August 04/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit
John 15/01-08/: ""‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-grower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples."

Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on August 03-04/18
What Happens if Syrian Troops Attack Idlib?/Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 03/18/
Analysis/Backed by Iran, Yemen’s Houthi Fighters Flout Saudi Arabia's Might/Zvi Bar'el/Haaretz/August 03/18
Analysis/UN Peacekeeping Commander: It's Time for Israel and Lebanon to Take Courageous Steps/Amos Harel/Haartz/August 03/18
Opinion/The Real Oslo Criminals/Gideon Levy/Haaretz/August 03/18
Chomsky Calls Russian Interference a Joke - Blames Guess Who/Alan M. Dershowitz/Gatestone Institute/August 03/18
Arab Spring' Yesterday and Today: The Tunisian Template/Tommaso Virgili/Gatestone Institute/August 02/18
Trump, Iran and the New Guns of August/James Stavridis/Bloomberg/August 03/18
What Trump Could Do For Iran/Amir Taheri/Asharq Al Awsat/August 03/18
Who invaded Kuwait in the summer of 1990/Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/August 03/18
Will the UK reintroduce treason laws/Dr. Azeem Ibrahim/Al Arabiya/August 03/18
Iraq’s minister of electricity: A Scapegoat/Adnan Hussein/Al Arabiya/August 03/18
Iranian protesters blame Tehran, not Washington, for their woes/Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/August 03/18

Titles For The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published 
on August 03-04/18
Lebanon hits political logjam after election
Lebanon transferred Saddam’s billions to US, clarifies top banker
Aoun says Bassil front-runner for presidency: report
Lebanon Cabinet Formation: No Solution Looming on Horizon
Bassil, Jumblat Trade ‘Appeasing’ Remarks, Affirm Adherence to Mountain Reconciliation
Report: PSP Reiterates Unwavering Stance over Cabinet Quota
Report: ‘No Horizon’ for Lebanon Cabinet Formation
Teenager Arrested for Killing His Father, Wounding His Mother
Tripoli Customs Confiscate Unauthorized Products, Distribute Them to Charities
MP Isaac briefs Rahi on LF's endeavors to swiftly form cabinet
Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on August 03-04/18
Egyptian Church Stops Accepting Monks After Coptic Bishop Murder
Russia talking with ISIS to free 36 women, children abducted in Syria’s Sweida
White House Mideast Team Staffing Up for Peace Plan Rollout
Palestine: PM Assigns New Deputy, Hamas Objects
Is a deal between Israel and Hamas imminent?
Hamas Leaders to Meet in Gaza amid Israel Truce Reports
1 killed, 90 wounded by Israel in Hamas-led Gaza protests
Syria: Russia Begins Reinforcing Disengagement in Golan
What Happens if Syrian Troops Attack Idlib?
Syrian Air Defence Engages 'Enemy Attack', Says SANA
Italy Questions Former Egyptian Minister Who Worked Under Morsi
UN Envoy to Yemen Reveals Geneva Talks in September
Turkey Dismisses US 'Threats, Sanctions' over Detained Pastor
Missile Components for Iran Seized at Heathrow Airport
The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on August 03-04/18
Lebanon hits political logjam after election
Reuters, Beirut Friday, 3 August 2018/Lebanon faces a political impasse three months after an election produced a parliament tilted in favor of the Iran-backed Shi’ite group Hezbollah, with no sign of compromises needed to form a unity government. Negotiations have run into a knot of complications, notably how Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri can form a government that reflects the result while satisfying Western and Gulf Arab concerns over Hezbollah influence.One senior politician said talks were in a state of “stagnation”. A senior official from another party said there was no indication of compromises and forecast a period of “meaningless movement”. The heavily armed Hezbollah, with allied parties and independents, won more than 70 of parliament’s 128 seats in the May 6 election, a reversal of Lebanon’s 2009 vote when groups with Western and Saudi support scored a majority. Hezbollah, designated a terrorist group by the United States, called it a victory for the “choice of the resistance” - a reference to the arsenal it has used in conflicts with Israel and more recently in neighboring Syria’s war. Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani later put it more bluntly, saying Hezbollah had won. The result has spawned new complications for Lebanon’s tangled sectarian politics- long an arena for regional and international struggles played out through local allies.Christians, Druze and Sunni Muslims are all jostling for ministries. Additionally, the Shi’ite Muslim Hezbollah aims to move beyond its traditional backseat role in the next cabinet. It wants three instead of two seats in this cabinet, and more influential ministries than it has previously held, to include public service providers. With the group being targeted as part of a US campaign against Iran, wider Hezbollah influence could raise questions about Western aid to a country that hosts around 1 million registered Syrian refugees. US support for Lebanon’s army could also be in doubt. Firas Maksad, director of The Arabia Foundation think tank in Washington, said the election had created a conundrum. “You have election result that produced a more positive outcome for Hezbollah and its allies. These results need to be taken into consideration as the government is being put together,” he said. But “trying to form a government that would prove unwelcome in Riyadh, let alone Washington ... would come at a potentially steep cost for the country. Hariri is taking his time, and in many ways he is stuck.”The “worst time” for delay. Lebanon is used to lengthy cabinet negotiations. But the Western-backed Hariri and others gave reason to hope this time would be different because of a difficult economic situation. Politicians have warned of economic crisis. The IMF wants to see immediate and substantial fiscal adjustment to improve the sustainability of Lebanon’s public debt, which stood at over 150 percent of gross domestic product at the end of 2017. A Paris donors conference in April yielded pledges of billions, conditional on reform. The next government will also have to address relations with Syria, where President Bashar al-Assad is well on top in the seven-and-a-half-year-old civil war there. His Lebanese allies, led by Hezbollah, want full ties restored. Political commentator Rajeh Khoury said it was “difficult to see a government in the foreseeable period, unless some strange surprise occurs”. Citing the economy, he said that the delay had come “at the worst time”.

Lebanon transferred Saddam’s billions to US, clarifies top banker

Staff writer, Al Arabiya English Friday, 3 August 2018/The head of Lebanon’s Association of Banks, Joseph Torbey, revealed in a press conference on Thursday, that the Lebanese Authority transferred to the United States in the wake of its occupation of Iraq in 2003, the money deposited in Lebanese banks under the name of late Iraqi president Saddam Hussein or that under his regime.Torbey’s revelation came in reply to a question regarding rumors about “very huge deposits” by Saddam Hussein’s regime in some of the Lebanese banks. But the veteran Banker confirmed that “these deposits were sent to the United States Federal Reserve from the Iraqi Central Bank under the supervision of the legal military authority in Iraq and Lebanon’s Central Bank, and therefore there was no secrets or smokescreen around this subject.”Torbey stressed that banking system does not deprive the rightful owners of their deposits , adding that “the current Iraqi regime is the heir to the former regime.” Torbey’s comments came after the turbulence caused by an organized crime network operating between Iraq and Beirut claiming to have documents giving them access to accounts with billions of dollars, which actually belong to people who passed away or disappeared, and was registered under their names since 1999. The members of the network published their names in Iraqi media claiming ownership of documents under their names and others who passed away, with access to billions of dollars deposited in Lebanese banks. This claims caused uproar in Lebanon for almost two weeks, especially as the news affected important and well-known banks, which demanded that Major General Abbas Ibrahim, the head of Lebanon’s General Security, travel to Baghdad to solve the issue. After the visit, the Iraqi Intelligence issued a statement saying that they uncovered the network and arrested a number of suspects. Last Tuesday, Major General Abbas Ibrahim announced that a joint operations with the Iraqi authorities resulted in the discovery of the criminal network based in Iraq, targeting the Lebanese banking sector and trying to extort money from the bank. He said this operation prevented a $1 billion fraud scam, stressing in statements to the media the need to know who was behind this gang , “especially since the losses of the banking sector, because of these rumors, may reach one billion dollars.”He also revealed that the arrested were Iraqis. This case goes back more than a year, but it surfaced again in the past two weeks following a campaign of accusations and rumors on social media by the criminal network against some prestigious Lebanese banks.
Aoun says Bassil front-runner for presidency: report
The Daily Star/August 03/18/BEIRUT: President Michel Aoun told visitors at Baabda Palace that caretaker Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil has been the target of undue criticism recently because he is a front-runner for the next presidential battle, local newspaper Al-Akhbar reported Friday. “There is someone at the head of the race, called Gebran Bassil, and all manner of war is being launched against him,” Aoun told visitors, when asked why some are already raising the issue of the next presidential election, according to Al-Akhbar. Caretaker Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk notably signaled last month that the ongoing delay in forming a new government was the result of an early presidential battle taking shape. Bassil heads the Free Patriotic Movement party that was founded by Aoun, who is also Bassil’s father-in-law. Bassil reportedly has had his sights on succeeding Aoun when the president’s six-year term ends in 2022. Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea is also believed to be another candidate for the country’s top Maronite post. Geagea was a candidate in the 2016 election before he pulled out of the race and endorsed Aoun.
“But these wars don’t bother him [Bassil] and they don’t bother me, and every time they put out a rumor, he faces them with the truth,” the president was quoted as saying in Al-Akhbar’s report. Aoun, the daily added, also touched on the Cabinet formation process with his visitors, saying the main obstacles presented by the demands of the LF and the Progressive Socialist Party remained. He went on to say that others have also been cornering Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri with various demands for representation in the next Cabinet.
“And suddenly we find out that foreign interference has made it into game,” he said without elaborating, according to Al-Akhbar.
Lebanon Cabinet Formation: No Solution Looming on Horizon
Beirut - Youssef Diab/Asharq Al Awsat/August 03/18/Consultations on the formation of the new government have dragged on with no end in sight, despite optimism expressed by some politicians. The two main problems of the Christian and the Druze representation in the cabinet remained unsolved despite meetings held between concerned parties at the Presidential Palace and the Center House in Beirut. Long-hours of talks between PM-designate Saad Hariri and head of the Lebanese Forces Samir Geagea on Wednesday carried some optimism, but the next day the PM’s sources placed the meeting in the framework of “coordination and talks.”“Hariri offered several acceptable and possible solutions, however, there are no explanations as to why those solutions were rejected,” the sources told Asharq Al-Awsat. They added that the PM-designate is waiting for a response from President Michel Aoun. “If the President accepts Hariri’s latest proposals, then the cabinet formation would be near. However, if he rejects them, the PM-designate will reveal what's happening and divulge the reasons behind the cabinet formation stalemate,” the sources added. Reports said caretaker Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil refuses to offer the LF more than three ministers and to limit the Druze representation to the Democratic Gathering bloc of Walid Jumblat. On Thursday, the President met with caretaker Information Minister Melhem Riachy, who relayed Geagea's position vis-à-vis the cabinet formation process. Riachy said Aoun informed him that the possibility of handing the LF a so-called sovereign portfolio was being discussed with Hariri. For her part, deputy from Hariri’s Mustaqbal Movement Dima Jamali ruled out the formation of the government anytime soon, lamenting the lack of “real solutions” and ongoing pressure exerted on the PM-designate.

Bassil, Jumblat Trade ‘Appeasing’ Remarks, Affirm Adherence to Mountain Reconciliation
Naharnet/August 03/18/Caretaker Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil took to twitter on Friday praising the 1983 mountain reconciliation between the Christians and Druze, after which Druze leader Walid Jumblat replied saying "the past should be left behind.""The reconciliation of the mountain is more precious than to be affected by words from the past which we have already put behind us," said Bassil, the Free Patriotic Movement chief, calling to "return to the language of reason no matter what the differences between us in politics are." "No to returning to unilateralism or to the past. Yes to clinging to full partnership based on brotherhood. Greetings to all our people in the mountain and God's mercy to all the martyrs of the nation," he tweeted. For his part, leader of the Progressive Socialist Party Walid Jumblat, said via Twitter: "Let the memory of reconciliation be a reflection of how to establish an objective language for dialogue between us, away from the decline to tension which affects everyone without exception... Greetings to all the martyrs of the homeland without exception. "It is time we leave the past behind and look forward to the future. Enough missing out on opportunities," said Jumblat.
The 1983 Mountain War occurred at the mountainous Shouf District located south-east of the capital Beirut between the Progressive Socialist Party and the Lebanese Forces. The Lebanese Forces was driven out of the area and Christian civilians in Shouf, mainly the mixed town of Brih, were displaced. The reconciliation was first initiated by former Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir in 2001.

