August 03/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
Baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit
Matthew 28/16-20: "The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’

Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on August 02-03/18
Roni Doumit's Case In Occupied Lebanon/Thawrat Al Arz/Face Book/August 02/18
Immune forms of violence"/Ali AbouDehn/August 02/18
Iranian Guards naval buildup at Hormuz: US monitors, Israel warns/DEBKAfile/August 02/18/
Druze leaders to continue protests over Nationality Law/Hassan Shaalan, Itamar Eichner|/Ynetnews/August 02/18
Netanyahu ends meeting with Druze leaders over 'apartheid' comment/Ahoya Raved, Itamar Eichner/Ynetnews/August 02/18
Accepting Assad with the end of the revolution/Fares bin Hezam/Al Arabiya/August 02/18
Iran and sanctions from gold to carpets/Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/August 02/18
Saudi Aramco: Redefining itself as the global chemical player/Dr. Mohamed A. Ramady/Al Arabiya/August 02/18
Iran to Bin Laden: Open the gates of hell/Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran/Al Arabiya/August 02/18
What the Suweida Druze Mean to ISIS Employers/Eyad Abu Shakra/Asharq Al Awsat/August 02/18

Titles For The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on August 02-03/18
Roni Doumit's Case In Occupied Lebanon
Report: Hariri Won’t Let Jumblat Get 'Defeated' in Formation Process
LF Says Willing to Facilitate Formation Process ‘Within Limits’
Geagea meets Abu Hosen in Meerab
Bukhari, Hawat talks bilateral relations
'Strong Republic' bloc delegation visits Social and Economic Council
Immune forms of violence"
Kanaan meets World Bank delegation: Our main goal is to control deficit, exacerbated public debt
Sarraf, Richard tackle general situation
Keserwan Deputies tackle power issue with Abi Khalil
Ali after visiting Bassil: Number of displaced Syrians wishing to return to their homeland is mounting
Sayegh: President Must Be the First to Facilitate Government Formation
Samy Gemayel Signs Elected Lawmaker Charter
Ashrafieh Lawmakers Seek Clarifications on Incinerator Project
Land Transport Unions Vow Escalation if Demands Not Met
Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on August 02-03/18
Pope Tawadros II suspends monasticism for a year
Iranian Guards naval buildup at Hormuz: US monitors, Israel warns
Israel Strike on 'Terrorists' near Fence in Golan Kills Seven
Israel Reimposes Blockade of Fuel Deliveries to Gaza
Israel Sees 'Benefits' in Assad Gains, Lieberman Says
Citing continued fire balloon launches, Israel halts fuel shipments to Gaza
Turkey, US in Diplomatic Crisis after Ministers Hit by Sanctions
Turkey 'Turns Blind Eye' to Syrian Rebel Abuses in Afrin, Says Amnesty
Amnesty accuses Turkey of tolerating Syrian rebel abuses in Afrin
Protests sweep Iran’s cities amid clashes with security
Seoul Deploys Warship to Libya after S. Korean, Filipinos Kidnapped
Nabil Abu Rudeineh appointed deputy premier, minister of information
As Shiite militias kill more people, reports warn of Iran proxies capturing Iraq
UN envoy sets Yemen peace talks for September 6 in Geneva
The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on August 02-03/18
Roni Doumit's Case In Occupied Lebanon
Thawrat Al Arz/Face Book/August 02/18
According to the latest Press Release of the General Directorate of General Security in Lebanon, Swedish poliitician from Lebanese descent Roni Doumit has been charged with "meeting with an Israeli ambassador in Stockholm." And accordingly that is considered as a "threat to Lebanon's security." But according to the Doumit family press release addressed to the public in Lebanon and sent to the Maronite Patriarch, the President of the Republic and national leaders, "Roni Doumit didn't meet with the Israeli ambassador, he only focuses on his political career in Sweden and on the Aramaic Christian identity." The legal battle to come will expose the persecution of Aramaic Christians in Lebanon at the hands of Hezbollah influence across the institutions.
*The Hezbollah concocted arrest of Swedish politician from Lebanese Christian descent RoniDoumit under the false accusation of "meeting an Israeli ambassador" is going to open a Pandora box, unexpected by the Iran-backed terror group, who exert significant influence over Lebanon's national security agencies. It will open the file of persecution of Lebanese emigres' upon their arrival to Lebanon. The accusation of "contacts with Israelis", a typical accusation leveled by Hezbollah and their allies in Lebanon against all their opponent, will drag Hezbollah into a file it shouldn't have used.
*The file of detained Lebanese Christian and Swedish politician Roni Doumit will transferred via NGOs to several international authorities next week. An investigation into breaching his human rights, torture and illegal arrest will be generated, as well as the calls to murder him posted by Hezbollah operatives on social media.
Report: Hariri Won’t Let Jumblat Get 'Defeated' in Formation Process
Naharnet/August 02/18/Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri reportedly insists that Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblat “not be defeated” regarding the quota allocated for the PSP in the formation of the Cabinet process, al-Joumhouria daily said on Thursday. Sources close to Hariri quoted him as telling al-Mustaqbal Movement MPs that he “will never accept that Jumblat be defeated” regarding the Druze share that Jumblatt insists on allocating. “I am not alone in this, there are others who agree with me,” said Hariri in an indirect reference to Speaker Nabih Berri who also insists that Jumblat allocates the share he demands. On Wednesday, media reports said that Hariri, Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea and Jumblat have closed ranks in their endeavor to get the shares that they want in the Cabinet. They also said that the three parties enjoy the support of Berri, “who is sympathizing with their reasonable, rational and normal demands.”Hariri was tasked with forming a Cabinet on May 24, but his mission has since been delayed over wrangling between political parties over ministerial shares and distribution of portfolios. The Free Patriotic Movement also rejects the demands of the Lebanese Forces regarding portfolios. Jumblat insists that the three-seat Druze share be allocated for the PSP, amid the insistence of Druze MP Talal Arslan, of the Strong Lebanon bloc, that he too gets a share.

LF Says Willing to Facilitate Formation Process ‘Within Limits’
Naharnet/August 02/18/President Michel Aoun has met on Thursday at Baabda Palace with Information Minister Melhem Riachi, dispatched by Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea, where discussions focused on the government formation and the LF ministerial demands. Riachi said he carried a message from Geagea highlighting the party’s readiness to facilitate the mission of Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, but within “some limits,” said Riachi “I have deployed to the President a message from Geagea on the party’s readiness to facilitate the mission of the PM but with minimum acceptable limits that respect the electoral size and political weight,” Riachi told reporters. The LF Minister added “Aoun told me that handing the LF a key ministry is under discussion with Hariri.”

Geagea meets Abu Hosen in Meerab
Thu 02 Aug 2018/NNA - "Lebanese Forces" leader, Samir Geagea, on Thursday welcomed at his Meerab residence "Democratic Gathering" bloc member, MP Hadi Abu al-Hosen, with whom he discussed an array of political matters on the local arena. MP Abu Hosen said that the visit was a chance to dwell on a range of current political matters on the domestic scene, notably the government formation process. Abu Hosen said they saw eye to eye on the need to speed up the government formation so as to address the pressing socio-economic situation. "Our viewpoints were also similar regarding the importance of forming a national unity government based on the principle of partnership away from the logic of exclusion or isolation of any side and taking into account the results of the recent parliamentary elections and the size of representative forces in accordance with the will of the Lebanese people," the Lawmaker corroborated. Talks also dwelt on the displaced Ministry's dossier, with MP Abu Hosen stressing the need to fully fold this dossier through accomplishing the last step on the path of the historic Mount Lebanon reconciliation.

Bukhari, Hawat talks bilateral relations
Thu 02 Aug 2018/NNA - MP Ziad al-Hawat, accompanied by former Deputy Fadi Karam, on Thursday paid a visit to Saudi Minister Plenipotentiary Charge d'Affaire, Walid Bukhari. Talks reportedly touched on means of bolstering the bilateral ties between the two countries. There was emphasis during the meeting on the importance of the Saudi role in Lebanon.  'Strong Republic' bloc delegation visits Social and Economic Council

