August 21/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart
Matthew 11/25-30: "‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’"
Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on August 20-21/18
Hezbollah showcases Khaibar-1 missiles/Annahar Staff/August 20/2018
No reason for refugees to remain in Lebanon, says Bassil/Georgi Azar/Annahar/August 20/18
Bolton: blocking nukes from Iran of ‘highest importance’/Itamar Eichner/Ynetnews/August 20/18
Anti-Christian Slaughter Escalates in Nigeria/Lela Gilbert/The Media Project/August 19/18
Les prisons secrètes multifonctions du Hezbollah au Liban et en Syrie/Sandra NOUJEIM/L'Orient-Le Jour/August 20/18
Denmark as a Model for American Socialists/Lars Hedegaard/Gatestone Institute/August 20/2018
China's Path to Global Hegemony: Latest Target Is Syria/Debalina Ghoshal/Gatestone Institute/August 20/2018
America’s Global Order Can Be Saved/Hal Brands/Bloomberg/August 20/18
Kofi Annan … A History of Many Wounds/Ghassan Charbel/Asharq Al-Awsat/August 20/18
Erdogan Makes Some Worrying Friends/Therese Raphael/Bloomberg/August 20/18
Turkey: Economic Crisis or Conspiracy/Salman Al-dossary/Asharq Al-Awsat/August 20/18
Turkey and Iran, fundamentalism and sectarianism/Abdullah bin Bijad Al-Otaibi/Al Arabiya/August 20/18
From Abu Muslim al-Khorasani to Qassem Soleimani, and vice versa/Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/August 20/18
The impact of US sanctions on militias/Radwan al-Sayed/Al Arabiya/August 20/18
The Battle of Yarmuk: History’s Most Consequential Muslim/Western Clash/Raymond Ibrahim 0 Comments/National Review Online/August 20/18

Titles For The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on August 20-21/18
Lebanon’s FM talks Syrian refugees, oil tenders with Russia’s Lavrov
Nasrallah’s Meeting with Houthi Delegation Raises Criticism
Lebanon’s PM-Designate Under Pressure to Normalize Ties with Syria
Aoun Urges 'Uniting Efforts' to Enable Lebanon to 'Face Challenges'
Report: Russia Relies on Lebanon to ‘Spark’ Refugees’ Return
Hizbullah Denies Having 'Secret Prisons' in Dahiyeh
Bassil: No One Asked Hariri to Visit Syria, Ties Not Severed
Report: STL Seeks Info on 2 Iranians who Entered Lebanon in 2004
Uproar after OTV Host, Guest Accused of 'Insulting Quran'
Hariri Congratulates Lebanese on Eid al-Adha
Geagea Affirms Adherence to Maarab Agreement
General Security Arrests 6 Document Forgers
Hezbollah showcases Khaibar-1 missiles
No reason for refugees to remain in Lebanon, says Bassil

Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on August 20-21/18
Bolton: blocking nukes from Iran of ‘highest importance’
Bolton tells Netanyahu that Iran nuclear deal was ‘wretched’
US, Iran Vie to Form Largest Parliamentary Bloc in Iraq
Iranian-backed sleeper cells have infiltrated the US and ‘ready to strike’
Iran lawmakers target Rouhani’s finance minister as sanctions bite
Moscow says UN hampering Syria reconstruction
US-led anti ISIS coalition: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi alive with no capabilities
US-led coalition member killed in Iraq aircraft crash
Sources: A suspect in connection to US embassy attack in Ankara is arrested
US Forces Staying in Iraq as Long as Needed
Gun Shops Thrive in Baghdad
Shots Fired at US Embassy in Turkey
Iranian Criticism to Europe’s Hesitation in Protecting Nuclear Deal
Canada welcomes offer of Eid al-Adha ceasefire by Government of Afghanistan
Netanyahu and Top Trump Aide Call on Europe to Pressure Iran
Multiple Attacks Claimed by IS on Police in Chechnya
Egyptian Army Officer Killed in Sinai Roadside Blast
The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on August 20-21/18
Lebanon’s FM talks Syrian refugees, oil tenders with Russia’s Lavrov
Reuters, Moscow, Russia/Monday, 20 August 2018/Lebanon sees no reason for Syrian refugees to remain on its territory, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil said in Moscow on Monday following talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov. Bassil said parts of Syria are stable and peaceful. For his part, Lavrov said Lebanon should not become a hostage of the Syrian refugee crisis. Russia was opposed to foreign intervention in Lebanon’s domestic affairs, Lavrov added. Lebanon wants Russian firms to compete for oil and gas tender. On another topic of discussions, Bassil said during his meeting with his Russian counterpart, that his country wants Russian companies to take part in a new tender to develop oil and gas deposits on the Lebanese shelf, Bassil said that such deals would bolster regional stability, if a Russian company successfully secured the tender. Bassil said Lebanon should serve as a platform for the economic regeneration of neighboring Syria and that Beirut would coordinate its efforts with Moscow, Interfax news agency reported.
Nasrallah’s Meeting with Houthi Delegation Raises Criticism
London- Badr Al-Qahtani/Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 20 August, 2018/A meeting in Beirut between Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah and the spokesman of Houthi militias, Mohammed Abdul Salam, raised a wave of criticism targeting Hezbollah, Lebanon, as well as the United Nations. UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash tweeted on Sunday: “How does the policy of disassociation, which Lebanon needs for its political and economic balance and its Arab and international positions, applies to Hassan Nasrallah receiving a delegation of Houthi rebels.” “Lebanon cannot be a logistical or political station for Houthis, and ignoring the issue will exacerbate its repercussions,” he added. The Yemeni embassy in Washington considered the meeting as new evidence of Hezbollah’s destabilizing role in Yemen, saying on Twitter that the Houthis’ recent visit to Nasrallah is yet another proof to the overwhelming evidence of the destabilizing role of Hezbollah in Yemen. The visit came just a couple of weeks ahead of the upcoming round of the UN peace talks in Geneva. Although a well-informed western source said everyone should currently focus on the Geneva consultations, analysts who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat said the meeting would cause a dilemma for the UN envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, who is to lead the consultations on September 6. “The visit of Abdul Salam to Hassan Nasrallah has a clear link with the Houthi project within the Iranian axis. He also wants to send a message that there is a political supporter, Iran, and this move is the result of leniency by the United Nations,” says Yemeni political writer Abdullah Ismail. “The militias are moving in the direction of the consultations without any significant pressure, as there is a kind of inaction by the United Nations towards them… and no one puts pressure on them,” he added.

Lebanon’s PM-Designate Under Pressure to Normalize Ties with Syria
Beirut - Nazeer Rida/Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 20 August, 2018/Attempts by some political parties to pressure Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri into normalizing relations with Syria have further complicated the government formation process, which is deadlocked by disputes among several parties on portfolios and shares. Officials following up Hariri’s consultations on the next cabinet, told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that ties with Syria have been added to the obstacles facing Hariri. However, the Free Patriotic Movement's caretaker Minister of State for Presidency Affairs Pierre Raffoul told a local radio station that Hariri’s outright rejection of establishing relations with the regime of Bashar Assad is not considered an obstacle to government formation. Caretaker Justice Minister Salim Jreissati, also an FPM official, threw the ball in Hariri’s court when tweeting that the month of August could witness a solution to the “government captivity” if Hariri makes his choices. Yet the obstacles remained even when the PM-designate proposed several solutions, al-Mustaqbal MP Nazih Najem told Asharq Al-Awsat. He said that the stalemate is the result of attempts by some parties to make gains rather than work for the interest of the country and the people. “The greatest share should go to the Lebanese people who have elected their representatives,” Najem told the daily. Democratic Gathering lawmaker Bilal Abdullah also warned that promises made by Lebanese officials would disappear into thin air, if some politicians continued to interfere in Hariri’s mission to come up with a line-up. The premier-designate warned last week that “the cabinet will not be formed” if the normalization of relations with the Syrian regime is included in the new government's policy statement.

Aoun Urges 'Uniting Efforts' to Enable Lebanon to 'Face Challenges'
Naharnet/August 20/18/President Michel Aoun has called on the various political parties to unite efforts in order to enable Lebanon to face the current challenges. In a message marking the Muslim feast of Eid al-Adha, Aoun called for “being inspired by the meanings of Eid to put the country's higher interest ahead of temporal and partisan interests.” The president warned that “the circumstances surrounding Lebanon and the region's countries call for uniting everyone's efforts to enable Lebanon to face the current challenges and cross the important junctures, topped by the formation of a new government.” He added that the new government will be tasked with “completing the construction process and achieving the country's rise.”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 the Free Patriotic Movement have suggested that foreign countries, especially Saudi Arabia, are behind the ongoing delay. Hariri has told reporters 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 that the PM-designate has “informed Hizbullah” that his remarks were a “slip of the tongue.”

