained pastor
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Wednesday, 1 August 2018/The US Treasury Department on Wednesday hit Turkey's justice and interior ministers with sanctions over the case of an American pastor being tried on terror charges. “We believe he's a victim of unfair and unjust attention by the government of Turkey,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told journalists, referring to Andrew Brunson, an American pastor at the center of a bitter diplomatic spat between NATO allies. Brunson, who led a Protestant church in the Aegean city of Izmir, was placed under house arrest last week after nearly two years in jail. “Pastor Brunson’s unjust detention and continued prosecution by Turkish officials is simply unacceptable,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in a statement. “President Trump has made it abundantly clear that the United States expects Turkey to release him immediately.”(With AFP)

Russia: Iran-backed forces withdraw from Golan frontier
Associated Press/August 01/ 2018
Israel occupied the Golan Heights in the 1967 Mideast war.
BEIRUT: Russian President Vladimir Putin's envoy to Syria said Wednesday that an agreement with Israel that includes Russian guarantees ensures that Iran-backed fighters will remain more than 80 kilometers (50 miles) away from Syria's frontier with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Alexander Lavrentyev told the Russian Interfax news agency the agreement was reached in order not to "irritate" Israel. He didn't elaborate on when the agreement was forged or for how long. Russian-backed Syrian forces regained full control of the frontier on Monday after a six-week offensive in the area that expelled Syrian armed opposition and an affiliate of the Islamic State group that had been deployed along the frontier with the Golan. "The agreement is still in effect. Iranian forces have actually been withdrawn from (the southern de-escalation zone in Syria) in order not to irritate the Israeli administration, which has increased the number of attacks on Iranian sites in this territory," Lavrentyev said. He said the pro-Iranian forces have withdrawn to 85 kilometers (53 miles) from the area with "our assistance," he said. Israel has escalated its attacks against targets inside Syria suspected of being linked to Iran, insisting that it won't allow Iran to establish a permanent military presence near the frontier. Iran has military advisers in Syria and backs Shiite militias fighting alongside Syrian troops, including Lebanon's Hezbollah. Israel occupied the Golan Heights in the 1967 Mideast war. The frontier was quiet for decades following a 1974 disengagement agreement.
With the start of Syria's civil war in 2011, fighting erupted along the frontier, bringing rebels to the area. In 2014, a U.N. peacekeeping force deployed along the disengagement lines withdrew when rebels took control of the frontier.
Sochi Focuses on Aid, Return of Syrian Refugees
Moscow - Raed Jabr/Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 1 August, 2018/The guarantors of the Astana process have failed to converge their views on the main issues raised in Sochi talks, while wide opposing views over the situation in Idlib hampered an agreement over joint steps of action. On the other hand, Moscow succeeded in maintaining the file of the refugees on the agenda of subsequent discussions, based on its call to lift international sanctions and help the Syrian regime receive the displaced. Russian Presidential envoy Alexander Lavrentyev read a short report at the end of the second day of talks in Russia, emphasizing the key elements contained in the final statement signed by the guarantor countries. The statement did not mention the situation in Idlib, but focused on the agreement of the guarantor countries to call on the international community to help Syrians restore their normal lives and launch a negotiation over the return of the refugees. The statement also pointed to an agreement by the guarantors to “complete the confidence-building efforts between the parties to the Syrian conflict, also with regards to the issue of detainees.” It renewed the commitment of the three parties to preserve the unity and sovereignty of the Syrian territories and reject division plans aimed at “undermining the unity of Syria and neighboring countries.”The next round of talks would be held in November, according to the statement. Meanwhile, well-informed sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that extensive discussions on the situation in Idlib have ended without any sensible agreement, while Russia confirmed during the talks that it would no longer tolerate the continued attacks from Idlib towards the base of Hmeimem and other areas, and that it would respond to future attacks. On the other hand, briefs delivered by Lavrentyev and the UN envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, have emphasized some progress in the file of constitutional reform, in an attempt to cover up the failure of the round of talks. In this regard, source told Asharq Al-Awsat that De Mistura did not participate in discussions on the various files, adding that his role was limited to discussing the constitutional committee. Lavrentyev, for his part, said he was satisfied with the progress achieved in this file.On the issue of refugees, the Russian presidential envoy underlined the need for fast international support, by working to lift sanctions on Syria and contribute to reconstruction efforts in order to facilitate the return of refugees.

IS Ambush Kills 4 Regime Fighters near Damascus

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 01/18/Four Syrian regime fighters were killed east of the capital, a monitor said on Wednesday, in an ambush claimed by the Islamic State group. The jihadists struck on Tuesday in a hilly area about 50 kilometers from Damascus, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. "There were four regime fighters killed, including three officers working in the Dumeir area," Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said. IS had a presence in the industrial area of Dumeir for several years but was eventually ousted by rival rebels, who lost the area to the government this year. In a statement posted on its propaganda channels on Tuesday, IS said "soldiers of the caliphate" ambushed pro-government fighters, killing three of them. The jihadist group once controlled swathes of territory straddling Syria and Iraq which it declared an Islamic "caliphate", but has since lost nearly all of that territory. It is largely confined to the Badiya, the vast desert that stretches from the populous central region all the way to the eastern border with Iraq. "The area attacked lies close to the Badiya but it is not clear if the attackers were hiding in sleeper cells there or came in from the desert," Abdel Rahman told AFP. Last week, IS fighters reportedly based in the desert made a devastating foray into the southern province of Sweida, killing more than 250 people in coordinated suicide bombings, shootings and stabbings.

Videos Released of Japanese, Italian Captives in Syria

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 01/18/A jihadist group has released videos of a Japanese journalist and an Italian man held captive in Syria in which they appeal for their release, U.S.-based monitors have said. The two men -- Japanese freelance journalist Jumpei Yasuda and Italian national Alessandro Sandrini -- appear in two separate videos that are nonetheless similar in their staging and were released by the SITE group, which tracks white supremacist and jihadist organizations. SITE did not say which group was responsible for the videos. Both men are shown kneeling in front of a wall wearing orange jumpsuits while armed men dressed head-to-toe in black stand behind them. Jumpei is thought to have been abducted by the Al-Nusra Front, a former al-Qaida affiliate, in northern Syria in 2015. He identifies himself as Korean in the video but speaks Japanese, giving the recording date as July 25, stating that he is in a bad situation and asking for help. Sandrini gives a different date, July 19, and says that it is his last request to the Italian government. The Italian hostage was kidnapped in Turkey in October 2016 before being taken to Syria, according to reports in the Italian media. He is believed to be from Brescia and is said to be around 32 years old.
UN Plans September Talks on New Syria Constitution in Geneva
Geneva - Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 1 August, 2018/The United Nations said Tuesday its Special Envoy for Syria is planning talks with Iran, Russia and Turkey in September to draft a new Syrian constitution. Staffan de Mistura held informal talks in Sochi with Russian, Iranian and Turkish representatives and has received lists from the Assad regime and opposition on proposed candidates for the Constitutional Committee, according to a UN statement. “The Special Envoy looks forward to holding formal consultations (with the three countries) ... very early in September in Geneva, in order to begin to finalize the constitutional committee,” the statement added. In June, de Mistura held a similar meeting at UN headquarters in Geneva but had only received a list of 50 nominees for the constitutional committee from the Syrian regime and was awaiting a similar one from the opposition. The special envoy was tasked with setting up the committee during a Russian-backed congress held in Sochi in January.

'Victory is Near,' Assad Tells Troops

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 01/18/Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told his troops on Wednesday they were close to winning the country's seven-year war after inflicting a succession of defeats on rebels. Early last year, government forces held just 17 percent of national territory but a series of blistering offensives has since forced the rebels out of many of their strongholds, putting Assad's government back in control of nearly two-thirds of the country. "Our date with victory is near," Assad wrote in an open letter to the rank and file. "They (the rebels) were ultimately forced to leave -- humiliated, rolled back, their tails between their legs -- after you gave them a taste of bitter defeat."Much of the territory was recaptured without any ground fighting as the rebels reluctantly agreed to leave their bombed out enclaves in Russian-protected convoys. The army has been bolstered in its offensives by Russian air strikes, Iranian military advisers and militiamen from Lebanon, Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan.Government troops are now mopping up the remaining rebel pockets in the south, and last week Assad promised a similar offensive against the rebels' last major stronghold -- Idlib province in the northwest.