'Strong Republic' bloc delegation visits Social and Economic Council
Thu 02 Aug 2018/NNA - A delegation from the "Strong Republic" bloc, led by Lebanese Forces Vice President MP George Adwan, on Thursday visited the Economic and Social Council, where they met with the Council's head, Charles Arbid, and administrative board members. Speaking in the name of the delegation on emerging, MP Adwan called for a swift government formation in order to address the pressing socio-economic situation and alleviate burdens on citizens. Adwan stressed the dire need for a structural economic, financial, and social rescue plan to get out of the current simmering socio-economic situation. He disclosed that the delegation discussed with the Council an economic plan forwarded by the Lebanese Forces, saying they shall hold further meetings with the Council in this regard. The Lawmaker called on all concerned sides in the country to facilitate Prime Minister-designate, Saad Hariri's endeavors to form the new Cabinet, in order to start addressing the current socio-economic concerns, such as unemployment, electricity crisis and heavy traffic predicaments.
Immune forms of violence"
Ali AbouDehn/August 02/18
The treatment of prisoners by the Syrian regime is "extremely cruel and inhuman," said Ali Abou Dehn, president of the Association of Lebanese Prisoners in Syrian Prisons.
" Prisoners and detainees are subjected to the most disgusting forms of violence, " he told Diyaruna, including "beatings, torture, insults, humiliation and deprivation of sleep and sleep." food".
"Syrian prison guards are ruthless monsters who use beatings, assassination, torture, and water and food deprivation," he said.
"The torture starts with the" tire "", explained Abu Dehn. "The prisoner receives 300 lashes on his bare feet. He is then placed on the "German chair". "
"The seat of the chair is against his back, a stick is placed under his armpits, and the chair is tightened [with rope against his back], then returned to his normal position," he said. "It could break his spine or hurt his lungs. "
In other cases, the prisoner "is forced to climb on a standing ladder, which is then thrown to the ground, crushing his knees or elbows," he said.
Sometimes an inmate is tied up and a cat is put in his clothes, causing injuries as he tries to escape, he added. In some cases, a prisoner is hanged upside down to a chain and sometimes his wrists are dislocated.
Prisoners hanged upside down can "suffer from a rupture of the blood vessels," he said, adding that some prisoners were hanged from the ceiling by the hands for long periods of time, causing paralysis of the hands.
As other acts of torture, some prisoners were forced to swallow a dead mouse, dead birds or cockroaches, he said, or to drink urine blindfolded.
Some guards force prisoners to listen to the voices of crying children or women to make them believe that family members are being interrogated and to make them confess something, Abu Dahan said.
But despite the satellite images, the credible reports, the scars inflicted, and the stories of torture and death in the prison told by former detainees, the regime said that the allegations about the crematorium are "completely baseless".

Kanaan meets World Bank delegation: Our main goal is to control deficit, exacerbated public debt

Thu 02 Aug 2018/NNA - Head of the Finance and Budget Committee, MP Ibrahim Kanaan, met with a delegation of the World Bank with talks touching on the USD 2 billion 200 million allocated by the Bank to projects in Lebanon. The delegation expressed readiness to invest an additional 4 billion dollars in the next four years and set priorities with the Lebanese State. Kanaan stressed to the delegation "Lebanon's interest in its relationship with the World Bank and its appreciation of the course of this relationship, given the importance of the suggested projects." "Our main goal is to control the deficit and the exacerbated public debt, and to focus on the return of displaced people to their country, given the heavy burden of displacement on Lebanon," he said.

Sarraf, Richard tackle general situation
Thu 02 Aug 2018/NNA - Caretaker National Defense Minister, Riad Yacoub al-Sarraf, welcomed on Thursday the US Ambassador to Lebanon, Elizabeth Richard, who stressed her country's support for the military institution. The visit comes in the context of Lebanon's army day anniversary. Talks between the pair reportedly touched on the current situation in Lebanon and the broader region. Minister Sarraf also met with a delegation of the "Islamic Tawheed" Movement led by its Politburo head Saheeb Shaaban. Discussions covered developmental projects related to the northern city of Tripoli.

Keserwan Deputies tackle power issue with Abi Khalil

Thu 02 Aug 2018/NNA - Keserwan deputies of the Free Patriotic Movement Neemat Ephram, Chamel Roukoz and Roger Azar held a meeting at the Parliament on Thursday with outgoing Energy Minister, Cesar Abi Khalil, with talks touching on the Keserwan region's electricity supply. Conferees discussed ways to increase the power supply hours of this region by connecting the third power-generating ship decked in the Lebanese waters to the Zouk Mosbeh power station. MPs finally stressed the importance of the reduction of pollution that results from the Zouk Mosbeh power plant.

Ali after visiting Bassil: Number of displaced Syrians wishing to return to their homeland is mounting
Thu 02 Aug 2018/NNA - Caretaker Foreign Affairs and Emigrants Minister, Gebran Bassil, welcomed on Thursday at his ministerial office Syrian Ambassador to Lebanon, Ali Abdul Karim Ali, with talks between the pair reportedly touching on the current situation of the displaced Syrians in Lebanon. On emerging, Ambassador Ali said he assured Minister Bassil that the number of the displaced Syrians wishing to return to their homeland is increasing. Ali said that Syria welcomes all displaced Syrians wishing to return to their homeland, saying "Syria facilitates their return upon the guidance of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad." The Syrian ambassador also indicated that talks touched on the Russian initiative for the return of Syrian refugees to their homeland, deeming such an initiative as "positive" that contributes in coordination with the Syrian leadership to facilitating and overcoming all obstacles in the face of displaced Syrians' return. "Such an initiative facilitates [refugees] return, especially that the leadership in Syria and President Asad in person, did not place any impossible conditions... On the contrary, all facilities are being provided to eliminate any obstacle," Ali corroborated. Ali also assured that the horizons of war in Syria have come to an end with Syria nearing an imminent victory over all futile bets. In reply to a question about the recent Russian delegation's visit and talks about the formation of joint committees between Lebanon and Syria, Ambassador Ali stressed: "all initiatives must pass through Syria, and if not, things are not in the right track."

Sayegh: President Must Be the First to Facilitate Government Formation Thursday 02nd August 2018/Kataeb's Deputy-Speaker Salim Sayegh on Thursday blamed the ongoing bickering over shares for the government formation delay, saying that the country is witnessing a political system crisis as each of the local factions is trying to pull the Constitution to its side and interprete it in a way that serves its own interests. "Some consider that the President should have a significant share in the government, while, in fact, the latter must have 30 minister because he's the head of state, the guarantor of state institutions and the commander of armed forces. Therefore, the President should rise above all shares and parties, or else he would become like just like any of the heads of parliamentary blocs," Sayegh told Voice of Lebanon radio station. "What we are witnessing today does not fortify the presidency post, but rather undermines its prestige. We, in the Kataeb party, believe in a historic trilogy that consists in safeguarding the presidency, the Maronite Patriarchate and the Army. None of these three must get degraded to the level of political bazars," he noted. Sayegh said that the President should be the first one to facilitate the government formation, adding that the ongoing stalemate is caused by certain factions' attempts to dominate the others. "Some consider that they won the parliamentary elections in Lebanon. If the government is going to be an identical copy of the Parliament, then it will not see the light of day," he concluded.

Samy Gemayel Signs Elected Lawmaker Charter Thursday 02nd August 2018/Kataeb leader Samy Gemayel on Thursday posted photos of a charter he signed, in which he pledges to fulfill his duties as a lawmaker and to adhere to Lebanon's Constitution. “I was honored to sign the Elected Lawmaker Charter in which I reiterated my commitment to respecting the Lebanese Constitution, working hard on legislation as well as waste and corruption fight, holding the government accountable for its policies, and adopting transparency in the political work,” Gemayel wrote on Twitter.

Ashrafieh Lawmakers Seek Clarifications on Incinerator Project Thursday 02nd August 2018/Ashrafieh lawmakers addressed an official letter to the Municipality of Beirut, seeking clarifications regarding the reported plan to establish a waste incinerator in Karantina.The letter was signed by MPs Nadim Gemayel, Imad Wakim and Jean Talouzian, as well as caretaker Minister Michel Pharaon. The lawmakers addressed a series of questions to the municipal council, demanding answers on the project's compliance to environmental and sanitary standards, stressing the need to determine who will be supervising the plant's construction and functioning, and to explain whether the citizens who will incur damage due to this project will be compensated. Earlier this week, representatives of the municipality of Beirut have confirmed that plans to introduce waste-to-energy plants in Beirut are moving forward with the help of the United Nations Development Program. “Next week, we are releasing the ‘Requirements Definitions Document,’” which stipulates the prerequisites Beirut must meet for the incinerators, Ragheb Haddad, the president of the Beirut Municipality’s communication committee, told The Daily Star newspaper.