Report: Russia Relies on Lebanon to ‘Spark’ Refugees’ Return
Naharnet/August 20/18/A month after the launch of the Russian plan to repatriate Syrian refugees in Lebanon back to their homeland, Moscow hopes that the process will gather momentum after the scheduled talks on Monday between caretaker Foreign Minister Jebran Basil and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, pan-Arab al-Hayat daily reported. The two ministers will discuss “international and regional issues in detail, focusing on the development in the Middle East mainly in Lebanon and Syria, and the comprehensive work being initiated by Russia to facilitate the return of Syrian refugees to their homeland," a statement released by the Russian foreign ministry said. Given the European position that links the return of refugees and the reconstruction process in Syria to progress in the political situation, Moscow is betting that Lebanon will be the first to begin the repatriation process of Syrian refugees, said the daily. It added that “Hizbullah and its allied forces, including the Free Patriotic Movement represented by Bassil, have welcomed the Russian initiative for the repatriation of refugees presented last month by Russian presidential envoy to Syria Alexander Lavrentiev with Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri.”According to Russian data, some 8,000 Syrian refugees returned from Lebanon last month in a wave of returns to their war torn country. Lebanon hosts around 1.5 million Syrians who fled the civil war across the border, many of them in the Bekaa Valley in the east of the country.
According to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, around 13,000 Syrians went home from Lebanon during the first six months of this year. More than 350,000 people have been killed and millions displaced since Syria's war started with the brutal repression of anti-government protests in 2011. But President Bashar al-Assad has called for displaced Syrians to return since his regime ousted rebels and jihadists from large parts of the country following a massive military intervention by regime ally Russia. Last month, Russia presented the United States with plans for the coordinated return of refugees to Syria. The proposal includes the establishment of working groups in both Lebanon and Jordan, involving US and Russian officials. Earlier this month, Syrian state media said the government was to set up a committee to coordinate repatriating millions of its nationals. Last week, Lebanon's General Security agency announced it had opened 17 centres across the country to receive applications for Syrians who want to travel back home.
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Hizbullah Denies Having 'Secret Prisons' in Dahiyeh
Naharnet/August 20/18/Hizbullah has denied reports accusing it of running “secret prisons” in its stronghold in Beirut's southern suburbs. “Certainly Hizbullah does not have any prisons,” al-Jadeed television quoted Hizbullah's media department as saying. “Those who wish can go in person to inspect the commercial institutions and other places” which have been described as sites for Hizbullah's alleged prisons, the department added. “This is part of a campaign that targets Hizbullah every now and then, especially on social networking websites before reaching media outlets,” Hizbullah's media department went on to say. The rebuttal comes after the young man Ali Mazloum, who identified himself on Facebook as the son of “Hizbullah martyr leader Hussein Mazloum”, posted pictures of shops and other sites allegedly containing secret Hizbullah prisons. Mazloum also announced that he had been held in one of the alleged prisons, which he described as being worse than “the prisons of the Israeli enemy.”He also claimed that “prisoners” are subjected to “beatings and torture with all the physical and psychological methods including food deprivation.” His allegations were picked up by several media outlets including Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya television.

Bassil: No One Asked Hariri to Visit Syria, Ties Not Severed
Naharnet/August 20/18/Caretaker Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil announced Monday that “no one has called on Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri to visit Syria,” in connection with the latest controversy on the issue of the Lebanese-Syrian ties. “Ties with it are not severed but rather permanent and normally ongoing and Lebanon should seek its interest,” Bassil said in an interview with Russia's RT television. “There is no reason to fabricate a crisis over the Lebanese-Syrian relations,” Bassil added. Separately, Bassil, who held talks Monday in Moscow with his Russian counterpart, emphasized that “Russia is not interfering in Lebanon's internal affairs.” “It is concerned with the stability of the region which is based on fighting terrorism,” the minister added. Hariri has recently announced that the new government “will not be formed” should the pro-Damascus camp “insist on restoring Lebanese-Syrian ties.”
“If others insist on restoring Lebanese-Syrian ties from the gateway of the reopened Nassib border crossing, then the government will not be formed,” Hariri said in a chat with reporters, referring to a key border crossing on the Syrian-Jordanian border that has been recently recaptured by Damascus. “I do not agree to a restoration of Lebanese-Syrian ties and this is nonnegotiable,” Hariri added. Pro-Hizbullah journalist Salem Zahran has meanwhile claimed that the PM-designate has told Hizbullah that his remarks on Syria were a “slip of the tongue.”

Report: STL Seeks Info on 2 Iranians who Entered Lebanon in 2004

Naharnet/August 20/18/The U.N.-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon has recently asked the Lebanese interior ministry via the state prosecutor for information about “two Iranians who had first entered Lebanon in 2004 before leaving and returning several times in 2005 prior to ex-PM Rafik Hariri's assassination,” MTV reported on Monday. MTV also reported that “after new evidence was added to it, the new indictment related to the connected cases may be issued before the end of public sessions.” The connected cases are related to the 2004 attempt on MP Marwan Hamadeh's life and the 2005 bomb attacks against then-defense minister Elias Murr and ex-Lebanese Communist Party chief George Hawi. The STL Prosecution has recently submitted a “Final Trial Brief” that explains the links between Hizbullah and the supposed assassination squads who murdered Hariri. The report also draws attention to unusual meetings and phone calls between the senior Hizbullah and Syrian officials Wafiq Safa and Rustom Ghazaleh prior to the February 2005 attack.

Uproar after OTV Host, Guest Accused of 'Insulting Quran'
Naharnet/August 20/18/Remarks by an OTV talk show host and his guest about several Quranic verses have sparked controversy in multi-confessional Lebanon. Commenting on the verse “You are the best nation ever brought forth for mankind,” the head of the Syriac League, Habib Ephrem, said during the show: “What do these words mean? That a nation is better than another nation? It needs interpretation, seeing as all humans are equal.”The show host, George Yasmine, meanwhile reminded Ephrem of the verse “So do not weaken and do not grieve, and you will be superior (if you are true believers).”
Ephrem replied by saying that “there is no equality in all the constitutions of this region, regardless of the various regimes.”The response to the remarks of Ephrem and Yasmine first came through social networking websites, with some activists accusing them of “insulting Islam.”Ex-MP Ammar Houry of al-Mustaqbal Movement was also quick to comment on the controversy. “What Habib Ephrem said is dangerous, rejected and condemned,” Houry tweeted, warning that such statements can “spark sectarian strife.” “Insulting the Holy Quran is definitely a red line. He should apologize and retract his remarks,” Houry stressed. Al-Mustaqbal Movement Secretary-General Ahmed Hariri also commented on the remarks in a tweet on Monday. “To Habib Ephrem and George Yasmine: you have tackled some verses of the Holy Quran during an interview on the OTV station without understanding their profound meanings and sanctity for Muslims. This is condemned and rejected,” Hariri said.

Hariri Congratulates Lebanese on Eid al-Adha
Naharnet/August 20/18/Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri congratulated the Lebanese, the Arabs and Muslims on the occasion of Eid al-Adha, praying they be blessed with peace, happiness and security, his media office said on Monday. Hariri hoped the efforts to form a new government would succeed as soon as possible, hoping the new cabinet will reflect aspirations of the Lebanese and realize their wishes for a better country. Hariri apologized for not receiving well wishers on the occasion due to travel reasons.

Geagea Affirms Adherence to Maarab Agreement
Naharnet/August 20/18/Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea affirmed commitment on Monday to the Maarab Agreement signed with the Free Patriotic Movement during his meeting with a delegation of expatriates at his residence in Maarab, the National News Agency reported.
“We will not give up on the Maarab Agreement and we will return to it every single time," stressed Geagea."We are holding onto this agreement, which can only be terminated by the will of the two concerned sides," he said. “If any of the two parties attempts to evade the agreement, it means that this side has turned against it," he added. The 2016 Maarab agreement brought the onetime foes together, LF chief Samir Geagea and FPM founder President Michel Aoun. Geagea had withdrawn from the presidential race in favor of Aoun endorsing him for the head of State post. Moreover, Geagea reiterated that the LF would obtain a substantial share inside the government. The formation of the Cabinet has been delayed since Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri was tasked for the mission on May 24. The main obstacle hindering his mission is political wrangling over Christian and Druze representation. The LF demand the allocation of four portfolios including a sovereign one. Meanwhile, the FPM reportedly rejects the demand. The four so-called sovereign ministerial portfolios are foreign affairs, defense, finance and interior.

General Security Arrests 6 Document Forgers
Naharnet/August 20/18/General Security agents have arrested six individuals over forging travel documents, a statement released by the directory said on Monday. The suspects, charged with forging travel documents for individuals wishing to travel from Lebanon to European, Asian and African countries, were arrested between August 9 and August 16, said the statement. The detainees were referred to the related judicial authorities.

Hezbollah showcases Khaibar-1 missiles
Annahar Staff/August 20/2018
The missiles, also known as Khyber-1, M-302, or B-302 is a Syrian-made 302 mm unguided artillery rocket and best known for being used by Hezbollah against targets in northern Israel during the 2006 Lebanon War.
BEIRUT: Hezbollah has showcased another aspect of its wide arsenal at the "Mleeta Resistance Tourist Landmark," displaying four Khaibar-1 missiles.
The move is the latest form of psychological warfare aimed at Israel, who has sought to pile pressure on Russia to keep Hezbollah and Iranian militia away from the Golan Heights ceasefire line. Last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu turned down a Russian offer to keep Iranian forces 100 kilometers from the border as Syrian government forces routed rebels near the Golan. Hezbollah and Iranian militias have been entrenched in Syria and battled alongside Bashar Al Assad's forces, helping him tip the scales in his favor.
The missiles, also known as Khyber-1, M-302, or B-302 is a Syrian-made 302 mm unguided artillery rocket and best known for being used by Hezbollah against targets in northern Israel during the 2006 Lebanon War.
It was used to target targets in Afula, located 52 km from the Lebanese border, and Hadera, a city located in the Haifa District of Israel 75 km away.
The rocket's characteristics are as follows:
Diameter: 333 mm
Weight: 916 kg
Length: 7 meters
Maximum range: 75 kilometers
Minimum Range: 44 km
Driving charge weight: 405 kg
Warhead weight: 180 kg
Weight of explosive material: 90 kg

No reason for refugees to remain in Lebanon, says Bassil
Georgi Azar/Annahar/August 20/18
During a joint news conference in Moscow, Bassil that a distinction should be made over "refugees and economic migrants," before stressing the need for cooperation between both sets of ministries to steamroll their return.
BEIRUT: Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reiterated Monday his country's willingness to help with the repatriation effort of Syrian refugees, while his Lebanese counterpart Gebran Bassil maintained that their return should not be tied to a political resolution to the conflict.
During a joint news conference in Moscow, Bassil said that a distinction should be made over "refugees and economic migrants," before stressing the need for cooperation between both sets of ministries to steamroll their return.
"There is no reason for them to remain, some parts in Syria are safe and stable," he said.
Lebanon's caretaker Foreign Minister also maintained that Lebanon should act as a platform for the economic restructuring of Syria and that Beirut would cooperate with Moscow.
He also called for Russian companies to take part in a new tender to develop potential oil and gas deposits deep in Lebanon's offshore blocks.
"This would add to the stability of the region," he said.
Meanwhile, Lavrov maintained that Lebanon should not be held hostage by the refugee crisis before expressing his opposition to foreign intervention in Lebanon's affairs.
"Lebanon should not become a bargaining chip in geopolitical games and a hostage to the Syrian crisis," he told reporters, in reference to the continued deadlock over the country's Cabinet negotiations. Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, backed by Saudi Arabia, has also refused to cooperate directly with the Syrian regime while seeking Russia's mediation in the repatriation effort.
Russia has taken a leading role in facilitating the return of refugees, estimated at around 1.5 million by Lebanese authorities as hundreds of displaced began returning home.
A joint Lebanese-Russian commitee was formed to establish a number of centers in refugee-populated areas. Earlier this month, over 800 refugees departed the area of Shebaa despite the United Nations Higher Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) arguing that it was not safe for them to return. Bassil and the UNHCR have been locked in a year-long feud over the displaced, with the FM blasting the "UNHCR's intimidation campaign against the refugees."

