August 18/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them
Matthew 18/15-20: ""‘If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax-collector. Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.’""
Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on August 17-18/18
Special Tribunal for Lebanon to hear closing arguments in SeptemberظAnnahar Staff /Annahar/August 17/18
Old wine faces new challenges/Jacob Boswall/Annahar/August 17/18
Trump and Putin Agree That Iran Needs to Pull Out of Syria, Says U.S. Official/Amir Tibon/Haaretz/August 17/18
IDF kills two Palestinians on the Gaza border/Raanan Ben Zur, Matan Tzuri, Yoav Ziton, and Elior Levy/Ynetnews/August 17/18
Egypt: Sisi Approves Law on Granting Citizenship to Foreigners/Waleed Abdul Rahman/Asharq Al-Awsat/August 17/18
Against Identity Politics/The New Tribalism and the Crisis of Democracy/Francis Fukuyama/Foreign Affairs/August 17/18
Trump just took us another step closer to the abyss/David Ignatius/Washington Post/August 17/18
Who is Behind Iran’s Debacle in the Caspian Sea/Amir Taheri/Asharq Al-Awsat/August,17/18
US Stagnating Wages Don’t Tell the Whole Story/Ramesh Ponnuru/Bloomberg/August 17/18
With One Eye on Syria, Israel Reluctantly Seeks Gaza Truce/David Wainer/Bloomberg/August 17/18
Being Pro-Muslim in a Complicated World/Denis MacEoin/Gatestone Institute/August 17/18
Turkey won’t give up Russia ties to make up with US/Maria Dubovikova/Arab News/August 17/18
Mr. Abadi, there’s no time to fool us/Adnan Hussein/Al Arabiya/August 17/18
The Algerian sheikh who is disliked by Juhayman/Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/August 17/18
Obituary: Former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee, a distinctive stamp on Indian politics/C. Uday Bhaskar/Al Arabiya/August 17/18
Turkey Sanctions: Navigating a Historic Bilateral Crisis/Amanda Sloat, Max Hoffman, and Steven A. Cook/The Washington Institute/August 17/18
Iran Is Throwing a Tantrum but Wants a Deal/Dennis Ross/Foreign Policy/August 17/18

Titles For The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on August 17-18/18
Lebanon: Battered Businesses Close to Shutting Down
Prince Khalid bin Salman Shows Evidence on 'Hezbollah' Support to Houthis
Aoun Says Move to Install Private Generator Meters 'Fair for All'
Berri: Hariri’s Stance on Syria Ties Impractical
Berri Blasts 'Time Wasting' on Govt., Decries Power Ships, Generators
Hariri Meets Bukhari
Rahi, Ibrahim Meet, Discuss Refugees File, Stress Need to Lineup Govt.
Kanaan Slams 'Hesitation', Urges 'Priorities Govt.'
Mashnouq Meets Brazilian Official: Defense, Security Agreement Underway
Special Tribunal for Lebanon to hear closing arguments in September
Hakim Draws Comparison with U.S. in Wake of Costly Military Parade Postponement
Lebanon Ranked Among Countries with Worst Electricity Supply
Old wine faces new challenges

Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on August 17-18/18
Trump and Putin Agree That Iran Needs to Pull Out of Syria, Says U.S. Official
IDF kills two Palestinians on the Gaza border
US Creates Action Group to Contain Iran’s Behavior
Iran’s Ethnic, Religious Minorities Face Persecution, Sectarian Discrimination
Netanyahu Boosts Military Budget
Netanyahu Questioned again Over Alleged Graft
Turkey Says Will Respond if U.S. Imposes More Sanctions
Differences on Idlib Overthrow Syria’s Four-Way Meeting
US Suspends Financing for Syria Stabilization Projects
Saudi Arabia Says It's Given $100 Million to Northeast Syria
Bloomberg: Egypt Transformed Into Haven for Debt Investors
Egypt: Sisi Approves Law on Granting Citizenship to Foreigners
Iraq Executes 6 People, Including Syrian, in Terror Cases
Iraq says its warplanes hit IS targets in Syria, killing 28
Yazidi 'ex-Sex Slave' Trapped Both in Iraq and in German Exile
Pakistani MPs Elect World Cup Cricket Hero Imran Khan as Next PM
U.N. Invites Yemen Government and Huthis to Peace Talks

The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on August 17-18/18
Lebanon: Battered Businesses Close to Shutting Down
Beirut - Ali Zeineddine/Friday, 17 August, 2018/The Beirut Traders Association has warned that several businesses could shut down over the deteriorating economic situation in the country. BTA-Fransabank Retail Index that was released this week was a reflection of the dire conditions that the trade sector is suffering from. The index showed a slide of 45.71 for the second quarter of 2018 compared to the level of 46.31 for the first quarter. This reflects a continuous drop since the base index was 100 fixed at the fourth quarter of 2011. The consolidated real retail turnover figures have also posted a sharp decline between the second quarter of 2017 and the second quarter of 2018, reaching 9.74 percent. The main objective of the index is to provide the trading community with a scientific tool that reflects the trend that is witnessed at the level of retail trade on a quarterly basis, bearing in mind that this index is calculated based on actual data collected from a representative sample of companies distributed into all retail goods and services trading sectors.  Companies were asked to provide their turnover on a yearly basis by brackets. They were also asked to provide quarterly percent change of their turnover for the quarter under review, compared to the same quarter of the previous years, and to the previous quarter of the same year. The index said that current figures and indices are not encouraging. For instance, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the second quarter of this year has reached the level of 7.61 percent in comparison to its level of the same quarter of last year. Given the worsening situation, Nicolas Chammas, the president of the Beirut Traders Association, has urged the authorities to “salvage” the vital trade sector, which he said contributes to no less than a third of the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
He also called for the swift formation of a new government with competent members who would take immediate action to revive the sector and other economic sectors. “The political situation before and after the parliamentary elections” that were held in May, in addition to the wait-and-see approach adopted by many on the formation of the new government, have not had any positive effects on the market, he said. A series of new taxes made a further negative contribution, he added.A weak tourism season, the deteriorating purchasing power of the Lebanese families, and rising inflation, have also limited growth. Despite the negative indices, the business community is all hopes that the crisis would end once a new government is formed.

Prince Khalid bin Salman Shows Evidence on 'Hezbollah' Support to Houthis
Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 17 August, 2018/Saudi Ambassador to Washington Prince Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz has said that the Kingdom will not allow the Houthi insurgents to become another “Hezbollah.”“Among the much ignored realities in Yemen is not only the direct assistance the Houthi militia receives from the Iranian regime, but also the existence of Hezbollah commanders on the ground,” he said in a tweet. “Their presence in Yemen confirms the Iranian regime has subcontracted the Houthi militia to another one of its proxies; Hezbollah. It proves the regime’s proxies work in tandem to undermine regional stability and prolong the suffering of countries they are involved in,” said the diplomat. A previous raid on a Houthi site by Arab Coalition Special Forces uncovered a cache of evidence against Houthis. It revealed a 'Hezbollah' operative training and advising them on asymmetric warfare, and showed background portrait of Iran’s Supreme Leader on the computer, he said in another tweet. The video shows the ‘Hezbollah’ operative in Yemen advising the insurgents to use deception tactics such as water tanks to store weapons, and smuggling fighters in civilian vehicles, endangering the lives of Yemeni civilians, Prince Khalid said. “This cache of evidence (among others) confirms the ideological and military connection the Houthis and Hezbollah have to the Iranian regime. The militants can be heard at the end chanting their hateful slogans of death,” the ambassador added.

Aoun Says Move to Install Private Generator Meters 'Fair for All'

Naharnet/August 17/18/President Michel Aoun waded Friday into the controversy over the state's decision to compel power generator providers to install meters for billing their customers. “This is a fair measure for all parties concerned, pending the finalization of drastic solutions that would put an end to the electricity crisis,” Economy Minister Raed Khoury quoted Aoun as telling him during a meeting in Baabda. Khoury visited the presidential palace to brief Aoun on the decision to install meters and the outcome of contacts with the ministries tasked with implementing the measure. The president “stressed the importance of implementing this decision as scheduled, out of his permanent call for enforcing the laws,” the minister added. “The president underscored the importance of cooperation among the concerned ministries, especially the ministries of energy and interior, in the implementation of the taken decision, emphasizing the need for the compliance of generator owners in order to preserve the interests of citizens,” Khoury went on to say. “The measure is fair and would preserve the rights of everyone, not to mention that what they are providing is a public service that cannot be halted for any given reason,” the minister said.

Berri: Hariri’s Stance on Syria Ties Impractical

Naharnet/August 17/18/In light of conflicting views over restoring ties with Syria, Speaker Nabih Berri said Lebanon "needs to coordinate efforts" with the neighboring country, noting that he plans to call for a legislative session if a government is not formed soon. In an interview with Al Intichar news website on Friday, Berri reacted to remarks made by Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri who refused inclusion of said ties in the government policy statement. “This is unrealistic and unbeneficial,” said Berri, “there are diplomatic relations between the two countries, and a few months ago Hariri himself appointed an ambassador to Lebanon in Syria, not to mention the existence of a Lebanese-Syrian Higher Council." The Speaker added: “Lebanon has recently asked Syria to provide it with electricity. Cooperation between the Lebanese and Syrian sides is particularly important in terms of the return of Syrian refugees to their country, not to mention that many issues would not have been achieved without Lebanese-Syrian coordination." Berri hailed the “calm” remarks made by Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah where he indirectly replied to Hariri’s position in that regard. Nasrallah has urged Hariri without naming him “not to rush things and commit himself to hostile positions rejecting this relationship because it contradicts with Lebanese interest in light of the regional happenings and the racing of the world to open up to the Syrian state.”On the delayed Cabinet formation, Berri reiterated plans in front of his visitors to call for a legislative session if a government is not lined up soon.

Berri Blasts 'Time Wasting' on Govt., Decries Power Ships, Generators

Naharnet/August 17/18/Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri on Friday warned over the “wasting of time” in the government formation process as he urged a comprehensive solution for the country's chronic power generation crisis. Speaking at an AMAL Movement rally at the UNESCO Palace in Beirut, Berri criticized officials who are “abandoning responsibility for the country, paralyzing the state and undermining what's left of the economy.”“We will not accept the continued wasting of time and the delay in building the executive authority through the formation of a government,” Berri added. He accordingly called for “containing the situation, making up for the wasted time, addressing the garbage crisis and building national capabilities to resolve the electricity file with utmost speed.”“Producing electric power is the state's responsibility and so is the collection of fees,” Berri added. “We want drastic solutions that do not depend on rented power generation ship nor on the traps of (private) generators,” the Speaker went on to say.

Hariri Meets Bukhari
Naharnet/August 17/18/Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri held talks on Friday with Saudi head of mission in Lebanon Walid Bukhari where talks focused on annual pilgrimage issues “without touching on the government formation process.” Describing the meeting and relations with the Premier as “excellent”, Bukhari said: “We have discussed issues related to the hajj and the record number of 5,000 visas issued,” for individuals wishing to travel to SA for the annual pilgrimage. Bukhari stressed that Saudi relations with Hariri are "excellent, and the meeting was excellent too with the Premier," he said. The hajj is one of the five pillars of the world's fastest-growing religion, it is expected to draw two million people from around the globe this year.

Rahi, Ibrahim Meet, Discuss Refugees File, Stress Need to Lineup Govt.
Naharnet/August 17/18/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi discussed with General Security head Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim on Friday the file of Syrian refugees, and the delayed formation of Lebanon’s government. The Patriarch stressed the necessity of following up on the refugees file, noting that their prolonged stay in Lebanon makes the economic and social burdens even more difficult. Lebanon hosts around 1 million registered refugees, a quarter of the country’s population. On the formation of the government, the two men stressed the need to expedite the process urging political parties to “make sacrifices” in light of the difficult economic and social conditions hitting Lebanon. Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri was tasked with forming a cabinet on May 24. His mission has since been delayed because of wrangling between political parties.

Kanaan Slams 'Hesitation', Urges 'Priorities Govt.'
Naharnet/August 17/18/Strong Lebanon bloc secretary MP Ibrahim Kanaan called Friday for what he described as a “priorities government.”“Lebanon is the third in the world in terms of its debt-to-GDP ratio! And after the approval of two state budgets with a reform recommendation to lower the state's spending on associations, employment and funds; to control deficit and borrowing; and to finalize financial auditing; some are still justifying, launching theories and hesitating!” Kanaan tweeted. “Let's form a #priorities_government,” the lawmaker added. PM-designate Saad Hariri was tasked with forming a new government on May 24. His mission is being hampered by political wrangling over shares, especially over Christian and Druze representation. Some parties such as Hizbullah and Kanaan's Free Patriotic Movement have suggested that foreign countries, especially Saudi Arabia, are behind the ongoing delay. Hariri told reporters Tuesday that the new government “will not be formed” should the pro-Damascus camp “insist on restoring Lebanese-Syrian ties.” But pro-Hizbullah journalist Salem Zahran said Friday that the PM-designate has “informed Hizbullah” that his remarks were a “slip of the tongue.”

Mashnouq Meets Brazilian Official: Defense, Security Agreement Underway

Naharnet/August 17/18/Caretaker Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq held talks on Friday with Special Secretary for Strategic Affairs of the Brazilian government Hussein Kalout where discussions highlighted preparations for upcoming visit of Brazilian president to Lebanon, the National News Agency reported. Heading a security and political delegation, Kalout discussed relations between Lebanon and Brazil, the preparations for the visit of President Michel Tamer to Lebanon in November, and the signing of a joint defense and security agreement between the two countries. Kalout said in a statement the meeting discussed "security cooperation between the two countries," pointing out that the investment of Lebanese individuals of Brazilian origin in Lebanon has been discussed, putting his visit within the framework of a series of visits decided by the Brazilian government." He concluded his statement by stressing "the success of meetings held with President Michel Aoun, Speaker Nabih Berri, Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri and Mashnouq,” expressing hope “that relations will develop further between our two countries.”

Special Tribunal for Lebanon to hear closing arguments in September
Annahar Staff /Annahar/August 17/18
A decision is expected to be reached in 2019, 14 years after the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri which killed 21 others, and injured 226 more.
BEIRUT: The Special Tribunal for Lebanon is set to hear closing arguments from the parties and participating victims in the weeks of Monday 3 to Friday 14 September 2018, with the Prosecution currently presenting its evidence. The prosecution based its case on three components, the forensic evidence on the cause of the explosion of February 14, 2005 and evidence related to the death and injury of the victims of this attack, the evidence of the preparatory acts undertaken by the accused and their co-conspirators in 2004-2005 to prepare for the assassination of former Prime Minister Hariri; and the evidence concerning the identity of the Accused and their respective roles in the attack which is still in progress. The Trial Chamber's spokesperson, Wajed Ramadan, told Annahar that the examination period, presided by Judge David Re, is expected to "last for months."
A decision is expected to be reached in 2019, she says, 14 years after the assassination of Hariri which killed 21 others, and injured 226 more. Lebanon's government paralysis: Time to amend the Constitution? The accused currently facing trial in absentia are Messrs Salim Jamil Ayyash, Hassan Habib Merhi, Hussein Hassan Oneissi and Assad Hassan Sabra. They are charged with conspiracy to commit a terrorist act, along with a number of other related charges. Touching on the defendants' legal framework, Ramadan said that "they will be acquitted if their defense teams succeed in finding reasonable doubt in the evidence."The Trial Chamber decided to hold the trial in absentia after the accused absconded and elected not wish to participate in the trial. Their whereabouts are still unknown. In March, judges at the UN-backed tribunal in The Hague set up to investigate the bombing said that it was a terrorist act, adding that evidence presented by prosecutors "could" lead to the convictions of the four suspects which paved the way for their defense teams to submit their evidence. Defense lawyers for Oneissi had sought an early acquittal arguing that evidence against him was circumstantial, yet that was dismissed by the court.