Report: PSP Reiterates Unwavering Stance over Cabinet Quota
Naharnet/August 03/18/The Progressive Socialist Party stressed that insistence of some to turn a “blind eye” on the outcome of the parliamentary elections and their reflection on the parties’ representation in the new Cabinet, will prolong the formation stalemate and negatively impact the country at several levels, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Friday. “Nothing new has been achieved at the Cabinet formation level because political parties adamantly adhere to their positions which aim to undermine the results of the parliamentary elections,” PSP sources told the daily. They pointed to attempts aiming at subverting the “PSP’s right” for the whole Druze share in the Cabinet. They insist on allocating the 3-seat Druze share in the Cabinet “we would be failing the people who have placed their trust in us shall we back up from this position.”
Druze MP Talal Arslan, of the Strong Lebanon bloc, also insists on getting a share in the new government. Hariri was tasked with forming a government on May 24, but obstacles mainly related to the Druze share and the Lebanese Forces quota have delayed his mission.

Report: ‘No Horizon’ for Lebanon Cabinet Formation

Naharnet/August 03/18/Political consultations gearing up to form a new Lebanese Cabinet seem to have “no horizon” in light of lingering obstacles, mainly the one related to the representation of the Lebanese Forces, the Saudi Asharq al-Awsat newspaper reported on Friday. Recent meetings held at the Presidential Palace and the Center House aimed at facilitating the lineup and find common ground that meets the approval of all, have failed to reach a breakthrough, said the daily. A “lengthy” meeting between LF chief Samir Geagea and Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri at the Center House on Wednesday, “brought some optimism”, but that was soon abandoned when Hariri sources said the two men held discussions “within the framework of coordination and consultation without carrying anything new.” Unnamed sources told the daily on condition of anonymity that Hariri has presented all “his reasonable and acceptable solutions. There is no explanation for not accepting these solutions. He is waiting for a clear response from President Michel Aoun. If the recent proposals are accepted, then we approach a government lineup, but if not, then Hariri will reveal the reasons for obstruction.”In a statement to the daily, an LF official expressed regret that "the other party (in reference to the Free Patriotic Movement) refuses to meet Hariri in the middle of the road.Those who refuse to talk and raise the ceilings of their demands (in reference to Foreign Minister, FPM chief Jebran Bassil) are the ones obstructing the government,” he said. March 14 alliance sources clearly explained that Bassil is the one hindering the formation process. “He acts as if he has the authority to form a government, and everyone must comply with his will,” they said. On Thursday, the LF announced, during talks between LF Information Minister Melhem Riachi and President Michel Aoun, their willingness to facilitate the mission of Hariri but within the “minimum limits that respect their political weight and the outcome of the parliamentary elections” that almost doubled the number of their parliamentary seats.
Hariri was tasked with forming a government on May 24, but wrangling between political parties over ministerial quotas and portfolios have delayed his mission.

Teenager Arrested for Killing His Father, Wounding His Mother
Naharnet/August 03/18/The Baalbek judicial police arrested a 16-year-old boy for the murder of his father back in March and the wounding of his mother, the State-run National News Agency reported on Friday. The teenager had fired gunshots at them while they were in their car near the family home in the village of Tal al-Abyad at the southern entrance of Baalbek, NNA said.

Tripoli Customs Confiscate Unauthorized Products, Distribute Them to Charities
Naharnet/August 03/18/Police customs in Tripoli stopped the illegal entry from Syria of two trucks loaded with agricultural products, LBCI reported Friday. LBCI said the police have seized the trucks which were packed with tomatoes, pepper, onions and pistachios. The confiscated products were distributed to charities in Tripoli after the approval of the Director of Customs, Badri Dahir, it added.

MP Isaac briefs Rahi on LF's endeavors to swiftly form cabinet

Fri 03 Aug 2018/NNA - Maronite Patriach, Cardinal Mar Bechara Boutros Al Rahi, held his meetings on Friday in the summer Patriarchal residence in Diman. The Maronite Patriarch first met with "Strong Republic" Parliamentary bloc member, Joseph Isaac. The pair discussed the economic situation, the delay in forming the government, as well as the general situation in Bcharre. The MP said that the meeting had also been an opportunity to brief the Maronite Patriarch on the atmosphere of the meeting that was held by the "Strong Republic" Parliamentary Bloc yesterday with the economic council, which mainly focused on the country's economic situation and the importance of forming a government as soon as possible. Isaac also briefed Rahi on the LF efforts speeding up the formation of the government. "Unfortunately there are many political teams that aren't exerting the same efforts and the Strong Republic Parliamentary bloc has been exerting. We hope that the cabinet will be swiftly formed on condition that we do not give up on the right which the citizens have given us to represent them," Isaac said. On another level, Rahi welcomed on Friday German Ambassador to Lebanon, Martin Huth, with whom he tackled the general situation at the local scene, as well as the projects that are being implemented by the German Government in Lebanon.

Jumblatt: It is time we leave past behind, look forward to future
Fri 03 Aug 2018/NNA - Leader of the Progressive Socialist Party, former MP Walid Jumblatt, said via Twitter: "Let the memory of reconciliation be a reflection of how to establish an objective language for dialogue between us, away from the decline to tension which affects everyone without exception... Greetings to all the martyrs of the homeland without exception. It is time we leave the past behind and look forward to the future. Enough missing out on opportunities."

The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published
on August 03-04/18
Egyptian Church Stops Accepting Monks After Coptic Bishop Murder
Cairo - Waleed Abdul Rahman/Asharq Al Awsat/August 03/18/The Egyptian church decided Thursday to stop accepting new seminarians for one year starting this month and warned monks against making media appearances “in any form.”The church also gave its members one month to deactivate and close any social media pages or accounts. Coptic Orthodox Pope of Alexandria Tawadros II said Thursday that Coptic monasteries would stop accepting seminarians for one year. The decision came after a Coptic Orthodox bishop was found dead last Sunday. The body of Bishop Epiphanius, an abbot of Saint Macarius monastery in Wadi el-Natrun, was found with head injuries. A source from the church told Asharq Al-Awsat Thursday that the Coptic Church was waiting for the results of investigations conducted by the Public Prosecution. “However, it is difficult to speculate the reasons behind the incident,” he said. Accordingly, a meeting headed by Tawadoros II in the presence of 20 church officials was held Thursday to discuss monastic order in light of the incident and murder of Bishop Epiphanius. It said the number of monks at each monastery would be limited “to ensure monastic order” and they would be restricted from going outside without the abbot’s permission. Monks were also given one month “to deactivate and close any social media pages or accounts and voluntarily renounce these behaviors that are not true to monastic life.”The church also warned monks from being involved in unauthorized financial transactions. Coptic Orthodox Church spokesperson Boulos Halim said projects to build unauthorized monasteries would be stopped. “The church would only allow projects of restoring old monasteries, under the patronage of a recognized convent,” he said. The Egyptian church also called on monks not to offer any in-kind or financial contributions without the authorization of the convent.
Russia talking with ISIS to free 36 women, children abducted in Syria’s Sweida
AFP, Beirut Friday, 3 August 2018/Syrian regime ally Russia is negotiating with the ISIS over the release of Druze women and children kidnapped by the terrorist group, a Druze religious leader said Friday. On July 25, ISIS carried out a series of coordinated attacks in the southern province of Sweida that killed more than 250 people, mostly civilians. It was the deadliest attack ever to target the mostly government-held province and the Druze religious minority that populates it. ISIS also abducted 36 Druze women and children from a village in Sweida’s east, said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor. It said four women had since escaped while two had died, leaving 14 women and 16 children in ISIS captivity. Top Druze religious leader, Sheikh Yussef Jarbua, told AFP that Russia was in talks with the extremist group over their release. “The Russian side is carrying out negotiations in coordination with the Syrian government,” Jarbua said. ISIS “planned to take captives to put pressure on the Syrian state and implement specific demands”, he said. Jarbua did not detail the demands, but the Observatory says ISIS is seeking the release of extremists captured by the regime in the neighboring province of Daraa. ISIS fighters once held a patch of Daraa known as the Yarmuk Basin, but regime forces have in recent weeks ousted them from all of the towns and villages there. Syria’s state media says regime troops are pursuing the last remaining extremists who fled to nearby valleys. Since Moscow intervened in Syria in 2015, it has helped the regime retake swathes of territory militarily but has also negotiated rebel surrenders on its behalf. ISIS has not claimed the kidnappings but local sources say the families have been sent photos and videos of their loved ones via Whatsapp. Jarbua urged the “international community and the United Nations to help us free the hostages and exert pressure so civilians are not used as human shields”.“The families of the captives are terribly sad and sick with worry,” he said. Activists from Sweida have expressed concern over reports that one of the women, captured by ISIS with her four children, had given birth to her fifth child in captivity. The extremist group had called the woman’s relatives to tell them she had given birth, according to Nour Radwan, who heads news outlet Sweida24. Relatives confirmed the woman was nine months pregnant when she was kidnapped during ISIS’s rampage last week, which also killed her husband, Radwan said. Sweida24 said the oldest woman abducted was 60. Sweida had until last week largely remained isolated from Syria’s seven-year conflict. Druze, which made up three percent of Syria’s population before 2011, are considered Muslim but ISIS see them as heretics.

White House Mideast Team Staffing Up for Peace Plan Rollout
Associated Press/Naharnet/August 03/18/U.S. officials say the Trump administration is staffing up a Middle East policy team at the White House in anticipation of unveiling its long awaited but largely mysterious Israeli-Palestinian peace plan. The National Security Council last week began approaching other agencies seeking volunteers to join the team, which will work for President Donald Trump's Mideast peace pointmen Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt, according to the officials. The team, which is being set up to organize the peace plan's public presentation and any negotiations that may ensue, will comprise three units: one concentrating on its political and security details, one on its significant economic focus and one on strategic communications, the officials said. The creation of a White House team is the first evidence in months that a plan is advancing. Although Trump officials have long promised the most comprehensive package ever put forward toward resolving the conflict, the emerging plan has not been described with even a small amount of detail by Kushner, Greenblatt or any other official. Timing on the release of the plan remains undecided. The State Department, Pentagon, intelligence agencies and Congress have been asked to detail personnel to the team for six months to a year, according to the officials, who were not authorized to publicly discuss the matter and spoke on condition of anonymity. The agencies declined to comment but an NSC official said that Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, and Greenblatt, Trump's special envoy for international negotiations, "are expanding their team and the resources available as they finalize the details and rollout strategy of the peace initiative."White House officials say the plan will focus on pragmatic details, rather than top-line concepts, that will be able to easier win public support.
Yet the Palestinian leadership has been openly hostile to any proposal from the Trump administration, citing what it says is a pro-Israel bias, notably after Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital in December and moved the U.S. embassy there from Tel Aviv in May. Since the Palestinian Authority and its President Mahmoud Abbas broke off contact after the Jerusalem announcement, the U.S. negotiating team has been talking to independent Palestinian experts. The White House expects that the Palestinian Authority will engage on the plan and has been resisting congressional demands to fully close the Palestine Liberation Organization office in Washington because Greenblatt and Kushner want to keep that channel open. But officials have offered little evidence to back that up. Palestinian alienation has continued to grow as millions of dollars in U.S. assistance remains on hold and appears likely to be cut entirely. With just two months left in the current budget year, less than half of the planned $251 million in U.S. aid planned for the Palestinians in 2018 — $92.8 million — has been released, according to the government's online tracker,
The remaining amount is still on hold as is an additional $65 million in frozen U.S. assistance to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, which provides services to Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan and Lebanon. In addition, Israel's response to the plan is far from certain. Although Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is one of Trump's top foreign allies, it remains unclear if he will back massive investment in Gaza, which is run by the militant Hamas movement. For the plan to succeed or even survive the starting gate, it will need at least initial buy-in from both Israel and the Palestinians as well as from the Gulf Arab states, which officials say will be asked to substantially bankroll its economic portion. Arab officials have thus far adopted a wait-and-see approach. Officials say there will never be a perfect time for the roll-out, but that they are laying the groundwork now for when an opportune time becomes apparent. The plan is not done, but is being finalized, including an economic development proposal for the Palestinian people that foresees major infrastructure and industrial work, particularly in Gaza. The officials believe that the hope of a better economic future for the Palestinians coupled with progress on that front, the Palestinians may be willing to delay or modify what have been intractable and to-date unresolvable demands from Israel. Those include the right for Palestinian refugees to return to lands they abandoned or were forced from, the recognition of east Jerusalem as the capital of an independent Palestine.
And, they plan to appeal to all sides of the conflict not to let the disagreements of the past hold back their children's futures, according to the officials.
Palestine: PM Assigns New Deputy, Hamas Objects
Ramallah- Kifah Zboun/Asharq Al Awsat/Friday, 3 August, 2018/The Palestinian government is calling for effective control of six sectors: security, crossings, land, tax collection, judiciary, and ministries, announced Palestinian Prime Minister Rami al-Hamdallah. "There can’t be two judiciary systems in the state...We want actual control of the crossings. Our presence there is symbolic; soldiers there don’t even carry weapons,” Hamdallah told reporters during a meeting in his office, which was attended by Asharq al-Awsat. “Allow the minister to exercise his powers, and we are prepared to accommodate your staff gradually, we just want to count our staff first,” said the PM in an apparent reference to Hamas. Hamdallah affirmed his commitment to what the factions agree on, hoping the tripartite Egyptian-Fatah-Hamas meeting in Cairo will bring an end to this issue. “But this is not certain,” he noted. When asked about differences with Hamas, he explained: “I do not see a fundamental disagreement.”Hamdallah addressed Hamas asking them to respond to demands and hand over control of Gaza Strip. He rejected accusations that his government was targeting the resistance's weapons, asserting that "this issue is up to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)." Hamdallah also denied any claims that he was punishing Gaza while admitting that, indeed, 50 percent of its public servants' salaries had been cut, confirming that these were temporary measures. Since the division, the Palestinian government has paid Gaza about $17 billion, while Hamas is collecting taxes and not sending the revenues back to the government, said the Prime Minister. In addition, he complained the financial support for his government had fallen to only $500 million. Presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh has been appointed deputy prime minister and minister of information. Abu Rudeineh was sworn in by President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamdallah. Hamas rejected this step, saying such changes send a negative message and are an indication of lack of credibility. “Any reconciliation agreement must be submitted to a unity government and not to a Fatah cabinet,” said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri.