The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on
August 20-21/18
Bolton: blocking nukes from Iran of ‘highest importance’
جون بولتن بعد اجتماعه بنتانياهو: تعطيل ومنع الصواريخ الإيرانية أولية قصوى ومهمة
Itamar Eichner/Ynetnews/August 20/18
In a second meeting in less than 24 hours, US National Security Advisor John Bolton slams ‘wretched’ Iran nuclear deal, says US working with our ‘friends in Europe to convince them to take stronger steps against the Iranian nuclear and ballistic missile program.’
US National Security Advisor John Bolton said in Jerusalem on Monday that preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon is of the ‘highest importance’ for the US, which is why President Donald Trump decided to withdraw from the “wretched” nuclear deal. “I think your analysis of the issues we have to face is right on spot target,” said Bolton, who delivered his remarks after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a joint press conference in Jerusalem.
“It’s a question of the highest importance for the United States that Iran never gets a deliverable nuclear weapons capability. It’s why President Trump withdrew from the wretched Iran nuclear deal … It’s why we work with our friends in Europe to convince them to take stronger steps against the Iranian nuclear and ballistic missile program,” he emphasized.
Bolton, who is on a three-day visit to Israel, also underlined that Iranian aggression in the region is a threat to the whole world, and that the threat could be mitigated by reapplying stiff sanctions that were lifted by the Obama administration.
Bolton has been a strident critic of the nuclear deal and has pushed for greater pressure on Tehran to ensure it halts its support for militant groups in the Mideast and stops development of ballistic missiles. A former ambassador to the United Nations under President George W. Bush, Bolton is a longtime hawkish advocate for Israel.
Opening his remarks, Prime Minister Netanyahu thanked President Trump for withdrawing from the “disastrous” Iranian nuclear deal and vowed to “stand with” the people of Iran in opposing the oppressive Tehran regime.
“I want to use this opportunity once again, to thank President Trump for walking away from the terrible deal with Iran,” Netanyahu stressed at the joint press conference with Bolton.
The prime minister emphasized the importance of dropping the Iran deal and reinstating sanctions against Iran, calling on “all countries who care about peace and security in the Middle East” to follw the US’s lead.
“The nuclear deal did not block Iran’s path to the bomb—it paved Iran’s path to an entire nuclear arsenal. And by removing the sanctions, it enabled Iran to bring in billions and billions of dollars to its coffers, which only fueled Iran’s war machine—in Syria, in Lebanon, in Yemen, and elsewhere,” he added.
He went on to call Trump’s decision historic. “I believe that the president’s decision to leave the disastrous Iran deal was nothing less than a hinge of history,” he said.
“And Israel applauds the Trump administration’s determination to re-impose tough sanctions on Iran and those doing business with Iran,” Netanyahu said at the press conference that was attended by US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and Israeli Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer.
“I know that that view is shared by all our Arab neighbors, or practically everyone in this region. And I frankly believe that all countries who care about peace and security in the Middle East should follow America’s lead and ratchet up the pressure on Iran,” the prime minister concluded.
Prime Minister Netanyahu also clearly emphasized that although the Israeli and US government vow to stand up to the Iranian regime, they “stand with” the Iranian people.
“It’s important that the people of Iran understand that our fight is not with them. Our fight is with the regime that brutally represses them. That arrests women for uncovering their hair, hangs gays in the public squares, that defies the aspirations for freedom of millions and millions of Iranians,” the prime minister opined. On Sunday evening, Netanyahu met with Bolton over dinner at the prime minister’s official residence in Jerusalem. The meeting was also attended by David Friedman and Ron Dermer.
Associated Press contributed to this report.
Bolton tells Netanyahu that Iran nuclear deal was ‘wretched’
Associated Press/August 20/18/A former ambassador to the United Nations under President George W. Bush, Bolton is a longtime hawkish advocate for Israel.
JERUSALEM: President Donald Trump’s national security adviser is bemoaning the “wretched” Iranian nuclear deal in his talks with Israel’s prime minister. John Bolton told Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday that the United States sees the “highest importance” in preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and that’s why Trump withdrew from the deal negotiated by the Obama administration and was reapplying stiff sanctions. Netanyahu agreed the deal was “disastrous” and called Trump’s decision to drop out historic. Israeli police again question PM on corruption allegations. Bolton has been a strident critic of the nuclear deal and has pushed for greater pressure on Tehran to ensure it halts its support for militant groups in the Mideast and stops development of ballistic missiles. A former ambassador to the United Nations under President George W. Bush, Bolton is a longtime hawkish advocate for Israel.
US, Iran Vie to Form Largest Parliamentary Bloc in Iraq
Baghdad – Hamza Mustafa/Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 20 August, 2018/Iraq’s Supreme Court ratified on Sunday the results of the May 12 parliamentary elections, bringing an end to months of disputes over their outcome.
The resolution of this issue once again brings back to the spotlight political negotiations to form the largest bloc at parliament. This bloc will have the power to name a new prime minister, who will in turn form a new government. Official Iraqi sources revealed to Asharq Al-Awsat that the formation of the largest bloc appears to be no longer in the hands of the alliances that had emerged victorious in the polls, especially the Shiite ones. The debate over the largest bloc had raged between elections victor the Sairoun alliance, of Sadrist movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr, and the Victory alliance, of outgoing Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi, and between the Fatih bloc, of Hadi al-Ameri, and State of Law coalition, of former PM Nouri al-Maliki. The sources, which spoke on condition of anonymity, said that the issue of the largest bloc was now in the hands of US special presidential envoy Brett McGurk and head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Quds Force Qassem Soleimani, both of whom have been in Baghdad for days. “McGurk has been holding talks out in the open,” while Soleimani has kept his meetings secret, said the sources. The only media appearance he had made was when he traveled to al-Najaf city, they revealed. Based on McGurk’s talks, the US has taken the decision to support Abadi’s candidacy as premier, they remarked. As the Shiite blocs continue to scramble in their political negotiations, the Sunni and Kurdish blocs are waiting to see which alliance will yield the largest bloc, said national axis coalition member Dr. Yahya al-Kubisi. The Sunnis generally may not have certain conditions to join a parliamentary bloc, he revealed. Their main concern will be positions in power, which has weakened their camp. Member of the Kurdish Democratic Party Mohsen al-Saadoun told Asharq Al-Awsat that now that the elections results have been ratified, the Kurds should submit their candidates for the positions of president, prime minister and parliament speaker.
“The Kurds do not have vetoes against various blocs or candidates, but we have a ministerial program that we would like to implement with our partners in the nation,” he added.

Iranian-backed sleeper cells have infiltrated the US and ‘ready to strike’
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Monday, 20 August 2018/Intelligence officials and security experts have warned on the existence of Iranian terrorist "sleeper cells" operating within the United States. The warning was made by security experts at a hearing of the US Congressional Security Committee, asserting that Iranian terrorist networks were in the US waiting to receive orders to act. The experts warned that Tehran could launch terrorist attacks targeting American interests at any moment, either through its cells or through its arm Lebanon’s Hezbollah, which is active in Latin American countries. In Latin America, Hezbollah cells are openly active, which also means that Iran may take Latin America as an advanced launching pad for attacks on US territory or on Washington’s interests in the region when it wants, especially after threats by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah to target the United States. Intelligence officials and former White House officials have warned Congress that Iran could be planning to launch attacks against the United States. “The answer is absolutely. We do face a threat,” said Emanuele Ottolenghi, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies who spoke at a hearing of the House Homeland Security Committee’s subcommittee on counterterrorism and intelligence. “Their networks are present in the United States.” “Iran’s proxy terror networks in Latin America are run by Tehran’s wholly owned Lebanese franchise Hezbollah,” he said, the Washington Free Beacon reported.
“Their presence in Latin America must be viewed as a forward operating base against America’s interest in the region and the homeland itself.”Ottolenghi said the sleeper agents enter America by posing as immigrants who develop legitimate businesses that are a front for their other activities.