Land Transport Unions Vow Escalation if Demands Not Met Thursday 02nd August 2018/The Unions and Leagues of Land Transport held another strike across the country from early morning on Thursday, blocking access to the vehicle registration centers. Protesters have been demanding the government to control and supervise competition from foreign drivers, ensure the full implementation of traffic laws, approve a public transportation plan, control forged license plates, reduce fuel prices, as well as to retake control of the automotive inspection centers and refrain from privatizing them. “We are going to stage protests every week in different areas. Today, we held a strike to pressure officials to meet with us and pay heed to our demands,” the head of truck drivers' syndicate, Chafik Kassis, said. Another strike has been scheduled for August 9.
The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on August 02-03/18
Pope Tawadros II suspends monasticism for a year
Thu 02 Aug 2018/NNA - As a consequence of the mysterious murder ofHead of St. Macarius Monastery in Wadi El-Natrun, Bishop Epiphanius, Pope Tawadros II ordered on Thursday to stop accepting monks in all Coptic Orthodox monasteries in Egypt for a year starting from August 2. Pope Tawadros led Tuesday the funeral mass of St. Macarius Monastery Head, Bishop Epiphanius.Pope Tawadros said during the funeral that took place in the monastery in Wadi El- Natrun that Bishop Epiphanius was an ideal priest, adding that he wrote many books in different fields of knowledge. Pope Tawadros also added that he always used to consult Bishop Epiphaniusin different issues because of his extensive knowledge. The pope pointed out that he tasked Bishop Epiphanius with attending conferences; the late bishop attended 20 conferences in five years. "He was simple in his clothes, his house and his food. Bishop Epiphanius was very simple and he preferred to sit in the last rows,"Tawadros said. "Despite the bitterness of pain, we raise our hands to the skies where our comfort lies,” the pope said, warning the monks against appearing on the media, and saying: "You have been cut off from the world and should not be used in any way." The church’s statement mentioned that the bishop’s death is being investigated by the security authorities as mystery shrouds the incident. The late bishop was found dead and covered in blood on Sunday morning. The preliminary security investigation suggested that Bishop Epiphanius was hit by a sharp object. The body of the bishop was transferred to the morgue of the Wadi El-Natrun Central Hospital. -- Egypt Today
Iranian Guards naval buildup at Hormuz: US monitors, Israel warns
DEBKAfile/August 02/18/
Shortly before a new round of US sanctions, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) navy is building up maritime forces at the Strait of Hormuz, ready to launch an “exercise” at 48 hours’ notice. The warships, poised outside the northern opening of the waterway, demonstrate that Iran can, if it so decides, block the vital waterway for Gulf oil exports. Thursday morning, Aug. 2, the US Central Command issued the following statement: “We are aware of the increase in Iran naval operations within the Arabian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz and ‘Gulf of Oman. We are monitoring it closely, and will continue to work with our partners to ensure freedom of navigation and free flow of commerce in international waterways… We also continue to advocate for all maritime forces to conform to international maritime customs, standards and laws.”DEBKAfile notes that CENTCOM chose to refer to the Persian Gulf as the “Arabian Gulf” which Tehran sees as a national affront. Wednesday night, Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu warned that any Iranian attempt to interfere with shipping sailing through another vital regional waterway, the Bab al Mandeb Straits, would encounter an international coalition, including Israel with a full array of its military capabilities.Our sources liken the current climate surrounding a possible US-Iranian summit to that which led up to President Donald Trump’s Singapore meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un. That too was preceded closely by a dramatic rise in war tensions, while quiet preparations for the big event continued without interruption.

Israel Strike on 'Terrorists' near Fence in Golan Kills Seven
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 02/18/An Israeli air strike has killed seven militants believed to be linked to the Islamic State group and seeking to infiltrate the country from the Syrian Golan Heights, the army said Thursday. The military carried out the strike late Wednesday after the militants crossed a ceasefire line and came within a few hundred metres of the fence leading to the Israeli-held Golan Heights, spokesman Jonathan Conricus told journalists. An Israeli aircraft "struck those seven suspects, and today in searches that have been completed on the ground by Israeli troops we found seven bodies in that location, we found five AK-47 assault rifles, we found explosive vests as well as what appears to be grenades," Conricus said. A Syrian offensive in the country's south has resulted in IS-affiliated groups scattering in the area, Conricus said. Israeli forces monitored the militants' movements before carrying out the strike, he said. "Had they been able to continue, they would have come to the Israeli security fence," Conricus said. He said Israeli forces believed they were "on a terrorist mission" and "trying to infiltrate into Israel." "It did not seem as if they were fleeing, seeking refuge," Conricus said. "It seems as if they were moving in a combat formation, with combat equipment."

Israel Reimposes Blockade of Fuel Deliveries to Gaza
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 02/18/Israel reimposed a blockade of fuel supplies to Gaza on Thursday in response to a resurgence of the flow of fire kites across the border, Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said. Lieberman said the crackdown was in response to "the pursuit of terrorism" using fire kites and balloons amid persistent protests along the border. Israel already imposed a blockade on fuel deliveries to Gaza on July 17 but lifted it a week later in response to a reduction in the number of kites and balloons carrying firebombs into Israeli territory. Israel says the devices have sparked hundreds of fires since April and caused hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage. Palestinians in Gaza see the kites and balloons as legitimate resistance against Israel's decade-long blockade of the territory. The coastal enclave suffers from a severe lack of electricity and relies on fuel-powered generators during outages that last hours at a time. Israel controls all access to and from the territory apart from a single crossing with Egypt which has been only rarely opened. It has fought three wars with Palestinian militants in Gaza since 2008 and says the blockade is necessary to keep them from obtaining weapons or materials that could be used for military purposes. UN officials have called repeatedly for the blockade to be lifted, citing deteriorating humanitarian conditions in the territory, where some 80 percent of the two million population depend on aid. Mass protests for the return of Palestinian refugees to their former homes in Israel began along the border on March 30, triggering a deadly response from the Israeli army. At least 157 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire. One Israeli soldier has been killed.

Israel Sees 'Benefits' in Assad Gains, Lieberman Says
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 02/18/Gains by President Bashar al-Assad's forces in the Syrian civil war present advantages for Israel even though the two countries remain technically at war, Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Thursday. "In Syria, as far as we are concerned, the situation is returning to the previous one before the civil war, meaning there is a clear address, there is responsibility and there is a central government," Lieberman told journalists while visiting Israeli air defences. Before the civil war erupted in 2011, the ceasefire line between Syria and Israel was largely quiet for years. During the conflict, there has been occasional spillover fire to which Israel has responded. Assad told his troops on Wednesday they were close to victory after inflicting a succession of defeats on rebels.A series of blistering offensives backed by Moscow and Tehran has forced the rebels out of many of their strongholds, putting Assad's government back in control of nearly two-thirds of the country. Israel has sought to avoid direct involvement in the Syrian conflict but acknowledges carrying out dozens of air strikes there to stop what it says are deliveries of advanced weaponry to its Lebanese enemy Hezbollah. It has also pledged to prevent its arch foe Iran from entrenching itself militarily in Syria and a series of recent strikes that have killed Iranians in Syria have been attributed to Israel. "We do not interfere or intervene in Syria's internal affairs," Lieberman said. "But this is provided that all three points that are important to us are fulfilled." He named them as a strict observance of a 1974 armistice with Syria, not allowing Iran to use Syria as a front against Israel and not allowing Syria to be used as a transit point for advanced arms deliveries to Hezbollah. Israel seized 1,200 square kilometres (460 square miles) of the Golan Heights from Syria in the Six-Day War of 1967 and later annexed it in a move never recognised by the international community. The two countries remain technically at war.

Citing continued fire balloon launches, Israel halts fuel shipments to Gaza
Reuters, Jerusalem Thursday, 2 August 2018/Israel will stop shipments of fuel and gas to the Gaza Strip from Thursday in response to militants in the enclave launching incendiary balloons that have torched fields in Israel. A statement from Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s office on Wednesday said he had ordered a halt to fuel supplies into the strip via the Kerem Shalom crossing until further notice. “The decision has been taken in view of the continued terror of incendiary balloons and friction along the (border) fence,” the statement said.  Four months of weekly Friday border protests that began on March 30 have calmed slightly but organizers have vowed they will continue until Israel lifts economic sanctions on the enclave. At least 155 Palestinians have been killed in the protests and one Israeli soldier was shot dead by a sniper in Gaza. Israel has lost tracts of farmland and forests to fires set by kites and helium balloons laden with incendiary material and flown over from Gaza. Israel had already responded by preventing the entry of non-essential commercial goods to Gaza.

Turkey, US in Diplomatic Crisis after Ministers Hit by Sanctions
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 02/18/Turkey and the United States were on Thursday locked in the most serious diplomatic crisis between the NATO allies in years after Washington slapped sanctions on two senior Turkish ministers and Ankara vowed to retaliate. Tensions have ratcheted up in recent weeks over Turkey's detention on terror charges of American pastor Andrew Brunson, who was first detained in October 2016 and was moved to house arrest last week. The move to house arrest of Brunson, who led a Protestant church in the Aegean city of Izmir, inflamed rather than defused tensions, with President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence warning Turkey it faced sanctions. The sanctions targeting Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu freeze any property or assets on US soil held by the two ministers, and bar US citizens from doing business with them. "These officials serve as leaders of Turkish government organisations responsible for implementing Turkey’s serious human rights abuses," the US Treasury Department said in a statement Wednesday. White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told journalists both ministers had "played leading roles in the arrest and detention of Pastor Brunson". The Turkish foreign ministry warned that the move "will greatly damage constructive efforts" to solve outstanding issues and told Washington it would retaliate. "Without delay, there will be a response to this aggressive attitude that will not serve any purpose," it said. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is to chair a meeting of Turkey's top military council, has yet to comment on the sanctions. But on Wednesday he vowed Turkey would not give in to threats from the United States, accusing Washington of showing an "evangelist, Zionist mentality".
- 'Historic rupture' -The standoff appears to be one of the most serious crises between Turkey and the United States in modern history, along with the rows over the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus and the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq. "A scandalous decision from Washington," said the headline in the pro-government Hurriyet daily. "A historic rupture," added the opposition Cumhuriyet. The row over Brunson escalated last week when Pence, like the pastor an evangelical Christian, said Turkey would face "significant sanctions" if this "innocent man of faith" was not freed.
His language was immediately echoed by Trump, who had enjoyed a relatively warm relationship with Erdogan and was even reported to have "fist-bumped" the Turkish president at a NATO summit last month. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke Wednesday with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu, and has plans to meet him next week to demand Brunson's freedom, the State Department said. The court trying Brunson has repeatedly refused to allow him to go free. The next hearing is October 12 with the pastor facing 35 years in jail if convicted.
He is accused of acting on behalf of two groups deemed by Turkey to be terrorist organisations -- the movement led by US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen who Ankara says was behind the 2016 coup bid and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
- 'We will get it' -The row over Brunson is just one of a number of disputes which have buried any hope of a warming of ties under the Trump presidency. Ankara and Washington are at odds over American support for a Kurdish militia in Syria and the United States is extremely wary over Turkey's growing cooperation with Russia and its deal to buy Russian air defence systems. Two Turkish employees of US consulates in Turkey are also currently in jail on terror charges and another is under house arrest, while several Americans have been caught up in the crackdown that followed the failed coup.
Turkey is meanwhile furious the United States has failed to extradite Gulen, who lives in rural Pennsylvania, to face trial over the coup bid. Soylu tweeted that the only thing Turkey wanted in the United States was Gulen's group, vowing "we won't leave that there, we will get it!"
Gul meanwhile dismissed the sanctions, saying "I have neither a tree planted nor one penny in the US or any other country outside of Turkey."The sanctions rattled financial markets with the Turkish lira hitting five to the dollar for the first time in history. The currency has lost four percent against the dollar in the last week alone.

