August 10/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him’
First Letter to the Corinthians 02/01-10: "When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God. Yet among the mature we do speak wisdom, though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doome.

Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on August 09-10/18
Israel’s cabinet decides against a new Gaza campaign to halt Hamas rocket aggression/DebkaFile/August 09/18
Ottawa mosque loses charity status for promoting ‘hate and intolerance/Stewart Bell National Global News/August 09/18
US Was Right to Give China’s Navy the Boot/James Stavridis/Bloomberg/August 09/18
Iranian diplomat accused of running web of spies across Europe/Damien McElroy/The National/August 09/19
Iranian regime is getting richer, at the expense of the poor/Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/August 09/18
Prospects of US-Iran talks now more remote than ever/Maria Dubovikova/Maria Dubovikova/Arab News/August 09/18
Iran’s struggle for existence in the face of new sanctions/Sabena Siddiqui/Al Arabiya/August 09/18
Is Iran in a ‘revolutionary’ situation/Hamid Bahrami/Al Arabiya/August 09/18
Saudi Arabia’s foreign files: Why worry from Riyadh/Fares bin Hezam/Al Arabiya/August 09/18

Titles For The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published 
on August 09-10/18
Hariri: Lebanon’s Interest Requires Full Cooperation with UNIFIL
Lebanon: Legalizing Cannabis Cultivation Clamps Down on Drug Lords
Report: ‘Political Settlement’ between Aoun, Hariri ‘Unbroken’
Aoun Meets Del Col, Says UNIFIL Mandate Should Not Be Modified
Foreign Ministry Denies Refusing Kuwaiti Ambassador Accreditation
Adwan on Maarab Understanding Says LF ‘Kept its Word’, FPM Should Do Same
Russia Blasts 'Unacceptable' New US Sanctions
Berri, Hariri meet in Ain el Tineh over government formation
Loyalty to Resistance: Government formation delay risks 'slide toward tension'
Sheikh Hamoud's office: We will remain committed to national security
Ibrahim meets new UNIFIL commander, MP Baarini
Sayegh Blasts 'Indifferent' and 'Merciless' Government Formation Approach
Abu Nader: Centralized Lebanese State Is 'Failed' and 'Ailing'

Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on August 09-10/18
Boko Haram militants kill 17 Nigerian soldiers
Canada PM Does Not Back Down on Rights Defense in Saudi Spat
Saudi patients in Canada transferred to the US
Iraq PM Says will Abide by US Sanctions on Iran, President Raises Doubts
Syrian Troops Shell Idlib to Pave Way for Assault, Monitor Says
Syria Kurds Face Tough Talks to Preserve Autonomy
Iranian Opposition Group Reveals Details of Paris Bomb Plot against it
Colombia Recognizes Palestine as Sovereign State, New Government to Review Decision
5 Australians Lose Citizenship over ISIS Involvement in Iraq, Syria
Saudi-Led Coalition Claims Deadly Yemen Attack
UN Plans Talks on Western Sahara before End of 2018
Rape-accused Tariq Ramadan loses latest bid to be freed from French jail
Israel’s cabinet decides against a new Gaza campaign to halt Hamas rocket aggression
The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on August 09-10/18
Hariri: Lebanon’s Interest Requires Full Cooperation with UNIFIL
Beirut - Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 9 August, 2018/Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri has confirmed his country’s support to the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon and its full commitment to Security Council Resolution 1701. During a meeting with the new UNIFIL Commander, Major General Stefano Del Col, at the Center House on Wednesday, Hariri lauded the peacekeepers' role in maintaining security and stability in southern Lebanon, stressing that the country's "interest and territorial integrity require full cooperation between the Lebanese authorities and UNIFIL." "Lebanon looks forward to the extension of the UNIFIL mandate," said Hariri. He also "underlined the importance of the solidarity of the international community on this issue, the continued support of UNIFIL and securing the necessary environment to enable it to carry out its work to the fullest." As the Security Council is set to consider next week the extension of the mission's mandate, good relations with UNIFIL fall "in the interest of Lebanon and stability in the south," the PM-designate told Del Col. He also lauded ongoing coordination between the Lebanese army and UNIFIL in implementing Resolution 1701. After the meeting, Del Col said: “It is my first day as Head of Mission and Force Commander." "I assured Prime Minister Hariri that we will follow the 1701 UNSCR and other resolutions about UNIFIL," he said. "UNIFIL has guaranteed the peace process and peace over the past twelve years and the situation on the ground in south Lebanon. This is my third term here in Lebanon. I arrived the first time in 2008, the second one in 2014 and now in 2018.""I really came to follow UNSCR 1701 and the goal is to reach a permanent cease fire,” Del Col added.

Lebanon: Legalizing Cannabis Cultivation Clamps Down on Drug Lords

Beirut, Baalbek - Nazir Rida, Hussein Darwish/Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 9 August, 2018/Drug traffickers in eastern Lebanon are watching with concern proposals to legislate the cultivation of cannabis, since the bills submitted by politicians will put an end to their influence. The legalization process will prevent illegal trafficking and will change the quality of the plant in which the hallucinogenic substances will diminish for medical purposes. Moreover, drug dealers will be deprived of the cannabis harvest, which will go directly to the pharmaceutical companies. Proposals to legislate cannabis cultivation for medical purposes emerged last month, based on plans that are expected to provide material revenues that contribute to the development of the northern Bekaa region. The plans were widely welcomed by the residents of the Bekaa Valley, although the official proposals, most notably a proposal made the a member of the Powerful Republic bloc, MP Antoine Habshi, calls for changing the type of the plant that is currently grown in the Bekaa Valley. Habshi told Asharq Al-Awsat that the proposal submitted late last month “will not legalize drugs in Lebanon, meaning that they will not be available in the markets. Instead, alternative agriculture will be used for medical purposes.”He explained that the proposal was not to legislate the current seedlings planted in Lebanon, which are hybrid plants that contain high levels of hallucinogenic substances and narcotics, but to introduce new seedlings, and will oblige pharmaceutical companies to monitor their cultivation according to specific criteria. Habshi stressed that the bill “will put a final end to the role of drug traffickers.”  Member of the Baalbek-Hermel parliamentary bloc MP Walid Sukkarieh has a different point of view. In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, he said: “I have a personal opinion on this subject apart from that of the bloc. I am against the cultivation of anything called drugs, for the simple reason that we have no controls in Lebanon; but if things go towards legislation, I will not stand in the way.”Experts believe that the Bekaa region produces a good type of cannabis for the pharmaceutical industry. In 2013, a number of experiments were carried out by international organizations for the purpose of positive cultivation of cannabis for medical uses. Around 400,000 square meters were cultivated in cooperation with farmers. As the success of the experiment and the quality of the plant were proven, a study proposed the establishment of five manufacturing units, each of them capable of securing 300 jobs. However, according to official sources in the Bekaa, the study “is left in the drawers of the chamber of commerce and industry in Zahle.”
Report: ‘Political Settlement’ between Aoun, Hariri ‘Unbroken’
Naharnet/August 09/18/The relations between President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri “are not broken” and the political pact between the two men that brought Aoun to the presidency post remains “intact,” al-Mustaqbal daily reported on Thursday. Talks have gathered momentum between Baabda Palace and the Center House, and sources have “assured” that “some constructive meetings will take place in the next 48 hours” in order to facilitate the stalemates hampering the formation of the government since the designation, the daily said. Meanwhile, it added that visitors to Aoun “emanated positive vibes,” as they undermined claims that the delay was the result of an early campaign for the post of presidency, in light of media claims that Aoun’s son-in-law, Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil has his eye on the position in the future. They also reflected the President’s willingness to open channels of communication to facilitate the formation process. Denying a break in relations between the two men, the visitors told the daily that “contacts between Baabda and the Center House are not broken. The political pact between them remains intact.”Hariri was tasked with forming a new government on May 24. His mission is being hampered by political wrangling over shares, especially over Christian and Druze representation. In 2016, a political settlement led to the election of Gen. Aoun as president and brought Hariri back to the premiership is still intact.

Aoun Meets Del Col, Says UNIFIL Mandate Should Not Be Modified
Naharnet/August 09/18/President Michel Aoun has met at Baabda palace the newly appointed UNIFIL Force Commander Maj. Gen. Stefano Del Col, to whom he maintained Lebanon's readiness to facilitate the peacekeepers' mission and the implementation of UN resolution 1701, the National News Agency reported on Thursday. “Lebanon is ready to provide whatever helps the UNIFIL carry out its mission of preserving security and stability in the south, and implementing UN Security Council's resolution 1701," Aoun told Del Col. Highlighting the importance of extending the UNIFIL's mandate during a U.N. Security Council session in New York later this month, Aoun stressed that the “peacekeepers' term and scope of operations should not be modified.”Highlighting the repetitive Israeli violations of international resolutions, Aoun said that "Lebanon is looking forward for the contribution of the UNIFIL to putting an end to the breaches."For his part, Del Col highlighted the importance of coordination between the UNIFIL and the Lebanese army to preserve calm and security in the southern border region.

Foreign Ministry Denies Refusing Kuwaiti Ambassador Accreditation
Naharnet/August 09/18/Lebanon’s Foreign Ministry denied in a statement on Thursday reports published in al-Akhbar daily claiming it rejected the accreditation of a new Kuwaiti ambassador.“The ministry categorically rejects al-Akhbar’s reports published on Thursday, August 9 claiming the Lebanese ministry has rejected accreditation of a new ambassador of fraternal Kuwait,” said the statement. It added: “The State of Kuwait has decided a while ago to extend the term of its current ambassador in Lebanon, Abdul-Al al-Qinai, which is a sovereign right to countries that the Lebanese state has never opposed.” “Kuwaitis and Lebanese people have historic relations rooted in the Arab conscience and stronger than any attempt to undermine them,” it affirmed.

