August 12/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on August 11-12/18
UN envoy Griffiths: Saudi Arabia has legitimate right to secure its borders/Badr al-Qahtani, Asharq Al-Awsat/August 11/18
Four Ways to Counter Russia’s Social-Media Warfare/James Stavridis/Bloomberg/August 11/18
Europe: Prayer in Public Spaces/Giulio Meotti/Gatestone Institute/August 11/18
Features of weakness in Tehran’s ‘crescent’/Hazem al-Amin/Al Arabiya/August 11/18
What do attacks on seminaries indicate for Iran/Amal Abdulaziz Al–Hazani/Al Arabiya/August 11/18
How were Iraq’s oil revenues robbed in the name of religion/Adnan Hussein/Al Arabiya/August 11/18
The Arab route to China/Radwan al-Sayed/Al Arabiya/August 11/18

Titles For The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published 
on August 11-12/18
PSP Says ‘Rightful’ Demand for Representation Not to Be Called ‘Obstacle’
Rahi says unity is strength, division is weakness
Wakim says LF still holds onto sovereign ministerial portfolio
Riachy hails "excellent" meeting with Berri
Bukhari bids farewell to pilgrims at Beirut airport: Hajj Pilgrimage message of peace
Report: ‘Cautious Optimism’ on Cabinet Formation as Talks Gather Momentum
Cautious Optimism’ on Lebanese Cabinet Formation
Lebanon: Crime Rate Reduced by 20%, Perpetrators Arrested Within 72 Hours

Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on August 11-12/18
Former Canadian FM urges Trudeau to travel to Riyadh to defuse tension
Syrian Regime Recruits ‘Reconciliation Men’ to Attack Idlib Countryside
Nearly 30 Civilians Dead in Heavy Bombing on North Syria
Syrian Air Defenses Engage 'Enemy Target' Near Lebanon
One Dead in Attack on Jordan Security Patrol
Brazil President Praises Al-Azhar’s Endorsement of Citizenship Values over Identity Politics
15,000 Canadians Living in ‘Safe Society’ in Saudi Arabia
Israel Threatens Hamas with Heavy Strikes If It Violates Ceasefire
U.N. Calls for 'Credible' Investigation of Yemen Bus Attack
Turkey's Lira Crisis: How Bad Can it Get?
US Official: Iran Test-Fires Anti-Ship Missile in Hormuz Strait
Iran Gives Most Explicit Rejection Yet of U.S. Talks
Zarif: No Plans for Meeting with US
Trump and Macron Discuss Iran, Middle East
Iran Kills 10 Rebels along Iraq Border
Iran TV Accused of Muting Anti-Regime Stadium Chants
UN envoy Griffiths: Saudi Arabia has legitimate right to secure its borders
The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on August 11-12/18
PSP Says ‘Rightful’ Demand for Representation Not to Be Called ‘Obstacle’
Naharnet/August 11/18/In light of endeavors and contacts between political parties aiming at easing obstacles delaying the Cabinet formation, including a so-called Druze “stalemate,” Progressive Socialist Party sources refused to speak of it as an obstacle saying it is more a “right for proper representation and partnership,” al-Joumhouria daily reported Saturday. PSP sources denounced the naming saying: “It is wrong and surprising to limit obstacles hampering the formation to what they named as Druze obstacle. We don’t believe the representation of the Druze is an obstacle in front of the formation.”They said the success of the PSP in the parliamentary elections makes their representation in the government a “normal and obvious” matter. PSP leader Walid Jumblat demands the allocation of the whole three Druze Cabinet seats. Meanwhile, Druze MP Talal Arslan, of the Strong Lebanon bloc, also demands a share. “From the beginning, we have ushered for the acceleration of the government formation. Certainly we are a government of national unity, but most importantly we support partnership that should be the basis for this government,” they concluded.

Rahi says unity is strength, division is weakness
Sat 11 Aug 2018/NNA - "Our unity cannot be manipulated because in unity there is strength and in division there is weakness," Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Bechara Boutros said today to a delegation from Tannourine who came to see him this morning. Rahi added that "Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri said that he could not see Lebanon without its Christians, and therefore we need to maintain our unity." The prelated noted that "politicians can argue in politics as much as they want, and this is normal, because Lebanon is a democratic country where there is a pluralism of views and cultures." Touching on the economic situation, the Patriarch assured that the Maronite Patriarchate was always at the side of the Lebanese to help them settle their problems, especially as the economic situation of the country is difficult. Finally, Rahi stressed the need to preserve the Lebanese national unity.

Wakim says LF still holds onto sovereign ministerial portfolio
Sat 11 Aug 2018/NNA - "Strong Republic" Parliamentary member, MP Imad Wakim, reiterated that the Lebanese Forces is still holding onto a sovereign ministerial portfolio, noting that LF party will be represented within the government as it should be.
"Lebanese Forces Leader, Samir Geagea, expressed his willingness to cooperate to facilitate the formation of the government, if the Lebanese forces are well-represented in sovereign and service ministerial portfolios, not a minister of state," MP Wakim said in an interview with "Radio Free Lebanon" this morning. "The presence of the Lebanese Forces in the upcoming government is a balancing factor on the level of fighting corruption and the level of political balance within the government," he added. Finally, the MP accused caretaker Foreign Minister, Gebran Bassil, of trying to embarrass the LF to refuse to participate in the government.

Riachy hails "excellent" meeting with Berri

Sat 11 Aug 2018/ NNA - Caretaker Minister of Information, Melhem Riachy, on Saturday lauded his one-to-one meeting with House Speaker, Nabih Berri, describing it as "excellent." After the meeting that lasted for approximately an hour and a half, Riachy said that the meeting was "excellent" and that things were "positive". "Speaker Berri is helping the PM-designate to alleviate cabinet formation hurdles, and so is LF leader Samir Geagea" Riachy maintained. The Minister added that there were still some obstacles [standing in the way of forming the new cabinet. "Some think that the government is formed on Mount Olympus where the gods of mythology live!" Riachy exclaimed, spurning attempts to "double-size" one’s original size. On the other hand, the National News Agency has learned that Minister Riachy will be meeting with Prime Minister-designate, Saad Hariri, at 18:00 at the Center House.

Bukhari bids farewell to pilgrims at Beirut airport: Hajj Pilgrimage message of peace
Sat 11 Aug 2018 /NNA - Saudi Minister Plenipotentiary Charge d'Affaire, Walid Bukhari, on Saturday bid farewell to Lebanese pilgrims bound for Saudi Arabia to perform this year's Hajj pilgrimage. Seeing the pilgrims off at the Rafic Hariri International Airport took place in the presence of the Representative of Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdel Latif Derian, Dar al-Fatwa's Administrative Director Sheikh Salah al-Dine Fakhri. This year's Hajj pilgrimage comes as part of an initiative bearing the slogan "Hajj Peace Message", a rubric receiving a great welcome by the departing pilgrims. Granting the pilgrims copies of the Koran and white roses, Bukhari wished all pilgrims a blessed pilgrimage and a fulfilled, peaceful religious duty. Bukhari said bidding farewell to pilgrims at the airport fullifills the Kingdom's message that "Hajj is a message of peace." Bukhari underlined the Kingdom's relentless, unwavering efforts in providing pilgrims every year with all the needed care and high-quality services that would enable them to perform Hajj in a religious atmosphere full with security, faith, stability and tranquility. The Saudi envoy said that more than 15,000 visas were granted this year to pilgrims, with 5,500 granted for Lebanese mission pilgrims, 1,500 for Palestinian brethrens, 5,500 for Syrians, and a certain number granted to diplomatic missions accredited to Lebanon. Bukhari also thanked the National Hajj Committee for all its efforts in this regard and for abiding by the Hajj set criteria.

Report: ‘Cautious Optimism’ on Cabinet Formation as Talks Gather Momentum

Naharnet/August 11/18/The latest drive of Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri to line-up Lebanon’s Cabinet has raised the level of optimism on its imminent formation shall the latest contacts succeed at solving the Christian and Druze obstacles, media reports said on Saturday.Contacts on the formation of a new government led to a new round of discussions where political forces joined efforts to reach a formula that would end the stalemate, Saudi Asharq al-Awsat newspaper reported. Hopes are high that Speaker Nabih Berri will play a key role in easing the Druze obstacle by communicating with Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblat. Meanwhile, Hariri is considering a new formula with the Lebanese Forces party to resolve the Christian representation complex, it added. After a “constructive” meeting between Hariri and head of the Free Patriotic Movement, Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil, following Hariri-Berri meeting on Thursday, the Premier is expected to hold talks with the PSP and LF in order to complete a new draft of the government to propose to President Michel Aoun. Sources following up on the latest momentum, told the daily: “The current stage is a stage of discussion in order to facilitate the formation,” as they pinned high hopes on Hariri’s upcoming meeting with the PSP and LF. 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.
Cautious Optimism’ on Lebanese Cabinet Formation
Beirut - Nazeer Rida/Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 11 August, 2018 /Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri’s latest consultations with Lebanese parties and officials have raised the level of optimism on the formation of the government, sources told Asharq Al-Awsat on Friday. “Based on his current moves, Hariri is expected to discuss some new ideas with parties concerned with the cabinet formation process,” the sources said. “If concerned officials approve those ideas, the cabinet line-up will be announced next week. Today, we are cautiously optimistic,” they said. Contacts may have succeeded to solve the two obstacles of the Christian and Druze representation in the government. However, sources close to the PM were “cautious” about such optimism, saying previous proposals had failed to reach any deal on the cabinet formation process.
They said Speaker Nabih Berri was holding talks with leader of the Progressive Socialist Party Walid Jumblat to solve the Druze demands, while Hariri was responsible for discussing a new cabinet formula with Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea over the deadlock of the Christian representation. Following “very positive” talks between Hariri and the head of the Free Patriotic Movement, caretaker Minister Jebran Bassil, and another meeting between Hariri and Berri last Thursday, the PM-designate is preparing to launch new contacts with the PSP and the LF to come up with a draft line-up and propose it to President Michel Aoun. Sources close to Bassil told Asharq Al-Awsat that the FPM leader agrees with Hariri on the formation of a national unity government. Strong Lebanon bloc MP Shamel Roukoz said Friday that the Hariri-Bassil meeting was a "positive step towards government formation."However, LF sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that the main obstacle hindering the birth of a new cabinet remained unsolved.