Is a deal between Israel and Hamas imminent?

The Associated Press, Ramallah Friday, 3 August 2018/Egypt is trying to broker a broad cease-fire deal between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers that is to pave the way for Gaza’s reconstruction and an eventual prisoner swap, senior Hamas officials said Thursday. Repeated cease-fire deals over the years collapsed, but there were signs of possible momentum toward a new agreement, after weeks of escalation along the Gaza-Israel frontier. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to put off a trip to South America to keep an eye on the situation in Gaza, a government official said Thursday, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters. Israeli media reported Netanyahu is to convene his security cabinet on Sunday to discuss developments.Separately, a high-level Hamas delegation planned to enter Gaza later Thursday after holding talks in Cairo, said the Palestine Information Center, a Hamas-linked website. Most of the Hamas leadership is based in Gaza but would be joined by exiled members of the group’s political bureau, including Saleh Arouri, a founder of the Hamas military wing in the West Bank and a mastermind of violent attacks against Israelis in the past.
“Permitting a delegation with this level to come to Gaza is a clear sign that there are first of all guarantees that the delegation will not be targeted by the Israelis, and a sign that there are serious meetings to be held in Gaza,” said Bassem Naim, a Gaza-based Hamas official. He said Hamas officials would try to “conclude the progress that has been made on files such as the truce,” as well as a U.N.-led rebuilding of Gaza and possible reconciliation between Hamas and its domestic political rival, West Bank-based Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Naim said the Hamas leaders would also talk about a possible prisoner swap with Israel. Two other senior Hamas officials confirmed the outlines of the deal proposed by Egypt. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to provide details of closed-door negotiations. It’s not clear what role Abbas would play in Gaza, if any. He has said in the past that he would only resume responsibility for Gaza if Hamas agrees to hand over all authority there, including over security. Hamas has been unwilling to do so. Gaza has endured a crippling border blockade by Israel and Egypt, imposed after Hamas seized the territory in 2007. In recent months, Hamas has become more desperate amid mounting financial pressure, including from Abbas. Gaza’s 2 million people have had to contend with blockade-linked electricity shortages, rising unemployment and growing poverty. Despite renewed cease-fire efforts, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced that, starting Thursday, he is halting shipments of fuel and natural gas to Gaza in response to incendiary balloons that have targeted southern Israel. Israel also suspended fuel shipments to Gaza temporarily in July for similar reasons. Also, in the past four months, 155 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed by Israeli fire, including at least 117 in protests near the fence, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry and the Gaza rights group Al Mezan. Others, including Hamas militants, have been killed in other incidents, including Israeli airstrikes.

Hamas Leaders to Meet in Gaza amid Israel Truce Reports
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 03/18/The leadership of Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas is to convene Friday for a rare meeting, officials said, amid speculation of a long-term truce between the Gaza Strip's rulers and Israel. A senior Hamas source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the leadership would meet in the evening in Gaza City to discuss a number of issues, including a possible agreement. It will be the full first meeting of the movement's political bureau since talks held in Cairo in 2017, officials said. Among those attending will be Hamas's deputy leader Saleh al-Aruri, who crossed the border from Egypt on Thursday with eight other Hamas leaders based outside Gaza. Aruri, who lives in Lebanon and has never before visited Gaza as he is wanted by Israel, was given Egyptian and United Nations assurances over his safety, the Hamas source said. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday delayed a planned visit to Colombia amid speculation that a truce agreement could be reached within days. Such a deal would involve a long-term cessation of hostilities between Israel and Hamas in exchange for a significant easing of the Jewish state’s crippling economic blockade of Gaza, according to Hamas and UN officials. An agreement could allow international donors to fund a series of programmes including electricity and water network upgrades in Gaza. It could also cover a prisoner exchange with Hamas which holds the bodies of two soldiers killed in a 2014 war, Israeli media say. With borders to both Egypt and Israel largely sealed in recent years, Gaza suffers from desperately high rates of poverty and unemployment. Israel insists its blockade is necessary to isolate Hamas, with which it has fought three wars since 2008. Critics say it amounts to collective punishment of the coastal territory's two million residents. Since March 30, major Palestinian protests along the Gaza-Israel border have led to frequent clashes, with Israeli snipers firing on protesters burning tires and throwing stones. At least 157 Palestinians have been killed, while one Israeli soldier was shot dead. Palestinians have also flown balloons and kites attached to incendiary devices across the border, starting hundreds of fires inside Israel in recent months.
1 killed, 90 wounded by Israel in Hamas-led Gaza protests
The Associated Press, Gaza City, Gaza Strip Friday, 3 August 2018/Gaza’s Hamas rulers led several thousand Palestinians in a protest along the frontier with Israel on Friday, in an apparent show of presence as Egyptian efforts intensify to broker a broad truce between the group and Israel.
A 25-year-old Palestinian was killed and 90 were wounded by Israeli army fire, Gaza health officials said. It was the latest in a series of protests along Gaza’s perimeter fence with Israel, aimed in part at trying to break an 11-year-old border blockade. Israel and Egypt sealed Gaza in 2007, after Hamas overran the territory. Friday’s protest was attended by several exiled Hamas leaders who had entered Gaza a day earlier for meetings of the group’s decision-making political bureau. “We want to break the siege on Gaza once and forever,” said Hussam Badran, one of the visiting Hamas leaders.
The political bureau is discussing Egyptian proposals for a truce with Israel and the UN-led reconstruction of Gaza, said Ghazi Hamad, a Gaza-based official in the group. Meetings began Thursday and will continue through Saturday, Hamad said. It marked the first time all members of the political bureau got together in Gaza, Hamas has said. Over the years, truce deals have proven fragile, and it was not clear if the current efforts would succeed. However, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday called off a planned trip to South America and scheduled a meeting of his security Cabinet for Sunday to monitor Gaza developments. Tensions along the Israel-Gaza fence have escalated since Hamas launched regular protests in the area in late March. The large turnouts has also been driven by widespread desperation in Gaza, amid worsening conditions linked to the blockade. Power is on for just a few hours a day, unemployment has sky-rocketed and poverty is widening. Friday’s death brought to 156 the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli fire since late March, including at least 118 in protests near the fence. Others, among them armed Hamas militants, have been killed in attempted border attacks or in Israeli airstrikes. Several thousand Gazans have been wounded by Israeli fire since March. The Israeli military said that about 8,000 Palestinians took part in Friday’s rally. It said a tank fired at a Hamas military post in Gaza after Palestinians briefly crossed the frontier and threw bombs. The military said its soldiers sustained no casualties in the incident. In another development, a boat carrying activists challenging Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza is approaching the territory, said the Freedom Flotilla Coalition, an umbrella group for pro-Palestinian and Islamic charities from around the world.
The coalition said on Friday that the Swedish-flagged vessel, Freedom, was nearly 95 kilometers off the coast. The boat and another vessel, which was intercepted by Israeli forces on Sunday, set sail to Gaza from Europe last week. The Israeli military had no immediate comment. Activists have made several attempts to breach the blockade in recent years, most notably in 2010, when Israeli naval commandos killed nine Turks in a raid at sea.

Syria: Russia Begins Reinforcing Disengagement in Golan
Moscow - Raed Jabr/Asharq Al Awsat/August 03/18/Russia is taking new steps to implement its understandings with Israel on necessary guarantees to normalize the situation on the border with the Golan Heights and reinforce the disengagement line of 1974. The Russian Defense Ministry announced Thursday that all southwestern provinces of Syria had been liberated. The ministry also confirmed the deployment of Russian military police forces on the Golan Heights frontier between Syria and Israel, saying it planned to set up eight observation posts in the area. The Russian presence there was in support of United Nations peacekeepers in the Golan, it added. The control over the posts will be transferred to Syrian regime troops once the situation in the area is stabilized. The move came after Iranian forces have withdrawn their heavy weapons in Syria to a distance of 85 km from the Golan Heights as a culmination of the understandings reached during intensive Russian-Israeli talks in recent months. Meanwhile, Head of the Main Operations Department at Russia’s General Staff Colonel General Sergei Rudskoi said on Thursday that ISIS has lost its last stronghold in the southwestern part of Syria’s Quneitra province.
"An area of 3,332 square kilometers has been liberated in southwestern Syria," Rudskoi said, adding that "Syrian government forces have taken control of another 146 settlements, with 50 of them coming under the Syrian forces’ control through negotiations."According to Rudskoi, regime troops and militia units carried out a rapid offensive on a militant stronghold in the Qusayr area, surrounding more than 160 members of ISIS militants, who eventually surrendered. A Russian diplomatic source also said Thursday that the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is cynically falsifying facts while accusing Damascus of strengthening ISIS by relocating them to the country's south. The source told Novosti that a statement issued by OHCHR was an attempt to accuse Damascus of cooperating with ISIS while the Syrian government was fighting against terrorism. “There was and there could be no agreements with ISIS. There has never been any relocation of ISIS troops from Yarmouk, Tadamon and Hajar Al-Aswad, as it was claimed by the OHCHR statement,” the source asserted. He explained that during the mentioned period there was a humanitarian action on evacuation of women and children from these regions to Idlib, at the end of the holy month of Ramadan. “The goal was to prevent victims in the zone of the anti-ISIS counterterrorist operation," the source noted. On Tuesday, OHCHR criticized the Syrian government for alleged relocation of ISIS terrorists to the southern Syrian province of As-Sweida, which, according to the UN agency, resulted in mass killings that left over 200 people dead. “The Government of Syria has a duty to take action to prevent violent acts that may endanger the lives and well-being of civilians, including by not placing armed groups such as ISIS in their proximity”, said OHCHR Spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani. “While agreements putting an end to fighting are to be welcomed, the well-being of civilians must be paramount in any considerations,” said the spokesperson, stressing that “the transfer of armed fighters with a history of gross human rights abuses and contempt towards international law, can mean an increase in the likelihood of violent attacks against civilians like the ones carried out last week in As-Sweida.” Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reiterated that only Syrians are entitled to determine their country’s future. Lavrov spoke during a press conference at the conclusion of a Russia-ASEAN meeting in Singapore on Thursday. The Minister said that Russia considers the attempts of some external players to determine Syria’s fate on behalf of the Syrians as “unconstructive and useless.”
What Happens if Syrian Troops Attack Idlib?
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 03/18/
After recapturing most of Syria, President Bashar al-Assad is threatening to march on opposition forces in Idlib, the densely populated northwest province that shares a border with rebel ally Turkey.But a military assault would prove very costly, and analysts say Ankara and regime ally Moscow may ultimately choose to keep Assad's troops in check.
The last redoubt -
Idlib is the last haven for Syria's fractured armed opposition, which this year alone lost key bastions near Damascus and in the south. The province shares a roughly 100-kilometre (60-mile) border with Turkey and fell to jihadists and rebels in 2015.Now, around 60 percent is held by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), led by jihadists from Al-Qaeda's former Syria affiliate. The rest is controlled by rival Islamists and rebels, while regime forces hold a southeastern sliver. The province forms a "de-escalation zone" agreed in 2017 by Turkey, Russia, and fellow regime ally Iran meant to prevent hostilities there. It is the only such zone left, after Assad recaptured the other three this year.
Why does Assad want Idlib?
Throughout Syria's seven-year war, Assad has pledged to recapture every inch of the country. After Turkish troops intervened in 2016, Damascus regularly lambasted them as "occupiers". Last week, Assad said Idlib, where Turkey has forces deployed, is his next priority. Idlib's strategic importance for the regime lies at least in part in the M5 highway, which links second city Aleppo in the north to Damascus, and then south to the recently recaptured Nassib border crossing with Jordan. The stretch in Idlib cuts through rebel territory, but Turkish and Russian monitors are positioned along it. Assad's push for Idlib will primarily stem from his interest in the highway, says analyst Fabrice Balanche.
How likely is an assault?
Talk of a possible looming assault on Idlib is rife in government-held Syria, but analysts say there is cause to be cautious. First, Russia's own Syria envoy Alexander Lavrentiev said this week there was "no question of an operation" on Idlib. The regime's main obstacle, says Center for a New American Security analyst Nicholas Heras, is Ankara. "The greatest impediment to the Assad government in Idlib is Turkey and the Turkish government's policy toward northwest Syria," he says. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is wary an assault could push thousands of people to the frontier, much like what happened along the Jordanian border in June when troops began attacking southern Syria. "For the time being, Erdogan is pursuing an over-my-dead body policy toward Assad's potential military action in Syria," says Heras. Nasr al-Hariri, who heads Syria's mainstream opposition, told AFP last week Turkish "guarantees" would likely bar an assault. And Nawar Oliver of the Turkey-based Omran Centre expects Russia, Turkey, and Iran "will not allow any kind of large-scale war in the north, because that will affect everyone there".
But, what if?
If troops did attack Idlib, says Oliver, it would only be with the approval of all three powers.
"If the regime moved on this goal, it's probably going to be in a deal. This deal is not finalised," he says. But that would spell catastrophe for the province's 2.5 million residents, half of them displaced from other Syrian provinces. Idlib's population has swelled with tens of thousands of rebels and civilians transferred there en masse from other towns recaptured by the regime. People would have nowhere to flee, UN regional humanitarian coordinator for Syria Panos Moumtzis said. "There is no other Idlib to take them out to," Moumtzis warned earlier this year. "Really, this is the last location."As a result, thousands if not more would rush to the border with Turkey to seek safety.
What about HTS?
Damascus and Moscow justify bombing Idlib by pointing to the presence of the jihadists from HTS, designated as "terrorists".Ankara wants to prevent the two countries from using the same excuse for a ground assault, says Heras. "The Turks are holding the line that HTS is Turkey's matter, and not an issue that Assad can use to launch a war on Idlib. But there is a time clock that is running now," says Heras. On Wednesday, Islamist heavyweights Ahrar al-Sham and Nureddine al-Zinki merged with four other rebel factions opposed to HTS to form the National Liberation Front. "Sooner or later, if the Turks want to stay in Europe and America's good graces, Erdogan is going to have to act more decisively against the terrorist organisations in Idlib," Heras says. Lavrientev this week said Moscow hoped Ankara and its rebel allies would act to keep Idlib stable. Ultimately, to avoid a regime assault, Oliver says, Turkey may wage "a military operation inside Idlib to eliminate the hardliners among HTS and other extremist groups".