Turkey 'Turns Blind Eye' to Syrian Rebel Abuses in Afrin, Says Amnesty
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 02/18/Amnesty International on Thursday accused Turkish forces of allowing Syrian armed groups to commit major rights abuses in the northern region of Afrin, urging Ankara to end the violations immediately. Turkey and allied Syrian rebels seized control of Afrin earlier this year after a military operation dubbed "Olive Branch" which ousted a Kurdish militia that is an ally of the United States but Ankara regards as a terror group. Amnesty said that, since the takeover, residents in Afrin had been "enduring a wide range of violations" which Turkish armed forces "turned a blind eye" to. "These violations include arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, and confiscation of property and looting to which Turkey's armed forces have turned a blind eye," Amnesty said. A Turkish diplomatic source told AFP there had been similar "untrue allegations" previously, but "information and documents have undermined" the veracity of the claims. Looting incidents were quickly investigated and Turkey, with Syrian groups, "urgently took the necessary measures", the source added. Some of the Syrian groups as well as Turkish armed forces have taken over schools, disrupting education for thousands of children, Amnesty claimed. The rights group said residents told them that Afrin University was "completely shut down after it was destroyed and looted", adding that only one school in Afrin city was accessible.The Turkish diplomatic source said Ankara had been working to focus on schools' needs and ensuring that the infrastructure was completed for the 2018-19 academic year. - 'Wreak havoc' -Turkey says the People's Protection Units (YPG) militia it ousted from Afrin is an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) which has waged an insurgency in Turkey since 1984. The PKK is blacklisted as a terror group by Ankara, the US and the European Union. In the case of one woman, her uncle has been missing since an armed group escorted him to his house after he returned to his village three months earlier. "They wouldn't tell his wife where they took him," the unnamed woman told Amnesty, denying the man, head of a local committee, had any links to the YPG. Amnesty said some homes have been "occupied" by displaced families from the central Homs province and the southern area of Eastern Ghouta which was recently recaptured by the Syrian regime. But the Turkish source said 80,000 Afrin residents were able to return to their homes.Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty's Middle East research director, said the Syrian armed groups continued to "wreak havoc on civilians, unchecked by Turkish forces". She argued that Turkey was responsible for the welfare of civilians as well as maintaining law and order since it was the "occupying power" in Afrin. "Without further delay, Turkey must end violations by pro-Turkish armed groups, hold perpetrators accountable, and commit to helping Afrin residents rebuild their lives," she added. The Turkish source said humanitarian aid and primary healthcare services were routinely reaching the region. The source added that the Syrian groups or those under their control were "banned from searching villages using their own initiative and setting up checkpoints".
Amnesty accuses Turkey of tolerating Syrian rebel abuses in Afrin
AFP, Istanbul/Thursday, 2 August 2018/Amnesty International on Thursday accused Turkish forces of allowing Syrian armed groups to commit major rights abuses in the northern region of Afrin, urging Ankara to immediately end the violations. Turkey and allied Syrian rebels seized control of Afrin earlier this year after a military operation which ousted a Kurdish militia that is an ally of the United States but Ankara regards as a terror group. Amnesty said that, since the takeover, residents in Afrin had been “enduring a wide range of violations” which Turkish armed forces “turned a blind eye” to. “These violations include arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, and confiscation of property and looting to which Turkey’s armed forces have turned a blind eye,” Amnesty said.
Disrupted education
Some of the Syrian groups as well as Turkish armed forces have taken over schools, Amnesty claimed, which it said disrupted education for thousands of children. Amnesty said residents told them that Afrin University was “completely shut down after it was destroyed and looted”, adding only one school in Afrin city was accessible. The rights group said that when contacted for comment, the Turkish government questioned its impartiality for using the terminology of Kurdish-dominated forces to describe regions. Turkey says the People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia it ousted from Afrin is an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged an insurgency in Turkey since 1984. The PKK is blacklisted as a terror group by Ankara, the US and the European Union.
Protests sweep Iran’s cities amid clashes with security
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Thursday, 2 August 2018/Angry protests swept the Islamic Republic on Thursday, for the third consecutive day with protesters venting their anger on the government over the high cost of living, inflation and the deteriorating value of the Iranian currency rial. Videos posted on social media showed protesters clash with security forces trying to disperse the protesters. In the city of Esfahan in central Iran, protesters took to the streets for the third consecutive day, shouting slogans: “Do not be afraid… We are united” while other video footage showed clashes between security forces and youths who were shouting: “Death to the dictator.”Protesters burned rubber tires to face the teargas and prevent the attack of security forces who arrested a number of protesters. Also in Shiraz, in Fars province, protesters took to the streets shouting slogans: “Death to the Dictator” and “Tanks and canons do not scare us… The mullahs most leave.”Karaj - a district in Alborz province south of the Iranian capital Tehran - which was the scene of clashes during Wednesday’s protests, witnessed a huge protest in Eshtehard city on Thursday, while in Meshhad northeast of Iran, angry protesters called for the removal of corrupt officials shouting: “We do not want incapable officials”, and “Residents of palaces be ashamed and leave the country.”