Iran lawmakers target Rouhani’s finance minister as sanctions bite
Reuters, London/Sunday, 19 August 2018/Iranian lawmakers launched impeachment proceedings against the finance minister on Sunday, ramping up pressure on the president who is already facing attacks from hardliners over his handling of the economy in the face of new US sanctions. A group of 33 MPs signed a motion accusing the minister, Masoud Karbasian, of being unable to manage the economy or form and implement policies. That was enough votes to force Karbasian to come to parliament to answer questions on his record in the next 10 days. If lawmakers are unhappy with his answers, they can vote to impeach and sack him - a move they took two weeks ago against Iran’s then minister of cooperatives, labour and social welfare, Ali Rabiei, after questioning his achievements. President Hassan Rouhani is facing a growing domestic backlash since US President Donald Trump pulled out in May from an international accord that had curbed Iran's nuclear ambitions in return for sanctions relief. The rial currency has halved in value since April. A number of protests have also broken out since the beginning of the year over high prices and alleged corruption. Washington imposed sanctions on the acquisition of US dollars by Iran, and Tehran's trade in gold and precious metals this month. The United States has also said it will reimpose sanctions on Iran's oil exports and banking sector on November 4. Rouhani did not immediately comment on the motion, but defended Karbasian at a cabinet meeting earlier on Sunday, calling the minister's performance acceptable. Parliament on August 1 summoned Rouhani himself to come and answer questions within the next month, though without the threat of an impeachment vote - the first time lawmakers have taken this measure against him. In late July, Rouhani appointed a new central bank governor, and accepted the resignation of the government spokesman, in moves seen as concessions to hardline critics.

Moscow says UN hampering Syria reconstruction
AFP, Moscow, Russia/Monday, 20 August 2018/Russia’s foreign minister on Monday accused the UN of hampering the reconstruction of war-torn Syria, as the Moscow-backed Syrian regime calls on refugees to return to the country. Sergei Lavrov said the United Nations’ political affairs department had last year sent out “a secret directive forbidding organisations belonging to (the UN) system from any project aimed at restoring the Syrian economy”.Such organisations would only be allowed to distribute aid until progress was made on a “political transition”, he said during a Moscow press conference with his Lebanese counterpart Gebran Bassil. Lavrov asked UN General Secretary Antonio Guterres to explain why the Security Council “which directly oversees the resolution (of the Syria conflict) was not made aware”.The minister said there had been a lack of transparency and awareness of the situation on the ground as the decision was being made.“I hope he can clear this up,” Lavrov added. Russia intervened in support of Bashar al-Assad’s regime in 2015, in what was widely seen as a turning point in the seven-year conflict. The regime now controls around two thirds of the country. Moscow and Damascus are now working to accelerate the return of some 5.6 million Syrian refugees. “Over the last month, around 7,000 refugees have left Lebanon for Syria. We are continuing our efforts in that direction,” Lavrov said. “The conditions for this are in place and continue to improve.” For his part, Bassil said he was “ready to cooperate with Russian authorities in the framework of several initiatives launched by Russia”. “Conditions in Syria have changed, there are more and more zones where stability and security have been reestablished,” the Lebanese minister said.Syria’s war has killed more than 350,000 people and displaced millions since 2011.

US-led anti ISIS coalition: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi alive with no capabilities

Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Monday, 20 August 2018/The US-led anti ISIS coalition’s spokesman, Col. Sean Ryan said that the American forces are staying in Iraq upon its request. In an interview with Al Hadath news channel, the spokesman said that there is no doubts there is an Iranian presence in Iraq but it does not affect them. He added that ISIS is a tough enemy though its numbers has declined, asserting that the coalition will continue to fight the extremist group. Col. Ryan pointed out that the political situation in Iraq is difficult at present, adding that the coalition takes any threats seriously, but its goal is to fight ISIS. He explained that the Kurdish forces belong to the Iraqi forces, and that the coalition deals with them through the Iraqi central government. However, he pointed out that Iraq must be united despite the differences it is witnessing. As for the militant group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi Ryan predicted that ISIS leader can be anywhere, but he has no leadership capabilities. As for the situation in Syria, Ryan explained that it is different from Iraq, given the complexity of it. In February, NATO defense ministers agreed to a bigger “train-and-advise” mission in Iraq after a US call for the alliance to help stabilize the country after three years of war against ISIS. Iraq officially announced victory over the militants in December, five months after capturing their stronghold Mosul. The United States also has about 2,000 troops in Syria, assisting the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) clear pockets still under the control of Islamic State along the border with Iraq. The Iraqi military has carried out several air strikes against ISIS in Syria since last year, the last of which a few days ago, with the approval of President Bashar al-Assad and the US-led coalition. SDF operations to finish off the militants on the Syrian side have been delayed by hundreds of explosive devices planted by ISIS, according to Ryan. With Reuters

US-led coalition member killed in Iraq aircraft crash
AFP, Baghdad, Iraq/Monday, 20 August 2018/The US-led anti-extremists coalition said Monday one of its members was killed in an apparently accidental aircraft crash in Iraq which left several others wounded. A statement said “there are no indications the crash was caused by hostile fire”, adding that an investigation is underway. “One coalition service member was killed and several injured when their aircraft crashed” in Iraq at around 2200 GMT on Sunday, the statement said. It did not give the location of the crash or identify any of the casualties but said that three coalition members were “evacuated for further treatment”, suggesting they were in serious condition. The crash happened as the aircraft “was conducting a partnered counterterrorism mission,” the statement said. “The deceased service member’s name and further details pertaining to the incident will be released by the pertinent national authorities,” it added. The United States leads an international coalition that has targeted ISIS and other extremists group in Iraq and neighboring Syria since 2014. The coalition includes Britain, France, Saudi Arabia and Turkey along with Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Jordan, the Netherlands and the United Arab Emirates. In March seven US troops were killed when their helicopter crashed during a transport mission in western Iraq, near the border with Syria. Later that month two coalition members - an American and a Briton - were killed by an improvised explosive device in the northern Syrian city of Manbij.

Sources: A suspect in connection to US embassy attack in Ankara is arrested
AFP, Ankara/Monday, 20 August 2018/Turkish media reported on Monday evening that a suspect in connection to the US embassy shooting incident this morning has been arrested. Earlier Monday, Gunshots were fired at the embassy in Ankara but caused no casualties, Turkish and American officials said, amid escalating tensions between the two NATO allies. Six shots were fired at the US embassy, the Ankara governor’s office said, adding that three bullets hit the metal gate and exterior wall. “There are no casualties,” it added. US embassy spokesman David Gainer confirmed to AFP that a “security incident” had taken place. “We have no reports of any injuries and we are investigating the details. We thank the Turkish National Police for their rapid response,” he said. A bullet mark was clearly visible on a security booth at the embassy, an AFP journalist at the scene reported.
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu condemned the “provocative attack” in a message on Twitter. “We will make sure that this incident is investigated quickly and the perpetrators are brought to justice,” he said. The Turkish foreign ministry said measures were taken to “ensure the security of the US embassy in Ankara, other US missions and their personnel” across the country. The incident comes as Ankara and Washington are locked in a bitter dispute over Turkey’s detention of an American pastor on terror-related charges. US President Donald Trump has doubled the tariffs on aluminum and steel tariffs from Turkey, prompting Ankara to sharply hike tariffs on several US products. On Friday, Turkey threatened to respond in kind if Washington imposed further sanctions, while a court rejected last week another appeal to free pastor Andrew Brunson. The diplomatic stand-off has sent the Turkish currency into free fall against dollar, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowing to lead the country out of the crisis. Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin blasted the attack at the US embassy as an attempt to “create chaos”. “Turkey is a safe country and all foreign missions are safeguarded by law,” he wrote on Twitter. In a written statement ahead of the Muslim feast of Eid al-Adha, Erdogan remained defiant over the US sanctions. “The attack aimed at our economy has no difference from an attack aimed at our call to prayer or flag,” he said. The president said those who believe they will bring Turkey to its knees through the foreign currency exchange rate “will soon see they are mistaken.”

US Forces Staying in Iraq as Long as Needed
Abu Dhabi - Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 20 August, 2018/US forces will stay in Iraq "as long as needed" to help stabilize regions previously controlled by ISIS, a spokesman for the US-led international coalition fighting the militants said on Sunday. "We'll keep troops there as long as we think they're needed ... The main reason, after ISIS is defeated militarily, is the stabilization efforts and we still need to be there for that, so that's one of the reasons we'll maintain a presence," Colonel Sean Ryan told a news conference in Abu Dhabi. The number of American soldiers could go down however, depending on when other forces from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization deploy to help train the Iraqi army, he said, adding that about 5,200 US troops are currently based in Iraq. According to Reuters, NATO defense ministers agreed in February to a bigger "train-and-advise" mission in Iraq after a US call for the alliance to help stabilize the country after three years of war against ISIS. "Possibly, there could be a drawdown, it just depends on when NATO comes in and they help train the forces as well," Ryan said. Iraq officially announced victory over the militants in December, five months after capturing their stronghold Mosul. The United States also has about 2,000 troops in Syria, assisting the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) clear pockets still under the control of ISIS along the border with Iraq. "We're starting to see a lot of collaboration between the SDF and ISF (Iraqi Security Forces) because it used to be that they would just come to the coalition, but now, we have them talking to each other as well," said Ryan. The Iraqi military has carried out several air strikes against ISIS in Syria since last year, the last of which a few days ago, with the approval of the regime of Bashar al-Assad and the US-led coalition. SDF operations to finish off the militants on the Syrian side have been delayed by hundreds of explosive devices planted by ISIS, according to Ryan.