Hakim Draws Comparison with U.S. in Wake of Costly Military Parade Postponement 17th August 2018/Former Economy Minister Alain Hakim on Friday deplored the rampant squandering and corruption that are plaguing Lebanon, drawing a comparison with the United States. Hakim hailed the United States’ decision to put off a military parade given its unreasonable and exorbitant cost, thus outlining the difference with Lebanon. “With all its economic might, the United States postponed a military parade due to a wide objection over its $92 million cost. On the other hand, Lebanon, where the economic situation is difficult and the state institutions are plagued by corruption, millions and even billions are being squandered on shady and questionable projects,” Hakim wrote on Twitter. A Pentagon spokesman Col. Rob Manning told CNBC on Thursday that the Department of Defense and White House have scheduled a military parade on November 10, 2018 to honor the country’s veterans and commemorate the centennial of World War I but noting that there’s an opportunity of selecting 2019 as a more suitable date given that it is labeled as costly. The U.S. President pointed out that he was inspired by his 2017 attendance of the Bastille Day Parade in France while meeting the French President, Emmanuel Macron, and wanted to match the celebration in the states as reported by CNN. "It was a tremendous day, and to a large extent because of what I witnessed, we may do something like that on July 4 in Washington down Pennsylvania Avenue," Trump said following his meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron recalling his enjoyment while watching the parade.Figures estimated its cost for $92 million consisting of $50 million from the Pentagon and $42 million from interagency partners such as the Department of Homeland Security. Trump’s desire to top France’s day and organize a parade received critique as the money would be put in better use. American Legion national commander Denise Rohan said in a statement that despite the President’s want of a dramatic fashion to support the troops, the parade money would be better spent fully funding the Department of Veteran Affairs and giving troops and their families the best care possible.
Lebanon Ranked Among Countries with Worst Electricity Supply 17th August 2018/Lebanon was ranked fourth among the "extremely unreliable" countries in terms of the quality of electricity supply, as per the Global Competitiveness Index issued by the 2017-2018 World Economic Forum. The survey, which includes 137 countries, ranked Lebanon in the 134th place, followed by Haiti, Nigeria and Yemen. The World Economic Forum’s survey classifies the quality of electricity supply on a scale of 1 to 7 [1 = extremely unreliable; 7 = extremely reliable]. Lebanon got a score of 1.7. The countries that topped the list are: Norway (6.9), Switzerland (6.9), Singapore (6.9), Hong Kong SAR (6.8), Denmark (6.8), Netherlands (6.8), France (6.8), Luxembourg (6.7), Finland (6.7) and Japan (6.7).
**To check the whole list, click on the link below

Old wine faces new challenges
Jacob Boswall/Annahar/August 17/18
This same threat of global warming and overheated growing seasons will also confront Lebanese growers beginning around 2030.
SEGURET, France: For many, wine is simply a drink. But for winemakers, a bad vintage can spell doom for the business. In France, a combination of climate change and complex regulation leave many small vineyards unable to compete with mega-vineyards abroad.
It’s a glorious sight: the hills are combed with rows of vines; the grapes are heavy and sweet, caressed by the gentle northeasterly blow of the Mistral which keeps them cool and free of rot.
From Turkey with love: Day 2 | Silva and Haluk's exquisite winery
Further south, the hills slope into the Rhône valley, revealing a carpet of tightly-knitted vines. This is wine country, one of the most ancient on the planet, where viticulture has existed since pre-Roman times. It’s hard to imagine a more peaceful setting; but after this summer of record-breaking temperatures, French wine is under threat. The wine industry is known for its small profit margins, especially compared to other alcoholic drinks, like beer. Overheads are enormous: vines must be constantly attended and labor is mostly done by hand, especially in mountainous regions, where the best vines lie on vertiginous slopes, inaccessible to tractors. This is why extreme weather can be disastrous for a vineyard. “The margins are so small, there is no room for error,” says Alison, a winemaker in Seguret, Cotes du Rhones. “A single hailstorm can mean we lose 60 percent of our grapes and leave us without enough produce to survive.”
She added that there have been hot summers and wet winters; and that their vines, many of which are over seventy years old, struggle to yield fruit in such conditions. “The harvest traditionally took place in October, but this year we’re expecting to start picking in late August. Hotter summers mean the grapes are ready sooner. Here in Seguret, the harvest has moved forward on average one day per year. Now we start picking almost a month earlier than in 1998 when this vineyard was founded.”
There’s another factor in this ancient wine-making region.
Winemakers are at the behest of the Institut national de l’origine et de la qualité (INOQ), which sets the rules for every appellation in France, from vine treatment to the blending of grape varieties. “It’s illegal to manually irrigate the vines in certain appellations such as Seguret,” explains Alison. “But with higher summer temperatures, manual irrigation is becoming essential. The INOQ needs to rethink their rules, which are quickly becoming outdated”. Vineyards are arranged in a complex hierarchy with the prestigious ‘Cru’ label only given to seventeen communes in the region. Lower down the list, there are ‘Cotes du Rhones villages,’ which are distinguished from run-of-the-mill ‘Cotes du Rhones’. Recently, questions have been raised over the fairness of the system, which in effect, dictates the vineyards’ profit margins. “Recently, several vineyards from Cairanne were promoted to the ‘Cru’ level, which was a wonderful achievement for them. However, several others in the same region, which made very similar wines, were demoted to the level of ‘Cotes du Rhones.’ This was disastrous for their profits and they have taken the decision to a local court,” says Alison. Challenging the authority of the INOQ is one thing, but challenging climate change is another. Vineyards and the regulatory bodies which govern them will have to respond fast to the demands of the modern market. New World wines face more relaxed regulation and, so far, have endured fewer instances of extreme weather like those seen in Europe in recent months. One recent US study found that the amount of land favorable to vineyards in Europe could be reduced by 68 percent by 2050. An early warning sign is the increasing alcohol content of the grape: in Bordeaux, the average alcohol content has increased by three percent in forty years, making certain grape varieties unprofitable. This same threat of global warming and overheated growing seasons will also confront Lebanese growers beginning around 2030. French vineyards will soon have no choice but to use different grape varieties, and new techniques for getting the most out of their vines. It’s a drastic change from the past, and one which must be first accepted by the INOQ.
**The Beirut-based Jacob Boswall also serves a special roving correspondent for Annahar. The above is part of a series he is producing on French culture and travel for the end of summer.

The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on
August 17-18/18
 Trump and Putin Agree That Iran Needs to Pull Out of Syria, Says U.S. Official
رسمي أميركي: توافق بين ترامب وبوتين على انسحاب إيران من سوريا
Amir Tibon/Haaretz/August 17/18
The agreement comes ahead of an upcoming meeting between Trump's national security adviser and senior Russian officials.
WASHINGTON – Russia and the United States both agree in principle that Iran should take its forces out of Syria, but the Russian government believes it will be a "difficult task" to get the Iranians out of the country, a senior U.S. official told local news outlets on Thursday. The comments were made ahead of an upcoming trip by Trump's National Security Adviser, John Bolton, to Geneva, where he will meet with senior Russian officials. His discussions there will focus on the Iran and Syria issues.
Israel and the United States have argued for months that Iran needs to take all its forces out of Syria. Iran, however, was an important ally of Russia and of the Assad regime during the Syrian civil war, and it now expects to reap the benefits of its involvement in that war. The Russian position, as presented by the U.S. official on Thursday, is in line with previous reports about discussions between Israel and Russian officials.
Russia has so far promised Israel only to hold Iran's forces at a distance of 85 Kilometers away from the Israeli-Syrian border. Haaretz reported on Thursday that the Iranians have kept that promise so far, with one important exception - the area of Damascus. Iranian activity continues around the Syrian capital, which is located within the distance range mentioned by Russia.
"The Russians don't have the will to take Iran completely out of Syria. The Iranians have a significant presence in Syria, and Russia has no incentive to try and force them out, something they may not even be able to achieve," said Ariane Tabatabai, an expert on Iran at the Rand Corporation. Tabatabai, who recently published a book on Iran's relations with Russia and China, told Haaretz that Iran is eyeing economic sectors in Syria and wants to profit from the country's reconstruction process. "It's hard to see them going anywhere," she explained.

IDF kills two Palestinians on the Gaza border
Raanan Ben Zur, Matan Tzuri, Yoav Ziton, and Elior Levy/Ynetnews/August 17/18
Clashes at the Gaza Strip when a ceasefire deal is on the horizon: IDF kills two Palestinians in demonstrations on the Gaza border fence, hundreds of demonstrators near the fence, fire erupt in the Gaza vicinity; Deputy Hamas leader: 'I support quiet in the area so that our people will live in dignity and we will be able to continue our fight.' During a crucial moment in time, when a possible prolonged ceasefire deal is on the horizon, hundreds of Palestinians are demonstrating near the border fence on Friday afternoon.
In one of the demonstrations, a 30-year-old Palestinian was killed. After a few days of relative calm, two fires broke out in the Gaza vicinity, one of them in the Beeri Forest. Earlier Friday, some 200 people came to support the family of the late Lieutenant Hadar Goldin, whose body has been held in the Gaza Strip for four years. Goldin's parents and brother arrived, for the 16th time, at the "Black Arrow" monument at the Gaza border. The father, Prof. Simha Goldin, criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: "After the spin doctors were frightened by the term 'cease-fire', because Hadar was killed and kidnapped during a humanitarian ceasefire, they invented a new term— 'arrangement'. So from here on out, I want to say to Netanyahu—this is not a cease-fire or an 'arrangement'- it's called an appeasement. Netanyahu knows exactly what it is; his father wrote a lot about it.
"Appeasement is what Chamberlain when frightened by a tyrant and an oppressor…Bibi is not Churchill—Bibi is Chamberlain…To be Churchill he has to make the enemy understand the price he is to pat for his action and we are not doing it," Simcha Goldin added.
"Anyone who enters Gaza now wants to appease Hamas and Yahya Sanwar (Hamas’ new leader in the Gaza), who is going to celebrate the folly of Israel's prime minister's next week," Goldin added. "Netanyahu turned all the Israelis into the biggest fools of the Middle East. and we will pay for it with blood," he continued. "Residents of the Israeli periphery will pay for this after the Muslim holiday ends. Yihye Snowar has to report here and bring back Hadar and Oren and he will not get anything from me. "If this does not happen, the Israeli government, who has been feeding the monster for four years, will cause the next war, just like Chamberlain brought a war to England," Goldin concluded. An Israeli source confirmed Thursday that Egyptian Intelligence Chief Abbas Kamel visited Israel as the guest of the head of the National Security Council, Meir Ben Shabbat, and met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman. Palestinian sources told Al-Hayat that Kamel discussed the final details of the arrangement with the Israeli side, including the completion of humanitarian projects in the Gaza Strip and future negotiations with Hamas over the exchange of prisoners and captives.
The head of Egyptian intelligence visited Israel after two delegations of senior Hamas and Islamic Jihad figures attended the talks in Cairo in recent weeks. In addition, a Hamas delegation headed by Hamas deputy leader in the Strip, Khalil al-Hayya headed to Cairo Thursday.
Almost all Palestinian factions sent representatives to Cairo, except for Fatah, whose members are still boycotting the talks.The Lebanese-affiliated Al-Mayadeen network reported Thursday that the truce agreement between Israel and Hamas would include a one-year ceasefire and the establishment of a sea route between Gaza and Cyprus under Israeli security supervision. In addition, Qatar will pay the salaries of the officials in Gaza with the assistance of Egypt and will also pay the Gaza Strip's electricity bills in cooperation with Israel. "
US Creates Action Group to Contain Iran’s Behavior
Washington - Heba El Koudsy/Asharq Al Awsat/Friday, 17 August, 2018/US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has announced a new high-level team to coordinate measures taken by Washington against ran. The group will be headed by Brian Hook as the State Department's Special Representative for Iran, Pompeo told a news conference on Thursday. Hook who has pushed for tough action against Iran, has been leading the department's talks with allies in Europe and Asia to persuade them to support US sanctions and cut off Iran's oil supplies as of November. The Iran Action Group will be responsible for directing, reviewing, and coordinating all aspects of the State Department’s Iran-related activity, and it will report directly to the State Department. "Our hope is that one day soon we can reach a new agreement with Iran. But we must see major changes in the regime's behavior both inside and outside its borders,” said Pompeo.“We are committed to a whole-of-government effort to change the Iranian regime’s behavior.” He also referred to the US decision to impose sanctions on Iran after the withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers. “The regime in Tehran has been responsible for a torrent of violent and destabilizing behavior against the United States, our allies, our partners, and indeed the Iranian people themselves,” said Pompeo. Hook said the Iran group would include experts from the State Department and Department of the Treasury. "If the Iranian regime demonstrates a commitment to make fundamental changes in its behavior, the president is prepared to engage in dialogue in order to find solutions," he said in response to a question on Donald Trump’s offer to speak with Iranian leaders without preconditions. "We have had teams from the State Department and the Treasury Department who’ve now visited, I want to say, 24 countries in most regions of the world. That work will continue in the coming months. And we have very good discussions with allies around the world, because when you look at the range of Iranian threats, especially around missiles and cyber, maritime aggression, terrorism, these are concerns of other nations," Hook said. According to officials, Hook is expected to be replaced as director of policy planning by Kiron Skinner, a foreign policy academic who served on Trump's national security transition team and very briefly at the State Department after the president took office.