ISIS Routed in Syria’s Yarmouk Basin
Beirut - London - Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 1 August, 2018/ISIS has been cornered in a pocket of southern Daraa province following clashes between Syrian regime forces and the militants, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, which also confirmed that the terrorist group was routed in the Yarmouk Basin. Tuesday afternoon's violence came amid talks between the regime and ISIS to release about 30 Druze women and children it kidnapped last week as a bargaining chip, demanding its fighters be allowed to evacuate to their stronghold in the Badiya, the Observatory said. The Badiya refers to the vast desert stretching from central Syria to the eastern border with Iraq, and where ISIS still holds territory. ISIS abducted the civilians from a remote village in Sweida, a province directly east of Daraa, during a deadly rampage on July 25 that left more than 250 people dead. ISIS claimed responsibility for the killings but has made no mention of the kidnappings on its propaganda channels. However, a video published by local news outlets appeared to show one of the female hostages demanding Syria's regime halt its assault on the ISIS-held part of Daraa. In Daraa, nearly 100 militants are surrounded in their last redoubt, the Observatory said, with the regime and its Russia targeting it with air raids. "Army units are carrying out fierce fighting in the last pockets of the ISIS terrorist group" in a village in the area, Syrian state television reported.

Debate Rages among Shiite Iraqi Powers over Largest Parliamentary Bl
Baghdad - Hamza Mustafa/Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 1 August, 2018/Iraq's Fatih bloc, headed by Hadi al-Amiri and the Sairoon bloc, backed by the Sadrist movement, each claimed that they were close to forming the largest parliamentary bloc.
The Fatih bloc had announced that it has become the largest bloc as it garnered 60 seats at parliament through various alliances, while spokesman for the Sairoon bloc, Qahtan al-Jabouri told Asharq Al-Awsat that its alliance remains the largest. The Sairoon alliance had emerged as the victor in the May parliamentary elections. These conflicting stances were announced in wake of Shiite Religious Authority in Najaf Ali al-Sistani’s call last week for the formation of an Iraqi government as soon as possible. The conflict among Shiite parties over the largest bloc is still centering on who the next prime minister should be, not the government program, according to political observers. It is crucial that the program meet protest demands, which now have Sistani’s “green light” to continue to pressure the government. Protests had erupted in southern Iraq in early July over corruption, poor services and a lack of jobs. Top Sadrist official, Amir al-Kanani, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the situation among Shiites cannot be described as a conflict between two parties, but rather a competition between parliamentary blocs, each of which believes it is most suited to provide services to citizens. “This conflict is in line with the nature of this stage, which requires competition to provide better performance. In addition, competition is healthy in emerging democracies, including Iraqi democracy,” he noted.An informed Iraqi politician, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the US has informed important Iraqi parties that its only choice for prime minister is current PM Haidar al-Abadi, regardless of the size of the bloc or who joins his alliance. Some US messages appeared to be a warning to blocs, parties and officials that their insistence on candidates, who are not accepted by Washington, could put them under US sanctions, according to the politician. The source explained that this is largely linked to the development of the American-Iranian conflict and the impending sanctions on Tehran. "The US administration may impose sanctions on Iraqi parties, not the Iraqi state,” he added. He added that Amiri is a candidate, among others, to head the new government. However, the US insists on Abadi and thus, the Fatih bloc leader is unlikely to be named, especially since he is considered close to Iran. He noted that the biggest player in determining Iraqi prime ministers since 2003 and until this day has been Washington, which used to welcome “Iran’s partnership, however, this time, it alone wants to choose the next premier." In a related context, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) insisted on the formation of a comprehensive and pro-reform government that is capable of meeting the people’s demands. "Secretary-General of the Council of Ministers Mahdi Al-Alak received head of UNAMI Jan Kubis and exchanged views on the upcoming government reforms and means of achieving development and economic progress to ensure stability in Iraq,” said a government statement.

Egypt: 4 Brotherhood Members Get Life Sentences for Torching Giza Church
Cairo - Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 1 August, 2018/An Egyptian court on Tuesday sentenced four members of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood to life in prison for burning a church in Giza, southwest of Cairo. The Kafr Hakim church was set on fire in August 2013 in a wave of violence in Egypt. The prosecution accused the defendants of joining an illegal group, the Muslim Brotherhood which is officially classified as a terrorist organization. They were also accused of possessing unlicensed firearms and ammunition, deliberately setting fire to a church and looting it, blocking the road and disturbing the public order and resisting authorities. The convicted Ahmed Abdelkhalek, Bandari Yehia Bandari and Hussein Mohammed and Abdullah Najem were also finned 20,000 Egyptian pounds ($1,119) each.

Ban on Face Veil Takes Effect in Denmark
Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 1 August, 2018/A ban on the face veil, or niqab or burqa, went into force in Denmark on Wednesday. Danish lawmakers approved the law in May, which was presented by the center-right governing coalition that is known for tightening asylum and immigration rules in recent years. The ban also covers ski masks, face masks and false beards. The law allows people to cover their face when there is a "recognizable purpose" like cold weather or complying with other legal requirements, such as using motorcycle helmets required under Danish traffic rules. First-time offenders risk a fine of 1,000 kroner ($157). Repeat offenses could trigger fines of up to 10,000 kroner or a jail sentence of up to six months. Anyone forcing a person to wear garments covering the face by using force or threats can be fined or face up to two years in prison. Supporters and opponents of the ban clashed verbally later on Wednesday as the law took effect. Marcus Knuth of the ruling liberal party Venstre, says the dress worn by some conservative Muslim women is "strongly oppressive." Sasha Andersen of the "Party Rebels" activist group, is planning a demonstration later in the day against what they called a "discriminatory" measure against a minority group. Groups that back the ban also plan to rally. Popularly known as the "Burqa Ban," it is mostly seen as being directed at the niqab and burqa. Few Muslim women in Denmark wear such full-face veils. Amnesty International condemned the law as a “discriminatory violation of women’s rights,” especially against Muslim women who choose to wear the full-face veils. “Whilst some specific restrictions on the wearing of full-face veils for the purposes of public safety may be legitimate, this blanket ban is neither necessary nor proportionate and violates the rights to freedom of expression and religion,” the organization's Europe director Gauri van Gulik said in a statement following the vote. “If the intention of this law was to protect women’s rights, it fails abjectly. Instead, the law criminalizes women for their choice of clothing and in so doing flies in the face of those freedoms Denmark purports to uphold,” she added.Austria, France and Belgium have similar laws.

Investigation Report on Malaysian Plane Crash Disappoints Families
London - Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 1 August, 2018/After more than four years on the biggest mystery in the modern civil aviation world, relatives of the Malaysian airplane’s passengers that was lost in 2014, criticized the report of the investigation team, saying it gave no new clues. The relatives of 239 passengers on board flight MH3 370 hoped the official report would provide information that would allow them to mourn their family members. Some of them criticized the report at a meeting held at the Malaysian Ministry of Transport earlier this week, where they received the report before it was officially published. They considered it a technical report. The 400-page paper concluded that the investigation team "is unable to determine the true cause behind the flight's disappearance." Intan Maizura Othman, whose husband was on MH370 that disappeared on March 8, 2014, shortly after taking off from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, said the meeting between relatives and officials descended into a "shouting match" as family members expressed their frustration. G. Subramaniam, who also lost a son on the flight, said: “Many asked questions but unsatisfactory responses left many angry.” According to satellite-based analyses for the possible path of the plane, no trace of the jet was found in a 120,000 square kilometer search zone in the southern Indian Ocean facing the Australian coasts. In January 2017, the largest sea exploration in history, which kicked off after the 2014 crash led by Australia, in coordination with Malaysia and China, was suspended. About 20 pieces of wreckage were found on the western shores of the Indian Ocean facing the East African coasts, far from the search zone. The authorities confirmed that the remains may refer to the Malaysian plane, but that did not solve the mystery.