Syrian Air Defence Engages 'Enemy Attack', Says SANA
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 03/18/Syrian air defences on Thursday engaged an "enemy attack" west of Damascus, state media reported. "Our air defences responded to an enemy attack, destroying it west of Damascus", state agency SANA quoted a military source as saying, without adding further details.The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that a "missile attack hit regime and pro-regime forces positions west of Damascus" without being able to identify the side responsible. The Moscow-supported Damascus regime often accuses Israel of attacks on its military positions. Israel has carried out numerous raids inside war-torn Syria since 2013, targeting regime forces and their allies from Iran and Hizbullah. Last month Syria accused Israel of bombing a military post in Aleppo, where the Observatory reported at least nine pro-regime fighters died.

Italy Questions Former Egyptian Minister Who Worked Under Morsi
Cairo- Asharq Al Awsat/Friday, 3 August, 2018/Egypt's Foreign Ministry says Italian authorities have released a former minister wanted in Egypt after detaining him briefly. Italian authorities conducted an investigation on Thursday with Dr. Mohamed Mahsoub, who served under former President Mohamed Morsi, where he was held for 12 hours at the request of Egypt before being released. The ministry's Thursday statement said Mahsoub's release took place after the Italians determined he has held Italian citizenship since 2016. The Egyptian ministry said it will monitor Mahsoub's case. Mahsoub has been living outside Egypt since Morsi was deposed in July 2013. He was arrested based on an Interpol red notice in force since 2016, after multiple court verdicts against him in Egypt accusing him of a range of crimes, including fraud and insulting the judiciary. He was sentenced to three years in prison. On Wednesday, the former minister released an online video saying he was held at Comiso police station in southern Italy based on "fabricated charges." Since the ousting of Morsi, hundreds of Brotherhood leaders and supporters have fled the country, with thousands being tried in Egypt on charges of joining a terrorist group and resorting to violence. The Egyptian authorities have repeatedly stressed “the commitment to freedom of opinion and expression and the treatment of all prisoners in accordance with legal provisions.”Mahsoub left Egypt following the overthrow of Morsi, to live in France. He recently went to Italy on a private visit. He served as minister of state for legal affairs and parliamentary councils for several months, before resigning at the end of 2012.

UN Envoy to Yemen Reveals Geneva Talks in September

London, New York, Jeddah - Badr al-Qahtani, Ali Barada/Asharq Al Awsat/Friday, 3 August, 2018/UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths revealed Thursday that he plans to invite consulted parties to Geneva on September 6th for the first round of consultations. He also urged the Council to do more to “keep the Red Sea out of the conflict.”Western sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that the upcoming discussions will last between three to four days and will tackle four axes: confidence-building measures, setting up a framework for consultations, the issues of Hodeidah and the central bank. “Our efforts have enabled us to narrow the gap between the parties to the conflict in Yemen,” Griffiths said during a Security Council briefing. Griffiths started his statement by lauding Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah for his efforts in addressing the challenges of ending war and establishing peace.
The Envoy noted that despite all efforts, the pace of war has grown in Yemen, where the battle for Hodeidah has become the center of gravity. “We have tried to find a way to avoid a battle for the city and the port of Hodeidah. We are still trying,” asserted the Envoy. Summing up his requests to the Council, he advocated support for his effort to begin consultations in Geneva in September; support for de-escalation in Hodeidah and for keeping the Red Sea out of the conflict; support for measures that will give hope back to the Yemeni people; and recognition of the extraordinary courage of international humanitarian organizations. Griffiths thanked the Council for the extraordinary level of support it provided to his efforts. Meanwhile, a senior Yemeni official revealed that the government has refused in recent days several mediation efforts by Tihama elders. The elders were influenced by coup militias to negotiate halting army advances, after international efforts failed to convince the militias to leave Hodeidah without direct military confrontations. Houthi militias have sent some dignitaries to negotiate with the government to halt military incursion into the city, while maintaining their control over the city and its harbor, indicated Hassan al-Tahir, governor of al-Hodeidah. He added that the government rejected the offer being aware they are mere attempts for the militias to gain more time to restore their ranks. Speaking to Asharq al-Awsat, the governor announced that the city, along with the port, will be completely liberated within the coming few days. He said that he will soon brief the media from his office on all updates. He revealed that the delay was for political reasons, giving the legitimate government a chance to exert peace and international efforts to persuade the militias to get out of Hodeidah without direct military confrontations. However, Houthis do not know peace, according to the governor. The governor revealed that special task forces, anti-terrorism staff and other specialized teams will participate in the military operation. The governor stressed it is crucial that the government rids the city and citizens of these militias, which have committed criminal acts against civilians, contrary to all local and international laws and regulations.

Turkey Dismisses US 'Threats, Sanctions' over Detained Pastor
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 03/18/Turkey and the US failed to resolve the diplomatic standoff over a detained pastor on Friday, with Ankara's foreign minister warning that sanctions and threats would not work.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said ahead of talks with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu that Washington was "very serious" in demanding the release of Andrew Brunson.
"The Turks were on notice that the clock had run and it was time for Pastor Brunson to be returned and I hope they’ll see this for what it is, a demonstration that we're very serious," Pompeo said in Singapore. "Brunson needs to come home. As do all the Americans being held by the Turkish government," he added. "They've been holding these folks for a long time. These are innocent people." Brunson, who led a Protestant church in the Aegean city of Izmir, was moved to house arrest last week following nearly two years in jail on charges of espionage and supporting terror groups. The US has hit two top Turkish officials with sanctions over his detention, prompting Ankara to threaten reciprocal measures.
"We have said from the start that the other side's threatening language and sanctions will not get any result. We repeated this today," Cavusoglu said in televised remarks from Singapore where he and Pompeo are attending a regional security summit.
Brunson, whose trial began in the spring, faces up to 35 years in jail if convicted.
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 a failed 2016 coup.
The State Department has said it continues to favour a diplomatic approach, but spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters earlier this week that the pastor's detention "has gone on for too long". On Friday Nauert said Pompeo and Cavusoglu had a "constructive conversation" and "agreed to continue to try to resolve the issues between our two countries". Cavusoglu also said the talks were "extremely constructive" but warned in comments to Turkish media that all the issues would not be solved "after one meeting".
Bitter diplomatic feud
Pompeo and Cavusoglu spoke by phone on Wednesday as the US announced sanctions on Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu. The US claims both men played a major role in the arrest and detention of the pastor.
President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Pompeo have made Brunson's release a priority. His detention has fuelled a bitter diplomatic feud between Turkey and the US, whose relations have already deteriorated in recent months over the Syria conflict.
The standoff appears to be one of the most serious crises between the two NATO allies in modern history, along with the rows over the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus and the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq. Brunson was initially detained in October 2016 during Turkey's crackdown following an attempted putsch. He stands accused of carrying out activities on behalf of two organisations Turkey considers terror groups. One is led by the US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara says was behind the failed coup, while the other is the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
The pastor denies the charges and his defence team argues the case is built on questionable witness statements. His next hearing is set for October 12.
Missile Components for Iran Seized at Heathrow Airport
The National/ Friday 03rd August 2018/British officials seized dual-use components destined for Iran's missile industry at the country's biggest airport Heathrow as part of counter-proliferation operations. Officials said the seizure had now become part of a sanctions enforcement investigation and hope to prosecute individuals or firms involved for suspected violations of the UN sanctions regime. Iran's long and medium-range missile development programme has undergone rapid expansion, attracting UN sanctions that are designed to thwart the growth of its ballistic missile arsenal. UN reports have verified the use of Iranian-made missiles in the Yemen conflict that have targeted Riyadh airport and other parts of Saudi Arabia. Iranian proliferation of missiles is not confined to Yemen but also includes other fragile states in the region including Lebanon. Officials speaking to the London Evening Standard said that the Heathrow Airport bust took place on a shipment of o-rings, the rubber sealant equipment, that were apparently bound for an Iranian oil industry facility.Monique Wrench, the UK Border Force’s deputy director at Heathrow Airport, said the shipment was stopped when staff became suspicious the rings could be used for making missiles. “We had a couple of O rings that we identified. O rings are pieces of rubber that go between tubes to stop leakage to seal them. They can be used in oil, but they can also be used for warheads and the like. Our staff stopped them from going to Iran," she said. “It is a component part. It looked like it was going to an oil refinery. But the dots don’t quite join up here.” A spokesman told the newspaper that British Customs investigators worked “with partner agencies to enforce trade sanctions [on] exports of strategic goods [with] robust enforcement activity against breaches and attempted breaches of trade and export controls”. Britain has fought a long-running battle against Iranian-controlled networks set up to procure highly-engineered materials that can be used in the manufacture of weapons. Andrew Faulkner, a former Royal Marine was jailed in 2010, for the supply of sniper rifles.
A UN panel last week pointed the finger at Iran as the source of missiles fired from Yemen after inspecting debris from 10 missiles. The team found markings that suggested an Iranian origin. "It seems that despite the targeted arms embargo, the Houthis continue to have access to ballistic missiles and UAVs to continue and possibly intensify their campaign against targets in [Saudi Arabia]," the report said. The panel said there was a "high probability" that the missiles were manufactured outside of Yemen, shipped in sections and reassembled by the Houthis.
The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on August 03-04/18
Analysis/Backed by Iran, Yemen’s Houthi Fighters Flout Saudi Arabia's Might
زيفي بارئيل من الهآررتس: المقاتلون الحوثيون وبدعم من إيران يهزؤون من قوة المملكة العربية السعودية في اليمن