Adwan on Maarab Understanding Says LF ‘Kept its Word’, FPM Should Do Same
Naharnet/August 09/18/MP George Adwan said the Lebanese Forces has kept its word regarding the agreement with the Free Patriotic Movement, urging the latter to “adhere to the (Maarab) accord” which brought President Michel Aoun (FPM founder) to the presidential post. The Lebanese Forces “has implemented an essential part of the Maarab Agreement regarding the presidency, the other party cannot abandon the rest of the accord, it must respect it,” said Adwan of the Lebanese Forces party in remarks he made before the joint parliamentary meeting on Thursday. The 2016 “highly secretive” Agreement was signed by FPM chief Jebran Bassil and LF leader Samir Geagea and led to an inter-Christian reconciliation that paved the way for the election of Aoun as president in Oct. same year. It tackled the May parliamentary elections, the distribution of ministerial portfolios between the two parties and the distribution of the first class jobs. It was brought to public in July by the LF when tension escalated between the two parties. On the delayed Cabinet line-up, Adwan said “we fully back the prime minister-designate and have made many facilitations. The major problem is internal and related to the sizes (of political parties). Another major problem is that the FPM is confusing between its own Cabinet share and that of the president.”The FPM insists the allocation of Cabinet quota separate from that of Aoun, also founder of the FPM.
Hariri was tasked with forming a new government on May 24. His mission is being hampered by political wrangling over shares, especially over Christian and Druze representation.

Russia Blasts 'Unacceptable' New US Sanctions
Agence France PresseNaharnet/August 09/18/
The Kremlin on Thursday branded as "unacceptable" new US sanctions against Russia over its alleged role in a nerve agent attack on a former spy, as the ruble and Russian stocks tumbled. The action by the US State Department is the latest salvo in a series of disputes between the rival powers, and comes less than a month after US President Donald Trump met his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. The State Department said Wednesday the new sanctions were in response to "the use of a 'Novichok' nerve agent in an attempt to assassinate UK citizen Sergei Skripal" -- who was a Russian double agent -- and his daughter Yulia on English soil in March. They are aimed at punishing Putin's government for having "used chemical or biological weapons in violation of international law," spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement. But the punitive measures -- which were welcomed by Britain -- triggered a furious response from Moscow. "We consider categorically unacceptable the linking of new restrictions, which we as before consider illegal, to the case in Salisbury," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists.  However, he added that "Moscow retains hopes of building constructive relations with Washington". The ruble sank to 66.48 against the dollar, its lowest since November 2016, while the Russian stock market index RTS dropped 3.2 percent and the MOEX nearly 1.2 percent at around 0745 GMT, before rebounding slightly. Russian banks were also affected, with shares in state-run Sberbank sliding 4.7 percent.
Threat of wider sanctions -The move could cut off hundreds of millions of dollars worth of exports to Russia, according to another senior State Department official, who requested anonymity in order to speak about the sanctions. The official told reporters that the administration decided to impose a "presumption of denial" for the sale to Russia of "national security sensitive" US technologies that require federal government approval. Such technologies have often been used in items including electronic devices as well as calibration equipment. The exports were previously allowed on a case-by-case basis.
In the event of non-compliance, the official added, a second round of "draconian" sanctions would be given a green light. These could go as far as a ban on Russian airlines using US airports. Shares in Russia's main airline Aeroflot plunged by more than 10 percent but later rebounded. The latest US action follows the Treasury's imposition of sanctions in March against 19 Russian citizens and five entities for interfering in the 2016 US election -- the toughest steps against Moscow since Trump took office. Also in March, Washington ordered the expulsion of 60 Russian diplomats, and the closure of Russia's consulate general in Seattle.Moscow ordered 60 American diplomats expelled in a tit-for-tat response.
- 'Provocative, reckless behaviour' - Britain said it welcomed the US response to the chemical attack in Salisbury, the sleepy English town where the Skripals were poisoned. A spokesman for Prime Minister Theresa May said the sanctions send "an unequivocal message to Russia that its provocative, reckless behaviour will not go unchallenged". "Thank you USA for standing firm with us on this," Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt tweeted. This week, Britain's the Guardian newspaper reported London is preparing to ask Moscow to extradite two Russian citizens suspected of carrying out the Salisbury nerve agent attack.
The Skripals survived the attack but a British couple was poisoned by the same Novichok agent in a nearby town, one of whom, 44-year-old Dawn Sturgess, subsequently died. Moscow has angrily rejected any involvement in the poisoning, plunging diplomatic relations with London into crisis. The Russian economy is still reeling from international sanctions imposed on Moscow in 2014 over its actions in Ukraine and a crash in oil prices the same year. While Russia returned to growth in 2017 after two years of recession, it pales in comparison with growth figures seen during Putin's first two terms in office from 2000 to 2008 thanks to soaring oil prices.

Berri, Hariri meet in Ain el Tineh over government formation
Thu 09 Aug 2018/NNA - Speaker of the House, Nabih Berri, on Thursday welcomed at his Ain el-Tineh residence Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, who came accompanied by Caretaker Culture Minister Ghattas Khoury and former minister Bassem Sabaa. The meeting was also attended by Caretaker Minister of Finance, Ali Hassan Khalil. Discussions reportedly dwelt on the current situation and government formation issue. Following the two-hour meeting, Hariri deemed his meeting with the Speaker as "very positive", relaying Berri's unwavering willingness to provide all needed assistance for government formation. "We are in a difficult economic and regional situation," Hariri said, disclosing that further meeting will be taking place in the coming days for the sake of government formation. He hoped positive outcome would evolve in the coming days in the government formation issue, urging all political sides to think of the country's interests before they think of their political parties' interests. Hariri denied any external interference to prevent the formation of a new government, saying such a delay was an "internal" issue due to shares in the new Cabinet. The PM-designate also stressed that he is trying the hardest to facilitate the birth of the new government, defying claims that he's the one to be blamed for such a delay. In reply to a question, Hariri disclosed that he has asked for Berri's help in the government formation process, stressing that all political sides are working on calming situation. Hariri also indicated that he shall be holding meetings soon with political officials, including with Free Patriotic Movement chief, Gebran Bassil. Earlier during the day, Berri met with the newly appointed UNIFIL Force Commander Maj. Gen. Stefano Del Col, with whom he discussed UNIFIL's work and the current situation in the South. The Speaker also welcomed Australian Ambassador to Lebanon, Glenn Miles, and discussed with him bilateral relations and current developments. Among Berri's itinerant visitors for today had been former Speaker of the Arab Parliament Mohammed Jassim Al-Saqer.

Loyalty to Resistance: Government formation delay risks 'slide toward tension'
Thu 09 Aug 2018/NNA - The "Loyalty to the Resistance" parliamentary bloc on Thursday sounded the alarm on the delayed formation of the new government, warning that further deferment risks dragging the country into tension."The formation process has taken so long and the delay has started to risk sliding toward tension as well as toward acting outside the state institutions; this is a danger we warn of," the bloc said in a statement following its regular meeting, held under the chairmanship of MP Mohammad Raad. "The bloc sees in the government formation the key entrance to ward off that risk and the delay's repercussions," the statement read. Moreover, the bloc highlighted the necessity of "serious cooperation" between the concerned sides regarding the electricity sector. Furthermore, the bloc criticized the "negative approach" to the Lebanese-Syrian ties. "It had become clear that the political contact between the Lebanese and Syrian governments is the mandatory route to address several issues," the statement read. "Any other bet is only a waste of time and opportunities," it concluded.

Sheikh Hamoud's office: We will remain committed to national security

Thu 09 Aug 2018/NNA - The office of Sheikh Maher Hamoud highlighted commitment to preserving national security, in a statement issued in the wake of a scuffle between the sheikh's guards and an Internal Security Forces' patrol in Sidon on Thursday.
"Regardless of the details and in clarification of the truth, we confirm that the mistake was not made by our office guards, but by an ISF officer," the statement read. "We are waiting for the competent authorities to punish him and whoever is involved, in preservation of the ISF mission," it said. "Still, we will remain committed to backing and contributing to national security on all levels," it added.

Ibrahim meets new UNIFIL commander, MP Baarini
Thu 09 Aug 2018/NNA - General Security chief Abbas Ibrahim welcomed on Thursday newly appointed UNIFIL Force Commander Maj. Gen. Stefano Del Col, who came on a courtesy visit. The pair reportedly discussed the current situation along the southern borders.
Ibrhaim wished General Del Col success in his new mission. On the other hand, Ibrahim met with MP Walid Baarini, with whom he discussed the general situation and stringent needs related to the district of Akkar.
Sayegh Blasts 'Indifferent' and 'Merciless' Government Formation Approach Thursday 09th August 2018/Kataeb's Deputy-President Salim Sayegh on Thursday slammed the officials' indifference and recklessness towards the government formation, stressing the need to restore people's confidence in their nation.
"There is an indifferent and merciless approach that the ruling class is adopting, especially when it comes to the government formation," Sayegh said following talks with Maronite Patriarch Bechara Al-Rahi in Diman.