Growing Protests Against UNRWA’s Policies
Gaza - Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 1 August, 2018/Protests in the Gaza Strip have intensified against measures adopted by the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees to cut its services to refugees and to dismiss dozens of its employees in the sector. More than 2,000 Palestinians took part in a protest on Tuesday, the largest since the start of demonstrations against UNRWA’s recent policies. Participants raised banners calling for more pressure on the agency to stop its actions. Representatives of factions and national forces, dignitaries, mukhtars, UNRWA staff, and school students participated in the protest. Hussein Mansour, a leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), called on the agency’ administration to reverse its actions against the refugees. Mansour accused UNRWA of rejecting the solutions presented to it to solve the problem of the employees and failing to take action to lay off dozens of foreign advisers who receive large sums of money from the agency. The head of the union of Arab staff at UNRWA, Youssef Hamdouneh, described as “alarming” the international agency’s recent measures to dismiss employees, close down supply centers and warn that the new academic year would not start on time. He stressed in a speech that he would not allow the implementation of a decision to dismiss 956 employees who were recruited under an emergency program. He also accused UNRWA of attempting to spread rumors among Palestinian officials and refugees about the closure of the regional office in Gaza, with the aim of threatening staff to retreat from their peaceful sit-in in the building. These moves came in the wake of statements made by UNRWA Director Matthias Schmale, who said that there were no solutions so far to the financial crisis facing the agency. Schmale pointed out that the new academic season might not start on time if the financial deficit is not resolved. He also noted that various international movements were underway in an attempt to save the current situation after the United States stopped supporting UNRWA’s general budget.

Palestinians Call for Massive Flow to Khan al-Ahmar
Ramallah - Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 1 August, 2018/The Palestinian Authority and Fatah Movement called for the widest possible flow towards the Bedouin Khan al-Ahmar, one day before an Israeli court’s decision on the fate of the area. On Tuesday, the Wall and Settlement Resistance Committee announced a state of alert until further notice in the Khan al-Ahmar village east of Jerusalem. The committee made the announcement a day before the Israeli Supreme Court’s decision regarding the appeal to either approve or reject the demolition of the village. Fatah Movement called for a permanent and intensive presence in the area, in anticipation of any decision by the Israeli occupation court. “The failure of the Occupation plans in Khan al-Ahmar and the gates of the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque is a failure of Israeli expansionist plans and a halt to its projects for a unified Jerusalem as the capital of the occupation state,” said Osama al-Qawasmi, a spokesman for the movement. “Jerusalem was and will remain the capital of the State of Palestine.”The Palestinians appealed for a halt to an Israeli decision to destroy Khan Al-Ahmar, and a number of Israeli Knesset members, on the other hand, sent a letter to the Supreme Court asking it not to surrender to Palestinian demands. On July 13, the Supreme Court issued a decision to freeze the demolition until August 15, but Palestinian lawyers appealed for entirely abolishing the demolition decision. Residents of Khan al-Ahmar arrived from the Negev desert in 1953. Since then, they lived in conditions that lacked the most basic necessities, until Israel decided to expel them ten years ago. Bedouins in the area have been engaging in a peaceful confrontation since 2009 against demolition orders. Some 200 Bedouins face the threat of being deported from their land, while hundreds of students from nearby communities have been prevented from taking advantage of the school built in the village years ago.

Israeli military faces Druze uproar over Jewish nation bill

The Associated Press, Jerusalem/Wednesday, 1 August 2018/Israel’s military chief is pleading to keep politics out of the army amid protests by the Druze minority against a recent bill to enshrine the state’s Jewish character. Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot has called on “all commanders and soldiers to keep controversial political issues” out of the military. In a statement Wednesday, he reaffirmed “our shared mission and camaraderie” with the Druze, an Arabic-speaking minority that serves in the military. Like other minorities, the Druze have been outraged by the bill, which they say renders them second-class citizens. Two Druze officers recently said they would stop serving in response to the bill. The Druze, who follow an offshoot of Shiite Islam, have been fiercely loyal to the state and have risen to high office in the military and politics.

Israeli Court Jails Arab Woman over Facebook Poem

Ramallah / Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 1 August, 2018/The Nazareth District court has sentenced Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour to five months in prison over a video clip of herself, which she posted on Facebook in October 2015, reading her poem. The Israeli prosecution accused Tatour of inciting violence and supporting a “terrorist” organization through her poem "Resist, my people, resist them." The indictment said that the woman posted the video clip in October 2015, accompanied by pictures of clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces. The posts came as a wave of Israeli-Palestinian violence was erupting, including Palestinian knife attacks. The poem contains the following lines: "For an Arab Palestine, I will not succumb to the 'peaceful solution,' Never lower my flags, Until I evict them from my land, Resist the settler's robbery." Judges said that 35-year-old Tatour has expressed support for Islamic Jihad and has incited violence. Tatour, from the Arab village of Reineh near Nazareth, was arrested on October 11, 2015. She has since been under house arrest. She belongs to Israel's Arab minority, which comprises mainly descendants of the Palestinians who remained on their land after the 1948 creation of the state of Israel. She is expected to start her sentence on August 8 but her lawyer Gaby Lasky would likely appeal the verdict. "I wasn't expecting justice to be done. The case was political from the start, because I am Palestinian and support freedom of speech," she told reporters at the court following the sentencing. Her prosecution has drawn international criticism. International writers group Pen has defended Tatour, saying she "has been convicted for doing what writers do every day -- we use our words to peacefully challenge injustice."

Yemen: Houthis to Halt Red Sea Attacks for Two Weeks
Sanaa - Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 1 August, 2018/Yemen's Houthis said Tuesday it is unilaterally halting attacks in the Red Sea for two weeks. Meanwhile, the group's top leader has ordered several entities to terminate all actions against leaders and elements accused of financial corruption and resource looting. Observers described the Houthi initiative an anticipation to any security and military measures the Yemeni government, backed by the Arab Coalition, could take to secure the Red Sea. They believe the proposal aims to appease the international community following repeated Houthi attacks on oil supplies and international trade through Bab al-Mandeb Strait. Head of so-called "Supreme Revolutionary Committee" Mohammad Ali al-Houthi published a series of tweets announcing the group’s move. “The unilateral halt in naval military operations will be for a limited time period and could be extended and include all fronts if this move is reciprocated by the leadership of the coalition,” Houthi asserted. The official stressed his group's willingness to return to dialogue, form a national reconciliation committee and to vote for a president and a parliament that represent all Yemeni factions.  The Houthi offer doesn't refer to the group's intention to end the coup, reflecting its desire to implement a peace agreement under its authority, which it considers as legitimate. It also doesn’t indicate any intentions to hand over weapons or to withdraw from cities and government institutions as stipulated by Security Council Resolution 2216. Last week, Houthis targeted two Saudi oil tankers in the Red Sea, which according to Yemeni observers, reflects the group’s implicit rejection of international efforts led by Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths to resolve the country's crisis. Griffiths’ proposal also includes Houthis’ withdrawal from Hodeidah, its ports and other ports under their control on the Red Sea, in preparation for resuming negotiations with the legitimate government. Meanwhile, well-informed sources in Sanaa told Asharq Al-Awsat that head of the Supreme Political Council Mahdi al-Mashat summoned Central Organization for Auditing and Accountancy Chief Ali al-Imad, asking him to end the prosecution of any leader in the group on charges of corruption. Mashat stressed that, aside from any Houthi leader, pre-coup corruption cases involving any party leader must be investigated and quickly referred to the prosecution and the judiciary, according to the sources. Mashat informed Imad that any attempt to prosecute any leader of the militias is a personal insult to the leader of the Houthi group, they said. Local sources in Sanaa reported that Abdul Khaleq al-Houthi, brother of the group’s leader and military commander of the militias, received huge monthly sums from merchants and businessmen in exchange for their protection and allowing them to continue their business activities. The sources accused a number of senior Houthi leaders in Sanaa of obtaining huge royalties every month from traders in exchange for protecting them from blackmailing and threats of Houthi commanders, such as head of intelligence Abu Ali and commander Abdul Hakim al-Khaiwani, the group’s deputy interior minister. The group arrested dozens of shop owners in Sanaa who refused to pay royalties and the “Khums” in an attempt to force them to comply with its demands.
Yemen Rebels Announce Temporary Red Sea Ceasefire
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 01/18/Yemen's Huthi rebels announced a two-week pause in Red Sea operations Wednesday, after attacks against Saudi tankers last week prompted Riyadh to suspend oil shipments through a key waterway. "The unilateral suspension of our naval operations is for a limited period," the rebels said in a statement released by their defense ministry. The Huthis' Twitter and Facebook accounts said the suspension will last two weeks. But "it can be renewed and expanded to other fronts if this initiative is well-received and reciprocated," the statement said. The Huthis are fighting a Saudi-led military coalition that backs Yemen's government. A spokesman for the coalition did not immediately respond to a written request for comment on the Huthis' unilateral truce. On July 26, Saudi Arabia said it was temporarily suspending oil shipments through the Bab al-Mandab Strait -- one of the world's busiest shipping lanes -- after two oil tankers operated by Saudi shipping group Bahri were attacked, slightly damaging one vessel. The pro-Huthi Al-Masirah television said at the time that the rebels had targeted a Saudi warship named Al-Dammam, without providing further details. The Huthis, allied with Saudi Arabia's regional arch-rival Iran, control Yemen's capital Sanaa and Hodeida port, the entry point for around three quarters of the impoverished country's imports. The coalition on July 1 paused a ground offensive against Hodeida, in what coalition partner the UAE has described as a bid to give United Nations-led peace efforts a chance. The head of the rebels' revolutionary council, Mohammed Ali al-Huthi, said Wednesday's offer of a temporary maritime truce came as "support for U.N. mediation and peace efforts."U.N. envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths has been pushing for a deal which envisions the rebels ceding control of Hodeida port to a U.N.-supervised committee. Saudi Arabia and its allies joined Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi's fight against the Huthis in 2015. Yemen's war has killed nearly 10,000 people and triggered what the U.N. calls the world's largest single humanitarian crisis, with more than eight million Yemenis at risk of starvation.