Seoul Deploys Warship to Libya after S. Korean, Filipinos Kidnapped
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 02/18/Seoul said Thursday it had deployed a warship to Libya in an apparent show of force to secure the release of a South Korean national kidnapped along with three Filipinos in the North African country. The 4,000-tonne vessel, Munmu the Great, which takes part in anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden, was now on its way to Libya, officials said. In addition to "carrying out its duty of protecting commercial vessels, (the warship) is also preparing for all possibilities including the need for military support", a defence ministry spokesman told AFP, without elaborating further. The three Filipino engineers and a South Korean were abducted in an attack on a water project site in western Libya on July 6. Their governments confirmed they were featured in a video shared on social media this week. The video, also posted by the SITE Intelligence group, shows the four men addressing the camera in English. An armed guard is pictured squatting behind them in the sand, but their captors are not identified and the attack has not been claimed by any group. It was not clear when the video was shot. "The Philippine embassy in Tripoli has confirmed that the three men in the video are the three Filipino technicians who (were) taken by armed men in Libya last month," Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Elmer Cato told AFP. A spokesman for Seoul's presidential office said the government was doing "its utmost with all the resources the country has". "His country and his president have never once forgotten him," spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom said in a statement. "The government has been maintaining a close cooperation system with the government of Libya and other allies, such as the Philippines and the United States, since the day of the incident for his safety and release," Kim said. Since former Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi was ousted from power and killed in 2011, foreign workers and diplomatic missions have frequently been targeted by militias or jihadists such as the Islamic State group.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh appointed deputy premier, minister of information
Thu 02 Aug 2018/NNA - Presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh has been appointed deputy prime minister and minister of information, Palestinian government spokesman Yousef al-Mahmoud said on Thursday. He said the decision came following consultation between President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah. Abu Rudeineh was sworn in in front of President Abbas and Prime Minister Hamdallah. -- WAFA
As Shiite militias kill more people, reports warn of Iran proxies capturing Iraq
Al Arabiya English/Duba/iThursday, 2 August 2018/The Iraqi government imposed a curfew in the town of al-Dujail in Salaheddine governorate north of the capital Baghdad, deploying security forces after clashes erupted between armed tribal militants and forces of Asa'ib Ahl al- Haq, an Iraqi Shiite militia. Salaheddine governor Ahmed al-Jabouri said that the Shiite militia enforced with a large number of its militant, entered the town, kidnapped and killed many resident. This come as a report painted a terrifying picture of the future of Iraq where the 120,000-strong Popular Mobilization Units have become a powerful Iranian proxy. A Financial Times report warned over the potentially “subversive force in a country that has endured appalling violence over the past 15 years — much of it at the hands of militias that exploited the state’s weakness to stoke sectarian tensions.
Some Iraqi and western officials fear the predominantly Shiite paramilitary groups could become a shadow force, modelled on Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps or Hezbollah, the Lebanese movement that has political and military wings. “It’s an Iranian creation led by people who follow Iran: Iran has the guards, Iraq has the PMU,” FT quotes an Iraqi general. It added that some elements of the more pro-Iran militias in the PMU have dispatched forces to Syria to fight alongside the regime of Bashar al-Assad and have issued threats against US interests in Iraq. Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the PMU’s deputy leader, was designated for sanctions by the US Treasury in 2009 “for threatening the peace and stability of Iraq and the government of Iraq”, and his Hizbollah Brigades militia is designated a terrorist organization. The Treasury said he was an adviser to Qassem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s Quds Force, and as recently as October a state department spokesman described Mr Muhandis as a “terrorist”. Is this the beginning of ‘Hezbollah-ization’ of Iraq? The PMU militias were born after Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s top Shia cleric, issued a call to arms in June 2014 following the humiliating collapse of the Iraqi security forces that the US had spent more than $20bn equipping in the face of Isis’s onslaught.
PMU leaders have resisted prime minister Haider al-Abadi’s efforts to integrate them into the armed forces. In November 2016, parliament passed a law making the PMU an independent force, which now has its own $1.6 billion budget and ostensibly answers to the prime minister’s office rather than the interior or defense ministries. Yet when Abadi tried to obtain an independent audit of their numbers, PMU leaders pushed back, the report quotes one Iraqi politician. Some Iraqis and analysts say PMU groups are also expanding their business interests and allegedly engaging in similar smuggling rackets that Isis once operated, from sheep to grain and oil.
UN envoy sets Yemen peace talks for September 6 in Geneva
Arab News/August 02/18/NEW YORK: The UN special envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths plans to invite warring parties to Geneva on Sept. 6 to discuss a framework for peace talks. Addressing a UN Security Council meeting on Thursday, Griffiths said the talks would also discuss confidence-building measures to end the conflict. The last attempt to resolve the conflict through talks took place in Kuwait in 2016, but the negotiations collapsed after the Houthi militia rejected a UN peace plan. Griffiths said his efforts in Yemen had enabled the UN to "narrow the gap between the parties" involved in the conflict. "I am very conscious that each day costs lives which might have been saved," Griffiths said. Earlier, Griffiths met with the UN ambassadors of the Saudi-led Arab coalition countries, including the UAE. "The UAE continues to fully support Mr Griffiths in his efforts to advance a settlement and enforce Security Council resolution 2216," the UAE mission to the UN tweeted. Griffiths has recently been shuttling between the warring parties to avert a coalition assault on Hodeidah, Yemen's largest port which is still held by the Houthis but surrounded by pro-government forces. "We have tried to find a way to avoid a battle for the city and the port of Hodeidah and we are still trying," Griffiths told the council. US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told the council: "We've hit a new sense of urgency in Yemen.""If this is what's starting to happen, civilians are at risk, infrastructure is at risk and we as the international community have to demand that the two parties come together and understand the seriousness of this," Haley said. She also again accused Iran of supporting the Houthis and condemned the Houthi missile attacks, which have targeted Saudi Arabia. Asharq Al-Awsat, the sister newspaper of Arab News, reported early on Thursday that Griffiths was planning to convene the talks. The report said he was expected to use a different approach to his predecessor Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, who stepped down after failing to make headway in ending the conflict. The first round of Yemen talks were held in 2015 in Switzerland before moving to Kuwait in 2016. The war in Yemen was ignited in 2014 when the Houthis seized the capital Sanaa and forced the internationally recognized governmnet to flee. The militia then launched an offensive to capture the rest of the country from pro-government forces, sparking Saudi Arabia to lead an Arab coalition to restore the government to power. UN figures suggest at least 10,000 people have been killed in the conflict, while a further 2 million have been displaced.

The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published
on August 02-03/18
Druze leaders to continue protests over Nationality Law
Hassan Shaalan, Itamar Eichner|/Ynetnews/August 02/18
Following announcement that Druze community accepted PM Netanyahu's proposal to allay fears over recently-passed Nationality Law, community leaders say they will continue negotiations and will not withdraw High Court petition; rally in solidarity with Druze community to be held at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv. Senior representatives of the Druze community, headed by Sheikh Mowafak Tarif, decided not to accept an outline proposal by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meant to allay fears that the recently-passed Nationality Law will impinge on their equality and basic rights. The proposed legislation would commit Israel to recognize the contribution of the Druze community to the state. During an urgent meeting held on Thursday in Kafr Yasif in northern Israel, Druze leaders decided to continue negotiations on the issue and not to withdraw a petition filed to the High Court of Justice against the Nationality Law.
In addition, a rally in solidarity with the Druze community is expected to be held at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv on Saturday night. Most of the meeting’s participants, which included several MKs and local government officials, objected to Netanyahu's proposal and stressed their commitment to continue the fight for the community’s rights.
"The government's duty is to provide the residents with services and to solve the housing and education problems, regardless of the Nationality Law," they said in a statement. Nevertheless, the Druze community leaders thanked the prime minister "for the tremendous efforts he invested to enshrine into law the Druze's status in the State of Israel. A window of opportunity for a historic precedent has been created to elevate the status of the Druze community."
They also stressed their intention to continue the discussions on the matter with the prime minister's team in order to formulate an official document based on the principle elements of Netanyahu’s proposal and noted that the issue of Druze IDF service should not be part of the public debate. Brig. Gen. Amal Asad, one of the leaders of the current fight, addressed the prime minister’s proposal, labeling it as humiliating.
"The prime minister … offered the Druze community to stop protesting against their humiliation last week. Instead, he proposes another humiliating offer … the main purpose of which is to provide benefits to the community and to individuals serving in the IDF in return for their contribution. In other words, the outline proposed by the prime minister is essentially a contract for a professional army, with undefined benefits and promises, which are just as reliable as the prime minister’s reputation,” he vented. The proposal formulated by Prime Minister Netanyahu and his team was initially described as historic. “It reflects a change in the legal status of Israel’s minority communities serving in the IDF, especially the Druze,” said an official statement.
The components of the plan's outline are as follows:
1. Anchoring in law the status of the Druze and Circassian communities. The law will esteem the contribution of the Druze community to the State of Israel in building up the country, strengthening security and fashioning the face of Israeli society as an equal and varied society, and will include support for community religious, cultural and educational institutions; the strengthening of Druze towns and villages, including solutions for residential construction, and the establishment of new communities as necessary; and the preservation of the Druze heritage.
2. Anchoring in law the eligibility for benefits of minority community members—of all faiths and communities—who serve in the security forces, to achieve social equality.
3. Anchoring in a basic law recognition of the contribution of those—of all faiths and communities, including the Druze—who take part in the defense of the state.
4. The Deputy Director General of the Prime Minister's Office announced the establishment of a ministerial committee, chaired by Prime Minister Netanyahu, on the issue of the Druze community which will work—inter alia—to advance the outline and oversee its implementation.
5. The details of the outline will be formulated and written in 45 days, within the framework of a joint team that includes government officials and representatives of the Druze community, all subject to the provisions of the law, and to the approval of the Attorney General. Legislative actions will commence immediately upon the convening of the Knesset's in the next winter session. The High Court of Justice petition against the Nationality Law, was submitted by MK Akram Hasson (Kulanu) MK Salah Sa'ad (the Zionist Union) and MK Hamad Amar (Yisrael Beytenu). MK Akram Hasson said on Wednesday that the outlined proposal is a historic move. “We passed the proposal to our lawyer and he deemed it acceptable. For our point of view, this is a historic plan,” said MK Akram Hasson. “It removes the feeling of ranking citizens of class A and B citizens. It enables us to be proud and equal citizens with our people in our homeland. All we wanted was to be one nation in one state.” The plan, Hasson continued, provides “a solution to all the problems and we will begin to feel equal and we have no interest in continuing the protest. There is light at the end of this tunnel.”
MK Amar also praised the proposal, saying that for the first time, his “Israeliness” will be enshrined in law. “The proposal is acceptable in my eyes. The only thing that motivates me is the good of the Druze. Since the passing of the contentious law, minority communities in Israel have been calling to amend several controversial articles in it. The Nationality Law also states that the State of Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people and that Hebrew is the official language of the state. Arabic, spoken by the Druze community, was downgraded as an official language and defined as having a special status, with the official state use of Arabic to be determined in separate legislation

