August 11/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal
First Letter to the Corinthians 12/28-31//13/01-07: And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way. If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."

Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on August 10-11/18
Lebanon: Calls to Save Higher Education Amid Warnings of Standards Decline/Beirut - Caroline Akoum/Asharq Al Awsat and Ali Barada/August 10/18
A Goodwill Gesture over Electricity Sows Discord in Lebanon/Associated Press/Naharnet/August 10/18
Hariri breathes life into Cabinet formation talks/Georgi Azar/Annahar/August 10/18
Hezbollah expands its arsenal/Abbas Al-Sabbagh/Annahar/August 10/18
Analysis/Wooed by Egypt, Hamas and Israel Can Still Prevent All-out War/
Zvi Bar'el /Haaretz/August 10/18
Europe’s Dangerous Illusions on Iran/Amir Taheri/Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 10 August, 2018/
The Washington Post's Take on Saudi Arabia/Salman Al-dossary/Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 10 August, 2018/
Death, Diamonds and Russia’s Africa Project/Leonid Bershidsky/Bloomberg/August 10/18
Hamas and the Five-year Deal/Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 10 August, 2018/
Erdogan tells Turks to buy free-falling lira as Trump doubles metals tariffs/Ynetnews/Reuters/August 10/18
Analysis: Where is Trump’s Israeli-Palestinian peace plan/Michael Wilner/Jerusalem Post/August 10/18
Saudi effort to punish Canada seems to have little effect/Associated Press/August 10/18
The emigrant, the deception and the trap/Ghassan Charbel/Al Arabiya/August 10/18
Reconciliation in the Horn of Africa under Emirati patronage/Abdullah bin Bijad Al-Otaibi/Al Arabiya/August 10/18
The new Syria amidst conflicting regional, international interests/Shehab Al-Makahleh/Al Arabiya/August 10/18
Who among Arabs is betting on Iran/Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/August 10/18

Titles For The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published 
on August 10-11/18
Hariri Asks Berri for Help, Promises Solutions to Form Govt
Protesters demand new traffic measures after crash in Bchamoun
Aoun: Road to Reform Will Achieve Goals, Anti-Corruption Plan a Priority
Report: Officials Considering Several ‘Proposals’ to End Govt. Stalemate
Hariri Vows Solutions for Cabinet Delay, Asks for Berri’s Help
'New Drive' as Bassil Reportedly Accepts 4-Seat Share for LF
Report: Officials Considering Several ‘Proposals’ to End Govt. Stalemate
Jarrah issues postage stamp in honor of Patriarch Sfeir
Qatari Ambassador pays Rahi farewell visit
Jreissati orders legal action over death threat against Baalbeck Governor
One Injured as UNIFIL Vehicle Flips Over in Adaisseh
Lebanon: Calls to Save Higher Education Amid Warnings of Standards Decline
Elissa Breaks Taboo with Clip Announcing Cancer
A Goodwill Gesture over Electricity Sows Discord in Lebanon
Hariri breathes life into Cabinet formation talks
Hezbollah expands its arsenal

Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on August 10-11/18
Canadian police: 2 of 4 dead in shooting are officers
Erdogan Says Turkey 'Won't Lose Economic War' after Lira Crash
Turkey Lira Crashes as Trump Piles on Pressure
Iran’s Economy on Verge of Collapse after Sanctions
Ahmadinejad Asks Rouhani to Resign
Khamenei Seeks to Downplay Concerns over Iranian Regime’s Future
Iranian Opposition Group Reveals Details of Paris Bomb Plot against it
Iraqi Cleric Sadr Wins Vote Recount
Sadr Retains Election Victory in Recount of Iraq Ballots
Sadr’s Reluctance Drags Iraq Government Formation
Syrian Troops Shell Idlib, Drop 'Surrender' Notes
Canada Asks for Help in Saudi Dispute
Canada welcomes appointment of Michelle Bachelet as next UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Calm Returns to Gaza-Israel Border - for Now
Hamas, Israel Seeking to Calm the Ghost of War They Both Fear
Cost of Syria War Destruction Close to $400 Billion
Russian-Turkish Coordination on Limited Idlib Battle
The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on August 10-11/18
Hariri Asks Berri for Help, Promises Solutions to Form Govt
Beirut/Asharq Al Awsat and Ali Barada/August 10/18/Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri promised to present new solutions in the next few days that might facilitate the cabinet formation and said he asked for the Speaker’s help in the formation process. Hariri’s visit to Speaker Nabih Berri in Ain Al-Tineh on Thursday came few days after the latter met with caretaker Foreign Minister and head of the Free Patriotic Movement Gebran Bassil to discuss obstacles hindering the birth of a new cabinet over disputes linked to ministerial shares. The PM-designate urged all political sides to prioritize the country's interest over partisan interests. Later on Thursday, Hariri received Bassil at the Central House and the two leaders discussed recent political developments, including those related to the formation of the new government. “We are in a difficult economic and regional situation," Hariri said, disclosing that further meetings will be taking place in the coming days to end the deadlock. Refusing to comment on some parties’ threats to resort to the street, he denied any external interference to prevent the formation of a new government, saying such a delay was an "internal" issue over shares. Hariri said he would visit President Michel Aoun when he is ready to offer a cabinet formula. Also, Lebanese Forces deputy George Adwan said the reason behind the delay in the government formation was "internal," stressing that the key hurdle lies in the distribution of shares. The MP said “Hezbollah” was one of the parties that most supports the formation of a new government. Meanwhile, the "Loyalty to the Resistance" parliamentary bloc sounded the alarm on the stalemate, warning that further procrastination risks tension. "The formation process has taken so long and the delay has started to risk sliding toward tension," the bloc said in a statement following its regular meeting.
Protesters demand new traffic measures after crash in Bchamoun
Annahar Staff /Annahar/ August 10/18 /BEIRUT: Locals are protesting to demand new traffic measures banning trucks from taking the road during morning hours, after Wednesday's deadly crash that left one killed and ten injured on the Bchamoun-Khalda highway, involving a truck and a queue of vehicles. The wounded were transferred to nearby Kamal Jumblatt hospital for treatment; while security forces worked on reopening the road to traffic. Witnesses described an out-of-control truck careening on the roadway, knocking cars out of its path. A dramatic video circulating shows the extent of damage from the deadly accident, with cars smashed, strewn around the road, and persons looking dazed.

Aoun: Road to Reform Will Achieve Goals, Anti-Corruption Plan a Priority
Naharnet/August 10/18/President Michel Aoun stressed on Friday that the country’s reform path will not go backwards assuring that fighting corruption is one of the government's priorities. “The road towards reform will not go backwards and will achieve its objectives through peaceful and legal means,” said Aoun addressing a delegation of Lebanese from Europe and France. On the government’s plans against corruption, Aoun said: “A practical and comprehensive anti-corruption plan has been set out and will be one of the government's priorities.”

Report: Officials Considering Several ‘Proposals’ to End Govt. Stalemate
Naharnet/August 10/18/The delay in lining up a Lebanese government amid wrangling between political parties over Cabinet shares, has called for forwarding several suggestions, some of which are “being considered”, in a bid to solve the stalemates. Sources following on the formation process told al-Joumhouria daily on Friday that several scenarios have been proposed to agree on the size of representation of the Lebanese Forces, and possibly facilitate other obstacles mainly the Druze share. “One of the ways out, is to have the same combination in the current caretaker government where political parties will get the same representation size. The suggestion is being considered,” they said. “Allocating three services portfolios for the Lebanese Forces is another suggestion. But that, the LF has rejected. They also turned down an idea to get three services portfolios plus a minister of state,” added the sources on condition of anonymity. Assigning four services portfolios for the party has been “implicitly accepted during LF-Hariri (Prime Minister-designate) talks,” they said. However, “it would not include a so-called sovereign portfolio nor a deputy prime minister post.”Allocating ten ministers as part of the President’s (Michel Aoun) share is another suggestion, but it’s still a “complicated” one in light of his demands to get eleven. As for the obstacle of the Druze share, the “President still rejects giving Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblat the whole three Druze Cabinet seats. He refuses monopolization,” they said. Another recommendation is to give Jumblat two Druze ministers plus a third Christian minister, which is still under discussion.

Hariri Vows Solutions for Cabinet Delay, Asks for Berri’s Help
Naharnet/August 10/18/Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri vowed to put forward some suggestions that would facilitate the delayed formation of the government, adding that he requested the Speaker’s help in this endeavor when he met him on Thursday, the Saudi Asharq al-Awsat daily reported on Friday. After his meeting with Speaker Nabih Berri, Hariri said the obstacles hampering the formation are “domestic and linked to ministerial shares.” He urged political parties to prioritize the country’s interest before their own. Later on Thursday, Hariri met with Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil at the Center House. They discussed the recent political developments, including those related to the formation of the new government. “We are in a difficult economic and regional situation. We must do something. We hope things will crystalize in the coming days in order to line-up a government,” said Hariri after the meeting. The Premier refused to comment on threats of some parties to resort to the streets, he assured “there is no external interferences in the government formation. The problem is internal and linked to ministerial shares.”Hariri said he will visit President Michel Aoun when “a new Cabinet format is ready.”

'New Drive' as Bassil Reportedly Accepts 4-Seat Share for LF
Naharnet/August 10/18/There is a "new drive" in the Cabinet formation process, an AMAL Movement minister said on Friday. Speaking after talks with PM-designate Saad Hariri, caretaker Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil said: “There is a new drive in the government formation process and we hope things will move forward.”LBCI television meanwhile quoted unnamed sources as saying that Free Patriotic Movement chief MP Jebran Bassil has agreed that the Lebanese Forces be granted four ministerial portfolios, “including one that can be described as a sovereign portfolio.”“No party will get a share that exceeds ten ministers,” the sources added. The four portfolios labeled as 'sovereign' in Lebanon are foreign affairs, defense, interior and finance. The justice and energy portfolios are sometimes viewed as being on the same level of importance. In remarks to MTV, FPM sources meanwhile downplayed LBCI's report. “It is not up to Bassil to specify the shares and portfolios of the other blocs and he's only concerned with the bloc's portfolios and share,” the sources said. The reports come in the wake of a long-anticipated meeting between Bassil and Hariri that was held on Thursday. The LF's share and that of the Progressive Socialist Party are reportedly the two main obstacles that are delaying the formation of the new government.

Report: Officials Considering Several ‘Proposals’ to End Govt. Stalemate
Naharnet/August 10/18/The delay in lining up a Lebanese government amid wrangling between political parties over Cabinet shares, has called for forwarding several suggestions, some of which are “being considered”, in a bid to solve the stalemates. Sources following on the formation process told al-Joumhouria daily on Friday that several scenarios have been proposed to agree on the size of representation of the Lebanese Forces, and possibly facilitate other obstacles mainly the Druze share. “One of the ways out, is to have the same combination in the current caretaker government where political parties will get the same representation size. The suggestion is being considered,” they said. “Allocating three services portfolios for the Lebanese Forces is another suggestion. But that, the LF has rejected. They also turned down an idea to get three services portfolios plus a minister of state,” added the sources on condition of anonymity. Assigning four services portfolios for the party has been “implicitly accepted during LF-Hariri (Prime Minister-designate) talks,” they said. However, “it would not include a so-called sovereign portfolio nor a deputy prime minister post.”Allocating ten ministers as part of the President’s (Michel Aoun) share is another suggestion, but it’s still a “complicated” one in light of his demands to get eleven. As for the obstacle of the Druze share, the “President still rejects giving Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblat the whole three Druze Cabinet seats. He refuses monopolization,” they said. Another recommendation is to give Jumblat two Druze ministers plus a third Christian minister, which is still under discussion.
Jarrah issues postage stamp in honor of Patriarch Sfeir
Fri 10 Aug 2018/NNA - Caretaker Minister of Telecommunications, Jamal Jarrah, issued a postage stamp holding the name of Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir, as approved by the Cabinet. The event was hosted by Dr. Antoine Sfeir at his Faitroun residence yesterday (Thursday), with the participation of diplomats from Spain, Switzerland, Norway, Saudi Arabia, the UN and USA, in addition to a panel of politicians and dignitaries.

Qatari Ambassador pays Rahi farewell visit
Fri 10 Aug 2018/NNA - Qatari Ambassador to Lebanon, Ali Bin Hamad Al-Marri, on Friday paid a farewell visit to Maronite Patriarch, Mar Bechara Boutros Rahi.  The Maronite Patriarch lauded the Ambassador's 5-year-long role in Lebanon. "Lebanon shall remain an oasis of dialogue and a meeting point among all sides," Rahi told the Qatari diplomat, hailing the good existing relations between Lebanon and Qatar, as well as with all the other Arab countries.

Jreissati orders legal action over death threat against Baalbeck Governor
Fri 10 Aug 2018/NNA - Caretaker Minister of Justice, Salim Jreissati, on Friday ordered State Prosecutor Judge Samir Hammoud, to take the necessary legal action against those involved in making death threats against the Governor of Baalbeck-Hermel, Bachir Khodor.
One Injured as UNIFIL Vehicle Flips Over in Adaisseh
Naharnet/August 10/18/A driver belonging to the Indonesian battalion of the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was lightly injured Friday in a traffic accident in the southern town of Adaisseh, the National News Agency said. The agency said the UNIFIL vehicle flipped over on the Adaisseh road in Marjeyoun district after a brake malfunction. The peacekeeping force has more than 10,000 troops deployed in southern Lebanon.