U.S. to Urge Pressure against N. Korea at Asia Talks

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 01/18/The U.S. will urge the international community to keep up sanctions pressure against North Korea at a security forum in Singapore this week, as concerns mount that Pyongyang has made little progress towards denuclearization.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his North Korean counterpart will attend the gathering in the city-state where U.S. President Donald Trump and the North's leader Kim Jong Un held their historic summit two months ago. Pompeo and top diplomats from other countries involved in trying to curtail Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions will scrutinize whether the North has taken concrete steps towards abandoning its nuclear weapons. At his landmark talks with Trump in June, Kim signed up to a vague commitment to "denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula" -- a far cry from long-standing U.S. demands for complete, verifiable and irreversible disarmament. While there have been small signs of progress, news reports indicate Pyongyang is continuing to build rockets, and there are mounting concerns that the enforcement of United Nations sanctions on the North is being relaxed by some member states. A US official said Washington was "concerned" by North Korean violations of U.N.-approved sanctions, including illegal shipments of oil by sea. Gatherings like Saturday's ASEAN Regional Forum are "an opportunity to remind all countries of their obligations in adherence" of U.N. Security Council resolutions, the official said.
Lasting peace, stability
The annual forum, hosted by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), brings together top diplomats from 26 countries and the European Union for talks on political and security issues in Asia-Pacific. The foreign ministers from all nations involved in stalled "six-party" negotiations with North Korea aimed at reining in Pyongyang's nuclear program will be at the gathering: the U.S., China, Russia, Japan and South Korea. Cutting off oil and fuel to the North would require enforcement primarily by China, which supplies most of North Korea's energy needs, but also by Russia, which delivers some oil to Pyongyang. Despite the concerns about the North's progress toward abandoning its nuclear weapons, ministers at the forum are expected to strike an upbeat note about the agreement between Trump and Kim. They will encourage the U.S. and Pyongyang "to continue working towards the realisation of lasting peace and stability on a denuclearised Korean Peninsula", according to a draft copy of the chairman's statement obtained by AFP. U.S. officials have not said if Pompeo will meet his North Korean counterpart, Ri Yong Ho, on the sidelines of the forum. But even if he does, Sung-Yoon Lee, a Korea expert at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, was sceptical that there would be any fresh signs of progress when it came to denuclearisation. "Pompeo shall gain nothing substantive other than North Korea's amenability to further talks about talks," he said.
'Free and open'
The U.S. secretary of state will also focus on another major regional flashpoint at the forum -- rival claims in the South China Sea and China's growing presence there. China claims nearly all the strategically vital sea, including waters approaching the coasts of ASEAN members Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei.Beijing has in recent years expanded its presence in the sea by building artificial islands capable of holding military bases. Ahead of his trip to Southeast Asia, which will also take him to Malaysia and Indonesia, Pompeo called for a "free and open" Indo-Pacific region and will expand on the theme at the Singapore meeting, according to the State Department. The disputed waters will be in focus when the 10 ASEAN foreign ministers hold talks among themselves during a working dinner on Wednesday, with the regional bloc and China expected to announce some progress in long-running talks aimed at coming up with a code of conduct for the sea. They are expected to announce that they have agreed on a single draft text that reflects the starting negotiating positions of countries towards a code. Analysts however stressed it would be another small step coming over 15 years after negotiations began. Hoang Thi Ha, an analyst at the ASEAN Studies Centre in Singapore, said the development represented "some initial progress" but noted that drawing up the code "will continue to be a painstaking and painfully slow process."

Trump Calls on U.S. Attorney General to End Russia Probe 'Disgrace'
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 01/18/U.S. President Donald Trump called Wednesday on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to end the investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 U.S. elections, calling it "a disgrace to USA."The president's latest tweet on the probe led by special counsel Robert Mueller came on the second day of a trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort on unrelated bank and tax fraud charges. "This is a terrible situation and Attorney General Jeff Sessions should stop this Rigged Witch Hunt right now, before it continues to stain our country any further," Trump said, calling Mueller's probe "a disgrace to USA."

Egyptian forces kill five suspected militants north of Cairo

Reuters, Cairo/Wednesday, 1 August 2018/Egyptian security forces killed five suspected militants in a shootout in Qalyubiya province, north of Cairo, the interior ministry said in a statement on Tuesday. The ministry said the militants were members of the Hasm group who were instructed to conduct “terrorist operations aimed at destabilizing the country” by movement leaders abroad. Egypt accuses Hasm, which emerged in 2016 and has claimed several attacks on security forces, of being a militant wing of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood denies this. Hasm has sometimes released statements claiming attacks against security forces. It has not claimed links with the Brotherhood. Hasm did not immediately issue a statement about the shootout.Police also arrested five other suspected militants during a separate raid in the al-Salam neighborhood in Cairo and confiscated weapons at a third location, the ministry said. Egypt has been fighting an extremist insurgency in the northern part of the Sinai Peninsula since the ouster of Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013 following mass protests against his rule. The ISIS militants in North Sinai have not signaled any connection to Hasm, which has operated mostly in the Nile Delta region. The military launched an offensive against militants in February which has focused on Sinai, but which it said was country-wide. As well as Hasm and ISIS, security forces have faced attacks in its Western desert by Egyptian militants linked to al-Qaeda who security sources say are based in Libya.