Lebanon: Crime Rate Reduced by 20%, Perpetrators Arrested Within 72 Hours
Beirut - Sanaa Al-Jack/Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 11 August, 2018 /An official security source told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Lebanese people “are peaceful compared to others,” stating that 71 individual crimes were recorded in the first half of 2018, compared to 89 crimes during the same period last year.
“The rate of crimes over personal issues has declined despite the proliferation of weapons, but the spread of news through social media without the required scrutiny leads to the negative amplification of reality,” the source said. “Perpetrators are arrested within 72 hours after the crime,” the source added. The official’s statements came to deny a report that indicated that 62 individual murders occurred only in July and to explain that based on “accurate official statistics”, a decrease of 20% in crimes was registered in the first half of the current year. The report noted that 25% of perpetrators were Syrian refugees, Palestinians and persons of other nationalities. It added that theft and pocketing incidents were reduced by 50% compared to previous years.On the other hand, the concerned associations and institutions find that the security chaos in Lebanon remains a cause for concern as long as the weapons are available without restrictions.They also warn of new forms of crimes emerging in the Lebanese society, including murders within family members or because of disputes over the priority of circulation or parking, or an anger crime caused by drugs or alcohol. According to the associations, the situation can go so frantic, like what happened when a Lebanese fan of an international football team killed a supporter of another team during the recent World Cup earlier this summer. “Individual crime rates will rise as long as lack of control of weapons continues,” said Fadi Abu Allam, the Lebanese prime minister’s advisor for human security and the head of the Permanent Peace Movement. In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, Allam said: “The desire to armament dates back to the civil war and to the feeling of the need for self-protection, because the law is absent during the periods of security tension, that in addition to customs and traditions.”“The arms regulation law falls within a legislative decree issued in 1959, the articles of which have not been amended, nor are there any controls or provisions that guarantee prevention with the presence of weapons with people,” he added. According to Abu Allam, “in addition to the spread of weapons, we have other factors such as poverty, unemployment, imbalance of education, lack of ethics, security chaos… All these factors combined have contributed to the high crime rate in Lebanon.” The security source rejected, however, any exaggeration about the reality of the crime rate in Lebanon, given the intensive efforts to control the security. The official also denied the presence of political interference in the arrest of perpetrators.“The directives of the Director General of the Internal Security Forces are clear in this regard,” he stressed. “Lebanon is one of the safest areas in the world, as a result of the efforts of the security forces and full coordination with the competent bodies to control the situation,” the source concluded.

The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published
on August 11-12/18
Former Canadian FM urges Trudeau to travel to Riyadh to defuse tension
Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnglishSaturday, 11 August 2018/Former Canadian Foreign Minister John Byrd expressed concern on Saturday at the deterioration of relations between Canada and Saudi Arabia, pointing out that Canada has always been a friend and ally of the kingdom. In an interview with Al Arabiya news channel, Byrd said that the current government in Canada adopted a policy that has reached this level of tensions due to tweets. The former Canadian foreign minister said that there are common interests between us, such as the battle against Iran’s expansion in the region as well as the Muslim Brotherhood, in addition to ISIS.He stressed that Canada should not adopt a position against an ally and friend. He felt that differences of views must be discussed between leaders or foreign ministers in persons and not through sending out tweets. The former official stressed the need for direct talks through the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visit to Riyadh to meet with King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman .. The former Canadian foreign minister praised the reforms in Saudi Arabia. The Guardian newspaper reported that Canada became an isolated nation after its recent dispute with Saudi Arabia.The newspaper based its report on the change in relations between Washington and Ottawa after Trump became president, and with the recent announcement by US State Department that it will not interfere between the Kingdom and Canada. Following Canada’s recent interference in Saudi Arabia’s internal affairs and the subsequent suspension of relations between Riyadh and Ottawa, the policy director of former Canadian Prime Minister Rachel Coran said that Canada has no friend in the world, criticizing the policy of the current Canadian government. Former Canadian Foreign Minister John Byrd had advised earlier Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to fly to Riyadh to contain the crisis, warning of the consequences of deteriorating relations.
Syrian Regime Recruits ‘Reconciliation Men’ to Attack Idlib Countryside
Moscow - Raed Jabr/Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 11 August, 2018/Opposition factions in the province of Idlib have been gearing up to confront regime forces, which began recruiting new fighters from areas they recently controlled in southern Syria. Regime forces have sent military reinforcements to three fronts near the Shaghour Bridge, and are preparing for an attack from the countrysides of northwestern Hama, southern Aleppo, western Idlib and Lattakia. In preparation for such expected confrontation, around 15 opposition groups and factions established a joint operations room.The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said regime forces recruited more than 3,800 persons from the countryside of Daraa and Quneitra, adding they plan to enlist more fighters in the two provinces which they have recently controlled through military operations and “reconciliation” agreements. The Observatory stated that it monitored ongoing forced conscription and the enrollment of those who are in the age of compulsory service. Meanwhile, contacts were ongoing between Russia, Turkey and Iran, the three guarantor states of the Astana peace process, which includes arrangements for Idlib. Damascus is trying to reach a deal in the province to grant amnesty to anti-Assad militants who are willing to live under the regime’s rule and surrender their arms. Idlib, one of the last major rebel strongholds in Syria, is located near the border with Turkey. In this regard, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke by phone Friday with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin and discussed the latest developments in Syria. Prior to their conversation, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu met with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s special envoy, Mahmoud Vaezi, in Ankara. In a separate development, Czech Foreign Minister Jan Hamacek traveled to Damascus on Friday for talks with Syrian officials. Hamacek’s trip is the first for a European minister visiting Syria in several years. The Czech Republic is the only country in Europe that maintains diplomatic relations with Syria.

Nearly 30 Civilians Dead in Heavy Bombing on North Syria
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 11/18/Heavy bombardment killed nearly 30 civilians across northern Syria on Friday, a monitor said, in some of the fiercest shelling of rebel-held areas there in months. The air strikes and barrel bombs targeted the key opposition-held province of Idlib in Syria's northwest and a rebel town in the adjacent province of Aleppo. Idlib is the largest chunk of territory still in rebel hands, and President Bashar al-Assad has warned it would be his next target. The province's southwest was shelled heavily on Thursday and the bombing the next day "moved further east," leaving 11 civilians dead, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. "Air strikes by Russian warplanes and barrel bombs from Syrian helicopters hit southern parts of Idlib province today in very heavy shelling," Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said Friday.
"It's the most intense bombing since Idlib was declared a de-escalation zone last year," he told AFP. The shelling left eight civilians dead in the main town of Khan Sheikhun, and another three including a child died in nearby Al-Tah. The White Helmets, a rescue force operating in opposition-held areas of Syria, said its volunteers were responding to a bombing blitz on both Khan Sheikhun and Al-Tah. A White Helmets rescuer in Khan Sheikhun told AFP that residential districts had been hit. Hours later, air strikes pummelled the main rebel town of Orum al-Kubra in the neighbouring province of Aleppo, the Observatory said, without being able to immediately identify if they were Syrian or Russian. "The death toll is now at 18 civilians including three children, and dozens of people injured," said Abdel Rahman. Rebels have lost swathes of the territory they once controlled in Syria to regime forces over the last few months, including three areas that had been designated as "de-escalation zones" last year. Assad's troops now appear to have set their sights on the last such area, Idlib. The Britain-based Observatory said regime reinforcements, including troops and equipment, had been amassing around the southwestern part of Idlib for several days. But a full-fledged assault would be devastating for the estimated 2.5 million people living in Idlib, many of them rebels and civilians bussed out of other areas that came back under regime control. The United Nations appealed Thursday for talks to avert "a civilian bloodbath" in the province, which borders Turkey. "The war cannot be allowed to go to Idlib," said Jan Egeland, head of the UN's humanitarian taskforce for Syria. Around 60 percent of Idlib is held by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), which is led by Al-Qaeda's former Syria affiliate. Rival factions control most of the rest, but Syrian troops have carved out a small southeastern part. Government helicopters on Thursday dropped leaflets over towns in Idlib's eastern countryside urging people to surrender.