Iran’s Ethnic, Religious Minorities Face Persecution, Sectarian Discrimination

London/Asharq Al Awsat/Friday, 17 August, 2018/The non-Persian population in Iran has faced many problems that were accumulated even before the establishment of the Iranian republic. The demands of the oppressed minorities surfaced immediately after overthrowing the Shah regime in 1979. The era of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, from 1926 till 1979, witnessed repression against national demands. Today, the current system continues with the same approach, treating the minorities with discrimination and humiliation. Iran comprises six main ethnic groups: Persians, Turks, Kurds, Arabs, Baloch and Turkmens. They are spread throughout Iran, each with its own language, culture, customs and traditions. There are no official statistics about the numbers of non-Persian people. Tehran authorities consider national affiliations as a threat to the country’s unity. Therefore, various governments have adopted security measures to counter national activities, and worked to obliterate ethnic minorities by changing the demographic fabric of their regions.
Early in the era of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the son of the founder of the Pahlavi state, Iran experienced a series of unrest in the non-Persian provinces after the new shah followed his father’s footsteps in establishing a national rule that did not recognize the rights of non-Persian minorities, under the pretext of strengthening unity in the country. The provinces of Azerbaijan and Kurdistan witnessed the declaration of two independent republics. Following the exile of Shah Reza, non-Persian groups found the ground for the formation of communities and civil institutions on cultural and social bases, and quickly developed into political organizations and parties that took on the task of restoring their national rights. But these demands were rejected by the central government in Tehran, which refused to communicate and respond to the telegrams of the Democratic Party of Azerbaijan. “I will pay no attention to these telegrams even if they were a hundred,” the Iranian prime minister said at the time.
Consequently, neglect and humiliation by Tehran led to the growing nationalist movement in Azerbaijan, leading to the formation of the National Government of Azerbaijan, which took over large parts of the region and formed a local administration. This happened with the support of the Soviets. Forces of the former Soviet Union had been deployed throughout Iran since World War II, especially following the British-Soviet invasion to overthrow the Shah. In Kurdistan, a similar autonomous region was established in 1946 under the name of the "Republic of Mahabad" led by the head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, Qazi Muhammad, with the support of Mullah Mustafa Barzani. However, the young republic lasted only 11 months; it was toppled by the Iranian forces in conjunction with the departure of the Soviet forces. The Iranian authorities executed Qazi Muhammad and a group of his comrades, while Mullah Mustafa Barzani withdrew with his fighters from the area. The Shah regime, after suppressing the nationalist movements in Azerbaijan and Kurdistan, established for a new phase of repression against national demands in Azerbaijan, Kurdistan, Baluchistan, Ahwaz and the Turkmen desert. Under these circumstances, the political activity of the oppressed during the reign of Reza took on a secret aspect. Indeed, the Shah’s regime carried out public executions against many political activists. It is noteworthy that Shah Mohammad Reza turned his back on his Arab neighbors when he fully allied with Israel and opened an Israeli embassy in Tehran, establishing extensive relations with them, contrary to the desire of public opinion in Iran and the interests of neighboring countries.
These hostile positions paved the way for the formation of a ground for opponents of the Shah's regime in countries affected by his policies, especially in Iraq and Syria. The atmosphere of openness that Iran witnessed in the first year following the overthrowing of the Shah led to the launch of a local debate and the formation of national organizations and committees. This strengthened the position of political activists, who demanded the new government to give them the rights they have been denied for many years. The positions of the new leaders in Tehran ranged from absolute rejection to promises of achieving some national demands at a later stage. But once the Khomeini regime tightened its grip on the country, it started suppressing the non-Persian provinces. In Kurdistan, the IRGC forces moved into the province and clashed with armed rebels in Kurdish cities. The clashes continued sporadically until 1983 and left more than 10,000 people dead. With the start of the war between Iran and Iraq, the Khomeini authorities faced vigorously any activity opposed to the regime, which soon eliminated all the forces that participated in the revolution against the Shah. Not only did the Khomeini regime confront opposition activists at home, but pursued them in exile and carried out multiple political assassinations in different parts of the world, especially in France, Germany and Iraq. After the war, especially after the reformists (led by Mohammad Khatami) came to power, non-Persian people took advantage of the relatively open atmosphere to submit their demands. The authorities did not meet the basic demands of non-Persian peoples, and various governments continued to make mere promises. With the arrival of President Hassan Rouhani to power, he appointed an assistant in the affairs of nationalities and minorities, former intelligence minister Ali Younesi. But Younesi does not seem interested in resolving the issues of the non-Persian communities, as he has come from the same security services that have long confronted national activists with executions, imprisonment, exile and assassinations.

Netanyahu Boosts Military Budget
Tel Aviv- Asharq Al Awsat/Friday, 17 August, 2018/Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented the "2030 Defence Concept" to the cabinet Thursday. In it, Netanyahu proposed increasing the military budget 30 billion shekel (USD7 billion), affirming that this research is the first in a series of researches that will be carried out by the cabinet in the future for this purpose. Netanyahu outlined the anticipated threats for the coming decade and presented the need for building the necessary force and the principles for the operation of the force. Currently, the security budget is 68 billion shekel (around USD19 billion) according to the 2017 budget, 5.6 percent of the national product. Netanyahu is planning on adding 0.2-0.3% of GNP to the defense budget while continuing the Israeli army streamlining program. He said that the target is a defense budget of at least 6% of GNP, adding that when the GNP reaches half trillion American dollars, the required rate for spending on security needs will be reconsidered. The additional outlays will go toward strengthening the country’s offensive capabilities, cyber capabilities, upgrading its anti-missile defense systems, protective measures on the home front, and the completion of security barriers. “Due to our small area, the population concentration and the numerous threats around us, Israel will always have security needs that are much greater than any other state of similar size,” said Netanyahu. “Today the Israeli economy is strong enough to allow for this supplement. In any case, the increase will be enacted while maintaining a responsible budgetary framework,” he added. Netanyahu continued: “In the last 20 years we have cultivated a free economy in order to serve national needs, especially security. Against the accumulated threats we are at a turning point. Today we are called upon to invest more in security in order to defend our achievements and ensure continued economic growth.”

Netanyahu Questioned again Over Alleged Graft
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 17/18/Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went through a new round of questioning on Friday, police said, amid graft allegations that have threatened to topple him. The premier was questioned at his official residence in the context of investigations by the national economic crimes unit, a police statement in Hebrew said. It gave no further details. Investigators arrived at the premier's Jerusalem residence in the morning to interview him over allegations of corruption involving local telecoms giant Bezeq and its largest shareholder, Shaul Elovitch, according to Israeli media reports. It was the 12th time Netanyahu has been questioned in various cases, either as a suspect or a witness. In the Bezeq case, Netanyahu is alleged to have sought favorable coverage from another Elovitch company, the Walla news site, in exchange for government policies that could have benefited the mogul's interests to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. A statement from Netanyahu's personal spokesman after Friday's questioning said there was no such trade-off. "The numbers prove unequivocally that coverage of Netanyahu by Walla during the Elovitch era was more negative than under the (previous) owner Amos Shoken," it said. Elovitch was arrested in February along with six other people including Nir Hefetz, a former media adviser to the Netanyahu family. In addition to the premiership, Netanyahu also held the communications portfolio between November 2014 and February 2017, covering the run-up to the March 2015 elections, when he is alleged to have made the deal with Elovitch. Netanyahu was interrogated for more than five hours in July, reportedly over the same affair. In a separate case, his wife Sara was charged in June with misusing state funds to buy catered meals costing $100,000 (85,000 euros) by falsely declaring there were no cooks available at the premier's official residence. In February, police recommended the premier be indicted in two cases, though the attorney general has yet to decide whether to do so. Netanyahu, prime minister for around 12 years in total, has maintained his innocence in all of the cases, talking of a "witch hunt" and saying he was determined to stay in his job. He would not be legally obliged to resign if charged. So far his coalition partners have stood by him despite the allegations, but the investigations have gradually ratcheted up speculation over whether he will eventually be forced from office.
Turkey Says Will Respond if U.S. Imposes More Sanctions
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 17/18/Turkey on Friday threatened to respond if the United States levied further sanctions over the detention of an American pastor, which has sparked a diplomatic standoff and battered the Turkish currency. "We've already responded based on the World Trade Organisation rules and will continue to do so," Trade Minister Ruhsar Pekcan was quoted as saying by the state-run Anadolu news agency. Washington warned on Thursday that it would impose more sanctions unless pastor Andrew Brunson, described by US President Donald Trump as a "hostage", was released. Brunson's detention since October 2016 on terror-related charges has soured relations between the two NATO allies, sending the Turkish lira into a tailspin. The lira, which earlier this week traded at well over seven to the dollar, was at 5.8 against the dollar and 6.7 against euro on Friday. Last week, Trump tweeted that his administration was doubling aluminium and steel tariffs for Turkey, and in response Ankara sharply hiked tariffs on some US products. US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin suggested Thursday the next spiral of tit-for-tat sanctions was coming soon, in a sign of a deepening spat. Trump prefaced Mnuchin's remarks by saying that Turkey had not been a very good friend to America. Referring to Brunson, Trump said: "They have a great Christian pastor there, he's a very innocent man."
Differences on Idlib Overthrow Syria’s Four-Way Meeting
Moscow - Raed Jabr/Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 17 August, 2018/A decision by the Kremlin on Thursday to hold a third meeting of the Astana guarantor states instead of a Syria summit with the leaders of France, Turkey and Germany, signaled a stalemate in Russian-Turkish negotiations on the fate of the Syrian province of Idlib. Russia expressed reservations over a possible four-way Syria summit planned for September 7 at Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s initiative. Instead, it announced that work was in progress to hold a third meeting of the Russian, Turkish, and Iranian leaders on a Syrian settlement in early September. “The possibility of holding another trilateral meeting in early September is being explored. After the three presidents’ schedules are agreed on through diplomatic channels, we will let you know,” Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. The spokesperson said meetings between the leaders of Russia, Turkey, France and Germany on Syria are not on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s schedule yet. "There is no such meeting on the agenda," Peskov said. Therefore, Moscow and Ankara have still not reached comprehensive understandings about the fate of Idlib as the Assad regime gears up for a military operation in the northwestern province. Ankara had requested some time to settle the issue of extremist fighters in Idlib. Separately, the meeting of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo with UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura on Wednesday tackled the return of refugees to Syria as well as the need "to prevent a humanitarian crisis from emerging in Idlib."Washington confirmed that it still considers the Geneva process "as the only viable way forward for a long-term political solution in Syria.”According to a statement issued by the State Department, Pompeo and de Mistura "agreed that all parties needed to move ahead on the political track and that any discussion of reconstruction was premature absent a political solution leading unalterably to both constitutional reform and free and fair elections as described in UN Security Council Resolution 2254.”

US Suspends Financing for Syria Stabilization Projects

AFP/Friday 17th August 2018/The United States said Friday it is suspending $230 million budgeted for stabilization projects in Syria, citing the aid pledged by other partners in the coalition fighting the Islamic State group. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has "redirected" the funds originally set aside to help the recovery of areas liberated from IS control after coalition partners committed $300 million of their own, spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement. The decision was made based on the additional pledges and "the already significant military and financial contributions made by the United States to date," Nauert said. She also cited President Donald Trump's call for allies and partners in Syria to "increase burden-sharing.""This decision does not represent any lessening of US commitment to our strategic goals in Syria," Nauert said. "The president has made clear that we are prepared to remain in Syria until the enduring defeat of ISIS, and we remain focused on ensuring the withdrawal of Iranian forces and their proxies."
Saudi Arabia Says It's Given $100 Million to Northeast Syria
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 17/18/Saudi Arabia said early on Friday that it has contributed $100 million to northeast Syria for "stabilization projects" in areas once held by the Islamic State group and now controlled by U.S.-backed forces. The Saudi Embassy in Washington said the money "will save lives, help facilitate the return of displaced Syrians and help ensure that ISIS cannot reemerge to threaten Syria, its neighbors, or plan attacks against the international community." ISIS is an alternate acronym for the militant group. The money will go toward agriculture, education, roadworks, rubble removal and water service for the region, which is now largely held by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces. "This substantial contribution will play a critical role in the coalition's efforts to revitalize communities, such as Raqqa, that have been devastated by ISIS terrorists," the embassy said in a statement. The Syrian city of Raqqa was the seat of the Islamic State group's self-proclaimed "caliphate" until it was liberated by the U.S.-backed forces last year. The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Council is the political wing of the Syrian Democratic Forces. In May, Syrian President Bashar Assad threatened to attack areas held by the U.S.-backed forces. Saudi Arabia long has opposed Assad's government, funding and arming rebels who challenged his rule as the country's 2011 Arab Spring protests devolved into a civil war and then a regional proxy battlefield. The U.S. military operates air bases and outposts in the Kurdish-administered region. The Saudi Embassy described the $100 million as part of a pledge made by Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir during a U.S.-sponsored conference in Brussels about the Islamic State group in July at NATO headquarters.

Bloomberg: Egypt Transformed Into Haven for Debt Investors
Cairo - Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 17 August, 2018/Egypt has transformed into a haven for debt investors from a crisis zone in less than two years, Bloomberg reported, in reference to the Egyptian pound, which the government allowed to float in 2016 to stave off an economic collapse.
The pound held its own even as Egyptian Treasury bills suffered outflows of at least $4 billion since March, it said. Despite the outflows, “we are encouraged that there were no reports of dollar shortages,” said Brett Rowley, the Los Angeles-based managing director for emerging markets at TCW. Egypt allowed the pound to trade freely in November 2016 as part of an International Monetary Fund deal for a $12 billion loan to support its recovery and end the hard-currency crunch. Meanwhile, Egypt's central bank left its main interest rates unchanged on Thursday, saying a second quarter of strong GDP growth and an expected decline in inflation to single digits meant its monetary targets were on course. The bank kept its overnight deposit rate at 16.75 percent and its lending rate at 17.75 percent.

Egypt: Sisi Approves Law on Granting Citizenship to Foreigners
Cairo - Waleed Abdul Rahman/Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 17 August, 2018/
The Egyptian gazette published on Thursday a decree signed by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi who approved the amendment of some articles in the law on the entry and exit of foreigners and the naturalization law. Last July, Egypt's parliament passed a bill to grant citizenship to foreigners who deposit at least EGP7 million (around $400,000) in the country for five years. If the Interior Ministry accepts an applicant's naturalization request, the deposit will then be transferred to the Treasury to boost the country’s economy. Some deputies were against the amendment, saying the move would allow foreigners to “buy” citizenship. However, Speaker Ali Abdel Aal had previously explained that the Egyptian nationality is not bought or sold. “All countries in the world provide long-term residence, as long as they do not disrupt the general peace.”Currently, foreigners must live in Egypt at least five years before they can apply for citizenship. Separately, rumors about a decision in Egypt to limit the daily use of water per person to around 3 liters drove controversy on Thursday. The Egyptian Ministry of Irrigation denied the rumors, saying it “has not issued any statement regarding the matter.” The Ministry has announced a strategy to secure the country’s needs for water until 2050 when the population of Egypt is expected to increase to 170 million from the current 104 million. Also on Thursday, Egypt denied increasing the price of subsidized bread. The Ministry of Supplies said that the around 80 million Egyptians who have ration cards could still buy the loaf of bread at the fixed price of EGP5 pounds. Egypt consumes annually 14.6 million tons of wheat including 9.6 million for producing subsidized bread.