The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published
on August 01-02/18
Veterans in Congress know what it means to put country first
David Ignatius/The Washington Post/August 01/18
Heading toward the midterm elections, President Trump is playing the politics of division more recklessly than ever. But there is a movement taking root in both parties this year that seeks to unite the country by building on the bedrock values of military service.
This coalescence of young veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan may be the most positive trend on the political horizon. These young men and women have been through the nightmare of combat in the most challenging environments; they know what it means to serve the country, beyond flag-waving and sloganeering.
“My military experience gave me humility,” says Rep. Mike Gallagher, a first-term Republican from Wisconsin who served in Iraq as a Marine intelligence officer. “At the point of the spear, neat solutions never survive contact with the enemy.”
Gallagher is a member of a bipartisan group of young veterans called “With Honor” that hopes to have 20 of its members in the next Congress. The group has contributed $10 million to races so far this year and hopes to push that total to $30 million by year-end. Donations are split, 50/50, between Republicans and Democrats. Bipartisan cooperation is not optional. Candidates who receive support must sign the following pledge, and it speaks so directly to what ails our country these days that I’ll quote it in detail. Maybe voters could ask all candidates to make the same promise:
“1. Integrity: I will always speak the truth and prioritize the public interest above my self-interest. . . . 2. Civility. I will respect my colleagues, focus on solving problems and work to bring civility to politics. . . . 3. Courage. I will defend the rights of all Americans and have the courage to collaborate across the aisle and find common ground.”
The bipartisan group has backed some veterans who have had big victories in primaries this year, often running against party establishment candidates: Amy McGrath, a former Marine fighter pilot, bested a well-funded local mayor for the Democratic nomination for a Kentucky House seat; Michael Waltz, a much-decorated former Army Green Beret who served in Afghanistan, is running for the Republican nomination for a Florida House seat despite having taken a “Never Trump” position in 2016.
With recent polls and analysis forecasting a likely Democratic takeover of the House, Democratic veterans may play a pivotal role in the next Congress. One of their leaders, Rep. Seth Moulton (Mass.), who served as a Marine officer in Iraq, argues that Democrats should resist the temptation to settle scores if they win back the House. Instead, Moulton says, they should become a true governing party, under a “big tent” that can embrace progressive candidates such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a former community organizer who won a Democratic House nomination in a liberal New York City district, and Mikie Sherrill, a former Navy helicopter pilot who won a Democratic House nomination in a more centrist New Jersey district.
To Moulton, the choice is simple: “If we want to become a narrow party — far left or moderate — we can, but we’re not going to win.” To encourage Democratic veterans to run, Moulton has formed a political action committee called “Serve America” that has raised about $2.75 million and backed 36 veterans for Congress and state and local races.
Moulton cites two charismatic female veterans in Texas who bucked the establishment to win Democratic nominations this year: M.J. Hegar, a decorated former Air Force helicopter pilot who won the nomination in a House district near Austin; and Gina Ortiz Jones, a former Air Force intelligence officer who won the nomination for her district along the West Texas border. Veterans in Congress seem less afraid than some colleagues to challenge their parties’ leadership and more willing to work across the aisle — qualities that are badly needed these days. Moulton bluntly criticized House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), arguing she is “arrogant” and out of touch. Gallagher, too, expresses a willingness to buck GOP leadership, when necessary. What encourages me about these Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in Congress is that they understand what it means to put the nation’s interests first. Moulton shared with me a sermon he gave at Harvard last November. It’s worth reading carefully: “I believe we can drive the divisive politics of the day out of our daily lives. But when we do, there will be many in the opposition — the ‘resistance’ as it’s now proudly called — who will want to sing out in triumph with great moral righteousness. . . . This would be a terrible mistake. It would not heal our country but reopen our wounds.”We are overwhelmed by bad news these days, but I’ll be honest: Talking to these congressional veterans gives me hope that better times are ahead.

Spain: New Gateway to Europe for Mass-Migration
Thomas Paul Wiederholen/Gatestone Institute/August 01/18
Spain's socialist government, under Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, has promised free healthcare to migrants and says it will investigate every asylum claim individually.
"[A] majority of irregular migrants rescued in the Central Mediterranean are most likely not refugees in the sense of the Geneva Convention, given that some 70 % come from countries or regions not suffering from violent conflicts or oppressive regimes." — From a 2017 report by the European Commission.
"We have created refugee shelters for tens of thousands of people, but there are hundreds of thousands of illegal migrants in our country. This has heavily impaired the security situation. They include terrorists, criminals, and human traffickers who do not care about human rights. It's horrible." — Libyan leader Fayez al-Sarraj.
On July 26, some 800 migrants from sub-Saharan Africa violently stormed the border fence between Morocco, where they were living illegally, and the Spanish enclave of Ceuta. According to Spanish authorities:
"In an attempt to stop the Guardia Civil getting close to the break-in area, the migrants ... [pelted] officers with plastic containers of excrement and quicklime, sticks and stones, as well as using aerosols as flame-throwers."
Many people were wounded in the clash, and 602 migrants succeeded in entering Spanish territory.
Two weeks earlier, the rescue ship Aquarius, operated by the French NGO Sos Méditerranée, picked up 629 Sub-Saharan migrants off the coast of Libya. After both Italy and Malta refused to take in the migrants, with Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini declaring, "No to human trafficking, no to the business of illegal immigration," Spain welcomed the ship, and two other vessels carrying illegal migrants, at the port of Valencia.
Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, the head of Spain's newly-formed socialist government -- which has promised free healthcare to the migrants and says it will investigate every asylum claim individually -- said in mid-June: "It is our duty to help avoid a humanitarian catastrophe and offer a safe port to these people, to comply with our human rights obligations."
According to a July 27 report about Spain in The Telegraph:
"The country is now the largest gateway for migrants crossing the Mediterranean to Europe, with 20,992 people landing on its shores so far this year... Arrivals to Italy now trail Spain by almost 3000 - a gap that just a week ago was 200."
This, the report says, has completely "overwhelmed" the Spanish coastguard, which is issuing an urgent call for additional resources to help deal with the massive influx.
According to a 2017 report by the European Commission:
"The geographic distribution clearly reveals that a majority of irregular migrants rescued in the Central Mediterranean are most likely not refugees in the sense of the Geneva Convention, given that some 70 % come from countries or regions not suffering from violent conflicts or oppressive regimes."
Absorbing the large numbers of migrants is not the only problem that Spain has to contend with, however. According to a December 2016 report in the Financial Times, based on confidential reports it obtained, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) accused some charitable organizations that support rescues in the Mediterranean of collaborating with human traffickers. This claim was also made by the pan-European think tank, Gefira, which posted a YouTube video listing the NGOs that have been abetting – regardless of their "high-minded intentions" – the criminal practice of smuggling people into Europe for financial gain.
According to The Independent: "At the last European Council summit in Brussels at the end of June, EU national leaders agreed on the need to set up secure centres to process asylum claims, as well as agreeing a raft of hardline stances on migrants – such as condemning NGO-operated rescue boats operating off the Libyan coast."
"Leaders also in principle agreed another proposal for "disembarkation platforms" based in North Africa where EU officials could process asylum claims outside EU territory ..."
However, despite the agreement between EU members, "no north African country has yet agreed to host migrant screening centres to process refugee claims," according to Dimitris Avramopoulos, the European commissioner for migration.
The Speaker of Egypt's House of Representatives, Ali Abdel Aal, told the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag on July 1, "EU reception facilities for migrants in Egypt would violate the laws and constitution of our country."
Abd al-Aal recalled that a high number of migrants are already living in his country. "We already have about ten million refugees from Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Palestine, Sudan, Somalia and other countries," said Ab al-Aal. In Egypt, all refugees have a right to health care and education. "This means that our capacities are already exhausted today. It is therefore important that Egypt receives support from Germany and the EU."
In an interview with the German news outlet Bild on July 19, Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj said:
"We have created refugee shelters for tens of thousands of people, but there are hundreds of thousands of illegal migrants in our country. This has heavily impaired the security situation. They include terrorists, criminals, and human traffickers who do not care about human rights. It's horrible. In order to improve the situation, we must fight these structures. But we also need more international help for this. It begins with our country's borders. It is imperative that they be better controlled."
"We are strictly against Europe officially placing illegal migrants who are no longer wanted in the EU in our country. We also won't agree on any deals with EU money about taking in more illegal migrants. The EU should rather talk to the countries that people are coming from and should put pressure on these countries instead. There won't be any deals with us.
"I am very surprised that while nobody in Europe wants to take in migrants anymore they are asking us to take in further hundreds of thousands."
In an article for Gatestone in March 2018, Uzay Bulut sheds light on why the migrant crisis has become a problem that many European governments are beginning to recognize: "demographic jihad." Bulut cites Turkish MP Alparslan Kavaklıoğlu, a member of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), and the head of the parliament's Security and Intelligence Commission, who stated:
"... Europe is going through a time that is out of the ordinary. Its population is declining and aging... So, people coming from outside get the jobs there. But Europe has this problem. All of the newcomers are Muslim. From Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Turkey. Those who come from these places are Muslim. It is now at such a level that the most popular name in Brussels, Belgium is Mohammed... [If this trend continues], the Muslim population will outnumber the Christian population in Europe... Europe will be Muslim. We will be effective there, Allah willing. I am sure of that."
The Turkish leadership's assessment echoes a sermon delivered at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem on September 11, 2015 (the 14th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks) by Imam Sheikh Muhammad Ayed, who stated, in part: "They [Westerners] have lost their fertility... We will give them fertility! We will breed children with them, because we shall conquer their countries. Whether you like it or not, oh Germans, oh Americans, oh French, Oh Italians, and all those like you. Take the refugees! We shall soon collect them in the name of the coming Caliphate... We will say to you: These are our sons. Send them or we will send our armies to you."
The act of migration has a strong basis in the Qu'ran. For example, Verse 9:20 states:
"The ones who have believed, emigrated and striven in the cause of Allah with their wealth and their lives are greater in rank in the sight of Allah. And it is those who are the attainers [of success]."
Verse 22:58 states:
"And those who emigrated for the cause of Allah and then were killed or died - Allah will surely provide for them a good provision. And indeed, it is Allah who is the best of providers."
None of the above, however, appears to have put a dent in the policies or ideology of the left-wing parties supporting the new Spanish government. On June 29, following the European summit, Sanchez tweeted: "...The EU is beginning to move in the right direction: to give a European perspective to a European challenge such as migration." Sanchez was correct, but for all the wrong reasons. The "European perspective" that he and fellow EU members should be embracing is that of democracy and freedom, not one that allows the unfettered entry of millions of penniless and unskilled illegal migrants, among whom are radical Islamists whose beliefs are antithetical to European values.
In case Sanchez has not been paying attention, the influx of illegal immigrants from the Middle East and Africa has been taking a serious toll on Europe. According to a recent Heritage Foundation report: "Over the past four years, 16 percent of Islamist plots in Europe featured asylum seekers or refugees... Radicalization of plotters generally occurred abroad although in the most recent plots, more commonly within Europe itself. Europe's response to migration flows has been inadequate and inadvertently increased the terrorist threat dramatically..."
In the book Europe All Inclusive by former Czech President Václav Klaus, co-authored by the Arabic-speaking economist Jiří Weigl, the authors sum up the role that the Left plays in the migrant crisis: "Europe, and especially its 'integrated' part, is riddled with hypocrisy, pseudo-humanism and other dubious concepts. The most dangerous of them are the currently fashionable, and ultimately suicidal, ideologies of multiculturalism and humanrightism. Such ideologies push millions of people towards resignation when it comes to concepts like home, motherland, nation and state. These ideologies promote the notion that migration is a human right, and that the right to migrate leads to further rights and entitlements including social welfare hand-outs for migrants... Europe is weakened by the leftist utopia of trying to transform a continent that was once proud of its past into an inefficient solidaristic state, turning its inhabitants from citizens into dependent clients."
As the "largest gateway" for migrants now entering Europe, Spain has a particularly great responsibility to wake up to and deal with reality.
Thomas Paul Wiederholen is based in Europe.
© 2018 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.