Syrian Air Defenses Engage 'Enemy Target' Near Lebanon
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 11/18/Syrian air defences engaged an "enemy target" near the border with Lebanon west of Damascus overnight, state news agency SANA reported on Saturday. "Our air defenses confronted an enemy target that penetrated airspace above the area of Deir al-Ashair in the Damascus countryside," SANA said. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said air defences reacted to "targets aiming at regime and loyalist positions in Deir al-Ashair" near the Lebanese border. The Britain-based monitor, which relies on sources inside Syria for its information, did not specify who was responsible for the attack. It said Hizbullah, which has been backing the Damascus government in Syria's seven-year civil war, was present in the area.The Russia-backed government often accuses Israel of targeting its military positions. Israel has carried out numerous raids in recent years, targeting government forces and their allies from Iran and Hizbullah. Last week, Syrian air defenses confronted another "enemy attack" west of Damascus. Then too the Observatory said it was unable to determine who was responsible. Last month, Syria accused Israel of bombing a military post in the northern province of Aleppo, where the Observatory reported at least nine pro-regime fighters died.
One Dead in Attack on Jordan Security Patrol
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 11/18/A member of Jordan's security forces died and six were wounded when a bomb exploded under a patrol car at a music festival near Amman, the interior ministry said Saturday. The blast hit a security patrol in Al-Fuhais, 12 kilometres (8 miles) west of the capital on Friday evening, it said. "It killed Sergeant Ali Adnan Qawqaza and wounded six other members of the patrol," the ministry said, adding that an investigation was underway into the cause of the blast. Security forces had been deployed to protect the town's annual festival, which hosts prominent Arab music acts. Prime Minister Omar al-Razzaz vowed that Jordan would "not be complacent in the hunt for terrorists". "Jordan will always be at the forefront of the fight against terrorism and obscurantist ideas which target the lives of innocents and try to undermine security and stability," he said in remarks carried by the official Petra news agency. Jordan has played a key role in the US-led coalition fighting IS in neighbouring Syria and Iraq, using its air force and allowing coalition forces to use its bases. The kingdom was hit by a string of jihadist attacks in 2016, including a suicide bombing in June that killed seven guards near the border with Syria that was claimed by IS. Months later in December a shooting rampage, also claimed by IS, killed 10 people including a Canadian tourist.
Brazil President Praises Al-Azhar’s Endorsement of Citizenship Values over Identity Politics
Cairo – Waleed Abdurrahman/Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 11 August, 2018/Brazilian President Michel Temer on Friday praised Al-Azhar for using the concept of “citizenship” as an alternative term to "minority" and "majority", at the conference it held entitled “Freedom and Citizenship.”Temer stressed that “his country pursues this thought and there is no distinction among citizens."He went on to express that Al-Azhar understanding and promoting citizenship-oriented values plays an important role in supporting humanitarian cooperation and coexistence. In March 2017, Al-Azhar held an international conference in Cairo entitled “Freedom and Citizenship ... Diversity and Integration” under the auspices of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi. Delegations from over 50 countries participated. During his opening speech at the conference, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar and former president of Al-Azhar University Ahmed el-Tayeb called for promoting “citizenship” over notions focused on identity politics. Tayeb reiterated that Islamic jurisprudence supports concepts of citizenship. Observers say empowering citizenship values curbs the growth of radical fundamentalism based on monotheism and anti-diversity sentiment.
Al-Azhar backing of citizenship, freedoms, pluralism and acceptance principles contributes to the elimination of terrorism. On the occasion of his visit to Egypt, the Brazilian President met with Al-Azhar Deputy Sheikh Abbas Shoman, where they discussed ways of boosting cooperation and future communication between Al-Azhar and Brazilian institutions. Shoman explained to Temer that Al-Azhar believes in the freedoms of belief and Islam’s rejection of violence, extremism and terrorism. He added that the Islamic body promotes peaceful coexistence among followers of all religions and cultures under the banner of pluralism, citizenship and mutual respect. Al-Azhar strives to consolidate these values through many conferences, Shoman told Temer. The meeting also dealt with a comprehensive vision for the role of Al-Azhar in underpinning the importance of human communication among people and in supporting countries and institutions working to achieve values of coexistence.

15,000 Canadians Living in ‘Safe Society’ in Saudi Arabia
Riyadh - Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 11 August, 2018/The Saudi Foreign Ministry announced on Friday that 15,000 Canadians were living in a “safe society” in Saudi Arabia.It made the announcement in a tweet on its official Twitter account, which it accompanied with an info-graphic on Canadians residing in the Kingdom. “We respect and work with them. They are enjoying a secure society, which we live in,” it added. “They are aware of the extent of the advancement in the Kingdom and the Saudi society's passion for development,” it stressed. Saudi Arabia on Sunday froze new trade with Canada and expelled the Canadian ambassador in retaliation to Ottawa’s meddling in its internal affairs. It also ended state-backed educational and medical programs in Canada, making plans to relocate tens of thousands of Saudi students and patients to other countries. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir ruled out on Wednesday the possibility of holding mediations to resolve the diplomatic row with Canada. He said: “There is nothing to mediate. A mistake has been made and a mistake should be corrected."The dispute erupted when Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland tweeted last week that she was “very concerned” about whom she called civil society activists that were arrested in the Kingdom. She also urged Saudi authorities to release them immediately in what the Kingdom deemed as “flagrant meddling in its internal affairs.”

Israel Threatens Hamas with Heavy Strikes If It Violates Ceasefire
Gaza, Tel Aviv - Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 11 August, 2018 /In response to left-wing calls not to be pulled behind any reconciliation in Gaza, Israeli Prime Minister ordered the army on Friday to direct the heaviest attacks against Hamas in case the movement tries to violate the truce at the northern and eastern outskirts of the Strip. On Thursday night, Hamas announced that a ceasefire had been agreed upon with Israel, and was mediated by Egypt and other regional players. However, Tel Aviv denied the reports. A military spokesperson said: “We are not speaking about a ceasefire but about muting shelling under the equation of “quiet would be met with quiet.”Also, speaking with Hadashot news, an unnamed Israeli official insisted Friday that Israel never agreed to a ceasefire. Calls escalated Friday in the ranks of the Israeli left-wing demanding to uproot the movement and to eliminate its leaders. On Friday, Fatah expressed its full rejection to comments delivered by US Mideast peace envoy Jason Greenblatt. Israelis and Palestinians should unite against the deadly threat of Hamas, said Greenblatt in an op-ed published on CNN. "Hamas is an Islamic fundamentalist terror organization, with funding from Iran, dedicated to the destruction of Israel," he wrote. Meanwhile, dozens of Palestinians were wounded Friday during protests close to the border with Israel. Known as "the Great March of Return,” demonstrations in the eastern Gaza Strip are part of the weekly protests and rallies that have been going on since March 30. Also on Friday, a poll published by Israeli daily Maariv said a total of 64 percent of Israeli nationals are unhappy with Netanyahu's policies in handling the Gaza Strip violence amid ongoing rocket and arson balloon attacks by Palestinian militants from the enclave.
U.N. Calls for 'Credible' Investigation of Yemen Bus Attack
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 11/18/The U.N. Security Council called Friday for a credible and transparent investigation into the death of at least 29 children in a Saudi-led coalition attack on a bus in Yemen. British Ambassador Karen Pierce, who holds the council presidency, told reporters following a closed-door meeting on Yemen that "if any investigation that is held is not credible, the council will obviously want to review that." The Saudi-led coalition earlier announced that it had ordered an investigation into the air strike on Thursday that also wounded at least 48 others in the northern rebel stronghold of Saada. The council did not order a separate investigation but "will now consult with the U.N. and others as to how the investigation can best be taken forward," said Pierce. The council met at the request of five countries: Bolivia, the Netherlands, Peru, Poland, and Sweden, which are all non-permanent council members. Kuwait, also a non-permanent council member, is part of the Saudi-led coalition fighting Huthi rebels in Yemen. The United States, France and Britain -- three of the five permanent council members -- have supported the Saudi coalition in its military campaign, but have expressed concern over the heavy toll on civilians. Ahead of the meeting, the Netherlands had stressed that the investigation must be independent, suggesting that the coalition's decision to open up a probe was insufficient. "We have seen the images of children who died," Dutch Deputy Ambassador Lise Gregoire-van Haaren told reporters. "What is essential at this moment in time is to have a credible and independent investigation." The council did not specify in the agreed statement to the press that the investigation should be independent -- a demand that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also made in a statement condemning the attack on Thursday. Council members expressed their "great concern" and "called for a credible and transparent investigation," Pierce said. Since 2015, Saudi Arabia has been leading a military campaign to restore the internationally recognized government to power and push back the Huthis, who still hold the capital Sanaa. The war has left nearly 10,000 people dead and unleashed what the United Nations describes as the world's worst humanitarian crisis. Huthi health minister Taha al-Mutawakel on Friday put the death toll at 51 people, including 40 children, while warning the number of victims could rise further.