Abu Nader: Centralized Lebanese State Is 'Failed' and 'Ailing' Thursday 09th August 2018/Kataeb leader's top adviser Fouad Abu Nader on Thursday said that the centralized system adopted in Lebanon has proved to be a fiasco, deeming the centralized Lebanese state as "failed and ailing". "Lebanon is made up of several sects. However, we are avoiding the fact that the country is based on sectarian conflicts," Abu Nader said in an interview on OTV. "The day we resolve this issue, it would become easy to put the corrupt to account. Today, the Lebanese are still living in a constant state of fear and anxiety. The fear of the others is preventing the complete merging between the Lebanese," he added. Abu Nader noted that the Kataeb party had fought the parliamentary elections with a one-of-a-kind approach that was based on dealing directly with the people's concerns, adding that the party fought a great battle alone. Abu Nader said that it was MP Samy Gemayel who motivated him to join the Kataeb's ranks again, adding that he chose to return so as to work through a large institution on building a better future for Lebanon.

The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published
on August 09-10/18
Boko Haram militants kill 17 Nigerian soldiers
AFP/August 09/18/KANO: At least 17 Nigerian soldiers were killed in a fresh Boko Haram attack on a military base in the country’s northeast, military sources told AFP Thursday, the third assault on three different bases in less than a month. On Wednesday evening, heavily armed extremists riding in trucks stormed and looted weapons and vehicles from a military base in Garunda village in Borno State, the epicenter of the insurgency that has been raging for nine years. The attack is the latest of a series of bloody Boko Haram assaults on military bases in Nigeria, underscoring the continued threat the extremists pose to the region and putting the spotlight on the Nigerian government’s claim that Boko Haram is “decimated.”“Our troops came under attack from Boko Haram terrorists in Garunda last night,” a military officer told AFP. “Unfortunately we lost 17 troops, 14 others were injured while an unspecified number is still unaccounted for,” said the military source, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak on the incident. The source added that the militants looted weapons and vehicles before fleeing. In the past month, Boko Haram extremists have launched two other major assaults on military bases in the remote northeast region. On July 14, militants suspected to be loyal to Abu Mus’ab Al-Barnawi, who is affiliated with the Daesh group, attacked a base in Jilli village, in neighboring Yobe state. Dozens of troops were killed, wounded or missing, according to several security sources. The army conceded the base was attacked but did not give a death toll, saying that the “troops reorganized and successfully repelled the attack and normalcy has since returned to the area.”On July 26, the extremists stormed a base on the outskirts of Maiduguri, the state capital of Borno state. The base attacked yesterday in Garunda village of Borno state had just been set up for troops from the 81 brigade who had been stationed in Jilli village and forced to move after the July 14 assault. “The truth of the matter is that the troops in Jilli were relocated to Garunda where a new base was established,” said the second military source, who gave a similar death toll. “Troops were just setting up and the excavator operator was working to fortify the base with trenches against attack from the terrorists when the attack happened,” said the officer. The Nigerian army did not respond to requests for comment.
Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) on Thursday confirmed in a statement that a staff member, an excavator operator attached to the military, “was killed by Boko Haram yesterday in Damasak, Borno state.”Boko Haram no longer controls swathes of territory in northeast Nigeria as it did at the height of its insurgency in 2014, yet the militants still pose a threat to the impoverished region.Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has insisted that the extremists are a spent force as he gears up for elections next year. In an interview with Nigerian press published on Thursday, Buhari’s information minister Lai Mohammed said “we promised to fight insecurity...despite what anybody says, we have decimated Boko Haram.”Six months away from presidential polls, Buhari is under pressure to defend his track record as he battles insecurity across Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country.
Canada PM Does Not Back Down on Rights Defense in Saudi Spat
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 09/18/Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday refused to apologize for calling out Saudi Arabia on its human rights record, after Riyadh said it was considering further punitive measures against Ottawa over its criticisms of the kingdom. Tensions have been high between the two countries since Monday, when Riyadh expelled Canada's ambassador, recalled its own envoy and froze all new trade and investments. Riyadh also said it will relocate thousands of Saudi students studying in Canada to other countries, while state airline Saudia announced it was suspending flights to Toronto. The kingdom was angry at Ottawa for openly denouncing a crackdown on rights activists in Saudi Arabia. But on Wednesday, Trudeau stood firm. "Canada will always speak strongly and clearly in private and in public on questions of human rights," he said. "We do not wish to have poor relations with Saudi Arabia," he added, saying Ottawa recognizes that Riyadh "has made progress when it comes to human rights."Trudeau noted that his foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, had "a long conversation" on Tuesday with her counterpart Adel al-Jubeir to try to resolve the dispute. "Diplomatic talks continue," he said. On Wednesday, Saudi state media said the kingdom has nevertheless also stopped all medical treatment programs in Canada and was working on transferring all Saudi patients there to other countries. Further straining ties, the Saudi central bank has instructed its overseas asset managers to dispose of their Canadian equities, bonds and cash holdings "no matter the cost," the Financial Times reported. But in an apparent effort to safeguard its economic interests, Saudi energy minister Khalid al-Falih said the dispute will not affect state oil giant Aramco's clients in Canada. Saudi oil supplies are independent of political considerations, Falih was quoted as saying by state media. - 'Matter of national security' -Last week, Canada sparked fury in Riyadh by calling for the "immediate release" of rights campaigners, including award-winning women's rights activist Samar Badawi, the sister of jailed blogger Raif Badawi. That arrest came after more than a dozen women's rights campaigners were detained and accused of undermining national security and collaborating with enemies of the state. When asked about the jailed activists, Jubeir on Wednesday reiterated the government's stance that they had been in contact with foreign entities, but did not specify the charges against them. "The matter is not about human rights, it is a matter of national security," Jubeir told reporters. "Saudi Arabia does not interfere in the affairs of Canada in any way. Therefore, Canada must correct its actions towards the kingdom."Jubeir ruled out mediation as a way to put an end to the row. "There is nothing to mediate," he said. "Canada made a big mistake... and a mistake should be corrected."Jubeir added that Saudi Arabia was "considering additional measures" against Canada, without elaborating. Experts have said the Saudi move illustrates how the oil-rich kingdom is increasingly seeking to use its economic and diplomatic muscle to quell foreign criticism under its young de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. In Canada, there was disappointment that major Western powers including the United States -- a key ally of Saudi Arabia -- have not publicly come out in support of Canada, though it is not the first country to be targeted for speaking up. In March 2015, Saudi Arabia recalled its ambassador from Stockholm over criticism by the Swedish foreign minister of Riyadh's human rights record. Earlier this year, Bloomberg News reported that Saudi Arabia was scaling back its dealings with some German companies amid a diplomatic spat with Berlin. The move came after Germany's foreign minister last November remarked that Lebanon was a "pawn" of Saudi Arabia after the surprise resignation of its Prime Minister Saad Hariri while in Riyadh.

Saudi patients in Canada transferred to the US

Arab News/August 09/18/JEDDAH: All Saudi patients receiving medical care in Canada have been transferred to the United States to continue their treatment, the Kingdom’s ambassador the country said on Thursday. Naif bin Bandar Al-Sudairi said there were “not that many” Saudi citizens affected. Speaking from Riyadh, the ambassador told Al-Arabiya News Channel, that the Saudi embassy is offering all the necessary assistance to its citizens, and will be taking all necessary measures that protect their interests. The ambassador was recalled from Ottawa and his Canadian counterpart ordered to leave the Kingdom in a dispute that erupted earlier this week. Saudi Arabia accused Canada of interfering in its internal affairs after the Canadian foreign ministry tweeted that the Kingdom should release detained “civil society activists.” Saudi Arabia has halted all new investments, cut flights and arranged for Saudi patients and students in the country to be moved elsewhere. When asked about Saudi students on scholarships in Canada who are about to finish their studies and graduate, specifically those enrolled in medical schools, the ambassador said there are no exceptions “so far” to the decision. The ambassador noted that it will be considering “exceptional cases” among the Saudi scholarship students “in the future”, noting that the embassy is keen to do all it can to protect the benefits of its citizens. He said even those students studying on their own expense have decided to leave “as per their own will” because they also do not accept the Canadian stance towards the Kingdom.
Iraq PM Says will Abide by US Sanctions on Iran, President Raises Doubts
Baghdad - Hamza Mustafa/Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 9 August, 2018/Iraq’s partisan and official positions on how to deal with US sanctions on Iran clashed as President Fuad Masum declared it ‘difficult’ for Baghdad to comply with the first wave of Washington-imposed economic sanctions against Tehran, but Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi affirmed his commitment. “In principle, we are against imposing sanctions on the people. Iraq paid a steep price for unjust sanctions imposed 13 years ago to weaken the former regime, and it led to the disruption of our people and destroyed the Iraqi social fabric,” Abadi told a press conference on Tuesday evening. He added that previous sanctions only empowered the former regime to implement the worst repressive policies against the people. Based on first-hand experience, Abadi said that although Iraq will abide by the sanctions, it does not support them. “We will abide by them not to direct Iraqis into harm’s way and to protect our people, we cannot depart from the international system and world economy, and we cannot harm the interests of our people.”On the other hand, Masum said in a televised statement that the circumstances of Iraq and the nature of its relations with Iran make it difficult for it to abide by the anti-Tehran sanctions. “Iraq must not be with one party against another in the current conflicts,” he said. As for what appears to be a contradiction in positions, Iraqi presidential adviser Sherwan al-Waeli told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the president and the prime minister reject the principle of sanctions because it does not punish regimes as much as it does the people.” “Iraq has already suffered from sanctions imposed against its former ruling regime, which left a severe impact on Iraqis, yet did not weaken the regime in any way.”“The special conditions which apply when it comes to a relationship joining two neighboring countries such as Iraq and Iran is well known, and the United States must understand,” he said. “While the prime minister stressed that Iraq, despite the refusal, will abide, he wants to show that national interests come first.”
“This is not the first time that the US has imposed sanctions on Iran, but in terms of the degree of Iraq's commitment to them, there is something that is absolutely binding and is related to dollar and euro bound remittances,” Iraqi economist Dr. Majid al-Suri told Asharq Al-Awsat. “But what cannot be controlled is dollar-free trade exchange between the two countries which is conducted away from bank regulations,” he added. Suri went on to say that the Iraqi-Iranian border is long and porous, in an explanation that at times trade flow between the two countries can go unmonitored by authorities.
Syrian Troops Shell Idlib to Pave Way for Assault, Monitor Says
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 09/18/Syrian regime forces shelled rebel and jihadist positions in the northwestern province of Idlib on Thursday, a monitor said, as reinforcements arrived ahead of an expected assault. The province is the largest piece of territory still in rebel hands, and President Bashar al-Assad has warned it would be his military's next priority. On Thursday morning, artillery and rocket fire slammed into territory around Jisr al-Shughur, a key town in the southwestern part of the province, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. "The shelling is in preparation for an assault but there has been no ground advance yet," said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman. "Regime reinforcements including equipment, soldiers, vehicles and ammunition have been arriving since Tuesday," he told AFP. They were being distributed along three regime-held fronts, including in neighbouring Latakia province just west of Jisr al-Shughur, in the Sahl al-Ghab plain that lies south of Idlib, and in a sliver of the province's southeast that is already in government hands. The Al-Watan daily, which is close to the government, also reported on Thursday that army troops had bombed rebel and jihadist positions in the area. Idlib, which has escaped regime control since 2015, lies along the border with Turkey but is otherwise nearly completely surrounded by government-held territory. Around 60 percent of it is now held by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), which is led by Al-Qaeda's former Syria affiliate, while the rest is controlled by rival opposition factions. Syrian troops have recaptured key swathes of the country in recent months with help from ally Russia, which has brokered a string of surrender deals with rebels. Apparently fearing a similar arrangement for Idlib, HTS has been arresting dozens of figures in the province that have been go-betweens with the regime. Early Thursday, the group detained several such figures from villages in Idlib's southeast, calling them "chiefs of treason," according to an HTS-linked media agency. The Britain-based Observatory, which relies on a network of sources inside Syria, said it had documented more than 100 such arrests by HTS and rival forces this week alone. Idlib province is home to around 2.5 million people, including rebels and civilians transferred en masse from other territory that fell to Syrian troops after intense assaults.