Gun Shops Thrive in Baghdad
Baghdad - Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 20 August, 2018/In the middle of Baghdad's busy commercial neighborhood of Karrada, where most retail outlets sell home appliances, shoppers can now also buy handguns and semi-automatic rifles legally for the first time in decades. After the toppling of Saddam Hussein in 2003, illegal weapons trade flourished across the country. Looted guns from ransacked police stations and military bases were sold in streets and public areas to residents seeking to protect themselves in a state that was largely lawless. The authorities have since been battling to curb illegal weapon sales and the government has stepped up efforts to control gun ownership through regulation. According to Reuters, the latest initiative came into force this summer and allows citizens to own and carry handguns, semi-automatic rifles and other assault weapons after obtaining official authorization and an identity card that also details the individual's weapons.Previously, gun sales were restricted to firearms for hunting and sport. Hamza Maher opened his new gun shop in Karrada after receiving official approval from the Interior Ministry and says there has been growing demand for his wares. "Customers are mainly men, but the number of women buyers is growing," said Maher inside his shop, where a variety of pistols and assault rifles are on display. "The reason for buying is self-defense, and it's safer for citizens to buy a weapon from an authorized store instead of from an unknown source."Pistol prices in Maher's shop range from $1,000 to $4,000, while Kalashnikov assault rifles can be had from as little as $400 up to $2,000, depending on the brand and manufacturing origin, he said. Haider al-Suhail, a tribal sheikh from Baghdad, welcomed the legalization of gun stores. "Yes, it will decrease crime," he said on a visit to Maher's shop to buy assault rifles for his ranch guards. "The criminal who plans to attack others will understand that he will pay heavy price."''
Shots Fired at US Embassy in Turkey
Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 20 August, 2018/Several gunshots were fired early Monday morning from a vehicle at a security booth outside the US Embassy in the Turkish capital, causing no casualties, police and the embassy spokesperson said. The attack coincided with a deepening row between Ankara and Washington over the trial of a US pastor in Turkey. The US has imposed sanctions and increased tariffs that sent the Turkish lira tumbling last week. A police officer told Reuters at the scene the drive-by shooting occurred around 5 a.m. and that nobody was hurt. The embassy is closed this week for Eid al-Adha holiday. "We can confirm a security incident took place at the US Embassy early this morning. We have no reports of any injuries and we are investigating the details," said David Gainer, the embassy spokesperson. "We thank the Turkish National Police for their rapid response." Private Ihlas news agency said four to five rounds were fired from a moving white car and targeted the booth outside Gate 6 at the embassy. Police teams were searching for the assailants, who fled in the car after the attack, CNN Turk said. One shot hit a window in a security cabin, causing no casualties. Video footage from broadcaster Haberturk showed police teams inspecting one of the entrances to the embassy and apparent damage caused by a gunshot could be seen in one window. It said empty cartridges were found at the scene.
The US Embassy in Ankara and the consulate in Istanbul have been the targets of attacks by militants and have faced numerous security threats in the past.

Iranian Criticism to Europe’s Hesitation in Protecting Nuclear Deal

Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 20 August, 2018/Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Sunday that European countries have failed to present an action plan following fresh US sanctions on Tehran. “The Europeans have so far expressed their stance, but have failed to present an action plan ... We believe that Europe is not ready yet to pay a price," Zarif was quoted as saying by the Young Journalists Club (YJC) website. He said European governments had put forward proposals to maintain oil and banking ties with Iran after the second phase of US sanctions return in November. But he told the website that these measures were more "a statement of their position than practical measures". US President Donald Trump pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal in May, and began reimposing sanctions earlier this month that block other countries from trading with Iran.
A second phase of sanctions targeting Iran's crucial oil industry and banking relations will return on November 5. Europe has vowed to keep providing Iran with the economic benefits it received from the nuclear deal, but many of its bigger companies have already pulled out of the country for fear of US penalties. Zarif also tweeted on Sunday that the formation of a new Iran "Action Group" in the US State Department to coordinate Trump's pressure campaign against Iran aimed to overthrow the country, but it would fail. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday named senior policy adviser Brian Hook as special representative for Iran in charge of the Iran Action Group to coordinate Trump's pressure campaign against the country. Zarif tweeted that "65 years ago today, the US overthrew the popularly elected democratic government of Dr. Mossadegh, restoring the dictatorship & subjugating Iranians for the next 25 years. Now an “Action Group” dreams of doing the same through pressure, misinformation & demagoguery. Never again."In 1953, the United States helped orchestrate the overthrow of freely elected nationalist Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh, restoring to power Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. The shah was toppled in Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution. Also Sunday, Iran's vice president Eshaq Jahangiri said the government was seeking solutions to sell oil and transfer its revenues despite fresh US sanctions. "We are hopeful that the European countries can meet their commitments but even if they cannot, we are seeking solutions to sell our oil and transfer its revenues," Jahangiri was quoted as saying by the state news agency IRNA.

Canada welcomes offer of Eid al-Adha ceasefire by Government of Afghanistan
August 20, 2018 - Ottawa, Ontario - Global Affairs Canada
Global Affairs Canada today issued the following statement:
“Canada welcomes the offer of a ceasefire by the Government of Afghanistan starting on the Eid al-Adha holiday. We urge the Taliban to agree to the ceasefire, which will help to reduce levels of violence and create space for peace talks as demonstrated by the success of the Eid al-Fitr ceasefire in June of this year. “We are saddened by the increase in senseless attacks against Afghan civilians and security forces, including the August 15 attack on an education centre in Kabul and the coordinated attacks against the city of Ghazni and surrounding areas.
“Canada continues to support the people of Afghanistan’s efforts to move the peace process forward. We share the view that a sustainable and lasting peace can be achieved only if women and girls are included as equal participants in all decision-making processes.
“We call on all parties to the Afghan conflict to redouble their efforts and pursue all options for a lasting end to the conflict.”

Netanyahu and Top Trump Aide Call on Europe to Pressure Iran

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 20/18/Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump's national security adviser met in Jerusalem Monday and called on European nations to do more to pressure Iran. John Bolton arrived in Israel on Sunday for three days of talks expected to focus mainly on Iran and its presence in Syria. Netanyahu strongly urged Trump to withdraw from the nuclear deal between Israel's main enemy Iran and world powers, and the US president did so in May, resulting in the reimposition of sanctions. Israel and the United States have been closely aligned on their approach to Iran since Trump took office. "I frankly believe that all countries who care about peace and security in the Middle East should follow America's lead and ratchet up the pressure on Iran," Netanyahu told journalists. "Because the greater the pressure on Iran, the greater the chance that the regime will roll back its aggression. And everybody should join this effort." The comments were a veiled reference to European countries, which are seeking to save the nuclear deal and have vowed to keep providing Iran with the economic benefits it received from the accord. They argue that the nuclear deal is working as intended in keeping Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons for now. Bolton said "it's a question of the highest importance for the United States that Iran never get a deliverable nuclear weapons capability.""It's why President Trump withdrew from the wretched Iran nuclear deal," he said, speaking alongside Netanyahu. "It's why we've worked with our friends in Europe to convince them of the need to take stronger steps against the Iranian nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programme." The United States and Israel argue the deal was too limited in scope and timeframe while also allowing Iran to finance militant activities in the region due to the lifting of sanctions. Bolton's trip will also take him later in the week to Ukraine and Geneva, where he will meet with his Russian counterpart Nikolai Patrushev on Thursday. The meeting in Geneva is a follow-up to Trump's highly controversial July summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, according to the White House. Iran is backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his country's civil war along with Russia and Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah. Netanyahu has pledged to prevent Iran from entrenching itself militarily in neighbouring Syria, and a series of recent strikes that have killed Iranians there have been attributed to Israel. He has also pressed Putin to guarantee that Iranian forces in Syria and their allies, such as Hezbollah, will be kept far away from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Multiple Attacks Claimed by IS on Police in Chechnya

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 20/18/Armed assailants injured several policemen in attacks in three locations in the Russian republic of Chechnya on Monday, as the Islamic State group claimed responsibility. Russia's Investigative Committee said it had launched probes into three separate attacks against police, including a failed suicide bombing. In the first attack on Monday morning, two men entered the district police department in the town of Shali and wounded a pair of policemen with knives, investigators said in a statement.The two assailants were shot dead, Chechnya's interior ministry said. In the village of Mesker-Yurt north of Shali, a man with a backpack attempted a suicide bombing near a police post but "police officers and civilians were not harmed by the blast," the Investigative Committee said. The third incident occurred on the outskirts of the Chechen capital Grozny, where a man attempted to run over a traffic policeman in his car and subsequently hit two more officers as he was chased. "The criminals were neutralized," the Investigative Committee said. IS claimed responsibility for the attacks, the SITE monitoring group reported, citing the jihadists' main propaganda agency Amaq. "Fighters from the Islamic State attacked Chechen police officers and elements in Grozny and Shali in Mesker-Yurt," Amaq said, according to SITE.  Chechnya's strongman leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who was visiting Saudi Arabia on Monday, said extremist propaganda that "confuses the young men" was to blame for the assaults.
He said the attacks were staged on Monday to "darken" the festivities ahead of Tuesday, when Muslims begin to celebrate the Islamic Eid al-Adha holiday. He said the man who attempted to stage the suicide bombing was injured and was in hospital. "The situation in Grozny and Chechnya is absolutely calm," he said. Chechnya's interior minister Ruslan Alkhanov said the assailants "attempted to destabilize the situation in Chechnya" but have been stopped. He said no officers were killed. Moscow battled separatists in two brutal wars in the 1990s in Chechnya and has since installed Kadyrov, a former separatist turned Kremlin loyalist, to rule the republic with an iron fist. After the defeat of Chechen insurgents, Russian authorities have been locked in a simmering conflict with Islamist militants from across the North Caucasus that has killed scores of civilians and police.

Egyptian Army Officer Killed in Sinai Roadside Blast

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 20/18/An Egyptian army captain has been killed by an improvised explosive device blast in North Sinai during a campaign to eliminate jihadists, medics said on Monday. The officer died Sunday evening after an explosion hit his vehicle west of the coastal city of El-Arish, a local medical source said. The Egyptian army has since February been conducting a major operation focused on the Sinai Peninsula to wipe out jihadists from the Islamic State group. The military says that over 250 suspected jihadists and at least 35 soldiers have been killed in its "Sinai 2018" operation. Jihadists launched an insurgency in Sinai after the 2013 military overthrow of Egypt's Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, who was forced out by the military in the face of mass protests against his rule.