Turkey's Lira Crisis: How Bad Can it Get?
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 11/18/Turks have over the last half decade counted the rapid depreciation of the Turkish lira on the screens outside doviz (exchange) booths with a mixture of bewilderment, alarm and ironic amusement. The currency had spent much of 2014 hovering at just over two to the dollar but broke through the three mark for the first time after the 2016 failed coup bid and then slid to four earlier this year. But the haemorrhaging reached an unprecedented intensity in the last weeks as Turkey's ties with the United States strained further and markets questioned their trust in Turkish policymakers, pushing the currency to five against the dollar. A new bout of selling Friday on increased strains with the US forced the lira over six against the dollar for the first time, with the currency at one point shredding a quarter of its value in a single day. Economists say that while the government may be tempted to muddle through the current situation in the hope the external and economic background improves, the lira's fall harbours considerable dangers for the economy, in particular the banking system.'Tight grip on bank' -President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's current dash for growth coupled with unorthodox pronouncements on monetary policy -- including that lower rates can bring down inflation -- have put him on a collision course with markets. The central bank, nominally independent but never defying Erdogan, appears to have abandoned the conventional monetary policy of using rates hikes as a tool to support the currency and bring down inflation. Erdogan's "tight grip" on the central bank and the fact "higher interest rates do no fit with Turkey's economic growth strategy" meant that the central bank has kept interest rates on hold, Nora Neuteboom, economist at ABN Amro, told AFP.
"Erdogan's aim is to improve the economic position of households," she said, adding the government wanted to "keep the music playing" even as external and internal imbalances grow.
- 'Lost confidence' -After his June 24 election victory, Erdogan put his son-in-law Berat Albayrak in charge of a newly expanded finance ministry while a new presidential system did away with the office of prime minister, whose last incumbent Binali Yildirim had on occasion urged caution in economic policy. The new system also increased Erdogan's control over the central bank, which on July 24 baffled markets by leaving rates unchanged despite inflation that in July came in at 15.85 percent. "The markets have lost confidence in the triumvirate of President Erdogan, his son-in-law as finance minister and the Turkish Central Bank's ability to act as it needs to," said Charles Robertson, global chief economist at Renaissance Capital.
According to the Capital Economics consultancy, the plunge in the lira risks putting further pressure on the banking sector in Turkey due to the scale of the credit boom and one third of bank lending being denominated in foreign currencies. "If some of these vulnerabilities crystalize they could tip the economy into a full blown crisis," said its economist Yasemin Engin. US investment bank Goldman Sachs alarmed investors with an assessment that a further drop in the lira to 7.1 to the dollar "could largely erode" the excess capital of Turkish banks.
- 'Diverting attention' -As the lira tumbled in value -- with no breakthrough in sight in the impasse with the US, sparked by the jailing of American pastor Andrew Brunson -- the government has remained sanguine with few comments aimed at rallying markets.
The issue has also largely stayed off the front pages of mainstream Turkish newspapers, where critical Turkish economists are given little space, leaving social media as the main forum of debate. "The pro-government media is diverting attention by showing movies and series," complained Mustafa outside an exchange booth close to Istanbul's Grand Bazaar.
The external value of the lira is not a prime concern of Erdogan's core supporters, many of whom have no plans for foreign holidays and readily accept government rhetoric that economic problems are caused by outsiders seeking to weaken Turkey. "I have full confidence in this government, I'm sure it will find a way out and reverse the trend," said Erdogan supporter Sabahattin. - IMF or new rate hike? -Should the woes of the lira risk feeding into a widescale economic crisis, the government still has levers at its disposal. It could impose capital controls on forex transfers or even call on the IMF for bailout help, although economists regard the former an extreme measure with only marginal probability and the latter unlikely given one of Erdogan's proudest achievements was paying off all of Turkey’s IMF debt in 2013. But he could also swallow his pride and allow the central bank to make an emergency rate hike as it did on May 23 one month ahead of the elections, when a 300 basis points hike in the headline rate was announced. "Erdogan is pragmatic," commented Neuteboom. "And if the situation continues to deteriorate and the lira depreciation and high inflation have a too big an impact on the economic situation -- and that is what it looks like right now -- he will in the end give in."

US Official: Iran Test-Fires Anti-Ship Missile in Hormuz Strait
Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 11 August, 2018/Iran test-fired a short-range anti-ship missile in the Strait of Hormuz during last week’s naval drills, a US official revealed on Friday. Washington believes that the military maneuvers were aimed at sending a message as the United States reimposes sanctions on Tehran, he added. US President Donald Trump said that his country would re-impose sanctions against Iran during his announcement in May of his pullout from the 2015 nuclear deal. The first phase of the sanctions took effect on Tuesday, while the second phase will take effect on November 4. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards confirmed on Sunday it had held war games in the Gulf over the past several days. “It’s pretty clear to us that they were trying to use that exercise to send a message to us that as we approach this period of the sanctions here, that they had some capabilities,” US Army General Joseph Votel, head of the US military’s Central Command, said earlier this week. He said the US military was keenly aware of Iran’s military activities. “We are aware of what’s going on, and we remain ready to protect ourselves as we pursue our objectives of freedom of navigation and the freedom of commerce in international waters,” Votel stressed.
Iran Gives Most Explicit Rejection Yet of U.S. Talks
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 11/18/Iran gave its most explicit rejection yet of talks with the United States on Saturday, and accused Washington of an "addiction to sanctions" over its latest spat with Turkey. The US reimposed harsh sanctions on Iran on Tuesday following its May withdrawal from a landmark 2015 nuclear agreement, dealing a heavy blow to the already troubled economy. US President Donald Trump has offered talks on a "more comprehensive deal" but Iran has baulked at negotiating under the pressure of sanctions and has instead leant on its increasingly close ties with fellow US sanctions targets Turkey and Russia. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was asked by the conservative Tasnim news agency whether there was any plan to meet with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. "No, there will be no meeting," was the blunt response from Zarif. He said there were also no plans for a meeting with US officials on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York next month, which both Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Trump are due to attend. "On Trump's recent proposal (of talks), our official stance was announced by the president and by us. Americans are not honest and their addiction to sanctions does not allow any negotiation to take place," Zarif told Tasnim.
It was Iran's most explicit rejection of talks to date, after much speculation that economic pressure would force its leaders back to the table with Washington or at least to engage in backroom discussions in New York. - Stop 'bullying' Turkey -Earlier on Saturday, Zarif waded into the mounting row between Turkey and the United States. "Trump's jubilation in inflicting economic hardship on its NATO ally Turkey is shameful," he wrote on Twitter. "The US has to rehabilitate its addiction to sanctions (and) bullying or entire world will unite -- beyond verbal condemnations -- to force it to," he warned. "We've stood with neighbours before, and will again now."Trump said Friday he was doubling steel and aluminium tariffs on Turkey as part of an ongoing row over the detention of American pastor Andrew Brunson and other issues. The tensions have fuelled a run on the Turkish lira, which dropped 16 percent to a record low on Friday, with Trump tweeting that the currency was sliding "rapidly downward against our very strong Dollar!"- Rial pain -Iran too has suffered a major decline in its currency this year -- in part due to US abandonment of the nuclear deal -- with the rial losing more than half its value against the dollar since April.
Ironically, the rial strengthened in the two days leading up to the reimposition of US sanctions on Tuesday, after the government announced new foreign exchange measures giving greater freedom to trade dollars at market rates. But there has since been a fresh decline of almost 13 percent, with the rial at 106,200 per dollar on Saturday, according to currency tracking website Bonbast -- approaching the record low of 119,000 that it reached on July 31. Analysts say this is due to uncertainty in the market, with currency traders still unsure of the new rules and struggling to access dollars from the central bank. Zarif met repeatedly with then US secretary of state John Kerry during the negotiation and implementation of the 2015 agreement -- but those relatively warm ties were abruptly ended when the Trump administration came to power. Rouhani said last week that Iran "always welcomed negotiations" but that Washington would first have to demonstrate it can be trusted. "If you're an enemy and you stab the other person with a knife and then you say you want negotiations, then the first thing you have to do is remove the knife," he said in an interview on state television.

Zarif: No Plans for Meeting with US
Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 11 August, 2018/Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif ruled out on Saturday any meeting with the United States in the near future following Washington's reimposition of sanctions on the country. Asked by Tasnim news agency if there was any plan to meet US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Zarif said: "No, there will be no meeting." He said there were also no plans for a meeting with US officials on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York next month, which both Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and his US counterpart Donald Trump are due to attend.
"On Trump's recent proposal (of talks), our official stance was announced by the president and by us. Americans are not honest and their addiction to sanctions does not allow any negotiation to take place," Zarif told Tasnim. The US reimposed sanctions on Tuesday, following its withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and major powers in May. Rouhani said last week that Iran "always welcomed negotiations" but that Washington would first have to demonstrate it can be trusted. "If you're an enemy and you stab the other person with a knife and then you say you want negotiations, then the first thing you have to do is remove the knife."