Lebanon: Calls to Save Higher Education Amid Warnings of Standards Decline

Beirut - Caroline Akoum/Asharq Al Awsat and Ali Barada/August 10/18
Following a wave of criticism targeting Lebanon’s higher education sector and the recent scandal about fake military diplomas obtained by some soldiers, the country’s finest educational institutions – the Lebanese University – was stricken with reports about European universities not recognizing its certificates, a news that the university has totally denied. A few days after the announcement by the American University of Beirut (AUB) and Saint Joseph University (USJ) of suspending their membership in the Association of Universities of Lebanon, demanding the refinement of Lebanese universities, fresh reports indicated that the European Union has threatened not to recognize the certificates and diplomas granted by the Lebanese University (UL), unless the latter works to reform its curricula within a period of three years. The UL issued a statement denying the reports, accusing some private universities of using false information to hit the national university. However, refuting the reports does not mean that higher education in Lebanon does not face a real problem. In recent years, sectarian and confessional quotas have begun through the distribution of licenses to establish universities away from specific criteria, despite the fact that some Lebanese universities still top the list of best institutions at the Arab and international levels. According to the latest report by the British education organization Quacquarelli Symonds (QS), which published the list of the top 1,000 universities in the world in 2019, the AUB ranked first out of 100 universities and 237th globally. Although the name of the Lebanese University did not appear in the top 1,000 universities in the world, it ranked 25 in the Arab world, while Saint Joseph University was ranked 12th on the Arab level and 500th globally. However, this ranking is now at risk due to the deteriorating standards at the national level, according to officials at USJ and AUB. This has led the two universities to suspend their membership in the Association of Lebanese Universities.
Dr. Issam Khalifeh, researcher and professor at the UL, also agrees. In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, he said that the UL was the “most affected by this reality,” warning of the negative consequences should the situation remains as is. An official source at USJ and AUB’s Chief Academic Officer, Dr. Mohammad Harajli, confirmed that the decision to suspend the membership was taken three months ago, before the scandal of fake diplomas that were granted to some members of the military institution. According to Harajli, the decision was based on several criteria, the most important of which is the bitter reality of Lebanon’s education sector and the excess of private universities, which have reflected negatively on the level of education. Commenting on this issue, the USJ official said: “The problem is not with the granting of licenses [to open new universities]; but in the absence of the necessary criteria, controls and methods that should be adopted.”On the other hand, the president of the Association of Universities of Lebanon, former Minister Sami Menqara agreed that the level of higher education has declined, but criticized the decision taken by the two private universities. In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, Menqara underlined the need for cooperation, especially by the two prominent universities. Stressing his rejection to the granting of random licenses for the establishment of new universities, he said: “A large number of Lebanon’s universities are not registered with the Association, which only accepts the membership based on specific criteria.” He noted that the association so far encompassed only 19 universities.
Elissa Breaks Taboo with Clip Announcing Cancer Fight
Associated Press/Naharnet/August 10/18/It was an unusual way to reveal a struggle against cancer, particularly in a part of the world where the illness is still largely considered a private matter and taboo. But a video clip released on Twitter is how Lebanese singer Elissa chose to share the news with her fans and millions of followers on social media. "You are the reason I am strong and healthy ... you are my strength. And this story is a thank you," she posted, along with the song uploaded on YouTube entitled: "For all those who love me." The video clip begins with a woman inside an MRI machine and someone saying 'It's an early stage of breast cancer,' and goes on to show the 45-year-old singer in various situations at a hospital, with doctors and surrounded by friends. It features a voiceover of Elissa speaking about her battle. The response was overwhelming from fans, celebrities and politicians across the Arab world who posted, tweeted and retweeted messages of support. The video clip has garnered more than seven million views from fans and supporters since it was posted on Tuesday. The clip and outpouring of support were all the more striking because cancer in most of the Arab world, and particularly breast cancer among women, is rarely discussed in public, and cancer patients often struggle in solitude. Some among the older generation continue to refer to cancer as "that disease," without mentioning it by name. Elissa declined a request for comment through her agent, who said the singer was not giving interviews. Elissa, whose real name is Elissar Khoury, is among the best known and highest-selling female artists in the Arab world and received several music awards in her career, mostly for Arabic pop songs delivered in the Lebanese or Egyptian dialect. She was diagnosed with the illness in December 2017 but kept it secret, even after she collapsed on stage during a live performance in Dubai in February this year. She later tweeted to her fans that she was healthy, adding: "Nothing serious don't worry!" The collapse is featured in the seven-minute video released on Tuesday. "I do my radiotherapy session, I go to the studio, I finish another session, I rest for two hours and go to the studio again," Elissa says in the video clip, describing how she kept up her work during her treatment. The song has a feel-good catchy tune with a refrain that says: "Yalla, yalla yalla (come on!), let's sing and be happy, let's make up for time lost, come on let's live," alternating between scenes at a hospital and Elissa singing and dancing on stage.Fans across the Arab world posted supportive messages, describing her as a super hero and a model of strength. They included Free Patriotic Movement chief and caretaker Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil, who tweeted that Elissa should be an inspiration for all women with cancer not to give up. Elissa, who is scheduled to perform in Beirut on Friday night, ended the video with the words: "I've recovered. I've beaten the illness, and I won. ... Early detection of breast cancer can save your life. Don't ignore it, face it. ... Do it not only for yourself, but for your loved ones."On the Net:
A Goodwill Gesture over Electricity Sows Discord in Lebanon
Associated Press/Naharnet/August 10/18
It was supposed to be a goodwill gesture from an energy company in Turkey.This summer, the Karadeniz Energy Group lent Lebanon a floating power station to generate electricity at below-market rates to help ease the strain on the country's woefully undermaintained power sector. Instead, the barge's arrival opened a Pandora's box of partisan mudslinging in a country hobbled by political sectarianism and dysfunction. There have been rows over where it should dock, how to allocate its 235 megawatts of power, and even what to call the barge. It has even driven a wedge between Lebanon's two dominant parties among Shiite Muslims: Amal and Hizbullah. Amal, which has held the parliament speaker's seat since 1992, revealed sensationally last week it had refused to allow the boat to dock in a port in the predominantly Shiite south, even though it is one of the most underserved regions of Lebanon. Power outages in the south can stretch on for more than 12 hours a day. Hizbullah, which normally stands pat with Amal in political matters, issued an exceptional statement that it had nothing to do with the matter of the barge at Zahrani port. A Hizbullah lawmaker went further to say his party disagreed on the issue with Amal. Ali Hassan Khalil, Lebanon's Finance Minister and a leading Amal party member, said southerners wanted a permanent power station, not a stop-gap solution, in an implied dig at the rival Free Patriotic Movement, a Christian party that runs the Energy Ministry.
But critics seized on the statement as confirmation that Amal's leaders were in bed with the operators of private generators, who have been making fortunes selling electricity during blackouts at many times the state price. "For decades there's been nothing stopping them from building a power plant," said Mohammad Obeid, a former Amal party official, in an interview with Lebanon's Al Jadeed TV station. "Now there's a barge that's coming for three months to provide a few more hours of electricity -- and that's the issue?"
Hassan Khalil, reached by phone, refused to comment. Nabih Berri, Amal's chief and Lebanon's parliament speaker, who has long been the subject of critical coverage from Al Jadeed's, sued the TV channel for libel on Wednesday for its reporting.Energy Minister Cesar Abi Khalil, a Christian, lashed out at Amal, saying the ministry even changed the barge's name from Ayse, Turkish for Aisha, a name associated in Lebanon with Sunnis, to Esra Sultan, which does not carry any Shiite or Sunni connotations, to try to get it to dock in Zahrani. Karadeniz said the barge was renamed "out of courtesy and respect to local customs and sensitivities.""Ayse is a very common Turkish name, where such preferences are not as sensitive as in Lebanon," it said in a statement to The Associated Press. Finally, on July 18, the barge docked in Jiyeh, a harbor south of Beirut but north of Zahrani, and in a religiously mixed Muslim area. But two weeks later it was unmoored again, after Abi Khalil, the energy minister, said the infrastructure at Jiyeh could only handle 30 megawatts of the Esra Sultan's 235 capacity. With Zahrani closed to the Esra Sultan, it could only go to Zouq Mikhael, a port in the Christian-dominated Kesrouan region in the north, where it was plugged to the grid Tuesday night, giving the region almost 24 hours of electricity a day. Lebanon has been contending with rolling blackouts since the days of its 1975-1990 civil war. Successive governments have failed to agree on a permanent solution for the chronic electricity failures, largely because of profiteering, endemic corruption and lack of political will. In 2013, the Energy Ministry contracted with Karadeniz to buy electricity from a pair of its barges, which are still docked in Jiyeh and Zouq Mikhael. This summer, Abi Khalil signed a new contract with Karadeniz to keep the barges for another three years. As part of the deal, Karadeniz agreed to lend Lebanon the third barge, the Esra Sultan, to produce electricity for three months at no cost - Lebanon would just have to pay for the fuel. The company said Lebanon's internal squabbles do not affect how long the Esra Sultan would stay in Lebanon. It arrived on July 18 and it will leave on Oct. 18, it said.
Hariri breathes life into Cabinet formation talks
Georgi Azar/Annahar/August 10/18
"I've been tasked with forming a new Cabinet and if they want to blame me for the delays, so be it," Hariri said.
BEIRUT: In an attempt to break the deadlock over the formation of a new Cabinet, Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri held Thursday a new round of deliberations with Speaker Nabih Berri and caretaker Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil.  Hariri reiterated after his sit down with Berri that the delays stem from internal political differences and "not foreign interventions," while vowing to head to the Presidential Palace to meet with President Michel Aoun once a new lineup is drafted. "I've been tasked with forming a new Cabinet and if they want to blame me for the delays, so be it," Hariri said.
Following his meeting with Berri, Hariri held similar discussions with Bassil, who had previously maintained that he's at the "service of" the Prime Minister-designate to discuss "any obstacles and how to overcome them." Hariri's been steadfast in his attempt to form an all-inclusive Cabinet that brings together representatives of major parties. However, Hariri's efforts have stumbled as the Lebanese Forces, Bassil's Free Patriotic Movement and Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt continue to quarrel over their share of portfolios. Aoun, who founded the FPM, has been trying to secure at least four other ministries to go alongside Bassil's seven, granting the FPM veto power in a Cabinet of 30 ministers. However, sources familiar with the ongoing negotiations say Hariri is opposed to granting Aoun's FPM or any other coalition, including the Iranian-backed group Hezbollah, its Shiite political partner Speaker Nabih Berri's Amal Movement and their allies, veto power in the government, the equivalent of over 10 seats in a 30-member Cabinet. "The FPM are confusing their share with that of the President," LF MP George Adwan recently said.
The PSP has also been trying to secure the three Druze posts up for grabs, leaving FPM ally and rival Druze leader Talal Arslan out of the equation, which further complicates negotiations for Hariri. “Everyone talks about their concern for the country ... but I hope all the political parties will put their country ahead of their own interests," Hariri said. Hariri was designated to form a Cabinet by a sweeping majority of lawmakers including key Hezbollah allies. His designation follows parliament elections in which the Iranian-sponsored armed group Hezbollah and its allies secured an absolute majority in parliament while the Saudi-backed Hariri's Future Movement bloc lost a third of its parliamentary seats.

Hezbollah expands its arsenal
Abbas Al-Sabbagh/Annahar/August 10/18
The show of force serves to send Israel a message on the psychological warfare front, while possibly shedding light on the recent downing of an Israeli drone in Bint Jbeil.
BEIRUT: In a recent Hezbollah sponsored media report, the party showcased a squadron of drones among other weapons in its arsenal at the “Mleeta Resistance Tourist Landmark.”The show of force serves to send Israel a message within the realm of psychological warfare, retired Major General Hisham Jaber tells Annahar, while possibly shedding light on the recent downing of an Israeli drone in Bint Jbeil.  Hezbollah’s use of unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, can be traced back to 2004 when it sent an Iranian Mirsad on a brief reconnaissance mission over Israel lasting some 14 minutes before returning to Lebanon undetected.The party had confirmed at the time that the drone could be used to scout airports, bases, and military infrastructure, while also carrying up to 50 kilograms of explosives. Aoun calls for UNIFIL mandate renewal amid "Israeli aggression"
Fast forward two years and drones were also deployed during the 2006 war after Hezbollah sent at least three UAVs toward enemy territory. In 2012, the Shiite group was able to fly an advanced UAV to southern Israel over a distance of several hundred miles down the Israeli coast over Gaza and the Negev desert, before photographing military sites and gathering intel on the Dimona reactor, part of the Negev Nuclear Research Center. Hezbollah also used drones to strike Islamic State targets in Syria in the summer of 2017, hitting IS positions, bunkers, and fortifications in the Western Qalamoun area near the border with Lebanon. Hezbollah's expanding arsenal casts doubt over reports on the mysterious downing of an Israeli reconnaissance plane near the town of Beit Yahoun in Bint Jbeil, of which the remains were later destroyed by Israeli aircraft. All signs point toward the plane being shot down by Hezbollah, contradicting Israeli reports that it crashed due to technical malfunctions. The drone was also carrying live munitions which were later destroyed by the Lebanese army, which brings credence to the argument that the aircraft was not merely on a reconnaissance mission. The downing of the Israeli reconnaissance drone might indicate that Hezbollah has acquired air defense weapons; reports that Jaber neither confirms nor denies, adding that Israel “is willing to pay millions to know more information about the group's defensive mechanisms.”The success of Syrian air defenses in shooting down an Israeli F-16 in February in a direct confrontation with Tel-Aviv might also signal that the Iranian-backed militant group has acquired new anti-aircraft weapons as part of the broader conflict between Tehran and Damascus, on the one hand, and Israel, on the other. Jaber says Hezbollah is unlikely to showcase or put such weapons to use under the current circumstances, but will rather seek to keep Israel in the dark over the party's true military capabilities.