Zvi Bar'el/Haaretz/August 03/18
The Yemeni theater has long since turned into a war of prestige, in which the two regional powers, Saudi Arabia and Iran, are trying to reap a political victory for themselves at the Yemenis’ expense
Tales of defeat have no place on the website of Almasirah television, the leading media outlet of the Houthi rebels in Yemen.
“Our forces fired missiles at a convoy of the invaders and mercenaries,” one report said. “Our forces’ missiles hit and destroyed the mercenaries’ tank. ... In a single day, the army” – the Houthi one, of course – “destroyed 21 armored vehicles and four tanks belonging to the invaders.” The article ended with the Houthi slogan: “God is great, death to America, death to Israel, a curse on the Jews, victory to Islam.”
There was virtually no mention of the Arab coalition’s attacks on the Houthis or the killed and wounded Houthi fighters. When a station proudly titles itself “The Fighting Media,” its goal is to raise morale, not tell the whole story.
Almasirah is just one of some 25 Houthi-run media outlets, which have helped the Houthis recruit tens of thousands of fighters. Unofficial estimates say they now have more than 120,000 men under arms, up from just 3,000 to 7,000 three and a half years ago.
The civil war in Yemen is virtually nonexistent in the Western media, despite its enormous price – more than 10,000 people killed, half of them civilians; some 50,000 children dead of hunger or cholera; millions of displaced people, and hundreds of thousands suffering from malnutrition. Even Yemen’s strategic location on the Red Sea and the Bab al-Mandeb strait, and the fact that it has become a theater of international competition, with America, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates on one side and Iran on the other, haven’t managed to move it to the top of the global diplomatic and media agenda.
When Arab intervention in Yemen began in 2015, immediately after Saudi King Salman was crowned, it was expected to be a short, swift war. Saudi Arabia, armed with the best American weaponry, with pilots trained in America and America itself providing excellent intelligence, promised it could easily overcome the Houthi rebels and restore Yemen to the recognized government headed by Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who had sought refuge in Saudi Arabia.
But following an other-worldly Saudi investment of about $5 billion a month – which paid for mercenaries from South America and Africa, among other things – and more than 100,000 sorties, the question now preoccupying Riyadh and its allies is how to get out of Yemen without this being perceived as an Iranian victory.
Because of the humanitarian disaster it has caused, the war recently managed to penetrate the walls of American apathy. Congress passed a law that would bar American planes from refueling Saudi and UAE warplanes unless Riyadh pledged to work for a diplomatic solution, reduce the harm to civilians and allow shipments of food and medicine to stricken areas.
But this law, which ostensibly restricts the use of American arms, does permit America to refuel Saudi planes engaged in other missions, like fighting Al-Qaida in Yemen, albeit only after Congress is given details about those missions. Thus, even this weak effort to wave a pale-yellow card at Riyadh and its partners won’t help the Yemeni population, because it won’t be hard to hide an attack on civilian population centers behind the pretext that Al-Qaida operatives are hiding among the civilians.
However, there are virtually no Saudi attacks on Al-Qaida bases in southern Yemen. Indeed, according to reports from Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are actually using Al-Qaida personnel to beef up tribal gangs fighting the Houthis with Saudi funding.
While President Barack Obama barred the sale of smart bombs to Riyadh in an effort to limit the civilian carnage, President Donald Trump has scrapped that decision. He has even encouraged Saudi Arabia and the UAE to keep fighting the Houthis, as part of the broader war against Iran.
But when Riyadh “invited” America to join the battle to capture the important port city of Hodeidah, Trump declined. He thereby sent a clear signal that the war in Yemen is a local or perhaps regional issue, but certainly not a strategic one that requires active American involvement. This echoes the lack of American policy in other Mideast countries where Iran has established or is establishing footholds, including Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Afghanistan.
Yet looking beyond this American shrug and the disappointing military capabilities evinced by Saudi Arabia and the UAE despite their investment of tens of billions of dollars in military equipment, Yemen challenges the conventional wisdom that the war there is one against Iranian expansion.
There’s no dispute that Iran is arming the Houthis with relatively sophisticated weapons, including missiles that have hit Saudi Arabia, ships in the Red Sea and even the Abu Dhabi airport. Iran also apparently seeks to set up a military arm in Yemen similar to Hezbollah in Lebanon, and an unknown number of Hezbollah troops are actually fighting alongside the Houthis, training them in combat methods and ferrying arms to them.
In late June, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah even said he wished he were a soldier in the Houthi army fighting Yemen’s enemies on the country’s western front. In response, Yemen’s foreign minister sent a sharply worded letter to his Lebanese counterpart criticizing Hezbollah’s meddling in Yemen’s affairs.
Lebanon’s response said merely that it doesn’t always agree with the policies of all the country’s political factions. But even if it wanted to do something, Lebanon’s interim government obviously has no power to force Hezbollah to leave Yemen.
Nevertheless, the Houthis’ military alliance with Iran isn’t necessarily ideological or even strategic. The claim that it is a brotherhood of Shi’ites ignores the fact that the Houthis belong to the Zaidi sect, which is far from Iranian Shi’ite orthodoxy. The principles of the Zaidi religion actually closely resemble those of Sunni Islam, and Shi’ites in Yemen and elsewhere often view the Zaidis as a deviant sect.
Shi’ites constitute about 35 percent of Yemen’s population, and the Houthis are the biggest and most important Zaidi group. But even the Zaidi minority isn’t all cut from the same cloth.
One example is the bitter rivalry between two tribal confederations, the Hashid and the Bakil. Both claim descent from the same patriarch and both adopted the Zaidi faith, but they went in different political directions. While the Hashid – one of whose members is Ali Abdullah Saleh, the former Yemeni president ousted in the Arab Spring revolution and killed by the Houthis last December – supported the government, the Bakil joined the Houthis in fighting against the government.
Thus the view that the Houthi-Iranian connection rests on Shi’ite solidarity cannot explain the rivalry between these Zaidi tribes, which are fighting on opposite sides of Yemen’s civil war.
Moreover, the Houthis themselves, despite the aid they get from Iran, have no desire to create an Iranian-style republic in Yemen, with a supreme political leader who is also the supreme religious leader. Yemen is a bitterly divided tribal country. Thus to establish a stable government, it must create tribal and religious coalitions that unite southern tribes with northern ones and Sunnis with Shi’ites, and it must divvy up government budgets and jobs not solely on the basis of the election results, but primarily on the basis of tribal power.
Because tribalism is the dominant force that dictates political outcomes in Yemen – in contrast to the very different political and religious systems in Iraq and Lebanon – the most Iran can hope for is to maintain its ties to the Houthis. And those ties will depend on the aid Iran gives them, which the Houthis could also get from Arab states or America.
It’s also worth noting that while the Houthis originally took up arms to fight their discriminatory treatment by the central government; more than a decade passed before Iran decided to help. Moreover, Iran advised them to avoid an all-out war, and now, it’s working to end the war.
But the Yemeni theater has long since turned into a war of prestige, in which the two regional powers, Saudi Arabia and Iran, are trying to reap a political victory for themselves at the Yemenis’ expense. Efforts to solve the crisis by the United Nations, European Union and certain Arab states, including Kuwait and Oman, have repeatedly failed, crashing on the shoals of the conditions set by Riyadh and Abu Dhabi. They have adopted the Hadi government even though neither he nor his government is actually functioning. The very phrase “the recognized government” is meaningless, and the Arab coalition’s partial victories haven’t produced any major change in the balance of power.
The U.S. administration could play a decisive role in ending the war if it pressured Saudi Arabia and the UAE into serious negotiations with the Houthis. But when Washington is weighing the chance of distancing Iran from the Red Sea against the continued slaughter without victory, and pressure on an ally against the fear of being viewed as lending support to Iranian loyalists, it seems unlikely that it will lift a finger.

Analysis/UN Peacekeeping Commander: It's Time for Israel and Lebanon to Take Courageous Steps
عاموس هاريل من الهآررتس: قائد قوات اليونيفل الجنرال ميشال باري يعتبر ان الوقت قد حان للبنان وإسرائيل لإتخاذ خطوات شجاعة
Amos Harel/Haartz/August 03/18
'Peace-keeping forces cannot substitute a diplomatic solution,' outgoing UNIFIL commander Maj.Gen. Michael Beary tells Haaretz ■ Israel's plan to buff up its defenses gets mired in politics.
Twelve years ago this month, the north was being barraged by Hezbollah rockets and the government was debating how deep to send soldiers into Lebanon to stop the rocket fire. Although the war was badly managed, at every level, since then the north has known unprecedented quiet. There are various reasons for this, including mutual deterrence between Israel and Hezbollah, as well as the influence of Iran, which preferred to channel its huge investment in Hezbollah ($700 million-$1 billion annually) towards other purposes.
Hezbollah’s power was built (and is maintained) to threaten Israel with a harsh reprisal blow should it attack the Iranian nuclear sites. While Syria fell apart and Gaza periodically ignited, Lebanon, the front with the greatest destructive potential, has remained surprisingly quiet.
* Maj.-Gen. Michael Beary, the Irishman who commanded the UNIFIL forces for the past four years, will soon complete his tour. Speaking with Haaretz in Jerusalem last month, Beary said the calm had been sustained due to concerted efforts by the governments of Israel and Lebanon, with the aid of UNIFIL. This continued, he noted, throughout the last year, during which Israel began building a new barrier along certain sections of the border. The barrier, 11 kilometers long in total, is being erected in two areas – from Misgav Am to Metulla in the north, and by Rosh Hanikra in the west. There was concern about what would happen during the construction since the planned barrier overlaps with some of the 13 points where the precise location of the international border is a matter of dispute. Over the past year, the joint committee has held close to 30 meetings, three times the number of meetings in the previous year. The general thinks this helped contain tensions along the border, mainly regarding the new Israeli barrier. He talks about “good dynamics” in the negotiations and attributes the increased calm during the last two years to these talks. And he has considerable perspective: This is his fourth tour of duty with UNIFIL. His first was as a battalion commander during the First Lebanon War in 1982.
* 10,500 soldiers and 850 civilians from 42 countries serve in UNIFIL. The general describes Lebanese use of beaches in Nakura, north of Rosh Hanikra, as a sign of normality that would have been unheard of in previous periods. “This is not a war atmosphere,” he says. He suggests that both countries should look forward to the next stage. “Peacekeeping forces cannot substitute for a diplomatic solution. UNIFIL is 40 years old. It is time to proceed to a long-term ceasefire. It would require courage on both sides. The last thing they need now is war.”
* In Israeli eyes, UNIFIL’s main shortcoming has been its failure to halt Hezbollah’s military buildup in the area between the border fence and the Litani River. Last year, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley personally accused the general of turning a blind eye to Hezbollah’s moves in the south. The general says UNIFIL has increased its presence. Each month its soldiers carry out approximately 14,000 operations (patrols, checkpoints and so on) in its area of jurisdiction. But it does not carry out any searches inside buildings in south Lebanese villages, because UNIFIL needs a legal search warrant to enter them. Consequently, in Israel’s view, it is not addressing the real problem. Beary cites IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot: “The goal, as your chief of staff said, should be preventing war from breaking out by mistake.”
Beary says UNIFIL is aware of Israeli concerns and feels an obligation to maintain security along the Blue Line, which equally benefits the northern Israeli residents. As of next month, this will be the job of his replacement, Major-General Stefano Del Col from Italy.
Assad regime regains control of Syrian Golan
The Syrian regime of Bashar Assad announced in the middle of the week that it had regained control of the Syrian Golan Heights. A few days earlier the Syrian flag was raised over the Quneitra pass and the first Syrian flags appeared in the Druze townships on the Israeli side.
On Syria’s southwest corner, near the borders with Israel and Jordan, the regime is subduing the last villages that had been under Islamic State-affiliated rebel groups.
The first rebels emerged in the Golan Heights in the winter of 2011-2012, a few months after the rebellion broke out in Daraa. Gradually, they pushed the Syrian army units out of the region.
In the summer of 2014, when the Islamic State set up its caliphates in east Syria, other rebel organizations fled, including those identified with Al-Qaida. Some of them reached the Golan and in a matter of weeks had driven the Assad regime out completely, but for a small enclave on the Hermon. In the following years Israel wove a web of contacts with local rebel militias, which was exposed two years ago when Israel revealed the scope of its humanitarian aid to Syria, as part of the operation code-named “Good Neighborliness.”
The winding down of the battles reduces the immediate danger of escalation of hostilities against Israel. In the absence of fighting, there is no “spillage” of fire into Israeli territory and no reason to send drones to the border area. The IDF can shift its concerns to long-term issues, such as reinstating the 1974 disengagement agreement and the resumption of The United Nations Disengagement Observer Force’s activity.
Meanwhile, Russia said it has agreed with Iran to keep the Revolutionary Guards and Shi’ite militias at least 85 kilometers from the Israeli border. Can Putin’s word be trusted? That rather depends on whether one believes Moscow’s denials of poisoning former Russian military officer and spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Britain, and of meddling with the United States’ last presidential elections.
Veteran intelligence officers in Israel, who have been keeping tabs on Iran’s ties with Hezbollah since the 1980s, voiced doubts this week over the possibility of enforcing the agreement. They said the Iranians specialize in the long game; that is, their strategy is aimed at achieving goals years ahead, with the intention of increasing Iran’s influence in the Middle East and creating a threat on Israel from a new direction.
The Iranians are hardly likely to abandon their aspirations due to merely temporary obstacles, even if in this round Israel appears to have come out on top.