Syria Kurds Face Tough Talks to Preserve Autonomy

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 09/18/Syria's Kurdish minority, hailed as an indispensable Western ally during the war against the Islamic State group, faces hard bargaining with Damascus to save its hard-won autonomy. Early last year, President Bashar al-Assad's government held just 17 percent of Syrian territory and was unable to do anything about the autonomous institutions the Kurds have set up in areas under their control. But a succession of Russian-backed victories over the jihadists and a range of rebel factions has transformed the balance of power. Assad's government now controls nearly two-thirds of Syria and is determined to reassert its authority over Kurdish-held territory which forms the lion's share of the rest. Recognising their weakened position, Kurdish leaders and their supporters last month opened talks with Damascus, desperate to salvage what they can of the institutions they painstakingly built over the years. "We are trying to preserve everything we built in terms of the autonomous system, the institutions, the democracy," said leading Kurdish figure Saleh Muslim. "But there's a mentality that won't accept this right away, so it has to happen gradually," Muslim told AFP.
Before the start of Syria's civil war in 2011, the Kurds were an oppressed minority in what was effectively a one-party state with an Arab nationalist ideology that had no tolerance for Kurdish traditions or the Kurdish language. Hundreds of thousands did not even have Syrian citizenship. But after government troops withdrew from Kurdish-majority areas in 2012, local authorities began forming their own security forces and institutions, including a Kurdish-language school curriculum. Trying to reconcile those institutions with the system in force in government-held areas will be a formidable task. "Syria will not go back to what it was. There needs to be decentralised democracy," Muslim said. "We have our project, which we believe will be a model for all of Syria -- and we're holding onto it." - 'Everything recalculated' -In late July, Damascus hosted the first round of talks with the Kurdish administration. Joint committees were formed to discuss economic issues, politics, military affairs and public services. The ultimate goal was "drawing a roadmap that leads to a decentralised Syria," says the political arm of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the Kurdish-led alliance which Washington backed against IS.
Between them, the SDF and its allies control around 30 percent of Syria, including several of its largest oil fields. "The government and Kurdish-led SDF are the two players that control the vast majority of Syrian land," said Mutlu Civiroglu, an analyst in Kurdish affairs.  "One way or another, these two forces will find a solution. Either they fight, or they do it peacefully."The Kurds are ready to negotiate because of President Donald Trump's repeated pledges to end the US troop presence in northern Syria that has been their principal protection. In late May, Assad gave the Kurds a stark choice, warning that if talks fail, "we're going to resort... to liberating those areas by force." Nonetheless, the Kurds feel they have a strong negotiating position. "We had never been part of the equation, but today, everything has been recalculated... We will defend what we established," Muslim said.
- 'Red line' -As momentum builds, the talks' main stumbling block remains how much power Damascus will have over areas that have been under Kurdish administration for as many as six years. Other points of contention include whether to retain Kurdish-language education in the north and the fate of the SDF and other Kurdish armed groups. "They are not going to agree to go back to the old days. This is the red line from the Kurdish point of view," Civiroglu said. Ilham Ahmad, who headed the Kurdish delegation to Damascus last month, told AFP self-rule was one of "the things we won from fighting Daesh (IS) and confronting tyranny."But the central government will not relinquish control over nearly one-third of its territory so easily, and wants state institutions to return in force. "The Syrian state will not accept an autonomous administration," said Damascus-based analyst Bassam Abou Abdallah. Instead, the Kurds should content themselves with the provisions of an as yet unimplemented law granting more powers and responsibilities to municipalities, he told AFP. Abou Abdallah said Syrian Kurdish armed groups would eventually be "dismantled." The head of the SDF delegation denied the subject was even discussed. With such entrenched opposing views, the talks are likely be drawn out, said Haid Haid, of London-based think tank Chatham House. "Emboldened by its recent military gains, the regime appears more determined than ever to prevent the establishment of parallel centres of authority in Syria," Haid recently wrote. "The huge gap between what the two sides are trying to achieve makes it difficult to imagine they will be able to reach a substantive agreement any time soon."

Iranian Opposition Group Reveals Details of Paris Bomb Plot against it
Brussels – Abdullah Mustafa/Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 9 August, 2018/The Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) revealed on Wednesday the details of the failed plot to bomb its conference in late June. Chairman of the NCRI’s Foreign Affairs Committee Mohammad Mohaddesin told a press conference in Brussels that the opposition group had identified three of the suspects involved in the plot, which he said was ordered by the Iranian regime. The purpose of his press conference was to highlight the role of the regime in planning terrorist attacks, he stressed. Two of the suspects, married couple Amir Saadouni, 38, and Nasimeh Naamani, 34, were arrested in Belgium. They claimed to be supporters of the NCRI and attempted to infiltrate its ranks, said Mohaddesin. Naamani had traveled from Belgium to Iran in 2009 where she married Saadouni. Saadouni had secretly traveled to Iran on July 2. Mohaddesin identified the third suspect as Assadollah Assadi, 46, the chief of Iranian intelligence in the Iranian embassy in Vienna. He was appointed to the embassy in 2014 under the position of “third secretary.”Assadi gave the final order to the terrorists to carry out their attack against the NCRI in June, he added. The attack was plotted months ago by Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei, President Hassan Rouhani, Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, head of intelligence, chief of the national security council, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps and its Quds Force and Khamanei’s political and security affairs deputy, said Mohaddesin. The Iranian intelligence ministry tasked Assadi with carrying out the plot, he added. The intelligence and security center in Vienna has been transformed into the coordinator of intelligence and security in Europe, he charged. The plotters were planning on bombing an NCRI meeting that was held on June 30 in Villepinte, a Paris suburb. US President Donald Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani and several former European and Arab ministers attended the meeting. Six people, including the Iranian diplomat, were arrested for the crime.

Colombia Recognizes Palestine as Sovereign State, New Government to Review Decision

Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 9 August, 2018/Colombia recognized Palestine as a sovereign state in the last days of former President Juan Manuel Santos’ administration, according to a letter from the foreign ministry made public on Wednesday. "I would like to inform you that in the name of the government of Colombia, President Juan Manuel Santos has decided to recognize Palestine as a free, independent and sovereign state," said the letter dated August 3. However, Colombia’s new government said it would review the decision in accordance with international law and good diplomatic practice. “Given possible omissions that could come to light about the way in which this decision was taken by the outgoing president, the government will cautiously examine its implications and will act according to international law,” new Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes said in a statement. "It is a priority for this government to maintain cooperative relations with its allies and friends, and to contribute to international peace and security," Holmes added in another statement. Before the announcement, Colombia had been one of only two countries in the region, along with Panama, not to recognize Palestinian statehood, AFP reported. The Palestinian mission in Bogota told AFP that they were told of the decision last Friday. It welcomed the move by Bogota as evidence of "profound efforts to reach a rapprochement."“We thank the Colombian government for this decision and we are sure that it will contribute significantly to generating the necessary conditions in the search for peace in the Middle East,” the Palestine representative said in a statement on Wednesday. For its part, the Israeli embassy in Bogota said it was surprised and disappointed, according to Reuters. “We ask the Colombian government to reverse the decision made by the previous administration in its last days, which contravenes the close relations, extensive cooperation in vital areas and interests of both countries,” it said in a statement posted to its Twitter account.