The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published
on August 10-11/18
Canadian police: 2 of 4 dead in shooting are officers/
الشرطة في مدينة فردركتون(نيوبرونزوك الكندية) تعلن أن اثنين من القتلى الأربعة هم من افرادها

Jonathan Rumley/Yahoo Canada NewsAugust 10, 2018
Associated Press/August 10/18
Fredericton police said they are not releasing the names of the slain officers yet.
FREDERICTON, New Brunswick: Four people, including two police officers, were shot to death in an apartment complex in the eastern Canadian city of Fredericton on Friday, and a suspect was taken into custody, authorities said. It was a rare instance of gun violence in the Canadian province of New Brunswick.
Fredericton police said they are not releasing the names of the slain officers yet.Justin Mclean, who lives in the complex, said he tried to help.“I just woke up and heard gunshots and I looked outside my window. There was basically three dead people laying there. It wasn’t a pretty sight,” Mclean told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.“The cops were trying to put one of the officers into the vehicle so they could take him out to safety.” He said there had been fights in the apartment complex, but never anything like this.David MacCoubrey, who also lives in the complex, said he heard about 20 shots and hid on his kitchen floorز“I’m on my floor,” he said in a phone interview. “The cops have come through my place. They have searched all the apartments in the building. It sounded like it started in the courtyard area.”He awoke in his apartment on Brookside Drive around 7 a.m. local time to the sound of three gunshots 33 feet (10 meters) from his bed.MacCoubrey said his apartment complex has four buildings in a square, and it sounded like the shots were coming from the middle of the complex.He said police have been searching the buildings, and he’s been sitting away from windows. “It’s not something that happens here regularly,” he said.Travis Hrubeniuk, who lives nearby, said his fiancee had just left for work around 7:45 when he began hearing a steady stream of sirens. Hrubeniuk said residents have been advised to stay inside with their doors locked. The quiet residential neighborhood, which has houses, grocery stores, a church and an elementary school, is the last place Hrubeniuk said he expected to encounter a dangerous situation. “This is the first time I’ve even heard of any serious crime or violent crime in this city,” he said. In 2014, a shooting in Moncton, New Brunswick left three Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers dead and two wounded. Fredericton has a population of about 58,000 and is located just northeast of Maine.New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant tweeted his condolences to the victims and their families. “During this difficult time, our thoughts are also with the courageous women and men on the front lines working to keep us safe,” said Gallant. Bill Henwood, a funeral director at York Funeral Home, whose business is located inside the cordoned off area on Brookside Drive, said the lockdown occurred before anybody got to work. Henwood said people are sitting in their cars or just standing near the blockade of police and fire vehicles “hanging tight and waiting for word” on what comes next.“All the businesses even on the outside of the lockdown area have their lobbies and their business areas closed. They aren’t letting customers in at the moment,” he said. Henwood said the situation is a shock. “It’s not something that we expect in Fredericton to wake up and hear about. To see that there’s actually fatalities is pretty extraordinary for this area. It doesn’t normally happen.”
Erdogan Says Turkey 'Won't Lose Economic War' after Lira Crash
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 10/18/Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday pledged that Turkey would prevail in an "economic war" after the lira crashed to historic lows over Ankara's strains with Washington. "We will not lose the economic war," state-run TRT Haber television quoted Erdogan as saying in his first reaction to the latest lira plunge. The state-run Anadolu news agency also quoted Erdogan as saying that Turkey would be able to overcome the situation just like flooding this week in the Black Sea province of Ordu. "God willing we will overcome these disasters (the Ordu floods) and also we will be successful in the economic war," he said on a visit to the Black Sea Bayburt region. Erdogan had in comments late Thursday raised eyebrows by appearing to play down the magnitude of the crisis, saying: "If they have dollars, we have our people, we have our right and we have Allah!" he said.
Turkey Lira Crashes as Trump Piles on Pressure
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 10/18/The embattled Turkish lira tumbled almost 20 percent to new record lows against the dollar on Friday as strains with the United States intensified, but President Recep Tayyip Erdogan defiantly proclaimed Turkey would emerge victorious in an "economic war."Compounding the lira's agony, President Donald Trump said he had doubled steel and aluminum tariffs on Turkey, noting that relations between the NATO allies were "not very good."The lira's plunge is one of the most serious economic crises that Erdogan has faced since coming to power in 2003 in the wake of a financial crisis in 2001 that brought the economy to near meltdown. The currency turbulence coincides with the most bitter dispute with the United States since the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus, which so far shows no sign of abating. The lira was trading at 6.6 to the dollar at 1335 GMT, a loss on the day of 19 percent. "The Turkish Lira is in a state of crisis, as a result of investor confidence in Turkish assets remaining at alarmingly low levels," said Jameel Ahmad, Global Head of Currency Strategy & Market Research at FXTM.
'National fight'
But Erdogan, who had remained unusually silent until now as the lira crisis mounted, urged Turks to take matters into their own hands. "If you have dollars, euros or gold under your pillow, go to banks to exchange them for Turkish lira. It is a national fight," he said. "This will be the response to those who have declared an economic war," he said, blaming Turkey's woes on what he described as an "interest rate lobby" seeking to push the country to higher rates. Erdogan had raised eyebrows Thursday when he appeared to invoke divine intervention, saying: "If they have dollars, we have our people, we have our right and we have Allah!"Turkey remains at loggerheads with the United States over the detention for the last two years of American pastor Andrew Brunson and a host of other issues.
Trump intensified the alarm on financial markets with a new tweet on the Turkey row.
I have just authorized a doubling of Tariffs on Steel and Aluminum with respect to Turkey as their currency, the Turkish Lira, slides rapidly downward against our very strong Dollar!" Trump said on Twitter. "Our relations with Turkey are not good at this time!"But Erdogan said Turks should not be alarmed by exchange rate movements. "The dollar, the mollar, will not cut our path," said Erdogan, adding Turkey had alternatives "from Iran, to Russia, to China and some European countries."
- 'May not stem worries' -
Markets are deeply concerned over the direction of domestic economic policy under Erdogan with inflation at nearly 16 percent but the central bank reluctant to raise rates in response. UBS chief economist for EMEA emerging markets Gyorgy Kovacs said a giant rate hike of 350-400 basis points would be "consistent with real rate levels that in the past helped to stabilize the currency."He warned that a "rate hike alone might not stem the worries about the U.S. and Turkey tensions and a potential further escalation."And it remains unclear if the bank would be willing to sharply lift rates, with analysts saying the nominally independent institution is under the influence of Erdogan, who wants low rates to keep growth humming. After winning a June election with revamped powers, Erdogan tightened his control over the central bank and appointed his son-in-law Berat Albayrak to head a newly-empowered finance ministry. "President Erdogan's strengthened powers under the new presidential system have made it increasingly uncertain whether policymakers will be able to act to stabilize the economy," said William Jackson, chief emerging markets economist at Capital Economics in London.
Accelerating speed
Concerns mounted Friday after a report in the Financial Times that the supervisory wing of the European Central Bank had over the last weeks began to look more closely at eurozone lenders' exposure to Turkey. The report said the situation is not yet seen as "critical" but Spain's BBVA, Italy's UniCredit and France's BNP Paribas are regarded as particularly exposed. With many Turkish companies have taken out loans in dollars, banks face a higher risk of default. "Investors have been looking at the unfolding currency crisis in Turkey as a local difficulty, however the accelerating speed of the declines appears to be raising concerns about European banks exposure to the Turkish banking system," said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets UK. Albayrak, who formerly served as energy minister, on Friday announced what he has described as a "new economic model" for Turkey but he focused on macro-economic issues and steered well clear of tackling the currency crisis. The lira's plunge has featured remarkably little on Turkish television channels and newspapers -- most of which after recent ownership changes are loyal to the government -- with media focusing instead on recent flooding by the Black Sea.

Iran’s Economy on Verge of Collapse after Sanctions
London - Riyadh - Asharq Al-Awsat and Fateh al-Rahman Youssef/Friday, 10 August, 2018/Iranian government efforts to confront the country’s worsening economic crisis have backfired and things are likely to get worse after the US reimposed sanctions on the country following its withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers. The government sought to stabilize the currency by pegging it at a set rate to the dollar but this measure ended up speeding the rial’s decline, Bloomberg said. The rial’s value has gone down down 70 percent since May. In the runup to the Aug. 7 resumption of US sanctions, President Hassan Rouhani got stern directives from a few corners of Iran. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei urged him to deal with corruption. The Revolutionary Guards commander told him to focus on Iran’s slumping currency, while a sizable chunk of Parliament summoned Rouhani to harangue him about the sinking economy. None of them, however, had any advice on how to ease the growing sense of despair and outrage in the streets, reported Bloomberg. Over the past few weeks, there has been a 50 percent rise in the price of some food items, triggering scattered protests. Fawaz al-Elmi, an expert in international trade, told Asharq Al-Awsat that Iran will likely “face the worst of scenarios.”“The US sanctions will have severe repercussions on the Iranian economy,” he said, adding that 105 international companies have withdrawn from the Iranian market and the riyal has lost another 12 percent of its value since the sanctions have gone into effect on Tuesday. Only three years after the nuclear deal was signed, though, instead of enjoying the fruits of the accord, Rouhani has to explain what went wrong—and how he’s going to fix it. To some observers, Rouhani’s attempts to deal with the situation have been reactionary and not part of a coherent strategy. “They’re dealing with crises as they happen,” Saeed Laylaz, a pro-reform economist who has advised the government, told Bloomberg. “The people have lost their trust, and they are craving efficiency. They don’t care if it comes from men with beards (religious figures in Iran) or neckties.”Rouhani has governed as a moderate. He now finds himself on precarious middle ground. To the right, he faces pressure from conservative clerics who were critical of the nuclear deal to begin with. On the left, he’s blamed for not doing enough to reform the political or economic system during the two years the deal was in effect. Progress was made—oil exports surged, for example—but job creation couldn’t meet demand in a country where more than 60 percent of the population is under 30.

Ahmadinejad Asks Rouhani to Resign
London - Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 10 August, 2018/Former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has asked President Hassan Rouhani to resign. In a video published on his official website, Ahmadinejad said Rouhani, the Larijani brothers and the conservative and reformative blocs are responsible for the current situation in Iran. The return of calm hinged on the three authorities stepping down, he said. Ahmadinejad said that Rouhani is not accepted by the Iranians, posing the question of 'Who is responsible for the current situation in the country?' Five years have already passed, and the economy in the country is collapsing – the confidence in the regime is almost at zero level, he said. Ahmadinejad added that the people don’t want Rouhani and his presence undermines the country. He implicitly hinted at the nuclear deal, saying that it offered privileges but the people received nothing. This is the second time in six months that Ahmadinejad demands the heads of the three authorities to resign. In February, Ahmadinejad responded to a speech delivered by Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei on the delay of social justice and the necessity of apologizing to the Iranians 39 years after the Iranian revolution. Ahmadinejad called on Khamenei to take tangible steps given his position and vast powers in the regime, in order to maintain the confidence of the public – he demanded to amend the constitution and to hold quick and free presidential and parliamentary elections. The demands of Ahmadinejad coincide with the return of US sanctions and the renewal of popular protests. He finds himself comfortable in renewing his demands, especially that it was confirmed last week that Rouhani would appear in front of the parliament to answer questions on his government’s handling of Iran’s economic struggles. Two pro-regime clerics Hossein Noori Hamedani and Naser Makarem Shirazi criticized the government and the judiciary over the slow pace in dealing with corruption files. Larijani said Wednesday, after withdrawing confidence from the Iranian minister of labor, that it is a shame that launching accusations has become a trend, hinting at speeches delivered by Ahmadinejad in a number of cities in Iran.

Khamenei Seeks to Downplay Concerns over Iranian Regime’s Future

London - Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 10 August, 2018/Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said Iran had nothing to be concerned about, in his first reaction since the return of biting US sanctions on Tuesday. "With regard to our situation do not be worried at all. Nobody can do anything," his website quoted him as saying, according to Reuters. US President Donald Trump tweeted on Tuesday that the new sanctions, which were lifted under a 2015 international nuclear deal, were the most biting sanctions ever imposed. Companies doing business with Iran will be barred from the United States, Trump said. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told the Iran newspaper that Oman and Switzerland have acted as mediators in talks with America in the past but that there are currently no direct or indirect talks being held with the United States. He also denied that he met with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Singapore last week. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, speaking in a meeting with North Korea's foreign minister on Wednesday, said that America cannot be trusted, according to the State news agency IRNA. "Today, America is identified as an unreliable and untrustworthy country in the world which does not adhere to any of its obligations," Rouhani said. In the current situation, friendly countries should develop their relations and cooperation in (the) international community," he said, adding Iran and North Korea have "always had close views" on many issues. Ri traveled to Tehran after attending a security forum in Singapore, where he and Pompeo sparred over an agreement made at June's landmark summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Iranian Opposition Group Reveals Details of Paris Bomb Plot against it
Brussels – Abdullah Mustafa/Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 10 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.

Iraqi Cleric Sadr Wins Vote Recount
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 10/18/Nationalist Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr's alliance won Iraq's legislative election in May according to a manual recount, the electoral commission said Friday, paving the way for a government to be formed nearly three months after the polls. Allegations of fraud prompted the supreme court to order a partial manual recount, but Sadr's joint list with communists will retain all 54 seats it won to become the biggest bloc in Iraq's 329-seat parliament. The only change resulting from the recount will be an extra seat for the Conquest Alliance of pro-Iranian former paramilitary fighters at the expense of a local Baghdad list. Conquest Alliance remains in second place but will have 48 seats instead of 47, Iraq's nine-member electoral commission said. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's bloc remains in third with just 42 seats. After the supreme court officially announces the final results, the outgoing president has 15 days to convene the parliament, which must then elect a new head of state and begin the process for forming a coalition government. Sadr has already signed a coalition agreement with Shiite Ammar al-Hakim's Al-Hikma list, which will stay on 19 seats after the recount, and the secular outgoing vice-president Iyad Allawi, whose list was comprised largely of Sunnis and secured 21 seats. The May 12 election saw a record low turnout of 44.5 percent, with long-time political figures pushed out by voters seeking change in a country mired in conflict and corruption. The recount results come after deadly protests broke out earlier in the summer, with demonstrators angry at water shortages, unemployment and the dire state of public services.  Regular power cuts mean there has been little respite from sweltering summer temperatures and with the national grid providing just a few hours of electricity per day, many Iraqis are forced to pay to use generators through the private sector. Graft is also seen as a huge problem in a country where citizens argue they fail to benefit from the country's oil wealth. Officially $40 billion (34 billion euros) has been allocated to the power sector over the past 15 years, but a substantial slice has been siphoned off by corrupt politicians and businessmen who have fronted fake contracts. In an attempt to quell public anger after more than a month of protests, Abadi sacked four directors in the electricity ministry on Tuesday and moved a number of others. The decision followed the dismissal last month of electricity minister Qassem al-Fahdawi "because of the deterioration in the electricity sector", the premier's office said at the time.
Sadr Retains Election Victory in Recount of Iraq Ballots
Asharq Al-Awsat/August 10/18/Cleric Moqtada al-Sadr retained his lead in Iraq's May parliamentary election, results of a nationwide recount of votes showed on Friday, positioning him to play a central role in forming the country's next government. Iraq's Independent High Election Commission (IHEC) released the results of the recount on its website early on Friday. The IHEC said the results of the recount matched the initial results from 13 of Iraq's 18 provinces. The winning parties are still embroiled in negotiations over forming the next governing coalition three months after the vote, with no sign of an imminent conclusion. The recount did not alter the initial results significantly, with Sadr keeping his tally of 54 seats. Parliament ordered the recount in June after widespread allegations of fraud cast doubt on the integrity of the ballot. According to the results announced Friday, a group of Iran-backed Shiite leaders, the Conquest Alliance, remained second behind Sadr's bloc but gained 48 seats instead of 47, with incumbent Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's bloc still in third place with 42 seats. Abadi, who is seeking a second term in office, is heading a fragile caretaker government until a new one is formed. The political uncertainty over the makeup of the new government has raised tensions at a time when public impatience is growing over poor basic services, unemployment and the slow pace of rebuilding after a three-year war with ISIS. After the supreme court officially announces the final results, the outgoing president has 15 days to convene parliament, which must then elect a new head of state and begin the process of forming a coalition government and settling on a new prime minister.