Trump and Macron Discuss Iran, Middle East

Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 11 August, 2018/US President Donald Trump spoke on Friday with his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, and they discussed trade, Iran and the Middle East, the White House said. "Had a very good phone call with @EmmanuelMacron, President of France. Discussed various subjects, in particular Security and Trade," Trump, who is vacationing at his New Jersey golf club, said on Twitter. The two leaders discussed "a broad range of trade and security issues, including the situation in Iran and the broader Middle East," the White House said in a statement. The Elysee Palace said in a brief statement the two leaders discussed Syria, Iran and the Israel-Palestinian conflict, but did not mention trade. Trump and Macron last met at a NATO summit in Brussels in July, where the US president chastised members of the alliance that have not met its defense spending targets.

Iran Kills 10 Rebels along Iraq Border
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 11/18/Iran's Revolutionary Guards said Saturday they had killed at least 10 members of a "terrorist team" who entered the country from Iraq the previous night. A statement from the Guards' ground forces division said the attackers came through the border area near Oshnavieh in the northwestern province of West Azerbaijan. It said at least 10 were killed and others wounded "during a heavy clash." "Following the dismantling of this terrorist team a considerable number of weapons, ammunition and communication equipment were confiscated," the statement added. Iran faces a longstanding threat from Kurdish rebels in the area, and accuses the United States, Saudi Arabia and Israel of supporting the insurgency.

Iran TV Accused of Muting Anti-Regime Stadium Chants

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 11/18/Iranians reported Saturday that the state broadcaster had muted stadium noise during the previous evening's football match in Tehran, in an apparent attempt to drown out anti-government chants. Mobile phone footage shared widely on social media showed thousands of fans in Tehran's Azadi stadium chanting "Death to the dictator" during the fixture between the capital's Esteghlal and Tractor Sazi from the northwestern city of Tabriz. Although the video could not be independently verified, it coincided with a decision by state broadcaster IRIB to mute the sound and avoid shots of the crowd. "Yesterday, when the football was being shown, the sound in the stadium was turned down to such a level that one would think they were playing in an alleyway," said one Twitter user. IRIB's football commentators blamed "network disruption" for the low volume, without giving details. "They turned down the volume so no one could hear the slogans," said another Twitter user. Iran has seen nationwide strikes and protests in recent weeks, focused on high prices and unemployment but also featuring radical political slogans. The authorities have acknowledged anger over the economic situation -- which has been exacerbated by the United States' reimposition of sanctions on Tuesday following its abandonment of a landmark 2015 nuclear deal. But they say any political agitation is the work of outside instigators, fomented by the US, Saudi Arabia and Israel. Heavy reporting restrictions and reports of mobile internet black-outs in affected areas have made it difficult to verify claims by the authorities and on social media.