Netanyahu ends meeting with Druze leaders over 'apartheid' comment
Ahoya Raved, Itamar Eichner/Ynetnews/August 02/18
Brig. Gen. (res.) Amal Asad calls Israel an 'apartheid state' over the Nationality Law in Facebook post, leading the prime minister to walk out of meeting Asad attended; Druze protesters interrupt law sponsor MK Avi Dichter's remarks at event, with one activist calling the MK 'racist' and 'Nazi.'
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu abruptly ended a meeting on the Nationality Law with Druze leaders after one of them, Brig. Gen. (res.) Amal Asad, called Israel an "apartheid state" in a Facebook post.
Netanyahu said he would not tolerate such an offense both to the prime minister Israel and to the State of Israel itself. Some Druze mayors refused to attend the meeting.
Asad accused Netanyahu of planning the incident. "He had no intention of listening us, the officers who have a position contradictory to his own," Asad claimed. "He planned to come and take photos with the dignitaries, and say he's establishing committees. We came to present our positions."
Asad went on to say that "When he saw me, he said he didn't want to sit down with Amal, because I wrote that Israel is an apartheid state. If you didn't want to sit down with me, why did you invite me?"
He clarified he did not make his controversial accusation during the meeting itself, but in a Facebook post, where he also criticized the prime minister.
"I guess anyone who criticizes Netanyahu is X'ed out. I'm sorry I've been x'ed out. I'm proud of what I represent," he added. "We want the Nationality Law to change and to include me as an Israeli by law."
Zionist Union MK Saleh Saed, a Druze himself, criticized Asad's comment, saying it is "playing into the hands of the prime minister and hurts the Druze's fight. This is an unnecessary comment that should have not been said, and is in no way acceptable to me. The State of Israel is not an apartheid state."
Elsewhere, during a scholarship ceremony for Druze students at the ORT Braude College of Engineering, several Druze activists against the Nationality Law ran onto the stage and interrupted remarks by Likud MK Avi Dichter, one of the legislation's sponsors.
The protesting activists were led by Dr. Amir Hanifes, who represented the Druze community in the Knesset discussions on the law. Another activist called Dichter "racist" and "Nazi."
Dichter exclaimed in response: "I won't be called a 'Nazi!' Not by a Jew, an Arab, a Muslim or a Druze.""I lost my family because of the Nazis, who murdered my mother's family and my father's family," he added.Police officers who were called to the scene removed the two protesters from the ceremony. MK Dichter left the event from a side exit, accompanied by police officers from the Yasam Special Patrol Unit. After the event, he noted that the Druze's rage is a result of "a lot of disinformation," among other things. "I don't recommend dismissing a Basic Law that passed with a 62 MKs majority," Dichter added. Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, the president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, which organized the event, tried to calm down the tensions. "The Nationality Law that passed in the Knesset left you, along with many thousands from among Israel's minorities who are seeking to integrate into Israeli society and become an integral part of the State of Israel, embarrassed and distressed," he said. "I'm sure my friend Avi Dichter, that I know the Druze community is close to his heart, did not expect or wish for this crisis. I'm sure no one thought this harm will happen and be so serious. I believe what's been done can be fixed," Eckstein continued.
"I call on my friend Avi and all members of the Knesset and government to create a quick solution for this terrible situation we've found ourselves in," he concluded.
Druze high-schoolers ask Netanyahu: Stop the law
More than 60 Druze high school students sent a letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu on Thursday, demanding to cancel the Nationality Law.
"We were raised looking up to our brothers, the IDF's Druze heroes, and on the legacy left to us by the 421 fallen Druze soldiers who were killed protecting the state. We, the future generation, are willing to give our lives to defend the homeland, just as the previous generations had done since the establishment of the state. The Druze community has always been and will always be alongside the Jewish people, facing any challenge. Like our fathers and their fathers before them, we too want to be full partners in the security of the state and in ensuring its future as a secure, just and equal nation," the students opened their letter.Turning to the Nationality Law, the wrote: "Mr. Prime Minister, the Nationality Law passed by the Israeli government causes a deep crisis for us, because it says we're not citizens with equal rights in our country—the State of Israel. This is outrageous, because nowhere in the law is the principle of equality," they wrote."Despite the great anger, the insult and the crisis, we will continue contributing to the State of Israel, as we've been taught by our parents and leaders. We will always be loyal to our country. We love it and are willing to serve it like our fathers before us," they noted.
"We turn to you, Mr. Prime Minister: Stop the Nationality Law. Hear our cries. The courage you showed in battle—please show the same courage as prime minister. You can stop the law and send it back to discussions to make the necessary amendments."
**Adir Yanko contributed to this story.

Accepting Assad with the end of the revolution
Fares bin Hezam/Al Arabiya/August 02/18
The Syrians have lived dreams of Assad’s expulsion and his durability. Today, they are at a crossroads watching the scene powerlessly.
Those who dream of expelling Assad are lamenting their bad luck and how the world failed their cause. They blame the close ones more than they blame those afar, and they’re burdening the Gulf countries with much than their energy can tolerate.
On the humanitarian level, no state gave the Syrian people as much as Saudi Arabia did. It provided open support and tons of aid that have been continuously sent to Syria and to refugee camps. This is in addition to hosting tens of thousands in the kingdom. To maintain their dignity, it facilitated their stay, work and education as residents and not as refugees. This is why their number is not documented in UN papers. Politically, Saudi Arabia supported the rebels and those who reject Assad’s governance in all arenas. It pushed them to form one front instead of being divided. Efforts stumbled however due to the Turkish-Qatari tampering.
Militarily, the Free Syrian Army was formed with Arab and western support. It was a ready alternative to secure the areas which the Assad regime had lost, only if Assad hadn’t opened prisons and liberated hundreds of extremists which formed groups like al-Qaeda but under different names and forms.
What helped this chaos spread was the renewal of Turkish-Qatari tampering aided with extremist powers at the expense of the FSA. Arming the FSA was the most difficult task faced by any country that respects laws and takes into consideration the legal consequences in the future. Cautiously and out of fear that heavy weapons will be smuggled, the Friends of Syria supported the FSA with light and medium weapons. However, this was not enough to finalize a conflict that begins from the skies with fighter jets.
Although Syria is an important country and a major zone in the Arab-Persian conflict, Yemen is a priority in the kingdom’s foreign policy
Conflict zone
During the past three years, Syria turned into an international conflict zone due to Iran’s infiltration and Russia’s involvement. In the past year, America was encouraged to be involved and this year, Israel did for the first time. What’s required from Saudi Arabia before and after this?
I think it has consciously given plenty of support to a true cause. It was alone at the beginning as the West let it down in the first two years of the revolution when Syria’s worry was expelling Assad. Today the worry is to get Iran out of Syria.
Syria is not a border country and although Syria is an important country and a major zone in the Arab-Persian conflict, Yemen is a priority in the kingdom’s foreign policy. The kingdom thus rose to finalize another major arena in the conflict with Iran.
Syria today faces a transformation that awaits it in the coming months along with expectations of major sanctions, which may be imposed on Iran and the desire of the American and Russian axes to get it out of Syria. The survival of the regime is the closest scenario, with Bashar or without him.
Militarily, the battles may end in 2019 while bombings and assassinations continue to happen. This is where the Saudi role comes in facilitating the political task for Syria’s future. Syria will be built from within with modern political pillars, and Riyadh has its strong influence in this peaceful field. Nothing in the horizon stipulates that it will deal again with the head of the regime Bashar al-Assad but it will deal with substitutes that are fit to live with a new regime, which the largest number of the conflicting parties meets around.
Riyadh can then push the moderate political powers to accept a new form that’s internationally agreed upon. This is not imposing anything on the people’s will but it’s accepting a realistic solution which many wars led to.
Some solutions ended with the state remaining on all its territories, like Congo, Sierra Leone and Rwanda while others concluded with complete disintegration like Yugoslavia which split into seven countries.

Iran and sanctions from gold to carpets
Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/August 02/18
Turning off the lights on the Tehran regime will cost it a lot domestically at a time when the domestic situation does not look stable as protests against livelihood conditions are ongoing on an almost on a daily basis across the country. Beginning this week, all companies and governments are prohibited from using the dollar currency when dealing with Iran, and all bank transactions using the dollar will be suspended. It’s also prohibited the buy the Iranian rial or deal with it. Banks are not allowed to lend Iran money and American banks are prohibited from dealing with their counterparts from the Iranian banks. It’s also prohibited to sell gold, iron, aluminum and even coal. It’s also not allowed to import goods and carpets to the US. Three months from now, sanctions on Iran will include oil and petrochemical products. These sanctions are unilateral– only imposed by the US without the rest of its allies, which chose to remain committed to the nuclear agreement and deal and trade with Iran. However, most of them will not be able to do so. The American sanctions will prevent these countries from using any American products or possessions in their manufacturing and trade, even if partially.
These countries are also not allowed to use the dollar, which is the major currency in the global market. The companies dealing with Iran will thus also be subject to be added to the American blacklist. It’s true that these are American sanctions but the latter are so severe that most European, Chinese, Indian and other companies will not dare deal with Iran. What’s more difficult is preventing Iran and its partners from using the dollar during purchases so it will be left with using the barter system
Intermediary companies
Iran will thus have to deal with them via intermediary companies, and this will prolong the duration of trade and greatly raise the cost. What’s more difficult is preventing Iran and its partners from using the dollar during purchases so it will be left with using the barter system, which does not suit its needs.
For example, it would sell oil to China in exchange of buying cars or furniture or so, or it would accept to sell oil using China’s currency, the yuan. However Iran will not be able to use the yuan with other countries. The same applies to dealing with the Indian rupee.
When Iran buys from foreign countries, it would still need to do so using a hard currency like the dollar. Iraq faced this problem last month when the government tried to pay its dues for buying Iranian electricity and other services using the Iranian rial which is available in large amounts in Iraq but Iran refused and asked to be paid in dollar.The euro which the Iranian government started using at the beginning of this year will not solve the problem of European companies, which fear American sanctions, if they trade with Iran. European governments cannot force their companies to trade with Iran, and at the same time they cannot protect them from American sanctions.
Opening accounts
European governments have begun opening accounts for Iran using their currency, using the Euro in countries which currency is the Euro, like Germany and France, and using the pound sterling in Britain. Austria and Sweden did the same using their local currencies. Fear in the Iranian street has been reflected on the price of the Iranian rial which drastically dropped to around 120,000 rial to the US dollar. The government’s assurances did not work and the economic situation is difficult on more than one front. Iran will not be able to sell half of the oil it sold despite the global market’s need for it. This is because the US prohibited using its tankers and using its companies for insurance and prevented dealing using the dollar. The government’s income in Tehran immediately decreased. This is in addition to what the government is suffering from as a result of other economic sanctions which increased the price of products and services.