Iraq Executes 6 People, Including Syrian, in Terror Cases

Baghdad - Erbil - Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 17 August, 2018/Six "criminals" were executed in Iraq this week in terrorism related cases, the justice ministry said on Thursday. The ministry, in a statement, said they were put to death for having "shed the blood of Iraqis" after their appeals were rejected and the sentences ratified by the presidency. Forensic sources told Agence France Presse that at least one of them was a Syrian national. Meanwhile, Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani and the commander of the peshmerga forces attended the graduation ceremony of peshmerga fighters, who have completed their six-month training. The ceremony, celebrating the graduation of the class of "coexistence," coincided with the anniversary of the establishment of The Kurdistan Democratic Party. “We need to achieve reform and take large and swift steps … in order to improve the situation of the Kurdistan region,” Barzani said. “That would only be achieved through transparent parliamentary elections and the formation of a strong government (in the region) that receives the backing of all sides so that in its turn it takes the helm of responsibility in implementing the needed reforms,” he said. The elections should be held on time next September, without any delay, he stressed. “Rather than mulling how to delay the polls, we should think of holding them in a transparent manner and without obstacles,” said Barzani. He also called for having international monitors and representatives of international and local organizations during the elections..“The Democratic Party rejects any postponement,” he reiterated.
Iraq says its warplanes hit IS targets in Syria, killing 28
Associated Press/August 17/18 /About 20 militants were killed in that airstrike, while eight died in the second one.
IRBIL, Iraq: Iraqi security officials said Iraq's air force carried out two airstrikes targeting Islamic State group inside Syria, killing at least 28 IS militants. They said one of the two airstrikes by F-16s targeted a meeting of would-be suicide bombers who intended to strike in Iraq during next week's Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday. About 20 militants were killed in that airstrike, while eight died in the second one. Both targets were inside Syria near the Iraqi border. Iraq announced the strikes on Thursday but details on targets and casualties only emerged on Friday. The statement said the targets were identified by the Eagles Cell, Iraq's top counterterrorism agency. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

Yazidi 'ex-Sex Slave' Trapped Both in Iraq and in German Exile
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 17/18/A young Yazidi woman who fled to Germany but returned home to northern Iraq says she cannot escape her Islamic State group captor who held her as a sex slave for three months.Ashwaq Haji, 19, says she ran into the man in a German supermarket in February. Traumatized by the encounter, she returned to Iraq the following month. Like many other Yazidis, she was kidnapped by IS when the jihadists seized swathes of Iraq in the summer of 2014. In their ancestral region of Sinjar in northwestern Iraq, thousands of Yazidi women were killed or sold off as sex slaves. The teenager was held from August 3 until October 22 of 2014, when she managed to escape from the home of an Iraqi jihadist using the name Abu Humam who had bought her for $100, she told AFP in the Yazidi shrine of Lalish, north of second city Mosul. The Yazidis are a Kurdish-speaking religious minority that was brutally persecuted by the jihadists who despise them as heretics. Under a German government program for Iraqi refugees, Ashwaq, her mother and a younger brother were resettled in 2015 in Schwaebisch Gmuend, a town near Stuttgart. Her refuge in Germany, where she took language lessons, was cut short on February 21 when a man called out her name in a supermarket and started talking to her in German. "He told me he was Abu Humam. I told him I didn't know him, and then he started talking to me in Arabic," she said. "He told me: 'Don't lie, I know very well that you're Ashwaq'," she said, adding that he gave her home address and other details of her life in Germany. After that experience, she immediately phoned the local police, who told her to contact a specialized department.
- Living in fear back in Iraq -
The judicial police in the Baden-Wuerttemberg region of southwestern Germany said an inquiry was opened on March 13 but that Ashwaq was not present to answer questions. A spokesman for the German federal prosecutor's office told AFP that so far the man's identity could not be confirmed "with certainty." Germany says it has opened several investigations over terrorism charges or crimes against humanity involving asylum seekers linked to jihadist groups in Iraq, Syria or Afghanistan. Ashwaq said she had viewed surveillance videos filmed in the supermarket together with German police and was ready to keep them informed of her whereabouts. But she said that she was not willing to return to Germany for fear of seeing her captor again. She is back in northern Iraq with her mother and brother, but living in fear because she says Abu Humam has family in Baghdad. She wears black in a sign of mourning for five brothers and a sister still missing since their own capture by IS. At a camp for the displaced in nearby Iraqi Kurdistan where he has been resettled, her father, Haji Hamid, 53, admits returning was not an easy decision, even though the government proclaimed victory over IS at the end of last year. "When her mother told me that she'd seen that jihadist... I told them to come back because Germany was obviously no longer a safe place for them," he told AFP. Life in Iraq is also not easy for Ashwaq or for the 3,315 other Yazidis who escaped from the jihadists. A similar number are still being held or have gone missing, according to official figures. "All the survivors have volcanoes inside them, ready to explode," warned Sara Samouqi, a psychologist who works with several Yazidis. "Ashwaq and her family are going through terrible times."

Pakistani MPs Elect World Cup Cricket Hero Imran Khan as Next PM
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 17/18/Pakistan's World Cup cricket hero Imran Khan was formally elected prime minister of Pakistan Friday, promising a new era of responsibility and prosperity in a fighting speech in parliament. Khan won a simple majority in a confidence vote held in the lower house of parliament, three weeks after an election tainted by claims of military meddling and ballot rigging. "I am here after 22 years of struggle. No dictator has taken care of me. I am standing here in this parliament on my own feet," he told the assembly after the vote, implicitly defending himself against widespread claims the generals had fixed the election in his favor. Clad in a waistcoat and traditional white shalwar kameez garments, he smiled broadly and could be seen wiping tears from his eyes while clutching prayer beads as the count was announced. The July 25 election was branded "Pakistan's dirtiest", after accusations through the campaign that the military was trying to tilt the playing field against the PML-N and in Khan's favor. The former cricketer, who captained Pakistan to World Cup victory in 1992, won the vote but fell short of an outright majority, forcing him to partner with smaller parties and independents in order to form a government. Rival parties have alleged "blatant" rigging, and Friday's proceedings triggered raucous scenes as opposition parliamentarians shouted protest slogans in the assembly. The army and Khan have denied the claims. In his speech, Khan urged the opposition to continue their protests.
National Assembly speaker Asad Qaiser said Khan had secured 176 votes. He had needed 172 votes for a majority. His only rival, Shahbaz Sharif of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), won 96 votes, Qaiser said, with some opposition parties including the third-largest Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) abstaining from the vote. The result brings Khan one step closer to ending decades of rotating leadership between the PML-N and the PPP, punctuated by periods of military rule. He is due to be sworn in at a ceremony on Saturday.
The work begins
Khan and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party campaigned on promises to end widespread graft while building an "Islamic welfare state". "I promise that we will bring that change, for which this nation was starving," he said in his address to the assembly. "First of all, we will start strict accountability. I promise to my God that everyone who looted this country will be made accountable."The party has already formed a government in its stronghold of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, and an alliance with regional parties in the southwestern province of Balochistan. It is expected to form a coalition government in powerful Punjab province, formerly a PML-N stronghold, in coming days. Sindh province remained in the hands of the PPP. PTI candidates were also voted speaker and deputy speaker of the National Assembly this week, putting Khan in a strong position to carry forward his legislative agenda. He will face myriad challenges including militant extremism, water shortages, and a booming population negating growth in the developing country, among others. Most pressing will be a looming economic crisis, with speculation that Pakistan will have to seek a bailout from the International Monetary Fund. He will also have to contend with the same issue as many of his predecessors: how to maintain a balance of power in civil-military relations. In the West, Khan is often seen as a celebrity whose high-profile romances were tabloid fodder, but at home he cuts a more conservative persona as a devout Muslim who believes feminism has degraded motherhood. Known in Pakistan as "Taliban Khan" for his calls to hold talks with insurgents, he increasingly catered to religious hardliners during the campaign, spurring fears his leadership could embolden extremists.
U.N. Invites Yemen Government and Huthis to Peace Talks
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 17/18/The United Nations has invited Yemen's government and Iran-backed Huthi rebels to Geneva next month for talks on resolving the country's civil war, a spokeswoman said Friday. "I can confirm that the Office of the Special Envoy sent out invitations to the government of Yemen and to Ansarullah," U.N. spokeswoman Alessandra Vellucci told reporters. Ansarullah, which means Supporters of God, refers to the Huthi rebels group that has been battling the Saudi-backed internationally recognized government in a conflict that has killed nearly 10,000 people since 2015. The U.N.'s Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths has said the talks due to open on September 6 will be aimed at charting a path forward to revive UN-backed negotiations which broke down in 2016. Vellucci said she had no information on whether representatives from Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates -- another key government backer -- had also been invited to Geneva. Yemen's government has said it has low expectations for the talks, blaming the Huthis for refusing to make concessions. The U.N. has repeatedly described Yemen as the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on August 17-18/18
Against Identity Politics/The New Tribalism and the Crisis of Democracy
Francis Fukuyama/Foreign Affairs/August 17/18
Beginning a few decades ago, world politics started to experience a dramatic transformation. From the early 1970s to the first decade of this century, the number of electoral democracies increased from about 35 to more than 110. Over the same period, the world’s output of goods and services quadrupled, and growth extended to virtually every region of the world. The proportion of people living in extreme poverty plummeted, dropping from 42 percent of the global population in 1993 to 18 percent in 2008.
But not everyone benefited from these changes. In many countries, and particularly in developed democracies, economic inequality increased dramatically, as the benefits of growth flowed primarily to the wealthy and well-educated. The increasing volume of goods, money, and people moving from one place to another brought disruptive changes. In developing countries, villagers who previously had no electricity suddenly found themselves living in large cities, watching TV, and connecting to the Internet on their mobile phones. Huge new middle classes arose in China and India—but the work they did replaced the work that had been done by older middle classes in the developed world. Manufacturing moved steadily from the United States and Europe to East Asia and other regions with low labor costs. At the same time, men were being displaced by women in a labor market increasingly dominated by service industries, and low-skilled workers found themselves replaced by smart machines.
Ultimately, these changes slowed the movement toward an increasingly open and liberal world order, which began to falter and soon reversed. The final blows were the global financial crisis of 2007–8 and the euro crisis that began in 2009. In both cases, policies crafted by elites produced huge recessions, high unemployment, and falling incomes for millions of ordinary workers. Since the United States and the EU were the leading exemplars of liberal democracy, these crises damaged the reputation of that system as a whole.
Indeed, in recent years, the number of democracies has fallen, and democracy has retreated in virtually all regions of the world. At the same time, many authoritarian countries, led by China and Russia, have become much more assertive. Some countries that had seemed to be successful liberal democracies during the 1990s—including Hungary, Poland, Thailand, and Turkey—have slid backward toward authoritarianism. The Arab revolts of 2010–11 disrupted dictatorships throughout the Middle East but yielded little in terms of democratization: in their wake, despotic regimes held on to power, and civil wars racked Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen. More surprising and perhaps even more significant was the success of populist nationalism in elections held in 2016 by two of the world’s most durable liberal democracies: the United Kingdom, where voters chose to leave the EU, and the United States, where Donald Trump scored a shocking electoral upset in the race for president.
All these developments relate in some way to the economic and technological shifts of globalization. But they are also rooted in a different phenomenon: the rise of identity politics. For the most part, twentieth-century politics was defined by economic issues. On the left, politics centered on workers, trade unions, social welfare programs, and redistributive policies. The right, by contrast, was primarily interested in reducing the size of government and promoting the private sector. Politics today, however, is defined less by economic or ideological concerns than by questions of identity. Now, in many democracies, the left focuses less on creating broad economic equality and more on promoting the interests of a wide variety of marginalized groups, such as ethnic minorities, immigrants and refugees, women, and LGBT people. The right, meanwhile, has redefined its core mission as the patriotic protection of traditional national identity, which is often explicitly connected to race, ethnicity, or religion.
Identity politics has become a master concept that explains much of what is going on in global affairs.
This shift overturns a long tradition, dating back at least as far as Karl Marx, of viewing political struggles as a reflection of economic conflicts. But important as material self-interest is, human beings are motivated by other things as well, forces that better explain the present day. All over the world, political leaders have mobilized followers around the idea that their dignity has been affronted and must be restored.
Of course, in authoritarian countries, such appeals are old hat. Russian President Vladimir Putin has talked about the “tragedy” of the Soviet Union’s collapse and has excoriated the United States and Europe for taking advantage of Russia’s weakness during the 1990s to expand NATO. Chinese President Xi Jinping alludes to his country’s “century of humiliation,” a period of foreign domination that began in 1839.
But resentment over indignities has become a powerful force in democratic countries, too. The Black Lives Matter movement sprang from a series of well-publicized police killings of African Americans and forced the rest of the world to pay attention to the victims of police brutality. On college campuses and in offices around the United States, women seethed over a seeming epidemic of sexual harassment and assault and concluded that their male peers simply did not see them as equals. The rights of transgender people, who had previously not been widely recognized as distinct targets of discrimination, became a cause célèbre. And many of those who voted for Trump yearned for a better time in the past, when they believed their place in their own society had been more secure.
Again and again, groups have come to believe that their identities—whether national, religious, ethnic, sexual, gender, or otherwise—are not receiving adequate recognition. Identity politics is no longer a minor phenomenon, playing out only in the rarified confines of university campuses or providing a backdrop to low-stakes skirmishes in “culture wars” promoted by the mass media. Instead, identity politics has become a master concept that explains much of what is going on in global affairs.
That leaves modern liberal democracies facing an important challenge. Globalization has brought rapid economic and social change and made these societies far more diverse, creating demands for recognition on the part of groups that were once invisible to mainstream society. These demands have led to a backlash among other groups, which are feeling a loss of status and a sense of displacement. Democratic societies are fracturing into segments based on ever-narrower identities, threatening the possibility of deliberation and collective action by society as a whole. This is a road that leads only to state breakdown and, ultimately, failure. Unless such liberal democracies can work their way back to more universal understandings of human dignity, they will doom themselves—and the world—to continuing conflict.
Most economists assume that human beings are motivated by the desire for material resources or goods. This conception of human behavior has deep roots in Western political thought and forms the basis of most contemporary social science. But it leaves out a factor that classical philosophers realized was crucially important: the craving for dignity. Socrates believed that such a need formed an integral “third part” of the human soul, one that coexisted with a “desiring part” and a “calculating part.” In Plato’s Republic, he termed this the thymos, which English translations render poorly as “spirit.”
In politics, thymos is expressed in two forms. The first is what I call “megalothymia”: a desire to be recognized as superior. Pre-democratic societies rested on hierarchies, and their belief in the inherent superiority of a certain class of people—nobles, aristocrats, royals—was fundamental to social order. The problem with megalothymia is that for every person recognized as superior, far more people are seen as inferior and receive no public recognition of their human worth. A powerful feeling of resentment arises when one is disrespected. And an equally powerful feeling—what I call “isothymia”—makes people want to be seen as just as good as everyone else.
The rise of modern democracy is the story of isothymia’s triumph over megalothymia: societies that recognized the rights of only a small number of elites were replaced by ones that recognized everyone as inherently equal. During the twentieth century, societies stratified by class began to acknowledge the rights of ordinary people, and nations that had been colonized sought independence. The great struggles in U.S. political history over slavery and segregation, workers’ rights, and women’s equality were driven by demands that the political system expand the circle of individuals it recognized as full human beings.
But in liberal democracies, equality under the law does not result in economic or social equality. Discrimination continues to exist against a wide variety of groups, and market economies produce large inequalities of outcome. Despite their overall wealth, the United States and other developed countries have seen income inequality increase dramatically over the past 30 years. Significant parts of their populations have suffered from stagnant incomes, and certain segments of society have experienced downward social mobility.
Perceived threats to one’s economic status may help explain the rise of populist nationalism in the United States and elsewhere. The American working class, defined as people with a high school education or less, has not been doing well in recent decades. This is reflected not just in stagnant or declining incomes and job losses but in social breakdown, as well. For African Americans, this process began in the 1970s, decades after the Great Migration, when blacks moved to such cities as Chicago, Detroit, and New York, where many of them found employment in the meatpacking, steel, or auto industry. As these sectors declined and men began to lose jobs through deindustrialization, a series of social ills followed, including rising crime rates, a crack cocaine epidemic, and a deterioration of family life, which helped transmit poverty from one generation to the next.
Over the past decade, a similar kind of social decline has spread to the white working class. An opioid epidemic has hollowed out white, rural working-class communities all over the United States; in 2016, heavy drug use led to more than 60,000 overdose deaths, about twice the number of deaths from traffic accidents each year in the country. Life expectancy for white American men fell between 2013 and 2014, a highly unusual occurrence in a developed country. And the proportion of white working-class children growing up in single-parent families rose from 22 percent in 2000 to 36 percent in 2017.