Trump heads for summit with Rouhani. Israel caught by surprise
موقع دبيكا: ترامب يتجه لعقد قمة مع روحاني وإسرائيل متفاجئة

DEBKAfile/August 01/18
President Donald Trump said Tuesday night July 31: “I have a feeling they’ll be talking to us pretty soon. And maybe not, and that’s OK too.” He sounded exactly as he did before meeting Kim Jong-un in Singapore on June 7. Israel, caught by surprise, reported an assurance from “a senior US official” that “there is no change in the tough policy against Iran.”
This development should not have come as a surprise. He led up to it two months ago. On June 7, Trump came out with this comment: “Iran is a different place than it was two months ago, And we’ll see what happens. And maybe, ultimately, something will happen with Iran.” On another occasion, he said: “Iran is acting a lot differently. They’re no longer looking so much to the Mediterranean. They’re no long looking so much to what’s going on in Syria, what’s going on in Yemen and a lot of other places.” Then, in a broad hint to his intention, he said: “They’re a much, much different group of leaders. And I hope at some point they’ll come to us and we’ll sit down.”
These were no meaningless, off-the-cuff comments, as Trump’s utterances are often treated by news media, including those of Israel – until they are fed official briefings. They offered a window to a solid diplomatic process that was quietly gaining momentum. From early June, US and Iranian emissaries have been holding exploratory talks through Oman’s good offices. Israel’s diplomatic and intelligence eyes and ears missed what was going on, because they took it for granted that the Trump administration would not embrace an initiative as far-reaching as this without letting Jerusalem know.
But that’s exactly what happened. Israel should have been alerted by the comings and goings of Omani Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah between Washington and Tehran, and Iranian Foreign Minister Muhamed Javad Zarif’s visit to Muscat in early July. The two ministers were the live wires in the two years of back-door diplomacy which culminated in the Obama administration signing the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.
On Monday, July 30, DEBKAfile first revealed that such contacts were afoot under the caption: “Iran secretly explores Trump’s terms for negotiating new nuclear deal.” The next day Trump said quite openly that he was ready to meet President Hassan Rouhani with no prior conditions.
Still, Jerusalem was so taken aback by the news that it was officially struck dumb for two days. Then, on Tuesday night, an anonymous Israel official offered a terse, initial statement: “Senior US officials conveyed to Israel that there is no change in the tough policy against Iran.” This sentence, which showed Jerusalem to be still off-balance over the news, left three questions still unanswered:
Did the Trump administration let Israel know about the start of secret diplomatic exchanges with Iran for setting up negotiations on an amended nuclear pact that would also cover ballistic missiles and other issues? Or was Jerusalem left in the dark? DEBKAfile’s sources believe that the first heads-up came from the White House no earlier than Tuesday night, i.e., two months after the process began.
Even that single sentence contained an inaccuracy. The very fact that Trump is willing to sit down with Rouhani is in itself a change of policy.
Negotiations inevitably lead the parties concerned into policy changes for the sake of reaching common ground. So what will the American side cede for an accord?
At the same time, it may be noted that, along with Trump’s liking for summits with America’s adversaries, he did not lift the tough US sanctions on North Korea before meeting Kim in Singapore, or on Russia, before sitting down with President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. The process with Iran may, or may not, turn out differently.

Nation-state Law Backlash: Netanyahu Offers Israel's Druze New Legislation to Enshrine Their Status
من الهآررتس: نيتانياهو يعرض على دروز إسرائيل إقرار قوانين جديدة تحفظ وضعيتهم الخاصة عقب اقرار قانون يهودية إسرائيل

Noa Landau and Jack Khoury/Haaretz/August 01/2018
Some Druze representatives say Netanyahu is trying to implement a policy of 'divide and conquer' ■ Netanyahu: anyone who serves in the military should be eligible for benefits
Following the protest sparked by the nation-state law, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered the representatives of the Druze community to pass a law which would enshrine the status of the Druze and Circassian communities. The document also states that the law will include "enshrining eligibility for the benefits of minority members of all religions and communities who serve in the security forces, for the purpose of closing gaps and promoting social equality."
According to the plan submitted by the prime minister's representatives, "the law will recognize the contribution of the Druze community to the security of the state, and will include support for community institutions (religion, education and culture), will strengthen Druze residential settlements, and establish new towns if needed. It will also preserve and cultivate Druze heritage."
The negotiating team of the Druze community, which includes their spiritual leader, Sheikh Muwafak Tarif, former security officials and civil servants, has had strong disagreements over the proposal. One of the team members told Haaretz that the representatives who have security backgrounds tend to accept the spirit of the plan, while others – including local council heads – oppose it.
The source added that some of the representatives accused the prime minister of trying to implement a policy of "divide and conquer." They said that they would settle only for annulling the nation-state law or adding to it the value of equality. The source added that the Prime Minister's Office is concerned about the protest rally scheduled for Saturday night, and therefore is exerting heavy pressure on the representatives of the community to accept the plan and cancel the rally.
The plan was drafted by a team formed by the prime minister on the issue of the Druze, headed by the acting Chief of Staff of the Prime Minister's Bureau, Yoav Horowitz, and including Sheikh Tarif, ministers Ayoub Kara and Yariv Levin, MK Hamad Amar (Yisrael Beiteinu), former MK Shakib Shenan, heads of the Druze local authorities and the forum of reservist senior officers.
The prime minister's office called the plan "historic" in a press release, saying it "represents a revolution in the legal status of minority group members who serve in the security forces, and members of the Druze community in particular." Sheikh Tarif welcomed the work of the team and thanked the prime minister for his quick and serious activity. The plan will be presented to the Druze community's dignitaries.
The plan offers to enshrine in law the status of the Druze and Circassian communities, "paying respect to the contribution of the Druze community to the State of Israel in building the land, strengthening security and shaping the face of Israeli society as an egalitarian and diverse society."
The plan also suggests enshrining in law that members of minority groups, from all religions and ethnic groups will be eligible for benefits if they serve in the security forces. The law will also recognize their contribution if they serve.
In addition, the acting Chief of Staff of the Prime Minister's Bureau announced the formation of a ministerial committee to deal with the issue of the Druze community, to be headed by the prime minister, which will work to promote the plan and to supervise its implementation - among other things.
Details of the plan will be formulated and worded within 45 days, in the context of a joint team of the cabinet and representatives of the community, all subject to the instructions of the law and the approval of the attorney general. Legislative activities will begin immediately with the convening of the coming winter session of the Knesset and will be concluded within 45 days from the start of the session.
The Basic Law on Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People, also known as the nation-state law, approved by the Knesset on July 19, affirmed that only Jews have the right to self-determination in Israel. It also downgraded Arabic to a language with “special status,” among several other controversial measures that affect the Israeli Druze.
The nation-state law is designed to alter the application of the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty in court rulings, and permits judges to give priority to Israel’s Jewish character in their rulings. Earlier this month, Druze lawmakers were the first to file a High Court of Justice petition against the legislation. A hundred Druze Israel Defense Forces reserve officers added their voices to that effort on Wednesday, prompting Education Minister Naftali Bennett to speak out in support of “our blood brothers” on Twitter. Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon echoed similar sentiments, telling Israeli Army Radio, "The enactment of the nation-state law was done hastily," and adding: "We were wrong and we need to fix it."