Saudi Aramco: Redefining itself as the global chemical player
Dr. Mohamed A. Ramady/Al Arabiya/August 02/18
The global energy markets, so preoccupied on when and where the planned Aramco IPO might take place, was caught off-guard by the news that the Saudi Arabia’s state oil company is building an oil-refining empire, and is in preliminary talks with SABIC to acquire that company’s seventy per cent share owned by the government. This represents a major shift for the world’s No. 1 crude producer as it tries to shore up its balance sheet ahead of the world’s biggest-ever IPO and make up for income lost to OPEC production cuts.
However, the news should not have come as a surprise to those who have followed the company and its evolving energy strategy closely and makes for fundamental political, economic and financial reasons. Over the past five years Aramco, has boosted its global refining capacity by more than a third to 5.4 million barrels a day, helped by new facilities along the kingdom’s Red Sea and Arabian Gulf coasts, underpinned not only by the older generation of wholly-owned refineries, a legacy from the PETROMIN days, but also by the new “ crown jewels “ such as the mega joint ventures with Dow Chemical of the US in SADARA and with France’s Total in SATORP.
To put this in perspective, the SADARA project has cost over $20 billion and is the largest and most modern petro chemical facility in the world producing multiple high value speciality chemicals. The SATORP facility is also slated for expansion. These moves and others including taking full control of the biggest U.S. refinery, in Port Arthur, Texas, have vaulted Aramco’s global refining capacity beyond Western rivals such as Shell , Exxon Mobil and BP. Going the SABIC acquisition route through international bond borrowing at competitive terms helps to achieve many goals of the Aramco IPO
Downstream businesses
But unlike Aramco, the international oil majors already had strong downstream businesses to bolster their earnings when crude prices plummeted just over three years ago.
This is where the economic logic comes in and Saudi Arabia has publicly stated that it cannot be held hostage to erratic oil prices that have fluctuated between $148 a barrel to a low of $28 a barrel putting strain on fiscal and economic development plans.
Saudi Arabia is now one of the top three exporters of diesel to Europe – the world’s largest diesel market for passenger vehicles – grabbing market share from the continent’s two long-time suppliers, Russia and the US.
Rising Saudi shipments of fuel products have helped soften the financial blow of slashing crude-oil production and exports with the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and the recent Non-OPEC producer agreement.
The refining investments were years in the making but were accelerated by 2014’s historic oil-price collapse and the kingdom’s subsequent plans to become a more diversified economy for revenue. The expansion into the petro chemical and refined sector is not a surprise as last April, in remarks at Columbia University, Aramco Chief Executive Amin Nasser said the company aims to increase its refining capacity to between 8 million and 10 million barrels a day in an effort to better balance the company’s business.
Doing this by expanding Aramco’s refining capabilities will help it to be more of an integrated global energy company like the publicly listed Western oil giants, and make for a more valuable IPO when this takes place.
Current and planned operations
But it is not only in the Kingdom that Aramco has expanded in the refined energy business, as Aramco’s refining current and planned operations span the world, with joint ventures in India, South Korea, Malaysia, Japan and China, in addition to the giant Motiva refinery in Port Arthur, Texas.
These facilities give the company a guaranteed outlet for its crude oil in its most important markets and also dispel the notion that Saudi Arabia is not willing or interested to increase its oil production capacity.
Existing ventures and planned acquisitions abroad will have their crude oil needs be met, and the Kingdom must either meet this from expanding its own spare capacity or purchase oil from third parties, thus exposing it to geo-political and supply risk in the future.
This is where the planned SABIC acquisition makes economic sense. According to SABIC, the company operates in more than 50 countries of the world with extensive manufacturing plants, specializing in polymers, specialties, agri-nutrients, and metals.
The extensive SABIC petrochemical manufacture base, over 34 operations with SABIC having ownership stakes ranging from 100 percent to 25 percent, dwarfing Saudi Aramco’s own manufacturing capacity in the same sector, and had raised some fundamental questions on why the two Saudi companies do not merge their petrochemical operations to ensure synergy in raw material sourcing, marketing, and core research and development, without duplicating efforts. Further questions had been raised, at least by this author, on whether Saudi Aramco should be involved in petro- chemicals in Saudi Arabia given the dominance of SABIC in this market, or can the two companies form a separate joint venture to hold Saudi Arabia-based assets and ensure a fair access to raw material for both parties, especially gas?
As Saudi Aramco is the sole producer of this raw material, and given the company’s stated objectives to expand further into the petrochemical sector, the alternative for SABIC was either to cooperate with Saudi Aramco on domestic gas supplies, to establish joint production, or to make acquisitions and expand abroad. The news of Aramco’s potential acquisition of SABIC majority stake has answered the question.
Feedstock rationing
Joining forces and merging their existing domestic refineries and petrochemical facilities will ensure better feedstock rationing domestically to the most efficient operations, while at the same time avoiding competitive bidding internationally.
Already both Aramco and SABIC are pursuing this cooperative path with joint investments in India’s refineries and advanced research in oil- to- chemicals production in Saudi Arabia.
According to reports, Aramco’s acquisition of SABIC’s PIF Government 70 percent share will be financed through international and domestic sukuk borrowing, as Aramco has already tested the domestic market appetite by an earlier successful sukuk issue.
Given that many of the assets of both Aramco and SABIC are abroad, the pricing of an international bond should reflect this and reduce a higher geo political risk pricing premium being applied. In all probability the likelihood is that it will be met with a large investor appetite, with the possibility of a portion of the international bond floated as a petro yuan bond given Chinese interest to participate in both any eventual Saudi IPO and to open the door for more Saudi refinery investment in China.
Other benefits accrue to the Kingdom. The proceeds from such an acquisition will provide the Saudi Sovereign Wealth Fund the PIF, with the means to carry out a more comprehensive domestic and international investment program to earn higher financial returns and help in diversifying the Saudi economy’s revenue base, while Aramco’s much larger international bond borrowing for the SABIC acquisition will also lead to more corporate transparency and release of new information that would help in any future IPO investor prospectus if the State decides to proceed.
One of the principal aims of the planned IPO is to raise funds for the PIF to carry out the above objectives. Going the SABIC acquisition route through international bond borrowing at competitive terms helps to achieve many of the goals of the Aramco IPO.
Of course , no merger is guaranteed to succeed given different organization’s management styles, work ethics, oversight and corporate governance structure, and by necessity there could be some job losses and functional departments merged to save costs.
In the longer term, a mega merger of firms in the same line if business should succeed, given that the final goal of Aramco is to become a global refinery and petrochemical producer, complementing SABIC’s core business.