Trump just took us another step closer to the abyss
David Ignatius/Washington Post/August 17/18
What Donald Trump did Wednesday isn’t supposed to happen in a democracy. A president who swore an oath to uphold the Constitution just carried out a personal political vendetta against a career intelligence officer.
In revoking the security clearance of former CIA director John Brennan, Trump took another step toward the abyss. He cited the “risk posed by [Brennan’s] erratic conduct and behavior,” a ludicrous charge coming from our unguided missile of a chief executive.
Brennan’s real crime is that he has been in Trump’s face nearly every day, trading insults on Twitter and cable television. Brennan has taken to using words such as “high crimes and misdemeanors” and “nothing short of treasonous” to describe Trump’s behavior, and likened him to convicted fraudster Bernie Madoff. Stripping Brennan’s clearance was presidential payback, dressed up in national security language.
I wrote back in January that I wished Brennan and other former intelligence chiefs would resist slugging it out with Trump — not because their criticisms are wrong but because they risked tarnishing the credibility and professionalism of their agencies. As I argued, Trump supporters would “fume that the spy chiefs are ganging up on the populist president. Conspiracy theories about an imaginary ‘deep state’ will gain more traction, and the cycle of national mistrust will get worse.”
But let’s be honest: Brennan isn’t a guy who was going to back down in a bar fight, any more than Trump. He’s tough and stubborn, with a chip on his shoulder. He’s a guy who, if you write five positive things about him and one negative, remembers only the negative. Once Trump insulted Brennan’s integrity, as he did after he won the presidency, these two were going to end up in a cockfight.
The prevailing media explanation of the Brennan move was that Trump was trying to distract public attention from Omarosa Manigault Newman, a disaffected former staffer who just published a tell-all book about the president titled “Unhinged.” But I wonder if that was the real Brennan trigger.
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President Trump revoking former CIA director John Brennan’s security clearance sparked questions for White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders Aug. 15. (Monica Akhtar/The Washington Post)
Trump himself offered a clearer (and more damning) explanation in an interview Wednesday with the Wall Street Journal, suggesting that he punished Brennan because he was one of the original instigators of the investigation led by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. “I call it the rigged witch hunt, [it] is a sham. And these people led it! So I think it’s something that had to be done.”
With Trump, you always have to question what’s rubbing him so raw and driving him toward possibly illegal and unconstitutional actions. As prosecutors like to say: “We may not know what he’s done wrong, but he does.” Does a warped protective impulse drive Trump into these furies of defensive action?
With James B. Comey, ground zero may have been the briefing given by the then-FBI director to the president-elect in January, detailing the salacious sexual allegations contained in a now-famous (but unconfirmed) dossier compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele and funded partly by lawyers representing the Hillary Clinton campaign. Trump brought up this sleazy evidence repeatedly afterward and reportedly pressed Comey for a pledge of personal loyalty. When Trump didn’t get it, he fired his FBI director and, in a television interview, blamed it on Comey’s pursuit of the Russia investigation.
Brennan poses a similar challenge for Trump. It’s not that Brennan embodies the “deep state.” In truth, he disliked a CIA operations culture that he felt had rejected him as a young officer; while his modernization efforts at the CIA had supporters, I’d bet that many at the agency were relieved to see him go.
What was so threatening about the former CIA chief? Beyond Brennan’s sheer cussedness, I’d guess that Trump was frightened — and remains so to this day — about just how much Brennan knows about his secrets. And by that, I don’t just mean his dealings with Russian oligarchs and presidents but the way he moved through a world of fixers, flatterers and money launderers.
Brennan, like Comey, was there at the beginning of this investigation. Trump must have asked himself: What does Brennan know? What did he learn from the CIA’s deep assets in Moscow, and from liaison partners such as Britain, Israel, Germany and the Netherlands? Does Trump think Brennan will be a less credible witness without a security clearance? The Brennan episode is just one more warning of what may be ahead. Trump appears ready to take our country over the waterfall to save himself. Before it’s too late, Trump should realize: Even in his rage, he can’t fire everybody.

Who is Behind Iran’s Debacle in the Caspian Sea?
Amir Taheri/Asharq Al-Awsat/August,17/18
The storm raised last week over the signature by Iran of the Russian-sponsored Caspian Sea Convention may or may not subside anytime soon. But, whatever happens, it has opened a debate on at least one important issue.
This concerns the decision-making mechanism at the highest levels of the Islamic Republic. Just before the summit at Aktau, the Kazakh resort where the Convention was signed, President Hassan Rouhani’s entourage briefed media circles to the effect that he wasn’t very keen on signing and that, switching to sotto voce, he may have had his arm twisted by “someone above”.
The someone-above is, of course, the “Supreme Guide” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who, in both constitutional and political terms, has the last word in the Khomeinist system. In this instance, however, he, too, took precautions not to become too closely associated with the controversial convention. Raja News, one of the sites controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), run an editorial rejecting reports that Rouhani’s signature had been approved by Khamenei. It also criticized the Foreign Ministry, mostly controlled by the Rouhani faction, of having gone rogue.
The occasion was seized upon by those who wish to see the back of Rouhani for a variety of reasons. Even some within Rouhani’s own faction publicly called on him to step down.
Against that background, many were surprised to hear Khamenei publicly admitting that he had given the go-ahead for the secret talks that had led to the so-called “nuke deal” concocted by former US President Barack Obama.
“I made a mistake,” Khamenei said in a tremulous voice.
Some remembered that for years Khamenei had denied his pivotal role in the sorry saga designed to deceive the Iranian and American peoples. So, the question last week was whether we were witnessing a repeat of the same comedy regarding the Russian-dictated text. Conjecture and circumstantial evidence point to Khamenei as the man responsible for what many Iranians see as a sell-out to Vladimir Putin. To start with, in both legal and political terms, no Islamic Republic president is able to sign so important a document without a nod and a wink from the “Supreme Guide”.
Next, the Islamic Republic, at least as far as the presidency and the foreign ministry are concerned, had been opposed to even weaker previous versions of the convention.  Talks on the subject ended in a cul-de-sac during President Hashemi Rafsanjani’s tenure at a time that a weak Russia, just emerging from the disintegration of the Soviet Union, was more accommodating that it is today under “Tsar Vladimir”. At the time, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, two of the newly emerging littoral states, were in a worst shape than Russia. Azerbaijan had to cope with the secession of High Qarabagh, an enclave annexed by Armenia, and the shenanigans of luminaries like President Abulfazl Elchibey. So bad was the situation in Azerbaijan that almost half a million of its 5.5 million population at the time had to seek temporary refuge in Iran. At one point Iran set up a series of “counters” along its border to enable Azerbaijanis to buy foodstuff from Iran in exchange for personal possessions, jewelry and even furniture. A similar counter had been set up at Gomishan, at the eastern end of the Caspian Sea on the border with Turkmenistan, while the newly emergent republic was suffocating under the despot Safar-Murad Nyazov.
Saying “niyet” to any compromise on the Caspian continued under President Muhammad Khatami. At a summit of littoral states in Ashgabad, capital of Turkmenistan, Iran was the only participants to reject a “settlement” sponsored by Moscow. Unprepared to offer an alternative, Khatami had to do one of those mullahs’ tricks to get out of a tight corner; he announced that he had been struck with a crippling back-ache and had to fly back home for urgent treatment.
It may sound astonishing but the Islamic Republic never developed a coherent position on the Caspian Sea. The “niyet” posture continued under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Tehran leaders were more focused on meddling in Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Bahrain and Yemen than defining and achieving Iran’s national interests in the Caspian. After years of diplomatic toing-and-froing with no results, Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan decided to ignore Tehran and do whatever they liked as if Iran didn’t exist. They signed energy contracts with major Western companies, opened their economies to foreign investment and experienced two decades of fast economic growth. In 1991, per capita income in all three was almost half of Iran. By 1917 all had higher incomes per capita than the Islamic Republic. Also ignoring the Islamic Republic, the four littoral states signed bilateral and multilateral accords among themselves covering 87 per cent of the Caspian’s surface, leaving Iran isolated in its corner with less than 13 per cent. In 2016 the Russians came back with a new offer: a convention to establish a legal regime for the Caspian without stating the actual share of each littoral state. This is like decreeing a legal system for a bloc of flats without determining the size of each flat and to whom it belongs. Putin first presented the Russian text to Khamenei in a blitzkrieg visit to Tehran in 2015.
The two agreed to establish direct contact, that is to say by-passing their respective bureaucracies. In that trip Putin didn’t even make a courtesy call on the Islamic Republic President. Since then, Khamenei has used his foreign policy adviser Ali-Akbar Velayati and the Quds (Jerusalem) Corps chief General Qassem Soleimani to send to and receive messages from Putin by-passing Rouhani and the foreign ministry. The Caspian Convention is a dish cooked by Putin and seasoned by Khamenei with Rouhani enlisted to serve it. In it, Iran implicitly swallows the bilateral and multilateral deals that the other littoral states have concluded since the fall of the Soviet Empire. Iran also quietly drops its traditional claim of co-sovereignty with Russia with the three other former Soviet republics forming one half of the system as joint successors to USSR.
The key aim of the Convention is to turn the Caspian into a Russian lake as far as military power is concerned. In an editorial published on August 14, Tabnak, a news-site reflecting the views of General Mohsen Rezai, former chief of the IRGC, put it succinctly: “We cannot consider the Caspian Convention as signing nothing. The new (legal) regime will prevent military presence by non-littoral states... Among the littoral states only Iran and Russia have warships in its waters. By approving this Convention, the Caspian Sea will become exclusive backyard for the Russian and Iranian military, free of outsiders.”
Comparing Iran’s “military presence”, a total of 11 patrol boats, with Russia’s immense military presence in the Caspian, not to mention 22 bases around the coastlines, it would be clear who the main beneficiary from the “backyard” is.
Any blame, or credit, for the Caspian Convention must go to Putin and Khamenei, not the clueless Rouhani. Will we see Khamenei coming back in three years to admit another mistake as he did when he cooked “the nuke deal” with Obama?

US Stagnating Wages Don’t Tell the Whole Story
Ramesh Ponnuru/Bloomberg/August 17/18
The average wage earned in America has been stagnating for four decades, according to the Pew Research Center. It’s a shocking finding. Thankfully, there are two reasons to be less dismayed by it than an initial glance would suggest.
In 2018, the average hourly wage was $22.65. Pew calculates that in inflation-adjusted terms, that’s the same wage rate as in 1978. Back then, employees took home fewer dollars, but they went just as far. Looking at the inflation-adjusted wage of the worker in the middle of the income distribution tells the same basic story: It has barely risen since 1979 (the first year for which we have the statistic). The first reason this news should be less disturbing than it appears is that compensation includes benefits, not just wages, and the proportion of benefits to wages has been rising. Average compensation must therefore have risen faster than average wages have.
Drew DeSilver’s write-up of the findings for Pew mentions this issue prominently, and links to a Bureau of Labor Statistics compendium that shows how much difference non-wage compensation can make. From 2001 through 2018, the average civilian wage grew 5.3 percent; average compensation grew 10.4 percent, almost twice as much. Perhaps benefits have become too large a part of compensation packages. If the tax code did not favor health coverage over wages — by leaving the former untaxed — employees would have chosen a mix that included higher wages and lower benefits than they have in fact received. But it would be a different problem if workers were not getting any more compensation as time passed, and our picture of the economy will be wrong if we don’t notice that difference.
The second reason for cheer is that even wages in isolation have almost certainly risen more than Pew indicates. When looking at changes in living standards, it’s right to adjust for inflation. But Pew has overadjusted for them, and as a result it’s not seeing actual improvements in purchasing power.
Pew appears to be using a measure of inflation called CPI-U, which is produced by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and used by many other researchers. But as Scott Winship, then an analyst at the Manhattan Institute, detailed a few years ago, that measure overestimates inflation — and vastly overestimates its cumulative impact over time.
The measure overestimated housing inflation prior to 1983, and so the bureau itself recommended 30 years ago that it not be used to look at trends covering that period. It also doesn’t account for the way consumers change their purchases in response to relative price changes. To use one of Winship’s examples: When the price of apples rises, all else equal that’s an increase in inflation; but our measure of inflation should recognize that it’s a smaller increase than it would be if people couldn’t buy oranges instead. The CPI-U doesn’t recognize it.
The government produces a statistic that does not have these flaws and goes back to 1929: the PCE deflator. Use that better measure of inflation, and the flat trend line in wages since 1978 that Pew found becomes a 22 percent increase. Real compensation, including benefits, must have grown even more. (For those readers wondering whether that apparent progress just reflects growth at the top of the income distribution, Winship has calculated that workers in the middle of the distribution saw a 31 percent increase in compensation from 1967 to 2015.)
To my mind, the idea that most people have made no economic progress in four decades just feels wrong — it contradicts the growing material abundance that I think nearly anyone in our society ought to be able to see. Yet many people seem to find the picture of long-running stagnation plausible. Meanwhile, they find implausible what the best reading of the evidence suggests about poverty: Material deprivation has sharply declined over the last few decades, too. I can think of a few theories for why people might buy a false story of economic stagnation. While living standards have kept improving, the rate of improvement has fallen. People may have gotten used to the higher growth rates of the past. Families are less stable than they used to be: People might therefore see the good life as less attainable, which then colors their perceptions of the economy. Some groups, notably blue-collar white men, have seen a notable drop in social status compared with what their fathers enjoyed.
Some people are politically predisposed to see stagnation. For a certain kind of liberal — the kind who believes that everything started to go wrong in America’s political economy when unions, tax rates and antitrust enforcement started to decline — findings like Pew’s confirm what they already thought. Correcting those findings doesn’t invalidate liberals’ policy prescriptions. Maybe Americans would do even better under those reforms, or others. But reformers should keep in mind that their task is to build on success.