The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on August 20-21/18
Anti-Christian Slaughter Escalates in Nigeria
المذابح التي تستهدف المسيحيين في نيجيريا هي بإزدياد
Lela Gilbert/The Media Project/August 19/18
(Note: First posted by Faith and Freedom Insider Lela Gilbert at
The European Centre for Law and Justice this week filed an official request asking the UN to “recognize and put an end to the atrocities being carried about against Christians in Nigeria.”
The Aug. 13 document presented to the UN’s Human Rights Council urges it to step in and stop the slaughter of Christians in Nigeria, especially the violence perpetrated by the extremist Boko Haram group.
“Increasingly,” warns the Aug. 13 letter, “Nigeria has become home to radical groups that seek to eliminate Christianity from the country.”
Horrific reports have circulated via social media of late regarding bloodthirsty jihadi attacks on Nigerian Christians. So far in 2018, 6,000 innocent victims have been maimed or murdered.
That grisly news comes from a press release from devastated church leaders in Nigeria’s Plateau State, declaring that thousands of children, women, and the elderly have been brutalized — with many killed — in night raids by armed Fulani herdsmen.
As the Faith & Freedom column previously reported, churches have been attacked, family farms have been confiscated, and homes have been torched with entire families burned to death inside.
“There is no doubt,” the church leaders’ press statement affirms, “that the sole purpose of these attacks is aimed at ethnic cleansing, land grabbing and forceful ejection of the Christian natives from their ancestral land and heritage."
Open Doors, a well-established and trustworthy watch-dog organization that documents Christian persecution, recently reported that in late June 2018 a dozen Christian villages were completely wiped out in a four-day massacre.
“Most of the victims were in their homes sleeping when the attacks began … when Muslim Fulani militant herdsmen began their killing spree…In only days, a dozen villages in Nigeria’s Plateau state were wiped out….As many as 200 Christians had been killed, however, some residents fear the death toll may be even higher, as more bodies are yet to be recovered, while others were burned beyond recognition.”
Newsmax contacted a Nigerian friend who must remain anonymous for safety reasons. He acknowledged that our report on Nigeria earlier this year was correct, but that the upheaval carries on.
He explained: “It is regrettable that the killings by the herdsmen have continued unabated. Worse still, the security agencies do not seem to be able to curb the killings. This has led to accusations that the government is either complicit or laissez-faire in its handling of the killings. It is definitely not showing enough concern about the issue, and can therefore be justifiably accused of failing in its primary duty of protecting the lives and property of its citizens.”
Some international news media sources remain either ill-informed or, worse, deceitful in their reporting. They depict the killings simply as community-centered land conflicts while ignoring altogether the menacing religious aspects of the attacks.
Thankfully, a number of responsible and knowledgeable observers have courageously acknowledged that the attacks specifically target Christians.
In March 2018, Newsmax amplified two clear and uncompromising voices. They offered their perspectives about Nigeria, its importance in the world, and the global threat posed by its deterioration into a failed state.
One was former Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., a Distinguished Senior Fellow for 21Wilberforce who served 34 consecutive years in the U.S. House of Representatives, remains a stalwart champion of international human rights, religion freedom, and persecuted minorities.
Wolf reminded Newsmax that Nigeria is the largest nation in Africa, with a population of 186 million. Of those about 86 million, or 46 percent, are Christian.
Year after year, Nigeria is the top economic performer in Africa. It is also a key regional force, capable of stabilizing — or destabilizing — the surrounding countries — Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso, and Mali.
Rep. Wolf quoted a somewhat unexpected expert, but one who also understands the significance of Nigeria: Bono, of U2 fame.
A human rights activist himself, Bono has invested considerable time in Africa.
Bono told The New York Times in September 2016: "There's so much strategic importance in Nigeria — that's why it's odd that there's not more focus on what's happening.
“It's pathetic. If Nigeria fails, Africa fails. If Africa fails, Europe fails. And if Europe fails, America is no longer America."
President Donald Trump has added his own voice to the discussion. At the White House, during a meeting with Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, Trump spoke out on behalf of Nigeria’s beleaguered Christians.
“We are deeply concerned by religious violence in Nigeria including the burning of churches and the killing and persecution of Christians. It’s a horrible story,” President Trump told Buhari.
“We encourage Nigeria and the federal state and local leaders to do everything in their power to immediately secure the affected communities and to protect innocent civilians of all faiths including Muslims and including Christians.”
President Trump’s words are unprecedented. But freshly calculated actions on the part of the U.S. State Department — in support of the President’s concerns — may also be necessary.
A recent report from the Atlantic Council raises a key problem:
“…it is mind-boggling that in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country and its biggest economy, there is no U.S. diplomatic presence north of the capital of Abuja, located in the country’s geographical center. Thus, the entire northern part of the country, which is home to more than 90 million predominantly Muslim people who would, by themselves, constitute Africa’s third most-populous country — and in the middle of the geopolitically sensitive Sahel region at that — has been entirely bereft of U.S. diplomatic presence (and the ongoing intelligence and other monitoring capabilities that come with such a mission) ever since the consulate in Kaduna was closed in 1991 for budgetary reasons.”
Perhaps bolstering up America’s diplomatic representation in northern Nigeria — along with the proclamations of the U.S. president and the prayers of the faithful — could turn the surging, destructive tide in jihad-targeted, bloodstained Nigeria.
Religion News, Africa
Primary Feature, Lela Gilbert

Les prisons secrètes multifonctions du Hezbollah au Liban et en Syrie

Sandra NOUJEIM/L'Orient-Le Jour/August 20/18
Outre Beyrouth et la Békaa, les centres de détention mis en place par la milice pro-iranienne dans ses zones d’influence en Syrie serviraient entre autres à « une purge démographique », selon Fidaa Itani, journaliste exilé à Londres, interrogé par « L’Orient-Le Jour ».
Plusieurs localisations de prisons secrètes du Hezbollah à Beyrouth ont été énumérées samedi par un jeune chiite, Ali Walaa Mazloum, dans un post Facebook repris par plusieurs médias en ligne. Fils de Hussein Mazloum, alias hajj Walaa, ancien cadre du Hezbollah mort au combat en Syrie, l’auteur du post – injoignable depuis hier, selon un proche du jeune homme, interrogé par L’OLJ et qui a requis l’anonymat, et qui avait pourtant réussi à le contacter samedi – affirme avoir été détenu et torturé pendant environ un an dans l’une des prisons secrètes du parti chiite dans la banlieue sud.
Il en répertorie cinq en les situant avec précision par rapport aux commerces ou établissements environnants, photos à l’appui : la prison centrale située à Haret Hreik dans un abri souterrain relevant de la Fondation Beydoun pour la vente de chaises, une autre à Bir el-Abed (derrière le siège de la coopérative islamique), une troisième aménagée au septième étage du centre d’interrogatoire situé près du complexe d’al-Qaëm, la prison de Bir el-Abed près du complexe de Sayida Zaynab, et une dernière située près du complexe d’al-Moujtaba, derrière le siège de la télévision al-Manar.
Ces prisons, dit-il, sont « gérées par les deux unités de protection et de sécurité préventive » du parti et servent à accueillir « certains partisans qui ont commis des violations, ou certains Libanais (non partisans) et étrangers ». Ceux-ci sont séquestrés après avoir été « arrêtés ou kidnappés pour différents griefs ». « Dans ces prisons, le prisonnier est complètement interdit de voir la lumière du jour, étant astreint à rester dans une cellule d’isolement de 1,5 mètre de longueur et d’un mètre de largeur. Il lui est interdit de voir la télévision, de s’informer de ce qui se passe à l’extérieur, ni même de disposer de mouchoirs, de crayons ou de papiers », témoigne-t-il, avant de mentionner « les coups et la torture par tous les moyens, physiques et mentaux, subis par les prisonniers ». S’ils ne subissent pas une « privation prolongée d’alimentation », les prisonniers ne sont servis que « d’aliments de très mauvaise qualité et nuisibles à la santé ». Le seul contact autorisé entre les prisonniers et leurs proches se fait par visite d’une demi-heure par mois ou tous les deux mois, à condition que le prisonnier ne s’exprime pas sur les conditions de sa détention, « sous peine d’être torturé et privé de visites pendant quatre mois au moins et de subir une torture en parallèle », ajoute cet homme originaire de Brital (Baalbeck).
« J’ai subi avec ma famille toutes formes d’humiliation (…). J’entends intenter bientôt une action en justice (…), ce post pourrait me ramener en prison (…), mais je n’ai plus rien à perdre », conclut l’ex-partisan qui a voulu révéler « l’autre face du Hezbollah ».
Des sources du Hezbollah citées par la LBC confirment l’arrestation de M. Mazloum « pour son implication dans un trafic de drogue en Syrie ». Ce qui veut dire que le parti chiite a décidé de lever sa couverture sur les activités de son partisan pour des raisons qu’il reste à vérifier.
Mais, par-delà ce cas en soi, ce qu’il rapporte sur les prisons du parti chiite est confirmé par plus d’une personne interrogée par L’Orient-Le Jour. Sur la forme, le chercheur Lokman Slim, chiite indépendant, précise ainsi que « l’existence de ces prisons est une lapalissade pour les Libanais habitués aux méthodes du Hezbollah, notamment sa base populaire. Ce n’est un secret pour personne que les centres religieux constituent une couverture pour les centres de détention, ou les activités militaires du Hezbollah ».
Arrestations d’Européens
Sur le fond, la brève mention que Ali Mazloum fait sur l’arrestation d’étrangers est vérifiée par des informations que L’OLJ a pu obtenir sur deux cas de séquestration d’Européens. Il y a trois mois, un couple d’Allemands, arrêté dans la banlieue sud, aurait passé trois jours dans un centre de détention du Hezbollah, avant d’être livré à la Sûreté générale puis refoulé du territoire pour liens de parenté avec un journaliste basé à Jérusalem, apprend-on de sources diplomatiques accréditées à Beyrouth. Une citoyenne suisse aurait elle aussi été séquestrée pendant 48 heures puis libérée selon le même mécanisme, après avoir pris des photos dans la banlieue sud, rapportent ces mêmes sources. Pour rappel, le représentant du Parti socialiste français auprès de l’Internationale socialiste, Karim Pakzad, avait été appréhendé par des éléments armés du Hezbollah en 2008 pour avoir pris des photos d’une mosquée dans la banlieue sud. Sa détention de quelques heures avait été reconnue par le parti chiite, après la condamnation de l’incident par le Quai d’Orsay.
Réfugiés syriens remis à Damas
Il y a par ailleurs des informations que livre à L’OLJ le journaliste Fidaa Itani, exilé à Londres, jadis proche du Hezbollah, et qui avait eu l’occasion de faire une tournée dans l’un de ses centres.
Il s’attarde sur les cas d’arrestations de réfugiés syriens dans les geôles du Hezbollah, et étaye ce faisant la thèse de Ali Mazloum. « Dans la foulée des attentats terroristes ayant visé la banlieue sud entre 2012 et 2013, des milliers de réfugiés syriens ont été arrêtés dans les prisons du Hezbollah dans la banlieue sud, le plus souvent arbitrairement, subissant des interrogatoires de plusieurs mois, avant d’être livrés soit à l’État libanais, soit au régime syrien », affirme M. Itani, qui pose la question subsidiaire de savoir comment des Syriens ayant fui le régime et censés bénéficier d’une protection onusienne se voient ainsi livrés à leur bourreau en Syrie, depuis le territoire libanais, et sous l’égide du Hezbollah ? Il souligne en outre que des agents de services libanais sont même soupçonnés d’avoir pris l’initiative de livrer au parti chiite certains opposants syriens présents au Liban. Nombreux sont ceux qui sont portés disparus depuis 2011.
Et ceux qui parmi les Syriens ont été libérés et sont restés au Liban opposent un silence complet à toute question sur leur expérience dans les prisons du Hezbollah, constatent de pair MM. Itani et Slim.
Des chiites naturalisés syriens
Fidaa Itani révèle par ailleurs l’existence d’autres centres de détention du parti chiite en dehors de la capitale, précisément à Baalbeck et dans le Hermel (Békaa-Nord), limitrophe de la Syrie. D’autres se situeraient en territoire syrien, là où le Hezbollah a une emprise « totale », comme Qousseir (qui fait face au Hermel) ou Sayida Zeinab (dans le rif de Damas) – une emprise opposable même aux services de renseignements syriens. « Il faut savoir que là où il y a une zone sécurisée du Hezbollah, ou un dépôt d’armes, il y a un centre de détention central ou secondaire, parfois itinérant », précise-t-il. « Aussi bien au Liban qu’en Syrie, les prisons du Hezbollah accueillent des Syriens de l’opposition civile, des islamistes, des membres du Front al-Nosra ou des membres de l’État islamique (ces derniers sont souvent transformés en agents du Hezbollah) » , ajoute le journaliste.
Ces centres de détention ont des finalités militaires, certes, mais sont devenus aussi, en Syrie notamment, « les centres du pouvoir iranien », le support de sa politique expansionniste. Ils constituent un lieu de répression pour les Syriens civils qui refusent de coopérer avec le Hezbollah sur des questions qui sont pour lui d’ordre stratégique, comme la vente de leurs terrains. Fidaa Itani donne l’exemple de propriétaires de terrains situés dans les environs de zones de combats, comme à Zabadani (aux environs de Madaya), où les habitants sunnites ont fini par vendre leurs propriétés foncières à la milice chiite, souvent par la force, après un passage dans l’un de ses centres de détention. Cet exemple se serait reproduit à Baba Amr (Homs). Si le Hezbollah a tenu à acheter les terrains alors qu’il aurait pu les confisquer de facto, c’est qu’il « tient à établir une présence chiite irrévocable sur le long terme », fait remarquer M. Itani.
Cette « purge démographique », selon lui, aboutit progressivement à une recomposition du territoire syrien sur des bases communautaires, qui se confirme rapidement : le Hezbollah aurait déjà offert aux familles de ses « martyrs » des propriétés foncières en Syrie et « des milliers de chiites, libanais ou non, auraient été naturalisés syriens ». « La Syrie qui comptait un maximum de 300 000 chiites avant la guerre en compte désormais près de 800 000 », affirme avec certitude le journaliste.