5 Australians Lose Citizenship over ISIS Involvement in Iraq, Syria
Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 9 August, 2018/Five Australians have been stripped of their citizenship for fighting alongside ISIS in Iraq and Syria, with officials saying Thursday the country was a better place without them. They join notorious ISIS militant Khaled Sharrouf -- who made headlines in 2014 when he posted a Twitter image of his young son holding a severed head of a soldier -- as the only nationals to be kicked out under tougher anti-terror laws."I can confirm that five more individuals have ceased to be Australian citizens because of their involvement with ISIS offshore," home affairs minister Peter Dutton said in a statement. "Fundamentally, citizenship requires allegiance to this country... these five dual-nationals have been acting against Australia's interests by engaging with terrorism and have effectively chosen to leave the Australian community." The five are all aged in their 20s and 30s. Dutton provided no further details on their identities but welcomed their exclusion. "Australia is a safer place for not having them return," he said. Canberra has become increasingly concerned about Australian nationals returning home after fighting alongside the extremist group abroad and has passed a series of tougher national security laws in recent years. That includes legislation where people can forfeit their citizenship if they also hold a passport from another country, and therefore are not left stateless. Sharrouf, the first Australian national stripped of his passport for terror links, was also a Lebanese citizen. He left Australia for Syria in 2013 with his family. His Australian wife Tara Nettleton, who went with him, has since died and Sharrouf was believed to have been killed in a drone strike in Iraq in 2015. Later media reports cast doubt on whether he was dead. The fate of their five children remains unknown.
Saudi-Led Coalition Claims Deadly Yemen Attack
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 09/18/A Saudi-led coalition battling in Yemen said it carried out a deadly attack in the rebel-held north on Thursday, which the Red Cross said hit a bus carrying children. In a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency, the coalition called the strike a "legitimate military action" that targeted elements responsible for a rebel missile attack on the Saudi city of Jizan on Wednesday. The coalition did not specify the target, but the International Committee of the Red Cross said the attack hit a bus filled with children, causing dozens of casualties. "Following an attack this morning on a bus driving children in Dahyan Market, northern Saada, (an ICRC-supported) hospital has received dozens of dead and wounded," the organisation said on Twitter without giving more details. "Under international humanitarian law, civilians must be protected during conflict," it added. The Huthi rebels' Al-Masirah TV reported that 39 people had been killed and 51 wounded, "mostly children". The UN children's agency UNICEF said it was "very concerned with the initial reports of children being killed". The coalition, which also includes the United Arab Emirates, intervened in 2015 to try to restore the internationally recognised government after the rebels drove it out of the capital Sanaa. Saudi Arabia shot down a missile fired by the Huthis on Wednesday, with debris killing a Yemeni man and wounding 11 others, the coalition said. The missile was fired from the rebel-held Yemeni province of Amran towards Jizan, the coalition said. Last Thursday, attacks on a hospital and a fish market in the strategic rebel-held port city of Hodeida killed at least 55 civilians and wounded 170, according to the ICRC. The coalition denied responsibility for those attacks.
UN Plans Talks on Western Sahara before End of 2018
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 09/18/The UN envoy for Western Sahara is planning to convene talks before the end of the year between Morocco and the Algerian-backed Polisario Front on ending their decades-old conflict, the Security Council president said Wednesday. Horst Koehler, a former German president and ex-director of the International Monetary Fund, briefed the council behind closed doors on his efforts to restart talks after a 10-year break. "There is a lot of support from the council for his approach and for his proposal to see if he can try to bring the parties together by the end of the year," said British Deputy Ambassador Jonathan Allen, whose country holds the council presidency this month. Koehler will be holding consultations with "all the parties involved" on "modalities, format and everything else," Allen told reporters after the meeting. Morocco and the Polisario Front fought for control of Western Sahara from 1975 to 1991. Diplomatic efforts to end the conflict have been deadlocked since the last round of UN-sponsored talks in 2008. Morocco maintains that negotiations on a settlement should focus on its proposal for autonomy for Western Sahara and rejects the Polisario's insistence on an independence referendum. The Security Council in April approved a US-drafted resolution that urged Morocco and the Polisario to prepare for talks, setting a six-month deadline for action. A council diplomat, who spoke on background, said the envoy was hoping to send invitations in September to the parties to attend talks -- before the deadline expires in October. A settlement in Western Sahara would allow the UN peacekeeping mission there, known as MINURSO, to end its mission at a time when the United States is seeking to reduce the cost of peace operations.
Rape-accused Tariq Ramadan loses latest bid to be freed from French jail
AFP/August 09, 2018/PARIS: An appeals court in Paris has upheld a decision by judges to keep Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan in jail while he is being investigated on rape charges brought by two women, a legal source told AFP on Thursday. Lawyers for Ramadan had requested his release last month after unsuccessfully trying to have the charges dropped over discrepancies in testimony given by one of the women. Ramadan, who took leave from his post at Oxford University after the allegations surfaced, has also complained that his imprisonment has made it more difficult for him to receive treatment for multiple sclerosis. But the appeals court upheld his detention on Wednesday, considering Ramadan, who holds Swiss citizenship, is a flight risk despite his offer to surrender his passport and post €300,000 ($350,000) in bail. Investigative magistrates had already denied several requests for his release. Ramadan, whose grandfather founded Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood movement, has been held since February on charges that he raped two women in France in two separate incidents. His accusers came forward in October in the wake of the “Me Too” campaign which began after several women accused Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault, prompting women worldwide to share accounts about sexual attack and harassment. Ramadan, a married father of four who is one of European Islam’s best-known figures, has denied any sexual relations with the two women, saying he met with each of them only once and in public places. He has denounced the accusations as part of a smear campaign by his critics. His first accuser, Henda Ayari, who was questioned by judges last month in Ramadan’s presence, had originally said that he raped her at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Paris on May 26, 2012. But investigators later determined she was attending her brother-in-law’s wedding that day in Rouen, northern France. Ayari subsequently admitted she could not remember the exact date. On September 18, Ramadan will be questioned in the presence of his second accuser, a disabled woman identified as “Christelle” who claims he raped and beat her in a hotel in the southeastern city of Lyon in 2009. French investigators are also looking into rape claims made by a third woman with whom he has admitted to having had an affair. Those allegations have not yet let to charges. In Switzerland, a Swiss woman has also filed a complaint against Ramadan.

Israel’s cabinet decides against a new Gaza campaign to halt Hamas rocket aggression

DebkaFile/August 09/18
After 250 rockets from Gaza hit Israeli locations, one a heavy Grad, Israel’s security cabinet meeting Thursday, Aug. 9, directed the IDF to continue to pursue “powerful action against terrorist forces.” This was tantamount to a decision against a major Israeli military campaign against Hamas at this time, while instead carrying on with tit-for-tat air strikes as before, and leaving the targeted communities to their despair. Some 19 people were injured in the last two days. Hamas is therefore still allowed to call the shots, exactly as it has done in the last four months, while inflicting in Israel diverse brands of terror. It is still up to Hamas to decide whether to stop shooting rockets at Israel or continue the barrage ongoing for two days, as well as determining the level of its retaliation for Israeli reprisals.
Therefore, after an Israel air strike demolished the five-story Hamas internal security building in the Gaza City’s Rimal district – in return for the first Grad fired on Beersheba, a major city in southern Israel, in four years, Hamas is expected to ratchet up its rocket fire on Israeli civilian locations in the coming hours and days. Israel forewarned residents of the Rimal district of the bombardment. The building was therefore empty of Hamas officials, a repeat of the “knock on roof” tactic the Israeli Air Force used in the past to avert collateral civilian casualties in counter-terror attacks.
This practice is an element in the IDF-Hamas duel which has its own strange rules. In the heat of Wednesday’s rocket barrage, Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gady Eisenkot stated that the IDF “is better prepared than it has been in the past decades.” Prepared for what? No answer was forthcoming from the cabinet the next day. In the general’s judgment, Hamas has still not broken those unwritten rules. He therefore persuaded the prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman to hold back from approving a full-scale campaign to halt Hamas’ nagging violence once and for all.
Realizing that this stance will offend the popular will, in the sight of the suffering of the targeted population of southwestern Israel, both have not been seen or heard in public for some days. Meanwhile, they are hoping against hope that something may come of the long term truce mediation effort conducted by the UN emissary and Egypt, although realistic chances of this are practically nil.