Sadr’s Reluctance Drags Iraq Government Formation
Baghdad, New York/Asharq Al Awsat and Ali Barada/August 10/18/Sadrist Movement Leader and top Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr said he is reluctant to participate in the formation the upcoming government, refusing to enter into parliamentary alliances that are based on sectarian, ethnic and partisan quotas. Sadr’s position jeopardizes efforts for forming Iraq’s next government. Sadr issued an official statement on Thursday saying that he will no longer continue supporting Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi for another term in office. The statement also referred to the four-week-old popular protests as “shy steps that do little to meet the protesters' demands.”Sadr said he preferred to undertake “constructive political opposition” if political forces did not meet conditions he set for forming the government and the method of electing a qualified prime minister. Commenting on Sadr's statement, Fatah Alliance member Amer Al-Fayez said “the failure of political blocs to agree on alliances combined with a foggy political atmosphere makes everything possible, whether it be the formation of a government or opposition blocs. Fatah Alliance is a Shiite bloc coalition that was formed to contest the 2018 general election. It includes former groups involved in Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Forces). In the meantime, Special Representative and Head United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) Jan Kubis hoped the next government would form in time for "Eid al-Adha," which takes place late August. Kubis said that forming the upcoming government is a part of meeting the aspirations of Iraqis who, in recent demonstrations, had sent a "very strong message" expressing their frustration with the incumbent political system. Iraqis have also taken to street against sectarian quotas and foreign interference in Iraqi politics. “There is a chance,” Kubis told Asharq Al-Awsat when addressing the possibility of the nation-wide prominent Shiite authority Ali al-Sistani instigating change among prominent political forces. Kubis called on Baghdad powers to carry on with the policy of openness initiated by Abadi with neighboring countries, especially Saudi Arabia and Gulf states.

Syrian Troops Shell Idlib, Drop 'Surrender' Notes
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 10/18/Syrian regime forces shelled rebel and jihadist positions in the northwestern province of Idlib on Thursday and dropped leaflets urging people to surrender. The province is the largest chunk of territory still in rebel hands, and President Bashar al-Assad has warned it would be his next priority. The United Nations, for its part, appealed Thursday for talks to avert "a civilian bloodbath" in Idlib, on the border with Turkey. "The war cannot be allowed to go to Idlib," the head of the United Nations humanitarian taskforce for Syria, Jan Egeland, told reporters in Geneva. Egeland said he remained "hopeful" that diplomatic efforts could avert a major ground offensive that would force hundreds of thousands to flee. "It is bad now" in Idlib, Egeland said. "It could be 100 times worse." The warning came as government helicopters dropped leaflets over towns in Idlib's eastern countryside urging people to surrender, an AFP correspondent said. "The war is nearing an end... We are calling on you to join the local reconciliations, as many of our people in Syria did," said the leaflets, which were stamped with the military's seal. Such surrender deals are often negotiated by regime ally Russia. They typically see rebels hand over territory to government troops in exchange for a halt to shelling, the return of state institutions, and a chance to either join regime forces or be bussed out of the area. "The fate of your family, children and future depend on your decision," warned the leaflets. Heavy artillery and rocket fire on Thursday morning 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 a possible regime assault on that area," Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said, referring to Jisr al-Shughur.But "the fate of remaining areas in the province depend on any deal" between key powerbrokers Russia and Turkey, he said. Jisr al-Shughur is near the administrative borders with Latakia and Hama provinces.
"Regime reinforcements including equipment, soldiers, vehicles and ammunition have been arriving since Tuesday," he told AFP. They were arriving in three regime-held areas: Latakia province just west of Jisr al-Shughur, in the Sahl al-Ghab plain to the south in Hama province, and in a sliver of the province's southeast that is already in government hands. Al-Watan newspaper, 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 rival opposition factions also control territory.Syrian troops have recaptured key swathes of the country in recent months with Russia's help. - Dozens arrested -Apparently fearing a surrender deal 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. It was designated last year as one of four "de-escalation" zones where violence was supposed to be reduced ahead of a nationwide ceasefire. It is the only such zone left, after Assad's troops in recent months recaptured the other three with a blend of military assaults and "reconciliation" deals.

Canada Asks for Help in Saudi Dispute

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 10/18/Canada is quietly nudging allies including Germany and Sweden for help with resolving its row with Saudi Arabia, a government source confirmed Thursday. The senior official, who asked not to be identified due to the sensitivity of the diplomacy, said Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland had spoken with her counterparts in the two European nations. Germany and Sweden previously were targets of Saudi backlashes for calling out the kingdom over human rights abuses. Freeland sought to understand how they resolved those disputes, and asked for their support, the official said. Ottawa also planned to reach out to regional heavyweight the United Arab Emirates and Britain, which has strong historical ties to Saudi Arabia. Women's rights advocates, charitable organizations, and civil rights groups, meanwhile, urged the international community "to join Canada in calling for the unequivocal respect of women's rights in Saudi Arabia." They also called for Riyadh to "immediately release" women activists in detention, and commended Freeland "for her uncompromising stand for human rights, and for her bold leadership in walking the talk on women's rights globally." "We join Canada in urging Saudi Arabia to release women's rights activists Samar Badawi and Nassima al-Sada," said the statement signed by 22 non-governmental groups and individuals, including the Nobel Women's Initiatve, Oxfam, and Lawyers without Borders. Tensions have been high since Monday, when Riyadh expelled Canada's ambassador, recalled its own envoy and froze all new trade and investments after Ottawa denounced a crackdown on rights activists in Saudi Arabia. On Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stood firm, saying: "Canada will always speak strongly and clearly in private and in public on questions of human rights ... at home and abroad, wherever we see the need."
"Canadians expect that, and indeed people around the world expect that leadership from Canada," he said. Trudeau noted that Freeland had "a long conversation" on Tuesday with her counterpart Adel al-Jubeir to try to resolve the dispute. "Diplomatic talks continue," he said.
Canada has been disappointed that Western powers including the United States -- a key ally of Saudi Arabia -- did not publicly support Ottawa. "Both sides need to diplomatically resolve this together. We can't do it for them. They need to resolve it together," US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told a briefing on Wednesday. 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.

Canada welcomes appointment of Michelle Bachelet as next UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
August 10, 2018 - Ottawa, Canada - Global Affairs Canada
Global Affairs Canada today issued the following statement:
“Canada welcomes the decision to appoint Michelle Bachelet, former president of Chile, as the next UN high commissioner for human rights. Ms. Bachelet brings with her a wealth of experience, including as a champion for gender equality and the rights of women and girls.
“Canada extends its gratitude to the outgoing high commissioner, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, for his unwavering commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights around the world. Under his leadership, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) strengthened the human rights agenda of the United Nations.
“Canada maintains a strong relationship with the OHCHR, which remains an essential element of the rules-based international order. In 2016, Canada announced up to $15 million over three years in unearmarked funding for the OHCHR. Canada has also provided additional targeted funding to OHCHR country missions and thematic programs, including the Human Rights up Front initiative.
“We trust that Ms. Bachelet, as the next high commissioner, will continue to fight for the values that the OHCHR represents and that Canada shares: human rights, freedom and dignity for all. Together, we must remain steadfast in our efforts to protect and promote human rights around the world.”

Calm Returns to Gaza-Israel Border - for Now
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 10/18/Calm returned to Gaza and neighbouring areas of Israel Friday after a deadly flare-up between Palestinian militants and the Israeli military, but fresh protests could test the embryonic truce. Palestinian political sources said agreement had been reached to end all rocket fire into Israel and air strikes on Gaza from around midnight (2100 GMT) on Thursday. There was no Israeli confirmation but there were no fresh strikes overnight. Thursday had seen extensive Israeli raids in retaliation for the launching of more than 180 rockets and mortar rounds by Gaza's Islamist rulers Hamas and its allies on Wednesday night. Three Palestinians were killed in the Israeli strikes, including a mother and her year-old daughter, while seven Israelis were wounded by Palestinian rocket fire as hundreds took refuge in bomb shelters.It was one of the most serious flareups since the 2014 Gaza war and followed months of escalating tensions. Late on Thursday, an Israeli air raid flattened a five-storey building which hosted a cultural centre in Gaza City but which the army said was used by Hamas security forces. The Israeli security cabinet and the Hamas leadership convened separately late on Thursday, with the truce offer brokered by Egypt and the United Nations on the table. Neither Israel nor Hamas officially confirmed any truce had gone into effect, although that has also been the case with previous informal arrangements. It would be the third such truce in a month. Reserve general Doron Almog, former head of Israel's southern command which deals with Gaza, told army radio on Friday morning that the next 24 hours would be crucial. "We are closer to an arrangement than we have been in the past because Hamas's interest in a deal is greater than its wish for escalation," he said.
- Lone call for war -For Israel, the response to the Hamas rockets is politically problematic for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. A Friday opinion poll published by Hebrew-language newspaper Maariv found that 64 percent of respondents, both Jews and Arabs, were dissatisfied with Netanyahu's policy towards Hamas, with only 29 percent supportive. The survey polled 512 people and had a margin of error of 4.3 percentage points. Maariv commentator Ben Caspit wrote that during the security cabinet meeting on Thursday Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman was a lone voice in support of a new war in Gaza. "He was the only one who demanded to launch a large-scale operation in the Gaza Strip. Netanyahu was opposed. The (Israeli army) also didn't recommend it," he said. Hamas and Israel have fought three wars since 2008. Palestinian protesters were expected to gather along the Israeli border on Friday evening, as they have every week since late March. "Despite the aggression on the Gaza Strip, our Palestinian people will continue our march of return and breaking the blockade until it achieves its goals," said Hamas spokesman Hassem Qassem. The protests are calling for an end to the decade-long Israeli blockade of Gaza and the return of Palestinian refugees to their ancestral homes inside Israel, which they fled or were expelled from during the war surrounding Israel's creation in 1948. Israel says its blockade is necessary to isolate Hamas although critics say it amounts to collective punishment of two million people. It says any significant return of refugees would mean the end of it as a Jewish state. At least 165 Palestinians have been killed since protests began on March 30.
Most were killed by Israeli fire during the protests but others died in air strikes. One Israeli soldier was shot dead by a Palestinian sniper.

Hamas, Israel Seeking to Calm the Ghost of War They Both Fear
Ramallah, Tel Aviv- Kifah Zboun and Asharq Al Awsat/Friday, 10 August, 2018/Eighteen citizens were injured on Thursday when Israeli planes targeted the Said Messhal Cultural Foundation west of Gaza city. Calm returned to the Gaza Strip gradually after a long day, during which Israel bombed about 150 targets belonging to Hamas and other factions, which responded by about 180 rockets and shells at nearby Israeli settlements and cities. Palestinian factions have declared the end of fighting “if Israel commits” to the decision. A Palestinian official said in a brief statement that the joint chamber of the factions “announces the cessation of all operations… as the factions consider that the round of escalation in response to the Israeli aggression is over.” He added: “But if the occupation commits any of its crimes, the resistance will defend its people.”Palestinian sources with knowledge of the matter told Asharq Al-Awsat that the decision to stop the fighting was made without much pressure in order to convey two important messages. “First, that any Israeli bombing will be met with the same; and second, that Hamas does not want to engage in a war in the sector,” the sources said. Israel also appears to be avoiding the specter of war with Hamas. “We are not eager for war, but we will not make any concessions to Hamas,” Yuval Steinitz, a member of Israel’s inner cabinet, told Israel Radio on Thursday. The latest escalation began on Wednesday following rocket attacks from Gaza that targeted nearby Israeli towns and cities and an armed attack on an army engineering vehicle on the border, in retaliation for Israel’s killing of two members of Qassam brigade on Tuesday. In a subsequent development, a Grad rocket hit the city of Beersheba, the farthest area hit by a rocket from Gaza since the war of 2014. The Israeli army said sirens had been launched in Beersheba, the largest city in southern Israel, located about 40 kilometers from the Gaza Strip. Explosions were heard in the outskirts of the city inhabited by 200,000 people, but no casualties were reported, as the rockets landed in an open area. Israel responded with raids. but no injuries were reported. The United Nations’ Middle East envoy, Nickolay Mladenov, has expressed his concern about the latest escalation of hostilities in the Gaza Strip. Mladenov said he was “deeply alarmed” by “multiple rockets fired toward communities in southern Israel” the day before. “If the current escalation, however, is not contained immediately, the situation can rapidly deteriorate with devastating consequences for all people,” he added. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also announced that he has made intensive international contacts at all levels to stop the Israeli escalation “on our people in the Gaza Strip.” He called on the international community to intervene immediately and urgently to stop the fighting.

Cost of Syria War Destruction Close to $400 Billion
Beirut - Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 10 August, 2018/Seven years of relentless conflict in Syria have wreaked destruction that the United Nations said Wednesday had cost the country close to a whopping $400 billion. The figure was released after a two-day meeting of more than 50 Syrian and international experts in Lebanon, hosted by the UN's Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA).ESCWA said the "volume of destruction in physical capital and its sectoral distribution" had been estimated at more than $388 billion (334 billion euros). According to Agence France Presse, it said the figure did not include "human losses resulting from deaths or the loss of human competences and skilled labor due to displacement, which were considered the most important enablers of the Syrian economy."
More than half of Syria's pre-war population has fled the country or been displaced internally over the past seven years. Russia's 2015 military intervention helped a spectacular recovery by regime forces, which have regained significant ground in recent months. ESCWA said a full report on the impact of the war was due out in September and that the updated estimates reached this week would help inform ongoing discussions on post-conflict Syria.