Iran to Bin Laden: Open the gates of hell
Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran/Al Arabiya/August 02/18
After the downfall of the Soviet Union, and the bloody Afghan civil war, Osama bin Laden headed to Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, the drums of war were rumbling, as Saddam Hussein was preparing his army to take over Kuwait.
Following the confrontation, Bin Laden, conforming to his peers in fundamentalist groups, refused the establishment of a multinational coalition with Britain and the United States to crush Saddam’s army and throw it out of Kuwait. After great difficulties, Bin Laden decided to leave Saudi Arabia and headed to Sudan under a purely investment cover.
He arrived in the capital Khartoum in 1990, which he visited in 1988 for humanitarian reasons due to the destructive floods in the country. There were many reasons why he was attracted to this place; fertile ground for agriculture and investment, old friendships as well the weak influence of the West there.
“The dreaming Mujahid” chose Sudan for a short recess that would not last. The ideas that he shared with his guests, friends, Muslim Brotherhood leaders and those who returned from Afghanistan eventually constituted the nucleus for the historic emergence of al-Qaeda.
Turabi and Bin Laden
Sudanese journalist Attaf Abdelwahab narrates that “Osama bin Laden lived in a three-storey house in the affluent Al-Riyadh neighborhood, east of Khartoum. As soon as he arrived in Khartoum, he founded two major projects; an agricultural project in the Blue Nile and which he called Wadi al-Aqiq and a construction project in northern Sudan as the Revolutionary Command Council for National Salvation (RCCNS-Sudan) assigned him the task of constructing the strategic Khartoum-Atbara road, or what is now known as Al-Tahadi Road (the challenge road).
The RCCNS was hoping that Osama bin Laden would help them extract the country’s wealth and establish projects that would be beneficial to the country, especially since it was its early days of governance. It was known that the leader of al-Qaeda came to Sudan as an investor.
All of his efforts and intentions were purely directed towards investment in the field of construction, a sector that his family specializes in. Al-Turabi emphasized that Osama had nothing to do with politics and was away from the spotlight during his stay in Sudan.
Bin Laden was happy with the space he had. He was free to move and meet friends and comrades. He was just worried about one thing, the moodiness of Hassan al-Turabi. Bin Laden told one of his visitors, American journalist Lawrence Wright, about his exasperation regarding the personality of Turabi, describing him as Machiavellian.They did not have a good relationship and there were plenty of gossip circulating between them. For instance, Turabi made fun of Bin Laden’s ignorance in Fiqh and sharia.
The 1996 Khobar operation was the result of coordination between Hezbollah- Hijaz, Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, and al-Qaeda
Turabi financially exploited Bin Laden and used him politically as a tool for blackmail. However, an important step will mark a radical turning point in the strategies of partnership and hostility between Sunni terrorist organizations and their Shiite correspondents. Journalist Lawrence Wright wrote about this in his book entitled: ‘The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11’.
After two years in Sudan, Bin Laden dedicated himself to come up with a comprehensive plan — the goal was to confront the “crusaders”. He started looking for several tools and sought qualitative advice that would make the end of the twentieth century like a concert full of its share of firebombs so that the new millennium would inaugurate with a movie scene in the form of two aircrafts headed toward destroying two towers. Bin Laden was serious about opening the gates of hell. He had at his disposal human resources and money. He was only short of ideas.
Al-Turabi encouraged Bin Laden to move towards ideas that are more progressive and modern than rigid jurisprudential ideas. Turabi once said, in reference to the idea of Bin Laden’s alliance with Hezbollah: “If organizations cooperate and work together, they can cause many injuries to the enemy”.
Bin Laden was convinced of the charming idea of the Sudanese leader which he uttered with his famous giggle and cunning smile. Bin Laden assigned the preparations to Mamdouh Salem (known as Abu Hajar al-Iraqi), who is a member of the organization and chose members from the Shiite movement to convince others.
The initiative was crowned with an important meeting between Imad Mughniyah and Osama bin Laden. The latter did not hide his admiration for Hezbollah’s approach in carrying out military operations launched since the early 1980s, and its methods of kidnapping, management of suicide bombings and embassies’ bombings. He wanted those experiences to be infused among al-Qaeda cadres.
A group of the organization’s elite traveled to southern Lebanon for training, under the patronage of Iran and upon its knowledge. It is true that the rapprochement between the two organizations was the brainchild of the cunning Hassan al-Turabi, but the sponsorship came from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, and there is striking proof to that.
Al-Qaeda and Hezbollah
Since the early 1980s, Shiite political Islam and Khomeini’s teachings had started making their way to eastern Saudi Arabia, under many labels, publications, and organizations which originated in the 1970s. Nevertheless, the turning point according to the important observer Toby Mathieson as found in his book ‘Hizbullah al-Hijaz’ was in the mid-1980s during which revolutionary doctrines proliferated and snowballed a decade later. In the mid-1990s, the collaboration between al-Qaeda, Iran, and Hezbollah was at its peak. Yusef al-Ayeri, aka Al-Battar (Swift Sword), who was close to Bin Laden trained in the camps of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards inside Iran.
Ayeri later became the leader of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and he was later killed in northern Saudi Arabia in Hail after a long chase on June 2, 2003. He had exquisite field capacities.
The organization enjoyed its most successful tactical stages thanks to the experiences accumulated in the camps of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, until finally its name appeared within a thundering operation on which it had worked on for a long time. On June 25, 1996, a tank filled with tons of TNT hit a US air force residential complex in Khobar, east of Saudi Arabia, killing 19 Americans and injuring hundreds.
This operation echoes the success of the partnership and the development of the coordination between Hezbollah-Hijaz, Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Al-Qaeda. Dozens of Hezbollah and Al-Qaeda members were arrested. The two partners Osama bin Laden and Imad Mughniyah blessed this historical operation.
A repentant friend who was arrested after the Khobar bombings because he belonged to Hezbollah-Hejaz told me that one of his prison inmates was al-Qaeda commander Yusef al-Ayeri. The latter had no problem with any partnership with the Shiite organization in the battlefields, but he never accepted to share a meal with them on the same table. And that is the story of an evil dark alliance.

What the Suweida Druze Mean to ISIS Employers
مصير دروز سوريا… في حسابات مستخدمي «داعش»

Eyad Abu Shakra/Asharq Al Awsat/August 02/18
إياد أبو شقرا/الشرق الأوسط/29 تموز/18

The Druze (officially, “The Muwahhidoun”) may be unlucky for being the most loyal minority to an identity facing an unknown future. The Druze are, perhaps, “The Arabs’ Arabs”, and the Middle Eastern community that has never felt naturally at ease except with its “Arab” identity.
Ever before the emergence of “Arabism” in its contemporary political context in the late 19th century, the Druze felt most attached to it without much extremism or showmanship. However, while it is true that both the French and British Mandates created new realities on the ground in 1920, 1943 and 1948, and interest-based specificities emerged among the Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian Druze, it is also true that the “unifying” bonds remained strong and any harm that befell one community deeply touched the other two.
The Druze everywhere are living the aftermath of “The Black Wednesday” massacre in Suweida province (southern Syria). Throughout their history up until the current dark period, the Druze have always had two priorities in life: Defending their land and honor and remaining the masters of their own destiny.
Examining these two priorities, one finds the backbone of the “raison d’etre” of this Muslim Arab constituent community in the Arab Mashreq.
For example, because of their attachment to their land, the Druze have refused to leave their villages in northern Palestine, and tolerated Israeli occupation, and as much as possible, fought within its political system and parties, simply because it respected their specificity. Today, however, they are resisting the Israeli “Nationality Law” (which declares Israel a “Jewish State”) because it discriminates against them, against every Arab, and against anyone who advocates diversity and coexistence.
In Lebanon, the Druze have always fought for their existence and confronted all attempts to penetrate and divide them in a country plagued by sectarianism from the top down. As for Syria, here too, in a continuously changing regional and national scene, the Druze stood up for their identity, culture, independence and even regional independence. In the early 19th century they fought the Egyptian expedition of Ibrahim Pasha, and in the 1920s rose in arms against the French Mandate. They also took part in Pan-Arab, non-sectarian and pro-independence movements. Even their two small concentrations in northwest Syria (Idlib province) and southwest Syria (Quneitra province) have stubbornly and valiantly defended themselves against formidable aggressors and shed a lot of blood in battles for survival.
Today, the Druze are again facing a great danger as they live in a geographical crossroad of intersecting interests of powers much larger than themselves, and all of which seem to lack a proper and clear strategy.
The Syrian uprising initially confused the Druze, so they hesitated in making a well thought out choice, with or against the Bashar al-Assad regime, which has gradually become a “security incubator” for Iranian regional expansionism, a tactical ally of Moscow and a seasonal customer for Washington, in addition to its familiar role as an unofficial “conduit” between Israel and Iran.
The Druze had known all along the implicit “sectarian” nature of the regime and suffered from its intentional harassment and blackmail on the issue of lands, but they were uneasy about some elements of the Syrian uprising their sectarian foreign links. Furthermore, some observers – rightly or wrongly – claim that their tardiness in backing the uprising encouraged other minorities to withhold their support; thus, serving the interests of those sectarian elements, and allowing them to hijack the uprising after benefitting from the policy of brutal suppression and mass displacement adopted by the regime and its backers.
However, the Druze, soon felt that they have no interest in becoming hostages to a regime that, contrary to what it claims, does not protect minorities, but rather uses them as shields, trades in fear and provokes one minority against another. Indeed, as suppression escalated, especially, in the Daraa province that borders Suweida from the west, a strong internal Druze movement rose in Suweida, openly rejecting civil war and calling for carrying arms only in self-defense within the province’s boundaries. The movement, known as “Mashayekh al-Karama” (Sheikhs of Dignity), soon gained great respect for its insistence that the Druze of Suwieda should not fight their brethren in other parts of Syria. The regime’s response to this defiant stance in 2015 was to kill the leader of “Mashayekh al-Karama” sheikh Wahid Al-Bal’ous, who once uttered the famous words: “Our dignity is dearer than Bashar al-Assad!”
At present, there are around 53,000 Druze of conscription age who refuse to fight in for Assad’s regime and the sectarian militias that back it, because they value what is left of the bonds that unite all Syrians. Some observers believe this stance was behind the collusion that allowed “The Black Wednesday” massacre to take place.
Conflicting strategic, as well as tactical, local, regional and international interests, does not allow a certain community to remain neutral and maintain a position that can be an example to follow and put an end to bloodshed, destruction and partition.
There is no need to discuss what ISIS is, nor how and why it is “employed” and “exploited”, and how it has developed. It is enough to say that it is nothing but a pawn each major player uses to its own benefit, while claiming to fight it.
On the other hand, many are talking of diverging positions between tactical partners and allies.
Russia is exploiting Washington’s preoccupation with deciding its priorities to increase its influence in the Middle East, but it lacks the proper understanding of a region it thinks it knows. In fact, Russia has no interest in intentionally harming the Druze, but so far, it continues to blindly follow what the Assad regime wants from it.
Iran’s calculations, however, are quite different. They are based on geo-political revenge against both the Arabs and Sunni Islam. This is what is clear from the policy of systematic displacement, which would include the Druze if they continue to refuse to join its campaign against Arabs and Sunnis.
Finally, there is Israel, the major player in deciding what happens in southern Syria. Israel’s considerations in dealing with Iran vary from selective support and necessary containment. Israel knows what it really wants, and perhaps like Iran, knows also the geo-political and demographic calculations. Thus, the outcome of the developments in southern Syria will be decided by its final choices regarding the limits of Iranian military withdrawal if imposed, and the ceiling allowed for the employment and exploitation of ISIS’ gangs.