Opinion/The Real Oslo Criminals
جدعون ليفي من الهآررتس: حقيقة المجرمين في اتفاقية اوسلو بين إسرائيل ومنظمة التحرير الفلسطينية

Gideon Levy/Haaretz/August 03/18
A new documentary shows quite well how Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres were the heroes of Oslo but also its criminals: Their missed opportunity, rooted chiefly in their cowardice, is unforgivable.
We should adopt the conceit of the right: the Oslo criminals. The pejorative should be attached, of course, to Benjamin Netanyahu and the savage incitement that he and the settlers perpetrate; but the heroes of the peace, Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, are also worthy of the title. Their missed opportunity, rooted chiefly in their cowardice, is unforgivable.
A new documentary shows this quite well. “The Oslo Diaries,” directed by Mor Loushy and Daniel Sivan, which was screened at the Jerusalem Film Festival, is a moving and important film that many Israelis will see.
When it was over, a woman sitting in front of me got up and tried in vain to hold back her tears. It was the chairwoman of Meretz, MK Tamar Zandberg. It was touching to see a politician crying over a missed opportunity, but a similar discomfort, to heavy to bear, filled the entire hall. The film proves how, despite all the wariness toward the Oslo Accords, they still represented an opportunity — and this is what Rabin and Peres missed. This missed opportunity was not only fateful, it was also irreparable.
“The Oslo Diaries” reflects the spirit of the times. Netanyahu, still with his unkempt hair, looks like a crazy man at the right-wing rallies, his eyes spinning round, different from his relatively level-headed image of today, and the fascist and violent atmosphere of the street as never seen before in Israel. But the film deals with the peacemakers, and the picture that arises from them too is worrying. They are the explanation for the failure, most of which can be placed on their shoulders.
Faltering from the beginning: Yair Hirschfeld preaches morality with characteristic haughtiness and threatens Ahmed Qureia for daring to mention the Nazi occupation of Norway and to compare it to the Israeli occupation, which has lasted 10 times longer and exacted many more victims. A few of the other members of the Israeli delegation are tainted by the same arrogance toward the Palestinians — particularly legal adviser Joel Singer, who is exposed in the film as an especially repulsive and arrogant individual.
Standing out from them is the innocent and benevolent figure of Ron Pundak, and above all of them shines Yossi Beilin, one of a rare breed of diplomats who can set his ego aside, always behind the scenes and focused on the goal rather than on getting credit. Beilin has never received his due honor: Oslo is Beilin, Beilin is Oslo. The missed opportunity belongs to those above him, Rabin and Peres. They are the heroes of Oslo, and its criminals.
They began the negotiations with the intention of manipulating the Palestinians as far as possible. There is not a moment of equality or fairness in the negotiations. When agreement is reached on an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank in the second stage, they insisted on only 2 percent. Only they had “misgivings” about sitting with the PLO. They, who never shed a drop of blood, found it so difficult to speak with the bloodthirsty terrorists from Tunis. They, who did not exile hundreds of thousands in 1948 and did not establish the occupation enterprise in 1967, suffered so much from speaking with terrorists.
The theatrical feeling of disgust they showed, and Rabin in particular, from shaking hands with Yasser Arafat demonstrated their true attitude toward the Palestinians. Rabin of the expulsion of Ramle and the massacre in Lod, Rabin of “break their bones,” recoiled so much from defiling his pure hands with Arafat’s bloody hands. And he took the trouble to show it, too. This is not how you make peace. If anyone should have recoiled it was Arafat, who was forced to shake the hand of someone who occupied and disinherited him. Arafat wanted to start a new chapter more than Rabin did.
But the main guilt is in the missed opportunity. There were at least two, one for Rabin and one for Peres. Rabin, who gave Beilin the impression that he was about to remove the Jewish community of Hebron after the Baruch Goldstein massacre, became frightened and did not keep his word, and in doing so determined the future of the relations, possibly forever.
At the end of the 40 days of mourning, the suicide bombing attacks began. It is not difficult to imagine what would have happened had Rabin removed the obstacle of the settlement in Hebron. Peres, who in the movie is seen giving one of his peace speeches, one of the most courageous and hair-raising ever heard here, rejected as prime minister the draft of the permanent agreement reached by Beilin and Mahmoud Abbas, out of fear of the coming elections. This was the second moment of missed opportunity. Everyone knows what happened next, and it makes one despair.

Chomsky Calls Russian Interference a Joke - Blames Guess Who?
Alan M. Dershowitz/Gatestone Institute/August 03/18
Transparency and public accountability are the cornerstones of democracy. Prime Minister Netanyahu's very public opposition to Obama's Iran Deal -- a deal opposed by most members of Congress and most Americans -- was just as consistent with democracy as Winston Churchill's public demands for the United States to help Great Britain fight the Nazis.
Holocaust denial is quintessentially anti-Semitic, because it falsely accuses the Jews of fabricating stories of the murder of six million Jews.
Noam Chomsky may be intelligent when it comes to linguistics, but his statements regarding Israel, Russia, and the Holocaust are simply counter-factual. There is no other word for his bizarre views, if he actually believes them. If he does not, then there is another word that aptly describes his statements: bigotry.
Noam Chomsky has gone off the deep end once again. This time he claims that in "most of the world" the issue of Russian interference in U.S. elections is "almost a joke." The real villain, according to him, is, of course, Israel -- as it almost always is with Chomsky. According to the world's "top public intellectual," Israeli intervention in U.S. elections, "vastly overwhelms anything the Russians may have done." His proof of this absurd and false charge is that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave a speech in front of Congress "with overwhelming applause." Only on Planet Chomsky would it be worse for the Prime Minister of an American ally openly to accept an invitation from the Speaker of the House to address Congress about an issue of mutual concern, than for Russian agents surreptitiously to try to manipulate voters by false social media campaigns, hacking emails, and other illegal actions.
Chomsky simply fails to understand how democracy is supposed to work. Transparency and public accountability are the cornerstones of democracy. Prime Minister Netanyahu's very public opposition to Obama's Iran Deal -- a deal opposed by most members of Congress and most Americans -- was just as consistent with democracy as Winston Churchill's public demands for the United States to help Great Britain fight the Nazis.
Pictured at left: British Prime Minister Winston Churchill addresses a joint session of the US Congress on December 27, 1941 (Image source: Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images). Pictured at right: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a joint session of the US Congress on March 3, 2015 (Image source: US House of Representatives/Wikimedia Commons).
American presidents, as well as Israeli prime ministers, seek to influence the policies and electoral choices made by their allies. That, too, is part of democracy. The United States has pressured Israel to stop building settlements, Israel has pressured the United States to be more aggressive in preventing Iran from developing a nuclear arsenal. This, too, is part of democracy.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is an American organization that lobbies on behalf of American support for Israel. Lobbying is as American as apple pie.
What is un-American, and what is undemocratic, is for secret agents working surreptitiously on behalf of Vladimir Putin's Russia to commit numerous crimes, for which several of its agents have been indicted, in an effort to influence American elections without transparency or public accountability.
Chomsky is smart enough to understand this, but his willful blindness toward anything involving Israel leads him to make the kind of false comparative statement that no intellectual should ever make. Again, only on Planet Chomsky would Russia's continuous efforts improperly to intervene in American elections would be characterized as "almost a joke." Only on Planet Chomsky would Israel's open, transparent and democratic efforts to have America support its security be deemed worse than Russia's crimes. But such blindness is to be expected from Chomsky when it comes to anything regarding Israel, Jews, or anti-Semitism.
Remember this is the same man who defended the so-called "research" of the notorious Holocaust-denier, Robert Faurisson. Not only did Chomsky defend Faurisson's phony research, but he denied that Faurisson -- who is a notorious Jew-hater -- had said anything that qualifies as anti-Semitic. Here is what Chomsky wrote:
"I see no anti-Semitic implications in denial of the existence of gas chambers, or even denial of the Holocaust. Nor would there be anti-Semitic implications, per se, in the claim that the Holocaust (whether one believes it took place or not) is being exploited, viciously so, by apologists for Israeli repression and violence. I see no hint of anti-Semitic implications in Faurisson's work..."
Chomsky, who is a prominent linguist, knows nothing of the meaning of language in context. Holocaust denial is quintessentially anti-Semitic, because it falsely accuses the Jews of fabricating stories of the murder of six million Jews.
Experts understand that there are different kinds of intelligence. Chomsky may be intelligent when it comes to linguistics, but his statements regarding Israel, Russia, and the Holocaust are simply counter-factual. There is no other word for his bizarre views, if he actually believes them. If he does not, then there is another word that aptly describes his statements: bigotry.
Alan M. Dershowitz is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law Emeritus at Harvard Law School and author of "The Case Against Impeaching Trump," Skyhorse publishing, 2018.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Arab Spring' Yesterday and Today: The Tunisian Template
Tommaso Virgili/Gatestone Institute/August 02/18
A crucial recommendation of the report by Tunisia's Individual Freedoms and Equality Committee (COLIBE) is a call explicitly to define the country's vague criminal clauses that refer to 'public order' and 'morals.'
The calls to decriminalize homosexuality and blasphemy, and to equalize the inheritance rights of women with men, are opposed by political parties that claim to be post-Islamist but in practice kowtow to Islamic fundamentalists.
Now it is time for hesitant secular forces in Tunisia's parliament to embrace and implement COLIBE's recommendations.
And in the rest of the Muslim world?
As the world begins to understand what happened in the 'Arab Spring' that began in December 2010—and its ramifications today—the place where it was sparked is both a map and compass. Where did the movement come from and where is it going?
Of all the countries that took part in the Arab Spring, Tunisia is the one that most deserves the appellation 'free.'
But it is not quite there yet. This North African nation still has a long way to go. Its entrenched cultural and religious taboos are making the transition to true freedom a complicated process.
One indication of the challenges faced by the inheritors of Arab Spring is a recent report by the Individual Freedoms and Equality Committee, known by the acronym COLIBE.
Established in August 2017 by Tunisian President Béji Caïd Essebsi, the purpose of COLIBE is "the preparation of a reform project in accordance with the requirements of the Tunisian Constitution of 2014 and international human rights standards".
Tunisian President Béji Caïd Essebsi established the Individual Freedoms and Equality
The extent of Tunisia's proposed reforms, unprecedented in the Arab world, is fueling significant political controversy. The apparent purpose of the reforms is to bring to fruition the Kemalist path that inspired the founder of independent Tunisia, Habib Bourguiba.
Among the recommendations in COLIBE's report that have created the greatest sensation are the decriminalization of homosexuality and blasphemy (including affirmation of atheists' rights), and equality between men and women in rights of inheritance.
Currently, the Tunisian criminal code calls for three years of imprisonment for homosexuality, for both men and women. Male homosexuality is normally 'proven' by forced anal exams. COLIBE is calling for decriminalization of homosexuality and for a ban on the cruelty of anal exams, even if homosexuality remains illegal.
The calls to decriminalize homosexuality and blasphemy, and to equalize the inheritance rights of women with men, are opposed by political parties that claim to be post-Islamist but in practice kowtow to Islamic fundamentalists.
As for blasphemy, there is no law in Tunisia explicitly criminalizing contempt of the sacred. In practice, however, anything considered 'provocative' or 'nonconformist' is prosecuted as an attack on 'decency' and 'public morals'.
The nation's inequality in inheritance rights is the fruit of a clear Quranic injunction in Surah 4:11: 'Allah commands you as regards your children's (inheritance); to the male, a portion equal to that of two females....'
Tunisia's current law enforcing this command is one of the few tributes paid to Islam by the otherwise progressive Code of Personal Status, the civil code promulgated by the country's first leader after independence in 1956, Habib Bourguiba. The code is known, among other things, for explicitly banning polygamy.
For many in Tunisia, any attacks, real or imagined, against Islam and its decrees on sexual norms, are still considered unacceptable wounds inflicted on the culture and its values.
No surprise, then, that the progressive proposal by COLIBE has infuriated Tunisia's Islamist circles to the point of explicit threats against COLIBE's president, Bochra Bel Haj Hmida.
Even so-called secular parties have expressed no more than tepid support for the report and the proposed reforms.
The so-called "post-Islamist" party, Ennahda — a Muslim Brotherhood offshoot — has expressed its opposition to the COLIBE recommendations, although in a way that often reinforces ambiguous Muslim Brotherhood positions.
This form of ambiguity was witnessed during a public exchange with Ennahda's leader, Rached Ghannouchi, at the 2016 Mediterranean Dialogues in Rome. When asked by this author about his party's stance on the decriminalization of homosexuality, inheritance equality and the right of a Muslim woman to marry a non-Muslim man, Ghannouchi avoided answering. The essence of his rhetorical dodge was a claim that he lacked religious credentials and that the constitution bestows 'freedom of conscience' on all members of Parliament.
In a written communiqué, the Ennahda party condemned the COLIBE report as a 'threat to the family's structure and society's cohesion,' but failed to specify the particular issues to which it was referring. The same communiqué further stressed that Tunisia is a civil state with a Muslim people, and that therefore it is necessary to find a compromise between freedom and Islamic identity, and to shy away from any 'exaggeration and extremism.' It also warned about the risk of stirring up issues that promote 'polarization and division.'
Such language is typical of radical Islamists, such as that used by Yusuf al-Qaradawi -- the Egyptian-born head of the Qatar-based International Union of Muslim Scholars -- on 'secular extremism'.
Such language is also part of Islamist rhetoric to characterize individual freedoms as an 'insult' to Muslim identity, that provoke the risk of fitna (impious division, rebellion, sedition) within society.
While Tunisia's Ennahda party has avoided using the loaded term fitna, the country's former Minister of Religious Affairs, Noureddine Khadmi, has not exhibited the same self-restraint, explicitly calling for a fatwa against the fitna that adopting COLIBE's report would provoke.
The significance of this fundamentalist Islamic position cannot be stressed enough. In Tunisia, as elsewhere in the Muslim world, "public morals", "sedition", "extremism", and the "religious sensitivities of the majority" are the very bases upon which criminal prosecutions are pursued against homosexuals and atheists.
For this very reason, another crucial recommendation of the COLIBE report is a call explicitly to define the country's vague criminal clauses that refer to "public order" and "morals."
While the COLIBE report is paving the way for a real liberal democracy in Tunisia, the legislative enactment of its recommendations is an uphill fight.
Still, it is a fight that must be fought.
Democracy is not defined by how the will of the majority is implemented. Democracy is defined by how the rights of the minority are guaranteed.
The recommendations put forth by the COLIBE are a necessary first step. Now it is time for hesitant secular forces in Tunisia's parliament to embrace and implement those recommendations.
Tunisia's strong and brave civil society, which has shown the power of its voice since the 2010 Arab Spring revolution in repelling the Islamist backlash, will not back down in this endeavor.
And in the rest of the Muslim world?
*Tommaso Virgili, who holds a Ph.D. in Comparative Constitutional Law, is based in Europe.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Trump, Iran and the New Guns of August