UN envoy Griffiths: Saudi Arabia has legitimate right to secure its borders
Badr al-Qahtani, Asharq Al-Awsat/August 11/ 2018/
United Nations special envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths realizes that several doubts cloud the Iran-backed Houthis’ political pledges. Any Yemeni opponent of the group agrees with these doubts and believes that the Houthis do not even know the meaning of peace, citing the nearly 15 years of wars waged in their country. Griffiths, however, said that he received pledges from the militias and will leave it up to the September 6 consultations in Geneva to reveal exactly what these pledges mean to them. The third UN envoy to Yemen in seven years told Asharq Al-Awsat that his ultimate goal from the consultations was to reach a signed agreement on forming a national unity government and making security arrangements. In a series of emails to Asharq Al-Awsat, he explained that the General People’s Congress (GPC) and southerners must be part of the political process in Yemen. Griffiths, who assumed his position in March, is hoping to reach a swift settlement to the conflict based on previous negotiations rounds. He explained that a settlement will not lead to peace, but stop the war in Yemen.
Griffiths expressed his disappointment over how some people use the media to make polarizing statements. His duty, he explained, was to find a middle ground between the rival parties. This is the role of a mediator, not a negotiator, he clarified. The solution will come from the Yemenis themselves, not the mediator or anyone else. He said that he, along with the UN, were there to help the parties reach this solution. The envoy reiterated statements he had made at the UN Security Council in which he said that the Yemenis have to live with people they do not like, meaning that condemnations against them should stop. Building peace means that each side needed to respect the other and their different views, instead of denouncing and condemning them. It is important to reach an agreement on using the media to build alliances instead of condemning enemies, Griffiths said, while adding that he seeks to build hope and goodwill among the Yemenis. He also explained that he tries not to speak ill of any of the warring sides because they are all needed for the solution to the conflict. He revealed that some sides urge him to condemn this side or that, but he always refuses. He instead highlighted what he called one of his best assets: His ability to listen. By listening, he elaborated, he will be able to find common ground, not causes for division, among the parties.
Peace process
The September 6 consultations in Geneva will kick off from many good and bad lessons learned from previous rounds of talks held in Biel, Geneva and Kuwait, Griffiths told Asharq Al-Awsat. He added that he also took many lessons from his meetings with several Yemenis, diplomats and leaders in the past few months. The main goal, he remarked, was to reach an agreement between the Yemeni government and the Houthis on several central issues that would stop the war and lead to a national unity government that brings together all sides. This will demand a signed agreement by all concerned parties. The deal must include the establishment of a political transition period and a unity government based on Security Council resolution 2216. It will also demand security arrangements whereby all armed groups would withdraw from their locations and lay down their weapons.
The woman, South and GPC
Resolution 2216 calls for comprehensive political dialogue, stressed Griffiths. This includes bringing in the Yemeni woman to take part in the consultations because of the important role she can play in finding middle ground and prioritizing peace. The people of the South should also be part of this process, he added, noting that the situation there had changed. They should be part of the future of Yemen and not be ignored. The political parties, specifically the GPC, should also be part of this process. Most of the parties are represented in the Yemeni government or among the Houthis, but not all of them. Options must be available to find a way to include them in the peace process, said Griffiths. He hoped that a swift settlement based on all previous rounds of negotiations can be reached. The end of the war will first and foremost allow Yemeni families and children to end their reliance on humanitarian aid. It will also include a transition process that will lead to peace. The settlement, he stated, will not build peace, but end the war. Peacebuilding, he continued, will take some time and will include other parties besides the ones concerned with ending the war.
Difference between consultations and talks
At the moment, continued Griffiths, consultations are being held to set the stage for negotiations. Consultations are an official process. Consultations do not necessarily need to be held face-to-face between parties, but they are still possible. Talks are the official process between parties and are held one-on-one in order to reach a settlement, the UN envoy added. Talks will be held once consultations are complete. He stated that Geneva was chosen for the September consultations because it is a neutral location.
Doubts over Houthi commitments
Griffiths told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Houthis, including their leader Abdulmalek al-Houthi, had expressed to him their willingness to return to the negotiations table. In fact, he revealed that they had criticized him for being slow in calling parties to the table. The UN envoy said that he was very pleased to hear that the Houthis were committed to holding negotiations to reach a solution. He revealed that they even told him that they are aware of what was needed to reach this settlement. He acknowledged the doubts that surround these claims, saying that the Geneva consultations will reveal what the Houthis truly mean by “commitment.”As for the Yemeni government, Griffiths said that President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi was a good interlocutor, as were the prime minister and foreign minister. They asserted to the envoy their complete understanding of what was required during this process.
The settlement demands that the exclusive right to carry arms be limited to one side and that is the new Yemeni government that will be formed from this process. All armed groups must, therefore, be disbanded. This will take time and it is no secret that this is what is being demanded, Griffiths said. Both sides are aware of this.
Saudi Arabia, the Gulf and Red Sea
Addressing Saudi Arabia, he remarked that the Kingdom has a legitimate right to see its borders secured and stable. It territory should not be targeted and the UN is based on such principles. No country must play a role in determining Yemen’s future. This is up for the Yemenis to decide, he stressed. He also revealed that everyone he had met, including officials in Saudi Arabia, had underlined this principle to him. Furthermore, Saudi Arabia is not the only side that has an interest in seeing a stable Yemen. Europe has a major interest in ensuring safe trade through the Red Sea. This is very important, noted Griffiths. Stability in Yemen does not concern the Yemenis alone, but a solution there is very strategic. Should the situation in the country deteriorate, Griffiths warned that that would lead to a greater threat from terrorism and extremism given that al-Qaeda and ISIS are already present there. This will pose a greater risk to trade. On this note, he highlighted the recent rapprochement between Ethiopia and Eritrea, which he said presents a major opportunity for the Red Sea to play a greater role on the trade and environmental levels. Yemen should play a primary role in this issue. Moreover, Griffiths remarked that stability in Yemen, regardless of the outcome of the negotiations, would not be possible without economic relations with the Arab Gulf. Yemen’s economy, income, stability and living conditions will be based on reconstruction and trade with its neighbors. This is how real peace is established: By making sure that neighbors need each other. They should not fear or fight each other, he stressed.
No guarantees without a will
Observers on Yemen always wonder about the future. What will happen if an agreement were reached on everything? What guarantees that the Houthi militias will not betray their partners like they did in December when they turned against Ali Abdullah Saleh, the former president who went against them. Griffiths said that everyone should know that the only real guarantee for any agreement is the will of all sides. The Security Council could offer guarantees, or even sanctions, but if the sides do not want the operation to succeed, then it will not. Many people say that solutions must be imposed, but Griffiths stressed that efforts are being made to reach an agreement. Agreements are voluntary, not imposed.
Southern issue
The UN envoy said that it was necessary for the residents of the South to be aware of what will take place at the consultations, and later the negotiations, because it will affect them. The future of the South will not be addressed at Geneva in September. It will be discussed during the transition period. This was explained to the southerners, he revealed, and they were in agreement over it. As a UN envoy, said Griffiths, he believes in the sovereignty, unity and security of any country. These are the values of the UN. It does not support separatism unless it was part of a consensual agreement. He stressed that he believes in the importance of the unity of Yemen, saying its separation will be a disaster.
The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on August 11-12/18
Four Ways to Counter Russia’s Social-Media Warfare
James Stavridis/Bloomberg/August 11/18
In the fall of 2011, when I was NATO'S top military commander, we were prosecuting a vigorous air campaign against the forces of Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi, called Operation Unified Protector. Earlier that year Qaddafi had threatened to attack noncombatant civilians in Libya, so the U.N. Security Council authorized NATO to conduct the strikes while also placing an arms embargo on the nation. We eventually launched more than 25,000 air sorties in a remarkably successful tactical campaign, although a lack of follow-up action led to continued strategic challenges and general instability across the nation.
In late October, I chose to announce the end of hostilities on Twitter. As I did so, it struck me that this was the first time social media had been used to announce the end of a major conflict. I felt it was a sensible use of worldwide networks -- providing immediate global awareness and ensuring that the information was passed simultaneously to friends, foes and noncombatants alike. I also thought it was a harbinger of good: a tactical system used with appropriate purpose in a way that would have positive effect.
Flash forward to 2016. As we are discovering now through the diligent work of special counsel Robert Mueller, those same social networks were used by Russia to target the U.S. elections, seeking to influence the outcome in favor of the Kremlin’s choice, Donald Trump. Largely through Facebook and Twitter, Russia was able to build an army of bots, push messages of division, create false narratives and aggressively attack U.S. democracy. It was a bold move directed by Vladimir Putin, in effect turning social media into a significant weapon of war. And it continues -- top U.S. intelligence professionals announced at a hastily arranged White House press conference last week that “the lights are blinking red.”
If, as Clausewitz said, war is the continuation of politics “by other means,” today’s use of the social networks makes possible a new way to influence politics, and thus gain advantage in conflict between states. This creates a new, dangerous face of war against which we must be prepared to respond. What are the implications for the U.S.? Are we prepared to operate in this grey zone of conflict?
First, Americans should recognize that the long history of warfare is largely about the balance between offensive and defensive capabilities. England's offensive long-range archers were able to overcome the defensive armor of French knights at the Battle of Cressy in 1346, for example. Aircraft operating from the decks of carriers were able to offensively overcome the heavy armor plating of battleships in World War II. Defensive ballistic missile air-defense systems are being used to defend cities from offensive long-range attacks today in Saudi Arabia and Israel. Offense and defense continually trade places as technology and tactics shift.
What is so striking about the use of social networks in conflict is that they have rapidly transitioned from providing advantage to rebellions and insurgents -- as in the dramatic case of the Arab Spring or the European “color revolutions,” where they were used extensively to organize mass protests -- to aiding authoritarian regimes. From Syria to Iran to North Korea, repressive states are applying them offensively to attack enemies both internally and internationally. And Russia’s employing them against the U.S. is the most dramatic example of it unfolding between superpowers.
Using social networks is fundamentally different than cyberwarfare, which uses the internet and streams of code to attack and disrupt networks engaged in logistics, transportation, finance, health care, command-and-control and other key infrastructure. That is certainly another relatively new and distinctive face of battle. But the use of social networks in conflict is far less understood and the U.S. has struggled to defend itself. We must react. Peter Singer, a noted futurist and military analyst, writes convincingly about this phenomenon in his forthcoming book, “LikeWar: The Weaponization of Social Media.” (He is also the co-author of the novel "Ghost Fleet," which offers a terrifyingly realistic vision of a war between the U.S. and China.)
Singer and others have made the case that the U.S. has much work to do in order to operate in these shadow zones of the social networks. I would start with four concrete steps.
First, we need much better public-private cooperation. Facebook, Twitter and the other major social networks should have government liaisons assigned from the National Security Agency, FBI and Department of Homeland Security to assist them in monitoring and responding to such attacks.
Second, we need to develop better technical defenses that can detect bots and propaganda and the work of fake-news mills in real time and stifle them. These technologies must be jointly created by both government and private sector actors. Congress can help by driving legislation that encourages this. Such laws should provide both incentives for cooperation (perhaps through tax credits) and sanctions (fines for instances of flagrant non-enforcement).
Third, we need to be more adept at revealing the nature and extent of such attacks when they occur and publicizing them. We should use international organizations (the Security Council, NATO, the Organization of American States, etc.) to shine a spotlight on the use of the networks offensively to shame the abusers. Joint statements from an alliance or regional organization carry much more weight than any single nation's complaints.
Fourth, we need to be willing to use more aggressive and potentially public responses when we are attacked. General Paul Nakasone, who heads both the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command, said recently that he had "guidance" from Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on responding to foreign meddling. But it's unclear what that guidance was, or what sort of retaliation has already occurred beyond the indictments of some of the Russian operatives (none of whom are likely to be turned over to the U.S. justice system).
The U.S. should be considering using the social networks in a proportional way against Russia if it does not cease and desist -- perhaps by revealing corruption and overseas wealth held by senior Russian leaders. This has been done to an extent, but needs to be deepened to include Putin specifically. It should also be done creatively on social networks with evocative images of villas, yachts and Italian suits.
Clearly, the use of the social networks will play a role for both good and ill in the conduct of politics and, when politics become strained, will be a tool with which nations will continue the conflict in this shadow zone. Tweeting the end of a war as I did blithely in 2011, or watching happily while democracy triumphed in Ukraine in 2005, are all well and good; but Americans need to understand and be ready to respond more efficiently and forcefully when the power of the social networks is turned against the U.S. The lights are blinking red indeed.

Europe: Prayer in Public Spaces
Giulio Meotti/Gatestone Institute/August 11/18
These Arab countries know better than Europe that to contain Islamic fundamentalism, it is crucial to control the street.
That 140,000 Muslims recently gathered in England for a public prayer event organized by a mosque known for its extremism and links to jihadi terrorists, should not only alarm the British authorities, but those in other European countries as well.
A few months ago, a global media tempest erupted after Polish Catholics held a mass public prayer event across the country. The BBC deemed it "controversial", due to "concerns it could be seen as endorsing the state's refusal to let in Muslim migrants".
The same controversy, however, did not erupt in Britain when 140,000 Muslims prayed in Birmingham's Small Heath Park, in an event organized by the Green Lane Mosque to mark the end of Ramadan.
France is debating whether or not to block prayer on the street. "They will not have prayers on the street, we will prevent street praying" Interior Minister Gerard Collomb announced.
"Public space cannot be taken over in this way", said the president of the Paris regional council, Valérie Pécresse, who led a protest by councilors and MPs. In Italy, hundreds of Muslims prayed next to Colosseum, and Muslim prayers were held in front of Milan's Cathedral.
The numbers are telling. When Muslims throughout Europe celebrated the final day of Islam's holy month of Ramadan with public prayers, city squares -- from Naples (Italy) to Nice (France) -- overflowed. The annual Birmingham event began in 2012 with 12,000 faithful. Two years later, the number of the faithful rose to 40,000. In 2015, it was 70,000. In 2016, the number was 90,000. In 2017, it was 100,000. In 2018, the number was 140,000. Next year?
"While the two [local] churches are nearly empty, the Brune Street Estate mosque has a different problem — overcrowding," noted The Daily Mail, exposing the situation in London.
"The mosque itself is little more than a small room rented in a community centre, and it can hold only 100. However, on Fridays, those numbers swell to three to four times the room's capacity, so the worshippers spill out onto the street, where they take up around the same amount of space as the size of the near-empty St Mary's [Church] down the road".
Public prayer is not a "normal" manifestation of the legitimate Western freedom of worship. Through these public events, some extremist Muslims seem to be presenting an alternative to Europe's secularism.
How does this compare to the Middle East and North Africa? In Tunisia, praying in the street has been banned. And in Egypt, preaching from 20,000 "storefront mosques" was banned throughout Ramadan. "Salafis and Muslim Brotherhood members took control of many of these mosques and have continued to use them as platforms to broadcast their religious misconceptions," Jaber Taya, spokesman of Egypt's Ministry of Religious Endowments, said. These Arab countries know better than Europe that to contain extremism, it is crucial to control the street.
In Birmingham, one of England's most Islamized cities, the annual mass public prayer has taken place under the leadership of the Green Lane Mosque, headquarters of the radical Markali Jamat Ahi Hadith organization, which is affiliated with the supposedly "moderate" Muslim Council of Britain. Not only does the Green Lane Mosque forbid women to wear trousers or use Facebook; its speakers preach hatred for non-Muslims. Abu Usamah, one of the primary imams at the mosque, was recorded saying, "Osama Bin Laden, he's better than a thousand Tony Blairs, because he's a Muslim"; "Allah has created the woman, even if she gets a PhD, deficient. Her intellect is incomplete"; and advocating that homosexuals should be "thrown off" mountains.
An report in the French newspaper Le Figaro concluded:
"Birmingham is England's second-largest city after London. It has nearly a million inhabitants, half of whom are immigrants, with a quarter Muslims. In the very popular Small Heath neighborhood, located east of the city center, nearly 95 percent of the population is Muslim.
"The many mosques here offer a very wide range of practices ranging from Sufism to the most radical Salafism, such as the Salafi Mosque... Some shops display different closing times corresponding to those of daily prayers...
"The bookstores are religious. Travel agencies guarantee 'Muslim-friendly' holidays with destinations where clients – especially female clients -- have access to hotels with gender-segregated areas and swimming pools where women can bathe while 'preserving their modesty'".
It may not be a coincidence that many British jihadists have come from Birmingham, which has been called "the jihadist capital of Britain". The French magazine L'Obs published an investigative report about French Islamists moving to Birmingham to enjoy a freer and more multicultural environment.
That 140,000 Muslims recently gathered in England for a public prayer event organized by a mosque known for its extremism and links to jihadi terrorists, should not only alarm the British authorities, but those in other European countries as well.
It may not be a coincidence that many British jihadists have come from Birmingham, which has been called "the jihadist capital of Britain." Pictured: Birmingham Central Mosque, in Birmingham, England. (Image source: Oosoom/Wikimedia Commons)
**Giulio Meotti, Cultural Editor for Il Foglio, is an Italian journalist and author.
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Features of weakness in Tehran’s ‘crescent’
Hazem al-Amin/Al Arabiya/August 11/18
It is not difficult to notice fissures emerge in the so-called “Shiite crescent” that reached its acme in 2016 and became almost full in 2017, after deterring ISIS in Iraq and after the Syrian regime restored Aleppo.
In Syria, Moscow leads the scene. It has struck a major deal with Israel, keeping Tehran and Shiite militias away from Israeli borders to a distance that may have reached 100 kilometers. Moscow has also promised to enforce order and mediate talks between Ankara and the Kurds and has talked about projects for reconstruction of Syria and is sending messages of reassurance in more than one direction. One can suppose that all this is taking place at the expense of the Iranian position in Syria.
It is obvious that Tehran has started to lose its eminence in its relation with the ruling Shiite elite in Iraq, although it’s still early to judge the path of receding Iranian influence in post-Saddam Iraq. Angry demonstrations in South Iraq over the performance of the ‘Shiite’ authority and Tehran’s inability to control them and the absence of an Iranian initiative to provide Iraq with electricity are all indicators, not that it lost its position in Iraq but that this position has been shaken and that this is likely to keep happening as long as its Iraqi “governments” continue to fail.
Tehran has lost its position as a source of trust that makes the Iraqi Shiite feel he is an extension of a regional power at the political, sectarian and economic levels. The collapse of the Iranian currency is a disaster for the Iraqi depositors in Iranian banks. The banking system in the Islamic Republic is no longer a dependable institution for Shiite Iraqi depositors who have lost half of their wealth due to US sanctions on Tehran.
The banking system in the Islamic Republic is no longer a dependable institution for Iraqi depositors who have lost half of their wealth
Lebanon is the last country where we might expect such indicators because the tool of Tehran’s influence, represented by Hezbollah, remains the most coherent and the most capable of confronting this new Iranian weakness. However, this does not stop us from observing the Lebanese scene in light of the regional changes.
Hezbollah has increased its involvement in Lebanon’s internal situation on a daily basis. The group has become less “generous” with its affiliates and with the circles of those who benefit from it. Indicators in Beqaa suggest that Hezbollah is before a crisis due to depriving people there of basic services. In southern Lebanon, there are signs of a similar hardship as a result of the Shiite alliance’s monopoly of the Shiite share in the state. We should not wait for an uprising against Hezbollah, as the latter is still the only Shiite force in Lebanon, but this does not mean that unrest is not a sign of weakness which source is Tehran.
What is more important than these signs of fissures is what is happening within Iran itself. Demonstrations in cities continue as a result of the economic collapse and the decline of the currency’s value to unprecedented levels. According to semi-official reports, there are about one million Iranians who are not employed, a drastic rise in prices of goods and food products and collapse in almost all of the economic sectors as a result of the first round of US sanctions, which are expected to be augmented by more powerful ones.
It seems that this time Tehran is facing internal challenges that have begun to disrupt its regional task. However, this fissure, like any other, has shock waves which call for prudence before when rushing to celebrate the idea that this Iranian crescent system has been shaken. Some communities will not be able to survive the consequences of this collapse, and we are prepared for more civil wars in the wake of new collapses.

What do attacks on seminaries indicate for Iran?

Amal Abdulaziz Al–Hazani/Al Arabiya/August 11/18
On August 7, the re-imposed US economic sanctions on Iran came into effect. The move ended a three-month period given by the Trump administration to foreign companies to cut their business ties with Iran, which they developed after signing the nuclear deal in the summer of 2015. From the US point of view, the three month period was sufficient for foreign companies, especially European ones, to wind up their businesses and leave Iran.
Economy nosedives
At present, sanctions have been imposed on cars, coal, gold, metal and banking transactions, and they will be followed in November with sanctions on energy trade. The Europeans tried “to hold the stick from the middle”, soothe Iranian fear on one hand and forge an understanding with the Americans on another in order to protect their companies which sealed major deals inside Iran - just as they had in the 1990s when sanctions were imposed on Libya after the bombing of Pan Am Flight and on Iran after the American hostage situation. In the end, the Europeans will not risk losing the US market to Iran, and they will eventually have to deal with the situation, and this has practically began by freezing their companies’ businesses and then exiting Iran. The Iranian currency has declined as the riyal plunged to reach 102,000 riyals against the dollar, and there are expectations of a further precipitous fall in the days ahead. Meanwhile, popular protests in Iranian cities have again taken center-stage. In December 2017, popular protests had become so bold that they started targeting the person of the Supreme Leader of Iran, his position and integrity with hateful insults. He was accused of corruption by the people, who for the first time became openly critical of the policies he dragged the country into since he’s the head of the regime. In protests before 2017 and after the Khomeinist revolution, the Supreme Leader was never targeted by protesters for a variety of reasons. The Supreme Leader’s post was generally kept away from political squabbles and out of all protests or anger manifestations, but this "taboo" was overcome and accusations of dictatorship have now been made via graffiti and echoed by protestors in different cities in Iran for several months. At the beginning of the demonstrations, a Hawza (seminary for training clerics) was attacked and burned in the city of Turkestan in the province of Qazvin in northwestern Iran. Attacking a seminary does not indicate opposition to religion, but an expression of anger against the theocratic regime and all its tools.
Attack on seminaries
The incident was then seen as an unintentional act of anger, but the same thing happened few days later when hundreds of protesters tried to enter and burn a Hawza in the Karaj area near the capital Tehran. It would be understandable if people attack state institutions which they complain of their policies considering they are a direct party in the crisis. However, attacking the person of the Supreme Leader and religious schools is a return to the root of the problem which Iranian youths understand well, and which is that the revolution had created an aura of righteousness around the person of the Supreme Leader and had placed him above any accountability or reproach and allowed clergymen to seize power. Attacking Hawzas (seminaries) does not indicate opposition to religion, but it is an expression of anger against the theocratic regime and all its tools, whether figures or institutions. Anyone who understands the system of governance in Iran knows that challenging the status of the Supreme Leader or the religious policy is a watershed in Iranian society. Those who do not fear jumping over the fences of social prohibitions are people who have acquired bravery and lost patience and are thus pushed to achieve their goals without any fear or hesitations. Even among the general public, this new phenomena can shake the status of religious symbols and diminish the respect they have for them as they realize that these symbols which they have known to be strong for decades, can be scratched and now face the threat of breaking more than any time ever. Religion has a high status in Iranian society with its different races but they believe that the ruling class has long exploited religion to preserve its social and financial gains, and that this class has transformed this strong country that’s rich with resources into a weak one that has a bad reputation and that is punished by economic boycott.
Unsettling portents
It is therefore not true to claim that US sanctions will strengthen the position of the conservatives and their institutions, especially the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, against President Hassan Rouhani, since conservatives were against the nuclear deal. Although the conservatives and even the Supreme Leader expressed their discontent with the nuclear agreement, they were in fact very happy about it and they celebrated signing it and they even paved the way for this deal by inaugurating a moderate figure who can be welcomed by the West as a negotiator. On another hand, these calculations no longer weigh anything in the street as the Iranians are no longer preoccupied with political currents. They are living in the center of events which repercussions directly affect their lives on a daily basis. Their fears are growing amid news that the president has dismissed the head of the central bank and that the parliament will hold a special session to question Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on the failure of the nuclear agreement. Zarif had celebrated this nuclear deal from the balcony of his residence in Geneva in front of journalists by waving a copy of the agreement signed at the time. All these factors will restrict the regime and inflame the internal situation which is already very critical, and with re-imposition of sanctions in the near future, the regime will have few options left and it will face one of the most severe crises since the revolution.

How were Iraq’s oil revenues robbed in the name of religion?
Adnan Hussein/Al Arabiya/August 11/18
Many people are surprised how Iraq, the second-largest oil producer after Saudi Arabia in OPEC and the fourth-largest international energy producer, cannot generate enough electricity for its own consumption. Instead, the country is currently facing a severe shortage as the national grid for electricity cannot supply power for more than eight hours a day during the hot months of the Iraqi summer.What’s even more surprising is that the Iraqis are also suffering from a severe shortage of water for drinking and irrigation purposes, despite the fact that the country has two large rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates, and which were the reason of the rise of three of the greatest civilizations in human history, the Sumerian, Babylonian and the Abbasid civilizations.
The ‘loot’ of government revenues
Unlike others, the Iraqis are not surprised at all as they can see with their eyes how billions of dollars from monthly oil revenues, millions of dollars in taxes and customs fees and others sources of government revenue have vanished from the state treasury.
The misfortune of Iraq which has been aggravating for over a decade and a half is not limited to electricity and water shortages. The public services system (healthcare, education, housing, transportation, sanitation, etc.) is almost completely collapsed while the poverty rate is over 30% and unemployment is at 20%. All of this has pushed the Iraqis to hold angry protests like what’s currently happening. During the popular protests, the slogan of "combating administrative and financial corruption" has been the foremost among all public demands which have now raised the ceiling to calling for radical political and administrative change to ensure that the state and its federal and local apparatuses are led by competent and impartial figures who know how to invest in Iraq's great financial resources for the development and welfare of the community and that do not loot public funds. The current damage is due to looting public funds quite smoothly without any fear of being punished. Those looting this money are leaders and cadres in ruling parties (mostly Islamic) who are protected and whose leaders are aware of their corruption.
Diverting public funds to parties
In a number of hearings held to question ministers and other senior executives at the Parliament, which term ended around five weeks ago, the existence of a number of "economic committees" came into public eye. These bodies were responsible for the loot of public money and were formed by influential parties in the state to work with ministers, heads of institutions, general managers of state departments, governors and provincial councils. It is well known that these executive posts are divided among these parties according to the quota system, which offers each party a number of positions in line with the size of its representation in the federal Parliament, the Kurdistan Regional Parliament and the provincial councils. People holding these positions have a duty towards their parties and which is to provide money these “economic committees” and which is taken in the form of bribes (commissions) paid by companies and contractors who were given public project contracts. Usually, these large commissions (worth millions of dollars) are often transferred to personal accounts or to fictitious companies outside of Iraq. Most of these officials receive bribes and have become millionaires who possess plenty of property within a few years. Heinous and shocking details have been revealed in this context through periodic reports of the Integrity Commission and the parliamentary Integrity and Finance Committees. Political parties have provided protection to these corrupt people and safeguarded them from punishment and accountability. As a result, hundreds of important development projects have been adversely affected. The people who give and receive bribes, often divide the financial allocations for these projects, leaving mere pennies for the execution of the projects. The money acquired by this method is used by the parties to reinforce their influence in the state by gaining more members, supporters and by winning votes in parliamentary and local elections. This has in fact been a major looting operation that’s popularly known as “Farhud”. It has now been established that there are hundreds of billions of dollars looted from state revenues that are still missing. Before his death in late 2015, head of the former parliamentary finance committee MP Ahmad Jalabi announced that funds unaccounted for are over $300 billion, whereas other sources estimated the funds at $500 billion. According to other data, some of these funds have been transferred to Iran which was in desperate need of foreign money after economic sanctions were imposed by the United States and other countries.
A dismal situation
Last month, the Central Bank of Iraq (CBE) announced in a report that the total revenue in foreign currency over the years 2005- 2017 reached $706.23 billion. A few days later, a member of the Finance Committee in the former parliament Magda Tamimi said that the revenues of Iraq since 2004 until mid-2018 amounted to 1,032 trillion and 207 billion dinars ($900 billion). These two astronomical figures did not positively impact the Iraqis. Critics of the current and former governments always criticize them by arguing that they did not build any factories and dams or developed agricultural projects, let alone a major freeway or a new international airport (apart from the Najaf airport which is controlled by five Islamic parties that dominate the provincial council of Najaf and which the Baghdad government has not been able to control until after protestors stormed it last month demanding to change its corrupt partisan administration, and this is what happened). One of the greatest ironies is that all major economic projects and plans related to services are the work of previous regimes. As a matter of fact the post 2003-governments have not even been able to repair these projects. This is the tip of the iceberg of the shocking conditions facing Iraq and angering the people against the powerful political class and the entire political process. The public outrage also extends to the Unites States and Britain which led the process of arranging this political process and handed it over to Islamist groups which protestors are speaking out against and chanting: “In the name of religion, the looters have robbed us.”

The Arab route to China
Radwan al-Sayed/Al Arabiya/August 11/18
During his recent visit to the UAE, the Chinese president signed 13 agreements and memorandums of understanding. Although, the number agreements signed is in itself large, the more important thing was the president’s keenness to personally visit the country for forging strategic Sino-Arab relations to create friendly ties, a developmental approach and usher in a new thinking for the future.
This is the Arab route to China. I haven’t come up with this phrase but it’s actually by Toby Huff, the author of the book ‘The Rise of Early Modern Science: Islam, China and the West’. According to history, trade and cultural exchange on the Silk Route between China and the Arab world was rich and dangerous. There are two things which many historians have noticed and noted.
The Maritime Silk Route
Chinese officials visited the Caliphate’s seat only twice in the 4th century of the Hijri calendar. Communication was through trade missions over the course of 15 centuries and up until the 16th century AD.
But how was this possible? This is where the second point is, and it’s the Arab route which Huff noted. According to the book ‘The Eritrean Sea’ (The Red Sea) for an anonymous writer who was a sailor and which is from the 2nd century AD, Arab sailors and traders from the Arabian Peninsula shores always went to China through the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean and then the China Sea. This route was taken to circumvent different countries blocking the land route.
The Arab-Chinese naval and inland peaceful route maintained its vitality until the 16th century when it was disrupted in sea and later on land by Portuguese, Spanish, British and French fleets.
Thus, they were the pioneers of the ‘Sea Silk Route,’ they then became the pioneers of inland Silk Route after the emergence of Islam and the expansion of its horizons as countries, civilizations, trades and interests till China borders. There were no longer any land obstacles.
Although the Chinese official missions were few on China’s side, it was not so from the Arab side. The world before the 16th century had no description of China and its territories and its palaces other than the descriptions made by Arab geographers and Arab travelers.
The Arab-Chinese naval and inland peaceful route maintained its vitality until the 16th century when it was disrupted in sea and later on land by Portuguese, Spanish, British and French fleets. It was the Europeans who exited the partnership of the three civilizations then completely disrupted it.
It did not occur to Arab and Chinese traders to use arms on their sea or land trade routes. The Portuguese were the first to do so for the purpose of monopolizing trade with India and China and then for the purpose of colonization. Until the 17th century, Arabic was the first language for trade on the sea and inland Silk Route, followed by the Persian and Turkish languages.
The Kantian approach
Since the 16th century, we (Arabs) have had no free way of communication with India and China. The only way has been the European way and finally the American one. The only way to progress was by engaging in war. This war began with competition between European powers, then turned into distribution in the colonial times and beyond. We and the Chinese fell victims on the naval Silk Road then on the inland Silk Road as their significance for mutual interest and communication decreased then eventually disappeared.
As the US threatens China and Europe with trade war, China is offering Arabs, Africans and Asians with another approach which the whole world had almost forgotten: exchanges at all levels: trade, technology, culture and communication.
A German professor told me: “What China is offering you Arabs is the Kantian peace approach! German philosopher Kant had a vision entitled perpetual peace. (In his book published in 1795,) he imagined states without armies, with a peace charter between them for free and comprehensive exchanges”. He added: “The immense Chinese advancement project was not built and did not succeed in its surroundings and in the world thanks to war but thanks to exchange without conditions. China has not even resorted to force to try and restore the Chinese regions and islands which others seized despite its ability to do so!
Through its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China is offering a bilateral and optional charter of developmental exchange, without discrimination. Despite its interest in exporting goods, China encourages and contributes to technological and agricultural development wherever it goes. The Europeans and Americans are not pleased with this approach which they view as Chinese seizure!
An Arab route has been built to China based on strategic interests at all levels. The UAE and Kuwait feature prominently on this road and will be followed by other Arab countries.
It is said: “Seek knowledge even as far as China.” And now three things are happening simultaneously: Chinese knowledge, Chinese development and close proximity now that the world became one global village!