The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on August 09-10/18
Ottawa mosque loses charity status for promoting ‘hate and intolerance’
By Stewart Bell National Online Journalist, Investigative/Global News

US Was Right to Give China’s Navy the Boot
James Stavridis/Bloomberg/August 09/18
The vast annual military operation known as the Rim of the Pacific Exercise (simply RIMPAC in Pentagon jargon) just concluded on the beaches of Southern California with a huge demonstration of an amphibious assault, which involves sending troops ashore from warships at sea — a highly complex maneuver whether D-Day or present day.
The exercise is held every two years all over the Pacific Basin, and is the largest international maritime exercise in the world. It is globally regarded by naval officers as the Olympic Games of naval power. Run by the US Pacific Fleet, which is headquartered in Pearl Harbor, it normally includes warships and troops from every branch of the U.S. armed forces, and those of than 20 foreign nations.
As a junior officer, I participated in several of these huge war games, and found them profoundly important for national security. They have been held since the early 1970s, and include nations not only from the Western Pacific rim — Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Brunei, Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore and so on — but also from the Pacific coast of South America, including Mexico, Peru, Chile and Colombia.
India, an emerging maritime power, had a significant operational role for the first time this year. Several European allies with interests in the Pacific, including the UK, France and Germany, also send ships. Israel sends a small staff contingent.
Some wags would say that the most important business is done at the big cocktail parties, and that the most dangerous moments are the photo shoots at sea (where the huge fleets come together undertaking very precise and scary formations, with the added degree-of-difficulty of challenging language barriers).
But in truth, RIMPAC is an incredibly important opportunity to for allies together to practice complex maneuvers: amphibious landings, long-range aircraft strikes, counterpiracy, antisubmarine warfare, counterterrorism, anti-air missile shoots, and humanitarian responses to large natural disasters.
It is also, above all, a visible signal of the most important militaries of the vast Pacific Basin being willing to share training, tactics and technology. With some 50 ships from a couple of dozen nations sharing and learning from each other, the opportunities to improve warfighting capability are rich. We are able to exercise our powerful tactical ballistic-missile submarines, which can launch Tomahawk missiles. And through exercises like this we can also find the best way to operate our new Littoral Combat Ships — frigate-sized warships capable of working in relatively shallow seas — in tight regional conflict.
But this year, in a break with recent tradition, China was “disinvited” in May because of its militarization of a variety of artificial islands in the volatile South China sea, where it is sending troops and setting up combat-aircraft, runways and missile systems. There was also a distinct undercurrent of opposition to China’s presence by the Donald Trump administration, which sensibly criticizes Beijing for trade practices and theft of intellectual property.
While I’ve repeatedly criticized Trump for his dealings with allies and foes, cutting Beijing “out of the pattern” this year was the right decision. It deprived China of not only the chance to observe and learn about allied naval practices, but also of the prestige of engaging with the top navies in the world. The increasing involvement of India — the obvious strategic counterweight to China — as well as this year’s addition of Vietnam — a growing naval actor deeply concerned about Chinese dominance in the South China Sea — sends a powerful signal. All of this underlines how important military exercises are to our ability project power; maintain sea control (and therefore ensure shipping lanes around the world remain open); and exert influence on allies, friends and partners. It also shows why Trump’s decision to stop U.S. military exercises with South Korea — in return for a few vague promises from North Korea — is a bad idea.
Such military exercises have three principal functions, and RIMPAC is at the top level of such events: First, they provide a strategic context to our overall policies in a given region, and no region is probably more critical than the Western Pacific. This is all the more vital because the Trump administration made a significant mistake by pulling out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Leaving aside the economic issues attendant to that call, it was a major geopolitical foot fault. We can mitigate some of the damage that decision inflicted on our leadership role in the region by conducting robust, meaningful exercises like RIMPAC — while excluding China.
Second, warfighting “practice sessions” give us real insight into not just allied military capabilities, but also those of adversaries. They help reveal the surveillance and intelligence-gathering abilities of opponents like China: how capable they are and what their evaluation of us is all about. That is prime-grade intelligence.
Third and finally, RIMPAC is a “carrot” that over time may be applied to China. If we are to avoid the Thucydides Trap, which holds that war between the dominant power and a rising rival is inevitable — we will need a strategy over time to offer China opportunities to be included in meaningful security cooperation. Perhaps we missed such a chance with Russia at the end of the Cold War, possibly leading to Vladimir Putin’s adventurism today. If we can dissuade Beijing from continuing unacceptable behavior in cyber, the South China Sea and intellectual property theft, the situation may become less fraught in the long throw.
Overall, this year’s exercises were a resounding strategic success, and a tactical treasure trove of information. We should continue to exclude China, hold our opponents close, add new partners, and make inclusion in RIMPAC something that Beijing so wants to be part of it will change its ways.

Iranian diplomat accused of running web of spies across Europe
دبلوماسي إيراني متهم بإدارة موقع ألكتروني للتجسس في كل أوروبا

Damien McElroy/The National/August 09/19
Iran's diplomats operate an espionage network that plots assassinations and procures parts for its missiles at the heart of Europe
Iran is running a wide-ranging espionage network across Europe with the aim of procuring technology to boost the country’s missile arsenal, disrupt opposition groups and carry out targeted assassinations, intelligence reports and opposition groups have disclosed.
Opposition sources revealed on Wednesday that Asdollah Assadi, the Iranian diplomat arrested in Germany in June for orchestrating a bomb plot against an opposition rally in Paris, headed the Tehran-run European-wide network.
Assadi remains in detention in Germany pending an extradition request from Belgium where the alleged bombers were intercepted.
Activists said the decision to authorise the attack in Paris was taken by Tehran’s Supreme National Security Council in January this year and that the head of Foreign Intelligence and Movements in the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS), Reza Amiri Moghadam passed control of the plot to Assadi in March.
Half-a-kilo of home-made explosives TATP and a detonator was seized from the car of a married couple who were identified as being residents in the Belgian city of Antwerp. Another alleged facilitator of the plot was arrested and extradited from France to face trial.
Among those who attended the rally of the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) on June 30 was Rudy Guiliani, the ex-New York mayor who now serves as Donald Trump’s lawyer, and the former prime minister Stephen Harper of Canada. Some of the politicians who were at the event at Villepinte outside Paris now plan to join the trial as civil complainants, the NCRI said.
German domestic intelligence reports reviewed by The National have revealed Iranian agents are active throughout the country. At least four of the country’s 16 states reported missile proliferation activity by Iranian agents.
The provincial report on foreign espionage in Baden-Württemberg state in 2017 said Iran was actively attempting to penetrate its scientific and military institutions. “The focal points of the current Iranian proliferation-related activities is in the acquisition of vacuum and control technology, measuring instruments and other equipment,” the report seen by The National said.
The intelligence bureau said the focus of Iranian activity appeared to have shifted after the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) from nuclear proliferation to rocket and missile technology. The report noted the rapid expansion of Iran’s missile arsenal and the increasing range of its weapons.
“Iran continues its ambitious expansion in rocket and carrier technology, areas that are not included in the agreements. Iran reported in an official statement on September 23, 2017, the successful test of the medium-range rocket, Khorramshahr 12, and thus the country now has at least three missile types with ranges up to 2,000 km.”
Officials in Hamburg also noted the challenge posed by the “ambitious Iranian programme to modernise its missile technology with the aim of further increasing the range”.
While the reports uniformly state Iran is in compliance with the JCPOA, it is unclear how much of the activity identified is prohibited under international sanctions or Germany’s own security laws.
“The reports confirm that Iran has not stopped proliferation activity even if there may have been a significant decrease in illicit nuclear attempts,” said Benjamin Weinthal, a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “There must be questions over whether Germany has reported these to the UN committees overseeing both the nuclear deal and rocket development work.”
Meanwhile, seven of the states also reported cyber-attack activity on a significant scale by Iran and six said they were tracking Iranian involvement in Hizbollah networks within their territory. These Hizbollah groups were described as instruments of Iranian governance and influence.
The state of North Rhine-Westphalia identified arms procurement activities and recruitment by Hizbollah as issues for the security services. “Germany represents, for the organisation, an operating room, which is dedicated to logistical support services and the generation of finances as well as the recruitment of new members,” its 2017 report said. “For Germany, this would confirm that the possibility of attacks by Hizbollah in the European space are possible.”
A diplomat formerly based at Iran’s Baghdad embassy in post-Saddam Hussein Iraq, Assadi arrived in Vienna just as the station emerged as the “nerve-centre” of Iran’s European spy network, according to the NCRI report.
“The station of the MOIS in Vienna, located on the third floor of the embassy, is the headquarters and the coordinator of the MOIS stations and agents in Europe,” the group said. “According to statements of various officials of the regime, the government of Austria and the Iranian regime have extensive, yet low profile relations. This has created a very suitable situation for setting up the main station of the MOIS in Europe.”
It also named the heads of other stations in Berlin and Paris, claiming these were among the “most important” outposts under the supervision of the Vienna bureau.
At a press conference in Brussels on Wednesday, Mohammad Mohaddessin, chairman of the NCRI’s Foreign Affairs Committee said that Iran resumed active terror operations in Europe in 2016.
Iran has rejected the allegations of a plot, claiming the incident was staged to disrupt President Hassan Rouhani’s trip to Switzerland and Austria, which was ongoing as the events unfurled. It has demanded Assadi’s diplomatic immunity be recognised and the third secretary is allowed to return to his post at the embassy. German prosecutors have, however, concluded that Assadi is linked to the MOIS and its efforts to “observe and combat” opposition groups.
According to a report titled Iran’s Deadly Diplomats in the August publication of West Point's Combating Terrorism Centre Sentinel journal published Wednesday, Tehran has increasing used diplomatic cover to carry out assassinations and other terror plots in Europe.
It said two Iranian diplomats were expelled from the Netherlands in June after the assassination of Iranian Arab activist. Albania arrested two Iranian officials in March for allegedly carrying out surveillance on exiles Nowruz (New Year celebrations). There were also police raids on Iranian operatives in Germany in January.
“The Assadi arrest is therefore just the most recent alleged example of Iranian state-sponsored terrorism in which Tehran uses visiting government officials or accredited diplomats to plot,” it said.

Iranian regime is getting richer, at the expense of the poor
النظام الإيراني يزداد ثراءً على حساب الفقراء من الشعب الإيراني

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/August 09/18
The latest large-scale protests in several Iranian cities have created a significant challenge to Iran’s ruling political establishment. The protests are not isolated events but a continuation of the widespread anti-government movement that began in late 2017. The most recent protests broke out not only in small towns and cities, but also in the major hubs of Tehran, Isfahan, Karaj, Shiraz, Rasht, Khuzestan and Tabriz.
One of the key grievances of the demonstrators is economic inequality and financial hardship. Many protesters have been taking to the streets to express their frustration, anger and outrage over the ongoing financial crisis, which is caused by the high unemployment rate, skyrocketing inflation, and the rapid devaluation of the currency.
But why would a wealthy country like Iran be afflicted with such economic misery? It is worth noting that Iran is one of the richest countries in the world when it comes to natural resources and commodities. In fact, by having approximately $27.3 trillion in natural resources, Iran is ranked fifth in the world, ahead of China and Australia and only behind Canada, the US, Saudi Arabia and Russia.
The nation has the world’s second and fourth largest gas and oil reserves respectively. Iran has roughly one-sixth of the world’s gas reserves with a value of nearly $12 trillion, and one-tenth of the world’s oil reserves worth almost $17 trillion. Iran is the 18th largest country in the world when it comes to purchasing power parity. In addition, the country is considered the largest car manufacturer in the Middle East.
It is worth noting that Iran is one of the richest countries in the world when it comes to natural resources and commodities
In fact, enriched with a plentitude of natural resources and commodities, Iran has the potential to become one of the 11 largest economies in the world, according to Goldman Sachs investment banker and economist Jim O’Neill. Even the Iranian leaders, including President Hassan Rouhani, have acknowledged this fact.
When Rouhani came to power, he promised to improve the economy and people’s living standards. Instead, the economic situation has deteriorated exponentially. Rouhani is not the first mullah to make such failed economic promises. In fact, in order to gain and maintain power, the regime itself is based on the concept of making deceitful economic promises to its citizens.
For example, when the ruling mullahs sought to grasp more power in 1979, they made several promises to the nation. When the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini returned to Tehran from Paris, he famously promised to bring “oil to the people’s tables,” meaning that the money from the nation’s oil exports would be distributed among the people. He also pledged that no one would have to pay for water and electricity in the country. The tape of Khomeini’s famous speech was banned after he assumed power.
This brings us to the million dollar question: Where is the nation’s wealth? The country is plagued with a stark rich-poor divide. There exists no robust socio-economic class, which can be identified as the middle class.
While the ruling politicians, those who are connected with them, and the regime’s loyalists are getting richer, the ordinary people are becoming poorer. For example, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who is the second longest-ruling autocrat in the Middle East, gained most of his wealth after 1979. His financial empire is currently proven to be worth at least $95 billion; not only does this make him the richest autocrat Iran has ever had, but most likely the richest man in the world. Leaked reports have also revealed that Khamenei, his son Mojtaba and other family members allegedly keep billions of dollars in foreign banks.
Through nepotism, corruption, connections and illicit financial activities such as insider trading and disruption of the market, some officials and their families and friends have accumulated significant wealth, while millions of ordinary people cannot make ends meet. In fact, after the Iranian regime was granted significant sanctions relief and benefited from a rise in oil exports thanks to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, not only did the Iranian people not experience the fruits of the sanctions’ relief, but their economic situation has become much more severe since 2015. Roughly 35 million Iranians (nearly 40 percent of the population) are currently living under the poverty line.
The stark rich-poor divide in Iran is the direct result of the accumulation of wealth by Iranian leaders and those who are connected to them, at the expense of the poor. Political authoritarianism may survive longer if there is at least economic liberalizations and equality. But political authoritarianism without redistribution of wealth and economic opportunities for the ordinary people is suicidal for the ruling power.
**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

Prospects of US-Iran talks now more remote than ever
Maria Dubovikova/Maria Dubovikova/Arab News/August 09/18
The US on Tuesday reimposed the first segment of economic sanctions on Iran after President Donald Trump gave carte blanche for America to exercise more pressure on the Iranian government. This is in order to get it to return to the negotiating table and reconsider new articles and amendments to the 2015 nuclear agreement that was signed by Tehran and the five permanent states of the UN Security Council plus Germany.
These sanctions include halting all US financial transactions with Iran, which affects the deals signed between Tehran and American auto and aircraft producers. The second batch of sanctions will come into effect in November and these will be the most dangerous as they will apply to Iranian oil and gas exports.
To what extent will Trump’s threats affect countries trading with Iran, such as the EU, China, India and Russia? Will they counter the American measures even though Trump has warned that any nation that does business with Iran will be violating US sanctions and, as a result, would lose their business deals with the US?
“Anyone doing business with Iran will not be doing business with the United States,” the president tweeted. He had earlier called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action agreement “one-sided,” “disastrous” and the “worst I’ve ever seen.” Trump believes renewed economic pressure will force Tehran to agree to sit and talk about a new deal. Trump’s statements against Iran are deemed a humiliation to the countries which approved the nuclear deal, including the EU, which is still committed to the pact in order to protect European firms that have projects and ventures in Iran, such as Germany’s Siemens, France’s Total and Renault, and the British-Dutch oil company Shell.
It sounds like the American administration is divided into two: Those who seek to exercise more pressure on Iran to gain more benefits from the Iranians and their allies China, India, Russia and Turkey on the one hand, and those who seek a peaceful settlement for the issue by opening dialogue with Iran through backdoor channels on the other.
For Iran, this is a soap opera, as many believe Trump wants to have all these economic and trade deals given to American companies. Iranian president Hassan Rouhani said: “They want to launch psychological warfare against the Iranian nation. Negotiations with sanctions doesn’t make sense. We are always in favor of diplomacy and talks... but talks need honesty.”
For Russia, the sanctions aim to push the Iranians to complete surrender. In other words, to denuclearize, announce a permanent cessation of atomic enrichment, and to stop producing ballistic missiles that are a threat to other countries.
Trump has warned that any nation that does business with Iran will be violating US sanctions and, as a result, would lose their business deals with the US
Trump believes that Iranian allies such as Russia would dissuade Tehran from normalizing ties with other countries in the Middle East and the US as they would face an inevitable collapse similar to the 1990s demise of the Soviet Union, which led to the implosion of the USSR into the Russian Federation and other independent republics.
Would the implosion of Iran be safe for the region? Would it be safe for Russia, India, Pakistan and China? Only Trump knows the real answer as he is the one who initiated the idea of imposing an embargo on Iran and its military arms, which include the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. It also remains to be seen if the sanctions will be conducive to the cessation of Iranian logistical support to Hezbollah in Lebanon and Al-Hashd Al-Sha’abi and other factions that Iran supports in Iraq, Yemen and Syria.
Russians believe that the US always wants to take the whole pie for itself without sharing with others. This justifies why Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had a meeting in Muscat with Omani Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi. Isn’t this the same scenario as a few years ago, when the US was talking to the Iranians secretly in Oman to reach a nuclear deal?
It is possible that the US is playing both parties in the Gulf region, seeking the utmost benefit from both before announcing remarkable progress has been achieved vis-a-vis the nuclear deal and Iranian commitment to the peace and stability of its neighbors on the basis of non-interference in their internal affairs.
Will such unilateral actions by the US help disband the IRGC? Iran’s recent maneuvers with speedboats in the Arabian Sea and the Strait of Hormuz reveal that it would act if cornered.
What prompted Trump to offer “unconditional” dialogue with Iran, in the time and place that the latter sets? The initiative of unconditional dialogue was launched by the president, but the Iranians do not trust him. Thus, any dialogue will not take place before the next segment of sanctions is imposed, meaning the Iranian government will be weakened.
**Maria Dubovikova is a prominent political commentator, researcher and expert on Middle East affairs. She is president of the Moscow-based International Middle Eastern Studies Club (IMESClub). Twitter: @politblogme

Iran’s struggle for existence in the face of new sanctions
Sabena Siddiqui/Al Arabiya/August 09/18
Implementing a financial package just in time before the first round of US sanctions hit its economy, Iran has tried to halt a currency free-fall with measures to control allocation of foreign currency and keep it strictly for essential imports.
Preparing for the worst, people have also started hoarding gold causing high prices and an insufficient supply. Hoping to continue with the JCPOA nuclear deal if its demands of continued oil exportation and access to the global banking system are accepted, Iran is trying to survive. Making things worse, unemployment and the crunch of inflation is beginning to hit the middle class and discontent has erupted on the streets even as the Iranian rial sinks.
Seeking to stem “malign activity” by Iran in a decisive manner, since the previous deal was “decaying and rotten”, Pompeo has declared that the US requires “enormous change” in Iran if it wants to escape sanctions. Abandoning the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) nuclear deal in May, the US has imposed the first string of sanctions targeting a range of economic sectors. Banning the purchase of dollar bank notes by Iran as well as preventing it from trading in precious metals or acquiring industrial metals, the Trump administration also offers a dozen additional concessions in return for accepting new limits on its nuclear program. In the impending second round in November, Iran’s exports ranging from carpets to pistachios will be affected while its auto sector and oil and energy industries will suffer severe setbacks. Hinting at stringent measures to fully contain the Iranian nuclear program, the intention is to coerce Iran to re-negotiate under economic crisis. Offering negotiations, the White House national security adviser John Bolton recently advised that, “They could take up the president’s offer to negotiate with them, to give up their ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs fully and really verifiably not under the onerous terms of the Iran nuclear deal, which really are not satisfactory.”Saving the Iranian regime will get difficult if the sanctions don’t work the way the US wants, the next step could be cutting off Iranian oil exports
Complete denuclearization
Observing that if the Iranians want a deal they would come to the table, Bolton felt this factor alone would prove their sincerity. As predicted before, the US intention does appear to be the complete denuclearization of Iran as per its long-term strategy to allow a very select few nuclear powers in the world.
Walking out of the JCPOA had not given fast results because the EU was not supportive. Maintaining sustainable trade could enable Iran to survive even a second round of sanctions if the Europeans, China and India play their role. For a while, many European firms did try to continue doing business but could not risk falling out of favor with the US, especially as they could face ‘secondary sanctions” from Washington. Forcing various European energy giants to scale back or fully cut their operations in Iran, the United States has now clearly demarcated the two sides of the divide. Even India had intended to continue purchasing oil from its third largest supplier and continue as normal, but two of the largest Iran affiliated banks in the country have already begun falling in line with American demands for sanctions. But now the situation is different as the economic crisis at home gets worse, it is fast becoming reminiscent of US-Iran relations before the nuclear deal. Protests at home along with the departure of European trade from Iran has upped the ante and it is a make or break situation. Washington believes the choppy domestic scenario will pressurize Iran into agreeing to negotiations for a new deal. Stabilizing the rial remains Iran’s only safeguard and finding space, Chinese oil futures contracts have spiked 5 percent extra from their daily limit even as the US sanctions sunk in, significantly boosting yuan denominated oil trade. Previously, banking transactions were conducted in US dollars and the shortage of foreign exchange forced Iran to look for an alternative currency like the yuan. Eventually however, it will not be just a matter of economic survival for Iran. Saving the present regime will also get difficult if the sanctions game does not work the way the US wants, the next step could be cutting off Iranian oil exports.
Countering this move, Iran could block oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz affecting oil supplies all over the world. Even Tehran’s foreign policy is turning more aggressive with warnings that regional insecurity will spin out toward the Middle East and beyond.
The extreme worst-case scenario would be Iran speeding up its nuclear activities, creating a war-like situation and potentially affecting global security. Stabilizing the region, the JCPOA deal was a diplomatic success. Considering the implications, it would be best for Iran and the other stakeholders that a nuclear deal be re-negotiated at the earliest.

Is Iran in a ‘revolutionary’ situation?
Hamid Bahrami/Al Arabiya/August 09/18
When the poor people in a nation has nothing to lose and starvation forces them to look for food in bins while critics of their oppressor are met with brutal repression, neither bullets nor mass arrests can stop them from protesting against the status quo. At a time when masses only see a dark future for themselves and their families, any organized opposition effort to tear down the wall of repression will foster a culture of resistance and give courage to the silent majority to join the starving protesters on the streets. When the affluent ruling class is riddled with corruption and the ruling system can no longer deceive people because of growing internal conflicts among the political establishment and is unable to reinstate the atmosphere of fear by its security organs because of losing ideological leverage, a real change in favor of the poor class is inevitable. The above is the very definition of a revolutionary situation in a society. However, when there also exists a determined popular resistance movement to overthrow the authoritarian system, no powers, no cunning opportunists nor behind the scene deals can provide the ruling class with security guarantees and ensure their survival by stopping the change whose time has come.
Such is the situation today in Iran’s society. What makes this wave of demonstrations different is that the people have finally had enough of being robbed by the ruling regime and decided to come out on the streets
Reforming the republic
Discussions over reforming the Islamic Republic has dominated the Iran debate for nearly two decades. But this illusion only resulted in a destroyed country with constant state attacks on the civil liberties and fundamental rights of the citizens, faltering economy, high suicide rate (due to social and economic difficulties) and environmental crisis. Earlier this year, poor and starving Iranians rose up against the regime in at least 100 major and small cities across the country despite the authorities responding with bullets to their legitimate demands. At the time, the middle class did not join them because of the high risks associated with dissent. Now in the hot Iranian summer, a different scenario is being played out on streets of Iran. Voice of America reported last week that “anti-government protests by Iranians fed up with their nation’s economic woes have spread to 10 major cities ... these protests are yet to be dispersed”.
What makes this wave of demonstrations different is that the people have finally had enough of being robbed by the ruling regime and decided to come out to the streets. Hassan, an employee of the Sepah bank in Isfahan whose last name is not provided because of security reason, tells me that, “until last year, my family and I could afford living expenses if I worked hard and economized but this is now impossible. This is while our money is being spent in Syria and Iraq or is being stolen by officials and their children”. “I did not attend the nationwide protests last January because I thought that was not my problem but now middle-class citizens like me are rapidly becoming poorer”, he adds. I have heard similar stories from dozen others like Hassan and most of them say they will be forced to take the risk and join other protesters if the situation does not change.
Brutal crackdown
The Iranian regime’s brutal crackdown shows that it is unable to address and deliver on the legitimate demands of the people on the street.
Now, one could argue that a revolutionary situation with popular protesters on the streets needs an organized opposition movement and strong leadership who are able to articulate the demands of the poor and middle class into a clear roadmap for success. These crucial ingredients for success is provided by the opposition coalition the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), and its main organized constituent, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), among the various Iranian opposition groups. Both the MEK and the NCRI have spearheaded the struggle against the Iranian regime for a free, democratic and secular Iran for the last 40 years and are the opposition most feared by the regime’s Supreme Leader and officials. These days the MEK is organizing anti-regime protests through its network inside Iran and help the people to break through the brutal crackdown of the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) forcing the Supreme Leader and other senior officials to acknowledge this reality publicly. Losing the domestic struggle to the forces of democratic change, the Iranian regime is now desperate to deflect the crisis by provoking a controlled military tension in the region. Considering the situation on Iran’s streets, the Trump administration should not fall in the theocracy's trap as the clerics are looking for ways to secure their survival and instead continue to support the protesters on the streets in Iran as Secretary Pompeo did recently in his speech to the Iranian-American community.

Saudi Arabia’s foreign files: Why worry from Riyadh?
Fares bin Hezam/Al Arabiya/August 09/18
For three years now, all eyes have been on Riyadh due to its consecutive surprises. It entered a war in the beginning of the new era and decisively dealt with domestic and foreign affairs. This brave policy caused Arab and international worry. The question has thus been asked: Are we witnessing a new expansive state? The Arab world has lived for decades with regimes led by ideas, and whose foreign and domestic policies were drawn according to a Baathist, Nasserist, leftist and nationalist approach, and some Libyan thing that is not understandable. These regimes were tinctured with the characteristic of expansion at the expense of other states and sought to spread their ideas via military coups. They were countries whose pillars were the ideology that goes beyond their people’s aspirations and that’s based on lecturing, inventing fragile projects and wasting their people’s years and money. Riyadh today is working according to a serious developmental approach, continuous modernization and balance between its interests and the interests of other people, whether the bond they share is that of joint fate or friendshi. The truth is that we are before a progressive state, and not an expansionist one as the former is an added value to each country that allies with it, and the latter raises suspicions of dominance over it.
A modernizing state
Riyadh today is working according to a serious developmental approach, continuous modernization and balance between its interests and the interests of other people, whether the bond they share is that of joint fate or friendship. It never did anything that raised questions, like what is being speculated about it as a result of envious grudges, because it’s a country that gained its status via its own project and attained regional and international appreciation thanks to its credibility. And here we are today, seeing it as a nation of progress and modernization in all fields and a country with a solid and fixed policy without any substantial changes to its strong structure. While noting what the kingdom has achieved, we must also note the models of other countries which maintained their Islamic fabric and system while modernizing all their fields, beginning with education and ending with providing people’s welfare, and the best example of that is Malaysia.In the kingdom’s policy, there is something that calls for meditation and learning from the experience. It’s needless to say that politics has different patterns, but it has a clear vision when serving legitimate interests. Today, Saudi Arabia handles dozens of Arab and international affairs as it is managing the signs of a relationship with Iraq following a long severance, observing the scene in Syria, drawing a new method with Lebanon, resuming its legitimate mission in Yemen by restoring legitimacy and reconstruction, and standing as an impenetrable embankment against Iran’s expansion.
Given all of that and according to its fixed policy, the kingdom continues to progress and modernize today. It began with the factor of economic power as it is investing in giant companies whose activities extend to different major countries hence creating political influence in addition to the expected financial returns. It is an influential strong weapon, that’s currently present in the strategy of public investment fund by moving from shy investment to brave investment.
Riyadh knows its size on the map and formulates its foreign policy accordingly. It sees in its comprehensive influence in the Islamic world a national role, which is predetermined by its Islamic leadership and it launches its efforts based on geographic presence, religious influence, economic power and political vision. These factors together are only present in Riyadh; it’s thus normal that it was endued leadership and not to Turkey, Iran or Qatar. Riyadh took decisive decisions and reformulated its foreign policy. It’s aware of the consequences of what it’s doing through every step of the way and comes up with the necessary alternatives. It replaced the benefits of relations with Canada with other options and it did not do that with Qatar since there is no need, given the absence of an added value to Riyadh.
Saudi Arabia’s tone and concern is this: This is I and my view of what is at the end of the horizon and I go beyond it. I am biased to the bigger and more comprehensive future. My eyes see beyond the reality’s spaces, and in my hands there is a pure history of giving and building. A deficient outlook is not one of my characteristics, while others are concerned about their immediate success and their vision does not extend beyond what their hands can reach, and these are many, let’s extend the map so we can know more.