Trump’s surprise: Negotiating with Rowhani
Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/August 01/18
This is not the first time that the American president has surprised political circles with new stances, which are not necessarily contradictory, but are rather different from common political practice. The time span between the violent tweet in which he threatened Rowhani and the tweet calling on him to negotiate is just one week.
I think the past weeks have been filled with mediations and indirect contacts between the two parties, especially by Iran considering that it is the harmed party. These contacts propose ideas and promises and this is what Trump talked about recently where he said: “I know they will bow and will come to me with a better deal than the one the former American administration signed.”
Trump quickly legislated the imposing of sanctions and made them gradual to give a chance to Iran’s customers, who include some of America’s allies, to settle their situation and exit Iran, and at the same time this gave a chance to the Iranian regime to offer the best concessions it can make. Perhaps the clear and frank mediation, which the Omani minister carried out, prepared for such a public frank exchange. Oman has been used to conveying messages between Tehran and Washington in the past.
Regarding the Trump administration, it may have enough information about Tehran’s desire to concede, and Trump’s invitation to Rowhani to negotiate without preconditions is just a move to save the face of the Iranian regime
Jumping to conclusions
We must not jump to conclusions and announce victory or defeat. The submissiveness of the Iranian regime or Trump’s retreat is not a football game. What’s certain is that there is one party that must make concessions, and that would be Tehran – although it has been defiant and said it will not concede.
The Khamenei regime does not have plenty of options because if it does not take action and make concessions, it will collapse from the economic sanctions, the signs of domestic rebellion and the high cost of its military adventures.
The American administration itself did not say that its final aim was to change the regime, but to amend its behavior. It said it wants to reach a better nuclear deal that prohibits Iran from manufacturing nuclear weapons, and not a deal like Obama’s which only prevents Iran from enriching uranium for 10 years.
Regarding the Trump administration, it may have enough information about Tehran’s desire to concede, and Trump’s invitation to Rowhani to negotiate without preconditions is just a move to save the face of the Iranian regime, which Trump has placed in a difficult corner then opened the door wide for it.
In the past months, governments and organizations in support of Tehran and those supporting it in the region were overcome with fear as a result of the rapid and systematic escalation of the Trump administration against Rowhani’s government. Even the conditions of American reconciliation seemed impossible, in reference to the 12 conditions which US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on May 12. These conditions seemed like a roadmap aimed at toppling the regime, but wrapped in talks about changing the regime’s behavior only.
With or without pressure from Trump’s administration, the Iranian regime’s behavior or the Iranian regime itself will change, because this is the cycle of a violent regime’s life, and this is their maximum age. The supreme leader’s regime is the last extremist regime of its kind in the world, after North Korea, which voiced its desire to change. Similar regimes have disappeared, like those of Saddam in Iraq, Qaddafi in Libya and Castro in Cuba have ended and before that the Soviet Union, other eastern European regimes and plenty of others.
Communism in China collapsed as a system, even though the communists have stayed in power. Iran did not change and did not deviate one inch since the establishment of its extremist security theological regime in 1979. This regime has reached the phase of old age, and it will not be capable of controlling the domestic situation if it does not change. It will collapse in a few years without any foreign attacks on it.

A new Arab system
Amr Moussa/Al Arabiya/August 01/18
The current situation in the Arab world is very fragile and cannot tolerate another blow, otherwise it will break apart to such an extent that it will be difficult to put back together, at least not in the near future. This situation cannot continue for eternity and several Arabs realize this danger. Experts believe that it is time to draft a vision for a new Arab system that can overcome this fragile state. It must take into consideration several central issues, such as:
- Past experiences and the need to avoid committing old mistakes. - The Arab system cannot be isolated from modern global life and the demands of the 21st century. It cannot be separated from current regional developments. The new proposed system must be attractive, not repellent, and set guidelines to allow us to interact with the world around us.
- The new system must be built on the basis of “joint interests”, not “joint emotions.” The interests may include tourism, trade, investment and job opportunities among others.
- It must focus on economic reform in all Arab countries. Arab cooperation must support these reforms on the basis of providing legal protection for trade and investor capital and encouraging small and medium enterprises.
- It must take a firm stance and launch a joint comprehensive campaign to combat corruption that is rampant in several parts of the Arab world. This entails establishing a legal framework for Arab efforts to fight corruption and set up the necessary agencies to achieve this goal.
- Arab civil society organizations must be given the opportunity to act freely in supporting societies and the economic and social development process.
Arabs make up the majority of the residents and they should determine the identity of this region, which will boast nearly half a billion people in the coming years
Regional system
I say this, while taking into consideration that the new Arab system must maintain communication with the regional system, which will ultimately grow in wake of recent strategic developments, such as those linked to Iran, Israel and Turkey’s policies towards the Arab Gulf, Fertile Crescent region and its surrounding regions. Ethiopia’s new policy in the Horn of Africa, migration policies in Europe and terrorist organizations must also be taken into account.
At the same time, the new Arab vision must propose a modern approach on human rights, freedoms and responsibilities. It must link central concepts with the world’s advancement in a way that does not infringe on the former and become isolated from the latter.
In this regard, we should rebuild positive ties with different religious sects and movements, especially between Sunnis and Shiites. We must realize that the conflict between these two sects has weakened Islam as a whole and rendered it vulnerable to criticism and defamation.
We must also restore harmony between Muslims and Christians on the basis of a sense of national belonging, which is a right entitled to everyone. This is the solid foundation on which a society that cares about mental health and a sound mind can be built.
Moreover, this is an Arab world that includes Arabs, Kurds, Berbers, Turkmen and others. It also includes Muslims, Christians and others. Arabs make up the majority of the residents and they should determine the identity of this region, which will boast nearly half a billion people in the coming years.
Leaders and planners will not be able to develop an effective equation for the new Arab regional system without a certain degree of social security and internal unity. This can only be established through wise economic and social policies that are able to achieve a qualitative shift in the healthcare, education, housing and other vital sectors that our people deserve.
Effective policy
Foreign policy, meanwhile, has long been an extension of internal ones, whether on the national or regional levels. This demands us all to set a strong foundation for an effective regional policy through bolstering the competency of the national Arab state and unleashing its potential.
This is a new vision for our region, which has been torn apart by chaos and which is bracing for more surprises. Whether or not several of us accuse foreign conspiracies and meddling in playing a major role in tearing apart our region, we must acknowledge that the failure of the Arab system was one of the main reasons that allowed this chaos to spread and for this interference to take place. In order to transform this current fragile state into a healthy one, I call on the Arab society, especially research and science centers, to begin to study a vision for a new Arab system. They should not wait for instructions, but instead take the initiative to call for a general discussion and present ideas and documents among each other. These centers can consult and coordinate with each other so that they can come up with a single vision. This general discussion must include Arab civil society institutions in the Gulf, Levant, North Africa and Horn of Africa so that all positions and common and different interests are taken into consideration.