James Stavridis/Bloomberg/August 03/18
In the hot summer of 1987, I was a young Navy officer sailing into the Arabian Gulf via the Strait of Hormuz onboard the Valley Forge, a brand new and heavily armed Aegis Cruiser. Our mission, code-named Ernest Will, was to escort merchant ships in and out of the Gulf, protecting them from the threat of Iranian cruise missiles and air attack. It was the midst of the Iran-Iraq War — which lasted eight years and cost more than half a million lives — and our job was to keep the global shipping lanes open while Iran sought to control the vital strait through which flows some 35 percent of the world's seaborne oil.
It was exciting and dangerous work. Over the next year, the US Navy would eventually attack the Iranian Navy, retaliating after one of our frigates was nearly sunk by an Iranian mine in Operation Praying Mantis. Eventually, Iraq and Iran settled their differences and an uneasy peace reigned between Arabs and Persians in the flat, hot, shallow waters of the Gulf, despite occasional flare-ups, for the next three decades.
Until now. The tension in the Gulf — and especially in the Strait of Hormuz — is rising again, and the echoes of those conflicts 30 years ago are getting louder. The presidents of Iran and the US this week exchanged harshly worded tweets (in 1987, a tweet was something a bird did on a spring morning) and oil markets are keeping a wary eye on developments. Israel released another cache of stolen Iranian documents showing the perfidy and determination of its nuclear program.
What would a conflict centered on the Strait of Hormuz look like? How long would it last? And above all, what is the best strategy the US could take toward Iran?
The uber-conflict in the region remains the religious and geopolitical tension between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran, each of whom has long-standing historical enmity toward the other. Iran is pushing hard, diplomatically and militarily, into a several Arab nations around the region: Iraq, Syria, Qatar, Lebanon and Yemen. Saudi Arabia, under the dynamic leadership of young, capable Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman, is determined to stop further Persian encroachment into the Arab world. The two nations share long coastlines of the Gulf, where they have fought for centuries. And the key to the entire area is the narrow sea entrance: the 30-mile wide Strait of Hormuz.
We know that Iran has detailed plans to close the strait. It would use a variety of means including widespread mining; swarms of small, ultrafast patrol boats; shore-based cruise missiles; manned aircraft; and diesel submarines. Iran would employ a “layered offense,” stationing diesels in the Arabian Sea on the other side of the strait to harass incoming merchant ships; swarming US and allied warships in the narrow confines of the strait itself; and mining sections of the shipping lanes.
All of this, of course, is illegal under international law, but would have the intended consequence of challenging the US and the Gulf Arabs while driving up oil prices exponentially. (Iran is able to export some oil from its southern coast, bypassing the strait, so its economy might suffer less than the Arabs'.)
When Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani talk about shutting down the strait, they mean it. They could accomplish it in just 48 to 72 hours, as commercial shipping, out of prudence and under pressure from insurers, would opt not to take the risk of passing through the waters.
In terms of a response, the US and its allies and coalition partners would certainly react strongly. Our Navy would attack Iranian ships attempting to lay mines; strike land-based air and cruise missile sites within range of the strait; sink Iranian diesel subs at their piers; and potentially launch punishing strikes against broader targets inside Iran (although initial responses would probably target only weapons and systems used in the strait closure in order to observe rules of war pertaining to proportionality).
In other words, just as Iran has detailed plans to close the strait, the U.S. has contingency plans to respond and reopen it. This would be a longer process than many people suspect, especially if Iran had the opportunity to put a significant number of mines into the water. Clearing mines is a laborious and time-consuming process, and could take weeks if not a month or two to accomplish.
President Donald Trump, who has long-held antipathy for Iran and hated the Obama administration's nuclear deal, reacted harshly when Khamenei made a thinly veiled reference to playing the Strait of Hormuz card if the US imposes additional sanctions. In doing so, Trump is taking a page from the US playbook for North Korea, betting that Khamenei and the hard-liners in Tehran will back down and choose a diplomatic path instead of war.
Unfortunately, the Iranians are far more ideological than Kim Jong Un. Kim is a gangster leader who will respond to monetary incentives; the ayatollahs are religious zealots, many of whom are willing to die to defy the Great Satan.
A better strategy for the US than angry tweets would be to craft an aggressive but sensible overall strategy toward Iran. The key components would include enhanced surveillance and intelligence-gathering; stronger missile defenses for key US bases in the region; more use of offensive cyber to preempt Iranian options; larger naval forces in the region, especially in the North Arabian Sea; and — above all — getting our European allies “on side” in the tougher sanctions regime.
The latter task will immeasurably harder following the debacles of the G-7 and NATO summits, where Trump went out of his way to offend allied leaders. The residual hard feelings in Europe are real, and will continue to cause significant division between the US administration and our best pool of partners in Europe. One hopes that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, two highly capable leaders, are working to bring our allies on board while crafting a thoughtful strategy to deal with the threat of Iran.
We have been here before, and managed to keep the Strait of Hormuz open and the global economy chugging along. But doing so this time will require a deft mix of hard and soft power and a coherent strategy for dealing with the very real Iranian threat.

What Trump Could Do For Iran
Amir Taheri/Asharq Al Awsat/August 03/18
“To resist or not to resist?” In Tehran’s political circles these days that is the question. The prospect of fresh sanctions to be imposed by the United States and its allies has helped intensify the debate which has marked Iranian politics since the mullahs seized power in 1979.
At first glance the most common answer seems to be in favor of “resisting”, whatever form it might take. Over the past four decades the Khomeinist ruling elite has been divided between those called “the accommodationists” who have been prepared to seek a deal with the United States and those who refuse even talking to the “Great Satan”. The mullahs’ first Cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan, included five US citizens of Iranian origin and was thus dominated by the “accommodationists”. It contemplated a strategy of partnership with the United States to face the Soviet threat in the context of the Cold War. That strategy ever got off the ground as Bazargan and his pro-US group were swept away in the political tsunami triggered by the seizure of the US Embassy in Tehran. Then began almost a decade of war and tension in which the pure revolutionists ran the show and marginalized the accommodationists. The sinking by the US navy of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard navy, followed by Khomeini’s abject retreat and subsequent death, closed that parenthesis as the “resistance” policy proved to be futile.
Then followed almost a decade of domination by the accommodationists who went to the extremes to befriend the ”Great Satan” on the sly. However, a decade of secret and later overt “dialogue” with the Great Satan proved equally fruitless, leading to a “resistance backlash” symbolized by the emergence of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as President. As we know, that attempt at “resistance” also failed, doing possibly long-term damage to Iran’s economy and the nation’s social fabric.
The disastrous end of Ahmadinejad’s presidency gave the accommodationists a fresh chance to try their old and several times failed stratagems. The joint effort by US President Barack Obama and his Islamic counterpart Hassan Rouhani to dupe their respective audiences with the so-called “nuke deal” was hailed by many as an end of the vicious circle of accommodation-resistance. Now, however, we know that that chapter, too, has closed. Even the Islamic Foreign Minister Muhammad-Javad Zarif now admits that much. In a talk in Tehran last Sunday he claimed that even Obama, a “polite and friendly man”, had not been quite straight with his Khomeinist partners in duping the world.
Today, the Islamic Republic looks like a two-trick pony both of whose tricks have been exposed as sham and inefficient. It is, of course, not in the gift of a journalist to predict the future. But it seems to me that the Khomeinist regime will no longer be able to rely on either of its two tricks in the context of the usual cheat-and-retreat strategy to get itself off the hook at least for a while longer.
The reason for that failure is the regime’s inability to clearly spell out its case and tell the Iranians, and the world beyond them, why it is addicted to policies that have produced nothing but grief for all concerned.
It would be a good thing if the “Supreme Guide” Ali Khamenei were to appear on national television and tell Iranians precisely why it is in Iran’s interest to help Bashar al-Assad kill Syrians or what could be gained for prolonging the war in Yemen by supporting a rebel group that, regardless of the justice or injustice of their cause, have no chance of winning and, even if they won, would in no way contribute to Iran’s security and prosperity.
Until recently, one argument advanced by Khomeinists was that though the current policies, including a real or feigned enmity for the United States, may harm Iran’s interests as a nation they still serve the interests of ran as a vehicle for “Islamic Revolution.” In other words, sacrificing Iran’s national interests to the interests of the dominant ideology may have some rational explanation.
However, even that argument no longer holds. Thousands of deaths and billions spent in Syria have not only harmed Iran’s national interest but have also failed to secure any advancement for the Khomeinist ideology.
Having found a new and stronger protector in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, Assad and his cohorts now regard the Islamic Republic as something of an embarrassment. It is no surprise that Assad has vetoed an Iranian plan to set up “cultural centers” in the so-called “newly liberated” areas of Syria, that is to say chunks of territory abandoned by the regime’s opponents. Iranian mullahs and their military associates are no longer flowing into Syria at will and when they arrive there, they are no longer treated with the deference they enjoyed five years ago.
Even in chunks of Yemen held by the Houthis, Iran is being pushed to the sidelines. In fact, the bulk of Iranian diplomatic and military personnel fanning the war in Yemen are now located in neighboring Oman.
Even in Lebanon, as a prominent pro-Tehran Lebanese newspaper editor noted recently, the Islamic Republic risks losing its influence because of the increasing difficulties it faces in paying its allies and mercenaries.
The daily Kayhan, believed to reflect Khamenei’s views, still boasts about the Islamic Republic’s success in having Gen. Michel Aoun elected President of Lebanon. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that, while trying not to ruffle the mullahs’ feathers, Aoun is so full of himself as not to be a mere puppet for Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
The looming crisis in Iran may be an opportunity for Iranians, both in the regime and those opposed to it, to decide whether they wish Iran to behave like a vehicle for a bankrupt ideology or like a nation-state with the legitimate, quantifiable and rationally analyzable interests of a nation-state.
I am not a fan of historic comparisons. But the dilemma that Iran faces today has been faced by other nations that experienced a revolution. President Richard Nixon helped the People’s Republic of China face that dilemma and choose translating itself into a nation-state. President Ronald Reagan played a similar role in the case of the Soviet Union, helping the rebirth of Russia, and 14 other republics, as nation-states. Today, President Donald Trump has a similar opportunity with Iran by encouraging its transformation from the vehicle of a sick ideology into a regular member of the community of nations. This is not about a strategy of sanctions and/or war as an end in itself. Nor is it about playing a new version of Obama’s diplomatic chicanery. Trump must show the leadership in Tehran that it can no longer play the old tricks either of cheat-and-retreat or of ersatz resistance.
The aim is to help Iran cure itself of the disease of Khomeinism and regain its health as a nation.