Russian-Turkish Coordination on Limited Idlib Battle

Moscow - London - Raed Jabr and Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 10 August, 2018/A Russian source told Asharq Al-Awsat Thursday that the expected visit of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to Ankara early next week comes in light of information about a possible agreement between concerned parties to facilitate the control of Syria’s Idlib province without causing huge damages. Despite a Syrian military preparation to start the battle of Idlib, the Russian source said, “There could be an agreement to facilitate the takeover of Idlib without causing immense damages.” Lavrov will visit Ankara on August 13-14 to take part in a conference of Turkey’s ambassadors and permanent representatives, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s official spokesperson Maria Zakharova told a news briefing on Thursday. "He will address the ambassadorial conference and will have talks with the Turkish Foreign Minister," Zakharova said. Earlier, Moscow failed to reach understandings with each of Tehran and Ankara on means to settle the situation in Idlib province. “We expect a mixed military operation in Idlib that would reflect complex alliances,” the source said in a sign that any agreement in the province would probably be a reproduction of the scenario of control implemented in the south of Syria, amid differences among rebels concerning the role of Jabhat al-Nusra. He said that a large number of opposition fighters could join the Syrian Army and the Russians to confront al-Nusra and its allied forces. “We would witness an alliance of the fait accompli on the ground,” the source explained. Meanwhile, Jan Egeland, Special Advisor to the UN Special Envoy for Syria said the agency was making preparations for a battle and would ask Turkey to keep its borders open to allow civilians to flee if the need arose. “The war cannot be allowed to go to Idlib. Idlib is a very special place, it is the place where people fled,” the UN top diplomat said. Idlib, one of the last major rebel strongholds in Syria, is located near the border with Turkey. According to the UN, a military offensive on Idlib could displace up to 2.5 million people towards the Turkish border. Syrian regime helicopters dropped Thursday leaflets over towns in Idlib's eastern countryside urging people to surrender. "The war is nearing an end ... We are calling on you to join the local reconciliations, as many of our people in Syria did," said the leaflets, which were stamped with the military's seal.

The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published
on August 10-11/18
Analysis/Wooed by Egypt, Hamas and Israel Can Still Prevent All-out War
زيفي برئيل من الهآررتس: بسعي من مصر بإمكان حماس وإسرائيل تجنب الحرب الشاملة بينهما

Zvi Bar'el /Haaretz/August 10/18
In need of a stable economic base, Hamas has no problem continuing talks while bombs are flying. Meanwhile, Israel seems willing to negotiate as if it weren't being attacked – and to strike back as if there were no talks
Hamas’ leadership in the Gaza Strip, led by Hamas’ political bureau chief Ismail Haniyeh and Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar, was not enthusiastic over the way Hamas’ overseas leaders entered Gaza last week. The luxury cars in which they entered Gaza from Egypt, their arrogant conduct – especially that of Saleh al-Arouri, Haniyeh’s deputy, and the inevitable tension between officials in Gaza suffering public anger and Israeli airstrikes and officials living in Qatar and Lebanon couldn’t be hidden even by the plethora of verbiage praising the first Gaza meeting between the two leaderships.
The meeting was even “approved” by Israel, which promised not to attack those arriving from outside even though they head its wanted list.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had expected the Hamas leadership to torpedo Egypt’s efforts to reconcile between Fatah and Hamas and broker a long-term cease-fire between Hamas and Israel, thereby sparing him the need to make a formal decision on the Egyptian proposal, which he views as a draft that can still be amended.
But when he discovered that, despite the disagreements within Hamas – mainly over the question of transferring control of Gaza to the Palestinian Authority and what the organization’s attitude should be toward U.S. President Donald Trump’s “deal of the century” – negotiations on the Egyptian proposal had become serious, he sent a list of reservations to the head of Egyptian intelligence, Abbas Kamel, that would alter the proposal completely.
Kamel, who was in Washington last week, invited the Hamas leadership to Cairo to show them Fatah’s answer. Hamas had already announced that it accepts the Egyptian plan.
“We thought they would be small changes to the plan’s principles, but we discovered it was a new plan,” said Khalil al-Hayya, who serves as Sinwar’s deputy in his role as head of Hamas in Gaza. Al-Hayya attended the Cairo meeting along with six other Hamas leaders, four from abroad and two from Gaza.
Fatah proposed a three-stage plan, he said. First, in the week after the agreement was signed, PA cabinet ministers would resume full authority over Gaza’s affairs.
The question of merging Hamas’ security services with those of the PA would be left for the next stage, in which security officials from both Palestinian factions would meet with Egyptian officials to discuss how to establish security control over Gaza similar to that prevailing in the West Bank. A monitoring committee comprised of Fatah, Hamas and Egyptian representatives would oversee implementation of whatever agreement was reached.
In the second stage, which would last about a month, Hamas would also have to stop collecting taxes in Gaza. In exchange, the PA would promise to pay the salaries of all Hamas government officials, including policemen and firefighters involved in civil defense, but not members of its military wing. The Egyptians, in contrast, had proposed that Hamas keep collecting taxes and use the money to pay its security forces, which include fighters from its military wing; Hamas would then transfer the remaining funds to the PA for it to pay the salaries of the Hamas government officials, including policemen and firefighters.
In the third stage, which would last ten weeks, both sides would prepare for PA elections.
During this week’s discussions between Hamas leaders and the heads of other factions in Gaza, some factions, like the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, favored accepting Abbas’ plan. But others opposed it, including Islamic Jihad, the Popular Committees and Hamas’ military wing. The Hamas delegation then took those responses back to Cairo.
Meanwhile, the fighting between Hamas and Israel continued. On Thursday, Hamas announced that “the escalation is over and its continuation depends on the occupier’s behavior.” The statement said Hamas had finished responding to “Israel’s aggression” and had upheld its principle that fire would be met with fire. But it said nothing about Egypt’s intensive involvement over the last two days, which included threatening language toward Hamas, or the Trump Administration’s effort to persuade Israel to curtail its military responses and refrain from launching a major operation, or UN envoy Nikolay Mladenov’s tireless efforts on the Gaza-Israel issue.
Both Washington and Cairo see ending Gaza’s humanitarian crisis as much more important than dealing with the tactical confrontation between Israel and Hamas. Rightly or wrongly, Washington considers Gaza critical to advancing its “deal of the century,” given Abbas’ refusal to even meet with the U.S. envoys and his success in mobilizing Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan against the deal.
That success was first and foremost thanks to Trump’s unilateral decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and recognize the city as Israel’s capital. Trump later sparked another uproar when he froze aid to UNRWA, the UN aid agency for Palestinian refugees, in an effort to bring about the agency’s closure. Finally, Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, reportedly asked Jordan to strip Palestinian refugees in Jordan of their refugee status. All of this led Cairo and Riyadh to issue public statements against the American plan.
The U.S. administration therefore attaches great importance to solving the Gaza crisis, which will at least alleviate the tragedy of its two million residents and end the fighting, enabling both sides to move on to a diplomatic process.
Egypt, which denounced the embassy move and opposes any harm to UNRWA, is willing to help advance a diplomatic process. But it’s much more interested in solving Gaza’s crisis, since its security strategy includes trying to prevent the reopening of the terror pipeline between Gaza and Sinai.
Therefore, contrary to its previous position, Egypt is no longer conditioning any solution to the Gaza problem on internal Palestinian reconciliation.
This stance may be intended to pressure Abbas. But the fact that Cairo decided to open the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza more or less permanently, that it is in advanced talks over Gaza’s reconstruction by Egyptian companies and has even gotten Israel to agree that Port Said, rather than Cyprus, will serve as Gaza’s port – and that it did all this without involving the PA – shows that Egypt wants progress on Gaza with or without the PA, and with no connection to the “deal of the century.”
In Egypt’s view, the American "deal of the century" is half-baked, vague and unrealistic. Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, who returned on Thursday from a two-day visit to Washington, termed his talks with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton “positive,” but media reports prior to his return said that during his meeting with Trump’s Mideast envoy, Jason Greenblatt, no new ideas were presented to him, nor did Washington offer any guarantees that Israel would agree to the deal. In other words, he heard no willingness to apply American pressure on Israel.
Shoukry also received no details on how much money Washington will give for Gaza’s reconstruction. And more importantly, he got no concrete pledge to increase American aid to Egypt.
According to these reports, the Americans asked Shoukry to promise that Egypt would oversee security affairs in Gaza until the crisis is solved. Shoukry replied that he’s the wrong address; Palestinian affairs are handled by Egyptian intelligence and President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi. He told associates this request showed that the Americans don’t understand the situation in Gaza.
Assuming these reports accurately reflect the nature of the talks in Washington, Egypt’s conclusion is that it needs to separate the Gaza issue, which requires immediate attention, from the “deal of the century,” which currently looks like a dream.
Rebuilding Gaza isn’t only important for Egypt’s security. It would also give Egyptian companies a new market, especially since much of the new infrastructure would be built on Egyptian territory and provide jobs for Egyptian Bedouins in Sinai financed by donor states. Moreover, opening a Palestinian port in Port Said wouldn’t just give Egypt new revenues; it would also give it another lever of political control over Gaza, just as the Rafah crossing does.
These Egyptian and American considerations have boosted Hamas’ political status. Today, the organization is being wooed. Two years ago, Egypt viewed Hamas as a hostile terrorist organization working with the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamic State, but now, it’s willing to accept Hamas as Gaza’s legitimate government.
Israel, too, is willing to give Hamas this recognition, citing the need for a responsible government, at least on security issues. In the past, Israel negotiated with Hamas only over prisoner exchanges and cease-fires. Now, it’s holding diplomatic and economic negotiations with Hamas over Gaza’s future. The fact that Israeli and Hamas officials aren’t negotiating directly doesn’t change the fact that talks are taking place.
After Hamas won the 2006 PA elections, it proposed continuing civilian cooperation with Israel, but without formal recognition. Israel adamantly rejected that offer. Now, 12 years later, Israel and Hamas seem headed back to that idea.
The danger is that Hamas could become intoxicated and make new demands. But so far, it has evinced a desire to advance the negotiations and at least arrange a long-term cease-fire with Israel, lasting five to seven years.
It’s still not clear whether it will insist on linking negotiations over the Israeli captives and missing people it holds with negotiations over a cease-fire and economic rehabilitation. But according to Palestinian sources, Hamas seems to be heading toward a concession on this issue.
Hamas badly needs a stable economic base, both for its day-to-day operations and for its long-term control of Gaza. And it has no problem continuing the talks while bombs and rockets are flying. Israel, too, seems willing to continue negotiating as if it weren’t being attacked, and to strike back as if there were no talks.

Europe’s Dangerous Illusions on Iran

Amir Taheri/Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 10 August, 2018/
It was an almost surrealistic scene the other day when the European Union’s foreign relations spokeswoman Federica Mogherini traveled half the way round the world to New Zealand to lobby for “continued trade with the Islamic Republic of Iran” in defiance of sanctions re-imposed by US President Donald Trump. Here was an official of a bloc of democracies supposedly allied to the United States not only criticizing an American policy, something quite legitimate, but inviting others to oppose it with full resolve. Almost on the same day Alistair Burt, the minister in charge of the Middle East in the British Foreign Office, told BBC Radio 4 that the United Kingdom, still part of the EU, was adopting a similar position against Trump’s move. Other European Union officials have also expressed similar views. The problem is that they don’t really know what they are talking about. To start with they all insist that the so-called “nuke deal” concocted by former US President Barack Obama is inviolable because, in Mogherini’s words, the EU must “honor its signature.” However, the EU never signed the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), nor did anyone else. There is no signature to honor or not.
In any case, though hovering on the sidelines like a ghost, the EU was never part of the negotiations that took place between Iran on one hand and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany on the other.
Moreover, the so-called 5+1 group that negotiated with the Islamic Republic was an informal group with absolutely no legal existence and certainly no legally binding mission and no mechanism for enforcing its decisions and answerability.
If Mogherini and Alistair Burt are serious in their campaign in favor of the JCPOA they should re-write it in the form of a treaty signed by EU members and ratified by their respective parliaments or at least the EU’s Council of Ministers. Even then, for JCPOA to acquire some legal dignity it would have to be re-written in the form of an act of parliament and submitted to the Islamic Majlis in Tehran for proper ratification according to the Iranian Constitution, something that the Islamic government is loath to do.
All that would require agreement on a single official version of the deal which means discarding the various English and Persian versions in circulation.
By re-imposing some of the sanctions imposed by four of his predecessors, Trump may have been impolitic or provocative. But he has betrayed no signature and violated no treaty. All he has done is refusing to continue suspending some sanctions as Bill Clinton and Barack Obama had done before him.
Other factors point to EU’s hypocrisy in this matter.
With the re-imposition of American sanctions thousands of firms trading with both Iran and the US would face a dilemma: which of the two markets to choose? It is not in EU’s gift to resolve that dilemma for them. So far, and at least two years after the ”nuke deal” was unveiled, European firms are not quite sure how or even if they can treat the Islamic Republic as a normal trading partner. Nor has EU’s lobbying for the mullahs persuaded them to free a dozen European Union citizens still held hostage in Tehran about whom neither Mogherini nor Burt ever make a noise.
If sincere, the EU could use a range of tools at its disposal to encourage at least some firms to continue trading with Iran in areas affected by the re-imposed sanctions. Four-fifth of Iran’s trade with the EU bloc is with Germany, France, the UK and Italy. All those countries have well-established mechanisms for export protection but none is prepared to use them in support of trading with Iran. Interestingly, some of the sanctions that the EU is still keeping in place against Iran are tougher than those re-imposed by Trump.
Leaving all that aside, the EU’s Trump-bashing on the issue would not change some facts. Even supposing the EU did something to render the re-imposed American sanctions less painful or utterly ineffective the concerns that Trump has raised about aspects of Tehran’s behavior would remain worthy of consideration by Europeans.
Shouldn’t one try to persuade or force Tehran to stop “exporting revolution” i.e. terror? Doesn’t peace and stability in the Middle East benefit from an end to Tehran’s meddling in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Bahrain, not to mention Afghanistan and Pakistan? Would it not be a good thing if the present rulers in Tehran allowed the Iranian people a greater space for self-expression and participation in shaping their nation’s destiny?
The EU could play appositive role by acting as a broker between Iran and the US rather than go for empty diplomatic gesticulations. The EU should seek to persuade Iran that its traditional cheat-and-retreat strategy peaked out under Obama and its pursuit would only lead to disaster. Obama encouraged the mullahs in their reckless strategy by supposedly granting them “the right to enrich uranium” as Islamic Foreign Minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif goes around boasting. However, all nations have the right to enrich uranium if they so wish or even to build nuclear weapons.
The mullahs wanted another “ victory over the Infidel” and Obama gave them the illusion of one through secret negotiations in Oman. Obama’s behavior persuaded the mullahs that regardless of what mischief they may make at home or abroad no one would make them pay a price for it. Even better, a faux anti-American profile might give a morally bankrupt and repressive regime some prestige in parts of the world where anti-Americanism is the last refuge of every scoundrel. In a talk in New York in 2016 Zarif noted that without its “anti-Imperialist” profile the Islamic Republic would be “just another Pakistan”, which in his world view means a nobody.
Trump isn’t repeating Obama’s mistake by getting involved in secret shenanigans favored by the mullahs; he is playing above board. His message is: behave differently and you shall be treated differently.
That may or may not be the right policy, but it is at least a policy. The EU, on the other hand, has no policy on Iran apart from using it as an excuse for a little bit of Trump-bashing, a favorite global sport these days.

The Washington Post's Take on Saudi Arabia!

Salman Al-dossary/Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 10 August, 2018/
At its core, the Saudi-Canadian recently erupted conflict is not as much about “human rights,” as it is spun around Canadian encroachment on and intervention in Saudi internal affairs.
In a nutshell, Canada not only blatantly intruded on the affairs of another country, but also provocatively allowed for its embassy in Riyadh to post an escalatory tweet on its official account in Arabic. A move which defies the historic tradition of embassies being thought of as the first lifeline for mediation in the case of any disputes emerging between any two countries. But in this case, the Canadian embassy was used to promote for a crisis which is harmful to both countries.
Trailing along, the internationally-known newspaper “The Washington Post” published an editorial with a sweeping Arabic introduction, a first, which overlooks all facts involved in the crisis and sides with the Canadian argument.
Granted, each media outlet has the right to fully express the views of its editors, but what stands out is the audacity in imposing Western values, which are still contented among Western countries themselves, on the Saudi Kingdom. Demanding of Saudi Arabia to strictly abide by vague notions that the West still is indecisive on, is a case made for double standards.
The Washington Post, a great liberal newspaper, wants to reshape cultural values in countries that are thousands of miles away, just to justify the Canadian understanding of human rights and fundamental freedoms as the “right one.”
It continued to make the argument on Western values being conceded universal truths, without explaining or mentioning when and how it was deemed so!
What gives any country the right to impose its culture on other countries?! Going an extra mile, the newspaper disastrously made the assertion that Saudi internal affairs are a cause for legitimate concern among all democracies and free societies. Unfortunately, such irrational calls go beyond being provocative and into helping extremists rallying supporters under the slogan of combatting Western interference in the region.
Emphasizing on the undebatable nature of having to adhere to universal human rights, the diversity of values and cultures should be taken into account as an important factor for the promotion and protection of human rights.
It is worth mentioning that among industrialized countries, there are four which still apply the death penalty: the United States, Japan, Singapore, and Taiwan. More so, there are 32 states in the US that made legal and work by the death penalty. Remaining US states consider capital punishment a violation of human rights. With that being said, it is questionable how the Washington Post took it upon itself to make holy and dub as universal a specific set of ‘values,’ when a Western country such as the US can’t find consensus upon similar matters.
Saudi Arabia actively cooperates with United Nations human rights bodies, is also a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council, and spends relentless efforts in amending slips over time as an essential part of its reform project.
The Saudi government has also been making remarkable shifts and changes with the implementation of its national plan for transformation known as Kingdom Vision 2030.
It cannot be assumed that a universal clear-cut definition for human rights has been settled in today's world. And it is nearly impossible to find an across-the-board consent on such a meaning or even find a mechanism for full global application and throughout diverse world cultures.
Needless to say, Canada's values are now under attack on a world stage. Countries such as Italy and Austria have elected to power politicians who espouse ideas similar to those held by the Republican US President Donald Trump. All of whom are not in the same boat with the Canadian government's very advanced approach to liberalism.
Commenting on the crisis between Canada and Saudi Arabia, Maclean’s Andrew MacDougall writes ‘the question for Canada now: What can we do about it?’ in his August opinion piece, “Canada risks paying the price for being a Boy Scout in a bad-boy world.”
“We might not like it, but the answer might be toning down our rhetoric abroad while keeping the fires lit at home—at least until the United States gets itself together,” he adds.
MacDougall’s conclusion represents a clear and rational take on things, which is consistent with international relations and principles of non-interference in the sovereignty of world states.
In other words, Canada is free to impose its set of values within its borders so long it believes it fits and serves its citizens’ best interest. However, it is not free to classify its values and culture as superior to others.
It goes without saying that The Washington Post can also take a page out of this book instead of opting to cross-measure countries to standards upheld by other states.

Death, Diamonds and Russia’s Africa Project
Leonid Bershidsky/Bloomberg/August 10/18
The murder of three Russian journalists last week in a remote area of the Central African Republic, the world’s poorest country according to the World Bank, has turned a spotlight on what looks like a big Kremlin play for influence and resources in Africa. Where China has spent decades and billions of dollars trying to entrench itself there, Russia is offering its brute force and strong appetite for risk. It’s already making headway.
The three journalists, Orkhan Dzhemal, Alexander Rastorguev and Kirill Radchenko, were in the Central African Republic working on an investigative film about the Wagner private military company. That's a secretive Russian contractor linked by news reports to Yevgeny Prigozhin, a St. Petersburg catering entrepreneur close to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Prigozhin is also one of 12 people indicted in the US along with the Internet Research Agency, a troll farm he funded that has been caught up in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Wagner has provided mercenaries to fight in the eastern Ukraine and Syria, and it’s probably also present in the Central African Republic and neighboring Sudan.
Back in March, the Russian Foreign Ministry reported that Russia was working with the government of Central African Republic President Faustin-Archange Touadera to explore the country’s natural resources on a concession basis. At the same time, the ministry said, Russia had sent weapons along with five military and 170 civilian instructors to train the nation's military forces. The African country, home to warring Christian and Muslim groups, is under a United Nations-imposed arms embargo, but Russia obtained an official dispensation, arguing that the weapons – 5,200 Kalashnikov submachine guns and smaller numbers of handguns, grenade launchers and other hardware – were for the UN-supported regime.
The mining concessions and the “civilian instructors,” however, appear to be more closely linked than the Foreign Ministry let on. Africa Intelligence, a Paris-based investigative and research outfit, reported in July that the government of the Central African Republic had begun extracting diamonds on an alluvial site not far from the capital, Bangui, with the help of a company called Lobaye Invest. The company, according to Africa Intelligence, is a subsidiary of the St. Petersburg firm M Invest, founded by Prigozhin. Africa Intelligence reported that Wagner fighters were delivering mining equipment to the site in armored trucks. At the same time, Touadera’s Russian advisers are helping the president negotiate a truce with various groups that used to be part of the Muslim rebel movement, Seleka.
This is a business model Wagner has reportedly used in Syria, where it lends its private troops to the regime of President Bashar Al-Assad, and in return receives a share of revenues from the oil wells and refineries the troops recover from regime opponents. In February, Wagner mercenaries clashed with US troops while trying to seize a refinery and suffered major losses.
Like Syrian oil, Central African Republic diamonds are a commodity on which no ordinary business can get its hands. In the 1960s, the country exported half a million carats of diamonds a year, a volume that would make it the seventh-biggest exporter in the world today. Unlike neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo, which specializes in industrial diamonds, Central African Republic diamonds are mostly gem-quality. But the enormous economic potential of the industry was undermined by civil strife and government greed. A lot of diamonds are still extracted illegally and smuggled out of the country, and there’s a partial ban on diamond exports.
Another of the country's major resources is gold, and the three Russian reporters died while trying to drive out to a gold mine, apparently to check on Russian presence there. The circumstances of their death are still unclear: The driver of their vehicle, who survived, keeps changing his testimony. But even though the journalists didn’t live to tell their story, they were known well enough in Russia to turn attention to Wagner. Dzhemal was one of Russia’s top war reporters, known for his intrepid coverage of the Russian operation against Georgia in 2008 and the Libyan conflict of 2011, in which he nearly lost a leg. Rastorguev was a documentary filmmaker known for his bold experiments, which often included giving a camera to subjects to record their daily lives. He was one of the two creators of The Term, the essential documentary depiction of the 2011-2012 political protests in Russia.
Official Moscow was quick to deny any responsibility for the journalists’ death. Maria Zakharova, the Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said they’d neglected the official channels, and pointed out that the presence of Russian “civilian instructors” in the Central African Republic was no secret. That, however, is probably disingenuous. There have been reports in the regional media that there are many more Russians in the Central African Republic than the 170 that the Foreign Ministry has mentioned. Nor has Russia admitted a connection between the “instructors” and mineral concessions.
These concessions make Russia a contender for resources that have long interested China, present in the country since 2007, when a Chinese company began drilling for oil there. China has been less lucky than Russia so far, despite writing off billions of Central African Republic debt and setting up a program to train government officials. The oil project stalled in 2017, and China recently failed to gain a dispensation similar to Russia’s to supply weapons. France, Central African Republic’s former colonial master, is especially concerned about the inroads made there by non-Western powers.
Putin’s Russia has sought to restore its Soviet-era influence throughout the developing world, and its activity in Africa is not limited to the Central African Republic. It’s worth watching for reports of Russian concessions in other nations, such as Sudan, Chad, Rwanda and Gabon. The Wagner business model is well suited to the region where a forceful presence can be a prerequisite for successful business – and where looking into how this business is conducted can easily get one killed.

Hamas and the Five-year Deal
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 10 August, 2018/
The truth is, I was surprised by Hamas this time, the organization and the governance, the language and the style and above all, the political skill. Perhaps this is the only occasion where I praise Hamas, and I, like many, am always critical of the extremist organization due to the chaos and crises it has caused, the opportunities it ruined and implicating its people in the process, inside the Gaza Strip and outside it. What surprised us about Hamas regarding the truce deal with Israel is that it showed it has more political skill than others. It will gain a lot for a small price. If the deal succeeds, it will have survived a suffocation process aiming to eliminate it, and will prove that it is wittier than its rival, the Palestinian Authority, and wittier than the old Fatah Movement which has monopolized Palestinian strategic decision-making since the 1970s.
We are waiting for the details of the “five-year deal”, a peace and reconciliation truce between the two sides. Truth is it is a “malicious” invention as it is peace and not permanent peace, an admission but not a complete admission. Based on this deal, Hamas will attain a rare Israel acknowledgment that it is a Palestinian legitimacy and not just an affiliate to Ramallah’s government.
Israel would also pledge not to attack Hamas or the Strip and in exchange, Hamas will stop launching attacks underground or from the sky via tunnel networks, or by cutting electric lines, or launching missiles and flying incendiary balloons.
Hamas will also finally have the keys of two border crossings, Karam Abu Salem and Rafah. Its naval territory in the Mediterranean will also be increased by 12 kilometers and it will be allowed to move individuals and merchandise through it.
Israel will also release a number of the movement’s members who are detained in Israeli prisons. Hamas deceived the Ramallah authority as it let it bet on failure thus not sabotaging the negotiations. President Mahmoud Abbas was confident that the deal between Hamas and Israel is impossible so he chose to escalate and be strict in his stances.
The Palestinian Authority became Hamas and Hamas became the Authority. In Ramallah, Abu Mazen’s consultants were saying Hamas and Israel will not meet and when they met they said it’s impossible that they will reach an agreement. But here they are agreeing, and Ramallah is still taking a nap.
Until a few months ago, Hamas was pleading with Ramallah’s government to pay for electricity, telecommunications and employee wages but it has been refusing to do so until it’s handed over full governance of the Gaza Strip in exchange. Hamas has decided that instead of taking the money of the bills from Ramallah’s Authority, which takes them from Israel, to go straight to the source, to the enemy that being friends with is a must. It got more than the payment for electricity and telecommunications for almost nothing in return, five years of winter hibernation.
Hamas already lives through this situation due to the faltering of the Assad regime and the siege on the Khamenei regime. The only friends it has in this gloomy world are Mohammed Dahlan and the Egyptian government. It is through these two that it managed to get more than we had expected. The expectations were that Hamas will be obliged to be under the leadership of the Palestinian Authority which in turn will give up its demands to Hamas and Israel as a price.
Some will shame Hamas for accepting to sign the five-year deal and Hamas will defy them by asking them to propose an alternative to the agreement amid the dangerous transformations in the region’s political map.
They will also view this deal as an attempt to drive a wedge between the two Palestinian parties, however, they cannot deny that the relationship between the two parties is already fractured and what the Authority and Hamas did to each other does not need attempts to drive a wedge to achieve this purpose. Those who will condemn Hamas for accepting that Egypt sponsors the deal are not aware that it is impossible to achieve any agreement without Egypt, and therefore this is the agreement of necessity.
Why is the deal valid for five years? We do not know yet how guarantees were calculated and whether the duration expresses a test of intentions and the move towards another more important phase later. Israel does not trust Hamas, which always blames armed groups in Gaza and that are not under its authority for launching missiles.
And Hamas does not trust Israel’s promises because, for instance, it arrested those it released during the famous Shalit deal. Five years is a new opportunity for both parties that may pave way for important future Palestinian changes.

Erdogan tells Turks to buy free-falling lira as Trump doubles metals tariffs
من يديعوت أحرونوت ورويترز: اردوغان يطلب من الأتراك شراء الليرة التي تنهار قيمتها وترامب يرفع الضريبة على المعادن المستوردة من تركيا

Ynetnews/Reuters/August 10/18
Following President Trump’s doubling of tariffs on Turkish metal imports, President Erdogan tells Turks to exchange gold, dollars into lira as investors sell off shares in European banks with large exposure to the Turkish economy; Lira dives more than 18 percent on Friday to hit a new record low after Trump took steps to punish Turkey over the detention of US citizens.
President Tayyip Erdogan told Turks on Friday to exchange gold and dollars into lira, with the country’s currency in free fall after President Donald Trump turned the screws on Ankara by doubling tariffs on metals imports.
The lira has been falling on worries about Erdogan’s influence over monetary policy and worsening relations with the United States. That turned into a rout on Friday, with the lira diving more than 18 percent on the day and more than 40 percent this year to a new record low after Trump took steps to punish Turkey in a wide-ranging dispute.
Trump said he had authorised higher tariffs on imports from Turkey, imposing a 20 percent duty on aluminium and 50 percent one on steel. The lira, he noted on Twitter, “slides rapidly downward against our very strong Dollar!
Our relations with Turkey are not good at this time!” he said in an early morning post.
While Turkey and the United States are at odds over a host of issues, the most pressing disagreement has been over the detention of US citizens in Turkey, notably Christian pastor Andrew Brunson who is on trial on terrorism charges. A delegation of Turkish officials held talks with their counterparts in Washington this week but there was no sign of a breakthrough.
Waves from the crisis spread abroad, with investors selling off shares in European banks with large exposure to the Turkish economy.
The lira sell-off has deepened concern particularly about whether over-indebted companies will be able to pay back loans taken out in euros and dollars after years of overseas borrowing to fund a construction boom under Erdogan.
Erdogan’s characteristic defiance in the face of the crisis has further unnerved investors. The president, who says a shadowy “interest rate lobby” and Western credit ratings agencies are attempting to bring down Turkey’s economy, appealed to Turks’ patriotism.
“If there is anyone who has dollars or gold under their pillows, they should go exchange it for liras at our banks. This is a national, domestic battle,” he told a crowd in the northeastern city of Bayburt. “This will be my people’s response to those who have waged an economic war against us.”
“The dollar cannot block our path. Don’t worry,” Erdogan assured the crowd.
That is unlikely to mollify investors who are also worried by the growing dispute with the United States.
The tensions with Washington have, for investors, underscored Turkey’s authoritarian trajectory under Erdogan.
“The basic reason the exchange rate has gone off the rails is that confidence in the management of the economy has disappeared both domestically and abroad,” said Seyfettin Gursel, a prominent economist and a professor at Turkey’s Bahcesehir University.
“First of all, confidence needs to be regained. It is obvious how it will be done: since the final decision-maker of all policies in the new regime is the president, the responsibility of regaining confidence is on his shoulders.”
Turkey’s sovereign dollar-denominated bonds tumbled with many issues trading at record lows. Hard currency debt issued by Turkish banks suffered similar falls.
Meanwhile the cost of insuring exposure to Turkey’s sovereign debt through five year credit defaults swaps has spiralled to the highest level since March 2009, topping levels seen for serial defaulter Greece , which has three bailouts in the last decade.
The lira’s relentless depreciation drives up the cost of imported goods from fuel to food for ordinary Turks.
New Finance Minister Berat Albayrak—Erdogan’s son-in-law—acknowledged that the central bank’s independence was critical for the economy, promising stronger budget discipline and a priority on structural reforms.
Presenting the government’s new economic model, he said the next steps of rebalancing would entail lowering the current account deficit and improving trust. There would be a transformation in the finance ministry with regards to taxation, he said.
This did nothing to revive the currency. “The tweet is mightier than the Turkish sword,” Cristian Maggio, head of emerging markets strategy at TD Securities, said in a note to clients. “Albayrak’s plan was uninspiring at best.”
Erdogan, a self-described “enemy of interest rates”, wants cheap credit from banks to fuel growth, but investors fear the economy is overheating and could be set for a hard landing. His comments on interest rates—and his recent appointment of his son-in-law as finance minister—have heightened perceptions that the central bank is not independent.
The central bank raised interest rates to support the lira in an emergency move in May, but it did not tighten at its last meeting.

Analysis: Where is Trump’s Israeli-Palestinian peace plan?
مايكل ولنر من الجيرازلم بوت: أين أصبحت خطة ترامب للسلام الفلسطيني الإسرائيلي؟

Michael Wilner/Jerusalem Post/August 10/18
In testing whether time is right for a rollout, the administration may be releasing both false and genuine trial balloons to gauge a response.
US President Donald Trump’s plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace may be the most closely guarded policy secret in Washington these days, 18 months in the making and yet still known only to the small handful of men behind it.
Senior administration officials describe the plan as detailed, pragmatic, and essentially complete. All that prevents them from publishing it is their sense that the timing is off.
They are waiting for some ripe moment to present itself – perhaps when the Palestinian leadership decides to give the administration a second chance after writing it off for recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last year. But such a moment seems unlikely any time soon. The Palestinian Authority, which has not seen the plan, says that Trump’s peace team has given every indication that its contents will reflect bias in favor of Israel by sidestepping explicit references to a two-state solution, dismissing refugee claims, endorsing a permanent Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley, allowing Jewish settlers to remain in the West Bank and remaining silent on the future placement of a sovereign Palestinian capital.
There are reasons to believe they are right. While the White House insists that its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital does not predetermine sovereignty over the entire city in an eventual peace agreement, it has never explicitly stated, as it did with Israel in December, that Palestinians have a reciprocal right to a capital in the holy city – or to any capital at all.
They have removed all reference to a two-state solution, to Palestinian independence or Palestinian territories from State Department language, dismissing those terms as “meaningless” without yet spelling out alternatives. And they have defunded the UN Relief and Works Agency, characterizing the Palestinian aid organization as a corrupt and inefficient body perpetuating a false narrative on refugees unhelpful to the pursuit of peace.
“The traditional core issues are essential and we focus on them extensively with a strong appreciation of the historic differences between the two sides,” Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser leading the peace effort, told the Palestinian Al-Quds newspaper in June. “We are committed to finding a package of solutions that both sides can live with.”
But, he added: “Simply resolving core issues without creating a pathway to a better life will not lead to a durable solution.”
Kushner and Jason Greenblatt, the president’s special representative for international negotiations, have said their plan tackles some of the thorniest issues in the conflict with specificity and ingenuity – a truly novel take on a geopolitical challenge that has, for too long, been mired in stale thinking. But while past efforts have failed, the careful balance American presidents have walked in since 1967 has allowed them to bring both sides around the same table, to the precipice of an agreement multiple times. Trump’s approach thus far has not. The reason the timing has been off may be because the approach is off.
TRUMP’S TEAM says that the PA leadership is prejudging what is in their plan before they see it, and this much is true: Palestinian officials, like the rest of us, have been left to read tea leaves based on the behavior they have seen thus far. If the plan includes revelatory material that defies expectations – as the team claims – then it should not wait for a moment of kindness from the Palestinians to present itself before releasing the plan. That moment will be created by the presentation of the plan.
The peace team seems to be considering this approach, expressing confidence that their work will see the light of day whether or not the Palestinians come around beforehand. They say the plan will include proposals that both parties will love and hate, and lament that they are frequently forced to dismiss rumors on the contents of their plan that scatter news reports.
But in testing whether the time is right for a rollout, the administration may be releasing trial balloons – based both on false as well as genuine tidbits from the plan – to gauge public response, knowing full well it can simply deny whichever ones float too high. Regardless of the strategy, public response has been self-evident as the plan is still under wraps.
Palestinian leaders are skeptical Trump’s team will ever support a policy that disadvantages Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and at some point, it will have to prove them wrong to earn their trust back. And a report in Foreign Policy magazine last week, which quoted Kushner from back in January questioning the role of UNRWA, did them no favors. White House officials said it was a stretch to say they were denying the refugee status of millions of Palestinians simply by challenging UNRWA’s mandate, which treats the descendants of refugees from the 1940s the same as their modern-day ancestors. But Palestinian leaders saw Kushner’s comments in an e-mail calling for the “disruption” of UNRWA as further evidence of his plans to erode Palestinian claims to a homeland there.
There is one new sign the administration is working on a rollout with direction and purpose. The Associated Press reported last week that the peace team had begun staffing up, on-loading officials from the State Department and National Security Council to create working groups on the policy dimensions of the plan, the economic components of the plan and the strategic sale of the plan to the public. The formation of these teams would indicate that a release is not imminent – these staffers still need time to get into place and prepared – but that publication could be ready in the coming months.
“You can’t put something out where everybody says, ah, this is dead on arrival,” a senior administration official told The Jerusalem Post in June. “You can’t do that. And the same exact document that may be dead on arrival on a Monday might not be dead on arrival on a Thursday. That sounds kind of counterintuitive, but that’s the way this works.”

Saudi effort to punish Canada seems to have little effect

Associated Press/August 10/18
Saudi Arabia’s energy minister said oil sales to Canada will not be affected.
TORONTO: When Saudi Arabia ordered its citizens studying in Canada to abruptly leave the country it left institutions like Techno Canada in the lurch, forcing the small Toronto business school to scramble for new students in the middle of the summer.
But that doesn’t mean the school’s director wants his government to abandon its advocacy of civil rights in Saudi Arabia, which prompted the worst diplomatic rift in history between the two countries.
“I am very much with my government to stand up for human rights,” the head of Techno Canada, Basu Mukherjee, said as he conceded the loss of Saudi students will hurt his bottom line. “It is going to be hard, but we will try our best to replace them.”
Similar sentiments have been expressed in recent days across Canada as schools, hospitals and even some businesses largely shrug at Saudi Arabia’s decision to punish the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau over tweets supporting two jailed dissident bloggers.
In a sign that the Saudis may not have as much leverage over Canada as they thought, many in the country say they are less concerned about the effects on Canada of the diplomatic spat than they are concerned for the well-being of the 15,000 students who were told they cannot resume studies for the fall semester and 800 doctors and medical residents who must leave by Sept. 1.
“It’s very difficult for people who have families and leases,” said Dr. Salvatore Spadafora who oversees 216 of Saudi doctors and medical residents in the Toronto Academic Health Sciences Network. “They are all working very, very hard and trying to study and then this happens.”
The Saudi government expelled Canada’s ambassador to the kingdom and withdrew its own ambassador on Sunday, days after two Canadian tweets in support of arrested activist Samar Badawi, whose writer brother Raif Badawi was arrested in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and later sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison for insulting Islam. Then it halted flights by its national airline and ordered the students home, a decision that affects institutions as small as Techno Canada, which has just 40 people enrolled, to major institutions such as the University of Toronto.
But even though the Saudis are a significant presence in Canadian hospitals and in higher-education, contributing about $1 billion to $1.5 billion Canadian dollars (US$770 million to US$1.1 billion) to the Canadian economy last year, the overall effect is minimal since other foreign students can easily replace them.
Spadafora said other medical students will pick up the shifts of the Saudi residents and physicians when they go home by Sept. 1.
Brian Hodges, who oversees about 94 from Saudi Arabia including 58 or 59 trained specialists or fellows at Toronto’s University Health Network, said patient care won’t be affected. “The first priority really is figure how to support them,” he said. “Many have been with us for five or four years and are close to doing exams.”
Trudeau, a staunch defender of woman’s rights, is not backing down and has received only limited criticism from domestic opponents. “Canadians have always expected our government to speak strongly, firmly, clearly and politely about the need to respect human rights at home and around the world,” he said. Financial markets did not appear hurt by the dispute amid reports that the Saudis intended to unload Canadian assets. There were rumors that Kingdom Holding Co. intended to sell its 47.5 percent stake in the Toronto-based luxury hotel chain Four Seasons. A company spokeswoman, Sarah Tuite, would only say that “day to day operations” have not changed. “It is business as usual,” she said. Bilateral trade between the two nations is just $3 billion a year. Canada does get 10 percent of its imported crude oil from Saudi Arabia, but even if the dispute escalates further Saudi oil could potentially be replaced with U.S. shale oil or oil from Canada’s oil sands region — the third largest oil reserves in the world. Saudi Arabia’s energy minister said oil sales to Canada will not be affected. The worst potential impact on Canada would be if Saudi Arabia canceled Canada’s largest arms deal, a $15 billion deal with Saudi Arabia in 2014 to export its light-armored vehicles to the kingdom. Jim Reid, a union leader who represents 500 workers at the General Dynamics facility in London, said that could lead to job losses.
The Canadian foreign ministry says they have heard nothing about the contract.
“The Saudi’s are shooting themselves in the foot,” Reid said. “Yes, it’s going to cause some economic hardship for some universities and colleges and hospitals but this is disrupting their own citizens’ lives whether they are doctors in hospitals or students. It boggles the mind.”
Robert Bothwell, a professor at the University of Toronto, said anything Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman does to harm Canada will also harm a range of Saudi interests including their investments and students. “The Saudi monarchy is playing around with thousands of Saudi subjects, slaves. Their interests are not being regarded. They are just pawns and that’s very much to be regretted,” Bothwell said.

The emigrant, the deception and the trap
Ghassan Charbel/Al Arabiya/August 10/18
Retirement age is approaching. He must choose. Does he continue to reside in the country that gave him a nationality and a meaning to his life, or shall he return to the land of his ancestors? Previously, he was quick to answer.
He used to say that he would return immediately upon receiving his pension. His brothers rejoiced in his promise as they believed that everyone who is far from his roots was definitely lost. It is no secret that the idea of return came to his mind when he encountered living difficulties, which were many. The idea of return is a magical charm to heal a sense of alienation that is present every time you see yourself lost in another culture and a distant dictionary. He laughs today as he remembers some episodes of his journey. In the beginning, he had feelings of hostility. He almost felt that he came to a hostile country. He smelled hate hidden behind the quick smiles and brief greetings. But a doctor named Time began treating his wounds and bruises.
He found work and got a monthly salary. The factory has a union, rights and rules. Fatigue is present but abuse is prohibited. He heard the word “law” frequently and with respect. The law does not allow. The law does not accept. The law does not permit. He understood that injustice was not inevitable.
It is necessary to pass through the circles of influence, whether through the channels of security, the political party or the confession
He understood that you can object and protest, and you can resort to the court; and that the judge can stand against the strong even if they have the ability to climb to this position or that. He knew that officials avoid contacting a judge or obstruct the process of justice to avoid scandals and punishments.
He had a strange feeling. He sensed his dignity. This is not his native country, and yet, it treated him better than his country. Here, soldiers cannot knock on your door at night and take you to an unknown location. A sick serviceman cannot pour on you all the frustrations of his life and the complexes of his superiors. Here, they cannot rip out your nails or limit the number of your fingers. All the arts of torture that our countries have donated are no longer allowed here. The prisoner has rights even if he is convicted of a horrific crime.
Sanctified resemblance
Living amid disparities was not easy at the beginning. We are communities of sanctified resemblance. The citizen is a replica of his neighbor, his grandfather and every citizen residing in any part of the map. Similarity is the golden rule. Similarity in belonging. One source. One color. One so-called “mawwal” in Arabic. Every difference opens the door to corruption. Every question spoils tranquility and joy. The family has given us conclusive answers to the most difficult questions we would prefer not to repeat or elaborate. Here the world is different. They have escaped the spell of halos that cannot be touched or approached.
Everything is under scrutiny and examination. Everything is subject to analysis and revision. He felt very scared at first. Final convictions protect you from the anxiety of exposure to questions. Final convictions give you a degree of immunity and a reassuring roof on your head and a cushion. They help you close the door to the winds of uncertainty and questioning and the legacy test. He had to practice living with people who did not belong to the same river. People who read in other books. People with different values and a different way of answering questions of both the universe and every day’s life.
Their values are different. So are their view of society and the rules governing the dealings between its members, their view of the state, the constitution, the individual and his rights, the judiciary, education and freedom.
It was never an easy matter. Some of his comrades did not pass the test. They either packed and returned home or stayed after turning themselves into strangers or a time bomb.
In his new country, he got married and sent his children to school. The children have deepened their belonging to the new country. They consolidated their proficiency in its language, customs and values. Fearing that they would totally lose the features of their ancestral country, he was keen to spend holidays with them in the land where he was born. But he noticed over time that his children were becoming more immersed in the hosting world, its logic, symbols and ways of thinking.
Days passed. The children graduated and joined the labor market. The companies treated them as full citizens. Competence is a standard. Children got opportunities that are commensurate with their abilities. He knew deep in his heart that this was not possible in his homeland. Diplomas are not enough to get a job.It is necessary to pass through the circles of influence, whether through the channels of security, the political party or the confession. So employment becomes a form of partisan recruitment, because you become indebted to those who allowed you to obtain the job.
The ‘Arab Spring’
When the “Arab Spring” swept through his country, he thought that it would compensate for years of absence from global development. He thought that it would accelerate progress and that the citizens have learned the lesson.
But when the elections were held, he was greatly disappointed. It is not enough to open the ballot boxes in societies that used to be run by a strong man, not with the constitution or the institutions. The forces of the past reemerged, sweeping away dreams and turning every elections into a confrontation project. He visited his country several times in an attempt to convince himself that the doors of return were open once he reached the retirement age.
He originally came to trim garden trees in the quiet French city. When he knew that the resident was Arab, the conversation began. Since I loved stories, I asked him about his. But what he said struck me. He told me he had visited his homeland and was not reassured.
He sensed that there were no real roots for stability… and that the country remains threatened by the birth of an oppressive man or tyrannical thought. He told me that he did not want his children or grandchildren to be exposed to civil or regional wars or to the adventures of the small malicious armies. He told me about the new politicians in his country… about the corrupt, the adventurous, the fanatic, the liberal and the moderate. The daily breakdowns, the deterioration of services and the fragility of institutions… about citizens’ concern about their bread, their life and their future.
The decision is no longer difficult. He will remain in his new country. He concluded his conversation by saying: “Our countries are frightening and difficult to handover to our children. I will not put them in the original trap from which I fled.”

Reconciliation in the Horn of Africa under Emirati patronage
Abdullah bin Bijad Al-Otaibi/Al Arabiya/August 10/18
For several years, the strategic security of the Arab Gulf States has been in full swing in a way that is different than what it used to be. It is now characterized by effectiveness, initiative and inclusiveness, led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Its most striking aspects is confronting the Iranian influence and its allies in the region and the world, in Africa and in the Horn of Africa particularly. The most recent results of this confrontation is the historic reconciliation under the auspices of the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, between Ethiopia and Eritrea.Thanks to full Saudi-Emirati coordination, there are multiple developments taking place on an Arab, regional and international level. Results are accumulating and accomplishments are being achieved, one victory after the other.
Supporting, spreading and strengthening “the stability of the states” are the major principles that lead the declared strategy of the UAE and Saudi Arabia, along with the full rejection of the “stability of chaos” led by Iran, Turkey and Qatar
Today’s success is due to the decisions of yesterday. The present victory is the outcome of the strategies of the past, and this will also be the case in the future. The results of every decision and strategy drawn today will appear in the near and distant future.
Historical reconciliation
Let us put aside the ancient history of the old conflict between the two countries, Ethiopia and Eritrea, during the 1960s, and the grinding war between 1998 and 2000, which paved the way for the surrounding countries, namely fundamentalist Sudan at the time and Somalia, which was brimful of terrorism at the time as well, to influence the conflict of the two countries.
The result today is impressive. This historic reconciliation between the two countries overcomes the past and its conflicts and heads to build a better future that puts an end to losses and strengthens the stability of the region that is full of conflicts and clashes. The two countries will thus not fall, like Somalia did, into extremism and terrorism.
Supporting, spreading and strengthening “the stability of the states” are the major principles that lead the declared strategy of the UAE and Saudi Arabia, along with the full rejection of the “stability of chaos” led by Iran, Turkey and Qatar. These are the pillars of their strategy in the Horn of Africa and in Sudan after it divided and after it participated in the Decisive Storm Operation, which is an advanced position had it not been for some uncomfortable decisions towards the balances of power in the region and Turkish attempts to penetrate Sudan and Somalia. Weakening the Iranian regime and everything the latter believes to be a means of survival and weakening its rhetoric, ideology and future are one of the most important means to effectively and efficiently confront it. The Emirati role, which has been growing and bolstering in recent years, is an important indicator of what countries can achieve through effective leadership, successful alliances and progressive visions.
Triumphant alliance
This Saudi-Emirati alliance saved the Arab world from the tragedies and calamities of the fundamentalist terrorist "spring" which some called the Arab Spring. It rescued Bahrain and Egypt decisively along with other Arab countries through generous support, a clear vision and a strong strategy. A number of Arab countries are still grateful to the UAE and Saudi Arabia for what happened during those awful years in the near past.
The UAE’s major role in Libya to bury the hatchet and support the Libyan people and state is known and acknowledged by everyone. The UAE’s purpose is to support the stability of the Libyan state and reconcile between the different Libyan parties away from all the fundamentalist and terrorist forces supported by hostile axes in the region.
These axes perceive Libya as an area to expand their support for fundamentalism and terrorism and to harm the stability of Egypt and Tunisia and other Arab countries if they achieve their goal of completely taking control of Libya.
Such political, economic and strategic roles are not built overnight, but they are rather built through wisdom, calmness and insight. Slow and steady wins the race as the English proverb says. The UAE and Saudi blood that mixed up in Yemen is the most prominent example of the triumphant alliance led by the two countries. These triumphant successes are the best proof that the strength of political will and decisions are capable of changing international and regional equations in an effective clear way. It’s enough to compare how the situation used to be three years ago against how it is now.
Finally, the UAE’s support of the stability of countries in the region and its progressive insight constitute its leadership and pioneering in all files and crises. Sponsoring the historical reconciliation between Ethiopia and Eritrea is the best example.

The new Syria amidst conflicting regional, international interests
Shehab Al-Makahleh/Al Arabiya/August 10/18
On August 2, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman told reporters: “From our perspective, the situation is returning to how it was before the civil war, meaning there is a real address, someone responsible, and central rule.” This is rather noteworthy at this time that the Syrian front will be calmer. In other words, Israel prefers to see Syria return to pre-war status when the central government in Damascus was in full control before March 2011.Such a statement is not void and is of utmost importance as it demonstrates that the plans or schemes to divide Syria into various provinces or federal states had gone with the wind. What Lieberman said and the Jordanian armed forces’ assistance to the Syrian Army in the Yarmouk Basin against Khaled bin Al-Walid, an ISIS affiliate, reveal a fact that both Jordan and Israel are back to pre-Syrian war era in terms of cooperation with the Syrian government regarding securing borders. However, the issue at stake is Idlib, a predicament to the Syrian government, Russia, Iran and China on one hand and Turkey and the militants in Idlib province on the other.
Turkey is hostile to the Syrian regime. Ankara has ethnic and regional aspirations in Syria. At present, the Turkish government is at odds with the West. The Turks have never forgotten that once they were part of the Byzantine Empire, the first Christian State, and the capital of the Ottoman Empire. Thus, the coming era for Turkey will be an existential war. Therefore, the clash of the Turkish civilization with others is in parity with existentialism which is inevitable. This justifies why Ankara is pragmatic, depending on situational contradictions in Syria on one hand and American-Western interests on the other.
The formation of the “National Liberation Front” in Idlib, a group of opposition factions, formed by the Free Syrian Army backed by Turkey, aimed to fortify the Turkish stance because the number of fighters reached 100,000. This figure would create a major dilemma for the Syrian Army and its allies to free Idlib as plans have been set up to start the operation in September. Thus, the battle of Idlib will be the last in the Syrian conflict that determines the future not only for Syria, but also for Turkey as a new ally will join the battle: China, which has Uyghur fighters amongst those militants in Idlib.
The Chinese ambassador to Syria, Qi Qianjin, told a Syrian Arabic daily, few days ago that China will allegedly assist the Syrian Army in their upcoming battle in southwestern Idlib, and that the Chinese military is prepared to somehow take part in the upcoming Idlib offensive, especially because of the large presence of Uyghur fighters near Jisr Al-Shughour. The Chinese ambassador to Syria, Qi Qianjin, told a Syrian Arabic daily, few days ago that China will allegedly assist the Syrian Army in their upcoming battle in southwestern Idlib, and that the Chinese military is prepared to somehow take part in the upcoming Idlib offensive, especially because of the large presence of Uyghur fighters near Jisr Al-Shughour
The ambassador elucidated: “The Chinese military has played an imperative role in protecting sovereignty, security and stability of China. At the same time, it (China) is seeking to take part in peacekeeping operations later on. At present, there is ongoing cooperation between Syria and China in combating terrorism. We also know that the war on terror is not only for the benefit of the Syrian people, but also for the Chinese people and the people of the world.”
That is an indication on the coming battle of Idlib where the Chinese army will be involved as China will not allow them back to their homeland as they are a high risk to Chinese national security.
Chinese presence in Mideast via Syria
The vigorous military interposition of the Chinese forces in Syria would be a major step forward towards a more ample participation of China in the Middle East and the world as a whole. China has refrained from taking part in military operations beyond its borders. Therefore, a military operation in Syria could open the door to more Chinese military engagements around the world. What Beijing fears most is the return of those Uyghur militants, members of the Turkestan Islamic Party, who are now in Idlib province to China where they can launch attacks against the Chinese government, seeking an independent state.
The Chinese ambassador’s statement demonstrates that China is paving the ground to send Chinese special operations forces (SOF) to actively take part in the forthcoming battle of Idlib to liquidate the Uyghur fighters amongst others. This Chinese bid will be of due concern to Turkey as the Turkish army cannot counter pressure from both Russia and China which both have huge economic and business transactions with Ankara. The Turkish President Recep Tayyep Erdogan cannot lose them for a number of militants.
The Middle East has become the new playground for China strategically. With SOF arrival to the port of Tartous on the Syrian coast in order to participate in the coming battle in Idlib, such Chinese participation in Syria could lead to more competition between Washington and Beijing. The reason is that China has been deeply concerned about the large number of Chinese-born militants known as the “Turkmen” or “Uyghurs” movement who have joined ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
Today, with the arrival of two units of the Chinese (SOF), known as the Siberian and the Night Tigers, to fight the terrorist factions in the province, which is adjacent to Turkey, Beijing is seeking to fight those outside its territory for fear of their return to the region which is located in the territory known as Xinjiang as those pose an existential threat to the territorial integrity of China.
The number of Chinese militants fighting alongside terrorist groups in Syria is estimated at 5,000. Therefore, China’s participation in military operations against these militants is due to China’s own interests in Syria, not to mention the economic, political and security interests. The return of these Chinese fighters from Syria to China with their extremist and terrorist ideology means a great security and military threat to the Chinese economy and society. Moreover, China’s participation in the coming campaign against terrorists aims to protect its economic interests in Syria as China has invested more than $40 million in Syria’s infrastructure.
Few days ago, Ankara has prepared a document to discuss with the Russians and Chinese regarding the future of Idlib without going to war, fearing the spillover and the refugee influx to Turkey. The terms were not satisfactory to both Moscow and Beijing. This is conducive to the scenario of war which would end the dreams of Erdogan in Syria.

Who among Arabs is betting on Iran?
Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/August 10/18
What do Iran, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon currently have in common?
On top of being countries that suffer from the poisonous Iranian harm, or actually because of it, they have popular anger and explosive whines from the burdening and costly economic expenses. Protests that do not end, sometimes to demand the removal of garbage, sometimes due to power cuts and water contamination, and sometimes to protest against economic hardship, like what’s happening in Lebanon, Iraq and Iran.
The anger’s essence is poured onto the political category itself or rather on the regime and the entire political contract so is it a coincidence that all of these countries are all influenced in one way or another by apparent and secret Iranian influence?
If Iran, which wants to impose its influence on these countries, is itself sipping from this cup of economic bitterness, how can it be a model that can be trusted and relied on?
Declining economy
In Iraq, people attacked the headquarters of the parties that support the Iranian camp, like Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq and the Badr militia. In Lebanon and despite the strong Shiite bilateral alliance – at least until now – there are angry manifestations at the political sectarian “system” that harmed the country’s interests, as for instance the tourism season was harmed in addition to damages to the local banking sector.
As for Yemen, activists in Sanaa called for a “revolt of the hungry” against the Houthi militias as it is primarily responsible for the ailing conditions that the Yemeni people have reached, ever since their coup against legitimacy at the end of 2014. Meanwhile, the Yemeni currency, the rial, continued to decline yesterday against foreign currencies.
It reached an unprecedented decline despite the measures adopted by the legitimate government and the Central Bank in Aden to restore a stable currency exchange rate and put an end to the manipulation of the banking market.
If Iran, which wants to impose its influence on these countries, is itself sipping from this cup of economic bitterness, how can it be a model that can be trusted and relied on?
The public’s wise men said: “He who is next to a happy man, is happy!”