The Brotherhood’s news in German land
Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/August 01/18
Many do not know or do not accurately realize the depth of the influence that the Muslim Brotherhood has in western countries after it has been almost three generations since the first batch of the group’s envoys arrived to European countries, especially to Germany and Switzerland, around seven decades ago.
Their sons and grandsons, Egyptians, Syrians and Iraqis, along with the Islamists from Turkish parties since the days of “Khawaja” Necmettin Erbakan till the days of Sultan Recep Erdogan, became part of the German and European fabric and accurately chose to work in the institutions that establish public opinion and in lobbying institutions. They became “Troy’s soldiers” from within the depths of Europe itself, and an advanced line of defense to defend the Muslim Brotherhood, its allies and its policies under a European imprint.
Many do not know or do not accurately realize the depth of the influence that the Muslim Brotherhood has in western countries after it has been almost three generations since the first batch of the group’s envoys arrived to European countries, especially to Germany and Switzerland, around seven decades ago
German complaints
Recent German reports have addressed the problem of the deep Brotherhood influence inside the country. These reports came after the German Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, which is the country’s domestic security agency, examined the activities of a Brotherhood association called the “Saxony Forum” that manages a mosque called Al-Taqwa in the city of Rastatt in Baden-Wurttemberg.
The German news agency quoted an official in the security agency as saying that the new Brotherhood activities continue to focus on the communities of Arab and Muslim refugees for the purpose of recruiting more people.
The German daily Die Welt said that more of the group members fled to Germany after Mohammed Mursi was ousted in Egypt. It quoted the security agency’s report as saying: “The Islamic Community of Germany includes around 13,000 members and its activities cover the entire country.” Die Welt added that the Brotherhood has been exploiting the Islamic community in Cologne for political incitement purposes for more than three years and for the purpose of whitewashing the Brotherhood’s reputation in the West.
Anyway, the story of the Brotherhood immigration to Germany is old. Some attribute it to the son-in-law of the Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna, the group’s dangerous man Said Ramadan who is considered the group’s first envoy to Europe and the leader of the “Brotherhood immigration” to Germany.
In 1958, Ramadan established the strongest Islamic institution in Germany, the Islamic Community of Germany (IGD). Dozens of other organizations and the organizations that are currently affiliated with the Brotherhood branched from the IGD, and according to news sources, they’re about 30.
In his book ‘The New Muslim Brotherhood in the West’, Dr. Lorenzo G. Vidino said: “Many of the Brotherhood cadres occupied prominent posts in Germany which strengthened their influence and made Germany a base (to launch their work) in Europe.”
After all this, when we read a report by a German media outlet or a human rights organization that speaks in favor of the Brotherhood, we must search for the fingerprints of the successors of the “first Brotherhood European envoy” Said Ramadan and other similar figures who are Syrians, Turks and Iraqis.
Germany is speaking the Brotherhood language!

The ones who lost the Palestinian cause
Fares bin Hezam/Al Arabiya/August 01/18
When the world stood against Hitler in the 1940s, Palestinian leader Hajj Amin al-Husseini chose to stand with Hitler against the world. The Nazis were defeated in 1945 and the victors supported the establishment of the state of Israel.
During the Tripartite Aggression carried out by Israel, France and Britain on Suez in 1956, American President Eisenhower took Egypt’s side and stopped the aggression. Gamal Abdelnasser was revived and he overturned against Washington and allied with Moscow. Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion then inaugurated the “Tel Aviv-Washington” highway because he believed that the future was with Washington and not with London. These political choices were decisive in the path of the occupation state’s establishment and expansion. These were not Saudi options but the options of whoever handled the affair directly inside and outside Palestine. These political choices were decisive in the path of the occupation state’s establishment and expansion. These were not Saudi options but the options of whoever handled the affair directly inside and outside Palestine. Hajj Husseini and afterwards President Abdelnasser chose to be on the side of imagined victory. Arabism voices were still loud with defiance and wanting to expel the invader. Victory in “the language of Arab steadfastness” is originally linked to defeat. Loss alone is repeated; therefore, there’s no shame in creating Arab victory our own way. The victory of defeat is the filthiest of thing to live on.
It is as malicious as cancer’s harm in one’s body. The substantial difference is that this ‘victory’ controls all the power, and receives voluntary, insistent surrender. What further strengthens it is denying the defeat and shaming others. The victory of defeat is a hideous thing that even the filthiest history books in human biographies cannot tolerate.
Saudi Arabia's role
For the past decades, Palestinian parties sought to devise one role for Saudi Arabia, which is to first handle paying money and provide political support when it’s asked to. President Yasser Arafat’s path was familiar with this approach after he became the sole political and military decision maker and after he transferred the Palestinian affair from extremist ideological regimes to moderate states. Saudi Arabia maintained its role in supporting the Palestinian cause. It did not impose anything on the authority, the country’s legitimate representative, or any political or military option. It respected the desire of the cause’s leaders, to provide financial support and political support. It supported them when they revolted, and it facilitated their task when they sought peace. Saudi Arabia was with the cause at each step despite the temptations of the solo peace, which many countries in the region drooled over.
It’s Saudi Arabia’s fate, when you grow considering your responsibilities and status throughout history and, not just in your surrounding areas but also in the wider scene, you must bear the whims of the little ones before those of the peers. When you’re responsible for more important matters, and one day in your tally is like an era being built, you have to get busy with what’s higher and safer for the house’s ceiling. Ever since our early years and throughout the rich memories conveyed to us, we have known the kingdom as dauntless in its politics. This is true based on the kingdom’s history and honor that it’s the country of the two holy mosques and the leader of many international balances that safeguard world peace and security in an international system, while maintaining the 2002 initiative as the only solution.

Netanyahu Warns Iran: Block Mouth of Red Sea and Be Met by Force
نيتانياهو يحذر إيران بأنها ستواجه بالقوة في حال حاولت أغلاق باب المندب

Noa Shpigel/Haaretz/August 01/18
Prime minister's remark comes days after Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi rebels attacked Egypt-bound Saudi oil tanker ■ Defense minister: 'The IDF is ready to respond'
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that any attempt by Iran to block the Straits of Bab al-Mandab at the mouth of the Red Sea would be met by an international coalition that would include Israel.
"Earlier this week, we witnessed a sharp clash with Iran's satellites who tried to sabotage international shipping in the Straits at the mouth of the Red Sea," Netanyahu said at a graduation ceremony for naval officers.
A huge tanker with a shipment of oil from Saudi Arabia bound for Egypt was damaged by a missile attack from the Bab el-Mandab strait on Thursday. The Houthi rebels in Yemen, armed and financed by Iran, were responsible for the attack, which took place in the wake of a renewed exchange of threats between the U.S. and Iran.
"If Iran tries to block the Straits of Bab al-Mandab, it will find itself facing an international coalition determined to prevent it from doing so, and this coalition will also include the State of Israel and all its arms," Netanyahu warned.
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman also spoke at the graduation ceremony, saying, "recently, we have heard of threats to harm Israeli ships in the Red Sea."
Lieberman continued: "I would like to emphasize: the Israeli military is ready to respond simultaneously on two fronts, and also on the Red Sea. Only in that case we would be less selective and the harm to our enemies would be greater. I hope they take that into account."
The tanker that was hit last week, the Arsan, was flying a Saudi flag and transporting some 2 million barrels of oil to Egypt. It was struck by missiles near the port of Hodeida in Yemen where Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have been attacking the Houthis for the past few months.
According to the Washington Institute the tankers were hit by a rocket fired from a fast-attack vessel or a ground-to-sea missile fired from Yemen, possibly a C-802, which Iran supplies to the rebels. The Houthis claimed responsibility for the attack and the Saudis announced that they were suspending tanker shipments in the Red Sea until the situation was sorted out and marine traffic was safe again. The Washington Institute researchers wrote that the Red Sea is the third most important shipping lane in the word (the first is Hormuz in the Persian Gulf).
The incident happened in the midst of a typical Twitter duel between U.S. President Donald Trump and the Iranian leadership, during which the Iranians threatened to disrupt international oil shipments if the United States imposes sanctions that hurt the Iranian oil industry. The commander of the Revolutionary Guards Quds Force, Gen. Qasem Soleimani, has accused Saudi Arabia over the past few days of responsibility for the “unsafe” conditions in the Red Sea.