Who invaded Kuwait in the summer of 1990?
Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/August 03/18
It’s the 28th anniversary of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait which happened on August 2, 1990. It’s certainly a fresh wound in the Kuwaiti sentiment or rather in the Saudi or the people of the Gulf or the Arab sentiment. What proves that this wound still suffers pain is the loud controversy caused by the comments of the Iraqi envoy in Kuwait when he called on the Kuwaiti government to adopt the term “the Saddam invasion,” in reference to Saddam Hussein, instead of the “Iraqi invasion” in the country’s educational curricula. This suggestion aims to limit the incident – which is one of the events the times – of Kuwait’s invasion by the Iraqi army and that was led by Saddam Hussein to one person or perhaps to one family or tribe or even to the glorious Baathist Party of the solemn Saddam Hussein. According to the Kuwaiti news agency (KUNA), the current Iraqi government spokesperson Saad al-Hadithi said within the context of a report that combines maintaining the memory and the desire to work with today’s Iraq: “The normal situation of the two countries is what was before 1990, i.e. before it was contaminated by the former regime’s invasion of Kuwait.”However, modern history stipulates that the former regime, the buried regime, according to the principles of the current Iraqi media, which is the Saddam Hussein regime, is not the first to revive Iraq’s big dream of restoring the branch to the original, ever since the days of Ghazi of Iraq till the days of “comrade” Abd al-Karim Qasim. The insistence of Kuwait and its people, and Saudi Arabia’s embracement, mainly, and the international shield protected Kuwait from these political whims and this should continue to be the case when these whims wake up again. Burying history means repeating mistakes and misleading subsequent generations from specifying people’s real interests at moments of destructive danger
Intellectual shabbiness
Vigilance today must be double the vigilance before because the culture that governs “influential” parties, militias and parties in Iraq has enough intellectual shabbiness, political immaturity and Soleimani (in reference to Qassem Soleimani) ideological myths which are much more than Saddam Hussein’s myths and his lectures about Arabism. The aim of keeping the memory alive is not to nurture grudges but to read what happened accurately and carefully because history, as we know, is a book that’s always open to more discoveries. The aim of this analysis is to learn by example, as in the name of the book “Sermons and Learning by Example” by great Egyptian historian Al-Maqrizi who died in 1442. Burying history means repeating mistakes and misleading subsequent generations from specifying people’s real interests at moments of destructive danger. The Iraqi authorities’ invasion of Kuwait in 1990 is something which specifically Kuwait and Saudi Arabia must examine well and enrich themselves about, not to satisfy the heat of anger but to enrich the mind. Wise remembrance turns the old wound into a live historical witness.
All what’s been written above is about Iraq’s rulers and not about its people.

Will the UK reintroduce treason laws?
Dr. Azeem Ibrahim/Al Arabiya/August 03/18
With ISIS in Syria and Iraq almost fully defeated, western nations now have to contend what to do with hundreds of fighters who left their shores to make the long journey to establish the caliphate but now wish to return.
Different countries it seems have adopted different strategies. For example, the Dutch and some other European countries have a de-radicalization program already in place, awaiting the returnees. At the other end of the spectrum, the US will simply arrest them and put them through an aggressive domestic legal system. There are also reports of a major European country having dispatched their special forces to work with the Iraqis to “retire” ISIS fighters ensuring none of them ever have the chance to come back. The UK on the other hand has embraced a shrewder approach. The have simply stripped identified ISIS members of their nationality and passport ensuring they are no longer the problem of the UK government. This has caused much consternation with civil rights activists with many arguing that the UK must not abandon basic legal principles and in fact what is needed is new legislation to deal with this new threat as it is clear that current laws are insufficient. I believe that if there is strong evidence, that someone has been an active and willing member of ISIS, the state should come down on them with its full force. I also believe that the traditional offences, which Britain charges potential terrorists with are not enough.
British subjects who plot to destroy the fabric of British life, destroy government buildings, transport or businesses, who sow fear into the seam of the daily life, who seek to rupture the day-to-day workings of the British economy or the business of state, or who act to spread disorder and fear, should be considered not just terrorists, but traitors. They should be charged with treason. This would not be so new – it used to be used against Irish insurgents. Treason, after all, essentially means betraying one’s nation. All British nationals owe allegiance to the Queen, wherever they are. If you have the privilege to have a British passport, you should not be plotting violence against her subjects. If there is strong evidence, that someone has been active and willing member of ISIS, the state should come down on them with full force
The main counterargument would probably be that such terrorists have not committed treason. Arson, murder, terrorism or other violent crimes, perhaps; but treason – no. But I would argue that although these latter offences might speak to the specific physical characteristics of the crime, they don’t address the mental one – those of the intention of the crime – at all. A terrorist is not the same as someone trying to cause physical damage who does not know why. They are seeking very specifically to rupture British security as a nation, damage our institutions, and disrupt the quality of British daily life. And here’s the point. They do not want to do these things to damage a building or cause injuries in a crowd. They want to do them because these things are British. That deserves its own form of recognition in law, and ‘treason’ is the offence which best captures it. The offence of treason would also bring with it other benefits, first and foremost automatic heavy punishments. Britain has abolished the death penalty, and so the old institutional punishment for treason is not available. But it seems logical that this modern form of treason be automatically punishable by the nearest equivalent – a life sentence. This should not be the kind of life sentence, which, after time off for good behaviour, means a few years. It should mean life, without parole, or the possibility of parole. This would be the start of making a link, which should be fundamental to our national life. If you are British, you do not plot against Britain. If you want the protections, security, services, and yes, freedoms which this country has fought to be able to give its citizens over centuries, then you do not respond with violence. In short, it is high time we brought the offence of treason back. These terrorists are not just criminals – they are traitors. The legal system should acknowledge it. I would wager it would make us all safer as well.

Iraq’s minister of electricity: A Scapegoat
Adnan Hussein/Al Arabiya/August 03/18
The motives and aims of suspending Iraq’s electricity minister, cannot deceive anyone, even the credulous. It is a ‘trick’ that has often been used in Iraq in particular as well as in the Middle East and in other countries. Those who resort to this trick the most are the most pious rulers and who actually only appear pious, like our current rulers. The prime minister should have “played” a game other than this scapegoat goat. The current electricity minister whom Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has suspended, is not the only person responsible for the ongoing electricity crisis facing the country.
The electricity ministry is not the only ministry that should bear responsibility for this crisis, which has been ongoing for 15 years now.
In fact, Abadi and his government are responsible for this problem, along with previous governments and their premiers, especially Nuri al-Maliki whose term covered over half of the 15-year period since the fall of Saddam.
His two governments held more than three-quarters of the state’s foreign currency revenues, most of them emanating from oil exports. Iraq’s central bank announced recently that the receipts of the Ministry of Finance from foreign currency from 2005 to 2017 totaled $706.23 billion, which is huge amount. However, we do not find any visible impact of this wealth on Iraq’s economy. We do not find the construction of any dam, international freeway, large power station, a big strategic industrial or agricultural project nor even a cultural center or an art house or public library being made with this money!At the heart of this complex crisis is administrative and financial corruption which has siphoned off billions of dollars from public development to the personal accounts of state officials
Wider problem
In addition, the Iraqis’ ordeal is not limited to electricity generation issues. It is a much bigger and wider problem and covers issues related to water, security, judiciary, agriculture, industry, health, environment, transportation, education, communication and municipal services.
At the heart of this complex crisis is administrative and financial corruption which has siphoned off billions of dollars from public development to the personal accounts of state officials, such as prime ministers, presidents, speakers of parliament and their deputies, their consultants and office employees as well as ministers, MPs, deputy ministers, heads and members of the councils of “independent” commissions, general managers, governors, heads of the provincial councils and the ones reporting to them — in other words the entire government from its head to all parts of its body is steeped in corruption, except for a few, small departments. This administrative and financial corruption is rampant in the state and the society like a cancer in its final stages. It is entrenched in the quota system, which in turn is a problem caused by a deficient constitution, unfair laws and improper work norms that were willingly adhered to by the leaders of influential parties. Neither suspending the minister of electricity nor the suspension of agriculture, industry, health or education ministers etc., would revive the collapsing state. Another road map should be drawn to get out the country out of this crisis and overcome this ordeal. This map is very simple and it’s been accurately and clearly drawn by the demands of the recent protest movement and those preceding it since 2011. Just look at what the protesters enunciate to realize the map.

Iranian protesters blame Tehran, not Washington, for their woes
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/August 03/18
Large-scale protests erupted in several Iranian cities on Tuesday and continue to grow, in what Iranian activists describe as a continuation of a nationwide anti-government movement that began in late December.
The latest unrest broke out in the major cities of Isfahan, Karaj, Shiraz, Rasht and Tabriz. Many of the protesters initially took to the streets to express their outrage over the ongoing crisis caused by unemployment and currency devaluation, but the demonstrations quickly took on a political tone, with calls for the ouster of the Iranian government.
On Monday, the value of the Iranian rial fell to record lows, trading at a rate of more than 120,000 to the dollar. The protests, which began the following day, made it clear that the Iranian people place the blame for their economic hardships squarely on the mismanagement and corruption of the ruling regime.
“The enemy is here; they are lying when they say it is America,” protesters in Isfahan chanted, according to the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (MEK), which is credited with playing a leading role in the ongoing nationwide protests. There were no slogans targeting the Americans or the imminent return of US-led sanctions, which are due to be reimposed on Aug. 6. The regime is bracing itself for the return of these economic sanctions, which were suspended in 2015 under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the Iran nuclear deal. Their reintroduction comes after US President Donald Trump pulled out of the agreement in May. In addition, secondary sanctions on foreign entities that continue to do business in Iran will come back into effect in November, placing even greater pressure on the Iranian economy.
Washington has indicated that its goal is to cut off Iran’s oil exports entirely, and the mere threat of such assertive measures appears to be exacerbating a crisis in the Iranian economy that began even while the JCPOA was still in full effect.
The White House and Trump have issued statements expressing support for the protesters, whose slogans similarly emphasize that the conflict is between the Iranian government and its people. They taunted the country’s two political factions: “Reformists, hard-liners: The game is over.” This, along with equally provocative chants such as “Death to the Dictator,” leave little room for doubt that the string of protests, including those that broke out this week, are largely driven by a demand for regime change.
The current protests are a continuation of a nationwide anti-government movement that began in late December. The predictable crackdowns by the state began in early 2018. According to MEK, about 8,000 peaceful protesters were arrested, many of whom were threatened with death sentences. Fifty demonstrators were shot dead in the streets, and more than a dozen died while being tortured in the custody of Iranian authorities.
Similarly repressive efforts have, of course, emerged in the wake of subsequent protests, including those that broke out on Tuesday. But a number of video clips provided by MEK activists show the demonstrators pushing back against riot police and agents of the clerical regime. In some cases, this civilian resistance appears to have compelled government forces to retreat or withdraw. In Isfahan and elsewhere, the government’s failure to disperse the protesters allowed the demonstrations to continue into a second day, at which point further clashes between activists and government authorities were reported.
Tuesday’s political protests coincided with the 11th consecutive day of a nationwide strike by Iranian truck drivers. A previous strike broke up following serious clashes with regime authorities, but the demonstrations resumed and gave rise to new clashes on July 23, before spreading to 130 locations in Iran.
Anti-government protests also resumed in Karaj for the third night. Demonstrators chanted “Down with the Dictator” and “Guns, tanks, get lost mullahs.” The security forces charged toward the protesters but they held firm. As the government forces retreated, and then fled, the demonstrators set fire to police motorbikes. Emboldened by their successful defiance of the police, the protesters began to chant, “Beware the day we take up arms.”
“As long as the dictator (Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei) stands,” they shouted, “the uprising will continue.” That sentiment was echoed by Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi, who wrote: “The Iranian people’s nationwide uprising is growing by the day...threatening the mullahs’ religious dictatorship.”
“Today,” Rajavi wrote in her response on Twitter to the latest protests, “the world can see that the voice of Iranians cannot be silenced despite massive repression, and their uprisings are carrying on until victory.”
These protests are a continuation of a nationwide anti-government movement that began in late December. They are of a political and economic nature, and more than likely will continue to grow, potentially endangering the hold on power of the Iranian regime.
• Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council.
Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh