August 14/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
For who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?’ But we have the mind of Christ
First Letter to the Corinthians 02/11-16: For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within? So also no one comprehends what is truly God’s except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual. Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are discerned spiritually. Those who are spiritual discern all things, and they are themselves subject to no one else’s scrutiny. ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?’ But we have the mind of Christ."

Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on August 13-14/18
Our Women Are Free!' Lebanon Mayor Hires Policewomen to Boost Tourism/Express/Monday 13th August 2018
Hezbollah MP slams national news agency’s 'bias' after NNA crosses out reference to Saudi Arabia/Annahar Staff /August 13/18
NAYA | Maya Terro: Fighting Lebanon's hunger with love/Maria Sakr/Annahar/August 13/2018
Lebanon's Hashish Equation: If Farmers Gain, Does Hezbollah Lose/Nicholas Blanford/The Christian Science Monitor/August 13/18
How to End Violence in the Middle East/Matt Daniels and Doug Bandow/The Hill/August 13/18
Lebanon at increasing risk of deadly wildfires, experts say/Richard Hall/The National/August 13/18
For Iran: A Black Day in the White Mountain/Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 13 August, 2018
The World on Israel/Dr. Mordechai Nisan/Mida/August 13/18
Can renewed US sanctions force Iran to change/Fahad Nazer/Arab News/August 13/18
UN Enabling Hamas's War Machine/Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/August 13/18
The Turkish-Palestinian Hate Fest/Uzay Bulut/Gatestone Institute/August 13/18
UK: Boris Johnson Sparks 'Burka-Gate'/Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institute/August 13/18
Iran: Military, Mullahs Join Protests With Hidden Agendas/Amir Taheri/ Asharq Al-Awsat/August, 13/18
Greek Spat Exposes Putin's Waning Clout in European Backyard/Irina Reznik, Henry Meyer and Stepan Kravchenko/Bloomberg/August 13/18
The Reason to Worry When Public Companies Disappear/Noah Smith/Bloomberg/August 13/18
‘Do Not Set the Trap of the Past for Me’/Ghassan Charbel/Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper/August 13/18
US-Turkey Relations Will Never Be the Same/Therese Raphael/Bloomberg/August 13/18
‘The snake’s head’ and the Khobar bombing/Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran/Al Arabiya/August 13/18
Alarm bells are sounding from Jordan and Egypt/Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/August 13/18
China-USA trade war: August trial balloons going nowhere/Dr. Mohamed A. Ramady/Al Arabiya/August 13/18

Titles For The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on August 13-14/18
US Counterterror Center: Europe Must Boycott Hezbollah As a Whole
Land transport unions visit Aoun, announce mobilization suspension
Bukhari launches 'Oumnia' humanitarian initiative on Hajj pilgrimage
Samy Gemayel, Canadian Ambassador Confer over Latest Developments
Spanish Ambassador visits SSNP, highlights government formation's necessity
Berri, Machnouk tackle security situation
Hariri receives Shorter, Economic and Social Council
General Security: Voluntary return of 137 Syrian refugees from Shebaa and central Bekaa
Cannabis Cultivators Weigh Impact of Legalization
Our Women Are Free!' Lebanon Mayor Hires Policewomen to Boost Tourism
Hezbollah MP slams national news agency’s 'bias' after NNA crosses out reference to Saudi Arabia
NAYA | Maya Terro: Fighting Lebanon's hunger with love
Lebanon's Hashish Equation: If Farmers Gain, Does Hezbollah Lose
How to End Violence in the Middle East?
Lebanon at increasing risk of deadly wildfires, experts say

Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on August 13-14/18
Israel Threatens to ‘Topple Hamas’
Syria: Northern Factions to Fight Idlib Battle Through United Front
Syria: Death Toll in Idlib Arms Depot Blast Rises
Iraq PM Orders Popular Mobilization Forces out of Mosul
Iraq: Khamenei’s Representative Lashes Out at PM’s ‘Irresponsible’ Statements
Iran’s Khamenei Bans Direct Talks with US
Iran Arrests 67 People amid Approval for Special Corruption Courts
US Ambassador Urges UK to Abandon Support for Iran’s Nuclear Deal
Iran: 20 Killed in Clashes Between IRGC, Kurdish Group
For Iran: A Black Day in the White Mountain
Jordanian King: We Will Fight ‘Khawarij’ Without Mercy
Egypt: Police Arrest Cell Responsible for Failed Mostorod Church Bombing

The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on August 13-14/18
US Counterterror Center: Europe Must Boycott Hezbollah As a Whole
Al Arabiya/ Monday 13th August 2018/The US National Counterterrorism Center considered the classification of Hezbollah’s military wing as a terrorist organization insufficient, stressing the need for European countries to boycott the entire party as well as extended financial and diplomatic sanctions. The center which is affiliated to the US army called- in its report issued on August 10- upon the European Union to impose diplomatic isolation on Iran, after the arrest of Iranian diplomat Assadollah Assadi in Germany last month on charges of plotting to attack a gathering of opponents of the Tehran regime in Paris. The center pointed to new warning issued by US officials to European countries that Iran was planning further terrorist activities in other parts of Europe. The report also refers to the recent meeting of the Law Enforcement Coordination Group on Hezbollah activities, and which was held in Ecuador, calling on participating countries to develop a strong strategy to counter Hezbollah, based on close cooperation between Washington and Europe.

Land transport unions visit Aoun, announce mobilization suspension

Mon 13 Aug 2018/NNA - President Michel Aoun on Monday maintained that the government was concerned with the implementation of the land transportation sector's demands, agreed upon last year. He also stressed that he would personally follow up on this issue with the concerned ministries and apparatuses to meet the sector's demands in a way compliant to the interests of public drivers and the state equally. Aoun's remarks came during his meeting with General Labor Confederation's head Beshara Asmar, head of the Land Transportation Unions Bassam Tleis, and an accompanying delegation. Following the meeting, Tleis announced that the land transport unions decided to suspend mobilization for two weeks.

Bukhari launches 'Oumnia' humanitarian initiative on Hajj pilgrimage
Mon 13 Aug 2018/NNA - Saudi Minister Plenipotentiary Charge d'Affaire, Walid Bukhari, on Monday launched a humanitarian 'Oumnia' (Wish) initiative aimed to consecrate the culture of hope and giving. The announcement came during a media gathering held at the Embassy headquarters in Beirut, during which Bukhari announced that around 33 wishes of people with special humanitarian cases were fulfilled to perform the Hajj pilgrimage ritual for this year. "Oumnia" initiative has fulfilled Hajj aspirations for people with special needs or chronic diseases such as cancer, as well as family members of the Lebanese army's martyrs. Special humanitarian cases were also chosen from the "Orphanage House" and the "Makassed Philanthropic Association."Bukhari announced that all travel expenses were secured from ticket fees, accommodation and commuting in Mecca and Medina.
The Saudi envoy maintained that the Kingdom permanently seeks to serve mankind in a sustainable manner. "We wanted through this initiative to reflect the positive and real face of the humanitarian and social work of the Saudi diplomacy, as well as to reflect the real role and face of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the service of humanity and capacity building," Bukhari corroborated. The Saudi envoy also disclosed that "Oumnia" initiative shall not be confined to fulfilling wishes for Hajj pilgrimage, but shall also stretch throughout the year to include health and medical programs and umrah rituals.
Bukhari then distributed Hajj tickets to the 33 persons chosen by the initiative to perform Hajj pilgrimage, wishing them a blessed Hajj pilgrimage and a fulfilled religious duty. In a press briefing following the launch of the humanitarian initiative, the diplomat said that the Saudi Embassy grants political forces visas for Hajj every year in a balanced manner, saying that the Embassy has issued around 15,000 visas for pilgrims in a record time. In a reply to a question by media representatives, Bukhari brought to attention the statement issued yesterday by Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri's press office, in which he denied rumors circulating on social networks and some news sites on Hajj visas. Bukhari said that contrary to unfounded information, Hariri confirmed in his statement that he has received from the Embassy 2000 pilgrims' electronic visas, with another 3,000 added in accordance with a pre-established agreement. In response to another question about government formation, Bukhari stressed the Kingdom's utter keenness on Lebanon's security and stability, stressing the importance of a swift government formation.

Samy Gemayel, Canadian Ambassador Confer over Latest Developments 13th August 2018/Kataeb leader Samy Gemayel on Monday met with the Canadian Ambassador Emmanuelle Lamoureux, with talks featuring high on the latest developments in Lebanon and the region, as well as bilateral ties between Lebanon and Canada.During the meeting, held at the Kataeb's headquarter in Saifi, Gemayel condemned the reckless approach adopted by the ruling class in dealing with the major challenges facing Lebanon, notably the Syrian refugee crisis which has been burdening Lebanon's economy amid alarming and unprecedented figures.For her part, Lamoureux stressed her country’s continuous support for Lebanon, highlighting the strong ties between Lebanon and Canada.'

Spanish Ambassador visits SSNP, highlights government formation's necessity
Mon 13 Aug 2018/NNA - Spanish Ambassador to Lebanon, Jose Maria Ferre de la Pena, on Monday highlighted the importance of home stability and the necessity to form the new government "to speed up the provision of aids to Lebanon." The Ambassador also maintained his country's commitment to the humanitarian causes and to combatting terrorism. Moreover, he underlined that Spain was keen on the return of the displaced Syrians. His remarks came during his meeting with head of the foreign affairs department of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Qaysar Obeid.

Berri, Machnouk tackle security situation

Mon 13 Aug 2018/NNA - House Speaker, Nabih Berri, on Monday welcomed at his Ain al-Tineh residence, Caretaker Interior and Municipalities Minister, Nouhad Machnouk, with whom he discussed the overall security situation. Speaker Berri also met with British Ambassador to Lebanon, Hugo Shorter, who came on a farewell visit upon the end of his diplomatic mission in Lebanon. Berri also welcomed the Special Secretary for Strategic Affairs in the Brazilian Presidency, Hussein Calot, of Lebanese origin, heading a civil and military delegation. Talks reportedly dwelt on the historic and significant relations between the two countries, and means of bolstering cooperation at the various levels.

Hariri receives Shorter, Economic and Social Council

Mon 13 Aug 2018/NNA - Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri received today at the Center House the British Ambassador to Lebanon Hugo Shorter on a farewell visit on the occasion of the end of his mission. Hariri also received the board of the Economic and Social Council, headed by the Council President Charles Arbid, who said after the meeting: "We received guidance from Prime Minister Hariri and conveyed to him the economic and social concerns. We also talked about the topics we are working on in the Council, most importantly the housing loans through the development of a housing policy. We discussed foreign labor competition, and how to stimulate the productive sectors based on the economic study due to be issued soon. We informed him of the results of the meetings held periodically with economic representatives of parties. There is convergence as the economic concerns are shared ones and the Council is the right place to hold discussions about them. We briefed the Prime Minister regarding the work of the committees within the Council and we are waiting for the formation of the government to exchange views and look into the proposals that will be sent to us. We can say that the Council is back to work."

General Security: Voluntary return of 137 Syrian refugees from Shebaa and central Bekaa
Mon 13 Aug 2018/NNA - Lebanon's General Security on Monday announced in a statement it has secured the voluntary return of 137 Syrian refugees to their country from the areas of Shebaa and central Bekaa ."As part of the follow-up on the issue of the displaced Syrians wishing to return voluntarily to their towns, the General Directorate of General Security, in coordination with the UNHCR and in the presence of its delegates, has secured the voluntary return of 137 displaced Syrians from the areas of Shebaa and central Bekaa via the Masnaa Border Crossing towards Syria," a statement by General Security read.

Cannabis Cultivators Weigh Impact of Legalization
The Daily Star/Monday 13th August 2018/Politicians have said legalizing the cultivation of cannabis in Lebanon would benefit those who currently farm it illicitly, while diverting money away from powerful drug lords, weakening them and possibly putting them out of work. But for some in the Bekaa town of Yammouneh, where the plant is grown in relatively small patches near people’s homes, moves toward legalizing cultivation solely for medicinal purposes raise concerns that they may fall through the cracks of a new legal cannabis system. This could complicate the rosy views some politicians have presented on what limited legalization will bring. Some farmers have expressed confidence that a well-planned move toward the legalization of their crop, even if it entailed shutting out some small-scale farmers, could pull their part of the Bekaa out of poverty; others voiced their distrust of the government-run legal cannabis system proposed by Speaker Nabih Berri last month. “The state found out it can benefit from hashish now, but we’ve been benefitting from it for decades. I’m scared they’ll screw up hashish just like they’ve screwed up everything else,” one small-time farmer and dealer, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Daily Star.

Our Women Are Free!' Lebanon Mayor Hires Policewomen to Boost Tourism
Express/Monday 13th August 2018
Pierre Achkar, the Mayor of the Lebanese city of Broumana, bet on the good looks of his new traffic cops to boost tourism. He hopes to change perceptions of Westerners who avoid the Mediterranean country because of its reputation for violence, terror attacks and political instability. And its vicinity to war-torn Syria raised fears among those willing to travel to Lebanon the conflict could spill over the borders. But Achkar believes potential tourists will find a new reason in the new female officers to visit the town. Arguing the girls’ role will play a role in driving Lebanon closer to the Western culture, he said: “People in the West don’t visit Lebanon because they think it’s a country of Islamic extremism. “We want to show that we have the same way of life as the West.
“You wear shorts and we wear shorts.
“We have democracy. Our women are free.”
Achkar’s decision to effectively exploit the look of young women has split opinion.
While some were pleased, others said the bizarre hirings exposes the girls to sexual harassment, which is not regarded as a crime in Lebanon.
Some also argued they could be more of a danger on the road rather than ensuring motorists’ safety, as both their appearance and uniforms could be quite a distraction for drivers.
But Achkar was untouched by the criticism. He added: “Why would we hire ugly girls?”
Among the new hires, there is Chloe Khalife, 19. Speaking to The Economist, she said she believes to be an example of Lebanon’s open society.
But feminist organisations disagree with her point of view, arguing the country is still ruled by some barbaric laws.
Lina Abirafeh, director of the Institute for Women’s Studies in the Arab World, said: “It’s a cheap PR exercise that only serves as a reminder of how far from equality, rights and respect we really are.”According to the country’s rules, rapists can marry their victims if they are aged between 15-17. And the courts ruling on divorce and child custody cases still follow religious laws, discriminating women against men and making difficult for an abused wife to leave a violent husband.
This is not the first time the Ministry of Tourism uses women to promote the country.
In 1975, before the beginning of the civil war, they bought an advert in Playboy magazine where a woman in bikini promised tourists to make their “Arabian Nights fantasy” true.
The mountain town of Broumana is located 12 miles from the country’s capital, Beirut. Thanks to its relatively cool climate and natural beauties, it has historically attracted both Lebanese visitors for day and weekend trips and Arab tourists looking forward to escaping the heat of the Persian Gulf. The number of people visiting Lebanon plunged in 2013, where the 2,168,000 arrivals recorded in 2010 was slashed to 1,274,000. Among the reasons that saw the number of visitors almost drying out, there were the escalation of the war in neighbouring Syria and the hundreds of people killed in bombings and assassination during that period of time. But according to the Minister of Tourism and latest data, the country is recovering.
Avedis Guidanian said: “I know the region is going through very difficult times, but Lebanon has gotten lucky.”
In 2016, Lebanon welcomed some 1,688,000 visitors.

Hezbollah MP slams national news agency’s 'bias' after NNA crosses out reference to Saudi Arabia

Annahar Staff /August 13/2018
Hezbollah MP Nawaf Moussawi blasted Saudi Arabia's role in Yemen's civil war while labeling it an "aggressive criminal behavior against the Yemeni people and their children."
BEIRUT: Lebanon's state-run National News Agency defended Monday its decision to redact part of a statement in which a Hezbollah MP criticizes Saudi Arabia's actions in Yemen, arguing that it fall in line with the government's policy of dissociation and the Minister of Information's instructions.
"To remain a symbol of responsible freedom and a platform for all, the NNA does not publish offensive remarks directed against any country...whether directed at the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, or the Islamic Republic of Iran," the statement read. The NNA falls under the patronage of the Ministry of Information, currently headed by Melhem Riachy, a member of the Lebanese Forces party, a pillar of the now-defunct March 14 coalition and a staunch political foe of Hezbollah. Dismissing claims that the agency is biased towards Saudi Arabia and its allies in Lebanon, the NNA said it had previously crossed out remarks by March 14 MPs who attacked Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, branding him a "criminal." On Saturday, Hezbollah MP Nawaf Al Moussawi blasted Saudi Arabia's role in Yemen's civil war while labeling it an "aggressive criminal behavior against the Yemeni people and their children."He then condemned "the United States and European countries for supporting the Saudi aggression for the past two years." The Arab coalition, with Saudi Arabia at the helm, has been locked in a fierce fight with Iranian-sponsored Houthi rebels ever since the overthrow of the Saudi-backed Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi in 2011, who later fled the country. A blockade has been put in place, restricting Yemeni’s access to basic food supply and medicine, with the UN labeling the condition a humanitarian disaster. In response to the NNA's redaction, Moussawi decried Riyachy's move while challenging the legal ground for his actions. "Based on what law does the NNA edit MPs' statements? Has it become the national agency of Saudi Arabia?" Moussawi asked, before doubling down on his stance. "We hold all the western governments responsible for the bloodshed in Yemen," he said. The Saudi led coalition has received logistical and intelligence support from the US, UK, and France.

NAYA | Maya Terro: Fighting Lebanon's hunger with love
Maria Sakr/Annahar/August 13/2018
The volunteers, which have exceeded a total number of 1500 over the years, have been able to distribute over 300,000 free meals to the hungry.
BEIRUT: As early as the age of 14, Maya Terro made it a personal mission to make a change in this world — she has taken on the challenge of hunger, and wore the cape of food activism, creating her hunger-relief NGO: FoodBlessed.
“I have been advocating for change ever since I was an infant,” said Terro. “When I think about it now, I think I started rebelling against the status quo even before I could spell the word ‘rebel,’” she added.
It’s her passion to stand up for her beliefs that got her to the place she’s at now — holder of several prestigious degrees (Public Health, Economics and International Cooperation, as well as Migration and Development) from top universities like American University of Beirut, University of Rome II and University of London.
She has also received numerous awards: “CSR In Action” – Lebanon (2012), King Abdullah II “Award for Youth Innovation & Achievement” – Jordan (2014), Lebanese American University’s “Spirit of Service Award” – Lebanon (2015), MBC al Amal “Humanitarian of the Year Award” – Dubai (2016), and the Chevening Award (2016/2017).
A combination of the hard work that went into all of these awards and degrees is seen in the fruit of her labor, FoodBlessed — a pioneering, national hunger-relief, and food rescue-initiative that she has co-founded, and is currently the executive director of.
The NGO focuses on food waste and food rescue; where in six years, the volunteers, which have exceeded a total number of 1500 over the years, have been able to distribute over 300,000 free meals to the hungry. Not only that, the mission has been able to rescue over 60,000 tons of food from going to waste.
“How did we do it? Through the heart, and a strong will. A lot of effort goes into everything we do, and we really believe in the power of food,” she said.
Food is a passion of Maya’s; a passion that she has turned into a humanitarian mission.
She believes in its vitality to who people are, and its definite presence in our daily lives, as well as celebrations and traditions. She’s driven by how the power of food brings people together, and she’s been working tirelessly for her NGO to be doing the same — bringing the hungry together, and making their lives better, one meal at a time, extending the mission of FoodBlessed to not just providing nutrition, but also nurturing the community, and spreading love and respect.
The NGO holds a weekly soup kitchen in the Burj Hammoud area, north-east of Beirut, where Terro and her volunteers (which are called “Hunger Heroes”), spend around four hours, preparing tables and food, as well as serving it to those in need. The volunteers may range from week to week, with a small exception of permanent ones, where even some schools and/or organizations come as guest volunteers, to lend a hand and contribute to the change.
“Not only did FoodBlessed enable me to inspire and lead change, it also gave me the ability to give others the chance to be active citizens in their community,” the co-founder told Annnahar. “Before FoodBlessed, I used to think that most people didn’t care enough, but I was wrong. People did care, a lot, but they just didn’t know how to express it!”
After lunchtime at the kitchen is over, if there are any leftovers, Terro makes sure to give what is left of the food away in containers and plastic boxes for the unprivileged to take home.
“FoodBlessed is all about social cohesion, but it is also about mindfulness. It teaches us to be mindful of the way we treat other people and the way we treat our planet,” she explained.
Other than the weekly soup kitchen, FoodBlessed also takes part of seasonal and occasional food drives in universities, restaurants and/or public events — spreading change to a wider range of people, and most importantly, spreading the word about the cause.
Terro has a bright outlook for the future of her NGO; she’s looking forward to becoming more and doing more, whether it means serving more meals, or preparing more food-assistance packages, and definitely saving more food from going to waste.
The key to success, according to Terro, is self-belief and being true to one-self. She spoke about turning rejections into motivations, and embracing one’s difference and uniqueness as the only way to make it in the world.
“I like to lead by example,” she said, adding: “I read a lot, and the more I read, the more I’m reminded that being different is actually a good thing.”
To know more about the NGO, visit:
Welcome to “Naya,” the newest addition to Annahar’s coverage. This section aims at fortifying Lebanese women’s voices by highlighting their talents, challenges, innovations, and women’s empowerment. We will also be reporting on the world of work, family, style, health, and culture. Naya is devoted to women of all generations-Naya Editor, Sally Farhat:
Naya on Social Media:
Instagram: @NayaBeirut

Lebanon's Hashish Equation: If Farmers Gain, Does Hezbollah Lose?
Nicholas Blanford/The Christian Science Monitor/August 13/18
For generations, residents of the impoverished flat plain of the northern Bekaa Valley have been cultivating cannabis.
The illegal enterprise has earned modest incomes for farmers but immense fortunes for the dealers who buy the cannabis in bulk and export the product to lucrative markets in Europe and the Gulf.
To defend their illicit crops, the fiercely independent Shiite tribes of the northern Bekaa do not hesitate to resort to arms when the Lebanese Army and police arrive with their bulldozers. Even Shiite Hezbollah, the dominant political power in Lebanon, struggles at times to appease the tribes.
But change could be coming to the Bekaa Valley, as the Lebanese government is mulling the advice of McKinsey & Co., a prominent global consulting firm, to legalize the cannabis crop. The aim is to generate much-needed revenues for a national economy that has been ravaged by the effects of the seven-year war in neighboring Syria and the presence on Lebanese soil of more than 1 million Syrian refugees.
The notion of legalizing cannabis cultivation has been considered for many years, but it has gained traction after McKinsey recommended the move in a 1,000-page study on ways to improve the economy of Lebanon, the world’s third-most indebted nation.
Parliamentary Speaker Nabih Berri announced last month that the Lebanese Parliament is drafting a bill to make cannabis legal for medicinal use. And a Lebanese university is proposing to establish a medicinal cannabis research center.
But in the northern Bekaa, news of the potential legalization of cannabis – or hashish as it is known locally (hashish is Arabic for grass) – is garnering mixed reactions.
“Some are for it and others against. Some think the area will become rich, but I don’t think we will benefit,” says Mohammed Hamiyah, a former mayor of the village of Taraya nestled on the hilly western flank of the Bekaa Valley.
Away from the main roads around Taraya, fields of dark green cannabis plants sway in the hot breeze ahead of harvesting, which traditionally occurs around the Eid al-Salib, or Festival of the Cross, in mid-September.
Ali (not his real name), a cannabis farmer who has several outstanding arrest warrants, including one for a vendetta killing, stood in the center of the field and fingered a spiky plant appreciatively.
“As farmers, we do not make much money from hashish. It’s the dealers who buy the hashish from us that make all the money. This area is so poor that anything that brings some money to our tables is welcome,” he says. Like all the cannabis farmers and dealers interviewed, Ali spoke on strict condition of anonymity.
In the distance, the clatter of automatic gunfire was carried on the breeze from nearby wooded hills, signaling that another training session was under way for recruits into the militant Hezbollah organization, which operates numerous military bases in the Bekaa and wields a high level of influence.
During Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war, cannabis and poppy plants covered much of the northern Bekaa, generating about $500 million a year and turning some dealers and farmers into multi-millionaires.
But when the war ended in 1991, the Lebanese government and the United Nations Development Program launched a drug eradication initiative in which cannabis cultivation was to be replaced by licit crops. Farmers ceased growing hashish, but only some $17 million in funds materialized out of a pledged $300 million, and the program fizzled out by 2002.
Over the past decade, hashish cultivation has soared, in part because farmers took advantage of repeated political crises that drew the Beirut government’s attention away from the Bekaa Valley.
Tensions with Hezbollah
The area has long had a reputation for disorder and violence. Thousands of residents are wanted by the authorities for shootings, murder, car theft, narcotics and arms trafficking, and currency counterfeiting. In the Bekaa, traditional tribal codes and loyalties trump allegiance to the Lebanese state or political party, and Hezbollah is not immune.
Lately, there has been growing opposition toward Hezbollah from the Shiite tribes, a reflection of a widely held belief here that Hezbollah deliberately keeps the area impoverished in order to keep locals dependent on the Iran-backed party for their employment and social needs.
To be sure, joining Hezbollah has its rewards. A Hezbollah fighter can earn around $600 a month and benefit from the party’s extensive social welfare network of schools, hospitals, and charities.
Yet hundreds of Hezbollah fighters have been killed in Syria since 2013, when the party intervened to protect the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. The roads and village streets around the northern Bekaa are lined with crisply colored portraits of Hezbollah’s recent “martyrs.”
In May, Hezbollah and its allies won a small parliamentary majority in nationwide elections. Although Hezbollah triumphed in the northern Bekaa, many residents chose not to vote or voted for non-Hezbollah candidates in a rare sign of discontent.
Local residents also have blamed Hezbollah for the death two weeks ago of drug dealer Ali Zaid Ismael, described by the local media as “Lebanon’s Escobar,” a reference to deceased Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar. The dealer and seven other people were killed in a bloody gun battle when Lebanese troops sought his arrest.
His death triggered a series of protests against Hezbollah, which was accused of lifting its political cover from Ismael and allowing the army to make the attempted arrest. Videos circulated on social media showing angry Bekaa residents cursing the Hezbollah leadership and burning the party’s flags, a borderline breaking of taboos.
Economic opportunity
“Hezbollah is punishing us for not voting for them in the elections,” says a resident of Hamoudieh, Ismael’s home village. “They are making a big mistake by confronting us.”
Given the level of discontent from the Shiite tribes toward Hezbollah, the legalization of cannabis cultivation could serve as a lure for Hezbollah members to quit the organization and generate an income by growing hashish.
But it remains unclear if cultivating cannabis and selling it to the Lebanese state at a price set by the government would provide sufficient income to encourage young men to stay away from Hezbollah, let alone improve socio-economic conditions in the Bekaa.
Many are pessimistic.
“It’s shameful that they [the government] think all we are good at is growing hashish,” says Mr. Hamiyah, the former mayor. “Let them give us factories and [agricultural] projects so that we can make a living. If every young man in the Bekaa is employed in a factory, no one will join Hezbollah.”

How to End Violence in the Middle East?

Matt Daniels and Doug Bandow/The Hill/August 13/18
It doesn’t take rocket science to figure out that the Middle East is a mess. And that religion lies behind much of the violence.
While U.S. policymakers tend to cite a few bad actors, such as Iran, blame is in fact widely shared. America’s allies—Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt, for instance—are hardly paragons of religious tolerance. And Washington’s failure to understand the Middle East’s religious character played an important role exacerbating sectarian violence which has become so pervasive.
Those who live there know the problem. There’s a popular joke in the Middle East right now.
An Iraqi man driving along a road is pulled over at a makeshift check point. The guard, pointing a gun at him, asks, “Are you a Sunni or a Shi’a? The man, not knowing whether this is a legitimate check point and which side the guard is on, responds, “Well, actually, I’m an atheist.” The guard promptly says, “Yes, yes, but are you a Sunni Atheist or a Shi’a Atheist.”
In fact, their disillusionment is so ubiquitous that atheism has become “a thing” across the region. Middle Eastern governments have noticed this phenomenon and are attempting to combat it. For example, the Iranian regime declared “war on un-Islamic thought” and Egypt’s government recently introduced legislation that would outlaw atheism. Indeed, Muslim states typically view disbelief as worse than Christianity or Judaism.
Clearly, these governments learned nothing from the Arab Spring, Green Revolution, or other popular uprisings across the region. Such repressive laws and policies are like a pressure cooker without a safety valve – they serve only to frustrate people, expanding ever-present societal tensions without providing any mechanism for their release. At some point most governments lose control and are no longer able to contain these forces, after which revolution results.
Imposed orthodoxy is disheartening for numerous reasons. What makes this challenge so serious is that religious coercion constitutes a direct attack on the most fundamental of all human rights – freedom of conscience. In practical terms such an approach projects a dystopian future. The persecuting state’s own people are hurt the most, but the rest of us, connected through globalization, also suffer.
The good news, perhaps, is that such efforts have little chance of success. Coerced religion makes no sense, except as a political exercise. After thousands of years of religious persecution, it should be obvious to all that it is not possible to force someone to believe or not to believe. Beliefs, at their core, are simply not matters of choice but of persuasion and conviction. Religious coercion can only drive beliefs underground, where they metastasize and eventually reemerge ever more virulent.
Then there is Islamist terrorism. While Americans look at the bloody phenomenon through their own eyes, terrorism is far more common overseas against other peoples. Religious fundamentalism can act as a precursor and accelerant to violence. But the issue is more complicated. Geopolitics matters as well as religion, and the United States has found that intervening overseas can create new terrorists as easily as it can eliminate old ones.
What, if anything, should the United States do about conflict and terrorism with religious roots? If we have an answer then why, nearly seventeen years on, have we not started implementing it already?
America can no more eliminate religious hostility than Middle Eastern governments can force their peoples to believe. But American history has much to offer. There was a time when Catholics could not hold public office in Maryland, Baptists were threatened with imprisonment if they did not attend Anglican services and tithe to their local Anglican parish in Virginia, and Quakers were burned at the stake in Boston Common. At least we eventually discovered that such laws, far from maintaining public order, ultimately work against themselves.
The U.S. system of religious tolerance and pluralism, the result of many mistakes and lessons learned, works best, and other nations would do well to learn from our errors rather than emulate them. And growing frustration with sectarianism in the Middle East may be creating an opening to promote greater tolerance and understanding even there. Most atheists, too, would prefer a system of religious balance and openness rather than one of coercion and repression.
America now has a system of religious accommodation that works and which can serve as a model for other nations. But to succeed at convincing others to follow it, the United States must do better acting on its own principles, as well. If there is one lesson Washington policymakers should have learned, it is that war will not eliminate the sort of bitter sectarianism which has cost the Middle East so much.

Lebanon at increasing risk of deadly wildfires, experts say

Richard Hall/The National/August 13/18
Changing climate and vegetation could see fires reaching new areas and burning longer
Lebanon is increasingly at risk of mass-casualty wildfires like those that killed dozens in Greece last month, experts warned on Monday, as firefighters battled a three-day-long blaze in the north of the country.
Authorities doused 14-metre-high flames from helicopters in an effort to extinguish fires that swept across a large area of dense pine forest in the northern Akkar region. By Monday morning, 80 per cent of the fire was under control, officials said.
“This is very difficult fire due to its location,” a civil defence spokesman told The National. “There are no roads that our trucks can use to get to it and extinguish it.”
While wildfires are common in Lebanon during the summer months, a lack of forest management and climate change is causing fires to spread to areas they have not reached before, and burn for longer.
“This fire burning now is reaching areas that have rarely been affected, such as areas covered by fir trees, which are very low density and don’t burn as easily. We have also recently seen fires burning in higher elevations,” said George Mitri, director of the Land and Natural Resources programme at the University of Balamand’s Institute of the Environment in Lebanon.
Mr Mitri, an expert on wildfires, said the “unusual” forest fires in Lebanon this year could put lives at risk in a way that they have not before.
“We should be worried. If we don’t take the right measures we could be facing more disastrous fires that affect not only forests, but people too. We have many villages located in very high risk areas, and a lot of new residential projects being built in densely vegetated areas. They are vulnerable. What happened in Greece can happen in Lebanon,” he said.
The biggest spark for wildfires in Lebanon is negligence, or accidental fires. This usually takes the form of a farmer burning agricultural waste or a campfire left to burn. But there are longer-term, underlying factors that create the conditions for the fires to spread more easily.
The movement of people from rural areas to cities and towns over the last few decades has changed Lebanon’s forests dramatically. Where they were once pruned for firewood and grazed by animals, they have been left to grow more dense, creating a more favourable environment for fires to spread. The same has happened to agricultural land that was once cultivated but has now been abandoned.
Climate change is also playing its part. In Lebanon, there has been an increase in the minimum temperature over the winter, according to Nadim Farajalla, director of the Climate Change and Environment programme at the American University of Beirut.
“Precipitation has been pretty constant in Lebanon for the past 60 years. But the minimum temperature has been on the rise,” Mr Farajalla told The National.
“You get less snow, which melts quicker, which means drier soil and drier conditions, which lends itself to conditions that can make fires worse.”
Mr Farajalla said the impact of forest fires on the environment is devastating.
“They destroy habitats for various insects, birds and mammals. They destroy vegetative cover which protects the soil from water and wind erosion. Once that cover is lost the soil becomes vulnerable to the elements and often times gets eroded. It would be practically impossible for plants to grow after that,” he said. “Deforestation for the sale of timber was one of the main legacies of the Phoenicians. Deforestation from forest fires is the legacy of modern Lebanon.”
Although there has not been much variation in Lebanon’s rainfall, Mr Mitri has found that both temperature and precipitation are playing their part in the increase of wildfires in Lebanon, and the length of the wildfire season.
A 2014 study by Mr Mitri found that based on the country’s predicted climatic changes, “Lebanon is expected to face an increasing risk of fire occurrence”.
“We still need more research, but an increase in temperature and decrease in precipitation is closely linked to the size and number and extent of fires,” he said.
The same is true elsewhere. This year has seen record-breaking fires across the northern hemisphere. In Europe, soaring temperatures have led to the largest fire in Sweden in decades, affecting more than 30,000 hectares of forest. Latvia, Portugal and Finland have all suffered major blazes this summer. Thousands of firefighters in California are currently battling the biggest wildfire in the state’s history.
The deadly fires that ravaged Greece last month left 91 people dead, making it one of the worst wildfire disasters in the country’s history. A deadly combination of dry weather and high winds were thought to be have helped the fires to spread, together with a poor response from authorities. The Greek government’s mismanagement of the fires has led to widespread anger, and led to the relatives of two people killed to file a lawsuit against officials.
Mr Mitri said that action needed to be taken in Lebanon to prevent wildfires threatening lives here.
“If we don’t take action to reduce fire hazards, things will get worse. Our forests will have more dry fuel, and as we see more extreme weather events, this will trigger a larger number of uncontrollable fires,” he said.
“We always say that firefighting happens before a fire occurs, not as a reaction.”

The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on August 13-14/18
Israel Threatens to ‘Topple Hamas’
Tel Aviv - Nazir Majli/Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 13 August, 2018/Israel on Sunday escalated its rhetoric against 'Hamas' and threatened to topple it, while security sources revealed there was an “advanced plan” to resume a series of assassinations against the movement’s leaders. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that the Israeli army is in the midst of a campaign against what he called “Palestinian terror.”Speaking at the opening of the weekly cabinet meeting, he said: “We are in the midst of a campaign against terror in Gaza. It entails an exchange of blows; it will not end in one strike. Our demand is clear: a total ceasefire. We shall not be satisfied with less than that.”Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz told reporters that Israel was "closer than ever" to toppling Hamas in Gaza "if there is no other option."But he stressed that Israel was not interested in escalating the conflict into a full-scale war. Meanwhile, an informed security source said that the Israeli army and other security apparatuses have been mulling plans in the past months to resort to past policies of assassinating senior Hamas leaders. The source said such preparations had started after the Israeli army and the Shin Bet announced their preference for such option instead of engaging in a wide-scale military operation in Gaza. Tension between the two sides have been mounting since Palestinians in Gaza started regular protests near the border with Israel. Last week, 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. An Israeli military spokesperson said: “We are not speaking about a ceasefire but about muting shelling under the equation of quiet would be met with quiet.”

Syria: Northern Factions to Fight Idlib Battle Through United Front
Beirut - Ankara - Caroline Akoum and Saeed Abdelrazek/Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 13 August, 2018/Opposition groups in northern Syria are in the process of establishing a “national army”, a step that could prevent President Bashar Assad from controlling the country’s northwest. As the countdown for the Idlib battle began, Syria’s opposition is expected to face a main challenge - uniting its forces to create a joint front with Turkey’s help. Currently, there are two main opposition groups in the north of Syria: the National Army and Al-Jabha al-Wataniya lil-Tahrir (National Liberation Front), in addition to Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham. “Merging the two opposition groups is not far-off,” a military source in Idlib told Asharq Al-Awsat, predicting that the group would operate under the name of the “National Army.” He also said that the joint front would not involve Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham.
Colonel Haitham Afisi, head of the National Army, says setting up the force has been no easy task over the last year. “We are at the beginning. We face many difficulties but we are working to overcome them,” Afisi told Reuters in an interview in the town of Azaz near the Turkish border. Regime forces have since last week ramped up their deadly bombardment of southern Idlib and sent reinforcements to nearby areas they control. Separately, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hinted Sunday about the possibility of executing more military operations in the north of Syria to establish a safe zone capable of receiving more refugees and preventing the displacement of additional Syrian nationals to his country. “We are at the last stage of preparations for increasing the number of regions in Syria, where we have provided stability through ‘the Euphrates Shield’ and ‘the Olive Branch’ operations. With God's help, we will liberate new territories in the near future and bring security there,” Erdogan was quoted as saying by the Anadolu news agency.

Syria: Death Toll in Idlib Arms Depot Blast Rises
Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 13 August, 2018/The number of people killed when an explosion ripped through a building storing arms in the rebel-held province of Idlib in northwestern Syria has climbed to 69 including 17 children, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Monday. The explosion, which happened in the town of Sarmada on Sunday, took the lives of 52 civilians, it said. The blast also killed 17 members of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, according to the Britain-based monitor. "Rescue operations are still ongoing," Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP, more than 24 hours after the explosion. Most of the civilians killed were family members of HTS fighters displaced to the area from the central province of Homs, he said. HTS controls more than half of Idlib province. Most of the rest is held by rebels, while the regime also holds a slither of the province's southeast. The province forms part of the last major rebel stronghold in Syria. In recent months, a series of explosions and assassinations -- mainly targeting rebel officials and fighters -- have rocked the province. While some attacks have been claimed by ISIS, which has sleeper cells in the area, most are the result of infighting since last year between other groups. Regime forces have in the past week ramped up their deadly bombardment of southern Idlib and sent reinforcements to nearby areas they control. The head of the Syrian regime, Bashar al-Assad, has warned that his forces intend to retake control of Idlib, which now has a population of around 2.5 million people, half of whom have been displaced by fighting in other regions of the country.

Iraq PM Orders Popular Mobilization Forces out of Mosul

Baghdad - Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 13 August, 2018/Conflicting reports emerged over the weekend on the withdrawal of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) from Iraq’s Nineveh province amid media reports that said Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi had ordered their pullout. A document, widely circulated on the internet, showed that he had ordered that the PMF dissolve its operation centers in Baji and Nineveh and that it merge them in one headquarters. The document was signed by deputy chief of the PMF, Abou Mehdi al-Mouhandes, citing “the stability in Nineveh and the orders of the prime minister,” in his position as commander of Iraq’s armed forces. The document further shows that Abadi ordered that all PMF recruits in Nineveh be merged with the local operations command. Brigade 40 would be transferred from Sinjar to its original headquarters at the Speicher camp. Mosul would also be emptied of all PMF members and its current command center in the area would be merged with that of Nineveh. This last point was probably based on demands by Mosul residents for the PMF factions to leave the area given the crimes, including murder, blackmail and kidnapping, committed by some of its undisciplined members. PMF official Jawad Qazem categorically denied the withdrawal of the force from Nineveh, saying that “all that took place was the redeployment of some units in coordination with the joint operations command.” Meanwhile, commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps’ Quds Force Qassem Soleimani met last week with a number of armed factions linked to the PMF, revealed an informed source to Asharq Al-Awsat. He demanded that they withdraw from cities and “stop causing trouble with the government and people,” he added on condition of anonymity.
“It seems that the Iranians are trying to send a message to the United States that they are reducing their influence in Iraq and rein in factions in order to contain American anger and the wave of sanctions against Tehran,” he continued.

Iraq: Khamenei’s Representative Lashes Out at PM’s ‘Irresponsible’ Statements

Baghdad - Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 13 August, 2018/An Iraqi government official announced Sunday that Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi will not visit Tehran as scheduled, in a sign of Iran’s dissatisfaction with the statements of the outgoing PM on US sanctions. The Iranian stop would have been part of Abadi’s tour which kicks off on Tuesday in Turkey to discuss economic relations between the two countries. Agence France Presse (AFP) quoted Iraqi political sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, as saying that Iran initially agreed to the visit but changed its mind because it was unhappy about Abadi's remarks. Last week, Iraq’s PM indicated his country does not agree with US sanctions against Iran but will abide by them to protect its own interests. “As a matter of principle we are against sanctions in the region. Blockade and sanctions destroy societies and do not weaken regimes,” he said at a news conference. An Iraqi official said Saturday that Abadi would visit both neighboring Turkey and Iran to discuss economic issues.  Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Ghasemi told the semi-official ISNA news agency that he did not have any knowledge of Abadi's reported visit to Iran. “I have not received any prior notification or witnessed an official announcement on the visit” said Ghasemi. Meanwhile, informed Iraqi political sources confirmed that the Iranians are not satisfied with Abadi’s recent statements on US sanctions on Tehran. At his press conference last week, Abadi described the US sanctions as a “strategic mistake and incorrect but we will abide by them to protect the interests of our people. We will not interact with them or support them but we will abide by them.”On Sunday, Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei's representative in Baghdad, Moujtaba al-Hussein, lashed out at Abadi as the Tehran visit was called off. "These irresponsible remarks have already been condemned by many people. It's a disloyal attitude towards the honest position of Iran and the blood of the martyrs this country has spilled to defend the land of Iraq" against militants, said Hussein. "We are saddened by this position which shows he (Abadi) has been defeated psychologically in the face of the Americans," he concluded. Shiite parties and factions close to Iran have also rejected the PM's position. Abadi’s Islamic Dawa Party called upon all free countries in the world, especially Islamic governments, to reject the unjust US sanctions against Iran.
Asaib Ahl al-Haq, one of the main factions of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), issued a statement, saying it "regrets the Prime Minister’s position on US sanctions against Iran." The statement added that Abadi’s government is working outside its electoral timeframe and without a parliamentary support, and therefore its position is not binding for the coming government. The Badr Organization, the main faction of PMF, also called for the Iraqi government to stand with Iran as an advocate and supporter. Baghdad supports Washington in the war on ISIS, which it ended in late 2017, and also backs Iran which has a strong presence in Iraqi political affairs. Iraq is the second largest importer of Iranian products, aside from fuel, with total imports reaching about $6 billion last year. Iraqi provinces bordering Iran depend heavily on the Islamic Republic for their electricity supply. The United States reintroduced earlier this month tough economic sanctions against Iran, which were lifted after the landmark nuclear agreement reached in 2015 with major powers.

Iran’s Khamenei Bans Direct Talks with US
Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 13 August, 2018/Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei banned on Monday holding any form of direct talks with the United States, rejecting an offer by President Donald Trump for unconditional dialogue."I ban holding any talks with America ... America never remains loyal to its promises in talks ... just gives empty words ... and never retreats from its goals for talks," Khamenei was quoted as saying by state television. On July 30, Trump said he would be willing to meet Iranian President Hassan Rouhani without preconditions to discuss how to improve ties after he pulled the US out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, saying: “If they want to meet, we’ll meet.”Earlier, Khamenei said that internal mismanagement, not just US pressure, was to blame for his country’s economic crisis. “I do not call it betrayal but a huge mistake in management,” he added in a speech in Tehran, according to tweets released on his official account. "Economic experts and many officials believe the cause of this issue is not foreign, it's internal," he continued. "Not that sanctions don't have an impact, but the main factor is how we handle them." He said that internal management needed to improve to help the country better weather newly re-imposed US sanctions. He referred specifically to the collapse in the currency, which has lost around half its value since April. "If our performance is better, more prudent, timely and effective, sanctions will not have that much effect and can be resisted," he added.
Washington re-imposed strict sanctions against Iran last Tuesday and Trump has threatened to penalize firms from other countries that continue to operate in Iran. The sanctions prevent Iran from trading in gold and precious metals. They also ban purchases of US dollars by Iran and sanction its automotive sector. Unless Iran’s clerical rulers comply with the US demands, more sanctions targeting Iran’s oil and shipping industries are set for November. There have been widespread protests and strikes in Iran in recent weeks over high prices, unemployment and the wider management of the economy. Analysts say US hostility, including its withdrawal from the nuclear deal and re-imposition of sanctions, helped fuel the run on Iran's rial. But many say it has only exacerbated long-standing problems within Iran -- and pressure has mounted from within the system on Rouhani to improve his management of the economy and tackle corruption. Iranian officials have blamed “enemies” for the fall of the currency and a rapid rise in the price of gold coins, and more than 60 people, including several officials, have been arrested on charges that carry the death penalty.
“The fall of the rial and the increase in gold coin prices are major economic problems... The corrupt people (officials) should be punished firmly,” Khamenei said told a gathering attended by thousands of Iranians, state TV reported. Khamenei on Saturday called for “swift and just” legal action by new courts set up to tackle corruption after the head of the judiciary said Iran was facing an “economic war”, Iranian media reported.

Iran Arrests 67 People amid Approval for Special Corruption Courts
London - Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 13 August, 2018/The Iranian judiciary said Sunday that the authorities have arrested 67 people in a drive against financial crime, as special courts were being set up to try suspects quickly upon the orders of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. "Sixty seven suspects have been arrested, some of whom were released on bail, and more than 100 people including government employees and officials, as well as private employees and others have been given travel bans," judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei said in remarks carried by state television. Earlier this month, the head of the central bank was sacked and his deputy in charge of foreign exchange arrested. "Our enemy America has decided to put pressure on people and it intends to put our economy under pressure, but to no avail," Ejeie said. "There are individuals who try to use this opportunity and hoard basic goods and increase pressure on people by hoarding and smuggling," Agence France Presse quoted him as saying. The rial currency has lost about half of its value since April over worries about the US sanctions, with heavy demand for dollars among ordinary Iranians trying to protect their savings. The cost of living has also soared, sparking sporadic demonstrations against profiteering and corruption, with many protesters chanting anti-government slogans. Khamenei on Saturday called for “swift and just” legal action from new courts, state television reported. “The current special economic conditions are considered an economic war,” judiciary chief Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli Larijani said in a letter to Khamenei, calling for the setting up of special courts to deal quickly with financial crimes. Khamenei agreed, saying: “The purpose (of the courts) should be to punish those guilty of corrupt economic practices swiftly and justly."
“The courts should be advised to (ensure) the accuracy of their rulings.”The courts will be set up for two years and directed to impose maximum sentences on those “disrupting and corrupting the economy”, and appeal rights will be curbed, Amoli Larijani proposed in his letter, according to Reuters.

US Ambassador Urges UK to Abandon Support for Iran’s Nuclear Deal

London - Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 13 August, 2018/US Ambassador to Britain Robert Wood Johnson urged the UK on Sunday to stop supporting Iran’s nuclear deal and instead join forces with Washington to counter the global threat it says Tehran poses. In an article published in The Sunday Telegraph newspaper, Johnson said: “It is time to move on from the flawed 2015 deal. We are asking global Britain to use its considerable diplomatic power and influence and join us as we lead a concerted global effort toward a genuinely comprehensive agreement.”The US ambassador criticized Tehran for funding “proxy wars and malign activities” instead of investing in its economy. He said Iran needed to make tangible and sustained changes to behave like a normal country. “Until then, America is turning up the pressure and we want the UK by our side,” Johnson added. President Donald Trump announced the US withdrawal from the agreement between world powers and Iran, which provides for the lifting of international sanctions imposed in return for Tehran restricting its nuclear program. Last week, the US began to re-impose the economic sanctions. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has said that Trump’s abandonment of the nuclear deal was illegal, adding that Tehran would not yield to Washington’s renewed campaign to choke Iran’s vital oil exports.

Iran: 20 Killed in Clashes Between IRGC, Kurdish Group
Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 13 August, 2018/At least 20 people were killed in armed clashes between Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and a Kurdish group opposed to the Iranian regime on the border between Iran, Turkey and the Kurdistan region of Iraq. Reports varied concerning the reason for the clashes and number of losses between both sides. IRGC’s news agency Fars reported that the clashes were against a group that planned to enter the country through the bordering region of Oshnavieh (in Kurdistan province). Whereas, state-owned agency IRNA cited IRGC’s Hamzeh base saying that the Iranian forces dismantled an armed cell in the southwestern Iranian province of Azerbaijan. IRGC killed 10 armed men carrying equipment in the Oshnavieh border area as they attempted to enter Iran, according to IRNA. The corps issued a statement confirming the incident, but did not mention the identity of the armed group, rather described it as “affiliated to the world arrogant powers and the foreign intelligence services” that planned to enter the country to “foment insecurity and conduct acts of sabotage”Reports by official Iranian agencies did not mention the number of casualties among the IRGC, but operation assistant at Hamzeh base denied in a statement to Fars the reports saying that none of the troops was injured or killed in the fighting. Meanwhile, Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI) announced on its Twitter account that heavy clashes erupted between Kurdistan’s Peshmerga Forces and Iran’s IRGC outside Shno (Oshnavie) in eastern Kurdistan. “The clash lasted for 5 hours and according to initial reports 12 IRGC terrorists were killed,” it added. The Party did not comment on official Iranian reports about the killing of its members.
Hamzeh base is responsible for securing Iran's border with Turkey and the Kurdistan region of Iraq, extending 200 kilometers from the western province of Azerbaijan, Kurdistan and Kermanshah to northern areas of the western province of Ilam. PDKI was founded in October 1945 by Kurdish leader Qadi Mohammad in the city of Mahabad, raising the slogan "Autonomy of Kurdistan of Iran" and the right to self-determination. Iran targeted party leaders twice after the 1979 revolution: the first in June 1989, when gunmen attacked Abdul Rahman Ghassemlou and several Kurdish politicians in Vienna. Few years later, on Sept. 17, 1992, gunmen posing as negotiators killed Sadegh Sharafkandi, the party's secretary-general, and a number of party leaders at a restaurant in Berlin.

For Iran: A Black Day in the White Mountain
Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 13 August, 2018
Having resisted relinquishing its historic rights in the Caspian Sea for more almost 20 years, the Iranian government on Sunday succumbed to pressure from Russia by signing a document that opens the way for shaping the future of the inland sea in accordance with Moscow's wishes. Attending a summit of the five littoral sates at the seaside resort of Aqtaw in Kazakhstan, President Hassan Rouhani abandoned the position of his three predecessor, Hashemi Rafsanjani, Muhammad Khatami and Mahmoud Ahmadinjead, by hailing the Russian-authored text as "a model for peace and stability." The document, labelled the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea, proposes a series of measures regarding the exploitation of the sea's natural resources, notably oil and gas and fishing. It does not deal with the thorny issue of ascertaining the share of the five littoral states: Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan. But by signing it as well as five other "technical documents", Iran has abandoned its demand for "a proper share" in the inland sea. But it includes a long-standing Russian demand that no "outside power" be allowed a naval presence in the Caspian. However, since the Caspian is an inland lake no "outside power" could send in merchant let alone a military navy without the agreement of at least one of the five littoral states. The convention is designed to prevent Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan ever to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, giving the US-led alliance a presence in what Russia regards as its backyard pond. Talks between NATO and the three Caspian littoral states of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan were halted under President Barack Obama with no prospect of resuming them. Russia, however, wants to block any future talks while the present-regime in Tehran shares Moscow's anti-West position. Successive Iranian governments refused to sign up to the Russian "deal" for three reasons.
The first was what they termed as "Iran's historic rights."
Iran first signed an accord with Tsarist Russia in 1841 under which the inland sea was divided between the two while Russia secured the sole right of maintaining a military naval presence in the Caspian. That accord caused a great deal of bitterness among Iranian nationalists and , decades later, was a theme in the revolution that ended the Qajar Dynasty's despotic hold on power. The man who had signed the accord was one Mullah Abbas Iravani, alias Haj Mirza Aqasi, who acted as First Minister for the Qajar Ruler. His notorious quip " We shall not embitter a sweet friend for a handful of salty water!" entered Iranian historical memory as one of the low point of national humiliation. The second accord between Iran and Russia was signed in 1921 after the fall of the Tsarist Empire. It divided the Caspian 50/50 between the two neighbours while denying Iran the right to have a military presence in the inland sea. Iran then formally recognized the new Communist regime in Moscow. Another treaty in 1940 confirmed the deal while giving Russia the right to land troops in Iran to ward off any external threat to its security.
Nevertheless, on that basis Iran demands a 50 per cent share of the Caspian, arguing that the three new littoral states, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan belong to the previous entity i.e. the USSR and thus should be given a share from the 50 per cent assigned to the Russian federation.
Russia has rejected Iran's position with reference to the principle of "if things stand the same" (Rebus sic stanticus in Latin). As both Tsarist Russia and the USSR no longer exist the treaties they signed are no longer valid. Russia, however has offered a compromise under which each littoral state would have a share commensurate with the length of its coastline on the Caspian. That would give Russia, which has the longest coastline with more than 2,990 kilometres, the biggest share, followed by Kazakhstan with 1,894 kilometres and Turkmenistan with 1,768 kilometres. Iran's share would be 740 kilometres just ahead of Azerbaijan with 713 kilometres. After two decades of negotiations, including four summits and 52 ministerial sessions, Russia, backed by Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan offered to give Iran a 13 per cent share, slightly above the 11 per cent warranted by the size of its coastline. Under President Khatami Iran indicated some flexibility by implicitly agreeing to consider a 20 per cent, instead of a 50 per cent, share. But that position was quickly abandoned by Khatami's successor Ahmadinejad who adopted a less friendly profile towards Russia. Meanwhile, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan have concluded bilateral accords based on the “thalweg" (median line) principle used in many frontier lakes and rivers across the globe. Next to "historic rights" Iran claims a bigger share in the Caspian with reference to its bigger population, second only to Russia among the littoral states and the fact that six of its provinces directly depend on the sea's eco-system and economic opportunities.
Iran's third argument is based on the claim that its river systems are the second biggest contributor, after Russia, of water to the 371,000 square kiomteres sea. A total of 22 Iranian rivers flow into the Caspian, notably Sefid Rud, Aras, Atrak and Haraz. "The truth is that the Convention makes no reference to the essential issue of how to share out the Caspian between the littoral states," says Bahman Aaqi-Diba, one of Iran's leading specialists on the law of the sea. Aqai-Diba believes that Russia's campaign to prevent the presence of outside powers, meaning mainly the United States, is a political move not a legal position.
Iran's decision to sign the Russian text has been met with some anger across Iran. On Sunday, “Islamic Majlis” member Mahmud Sadeqi compared the Aqtaw convention with the Turkmanchai treaty that most Iranians regard as the most shameful ever imposed on their nation.
"The Aqtaw convention has nothing to do with us,” Sadeqi says. "It has not been discussed with the Majlis.” Rouhani's entourage are briefing journalists and political circles in Tehran with the message that the president isn't happy with the Russian-dictated text.
Esmail Pour-Rahim, Iran's former top negotiator on the Caspian and believed to be close to Rouhani, says the decision to sign the Russian text was taken by "Supreme Guide" Ali Khamenei. Some experts believe Iran could have a good case arguing that Russia and the three littoral republics that emerged from the USSR should be regarded as one unit in the sense of a successor state. However, to argue that claim Iran would have to take the case to the International Court and that, in turn, might require, an accord from the United Nations Security Council where Russia has veto power. The US, Britain and France would find no reason why they should back a hostile power such as the Islamic Republic in any dispute with Russia.
Aqai-Diba says Iran currently lacks the power and the expertise needed to argue its case. Another expert Hamid Zomorrodi urges Iran to continue arguing its case and not signing any definitive document until “better times”, meaning when Iran emerges from its current turmoil and finds some friends and allies across the globe. “We get nothing out of giving Russia what it wants,” he says. “If the Caspian is opened for outside investment and business, people will go to the other littoral states which are not involved in disputes with so many other nations, no one would come to Iran.”
Others go further. Mehrdad Ebadi, a former adviser to the European Union, says Iran would be making a big mistake “relying on Russia.” “Our past experience with Russians show that going under the Russian tent is not the right thing to do,” he says.Meanwhile, petitions signed by tens of thousands are circulating in the social media condemning the Aqtaw event as “another treacherous sell-out by a regime that has lost its legitimacy.” In Kazakh language Aqtaw means “White Mountain”. Some Iranian bloggers have played on the word by announcing Rouhani’s presence in the Russian-sponsored event as “a black day in the White Mountain.”

Jordanian King: We Will Fight ‘Khawarij’ Without Mercy
Amman - Mohamed Al-Daameh/Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 13 August, 2018 /Four members of the Jordanian security forces and three militants have been killed during a raid launched against a terrorist hideout in the northwestern city of Salt. "We will fight the Khawarij and strike them without mercy and with all strength and determination," King Abdullah II told a meeting of top security officials at the Husseiniya Palace on Sunday. The meeting was aimed at following up on the terrorist attack that targeted a joint patrol of the gendarmerie and public security forces in the Fuheis region near Amman last week and the ensuing raid in Salt in connection with the bombing. "Jordanians are stronger when they face such events, and they are more enthusiastic to clean our country and the region of this phenomenon and protect our religion from these Khawarij," the King said. State Minister for Media Affairs Jumana Ghneimat said the raid was carried out after the improvised explosive device that targeted a patrol van on Friday in Fuhais, outside Amman, killed a serviceman. Ghneimat said the Salt operation left three terrorists dead. Five others were arrested, she said, adding that four members of the joint security force were also killed during the operation. The servicemen were laid to rest on Sunday in their hometowns of Ma'an, Zarqa, Ajloun and Irbid.

Egypt: Police Arrest Cell Responsible for Failed Mostorod Church Bombing

North Sinai – Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 13 August, 2018/Egypt’s Interior Ministry announced that six people, including two women, have been arrested for formed a "terrorist cell" that planned the failed suicide bombing attack at the Church of the Virgin Mary in Mostorod, north of Cairo, on Saturday. Dozens of Copts survived the attempted bombing that targeted worshipers gathered to celebrate the annual Assumption of the Virgin Mary. The Ministry said it identified the terrorist cell associated with the suicide attacker, Omar Mohammed Mustafa, and its members have been apprehended. Security services released the names and photographs of the members of the group who were indicted. One of the women, Radwa, 42, is a key member in promoting extremist ideas and providing financial support to terrorist elements. In related news, Egyptian security forces killed 12 suspected terrorists in raids on their hideouts in al-Arish, North Sinai. Security sources told the state news agency that the forces came under fire when they raided a compound where the suspected militants were hiding, killing them in the shootout. The authorities were trying to verify their identities. North Sinai has been witnessing an extensive security operation, known as Comprehensive Sinai 2018, launched by the army and police since February to purge the province of takfiris and criminal elements. On Sunday, a government committee conducted an inspection tour to displaced citizens of North Sinai, who fled their residences due to the war on ISIS. North Sinai Governor, Major General Abdel Fattah Harhour said that the needs of those transferred from Sheikh Zuwaid and Rafah will be provided in coordination with provincial authorities. He stated that the committee met with residents from these two areas in order to inquire about their various needs and problems. They have been relocated to Ismailia, Beheira, Sharqia and Monufia. Harhour pointed out that residential units in Arish had been allocated to those who moved from Sheikh Zuwaid and Rafah. He added that government will give 1,400 units of social housing units in Arish for free with a monthly payment of LE100 per month for electricity, water and various services. Social Solidarity in North Sinai announced it will increase the amount of monthly allowances for each family from LE800 pounds to LE1,000 as of last July. Director of Social Solidarity Directorate in North Sinai, Mounir Abo al-Kheir told Asharq Al-Awsat that the money will be disbursed from the North Sinai Relief Fund, which provides subsidies and assistance to families of martyrs, the injured and citizens, who suffered due to the war on terrorism in their region. The Fund was established in 2016 of a budget amounting to LE107 million pounds from the Ministry of Social Solidarity, the Ministry of Finance and Long live Egypt Fund. Displaced citizens were relieved with the new measures. Suleiman Eid Swarka, one of the displaced from Sheikh Zuwaid, said that his demands from the committee can be summed up with the following: monthly subsidies and aid, as well as providing alternative housing and enrolling his children in schools. An official source in the committee admitted they were surprised by the number of the problems people are facing, including the need for "service facilities in areas where they are gathered, such as roads and schools.” He noted that a major problem is the need for monthly subsidies and free treatments. The committee visited more than 40 communities, revealed the source, adding that it will continue its tour.
The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on August 13-14/18
The World on Israel
Dr. Mordechai Nisan/Mida/August 13/18
With all the Jewish People have been through, you would expect now an unshakable moral commitment toward the Jewish state. Instead, Israel is held to a double standard by the world.
Israel’s geo-strategic and national-demographic profile is abysmal: a tiny Jewish country with a large hostile Arab antagonistic population, threatened by Middle East neighbors contiguous, proximate, and from afar, facing a belligerent Islamic religious civilization whose commitment to jihad and conquest denies legitimacy to a Jewish state in “Palestine”. Permanent war has been Israel’s daily reality from the first day of its restoration in 1948.
Israel ranks 147th in size among the 193 countries of the world. Without the post-1967 territories, Israel is the size of New Jersey. It is thirty-one times smaller than Texas or France, and six times smaller than Pennsylvania. The size of Israel is 373 times smaller than Australia. Israel is in its pre-1967 scope of 20,000 square kilometers is only half the size of Denmark and the Netherlands.
That Israel lacks strategic depth is a gross understatement. The most central geographic datum for Israel is her sliver-width coastal waist from Haifa in the north to Ashkelon in the south. At its most narrow point were 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) from the coastal city of Netanya to the then Jordanian West Bank at Tulkarem. The existential scenario forecast Arab artillery batteries shelling Israeli cities, or an armored corps careening down the western Samarian mountain range and driving to the sea shore – cutting Israel into two, north and south of Tel Aviv.
Ever since Israel’s victory in the 1967 Six Day War, now sporting all of a 75-kilometer width, the international community has been censuring her for refusing to withdraw from the entire West Bank and blocking the establishment of a Palestinian state there. Israel’s seemingly most congenial border is the Mediterranean Sea coast to the west, though it’s also an arena with multiple security threats.
More than half of the country is desert. The foreboding coordinates of Israel’s national space include further sources for apprehension. She has but one and very narrow river, one lake (discounting salty the Dead Sea), and one major international airport. With an over eight-million population (without the territories), of which Jews number six and a half million, Israel offers a searing example for human and traffic congestion. Road density in Israel is the highest among the OECD countries.
No country in the world has stood in Israel’s place: a minuscule, isolated, and geo-strategically vulnerable country; facing many wars (1948, 1956, 1967, 1969-70, 1973, 1982, 1991, and 2006) and incessant warfare assaulting the country’s civilian population; delegitimized by foes and abandoned by friends; all this despite a pattern of various territorial concessions and partial/total withdrawals: from Sinai (1949, 1957, 1974-75, 1982); the Gaza Strip (1957, 1994, 2006); the Golan Heights (1974); the West Bank (1994, 1995, 1997-8); and south Lebanon (2000). Europeans and others, arrogant stooges of the Arab world, have no right to offer even the slightest advice, let alone stringent orders, as to how Israel should act in its specific situation.
These data have inexplicably not convinced the world after 50 years of Israeli conquest and retention of Judea and Samaria that this post-1967 geographic configuration must most legitimately serve as permanent borders for Israel. With Europe in the lead, accompanied by great powers like Russia and China, a broad international political consensus emerged that demanded Israeli withdrawal from all the territories, including East Jerusalem, which Israel captured in the Six-Day War. America was part of this coalition, and the mantra of “territories for peace” was the decisive formula for conflict-resolution. As the Arabs consider Israel an alien entity in their midst, could they be expected to grant Israel the peace she so desired?
The formula of territories-for-peace was vacuous and deceptive; but the world sanctified it as the only path to end the Arab-Israeli conflict. The so-called “territories for peace” implementation between Israel and Egypt in 1979 was far from inaugurating a warm conventional peace; rather a formal agreement led to some security accommodations while at the popular level Egypt remained a defiant foe of the Jewish state. The same applies for the Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty of 1994.
Conquest, Near and Far
Different political standards have been a glaring feature in a variety of post-war settings. Poland, in the post-Second World War European theater, acquired East Prussia with American and Soviet consent after Nazi Germany had invaded and conquered the country, massacring millions of Poles. Aggression carried a price, and justly so. Poland then carried out ethnic cleansing by expelling three million Germans in order to assure her national integrity and security. This radical step did not evoke condemnation or soul-searching. When Israel preempted an imminent mortal threat to her existence in June 1967, her conquests were however considered inadmissible and her rule illegal. Arab provocation and aggression were to be exempt of any penalty and punishment. Israel’s act of self-defense was to be nullified as a violation of international law.
Conquest was a major feature of European imperialism and colonialism over many centuries. Israel, however, is to be denied and denounced by the international community and its institutions for its presence in the core area of its biblical homeland; and Judea and Samaria are literally just a stone’s throw from the pre-’67 lines, not thousands of miles from Jerusalem. Some perspective and proportion should, late as it is, be introduced into the political discourse regarding Israel and its territorial rights and policies.
The Palestinians are not struggling for independence and statehood, but for the annihilation of Zionism. In contrast to authentic liberation struggles, the Palestinian war against Israel seeks to destroy the Jewish state and massacre and/or expel all its Jews.
Cases of present-day conquest have not aroused particular international interest, intervention, or revulsion. Chinese rule in Tibet, Indian rule in Kashmir, and Russian rule in the Caucasus and the Crimea, are examples of great power intrusion over native populations. The motive for such conquests and their justification is not due to immediate security imperatives. Beijing, Delhi, and Moscow are comfortably located and adequately secured without any relation to ruling other peoples and territories. Broader interests are involved which do not necessarily require military domination.
Bloody Borders
Israel shares borders with four Arab states, all of whom – Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon – along with more distant Iraq, initiated war against Israel in 1948. There were years when the Lebanese border was tranquil, even friendly. Yet the Palestinians in earlier years, and Hezbollah Shiites since the 1980s, targeted Israel with cross-border terrorism and demonized her as an enemy-state to be fought and destroyed. Israel fought her Second Lebanon War in 2006.
The Gaza Strip was quiet for many years, then conquered and administered by Israel until 1994. Ever since it is a hotbed of Islamic radicalism and warfare against Israel.
The Golan Heights were brought to pacification when in 1967 Israel conquered the mountain plateau, which remained quiet until recent years, when the Syrian army, Hezbollah guerrillas, Iranian revolutionary guards, and Islamic warriors, turned the border into an explosive zone of violent skirmishes with Israel.
Overall there were years of relative quiet within the Land west of the Jordan River. But now Palestinian terrorists in the West Bank (with two recorded uprisings or intifadas), Bedouin lawbreakers in the Negev, and Arab extremists in the Galilee, have undermined Israel’s domestic security and violently menaced Jewish safety in the country. Israel’s Arab citizens arrogantly stoke the flames of hatred by raising the Palestinian flag – in Israel – during mass demonstrations against the state.
Thus Jews, in 2018, have been targeted by live gunfire and knife-stabbers in Jerusalem and Samaria, rocket attacks from Gaza, and missile launchings from Syria.
The “Palestinian” Case
Integral states necessarily oppose secessionist movements or ethnic-religious currents which potentially threaten to tear apart the national borders. Examples of Quebec in Canada, Scotland in the United Kingdom, Catalonia in Spain, Kabylia in Algeria, and Kurdistan in Iraq and Turkey, illustrate ethnic-historic fissures which challenge the solidity of countries to withstand domestic implosion. South Tyrol in northern Italy presents the case of a German-speaking minority area contiguous to German-speaking Austria that enjoys autonomy, but not independence.
“Palestinian” secessionist demands in the name of self-determination and national liberation are nothing less than an irredentist scheme to dissolve the Jewish state piece-by-piece. First Judea and Samaria (the Gaza Strip is already a self-contained “Palestinian” entity); then East Jerusalem; then the Galilee; and finally the total collapse of Israel as a governable and defendable state.
Israel’s morale will wither as the state contracts step-by-step. The PLO “stages theory” as adopted in 1974 was given its first practical launching when the 1993 Oslo Accord called for Israeli territorial withdrawal, first from Gaza and Jericho, then from swathes of the West Bank and its major Palestinian cities. The appetite grows with the eating as in feeding the fox one lamb after another.
The Unholy Alliance
Both Israel and Europe are experiencing in different modalities what can historically be termed “a barbarian invasion.” Peoples from outside the civilizational zone, derisive of the given status quo order, armed with boundless energy and commitment to destroy everything in their path, seek victory at any price and toward whatever goal.
The Muslim fundamentalist forces in our era believe in Quran-mandated war against any and all non-Muslim infidel (fakir) religions, cultures, societies, and states. Israel is on the battle lines of this monumental confrontation in the Middle East; Europe is at the heart of this civilizational struggle; Russia is facing its own threat from within. The major advocates and practitioners on behalf of Islam’s global jihad include Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, and the Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS, and Al-Qaeda. Europe and Israel are in an objective sense on the same side of the civilizational equation. Islamic terrorism in London and Paris, Madrid and Brussels, Berlin and Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Toulouse, and Stockholm, should have been helpful in clarifying this political equivalence.
In Israel, Islamic terrorism struck in Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv, Haifa and Afula, Ma’alot and Kiryat Shmona, Nahariya and Petach-Tikvah. Living in the shadow of terrorism has always been a way of life for Israelis.
After centuries of expulsions, inquisitions, and pogroms – with the horrid climax in the inexplicable Holocaust – Europe is not coming clean in its attitude toward Israel. In the July 1938 Evian Conference, the European democracies refused to agree accepting German and Austrian Jews as immigrants or refugees whose lives were already pitilessly endangered by the Nazi beast.
You would perhaps expect now an unshakable moral commitment toward the Jewish state. Yet the Germans and their collaborators, who didn’t finish the diabolical job of decimating all Jews in Europe and elsewhere, decided in their cold strategic calculus from the 1970s to side with the Arabs and against the Israelis. Maybe the Muslims will complete the unfinished business with a contribution from their European collaborators.
The European dhimmis have, broadly speaking, a consistent and long legacy of policies harmful to Israel: military boycotts, political denunciations, and diplomatic censures; also individual recognition of the Palestine Liberation Organization in the 1970s and then collectively in the Venice Declaration of 1980; assistance for Egypt’s missile program and Iraq’s nuclear program. Along with many other countries, Europe has decisively voted for anti-Israel resolutions in the UN General Assembly – calling for Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories and favoring a Palestinian state; and condemning in UN Security Council resolution 2334 from December 23, 2017, Israel’s settlement activity as a “flagrant violation” of international law, while opposing any changes to the pre-1967 lines to which Israel must withdraw. Fourteen members voted in favor of 2334 – including Britain and France, while the United States under President Obama abstained. Recently they even boycotted the USA’s historical embassy move to Jerusalem.
The political litmus test vis-à-vis Israel has exposed the moral bankruptcy of Europe, certainly its western and central countries in particular.
Since President Trump’s election, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, has stood with Israel in an exceptional display of support for the Jewish state. Rejecting the sophistry of moral equivalence, Haley defends with resolve Israel’s right to Jerusalem, her military posture toward Iranian threats emanating from Syria, and her resolute response to Hamas warfare from Gaza. Israel has at last found a true friend as the world continues to gang up on the tiny Jewish state.
A Call for Silence
Israel’s situation is manifestly unique in that one country – Iran – explicitly threatens Israel with annihilation, and builds the resources to achieve this; many other countries of Muslim and Arab identity favor the same goal which is articulated in only slightly less explicit language; and transnational Islamic movements likewise actively promote the same purpose. The Jewish people have yet to escape from their inexorable plight in history.
Let us conclude this essay with Abba Eban, Israel’s Foreign Minister, who addressed the UN Security Council the day after the June 1967 erupted. The Egyptians had earlier moved their army to Israel’s Negev border, formed military alliances with Syria, Jordan, and Iraq, blocked Israel’s southern port of Eilat, and declared in the most explicit fashion that its objective was to destroy Israel. Eban confronted the Council members with these words:
“Imagine a foreign power forcibly closing New York or Montreal, Boston or Marseille, Toulon or Copenhagen, Rio or Tokyo or Bombay harbor. How would your governments react, what would you do?” Eban’s rhetorical question was met with silence.
Indeed, a world response of silence and shame to Israel’s real-life existential situation today would rank as a minimally most moral and appropriate of responses.
*Dr. Mordechai Nisan, retired lecturer in Middle East Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, has written extensively on Israel and the region, including on Lebanon and Mideast

Can renewed US sanctions force Iran to change?
Fahad Nazer/Arab News/August 13/18
Economic sanctions are back in the headlines. Last week, the US administration announced that it was reinstating a host of economic sanctions on Iran that had been lifted following the 2015 agreement between Iran and six other nations, including the US, which sought to limit Iran’s nuclear activities in return for sanctions relief. Towards the end of the week, Washington also announced that it would be imposing sanctions on Russia by the end of August, following allegations that Moscow had used a nerve agent in an attack on a Russian “double agent” in Britain.
There appears to be a common perception that the Trump administration has made imposing economic sanctions a favorite option among its foreign policy toolkit. However, the truth is that sanctions have been used by every US administration going back decades. Just as importantly, regional groupings such as the EU, and the international community itself as represented by the UN Security Council, have also resorted to economic sanctions to effect changes in the behavior of several countries and non-state actors, especially after the end of the Cold War in 1990.
While a consensus on the effectiveness of sanctions has proven difficult to reach, there is general agreement that, under the right conditions and terms, sanctions can work. According to one understanding, countries, regional groupings and the broader international community have “imposed economic sanctions to coerce, deter, punish or shame entities that endanger their interests or violate international norms of behavior.” The range of policies that sanctions seek to change is relatively broad, and includes halting the support or financing of terrorist groups and operations, countering drug cartels, enhancing non-proliferation agreements, and punishing egregious human rights abuses.
The example most often cited as “proof” that economic sanctions can work is of those that were imposed against the government of South Africa in the 1980s for its use of the racially discriminatory policies known as apartheid.
Reimposed US sanctions are designed to entice Iran to abide by the norms of international relations. The ball is now in Tehran’s court.
Other nations that have found themselves the target of a wide array of unilateral or multilateral sanctions include North Korea, Cuba, Syria and, of course, Iran. While these nations usually protest against the imposition of sanctions and declare their innocence — often attributing sanctions to international conspiracies intended to “destroy” them — the truth is that no nation, including the US, imposes sanctions against another without cause, nor do they take the decision lightly.
There are different kinds of sanctions. Primary sanctions, the most common, mainly target a nation in an effort to change its behavior by denying it access to markets, raw materials, businesses and financial institutions in the sanctioning country. As the world’s biggest economy, the US is uniquely positioned to ensure that even unilateral sanctions are effective. There are also what are known as secondary and extraterritorial sanctions. While the two terms are sometimes used interchangeably, they seem to have different objectives. According to one expert on the matter: “Secondary sanctions coerce other states into complying with a pre-existing embargo. Extraterritorial sanctions target foreign firms into compliance.” The US recently imposed sanctions on a Chinese financial institution for dealing with North Korea, which is under a wide array of US and international sanctions.
According to the White House, the recently announced sanctions against Iran target its “automotive sector and its trade in gold and precious metals, as well as sanctions related to the Iranian rial.” In November, additional sanctions will be reinstated, including those relating to “Iran’s energy sector, including petroleum-related transactions, as well as transactions by foreign financial institutions with the Central Bank of Iran.”
Regardless of the types of sanctions or the entities or sectors they target, the broad aim is often the same: A change in behavior. In the case of Iran, it is not only the US that has long sought such a change, but also much of the international community, including many European nations and most of Iran’s neighbors in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and many others.
What these nations have always expected — and are now demanding — is for Iran to abide by the norms, conventions and laws of international relations. This means no interference in the domestic affairs of other nations and no support for terrorist groups and operations or militant groups seeking to impose their will by force on their respective nations.
It is clear that some supporters of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, hoped that it would entice Tehran to moderate its policies in the region, and the world, and make it a responsible member of the international community. The evidence suggests the agreement had the opposite effect. An Iranian diplomat was recently implicated in a terrorist plot in Europe, for example, and Iran has significantly increased its military support of Houthi militants in Yemen. The US sanctions are designed to end such behavior. The ball is in Iran’s court.
**Fahad Nazer is a political consultant to the Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington and an International Fellow at the National Council on US-Arab Relations. He does not represent or speak on behalf of either organization. Twitter: @fanazer

UN Enabling Hamas's War Machine
Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/August 13/18
This ceasefire initiative is rather disturbing: it requires no meaningful concessions on the part of Hamas. It leaves, for example, wholly intact Hamas's extremist ideology, which calls for the destruction of Israel, and does not demand that Hamas lay down its weapons.
A ceasefire may sound good, but in the current circumstances it will send a deadly message to Hamas and the other terror factions in the Gaza Strip: namely, that long-term terror bombardment of Israel gets you economic and humanitarian projects funded by the United Nations and Western donors, and perhaps even a seaport and airport. The ceasefire would give Hamas five to ten years to continue amassing weapons, tightening its grip on the Gaza Strip, and preparing for its next war with Israel.
Any ceasefire agreement will be perceived as a reward for Hamas-sponsored terrorism and violence against Israel. These negotiations will spur other terrorist groups around the world to continue their attacks with the hope of gaining legitimacy and forcing the UN and the international community to negotiate also with them.
Why is the UN apparently prepared to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in the Gaza Strip while keeping Hamas in power and even allowing it to become stronger? Why is the UN being allowed to play the role of savior of Hamas?
The Palestinian Hamas terrorist group that controls the Gaza Strip has reportedly accepted, in principle, an Egyptian and United Nations initiative for a long-term ceasefire with Israel. According to some reports, the initiative calls for a ceasefire of five to ten years in return for the easing of economic sanctions and humanitarian and economic aid to the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
This ceasefire initiative is rather disturbing: it requires no meaningful concessions on the part of Hamas. It leaves, for example, wholly intact Hamas's extremist ideology, which calls for the destruction of Israel, and does not demand that Hamas lay down its weapons.
Essentially, the message to Hamas from the international community is that it will reap rich rewards for nothing more than temporarily halting its terror attacks on Israel.
As the past few weeks have shown, Hamas appears to be more than willing to sit quietly in order to get the benefits and privileges offered by Egypt and the UN. Hamas has been facing a severe crisis as the result of the economic sanctions imposed on the Gaza Strip, particularly those initiated by its rivals in the Palestinian Authority government of President Mahmoud Abbas. Thus, Hamas is grabbing hold of the Egyptian and UN proposal as a kind of life-vest.
Once the ceasefire agreement goes into effect, Hamas will have additional time to continue amassing weapons and tightening its grip on the Gaza Strip.
Under the umbrella of the ceasefire, Hamas will be able to continue building new tunnels that will be used to infiltrate Israel to kill civilians and soldiers. Hamas will also be able to continue smuggling weapons into the Gaza Strip through tunnels along the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. Thanks to the Egyptian and UN-brokered ceasefire agreement, Hamas will be able to do all these things without having to worry about an Israeli military response.
The proposed ceasefire agreement will give Hamas five to ten years to prepare for the next war with Israel. During this period, Hamas will have recruited tens of thousands of more Palestinians into its ranks, turning them into jihadists in preparation for the jihad (holy war) against Israel.
In other words, the proposed ceasefire agreement absolves Hamas, the de facto government in the coastal enclave, of its duties and responsibilities towards its own constituents. Hamas will no longer have to worry about improving the living conditions of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip because the UN and the rest of the international community will be fulfilling that job.
The international community and the UN will, according to the proposed ceasefire, attend to the needs of the Palestinian population and will even launch various economic and humanitarian projects in the Gaza Strip, while Hamas leaders will be sitting in their luxurious offices and homes and laughing at the duped Western donors, who will even be funding fuel and electricity supplies to the people living under its rule.
Worse, the proposed agreement, now being discussed by Hamas leaders with Egyptian and UN officials, offers the Hamas rulers a seaport and airport in the nearby Egyptian peninsula of Sinai. Of course, there is no guarantee that Hamas will not use these ports to smuggle weapons into the Gaza Strip. Those who believe that the Egyptians will be able to prevent the smuggling of weapons into the Gaza Strip are living under the dangerous illusion of a bribery-free Middle East.
Besides, the Egyptian authorities already have their hands full with the various Islamist terrorist groups that have been operating in the Sinai Peninsula in recent years. If the Egyptian army and other security agencies have thus far been unable to root out the problem of the terror groups in Sinai, how exactly are they supposed to deal with Hamas's weapons smuggling?
Moreover, what about Hamas's involvement with some of the jihadi groups in Sinai? For the past few years, reports have surfaced in several Arab media outlets about Hamas's cooperation with some of these groups in carrying out terror attacks against the Egyptian military and civilians in Sinai.
Far more worrying is that any ceasefire agreement will be perceived as a reward for Hamas-sponsored terrorism and violence against Israel. Since last March, Hamas has been dispatching thousands of Palestinians, including women and children, to the border with Israel as part of the so-called March of Return. As part of these protests, Palestinian have been throwing explosive devices, petrol bombs and stones at Israeli soldiers. They have also been launching hundreds of flaming kites and balloons at Israeli communities along the border with the Gaza Strip, and causing fires that have destroyed tens of thousands of acres of agricultural fields and forests.
Pictured: The Kerem Shalom Crossing burns on May 4, 2018, after it was torched by Palestinian rioters from Gaza. Kerem Shalom is used to transfer thousands of tons of goods and humanitarian aid from Israel to the Gaza Strip. (Image source: IDF/Flickr)
that were not enough, Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups in the Gaza Strip last week again fired more than 180 rockets and projectiles at Israeli communities.
Such rocket attacks are far from uncommon; they have been taking place since Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005. It was then that Israel handed the entire Gaza Strip to the Mahmoud Abbas's Palestinian Authority (PA). In 2007, Hamas violently ejected the PA from the Gaza Strip, and has been in control of the territory since then.
A ceasefire may sound good, but in the current circumstances it will send a deadly message to Hamas and the other terror factions in the Gaza Strip: namely, that long-term terror bombardment of Israel gets you economic and humanitarian projects funded by the United Nations and Western donors and, if things go well, perhaps even a seaport and airport.
The proposed ceasefire agreement, therefore, is nothing but a UN and Egyptian bribe to Hamas to agree to a temporary halt of terror attacks against Israel. Appeasing terrorists, however, is a recipe for perpetuating and escalating the conflict and emboldening the terrorists. In addition, it will only increase Hamas's appetite to continue extorting Israel and the rest of the world for more concessions.
Negotiating with Hamas grants legitimacy to terror groups, making them appear as acceptable parties. By contrast, one might note that the UN never considered initiating a negotiated ceasefire between the US and Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda terror group or ISIS. The current negotiations that the Egyptians and the UN are conducting with Hamas to achieve a ceasefire with Israel sends precisely the wrong message to jihadi groups around the world. These negotiations will, in fact, spur these groups to continue their terror attacks with the hope of gaining legitimacy and forcing the international community to follow suit and negotiate also with them, as they have been doing with Hamas. Is there any difference between Hamas and Al-Qaeda, ISIS and Boko Haram, the so-called Islamic State in Western Africa? Not really.
Hamas, as mentioned, is of course happy that the Egyptians, the UN and other international parties are chasing it and literally begging it to accept a temporary truce with Israel, especially under such golden conditions. Hamas has nothing to lose by agreeing to a ceasefire that will allow it further to strengthen its military power in the Gaza Strip, while not being required to cease bad behavior or do anything to help its own people.
A sign of Hamas's elation can be found in a statement issued by its leaders in the Gaza Strip on August 8, 2018. The statement, which was issued after a series of meetings between Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups, added that Hamas will not pay any "political price" for the lifting of the sanctions on the Gaza Strip.
So here we have Hamas itself making it clear that even if a ceasefire agreement is achieved with Israel, the terror group will never abandon its dream of pursuing the fight until Israel is replaced with an Islamist state.
We are left with some questions: Why is the United Nations negotiating with a terror group that is sworn to Israel's destruction? Why, instead, are the UN and Egypt and other parties not demanding that Hamas disarm and relinquish control of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, who have been held hostage for the past 11 years? Why is the UN apparently prepared to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in the Gaza Strip while keeping Hamas in power and even allowing it to become stronger? Why is the UN being allowed to play the role of savior of Hamas? The next time Hamas targets Israeli civilians, perhaps the UN and all those who are now trying to appease Hamas will have some answers.
*Bassam Tawil, a Muslim Arab, is based in the Middle East.
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The Turkish-Palestinian Hate Fest
Uzay Bulut/Gatestone Institute/August 13/18
Ahed Tamimi has called on "Palestinians to murder Israelis through 'martyrdom-seeking operations' (i.e., suicide bombings), stabbing attacks, and stone-throwing..." — Bradley Martin, researcher.
If Palestinian Arabs are stateless today, it is by their own choice. Their leaders have chosen to expend their energies on wiping Israel from the face of the earth rather than on establishing a state of their own next to Israel.
Palestinian Arabs keep rejecting offers to establish a state of their own, according to David Brog, with Israel, Britain and the UN having offered Palestinian Arabs the opportunity to build their own state on five separate occasions -- in 1936, 1947, 1967, 2000, and 2008.
Turkey, on the other hand, has never accepted the right to self-rule of any non-Turkish people living in Asia Minor and historic Armenia, which is today eastern Turkey.
Ahed Tamimi, a 17-year-old Palestinian girl, was released from an Israeli prison on July 29, after sitting in jail and prison for almost 8 months. In March, she had been sentenced to an 8-month sentence after pleading guilty to charges of assault and incitement. Ahed was welcomed in the West Bank like a "hero". "A crowd of supporters jostled for selfies with the teen," the Washington Post reported.
Ahed became the center of international attention on December 15 when she assaulted an Israeli soldier. The soldier did not respond. Her mother posted the video on Facebook. In the video, Ahed is seen slapping and punching the soldier.
Immediately after her attack on the soldier on December 15, Ahed's mother, who was filming Ahed, reportedly asked her daughter what kind of message she wanted to convey to viewers. Ahed replied, in part:
"Our strength is in our stones.... Whether it is stabbings or suicide bombings or throwing stones, everyone must do his part and we must unite in order for our message to be heard that we want to liberate Palestine."
Later, Ahed and her mother were both arrested for the attack. Despite her public praising of violence, Ahed is now being lauded by many media outlets as a new "Palestinian protest icon."
Among her biggest supporters was Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who congratulated her by telephone hours after her release from prison. Erdoğan "lauded her bravery and determination to fight", and "assured the [Tamimi] family that Turkey's support for Palestinian's just fight would continue," reported the Turkish pro-government newspaper Sabah.
That was not the first interaction between Erdogan and Tamimi. In 2012, Erdogan, then Turkey's prime minister, and his wife, met and had breakfast with Ahed and her mother Nariman Tamimi, in the city of Sanliurfa in Turkey. Congratulating Ahed for her "courage", Erdogan reportedly gave her family and her some presents.
"Among the gifts PM Erdogan gave me are a cell phone, the holy Koran, a headscarf for my mother and a tie for my father," said Ahed. "That is a moment I will never forget throughout my entire life. I would like to thank him for always standing by Palestine."
In the same year, Ahed was given the "Hanzala Courage Award" by Başakşehir Municipality in Istanbul.
What the municipality awarded was not "courage" at all, but Ahed and her family's violence and hatred for Jews. According to researcher Bradley Martin:
"Nariman Tamimi, her mother, praised female Palestinian terrorists who collectively murdered 55 Israelis, including 21 children, and wounded more than 300 people. When the so-called 'stabbing intifada' began in late 2015, Nariman shared graphic instructions for prospective Palestinian terrorists on where to aim their knives in order to achieve the most lethal outcome.
"Then there is Ahed's father Bassem Tamimi, who regularly promotes some of the most vile antisemitic conspiracy theories. "
"Is it any wonder then that Ahed herself has loyally followed her family's example, even calling on Palestinians to murder Israelis through 'martyrdom-seeking operations' (i.e., suicide bombings), stabbing attacks, and stone-throwing?"
The Tamimi family includes terrorists who murdered Israelis, including children. One is Ahlam Tamimi, who masterminded and helped carry out the 2001 Sbarro massacre in Jerusalem. The bomb at the Sbarro restaurant killed 15 civilians, including seven children and a pregnant woman. 130 people were injured. Ahlam, a cousin of Ahed's, was given a life sentence. But, in 2011, she was released as part of the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange between Hamas and Israel. Ahlam has declared that she is proud of her role in the massacre.
Malki Roth, aged 15, was among those murdered in the Sbarro massacre.
"We know who plotted the Sbarro barbarism," wrote Arnold Roth, Malki's father, recently. "It was not Ahed Tamimi. But when her clan, the Tamimis of Nabi Saleh, get together to celebrate it, as we know they do, she is an enthusiastic participant."
"In a village where almost everyone is related by blood and (yes, and) marriage, Ahed is a cousin of one of the attack's perpetrators, Ahlam Tamimi, in multiple ways. Ahlam now lives free in Jordan. She boasts that she chose the site for the explosion, seeking to kill as many Jewish children as possible, and that she planted the human bomb. Via social media, public speeches and (for five years) her own TV program, she urges others to follow her lead.
"When Ahlam married Nizar Tamimi – also a murderer from the village – a few months after both walked free in the Gilad Shalit prisoner-exchange deal, Ahed was there to dance and gaze adoringly at the bride.
"But neither her gaze nor her ideas are the problem – it's what others do with them.
"Ahed's parents make a living from propagandizing against Israel. They fashioned and groomed Ahed, leveraging her blondness, pushing her into staged conflicts with Israeli soldiers from when she was 10, deliberately putting her at real risk on a weekly basis for years – long before she had the ability to discern what was being done to her."
"On the day of the slapping/ kicking incident that led to her facing criminal charges, Ahed's mother pointed one of her cameras at the girl. She told her to speak to the world. And she did. The girl's message was angry, urging anti-Israel violence and more conflict.
"Though published and promoted by advocates of the Israeli cause, what Ahed said in that clip was largely ignored, as if she had said nothing. Its harsh reality was and still is denied."
"They also deny what Ahed symbolizes – identification with the vicious murderers in her own clan, with explosive rage, with a horrifying zealotry that brings people to push their society's innocent children onto the front lines."
Ahlam Tamimi happily recounts how she blew up a supermarket in Jerusalem, in an interview with Kuwaiti television. (Image source: MEMRI video screenshot)
Why, though, are Arabs doing this -- murdering Israeli Jews and sacrificing their own children? Because Palestinians do not have a state of their own? Quite the reverse: it is the precisely the Palestinian Arabs who have repeatedly rejected a two-state solution. Israel has taken multiple steps to make peace with Arabs in the region, but as Palestinian Arabs have been more interested in destroying the Jewish state than building a nation of their own, peaceful coexistence has not been possible.
If Palestinian Arabs are stateless today, it is by their own choice. Their leaders have repeatedly made a conscious decision to expend their energies on wiping Israel from the face of the earth rather than on establishing a state of their own next to Israel. According to a report by Palestinian Media Watch:
"The Palestinian Authority makes no attempt to educate its people towards peace and coexistence with Israel. On the contrary, from every possible platform it repeatedly rejects Israel's right to exist, presents the conflict as a religious battle for Islam, depicts the establishment of Israel as an act of imperialism, and perpetuates a picture of the Middle East, both verbally and visually, in which Israel does not exist at all. Israel's destruction is said to be both inevitable and a Palestinian obligation."
In 2013, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas once again declared his "vision" for a future Palestinian state; it sounds like ethnic cleansing: "In a final resolution, we would not see the presence of a single Israeli - civilian or soldier - on our lands," Abbas said, according to Reuters.
In his article "The 17-year-old terrorist," Michael Dickson documents how Palestinians are incited to Israel- and Jew-hatred in almost every sphere in their lives – at hospitals, schools, as well as cultural, artistic and sports events:
"There are a large number of terrorism-lionizing schools in Gaza and under the Palestinian Authority's control. Dalal Mughrabi was behind the infamous 1978 bus bombing in which 37 Israelis, 10 of them children, were murdered. There is a Dalal Mughrabi school in Gaza, a Dalal Mughrabi High School in Hebron and a Dalal Mughrabi kindergarten in Hebron. What should we assume that students at these supposedly-educational institutions learn about their school's namesake?"
"Why Isn't There a Palestinian State?" is the title of a video by David Brog, Director of Strategic Affairs for Christians United for Israel. In it, he details the history of Palestinian Arabs rejecting the offers to establish a state of their own. According to Brog, Israel, Britain and the UN have offered Palestinian Arabs the opportunity to build their own state on five separate occasions -- in 1936, 1947, 1967, 2000, and 2008.
In 2005, Israel also "unilaterally left Gaza, giving the Palestinians complete control there," says Brog.
"Instead of developing this territory for the good of its citizens, the Palestinians turned Gaza into a terrorist base, from which they have fired thousands of rockets into Israel.
"Each time Israel has agreed to a Palestinian state, the Palestinians have rejected the offer, often violently. So, if you're interested in peace in the Middle East, maybe the answer is not to pressure Israel to make yet another offer of a state to the Palestinians. Maybe the answer is to pressure the Palestinians to finally accept the existence of a Jewish State."
Muslims make up a majority of the population in 49 countries around the world today. There are 21 Arab states across the world (plus the Palestinian Authority and Hamas-ruled Gaza). And there are six recognized Turkic states. But the existence of one Israeli state in ancient Jewish homeland disturbs Erdogan and other extremist Muslims and Jew-haters.
Turkey, however, has never accepted the right to self-rule of any non-Turkish people living in Asia Minor and historic Armenia, which is today eastern Turkey.
Assyrians (fewer than 15,000), Armenians (fewer than 60,000) and Greeks (fewer than 2,000) -- the indigenous peoples of the region -- are now tiny minorities in Turkey. They were either murdered, deported or forced to flee for their lives throughout decades due to discrimination and various pressures. According to the Christian watchdog group Open Doors, "In Turkey, a mixture of Islam and fierce nationalism leads to Christian persecution... The high degree of religious nationalism in Turkish society places incredible pressure on Christians."
During the 1990s, for example, while the war between the Turkish military and the PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party) was escalating, thousands of Assyrians and Yazidis had to leave their ancestral land in southeast Turkey because there was no security or stability in the region anymore.
Yazidis, an indigenous non-Muslim people in the Middle East, say that they have been exposed to 74 genocidal attacks, and that most of these massacres took place under the Ottoman rule. The Yazidi population in southeast Turkey is only around 320, the head of the Yazidi Cultural Foundation, Azad Barış, told Gatestone.
Turkish state authorities have systematically engaged in rewriting history to deny realities and do not permit a free debate on these issues. Kurdish activists who request equal rights either get murdered or languish in jail. Almost one in three members of Turkey's leading Kurdish political party, the HDP, have been detained since 2015, the news website Mesopotamia Agency reported.
In the meantime, Turkey is openly supporting and praising Ahed Tamimi, a brainwashed Palestinian teenaged girl who has incited and engaged in violence, and whose family members have murdered Israeli children. The Turkish government -- with its horrifying human rights record -- is doing what has come to be expected of it: supporting anti-Semites and jihadists that target non-Muslims in the region. Sadly, the only feature that is really shocking is that many self-proclaimed supporters of human rights, such as in the European Union, as well as journalists, support the same Jew-hating murderers and the genocidal ideology behind them.
*Uzay Bulut, a journalist from Turkey, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Gatestone Institute. She is currently based in Washington D.C.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

UK: Boris Johnson Sparks 'Burka-Gate'
Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institute/August 13/18
"I believe that the public will see this for what it is — an internal Conservative party witch hunt instigated by Number Ten against Boris Johnson, who they see as a huge threat." — Tory MP Andrew Bridgen.
"Taken to its logical conclusion, the anti-Johnson brigade's stance would mean that nobody is allowed to offer their view on any matter in case it causes offence. Is that really the kind of country we want to live in? ... We live in a country that used to believe passionately in free speech. As we all know, even when exercised with care and responsibility, free speech can and does offend some people. But timid politicians who take the easy option and prefer not to tell people what they really think about things like the burka are killing this vital right." — Nigel Farage, former leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP).
"Boris Johnson should not apologise for telling the truth.... [female facial masking is] a nefarious component of a trendy gateway theology for religious extremism and militant Islam.... The burka and niqab are hideous tribal ninja-like garments that are pre-Islamic, non-Koranic and therefore un-Muslim. Although this deliberate identity-concealing contraption is banned at the Kaaba in Mecca it is permitted in Britain..." — Taj Hargey, imam at Oxford Islamic Congregation.
Former foreign secretary (and possible future prime minister) Boris Johnson sparked a political firestorm after making politically incorrect comments about the burka and the niqab, the face-covering garments worn by some Muslim women.
The ensuing debate over Islamophobia has revealed the extent to which political correctness is stifling free speech in Britain. It has also exposed deep fissures within the Conservative Party over its future direction and leadership.
In an August 5 essay published by the Daily Telegraph, Johnson argued that he was opposed to Denmark's burka ban because the government should not be telling women what they may or may not wear in public. Johnson wrote:
"What has happened, you may ask, to the Danish spirit of live and let live? If you tell me that the burka is oppressive, then I am with you. If you say that it is weird and bullying to expect women to cover their faces, then I totally agree — and I would add that I can find no scriptural authority for the practice in the Koran. I would go further and say that it is absolutely ridiculous that people should choose to go around looking like letter boxes....
"If a constituent came to my MP's surgery [one-on-one meetings between MPs and their constituents] with her face obscured, I should feel fully entitled... to ask her to remove it so that I could talk to her properly. If a female student turned up at school or at a university lecture looking like a bank robber, then ditto: those in authority should be allowed to converse openly with those that they are being asked to instruct."
The response from senior Conservatives was immediate.
Prime Minister Theresa May said that Johnson "was wrong" in the language he used to describe women who use the burka. She added that Johnson had "clearly caused offense" and demanded that he apologize:
"I do think that we all have to be very careful about the language and terms we use. And some of the terms Boris used describing people's appearance obviously have offended. What's important is do we believe people should have the right to practice their religion and, in the case of women and the burka and niqab, to choose how they dress. I believe women should be able to choose how they dress."
Conservative Party Chairman Brandon Lewis also called for Johnson to apologize, as did a long list of current and former ministers and MPs. Former Attorney General Dominic Grieve threatened to quit the party if Johnson became leader.
Tory peer Mohamed Sheikh, founder of the Conservative Muslim Forum, said that Johnson had "let the genie out of the bottle" and called for Johnson to be removed from the party.
Conservative Member of the House of Lords Sayeeda Warsi — who herself has said that she hopes women in Britain will stop wearing the Islamic face veil within the next 10 or 20 years — accused Johnson of "Islamophobia" and said he should be required to attend diversity training:
"In his Telegraph piece, Johnson was making a liberal argument. He was saying that we shouldn't ban the burqa, as Denmark has done. But his words signaled something else. He said — not only to those Muslim women who veil, but to many more who associate with a faith in which some women do — that you don't belong here....
"He set out a liberal position, but he did it in a very 'alt-right' way. This allowed him to dog-whistle: to say to particular elements of the party that he's tough on Muslims. Yet again, he's trying to have his cake and eat it....
"An apology is now due. But what happens if, as looks likely, it doesn't come? Every time incidents like this occur in the party and there are no consequences, it sends out a clear message that you can get away with Islamophobia.
"As far as Boris Johnson is concerned, this is surely time for the promised diversity training scheme to kick in."
Johnson has refused to apologize, and the Conservative Party has now launched an inquiry into whether Johnson's comments violated its code of conduct, which states that Tory officials and elected representatives must "lead by example to encourage and foster respect and tolerance" and not "use their position to bully, abuse, victimise, harass or unlawfully discriminate against others."
Britain's most senior police officer, Met Police Commissioner Cressida Dick, said that she had consulted hate-crime specialists and determined that Johnson's comments did not break the law:
"I know that many people have found this offensive. I also know that many other people believe strongly that in the whole of the article, what Mr Johnson appears to have been attempting to do was to say that there shouldn't be a ban and that he was engaging in a legitimate debate.
"I spoke last night to my very experienced officers who deal with hate crime and, although we have not yet received any allegation of such a crime, I can tell you that my preliminary view having spoken to them is that what Mr Johnson said would not reach the bar for a criminal offence."
Johnson's supporters jumped to his defense. North East Somerset MP Jacob Rees-Mogg said:
"It's hard to see what he should apologise for. He has defended people's right to wear the burka whilst saying it is an inelegant garment. Neither of those proposals are unreasonable."
Tory MP Andrew Bridgen accused May of orchestrating a politically motivated "witch hunt" against Johnson:
"I believe this is politically motivated, by the internal politics of the Tory party, by politicians who want to humiliate and destroy Boris Johnson. I believe that the public will see this for what it is — an internal Conservative party witch hunt instigated by Number Ten against Boris Johnson, who they see as a huge threat."
In a blog post, Bridgen elaborated:
"Looking at those who have jumped on the bandwagon of protest, the vast majority appear to be ardent Remain campaigners, who still bewildered that the public could have a different viewpoint to them, still seek to lay the blame at their defeat at the door of Boris Johnson. These same people remained stoney silent when lifelong Remainer Ken Clarke enlightened us with his views of the burka: 'I do think it's a most peculiar costume for people to adopt in the 21st century, but that's not to me for decide, when they're not engaged in some serious issue such as giving evidence. That's the bit that I think it's almost impossible to have a proper trial if one of the persons is in a kind of bag'...
"It is clear that this is not about standing up for the rights of Muslim women to wear the burka, if that is what they really want to do? This is about getting Boris. The great irony of all of this is many EU Countries who those criticising Boris are desperate to stay in political union with have in fact banned the burka. Not the fringe countries but France, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria and now Denmark, with a partial ban even in the uber-liberal Netherlands.
"I myself, am the chairman of the All-Party Parliament Group for Uzbekistan, a country which is 90% Muslim, enjoys great religious harmony and interestingly which banned face coverings in 1992.
"Unfortunately, in using this issue as a stick to beat Boris, Theresa May and some of the members of her government have shown themselves to be once again totally out of step with the views of the majority of members of the Conservative Party and indeed of the public as a whole."
The former leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), Nigel Farage, wrote:
"I wonder how many of those who are now jumping up and down calling for Johnson to have the Conservative whip withdrawn [disciplinary measure], or to be expelled from the party altogether, actually read his original Telegraph article which has apparently offended them so much. Had they done so, they would surely remember that he states he does not believe the burka and niqab should be banned in Britain – a ban which is already in full force in EU nations like France, Germany, Denmark, Austria and Belgium.
"Having set out his liberal position, he then augments it by taking up the feminist argument that he thinks it is 'oppressive' to force women to cover their faces in public. For emphasis he offers his opinion that it is 'weird' and 'bullying' to expect them to do so. And then he says it is 'ridiculous' that women should go around 'looking like letter boxes'.
"Absurdly, this opinion has been seized upon as 'Islamophobic' or 'racist'. An essentially liberal commentator is being pilloried for expressing his belief using, what I accept, is rather playful language. But to suggest he should be kicked out of his party is nothing but lunacy. To Boris I say: stand firm...
"Taken to its logical conclusion, the anti-Johnson brigade's stance would mean that nobody is allowed to offer their view on any matter in case it causes offence. Is that really the kind of country we want to live in? Remember – ironically, we are talking in this case about a politician who has stated he thinks it illiberal to ban the burka...
"We live in a country that used to believe passionately in free speech. As we all know, even when exercised with care and responsibility, free speech can and does offend some people. But timid politicians who take the easy option and prefer not to tell people what they really think about things like the burka are killing this vital right.
"By allowing politics to become too PC, they are damaging democracy in such a way that it will be extremely difficult for future generations to repair, ultimately condemning them to a society where nobody is allowed to be honest about anything."
An imam at Oxford Islamic Congregation, Taj Hargey, wrote that Johnson did not go far enough:
"Boris Johnson should not apologise for telling the truth. His evocative analogy is unfortunate but he is justified in reminding everyone that the Wahhabi/Salafi-inspired fad of female facial masking has no Koranic legitimacy. It is, however, a nefarious component of a trendy gateway theology for religious extremism and militant Islam.
"The burka and niqab are hideous tribal ninja-like garments that are pre-Islamic, non-Koranic and therefore un-Muslim. Although this deliberate identity-concealing contraption is banned at the Kaaba in Mecca it is permitted in Britain, thus precipitating security risks, accelerating vitamin D deficiency, endorsing gender-inequality and inhibiting community cohesion.
"It is any wonder that many younger women have internalised this poisonous chauvinism by asserting that it is their human right to hide their faces?
"Johnson did not go far enough. If Britain is to become a fully integrated society then it is incumbent that cultural practices, personal preferences and communal customs that aggravate social division should be firmly resisted."
Rowan Atkinson, a British comedian also known as Mr. Bean, defended Johnson:
"As a lifelong beneficiary of the freedom to make jokes about religion, I do think that Boris Johnson's joke about wearers of the burka resembling letterboxes is a pretty good one. All jokes about religion cause offence, so it's pointless apologising for them. You should really only apologise for a bad joke. On that basis, no apology is required."
A Sky Data Poll published on August 8 found that 60% of Britons surveyed said that it is not racist to compare Muslim women wearing burkas to bank robbers and letter boxes, while 59% were in favor of a burka ban.
An August 1 poll of Tory members by ConservativeHome found that Johnson's popularity had almost quadrupled since he resigned on July 9 after clashing with May over her vision for Brexit. He is now at the top of the list of favored successors to May.
*Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Iran: Military, Mullahs Join Protests With Hidden Agendas
Amir Taheri/ Asharq Al-Awsat/August, 13/18
“We, too, are angry, very angry!” This was the mantra that a surprise uninvited guest brought to a protest gathering the other day in the “holy” city of Mash’had, northeast Iran. The protest, one of hundreds held throughout Iran these days, had expected the usual police crackdown when the uninvited guest arrived accompanied by a dozen armed men. The uninvited guest was General Muhammad Nazari Commander of the Imam Reza Division of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard based close to the “holy” city.
As the protesters tried to absorb their shock the general made a brief speech claiming that the military shared the grievances expressed in thousands of protest marches since last December.
“We, too, can no longer tolerate widespread corruption, crippling inflation and injustice at all levels,” he said.
Had the general acted on an impulse to buy some kudos for himself? Maybe.
However, his bizarre intervention was soon reported by at least four official news agencies run by the IRGC, including FARS. Moreover, his little number was praised as “an act of solidarity with the suffering people” by Ayatollah Alam al-Hoda, the Supreme Guide’s Special Representative in the “holy” city. A few hours later appeared Ayatollah Ibrahim Raisi, the man who had run for President against Hassan Rouhani in 2017. Today, Raisi heads the Imam Reza Foundation- Iran’s second-biggest enterprise after the National Oil Company.
A sign that the military, or at least the IRGC, are reluctant to get sucked into a nationwide protest movement on the wrong side came last December when Chief of Staff Gen. Muhammad Hussein Baqeri announced that his men would not carry weapons in public except on specific missions related to national security. It was up to the ordinary police to deal with such issues as crowd control.
Gen. Baqeri’s colleagues, notably Gen. Muhammad-Ali Aziz-Jaafari, have gone further by adopting an oppositional profile against Rouhani, especially as far as his rapprochement with the United States under President Barack Obama is concerned.
In the past few days, the incident in Mash’had has been repeated in a number of other cities where IRGC officers have turned up at protest gatherings to express their “understanding and sympathy”, at times coupled with virulent attacks on President Hassan Rouhani and his team.
This looks like the traditional Iranian children’s game known as ‘Who was it? It wasn’t me!’ in which players are blindfolded and, running around, hit each other. The trick is for the one who is hit to guess the hitter whose goal is to remain unidentified.
The “Who was it? It wasn’t me!” game has also spread to the Shiite clergy, starting with “Supreme Guide” Ali Khamenei himself. He has encouraged his entourage to spread the message that Khamenei was never hot on Rouhani and did not really support the “nuke deal” concocted by Obama.
“The Supreme Guide always told us not to trust the Americans,” the daily Kayhan keeps saying in its editorials.
Last week, it was the turn of the traditional clergy, not linked to the regime, to also put some blue water between itself and the ruling mullahs. At a ceremony inaugurating a new boulevard in the “holy” city of Qom, Grand Ayatollah Alavi Borujerdi, one of the top candidates for succeeding Grand Ayatollah Ali Muhammad Sistani as the “Supreme Marja’a” of Shiism said he prays for the voice of the suffering people to be heard so that justice could be done.
On Saturday, Ayatollah Hadi Ghaffari, the man who founded the Hezbollah in 1975, broke a long silence to implicitly urge talks with the US. He claimed that the late Ayatollah Khomeini had not been opposed to negotiations with Washington and that " the peace of Imam Hassan", the second Imam of Shiism, could serve as a model for any future dialogue with the Trump administration. He said " wise heads" should intervene to prevent Iran from sharing the fate of Libya.
More interestingly, according to well-placed sources, the top ayatollahs of Najaf and Qom have ignored a demand by Khamenei to call for an end to protests.
Yesterday, some mullahs went even further by holding their own protest gathering in Tehran. The gathering, held at the Marwi Theological School, attracted an estimated 300 mullahs and students of theology and was addressed by Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Esrahd, the theologian who heads the Shiite seminary (howzah) in the capital.
In his sermon (khotbah), Ershad claimed that theologians and students of theology were “among the poorest strata in our society”. He then called for “corrupt officials” to be executed in accordance with “revolutionary principles.”
Among theologians carried and chanted by the mullahs were “Plunderers of public treasure must be put to death!” and “clergy are on the side of the people.”
On Friday, a similar message came from Ayatollah Imami Kashani who led the mass prayer gathering in Tehran: the core of the regime is sound, what is needed is a change of administrators, which means ending Rouhani’s tenure!
Scapegoating Rouhani for the economic meltdown, diplomatic isolation and looming American sanctions is not confined to the military and the clergy.
“Rouhani is finished,” says Adullah Nasseri who was chief adviser to former President Muhammad Khatami. Last week Khatami himself broke a long silence to also implicitly brand Rouhani as a spent force. In its latest issue, the periodical Iranian Diplomacy, published by a close relative of Khamenei, has also published an article describing Rouhani’s presidency as a failure. The writer, Sadeq Maleki, is a former senior diplomat close to Khatami.
Completing the circle has been former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In a statement posted on social media, he claims that he, too, is on the side of the protesters and calls on Rouhani as well as Ali Ardeshir Larijani, Speaker of the Islamic Majlis, and his brother Sadeq, the Chief Justice, to resign.
While the hardline military and clerical factions believe that presenting Rouhani’s head on a platter might calm down the simmering popular turmoil, the president and the diminishing number of his supporters hope to keep him in place amid a fog of speculation about a putative meeting with US President Donald Trump in New York in September on the margins of the UN General Assembly.
Rouhani has said he is ready to talk to Trump without any preconditions provided but would need some sign of goodwill. “The Tehran leadership is divided and confused,” says Nasser Zamani, a Tehran analyst. “As always in the past four decades, what the US does could have a determining effect on what happens in the power struggle in Tehran. “Usually successive US administrations backed factions they regarded as moderate, and each time they lost. This time it seems trump wouldn’t do so as he is looking for anyone who could deliver what he wants.”

Greek Spat Exposes Putin's Waning Clout in European Backyard
Irina Reznik, Henry Meyer and Stepan Kravchenko/Bloomberg/August 13/18
When Greece, traditionally among Russia’s closest friends in Europe, expelled two Russian diplomats last month for trying to wreck a deal with the neighboring Republic of Macedonia, it exposed Moscow’s deepening frustration at President Vladimir Putin’s loss of influence in a key strategic region.
Russia’s being squeezed out of the Balkans by the expansion of the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, leaving the Kremlin with diminishing clout in southeastern Europe. There’s little chance of reversing that trend, according to four people in Moscow familiar with its Balkans policy.
“NATO membership of course is bad for us,” said Leonid Reshetnikov, a former head of Russian foreign intelligence who also served as an agent in Greece and the Balkans. “What can we do? They are clearing this territory” of rival influences, he said.
Russia’s deep historical and cultural ties to the Balkans made the region a preserve of pro-Moscow sentiment that ensured warmer relations than with much of the rest of Europe. Now Balkan states are becoming bound in with the West as they gravitate toward the EU and NATO.
Even amid divisions within the EU and questions raised by President Donald Trump about the US commitment to its NATO allies, the blocs still exert a strong pull in the region with their promises of rising trade and living standards, strengthened rule of law and security guarantees. Russia’s shrinking geopolitical reach is a historic setback for Putin, even as the Kremlin leader’s global power appears to be on the march, from Syria to meddling in US politics.
“Russia is acting pretty passively,’’ said Alexander Dugin, a nationalist thinker and one-time Kremlin adviser who promotes a vision of Russian dominance across Europe and Eurasia. “It needs a plan of action.”
Greek Expulsions
Greece expelled the Russian envoys after accusing them of bribing officials in an attempt to block the accord that settles a dispute over the Republic of Macedonia’s name and allows it to start talks on NATO membership. Russia’s foreign ministry accused Athens of joining in “dirty provocations,” prompting a Greek demand that “the constant disrespect for Greece must stop.”
Russia on Monday summoned the Greek ambassador to inform him that the foreign ministry was retaliating with reciprocal diplomatic measures in response to the expulsions.
Under the deal with Athens, the Republic of Macedonia will become the Republic of North Macedonia after Greece objected that the former Yugoslav republic’s title implied a territorial claim on its province with the same name.
‘Derail It’
Greece is “fully determined” to ratify the agreement, said Costas Douzinas, a member of the ruling Syriza party and head of the parliamentary committee on defense and foreign relations. “If the Russians continue to attempt to derail it, the reaction will be strong.”
Even the pro-Russian Independent Greeks party, the junior coalition partner in Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s government, accuses Moscow of meddling, even as it opposes the accord. There’s “first-hand information that there was Russian interference in Greek matters,” the party’s vice president, Panos Sgouridis, said by phone. “It’s crucial that Greece’s national sovereignty is protected.”
The Republic of Macedonia plans to hold a referendum on Sept. 30. The deal is opposed by President Gjorge Ivanov, while Prime Minister Zoran Zaev has accused unnamed Greek businessmen sympathetic to Russia of inciting protests against it.
Last month, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, a consortium of investigative reporters, cited the Republic of Macedonia’s Interior Ministry documents as saying that Greek-Russian billionaire Ivan Savvidis paid 300,000 euros to opponents of the accord. A representative for Savvidis denied the claim.
‘Enemies of Russia’
The former Yugoslav republic “will be in NATO,” said Frants Klintsevich, a member of the defense and security committee in Russia’s upper house of parliament. Moscow views the expansion of the alliance as reinforcing “the circle of enemies around Russia,” he said.
The tensions follow accusations by Montenegro that Russia was behind a failed coup attempt during 2016 parliamentary elections in a bid to derail its entry into the U.S.-led military alliance last year. Two Russian intelligence officers are among 14 people charged with the plot by Montenegrin prosecutors. Russia denies any involvement.
Konstantin Malofeev, a wealthy Russian businessman and Putin ally, who’s been sanctioned by the EU for backing insurgents in eastern Ukraine and has cultivated links to far-right parties in Europe, warned ominously of a backlash in Greece. A June opinion poll in Greece showed almost 70 percent of Greeks opposed the agreement with the Republic of Macedonia.
Serbia Shift
Russia’s sometimes heavy-handed efforts to stem the West’s growing influence have provoked alarm, particularly after the 2014 annexation of Crimea and support for rebels fighting in eastern Ukraine. Moscow’s fear is that it may be left without partners in the region.
Albania and Croatia are NATO members, while Bosnia and Herzegovina says it wants to join, though Bosnian Serbs with ties to Russia threaten to block any attempt. Even Russia’s closest regional ally, Serbia, has joined NATO’s Partnership for Peace cooperation program. Meanwhile, the EU has dangled the prospect of membership as early as 2025 for Serbia and five other Balkans states.Ranged against Russia are the US and its European allies. US Vice President Mike Pence spoke by phone to Tsipras and Zaev on July 5. He later tweeted that “successful implementation’’ of the agreement “will open the door to European integration’’ for the Republic of Macedonia. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said July 30 that it’s in the EU’s “strategic interest” to expand into the western Balkans. “It will be a very big blow” for Russia if Serbia, which NATO forces bombed in 1999 during the Kosovo crisis, eventually joins the alliance, said Nikita Bondarev, a Balkans expert from the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, which advises the Kremlin. “We will become almost friendless in southeastern Europe.”

The Reason to Worry When Public Companies Disappear

Noah Smith/Bloomberg/August 13/18
Public corporations are an odd hybrid institution. They’re not really public in the sense of the government having a stake in them -- they’re privately owned companies that follow government standards for financial reporting. In theory, this transparency makes them suitable for the public to invest in.
Again in theory, this confers at least two benefits on a company. Financial transparency and adherence to strict government standards should raise investors’ confidence, making them more willing to invest, and thus provide businesses with capital. At the same time, exposure to public scrutiny should discipline corporate managers; if they make a bad strategic decision, their company’s stock will fall, while if they succeed, it will rise. Eugene Fama, the Nobel prize-winning financial economist, likened the horde of investors to a swarm of piranhas, just waiting to pounce on any bit of information about a company’s value, and bidding the stock price up or down appropriately.
Public markets are also supposed to be good for the public. If ownership of corporations is open to large numbers of investors, the bounty of capital income should be distributed more widely. And although it’s relatively rare, public markets theoretically allow investors to hedge their personal risks -- if you work for General Motors Co., you can buy Toyota Motor Corp.’s stock as a hedge against the possibility that Toyota outcompetes GM. So the institution of public markets represents a complex, unwieldy compromise that serves many purposes at once, making it susceptible to break down. In fact, this seem to be happening, at least in the US. As economist Rene Stulz and others have noted, the number of publicly listed companies in the U.S. fell from 4,943 in 1976 to just 3,627 in 2016. Relative to population size, that’s almost a 50 percent drop.
Why is this happening? One reason is that public companies are getting much bigger -- the average market capitalization of a listed company increased by about a factor of 10 during the past four decades, even after accounting for inflation. Stulz attributes this to the rise of intangible assets -- the technology, know-how, brand recognition and other invisible secret sauce that top companies use to muscle out their less productive competitors. The fall in the number of public companies might therefore be part of the US economy’s overall trend toward concentration.
Another reason is that thanks to new technology, new regulation and changes in the structure of financial markets, there is now more incentive for companies to avoid the public markets. The rise of private equity and the shift toward institutional investors like mutual funds means that companies are finding it easier than ever to raise capital without submitting to the harsh sunlight of public-market reporting requirements. Businesses like SharesPost and NASDAQ Private Market have made it a lot easier to trade privately held shares. And the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, enacted in the wake of corporate accounting scandals in the early 2000s, has increased the personal risk to corporate executives who take their companies public. And staying private can help far-sighted executives plan for the long-term, unencumbered by the pressures of public-market investors focused on the next quarterly earnings report.
Because of the increased burden of going public and the increased ease of staying private, more companies are choosing to stay out of the limelight. Behemoths like Uber Technologies Inc. have grown to enormous size without going public (though it plans to IPO in 2019). Just recently, electric car maker Tesla Motors Inc. said that it’s considering going private.
The shift to private markets is worrying, given all the functions public markets perform. But there are reasons to believe that public markets weren’t doing their job as well as they are supposed to.
The theory that public markets would steer companies toward maximum profitability has been found wanting. Statistical analysis shows that public-market investors overlook plenty of important information in companies’ public filings. Public markets are rife with inefficiencies, and are prone to bubbles and busts. That swarm of piranhas can often act more like a blundering herd of cattle. Meanwhile, public markets haven’t been doing a great job of spreading the wealth around. Stocks are mostly owned by the rich, while the middle class has kept most of its wealth in bricks and mortar.
Of course, all of these problems may be even worse in the private markets. The difficulty of short-selling private shares means that there will be less of a check on bloated valuations. Private companies’ disclosures can be less informative than those of public companies, meaning potential investors are sometimes left blundering in the dark. And middle-class investors can only access private shares through intermediaries like private-equity firms and mutual funds, which will keep big cuts for themselves. The best way to avoid a further deterioration in the efficiency of American capitalism is to improve the effectiveness of public markets. Policy makers should focus on finding ways to broaden stock ownership to the middle class. They should reduce onerous regulations for public companies by reforming Sarbanes-Oxley to reduce the personal risk of operating a public company, and increase reporting requirements for private companies above a certain size and age. And they should work to reduce the exorbitant fees that middle-class investors pay to own stocks. Fixing public markets is the best way to avoid a shift to even less egalitarian, less efficient private markets.

‘Do Not Set the Trap of the Past for Me’

Ghassan Charbel/Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper/August 13/18
“Let us not talk about memories. Do not set a trap for me. I will not fall for it. I respect your love for your profession, but we have different calculations – rather conflicting ones. You want an interesting discussion to publish it with an alluring headline in Asharq Al-Awsat and you have the right to try. It is the professional journalist’s right to relentlessly try to fish for stories and I, unfortunately, have many of them. “I have read some of your interviews, including those with men I worked with in the army, party and state. Their stories have strengthened my convictions that I should take mine to the grave, which is not very far at my age.
“I know the questions running in your mind before you ask them. You want my answers so that the reader can compare them with the stories told by other players – either friend or foe. You say: ‘It is my duty towards the truth and history to recount what I know and say that I was part of or witness to it.’ Some parts of that history were bloody and exhausted entire nations. You know that I used to be described as brave, harsh and reckless. I tell you frankly, I am ashamed and afraid of speaking out.
“I had hoped to see my country living in prosperity and stability now. I had hoped to boast of my successes or accomplishments had I had any. I had hoped to set an example for future generations. Believe me, we are men of a painful past and we should hide in the shadows along with it.
“You are trying to lure me into talking because you believe that I am culpable. I do not blame you for your conviction. I, along with my colleagues, have committed mistakes and sins, the guilt of which cannot be alleviated by the fact they were perpetrated under the delusions of young dreams. Yes, we contributed in turning our countries into piles of rubble at a time when we dreamed of power and unity and of awakening the ummah and restoring its grandeur and status among nations.
“I know exactly what you will ask me and who you will ask me about. The names of my friends are enough to pique the interest of the journalist and reader, but reopening old wounds will not at all stop the terrible downward spiral of our countries. The names of my friends are interesting and scary. They are Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr and Saddam Hussein. Ali Saleh al-Saadi and Hazem Jawad. You can add to them Abdulkarim Qassem and Abdulsalam Arif. I also know that you want to ask me about Michel Aflaq, Amin al-Hafez and Hafez al-Assad.
“I do not deny that I was present and a participant. I know that you will ask me about Qassem’s ouster and the story of his execution. You will also ask me about his rivalry with Arif and how he dealt him the fatal blow when he had the chance. You will certainly ask me about the bloodshed between the Baathists and Communists, about the Baath’s return in 1968 and how a shy young man named Saddam Hussein rose among the ranks to become commander and president and only man capable of running the country.
“I am ashamed to recount my memories. I am afraid that my grandchildren or their children might read them. I am afraid that they will discover that we left them a country plagued with deception, a country that is no sooner done with one massacre that it commits another. A country that constantly lives on the brink of civil war or in one. A country that chews up its sons and pushes them to the grave or exile or to live in constant terror.
“You should never be led to believe that we were foreign agents, opportunists or hungry for power and violence. You can, however, easily conclude that we were young and did not know the world or even our own countries. We were under the illusion that seizing the radio was enough to change a country. That having a party control everything was sacrosanct and that this, in turn, permitted it to kill opponents. That it was our right to send protesters to the gallows or leave them to rot in jails, where they were left to long for a swift death to escape the hell of torture.
“I do not deny to you that I feel shame when I witness starving Iraqis, who are living over fields of oil, while corruption lays waste to their resources, sovereignty and dignity. I feel shame when the Iraqis protest in demand for electricity. When I hear the Sunni complaints over demographic change. When I hear the Kurds say that they will continue to be oppressed regardless of who is ruling Iraq. I feel pain when I see Iraq unable to form a government except after it receives the approval of the American ambassador or Qassem Soleimani.
“I had hoped to wait for my death in my house in Baghdad, surrounded by my children and grandchildren. I had hoped to have a normal grave in a normal country. Would Iraq be the way it is now had we worked on establishing a normal state? Would Syria have exploded the way it did had we worked on establishing a normal state there? We should not forget that our policies and meddling led to the implosion of Lebanon, which was an Arab garden of coexistence and prosperity. We should not forget that Yasser Arafat suffered at the hands of his brothers, which forced him to accept the unacceptable.
“I do not hide to your that I envy normal countries. Countries that do not need a historic leader. Countries that spend on education and universities much more than on security agencies and developing instruments of torture. Countries that choose internal coexistence and external cooperation.
“Do not set a trap for me. I will not recount my memories. What scares me is that the alternatives were also failures. What we committed was no less severe than what the oppressors did. We dreamed of a one nation that championed an eternal message. What we got instead were human slaughterhouses where foreign armies and militias roam free. There can be no future for the Arabs without a normal state, but this is unlikely to happen any time soon.”

US-Turkey Relations Will Never Be the Same
Therese Raphael/Bloomberg/August 13/18
There are only two ways that the diplomatic rift between the US and Turkey can end: a compromise that salvages the relationship as best possible, or a complete rupture with devastating consequences both for Turkey's economy and America's regional strategic interests. Either way, there is no going back to the way things were. The arrest in Turkey of American pastor Andrew Brunson nearly two years ago has led to a diplomatic spat that threatens a full-blown economic meltdown in Turkey. Brunson, along with many foreign nationals that were detained in the wake of the failed 2016 coup attempt, has been accused of "supporting terrorism." A deal for Brunson's release seemed likely as Turkish officials traveled to Washington this week, but fell apart apparently over last-minute Turkish demands.
Meanwhile, tensions have ratcheted up. The Trump administration has imposed sanctions on Turkey's interior and justice ministers. Erdogan threatened retaliation and got the support of most of the Turkish opposition. On Wednesday, Stars and Stripes reported that a group of pro-government lawyers in Turkey have filed charges against several US officers at the Incirlik Air Base, accusing them too of ties to terrorist groups. They are demanding all flights leaving the base be temporarily suspended and a search warrant be executed.
The standoff is partly the accumulation of years of resentment, despite the pretenses of a faithful partnership. Turkey's once-unassailable support among US foreign policy leaders, and in Congress, has been weakened by years of authoritarian creep, a worsening human rights record and cooperation with Russia and Iran in Syria. Turkey's plans for a $2 billion purchase of Russian-made S-400 surface-to-air missiles, which NATO has said are incompatible with allied systems and restrictions on American use of the Incirlik Air Base, haven't gone down well. The feeling is mutual. Erdogan has never quite recovered from his anger at the way his allies seemed to sit on the fence in the hours after an attempted coup was announced in July 2016.
The Turkish leader is also furious at American support for the Kurdish militia fighting Islamic State in northern Syria. Earlier this year, he threatened American troops with an "Ottoman slap" if the US tried to block Turkey's military incursion into northwest Syria.
One major source of contention has been the US refusal to turn over the Pennsylvania-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, a one-time Erdogan ally and now an enemy, whom Erdogan alleges was behind the coup and other attempts to undermine him. Trump's abandonment of the Iran nuclear deal is another sore point; nearly half of Turkey's oil imports come from Iran, and the re-imposition of sanctions against Iran hurts Turkey's economy.
The Brunson case made all of that impossible to ignore, as US evangelicals took up the cause. But "impossible to ignore" is not to say that the Trump administration has become a principled defender of human rights in Turkey. Far from it. Trump, whose name adorns luxury properties in Turkey, expressed only praise for Erdogan when they met in 2017. When Erdogan's supporters and guards attacked protesters in Washington, the affair was handled quietly.The administration has been silent on other arrests of US and foreign nationals in Turkey. But it was ready to strike a deal for Brunson's release. The U.S. had already asked Israel to release Ebru Ozkan, a Turkish national who was arrested there on suspicion of aiding Hamas (Israel deported her the day after Trump called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu). The Trump administration was also reportedly ready to allow Hakan Atilla, a former top executive of state-owned Halkbank, convicted for violating Iran sanctions, to serve out the rest of his prison sentence in Turkey. The deal was scuppered, reportedly, when Turkey wanted relief on a multibillion-dollar fine against Halkbank and an assurance that any investigations be dropped.
The US can afford to play a longer game. The June 24 election may have strengthened Erdogan's power further, but he didn't win by a Putin-sized margin. (Erdogan cleared just over 52 percent, and that's if we all agree to ignore the voting irregularities that presumably bolstered his numbers.) Turkey is divided politically, and the longer Erdogan rules by coercion, the more vulnerable he may become, especially if Turkey's economy continues to suffer. As the main barometer of confidence in the country, the lira's decline speaks volumes.
Even so, a diplomatic solution is clearly preferable to continued escalation. Erdogan is sacrificing the Turkish economy in order to keep Brunson as a bargaining chit. A fractured relationship with the US will also put a strain on Turkey's EU relationships and will give investors, already spooked, even more pause.
American support for Turkey doesn't crumble in a day. The relationship is baked into ties on multiple levels, both inside and outside government, and for good reason. As Asli Aydintasbas and Kemal Kirisci argue in an April 2017 Brookings paper, however bad it looks, Turkey is crucial: Without Turkey, it is difficult to see how a rule-based US-led world order could be sustained in this region, and how a successful policy on containing chaos in the Middle East could be envisioned. Similarly, there are arguably no Muslim-majority nations apart from Turkey that can serve as a bridge with the Western world or achieve the democratic standards, to which Turks have grown accustomed and, inadvertently or not, still expect. And yet, it has definitely changed, thanks not so much to national interests, but to failings in leadership. The US will have to settle for something less loyal, less an alliance and more a transactional relationship. But then that seems to define these times pretty aptly.

‘The snake’s head’ and the Khobar bombing
Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran/Al Arabiya/August 13/18
The revolutionary Khomeinist movement succeeded in reviving many fundamentalist movements. After Khomeini's arrival in Tehran, Bin Laden described Khomeini as "great”, wishing to achieve a similar dream in Saudi Arabia.
Starting in the 1980s, Bin Laden gained knowledge from the experiences of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, Hezbollah and Imad Mughniyah who later become an ally for assisting in bombings, including the Khobar operation in 1996.
The cooperation between Iran, its branches, affiliates and Al-Qaeda is familiar to Americans. When Saudi Arabia insisted on conducting an investigation into the circumstances of the bombing, a long story unfolded, as recounted by Prince Bandar bin Sultan. He bitterly narrated the suspicious deal between the Clinton team and Iran to tamper with the investigation and kill it after leads showed Iran's explicit involvement in supporting the perpetrators of the bombings in question.
Clinton appointed then-FBI director Louis Freeh to cooperate with the Saudis to complete the investigation, and told him “to leave no stone unturned”.
If the world is serious about combating terrorism, then fighting and besieging evil states should be the first step towards achieving this goal.
Iran’s hand in Khobar blast
William Simpson in his book ‘The Prince’, which is a biography of Prince Bandar, reveals the complications that occurred, including the dispute between the Clinton administration and the FBI. This is in addition to the hesitation due to the legal jurisdiction of the FBI’s work outside the US. He differentiated between the National Guard bombings and the Khobar bombings and noted that the latter’s victims were Americans, hence, as much as it violates Saudi sovereignty and security, American families need a clear result after the investigation.
According to Simpson, Freeh noted two important findings; the discovery of Iranian involvement at the highest levels made the kingdom subject to retaliate against due to any action taken against Iran, even more than the United States. The second thing is that the Saudis approved of legal procedures to record the statements and the evidence provided by witnesses in Saudi Arabia in the presence of American prosecutors, the lawyer of the accused, and an American judge, and to take this material to the United States and use them in any American trial.
What is shocking about the whole issue is that Freeh himself admitted that the bombing was not just an attack perpetrated by Hezbollah Al-Hejaz, but was a whole operation financed and carried out by the senior leadership of the Iranian government from abroad.
Freeh admits that Saudi Arabia succeeded against all odds to extensively complete the investigation. Freeh stated that Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz and Prince Bandar bin Sultan were confident of Iran being behind the bombings.
A disagreement then occurred between Freeh and Sandy Berger, the former National Security Adviser. The latter warned against political repercussions on the United States if the investigation results accuse Iran. Prince Bander responded by saying: "We do not want to be accused of pushing you into war”.
The whole administration was in line with Sandy's position. A lengthy narration of details by Simpson about what Prince Bandar said, showed that it became clear in 1997 that the US administration was lenient in its investigation, choosing to go cold. He said that the administration intentionally left the investigation unanswered, while it focused its efforts on improving ties with Iran’s moderate government.
The cover-up
The Saudis felt coldness on the part of the Americans when the investigation proved the involvement of Iran. As for Saudi ambassador to the United States Prince Bandar, he said: "If George W. Bush or Reagan was instead of Clinton and I provide the evidence we had submitted to the US administration, Iran would have been invaded. I am certain of that."
Delaying the investigation results and killing them off was the major path in which Clinton issued a statement in April 1999 extending a hand to Iran. The US decided that dealing as such with the investigation was up to it since the victims were all Americans. Freeh’s case was thus crushed. Prince Bandar bitterly commented on this ominous deal, stating: "I and Freeh felt the worst abuse of power. Sandy pushed towards aborting all charges and was glad that no one had known, therefore: (Keep your mouth shut).”
Simpson also said that weakening the investigation regarding the Khobar Towers bombing is the most obvious example of the long mistrust and deep-seated hostility between Clinton and Freeh, adding that the hostility turned into a deep divide and the White House was cold about following up on the Khobar case.
This brief summary, extensively narrated in the book, shows the extent of hit and run between the international community and Iran. The latter has been rewarded for carrying out catastrophic terrorist operations. Clinton delayed the investigation in the Khobar bombings and Obama turned his back on his main allies and engaged in flattering Iran, the primary passage of all forms of terrorism around the world.
What’s more alarming is Hassan Nasrallah boasting that Hezbollah was offered a deal worth a billion-dollar by the Obama administration through a European mediator. All this has happened and then the world wonders about the source of terrorism and the reason behind its perpetual spread!
Iran today has militias in Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and Africa, and which it directly funds without any deterrence. If the world is serious about combating terrorism, then fighting and besieging evil states should be the first step towards achieving this goal. This information shows the extent of the catastrophe in terms of how the world's major powers are dealing with Iran.
Vali Nasr, a former adviser during the Obama administration, narrated in one of his books that in a frank argument with the president, late King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz angrily said to him: “Cut off the snake's head”.

Alarm bells are sounding from Jordan and Egypt
Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/August 13/18
he ISIS attack on a security patrol in Fuheis in Jordan and the other ISIS attack on an Egyptian church in Shubra El Kheima in the Qalyubia Governorate bring focus again on the continuity of the battle or rather the big open war with these black groups.
Jordanian King Abdullah II said: “We will punish anyone who dares harm Jordan’s security and its citizens’ safety. We will fight the Khawarij and mercilessly strike them and with all power and decisiveness.”
His statement came while heading a National Policy Council meeting at Al Husseiniya Palace to follow up on the terror attack which targeted a joint patrol of gendarmerie and general security in Fuheis and on the raid on the involved terror cell in the city of Salt and which led to the death of a number of security forces’ personnel.
The ISIS suicide bomber in Egypt, who is in his 20s, was blown up by his evil suicide belt before his devilish footsteps reached the church’s steps to attack innocent lives. The war against ISIS has not ended, and it also did not end against Al-Qaeda and the groups which branched from these devilish organizations; they are a permanent problem - not temporary. Even if they are temporary, it does not mean we should surrender to them and to their influence on the minds of some evil or deceived men, and it means that the ideological, media, political, legal and, of course, security war must go on. This war must continuously operate while extending its efforts without any laziness or delusional reliance of victory. The war against ISIS has not ended, and it also did not end against Al-Qaeda and the groups which branched from these devilish organizations; they are a permanent problem - not temporary. It’s true that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, as it calls itself, or the practical and organizational entity was deterred in its Syrian and Iraqi positions but even if it calls itself a state, it’s in the end a mutation of Islamized groups and a fruit of the Qutbist-Brotherhood Al Zaqqum Tree. The confrontation against these groups has been ongoing for around 70 years, ever since the secret Brotherhood group carried out assassinations and explosions during the era of King Farouk and until today. Yes, there are regional intelligence political uses of ISIS and al-Qaeda but the origin is the fatal sick ideology. In short, protecting public health is non-stop continuous work to shield from old and new diseases, and the same applies to the diseases of the mind and the soul. Jordan’s and Egypt’s alarm bells alert to this.

China-USA trade war: August trial balloons going nowhere
Dr. Mohamed A. Ramady/Al Arabiya/August 13/18
Recent headlines were dominated by the tough rhetoric and aggressive Chinese official media editorials that included vows to dig in for a protracted trade war with the US, even at the expense of the country’s short term economic interests if need be. But through the tough rhetoric, Beijing remained keen on de-escalating the trade war with the US and was looking to float a proposal that could give Trump a valuable, even if partial, political victory on trade before the November mid-term elections. The president desperately needs this given the inroads that the Democratic Party is making.
Beijing may be ready to provide assurances, one more time, that it will reduce the total trade surplus with the US by an agreed amount. But any agreement from Beijing would not include concessions on China’s strategic drive towards dominance in technologies including robotics, artificial intelligence, and 5G telecommunications networks. This the Trump administration might find hard to swallow.
Some believe that this new Chinese offer was nothing more for the moment than a trial balloon to feel the Trump Administration out. With November US elections in mind, Beijing felt the time may be ripe, perhaps by the middle or end of August, to give it another try. But the opposite has been the American reaction - President Trump chose to go and imposed tariffs on the next $200 billion tranche of imports from China, with China’s Central Financial and Economic Affairs Commission responding by agreeing on a series of measures in response.
Those would include retaliatory tariffs, at four different rates, on $60 billion of imports from the US, as well as the active targeting of “less cooperative” American companies operating in China, in attempts to further drive a wedge between corporate America, Congress, and President Trump.
The Chinese seemed to be at a quandary. If assurances from Beijing that it will reduce the trade surplus with the US by an agreed amount may seem awfully similar to a proposal that was floated earlier in May of this year to reduce China’s surplus by $200 billion - and rejected at the time for being too vague and incomplete – it is. The new trial balloons had taken US domestic politics into consideration. The assumption in Beijing was that as the calendar approaches the November mid-term elections, the Trump White House, looking to latch onto a trade victory, could now be more open to taking some “wins,” even if incomplete, while leaving a host of unresolved items open to be settled later.
In the process that partial win would leave some of the thornier - yet politically popular – IP and technology transfer battles alive through the second half of President Trump’s term. And even while the President – and his economic advisors - continue to relish in their fight with China, invoking the strong hand of the US at campaign rallies around the Midwest, many Republican Congressional candidates up for re-election are far less sanguine.
In the meantime, Beijing will continue to refuse to concede - even as it reaches out - that it is responding to pressure, or to any signs of weakness in the economy or markets. President Xi will be portrayed as simply playing along with a Trump negotiating tactic template that has been seen already in the North Korea nuclear negotiations, and then again in the EU trade talks, where Trump, it will be said, “manufactures a crisis,” and then stages a dramatic resolution that changes nothing. Even more, claims will be made that beyond the immediate threats, Trump‘s policies are actually good for China’s strategic interests - to wit his pulling out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations that had excluded China, his singling out of Japan, and his clear desire to withdraw troops from the Korean peninsula.
Asian sphere of influence
Like the North Koreans, when Trump signals he is ready to move, China will then make a major "concession" in the trade negotiations, giving Trump a pre-midterm "victory" on trade – be it out of pressure, or clever negotiations. In the meantime, the Chinese had a raft of their own countermeasures which included the imposition of immediate tariffs, at four different rates, on 5,207 items of US imports worth $60 billion, as well as targeted efforts to drive a wedge between US companies that cooperate with Beijing, and those that do not. In a clever move to optimise on some American companies discomfort with these expanding trade wars, the Chinese government has let it be known that it welcomes and continues supporting American companies that are friendly to China, whereby they adhere to China’s industrial policies, and oppose Trump’s trade protectionism.
But there is also a Chinese stick. On the other hand, the government will strengthen supervision over, and block the expansion of American companies operating in China that have complained to the US government over technology transfers and the theft of intellectual property by China, while “failing” to have ever informed Chinese authorities of such transgressions.
As for Asian sphere of influence and positioning China against the United States in the future, the Chinese have made their intentions very clear by willing to take a leadership role towards meeting an extremely ambitious timetable for signing by year-end a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) that is being negotiated between sixteen Asian countries. Representing half the world’s population - China, all ten ASEAN countries, plus Japan, South Korea, India, Australia, and New Zealand - the 16 nation RCEP discussions were initiated as a regional alternative to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement that was scuppered last year by the Trump administration, and pointedly this time around includes China, but not the United States. The question for the Middle East and Gulf countries, is on whose tailcoat they want to ride in the future?