With One Eye on Syria, Israel Reluctantly Seeks Gaza Truce
David Wainer/Bloomberg/August 17/18
As public pressure mounts on Israeli leaders to crush rocket barrages from the Gaza Strip, they’re opting to try the diplomatic route while a greater threat looms: Iran’s presence in postwar Syria. To keep his military focused on the northern front, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is pursuing a long-term truce with Hamas. Yaakov Amidror, a former Israeli national security adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said the negotiations, carried out through intermediaries, serve both Israel and Hamas. As President Bashar al-Assad’s war against opposition forces winds down, Iran is working to strike lasting roots in Syria, increasing its sphere of influence and giving it an arms-transport corridor stretching from Tehran to Beirut. Israeli officials fear Iran could use Syria as a forward base to threaten the Jewish state, similar to the challenge from Lebanon with Iran’s proxy militia, Hezbollah.
Iran’s nuclear program, ballistic missiles, support for anti-Israel groups and calls for the Jewish state’s destruction lead some Israeli officials to view it as a near-existential threat. In recent months Israel frequently has attacked Iranian bases and other military targets in Syria to pressure Tehran to retreat.
To keep Gaza from becoming a distraction, Israeli officials are backing Egyptian and United Nations efforts to broker a truce with Hamas. The idea would be to trade military quiet for the easing of an Israeli blockade imposed more than a decade ago, according to a person familiar with the talks who spoke on condition of anonymity. If all goes well, later stages could involve international investment in Gaza and the release of Israelis held hostage there.
Post opinion piece, Trump advisers Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt and US ambassador to Israel David Friedman signaled that if Hamas stops seeking confrontation with Israel, Gaza could receive massive international aid. More isolated than ever, Hamas in recent months has sponsored weekly protests at the Gaza border fence that have focused popular anger toward Israel and away from the group’s governance of Gaza. Shunned by the West as a terrorist group, Hamas is distrusted by Saudi Arabia and Egypt because of its Muslim Brotherhood origins, and broke with the Palestinian Authority in armed clashes in 2007. Nickolay Mladenov, the UN envoy to the region, has been shuttling among Gaza, Egypt and Israel trying to jump-start humanitarian projects in the strip.
“If we leave things unchanged we’re heading into another war, which will be nasty,” Mladenov said in an interview. Not everyone is on board with the cease-fire talks. Mahmoud Abbas’s West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, which boycotted a White House summit in January seeking aid for Gaza, has raised a number of objections to the current effort. It sees international plans to rebuild Gaza as a plot to circumvent the Palestinian Authority and divide the two Palestinian territories.

Being Pro-Muslim in a Complicated World
Denis MacEoin/Gatestone Institute/August 17/18
No doubt those who ignore or cover up abuses such as beatings, female genital mutilation or general repression do so out of cultural sensitivity, deferring to traditionalist leaders and self-appointed representatives of various communities, including Muslim bodies. Their sensitivity, however, can end up gravely impairing the lives of literally hundreds of millions of Muslim women in allowing harmful practices to be perpetuated.
Genuine humanitarian concerns about injustice to Muslims, however, have been mingled with a political and religious attitude that condemns anyone who expresses even the mildest questioning of Islam -- so much so, in fact, that many well-intentioned Western politicians, human rights advocates, church leaders and journalists have turned Islam into the one and only ideology that must never be criticized, and have called anyone who so much as comments on some of the precepts of Islam as "racist."
The view that Islam should not be questioned, seems to have led to a lack of reciprocity: radical Islamic individuals and bodies are often permitted to preach hatred for the West in mosques, centres, and university campuses, but non-Muslims commenting on genuine concerns are frequently the objects of public abuse and even criminal prosecution.
What is needed are more organizations that stand out as pro-Muslim in support of bettering the lives of Muslims; many are often too fearful of retribution to speak out.
My, how the world changes. When, in late 1978, your humble correspondent presented the first translations into English of passages from Ayatollah Khomeini's book, Velayat-e Faqih ("Governance of the Jurist"), bought in Tehran in 1977, I knew the religious extremists would challenge the shah's rule, but I was certain they had no chance against his army, police, and security services.
I was wrong. In January 1979, the Islamic Revolution took place, and by April, Khomeini declared the foundation of an Islamic Republic headed by himself and, under him, a clerical regime.
In November of the same year, a young Muslim fundamentalist and his followers took control of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, thereby sparking a siege that lasted 15 days and led to possibly 1,000 deaths; intervention by a French counter-terrorism force; a series of executions, and a number of surviving rebels who would years later join the terrorist organization al-Qa'ida.
In December, just a month later, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. This sortie started a nine-year war that caused around a million civilian deaths. The term Mujahidin (Jihad fighters), became famous in the West, along with the concept of jihad. After Russia's withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989, the stage was set for the Taliban (students from religious seminaries), who took control of the country in 1996. The Afghan war against Russia also set the scene for Osama bin Laden's forming, in 1988, al-Qa'ida, which was responsible for the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States and led to the US invasion of Afghanistan as well as a multinational war that continues.
As widely documented, since 2001, parts of Europe and the United States have suffered waves of Islam-inspired terrorism; an international radical movement known as Islamic State (ISIS) has ravaged Iraq, Syria, Libya and beyond; a host of Muslim terror outfits have wreaked havoc in North Africa; countries such as Nigeria, Somalia, Kenya, Pakistan, and Bangladesh have been destabilized, as well as parts of India and beyond; Hamas, Hizballah, and Islamic Jihad, have effectively destroyed all prospects of peace for Israel; waves of Muslim refugees have entered Europe, some of whom have made European cities more violent; Islamic anti-Semitism has forced thousands of Jews out of France; national governments have all but turned a blind eye to the ravages created by hard-line Muslims, often on one another, and so on.
Although of course most Muslims are peaceful, law-abiding, and most likely just hoping for better lives, it is hard not to see how the sheer quantity of this extraordinary wave of violence could spark apprehension about what to expect. After all, we have all gone from seeing people and property blown up, to shootings, stabbings, vehicular-rammings and, in parts of the West, increased sexual aggression. Many of these disruptions have unfortunately been coupled with the arrival in Europe and North America of millions of Muslims, many of whom, often after two or three generations, have not yet been comfortably assimilated in their host countries.
This apprehension has dark echoes down some 1,400 years in Europe, where, since the seventh century, wars have been fought against invading Islamic forces. Relatively recent jihads include the one launched against Britain, France and Russia by the Ottoman Empire during the First World War, and against the Armenians and Greeks in Turkey.
After so many terror attacks in the name of Islam, a certain apprehension might not seem unreasonable
As noted previously, far too many people, including Muslims, have attacked even other Muslims, unfortunately tarring all members of the faith with the same brush. There have also been physical attacks by non-Muslims against Muslims and Muslim centres. Many of these have taken place in European countries such as Germany, Britain, Poland, France and the Netherlands. Several Muslims have also been murdered for their faith, as in 2013 in England, or again this year in London.
Thousands of people in Europe probably are genuine religious bigots, nationalists and white supremacists. They march and hold demonstrations in the streets; they daub graffiti on mosques and Muslim homes, and they have distorted the necessary debate in political circles about the best solution to the triple problems concerning Islam in the West: terror threats, failures to assimilate, and violence directed against innocent Christians, Muslims, Jews and others.
Genuine humanitarian concerns about injustice to Muslims, however, have been mingled with a political and religious attitude that condemns anyone who expresses even the mildest questioning of Islam -- so much so, in fact, that many well-intentioned Western politicians, human rights advocates, church leaders and journalists have turned Islam into the one and only ideology that must never be criticized, and have called anyone who so much as comments on some of the precepts of Islam as "racist." Individuals who ask questions are accused of distorting Islamic doctrine, law, and history. Many advocates for Islam often insist that Islam, a religion with a long history of violence towards unbelievers and dissidents, must always be termed "a religion of peace", something it has never been. This view, that Islam should not be questioned, seems to have led to a lack of reciprocity: radical Islamic individuals and bodies are often permitted to preach hatred for the West in mosques, centres, and university campuses, but non-Muslims commenting on genuine concerns are frequently the objects of public abuse and even criminal prosecution.
Considering the sheer quantity of jihadi incitement and violence, however, many citizens might well feel that their apprehensions are justifiable. Unfortunately, some extremists and political activists have stirred realistic concerns into a possibly unrealistic cauldron of hatred and suspicion.
Those who seek to defend Islam against its critics may often be heavily influenced by extreme Muslim organizations posing as moderates who advocate integration and liberal Islam, such as the UK's Muslim Engagement and Development (MEND) organization. It has become politically correct to fend off any criticism of Islam, yet no one is prosecuted for speaking or writing comments critical of Christianity, Judaism, Communism, Socialism, Libertarianism, Fascism, the Catholic Church, Hinduism, Buddhism, or other ideologies.
The people who try so hard to protect Islam from criticism do so in most cases with the best intentions. They are probably anti-racists, moulded in part by the philosophies of Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela. Others seem to be Christian leaders who prioritize interfaith relations as a solution to social divisions. Yet others appear principled advocates of an assimilationist approach to the rifts that appear in the British, French, American and other social fabrics.
Many good people who respond to Jewish voices when they speak of anti-Semitism also give an ear when Muslims say they have been offended. Regrettably, most of these good people appear ill-equipped to distinguish between balanced cries for help on the one side and extremist manipulation on the other. Many well-intentioned individuals seem genuinely to believe they are helping distressed Muslims and assisting them in finding a place in national society. Often enough, they are, and their support really does help. Yet, on a wider scale, they are actually harming Muslims, as in, for example, countenancing the suffering of beaten women or the extensive practice of female genital mutilation (FGM). According to the UN's World Health Organization, the practice of FGM has savagely mutilated more than 200 million girls just in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
So long as instances of FGM are disregarded within close-knit Muslim communities and ignored even by Western governments, the police and the Crown Prosecution Service, many lives will be ruined or severely diminished.
No doubt those who ignore or cover up abuses such as beatings, female genital mutilation or general repression do so out of cultural sensitivity, deferring to traditionalist leaders and self-appointed representatives of various communities, including Muslim bodies. Their sensitivity, however, can end up gravely impairing the lives of literally hundreds of millions of Muslim women in allowing harmful practices to be perpetuated.
Those who condemn the practice of FGM may be, in turn, condemned by the do-gooders and self-appointed guardians of so-called "morality"; yet, as in ending the Indian custom of suttee, in which a widow is made to throw herself on her husband's funeral pyre, ironically those who do the greatest good for innocent Muslim girls are, it would seem, the critics.
The fact is that intelligent, solidly researched, critical comment on Islam may upset hide-bound Muslims and their many supporters in the West; yet is vital for the wellbeing of Muslims and former Muslims who are desperate to break free from the traditionalists and the violent application of shari'a law.
Muslim reformers are many, but they face an uphill struggle in their efforts to influence their religion -- as well as the prestigious and doubtless lucrative jobs that accompany the strict practice of it.
By contrast, we might be doing so many voiceless people an immense service by helping to bring their societies closer to the human rights and freedoms of the modern world. There seems no reluctance to use its technology; why not its treatment of others as well?
Lately, it seems, unwarranted criticism has been levelled at responsible organizations and websites which, in reality, tend to be exact parallels of the concerns expressed by reformist Muslims, such as Britain's Sara Khan, recently appointed by the government as the Head of the Commission for Countering Extremism.[1]
Significantly -- in a revealing but unsurprising response -- a review of Kahn's book, The Battle for British Islam: Reclaiming Muslim Identity from Extremism, by "Scottish Desi" on Amazon UK, reads: "Sara Khan is an Islamophobe who has many Islamophobic friends to discredit Islam. Her book is just Islamophobic rant."
That comment alone sums up the problems that face Muslims who seek to bring Islam into the 21st century and in line with modern values, while remaining faithful to the spiritual and ethical dimensions of their faith.
Author Sam Westrop discussed the harm that is done by extreme bigotry against Muslims alongside the benefits of criticism to liberal Muslims:
The greatest threat to moderate Islam and its assimilation with democratic values are those people who, too fearful to make a stand against radical Islamists, ignore the pleas of pro-Western Muslims and instead choose to "engage" with the extremists. Real Islamophobes are those who abandon secular Muslims and turn a blind eye to the human rights violations committed against innocent Muslims by Islamist governments and terror groups.
A number of readers commented that this was not the sort of argument they expected from Gatestone Institute. One reader said that he would never read Gatestone again if it kept on putting up articles like this. All that readers such as these showed was that they had not understood what such organizations are about: even according to the European Court of Human Rights, shari'a law is incompatible with democracy:
"In Refah Partisi, it carried out a thorough examination of the relationship between the Convention, democracy, political parties and religion, an d found that a sharia-based regime was incompatible with the Convention, in particular, as regards the rules of criminal law and procedure, the place given to women in the legal order and its interference in all spheres of private and public life in accordance with religious precepts." (page 6)
What is needed are more organizations that stand out as pro-Muslim in support of bettering the lives of Muslims who are often too fearful of retribution to speak out, and in opposition to anyone who would harm Muslims. Readers clearly fixated on silencing many criticisms of Islamic radicalism seem to be the people who do not actually care about Muslims or wish them well, or who prefer defending an ideology rather than the people who might possibly feel trapped in it. Many readers seem only to be able to tolerate commentary on Islam so long as it keeps its adherents under the subjugation of unforgiving tyrannies, as in Pakistan, Sudan, Nigeria or Iran, to name just a few.
There are doubtless organizations, some with well-known websites, on which the vast majority of comments are viciously anti-Muslim, many calling for Muslims to be killed, or determined to expel all Muslims from Europe or the United States, and showing themselves to be incapable of understanding efforts to offer informed corrections to hard-line views.
What, in fact, would be helpful is to have even more organizations like the Quilliam Foundation, the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD), the Middle East Forum and Gatestone Institute, which combine questioning radical Islam, along with support for Muslims who have said they long for non-violence and the universal freedom to speak without fear of retaliation.
Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, President of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD), is an example of an American Muslim leader who is critical of radical Islam, speaks out for gender equality and freedom of speech, and supports Muslims who believe in religious tolerance.
The many Muslim who write for these organizations seem to have no problem respecting the religion of others, and seeing what might be done to mitigate the harsher aspects of shari'a law.
Muslim think tanks such as Quilliam, left-of centre and staffed by a mixture of Muslims and non-Muslims, describes itself as "the world's first counter-extremism organisation", and states that it has operations worldwide. As an example of its broad approach to what it means to be a Muslim, in a recent analysis of a CNN production "25 Muslims changing America", it asked:
"... upon just a quick glance, many things were missing from this list. What happened to the Shia Muslims, Ahmadi Muslims, Latina Muslims, Native American Muslims, Black Muslims, non-violent Salafi Muslims, Sufi Muslim, secular Muslims, cultural Muslims, LGBT Muslims, etc.?"
Ultimately, people who hate, hate. Denigrating Muslims, just as denigrating Jews or any other race or religion, unhelpfully restricts the public from seeing with clear eyes the many causes leading to jihadist terrorism. Think tanks and organizations such as those above are in the forefront of the battle to work alongside those Muslims who want to be part of the free and modern world while enjoying their right to worship in their own way. Rather than looking back 1,400 years, they join up with Muslims in looking towards a future that these Muslims say they desire -- to teach their children to live a peaceful life among their Muslim and non-Muslim friends and neighbours. They only wish to contribute to the societies in which they now live and enhance the prospects of their fellow believers in Muslim lands for reform, tolerance, and freedom of expression.
*Dr. Denis MacEoin taught Arabic and Islamic Studies at a British University and is a Distinguished Senior Fellow with the Gatestone Institute.
[1] See also her critical study of Islamic radicalism, The Battle for British Islam: Reclaiming Muslim Identity from Extremism, London, 2016
© 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.

Turkey won’t give up Russia ties to make up with US
Maria Dubovikova/Arab News/August 17/18
Turkey, being sandwiched between the US and Russia, is in quite a complicated situation that, on the one hand, greatly troubles its foreign policy, but on the other gives it a chance to profit from the rivalry between Washington and Moscow.
The current Turkey crisis is just another chapter in the long history of the US and Russia’s troubled relationship. What Turkey is undergoing is one of the consequences of the US dealing with global problems passively during the Obama administration, which kept things pending amid Turkish maneuvers to balance out its strategy with Russia and America.
Now, the US under President Donald Trump is in a volatile period vis-a-vis foreign policy, as Washington has had problems with many world capitals. Although the recent conflict between Ankara and Washington appears to be a dispute over an imprisoned priest, the real issue dates back to the Obama era, when the US was dealing with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party and the Gulen movement at the expense of the government of Turkey. The US administration’s response to the coup attempt of July 15, 2016, turned Ankara toward Russia and China.
Meanwhile, Turkish-Russian relations have gone through multiple stages. The failed coup improved their ties while it aggravated the Turkish-American bond. And, even though the US did not respond to Turkish demands and fears in Syria, Turkey found a way out from American pressure via Russia. The outcome of the Russian-Turkish rapprochement was political agreements and trade-offs on the geography of Syria.
Turkey’s importance in the eyes of the US has been reinforced by the ability of the Turkish rulers to present themselves as a party that the Americans can trust. Since the end of the Cold War, US-Turkish relations have entered a new phase that has strengthened Turkey’s status through its active roles in American plans, including through its participation in the international coalition against Iraq in the early 1990s and allowing US forces to use Turkish territory to carry out military operations against Iraq.
Russia is important for Turkish national interests and much closer to its borders that the US, having significant influence in the Caucasus region
But will Turkish-Russian relations now thrive at the expense of Turkish-American relations? Or will Turkey try to balance out its relations between the two parties?
Recently, Turkish-Russian relations have flourished. The areas of cooperation and interoperability are not limited to a single file, but rather a number of political and economic issues. These files can be addressed through two main axes: The first one, outside the Syrian arena, concerns economic relations. The second is within the Syrian arena and is related to political relations and understandings, represented by political trade-offs on the ground in Syria, and through adopting a political path to resolving the Syrian crisis by taking part in the Astana conference.
Economic relations with Russia include trade exchanges between the two countries and new economic partnerships. The volume of trade between Turkey and Russia reached $35 billion a year before the crisis caused by Turkey’s downing of a Russian fighter in November 2015, but subsequently declined to $28 billion. Turkey’s Ministry of Trade and Customs now says economic ties have returned to previous levels, stressing Turkey’s desire to increase trade between the countries to $100 billion.
As for the new economic partnerships, these lie in three major projects. The first is the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant, the first of its kind in Turkey, for which Russian President Vladimir Putin participated in the ground-breaking ceremony with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the southern province of Mersin in April. The plant will be built by Rosatom at a cost of $20 billion, and is likely to start operating in 2023. The second partnership involves the S-400 missile defense system. In September last year, Erdogan announced the signing of an agreement with Russia to purchase the S-400 system and both sides have since agreed to bring forward the delivery of the deal to the end of 2019 instead of 2020. Third is the TurkStream gas project that will connect Russia and Turkey. Gazprom’s chief executive Alexei Miller has announced that the pipeline connecting the two countries will be operational in 2019.
If Washington and Ankara do overcome their differences and improve relations, Turkey will not make this improvement at the expense of its ties with Russia, even if the US pushes it to break its bonds with Moscow. First, nobody can dictate to Turkey while Erdogan is in power. Second, Russia is important for Turkish national interests and much closer to its borders than the US, having significant influence in the Caucasus region. Turkey will then seek to balance out its relations between the Americans and the Russians, with the aim of milking both.
• Maria Dubovikova is a prominent political commentator, researcher and expert on Middle East affairs. She is president of the Moscow-based International Middle Eastern Studies Club (IMESClub).

Mr. Abadi, there’s no time to fool us
Adnan Hussein/Al Arabiya/August 17/18
Who does Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi want to fool by referring former ministers and several officials to the Integrity Commission to investigate with them in cases related to administrative and financial corruption?
Mr. Abadi cannot fool Iraqis any more, be they the tens of thousands of youth, elderly, women and men who took to the streets and squares in the hot weather to express their anger and resentment against this government, former governments, the state’s higher institutions and their chiefs and officials. The protests were due to the unprecedented corruption that has ruined the economic, social, political and cultural life of Iraqis across all of its ethnicities, religions and sects.
Mr. Abadi, for the last four years, you have caused us a headache and we have repeatedly heard your pledges and promises of reform and of confronting corruption, but there it is, ‘your roaring mountain just gave birth to a mouse!’
Fed up Iraqis
Those who protested in Basra, Nasiriyah, Amarah, Samawah, Al Diwaniyah, Najaf, Karbala, Hillah, Kut, Baghdad and the subdivided districts and villages were not only protesting against the two former ministries. They were also protesting against corrupt officials of the administrative bodies and local councils in their governorates as they are the ones who directly embezzled funds allocated for their villages, districts and governorates.
The protesters were practicing their constitutional right to express their views, but Haider al-Abadi and his military and security aides sent in armed forces; which resulted in the killing of 14 demonstrators and injured hundreds.
Those people who have demonstrated since 2010 have not only been harmed by the corruption of the education and industry ministries, but by all ministries, institutions and organizations that are involved in general and comprehensive destruction.
Mr. Abadi, for the last four years, you have caused us a headache and we have repeatedly heard your pledges and promises of reform and of confronting corruption, but there it is, ‘your roaring mountain just gave birth to a mouse!’ Three former ministries and other three or four dozens of officials are being probed, and perhaps most of them have already stashed their illegal assets overseas!
Corruption cannot be fought in bits and pieces. It should be confronted through a clear, comprehensive and specific strategy that does not exclude anyone even if he belongs to the current government or your party. If this is not possible, then let someone else assume the task and acknowledge your incapability to combat and reform; hence, you will rest and we can rest too!This selective and limited method of confrontation, that is perhaps politicized too, is not effective by any means and people cannot be fooled by it. Actually, it seems to make us laugh over the misery of this thinking pattern.

The Algerian sheikh who is disliked by Juhayman
Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/August 17/18
When the death of Sheikh Abu Bakr al-Jaza’iri was announced two days ago, the first thing that came to my mind was that it’s just a similarity of names, as I thought that the Sheikh Jaber al-Jaza’iri we know had passed away a long time ago!
However, the fact that Sheikh al-Jaza’iri was distant during his older withering years is what gave me that impression. Sheikh Jaber, may he rest in peace, had gotten old by then.
Today, I remember this man who immigrated with his family in the beginning of the 1950s to Saudi Arabia and “neighbored” the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina like many scholars from all over the world did throughout centuries.
The pious Algerian young man, a descendent of royal traditions and the schools of Algerian scholars association led by the first revolutionary religious symbol Sheikh Abdelhamid Ben Badis, later become a star in the sky of preaching and religious movement in Saudi Arabia and the Islamic world.
The story of the Islamic University in Medina and the case of Juhayman’s group, which occupied the Grand Mosque for two weeks in 1979, won’t be complete without the remarks, opinion, vision and testimony of Abu Bakr al-Jaza’iri
Where it all began
He was born in Lioua in Biskra, South of Algeria, in 1921, making him just under 100-years-old when he died. He worked as a teacher in some schools of the education ministry and in Dar al-Hadith in Medina. When the Islamic University opened in 1960, he was among the first lecturers there, until he was referred to retirement in 1986. The significance of this man who taught in the halls of the Prophet’s Mosque and interpreted the Quran for half a century – I’ve personally attended some of his lessons at the Prophet’s Mosque – is that he’s a maker and a witness of religious and active life in Saudi Arabia, especially in Medina. The story of the Islamic University in Medina and the case of Juhayman’s group, which occupied the Grand Mosque for two weeks in 1979, won’t be complete without the remarks, opinion, vision and testimony of Abu Bakr al-Jaza’iri. In the beginning, the man was a guide to Juhayman’s group upon the directions of the country’s late mufti Sheikh Abd al-Aziz ibn Baz. This is according to many testimonies, including a testimony by Nasser al-Huzyaimi. Then he disagreed with them later when they attacked a few shops in Medina and destroyed for hanging photos. This was in 1965, according to Huzyaimi, who was an intelligent member of the group and who is currently a renowned researcher and writer.
The situation then developed when Juhayman announced religious hostility and rejected the legitimacy of governance. This is where the separation occurred, and Juhayman began to accuse Jaza’iri of writing reports about them to the authorities.
I do not know if Sheikh Abu Bakr al-Jaza’iri wrote down these memories. Not just about his complicated relation with Juhayman’s group, and the “house of Al-Hurra Al-Sharqiya” in Medina, but about the atmosphere of the Islamic University and the religious intellectual political debate that had erupted at the time in the local scene which was new to these arriving controversies.
What is certain is that if the late sheikh did not do this, like others have, we will have lost an important part of history.
May he rest in peace.

Obituary: Former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee, a distinctive stamp on Indian politics
C. Uday Bhaskar/Al Arabiya/August 17/18
Former Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee (born 25 December 1924) who died on Thursday (August 16) will be long remembered by an India that is now in deep mourning, for the values and principles that he embodied.
Atal-ji, as he was popularly and affectionately referred to, had the rare and perhaps chequered distinction of being sworn-in as Prime Minister of India on three occasions. The first time was in May 1996 when his minority BJP (Bharatiya Janata party) government lasted all of 17 days.
He was back as PM in March 1998 and this time around his government lasted for just under 19 months. However this was also the period when he took a momentous decision that enabled India to cross the nuclear Rubicon and declare itself a nuclear weapon power.
Calling an early election, Atal Bihari Vajpayee (ABV) was sworn in again as PM in October 1999 and this time around, he completed a five-year term. In his last tenure he imparted his distinctive stamp on Indian politics and grew in stature even as he battled severe health constraints.
There are many significant and definitive contributions associated with the Vajpayee years that have transformed India across the political, economic and security domains but perhaps none more tectonic than his ‘lonely’ decision to conduct the Indian nuclear tests of early May 1998
ABV entered national politics in 1957 when he was elected to the Indian Lok Sabha (lower house) for the first time and remained an active parliamentarian until 2007 when his health deteriorated.
Associated with the Hindu right wing in his youth, he witnessed the Nehru years from close quarters and as a novice member of parliament, the young ABV often crossed swords with India’s first PM over issues of governance. To the credit of the legislative ethos at the time, Nehru encouraged the young Atal, praised his opponents oratorical skills and noted that this rising star would one day become the PM of India.
Becoming right wing party leader
It took almost 40 years through the vicissitudes of Indian politics for ABV to emerge as the leader of the Hindu right wing BJP, which in turn drew its core ideological strength from the Nagpur-based RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) that was formed in 1925 as a Hindu socio-cultural organization. ABV was deeply imbued with the Hindu ethos of tolerance and the acceptance of diversity but was uneasy with the more strident and aggressive form of Hindutva politics that was entering the Indian polity in the early 1990’s.
Yet it was this consolidation of Hindu electoral relevance that enabled ABV (assisted by his trusted deputy LK Advani) to become the political alternative to decades of Congress rule and he was elected as the PM – more than once.
Indian politics in the first 50 years ( 1947 to 1997 ) were nurtured in the Nehruvian template – one that kept religion relatively muted and emphasized the ‘idea of India’; one that rejected the ‘two-nation’ theory and was committed to an inclusive ethos of equitable citizenship and attendant identity.
ABV despite his RSS grooming was more inclined towards the tolerant and accommodating ethos of liberal Hinduism and had deep misgivings about the assertive Hindutva politics associated with the hard-liners in his party. The demolition of the Babri masjid in December 1992 by Hindu right wing elements saw him distancing himself from this orientation and he was consequently isolated within the BJP party. But an element of ambiguity remained – ABV distanced himself from the Babri demolition but did not sever the umbilical linkage with the RSS.
It is testimony to ABV’s political acumen that he was able to navigate the opposition to him within the RSS and the BJP and emerge as the unopposed candidate to be elected the PM of India. This was enabled by his colleague LK Advani in considerable measure. But the fault-line between Hinduism and Hindutva that ABV had to grapple with were sown.
Definitive contributions
There are many significant and definitive contributions associated with the Vajpayee years that have transformed India across the political, economic and security domains but perhaps none more tectonic than his ‘lonely’ decision to conduct the Indian nuclear tests of early May 1998. This was done in total secrecy barely two months after ABV was sworn in as PM on 19 March 1998. ABV exercised the Indian nuclear option that had been left suspended by PM Indira Gandhi in May 1974, when she authorized the ‘peaceful nuclear explosion’ but did not weaponize this nascent technological demonstration.
Under Vajpayee’s stewardship, India weathered the predictable US outrage and was confronted with a major security challenge – the 1999 Kargil War. Despite reaching out to his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif and signing a historic Lahore accord that outlined a template for ending the adversarial bi-lateral relationship – ABV received a jolt (similar to Nehru and the 1962 Chinese ‘betrayal’) when the Pakistani army intruded into Indian territory in the summer of 1999 - thereby leading to a limited war.
This was the first war between two nuclear-armed neighbors and the world was legitimately alarmed. There was no precedent to this military challenge with deep strategic implications but to his credit – in his monosyllabic manner – PM Vajpayee demonstrated resolve, restraint and political perspicacity. The Kargil war was concluded under ‘firm’ US advice rendered to Pakistan and the fall-out was an uptick in the long estranged India-US relationship.
Then US President Bill Clinton made a historic visit to India in March 2000 and the foundation for a robust bi-lateral between the world’s older and largest democracies was laid. At the time Vajpayee in his expansive, eloquent manner described India and the USA as ‘natural allies’ and years of estrangement gave way to tentative and cautious engagement.
Terrorism posed complex challenges on the Vajpayee watch. The December 1999 hijacking of an Air India aircraft and an audacious terror attack on the Indian parliament in December 2001 revealed the inadequacies in India’s security response matrix.
Internal security remained an intractable challenge and the Gujarat killings of 2002 saw an ineffective and anguished PM Vajpayee, who could only voice his dismay (the reference to ‘rajdharma’ – the sanctity of governance) to little effect. Hindutva was on the ascendant within the BJP and Vajpayee was clearly in the minority camp.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s contribution to India will remain definitive and distinctive with all the certitudes and ambiguities associated with this brooding poet-politician-statesman. Vajpayee squared the circle on the nettlesome nuclear issue in an adroit manner. India will have to rise to the challenge of squaring the circle on the Hinduism-Hindutva dissonance that troubled ABV until the very end of his life.

Turkey Sanctions: Navigating a Historic Bilateral Crisis
Amanda Sloat, Max Hoffman, and Steven A. Cook/The Washington Institute/August 17/18
Three experts examine the past drivers and near-term consequences of Washington’s rapidly escalating diplomatic conflict with Ankara.
On August 16, Amanda Sloat, Max Hoffman, and Steven Cook addressed a Policy Forum at The Washington Institute. Sloat is a Robert Bosch Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution's Center on the United States and Europe. Hoffman is the associate director of national security and international policy at the Center for American Progress. Cook is the Eni Enrico Mattei Senior Fellow for Middle East and Africa Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. The following is a rapporteur’s summary of their remarks.
The detention of U.S. citizen Andrew Brunson was only the latest in a long list of bilateral grievances between Ankara and Washington. On the Turkish side, officials have domestic security concerns about U.S. cooperation with the Syrian Kurdish People’s Defense Units (YPG), an offshoot of Ankara’s domestic nemesis, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). They are also worried that Halkbank, a major Turkish financial institution, may be heavily fined for violating sanctions against Iran. And they remain on edge about Washington’s refusal to extradite Fethullah Gulen, whom many Turks blame for the failed 2016 coup.
On the U.S. side, some question whether Turkey is still a reliable ally. In their view, if Ankara procures both the Russian S-400 missile defense system and U.S. F-35 fighter jets, then critical U.S. military data could be leaked to Moscow once the two systems are integrated together. Another concern is the decline of rule of law in Turkey. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is seemingly resorting to hostage diplomacy, with authorities arresting U.S.-Turkish dual nationals and three local hires working for the American foreign mission.
Until recently, the downslide in relations seemed like it might come to an end amid several positive developments: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s February visit to Turkey culminated in bilateral working groups to address various concerns; a roadmap for easing tensions around the Syrian town of Manbij was declared in June; charges were dropped against eleven of the seventeen Turkish bodyguards who took part in a public melee during Erdogan’s May visit to Washington; the FBI reportedly initiated an investigation into Gulen; and the Trump administration managed to keep Congress from implementing sanctions on Turkey. Yet this trajectory changed when Ankara refused to release Brunson, an American pastor accused of sedition and other crimes. In response, the White House adopted a harder line on Turkey than even Congress had proposed.
With U.S. relations in crisis, Erdogan may be pivoting to other allies. Qatar gave Turkey a $15 billion loan this week, and Ankara is moving forward with efforts to normalize relations with the Netherlands and Germany. The EU may decide to upgrade its customs union with Turkey, perhaps pressuring the government to implement much-needed reforms in exchange for economic incentives.
As for future relations with Washington, officials should keep in mind that countries are bigger than their leaders, and Turkey is bigger than Erdogan. Bilateral military dialogue remains strong and could serve as a bridge for repairing and expanding the alliance in the future. All of this comes down to the amount of economic pain Erdogan is willing to stomach while he tries to use Brunson as a political bargaining chip.
Turkey is in the midst of an economic crisis. Its central bank could alleviate this stress by raising interest rates, but the institution no longer has the autonomy needed to overrule Erdogan’s objections to the move.
Much of the ruling Justice and Development Party’s domestic legitimacy has been built on economic growth fueled by construction projects, which in turn depended on loans and other credit. Beginning in the 1990s, Erdogan built an extensive patronage system as mayor of Istanbul by handing such projects to his cronies, and he realizes that these and subsequent debts are coming due. Foreseeing the economic crisis as early as 2013, he focused on blaming the West for this downturn, even though his own efforts to flout the rule of law, bureaucracy, and fair competition played a major role in turning investors away.
Yet the United States has also created problems in the relationship by adopting a seemingly bipolar stance toward Turkey. While the Defense Department stuck with its traditionally restrained approach, the White House swung between reaching out to Ankara and announcing sanctions and harsh warnings via Twitter. Going forward, the State Department will likely advise President Trump that he has made his point and built credibility for future U.S. warnings, so he should refrain from further action and give Erdogan the opportunity to save face. In all likelihood, however, Trump’s next shoe will drop prior to Brunson’s next hearing on October 12. Given the uncertain outcome of this crisis, the U.S. government needs to develop a contingency plan for losing Turkey as an ally.
A large fine for Halkbank’s violation of Iran sanctions would be particularly devastating to both the Turkish financial sector and investor confidence. An IMF bailout would be a tough sale in Washington, since U.S. officials have been warning Ankara about its financial problems for years now. European governments are unlikely to offer such help either—besides being preoccupied with financial problems in Italy, Greece, and Spain, they also face the moral dilemma of whether to bail out a strongman.
On top of all this, Ankara is still struggling under the burden of 4 million Syrian refugees. If the Assad regime retakes the rebel stronghold of Idlib, another 3.5 million would likely flee to Turkish-controlled safe zones or Turkey itself, with potentially catastrophic effects on the country’s stability.
In geopolitical terms, all of these pressures will likely push Erdogan even further toward confrontation rather than reconciliation. He constantly states that the world is bigger than “the five” (referring to the permanent members of the UN Security Council), and that the United States is in decline. His support base of conservatives and nationalists agrees, arguing that Turkey needs to thrust itself into global power status. This dangerously fervent brand of nationalism has backed Erdogan into a corner, and he needs a face-saving way out.
President Trump’s dramatic shift in Turkey policy is a welcome one; in fact, he should place even more public pressure and tariffs on Ankara. The problem with the relationship is not the personalities of Trump and Erdogan, but rather the fact that the glue holding the two countries together for decades—the Cold War—has disappeared, leaving Ankara with motivations and priorities that do not align with Washington’s. Turkey was once thought to be a strategic model, a force for peace and stability in the region. Over the past ten years, however, Washington has talked about Turkey as if it were a strategic ally even when it did not act as such. Today, Ankara only creates headaches for U.S. policymakers and should no longer be considered such an ally.
It is difficult to make a case for retaining close relations given the many differences between the two countries: Turkey opposes U.S. sanctions against Iran, is trying to buy missiles from Russia, poses a threat to U.S. interests in Syria, has become a patron of Hamas, and has been increasingly aggressive toward Greece since 2016. The list goes on: fifteen to twenty Turkish Americans remain under arrest; the Halkbank case was the world’s largest scheme for evading Iran sanctions; Turkish courts and media are no longer independent; and polls indicate that 80 percent of Turks believe the United States was complicit in the 2016 coup attempt and the current economic breakdown.
These problems could have repercussions on a number of looming political and economic decisions. Regarding the prospect of an IMF bailout, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has already agreed to oppose any such assistance as long as Turkey continues to detain Brunson and others. This is one of the very few issues capable of mustering bipartisan support in a deeply divided Congress—a fact that should trouble Ankara.
Regarding NATO, there is no mechanism for throwing Turkey out of the alliance, and even if it left voluntarily, the sky would not fall. The above list of bilateral problems shows that there is little more Ankara could do to complicate U.S. policy if it were no longer a NATO member.
Regarding Ankara’s latest charm offensive in Europe, EU governments are unlikely to side with Washington in pressuring Erdogan. The stakes are a lot higher for Europe than they are for the United States, since an unstable Turkey would create major headaches for the EU.
*This summary was prepared by Egecan Alan Fay.

Iran Is Throwing a Tantrum but Wants a Deal
دنيس روس: صحيح هناك مشهدية نوبات غضب إيران إلا أنها تريد صفقة ما مع ترامب

Dennis Ross/Foreign Policy/August 17/18
Defiant warnings aside, Tehran will eventually negotiate with President Trump—as long as Vladimir Putin mediates.
Even in its afterlife, the Iran nuclear deal continues to polarize. Those who supported the agreement proclaim loudly that Iran will never negotiate any adjustment to it, while its opponents argue U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of it will produce a better deal.
Trump himself seems to believe a better deal is possible, having recently offered to talk to the Iranians without preconditions. On Monday, Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei indicated he disagrees, declaring: “I ban holding any talks with America... America never remains loyal to its promises.” Khamenei’s ban came after Mohammad Ali Jafari, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, had already insisted: “The Iranian people will never allow their officials to meet and negotiate with the Great Satan, we are not North Korea.”
That sounds strong, but I suspect Trump’s backers have the better case. History and basic political dynamics suggest Iran’s defiant attitude about negotiations will soften before long, and it’s entirely possible to imagine the two sides reaching an agreement. The next round of U.S.-Iranian negotiations, however, won’t look anything like the first—and Russian President Vladimir Putin will likely play a starring role as peacemaker.
Let’s first dispense with some mistaken assumptions on the U.S. side. Jafari’s reference to North Korea is telling, both because Iran is not a one-man show and because Trump seems to believe that his “maximum pressure” approach worked on North Korea and can work on Iran. Leaving aside whether it has worked, the two cases are quite different. On North Korea, a strong international consensus existed on stopping the regime’s nuclear program—and the Trump administration mobilized support for new, tougher sanctions. On Iran, by contrast, the president broke the international consensus by walking away from the nuclear deal. It is hard to apply maximum pressure when other governments, especially our European allies, oppose our efforts and are adopting regulations to protect their companies from U.S. sanctions for doing business with Iran. At a minimum, our allies and others are not going to be vigilant in plugging loopholes in the sanctions regime and preventing the Iranians from evading the sanctions—a practice that they have honed over time.
So much for maximum pressure. In fact, with oil prices rising, Iran is likely to be able to cover revenue losses that may occur when the Trump administration applies the second round of sanctions on Nov. 4—sanctions that require countries to reduce their oil purchases from Iran or risk not being able to do business with the United States.
But before simply accepting that Iran need not, and will not, negotiate changes to the nuclear agreement, consider the following. First, notwithstanding the new blocking regulations the European Union has adopted, European banks and companies are pulling out of Iran. When faced with the choice of doing business with the United States or with Iran, there is no choice. Already, big energy, automobile, and shipping corporations such as Total, Peugeot, and Maersk, as well as banks such as Germany’s Deutsche Bank, have pulled out. Banks and multinational corporations will do what their bottom lines, not governments, tell them to do.
Second, even before the first round of sanctions were reimposed on Aug. 6, the Iranian economy was reeling. Since April, Iran’s currency has lost 50 percent of its value, meaning Iranian bank accounts are worth half of what they were then, and the Iranian public is clearly unhappy. They have been expressing their unhappiness in widespread demonstrations since last December—well before Trump pulled out of the Iran deal—over the regime’s foreign adventures, mismanagement, and pervasive corruption. Strikes are increasing, with vendors in the Tehran Bazaar holding a work stoppage on June 25. Truckers held a strike throughout the country in July; more recently, riot police were called out in response to strikes in the cities of Mashhad, Isfahan, Rasht, Ahvaz, and Karaj. Other than Ahvaz, these are conservative cities typically supportive of the regime. Not anymore, with angry demonstrators carrying placards that say, “Death to Palestine” and “No to Gaza, no to Lebanon” as well as “Death to the dictator.” They want money spent on their needs, not billions on saving Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad or supporting Hezbollah or Hamas. For a regime that depends for its stability on fear and some semblance of popular legitimacy, this must be unnerving.
Third, when the regime feels truly squeezed, its historic pattern is to adjust its behavior. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Islamic Republic’s first supreme leader, proclaimed Iran would fight Iraq for as long as it took to defeat it. Yet he ended the war in August 1988 when U.S. forces in the Gulf destroyed Iranian naval vessels and oil platforms and accidentally downed an Iranian civilian airliner—seemingly in support of Saddam Hussein. In the 1990s, Iran stopped killing dissidents in Europe when Germany threatened sanctions. Following the U.S. defeat of Saddam’s army in 2003, and fearing Iran might be next, the regime made far-reaching offers to limit its nuclear program and support for Hezbollah and Hamas. And, after declaring that they would never negotiate on their nuclear program so long as they were under sanctions—and the Obama administration doubled down on the sanctions—the Iranians negotiated.
All this suggests that as the economy falters and pressure rises in Iran, the regime will, in time, look for a way out and be willing to talk. Oil at over $70 a barrel will give the Iranians some cushion, especially because their budget was based on $55 a barrel. In addition, Iran’s leaders will wait to see how much European buyers of Iranian oil cut back and whether anyone fills in.
Still, Iran is likely to seek a way to talk—not directly, because that would look like a surrender. Instead, early next year Iran’s leaders will likely approach the Russians. They see how Trump relates to Putin, and with Putin’s interest in demonstrating Russian clout on the world stage, he will gladly be the arbiter between the United States and Iran. (Not least because Putin would likely be eager for the talks to include discussions about Syria’s future.)
One can envision Putin, perhaps in his upcoming summit meeting with Trump in early 2019, bringing a proposal to extend the nuclear deal’s limits on Iranian centrifuges and enriched material for 10 to 15 years in return for the United States dropping all its sanctions. In other words, in return for the restrictions on Iranian enrichment being extended from 2030 until 2045, the United States would drop all its existing sanctions—nuclear and nonnuclear—so there would be no remaining ambiguity about Iran’s ability to do business with U.S. banks.
In theory, such an offer falls well short of the Trump administration’s posture embodied in Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s 12 demands of the Iranians—demands that require an end not only to nuclear enrichment but also to Iran’s destabilizing threats and actions in the region. But if Putin comes with such a proposal, and presents it privately to Trump, it is hard to believe that the president would simply turn it down. More likely, he will see it as an opening—even “an incredible offer,” or some other such superlative.
Anyone certain that the Iranians won’t negotiate any modifications on the nuclear deal shouldn’t be so sure. Domestic pressures and the readiness of the Russians to play the arbiter role can provide the Iranians an out. Their history suggests they will go for it.
**Dennis Ross is the counselor and William Davidson Distinguished Fellow at The Washington Institute.