Denmark as a Model for American Socialists?
Lars Hedegaard/Gatestone Institute/August 20/2018
Danes actually pay for their brand of socialism through heavy taxation. In Denmark, everyone pays at least the 25% value-added tax (VAT) on all purchases. Income tax rates are high. If you receive public support and are of working age and healthy, the state will require that you look for a job or it will force a job on you.
In Denmark, it is uncomplicated for enterprises to fire workers, which gives them great flexibility to adapt to shifting market conditions. In fact, Denmark is more free-market oriented than the US.
"Very high taxes and the vast public sector clearly detract in the capitalism index and reduce economic freedom. But Denmark compensates by... relatively little regulation of private enterprise, open foreign trade, healthy public finances and more. This high degree of economic freedom is among the reasons for Denmark's relatively high affluence." — Mads Lundby Hansen, chief economist of Denmark's CEPOS think tank.
Here are some facts to consider before American "democratic socialists" look to Denmark for guidance, as Senator Bernie Sanders did during the 2016 presidential campaign.
First of all, Danes actually pay for their brand of socialism through heavy taxation. In Denmark, everyone pays at least the 25% value-added tax (VAT) on all purchases. Income tax rates are high. If you receive public support and are of working age and healthy enough to work, the state will require that you look for a job or it will force a job on you.
The willingness of all the Danes to pay high taxes is predicated on the country's high degree of homogeneity and level of citizens' trust in each other, what sociologists call "social capital." By and large, Danes do not mind paying into the welfare state because they know that the money will go to other Danes like themselves, who share their values and because they can easily imagine themselves to be in need of help -- as most of them, from time to time, will be.
Whenever politicians propose tax cuts, they are met with vehement opposition: So, you want to cut taxes? What part of the welfare state are you willing to amputate? And that ends the debate.
Danes, in contrast to American socialists gaining ground in the Democratic Party, are increasingly aware that the welfare state cannot be sustained in conditions of open immigration. A political party agitating for "no borders" could never win a Danish election. Danes do not suffer from historical guilt: they have not attacked any other country for more than two centuries and have never committed a genocide.
Moreover, there is an even deeper truth to ponder: Denmark is not really socialist but constitutes a sui generis fusion of free-market capitalism and some socialist elements. Denmark has no minimum wage mandated by law. Wages, benefits and working conditions are determined through negotiations between employers and trade unions. 67% of Danish wage-earners are members of a union, compared to 19% in Germany and 8% in France. Strikes and lockouts are common, and the government will usually stay out of labor conflicts unless the parties are unable to agree.
It is uncomplicated for enterprises to fire workers, which gives them great flexibility to adapt to shifting market conditions. To alleviate the pain, the state has in place a number of arrangements such as generous unemployment benefits and programs to retrain and upgrade redundant workers.
Danish companies must make ends meet or perish. They generally will not get handouts from the government.
Denmark is more free-market oriented than the US. According to the Heritage Foundation's 2018 Index of Economic Freedom, Denmark is number 12, ahead of the United States (number 18). Venezuela is at the bottom, one place ahead of number 180, North Korea.
Mads Lundby Hansen, chief economist of Denmark's respected pro-free-market think tank CEPOS, comments:
"Very high taxes and the vast public sector clearly detract in the capitalism index and reduce economic freedom. But Denmark compensates by protecting property rights, by low corruption, relatively little regulation of private enterprise, open foreign trade, healthy public finances and more. This high degree of economic freedom is among the reasons for Denmark's relatively high affluence."
Trish Regan recently claimed on Fox Business that Danes pay a "federal tax rate" of 56% on their income. This is misleading. The 55.8% is the levied on the marginal tax for the top income bracket, only on the part of their income above DKK 498,900 ($76,500). Any income under DKK 498,900 is taxed at lower rates. And the 55.8% marginal rate does not represent a "federal" or "national" rate. It represents the total of all taxes on income: national tax, regional tax, municipal tax and labor market tax. It does not, however, include Denmark's 25% value-added tax (VAT), paid on all purchases.
Regan also claimed that Danes pay a 180% tax on cars. While it is true that there was once a maximum tax of 180% on care in Denmark, the vehicle tax rates have been lowered in recent years. Today, the first DKK 185,100 ($28,400) of the price of a gas- or diesel-powered car is taxed at 85%, and if the car's price is above DKK 185,100, the remaining amount is taxed at 150% -- which is of course bad enough.
Denmark's total tax burden amounts to 45.9% of GDP, the highest of all countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
As pointed out in the Fox Business segment, all education for Danes is tuition-free, all the way through to a Ph.D. Not only that; the state will, within certain time constraints, pay students to study. For students at university level no longer living with their parents, the monthly cash grant comes to almost $1,000 per month. No fewer than 325,000 students out of a total population of 5.6 million benefit from this generous arrangement setting the state back to the tune of DKK 20.9 billion or 1% of GDP (latest 2018 figures just in and supplied by Mads Lundby Hansen). Denmark even pays student support to 20,000 foreign students.
Attempts by fiscal conservatives to cut down on payments to students have been successfully resisted by the vociferous and influential student organizations; at present it would appear impossible to muster anything like a parliamentary majority to limit the student handouts.
Fox Business is right that a great many Danes are on public transfer payments. Government figures from 2017 indicate that 712,300 Danes of working age (16-64) -- not including recipients of student benefits -- get public financial support. But Regan's claim that most Danes do not work is ludicrous. According to Statistics Denmark, 69.9% of Danes aged 16-64 are active in the labor market.
How can Denmark pay for its comprehensive welfare state, which includes free medical care regardless of the severity of your condition? Regan claims that Denmark is "heavily in debt." Not so. As it turns out, Denmark is among the least indebted countries in the world, even when compared to other Western countries. The Danish government's gross debt stands at 35.9% of GDP. Compare that to, e.g., The United Kingdom (86.3 %), The United States (108%), Belgium (101%), Canada (86.6%), France (96.3%), Germany (59.8%), The Netherlands (53.5%), Italy (129.7%), Spain (96.7%) and even Switzerland (41.9%).
Comparing Denmark to the US, Madsen notes that the latter has a problem with fiscal sustainability that may necessitate tax increases. Denmark enjoys what he labels fiscal "oversustainability" ("overholdbarhed").
At a time when socialism appears to be popular among certain sections of the American population, its proponents would do well not to cite Denmark as a model. The Danish fusion of free-market capitalism and a comprehensive welfare state has worked because Denmark is a small country with a very homogeneous population. This economic and social model rests on more than 150 years of political, social and economic compromises between peasants and landowners, business-owners and workers, and right- and left-leaning political parties. This has led to a measure of social and political stability that would be hard to emulate in much larger and more diverse counties such as the United States.
*Lars Hedegaard, President of the Danish Free Speech Society, is based in Denmark.
© 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.

China's Path to Global Hegemony: Latest Target Is Syria
Debalina Ghoshal/Gatestone Institute/August 20/2018
China reportedly intends to build a railway through Iran and Turkey into Syria. Meanwhile in Greece, a Chinese state-owned company, Cosco, "purchased a controlling stake in the port of Piraeus, near Athens." Piraeus is the biggest and busiest port in Greece and the busiest container port in the Eastern Mediterranean.
were to invest large amounts of money into the reconstruction of Syria, which has long been a hub for terrorist groups, Chinese funds could easily fall into the hands both of corrupt members of the Assad regime and of Hezbollah, the regime's main supporting terrorist organization. Chinese reconstruction funds could also be diverted to purchasing nuclear weapons technology from Iran and North Korea.
China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – a term coined in 2013 by Chinese President Xi Jinping to evoke the ancient Silk Road trade routes connecting China with lands to its west – should be cause for great concern in the West. Although it is described by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) as "a long-term project which, for years to come, will give China a key role in guiding and supporting cultural, economic, political, and trade developments around the world," it is actually part of China's increasingly apparent plan for regional and global hegemony.
China's President Xi Jinping. (Image source:
The BRI, which "encompasses nearly 70 countries," seemingly aims to counter American influence by achieving dominance – not merely in the realm of trade and culture, but in strategic and military matters, as well -- in South and Central Asia, the Middle East and Africa. China's hegemonic objectives are likely what has led Beijing not only to set its sights on countries such as Iran, Qatar and Turkey, but on Syria, which "controlled overland access to both Europe and Africa in ancient Silk Road times when, after the desert crossing via Palmyra, goods reached the Mediterranean on their way to Rome." More recently, Syria also produced significant amounts of crude oil during peacetime.
As a result, China appears to be vying for the opportunity to play a key role in the reconstruction of Syria, which has been devastated by the bloody civil war that has been raging there for more than seven years. With much of the West making any funds it provides for the rebuilding of the war-torn country conditional on "a transition away from [Syrian President] Assad" – and with Assad making it clear that "his country would need foreign aid to help with the rebuild but that western companies were not welcome" – Beijing would, it seems, like to fill the vacuum. Offering both humanitarian aid and investments for reconstruction would be the perfect way for China to promote the BRI in Syria.
China's plans may involve investing in a railway from the port city of Tripoli in Lebanon to the Lebanon-Syria border, which "would provide China with a means to transport materials from Tripoli into Syria, where Beijing could not only take advantage of the politically contentious issue of reconstruction in the country, but also set itself up long-term as a regional power." Without such a railway, the only other plausibly efficient entry points for Chinese goods into Syria are the Mediterranean ports of Latakia and Tartus. According to Lebanon's Daily Star:
"Syria has two major Mediterranean ports in Latakia and Tartous, but both present issues to Beijing. First, neither is deep enough to take large container ships. Second, Syria's powerful ally Russia has a major military presence in both, with an air base in Latakia and a naval base in Tartous."
In addition, China reportedly intends to build a railway through Iran and Turkey into Syria. Meanwhile in Greece, a Chinese state-owned company, Cosco, "purchased a controlling stake in the port of Piraeus, near Athens." Piraeus is the biggest and busiest port in Greece and the busiest container port in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Equally significant is that in July 2017, Chinese warships conducted live-fire drills in the Mediterranean, while on their way to take part in joint naval exercises with Russia, off the coast of St. Petersburg and Kaliningrad. The growing military cooperation between Beijing and Moscow could pose an even greater threat now that China is moving to gain a foothold in Syria through the BRI.
If China were to invest large amounts of money into the reconstruction of Syria, which has long been a hub for terrorist groups, Chinese funds could easily fall into the hands both of corrupt members of the Assad regime and of Hezbollah, the regime's main supporting terrorist organization (also backed by Iran), as well as Hamas, which used to maintain an external headquarters in Syria. Chinese reconstruction funds could also be diverted to purchasing nuclear weapons technology from Iran and North Korea.
According to an analysis by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, "China's expanding maritime strategy and increasing assertiveness in land reclamation and territorial claims have been a key driver of a strengthening alignment," among members of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue between India, Japan, Australia and the US, which was established in 2007-2008. And well it should.
Contrary to President Xi's claim, the Belt and Road Initiative is not a benign project for world "peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutual benefit." It is a dangerous path towards what clearly seems China's wish for global domination.
*Debalina Ghoshal, an independent consultant specializing in nuclear and missile issues, is based in India.
© 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.

America’s Global Order Can Be Saved

Hal Brands/Bloomberg/August 20/18
Although the US has been doing it for decades, the task of defending the liberal order has never been an easy sell to the American people. This is not just because “liberal international order” is a term that, although beloved by academics and policy wonks, hardly resonates with the average voter.
It is also because defending the liberal order has required making extraordinary exertions: defending faraway countries, patrolling distant frontiers, catalyzing collective action on myriad diplomatic and economic challenges. It means accepting the idea that the US will make the world’s problems its own. That is a lot to ask of any country, particularly one as geographically fortunate and naturally secure as the US.
Historically, domestic consensus in support of US internationalism was supported by a three-legged stool of fear, hope and political leadership. For much of the postwar era, the memory of the traumas that had befallen the US during World War II — the last time the international order had collapsed — and the omnipresent threat from a totalitarian Soviet enemy convinced Americans on the whole that the costs of global engagement were ultimately less than the costs of geopolitical withdrawal.
Yet fear was always complemented by hope. There was a shared sense that the US was undertaking a grand mission to vindicate democratic values and improve the lot of humanity. This aspiration not simply to live in the world, but fundamentally to transform it, traces back to the very founding of the republic. Later, it helped inspire the Marshall Plan, the creation of alliances that bound America to its fellow democracies, the promotion of human rights and liberal political values, and other key elements of Washington’s order-building project.
Critically, domestic support for that project was also a product of determined political leadership by America’s elites. From the earliest days of the postwar era, US officials understood that there were still strong isolationist tendencies in the body politic. So they undertook a multi-decade public education campaign on the imperatives of global involvement.
They drew vivid — and sometimes exaggerated — pictures of the threats posed by Moscow and other malign actors, and made the case that shaping the world was critical to America’s own well-being. "We are assuming the responsibility which God Almighty intended,” Harry Truman explained in 1949, “for the welfare of the world in generations to come.”
For decades thereafter, virtually every president — even those who came into office preaching retrenchment — came to see it as his responsibility to rally Americans to the cause of building and preserving the liberal order.
Today, however, all three legs of the stool have grown weaker. The end of the Cold War and the disappearance of the Soviet Union made it harder to win support on the basis of fear. The 9/11 attacks provided, for a brief time, another reminder that there remained serious dangers in the world, but the stimulus wore off amid long and unsatisfying wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those wars also damaged the “hope” leg of the stool, leading to a growing perception that energetic US statecraft was as likely to mess up the world as to make it better. Combined with the impact of the great recession and its aftermath, they led many Americans to conclude that the US should concentrate, as President Obama put it, on nation-building at home rather than nation-building abroad.
The political leadership leg of the stool has collapsed even more spectacularly. Barack Obama, for all his virtues, always manifested a certain ambivalence about America’s expansive global role. Donald Trump has taken a far starker view. He portrays the liberal order as the cause of many of America’s problems; he harps on the things the US has gotten wrong in the world rather than the things it has gotten right. The US president is no longer the chief defender of the liberal order; he is its chief critic.
Admittedly, public opinion polling shows that Americans’ views of alliances, trade and other international initiatives have not changed remarkably during Trump’s tenure. But the president has the world’s strongest megaphone, and the longer he inveighs against that order and the US role in sustaining it, the weaker domestic support for that endeavor will become.
So how might a post-Trump cohort of American leaders rebuild support for a robust defense of the liberal order? It will require strengthening all three legs of the stool.
For starters, there must be a public education campaign about the growing dangers to US security and the world America has helped to build. This is not really a matter of focusing on threats like ISIS, North Korea and Iran, troubling as they are. Rather, it should center on the threats posed by the authoritarian great powers: Russia and especially China.
Although Russia’s power base is limited, it has shown a propensity to use violence to upset the liberal order in Europe, and it has demonstrated an ability to sow political instability in the US and other Western countries. China is a totalitarian regime that could ultimately prove every bit as powerful and threatening as the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and it has already proclaimed its intention to compete with the US for global leadership. Americans need to understand that if these countries succeed in reshaping things to their liking, the world will be less peaceful, less democratic and less congenial to the security and well-being of the US.
Equally important will be rediscovering positive, hopeful narratives. This does not mean whitewashing the history of US foreign policy or sweeping the nation’s various mistakes and misdeeds under the rug. Yet if self-criticism is admirable, what is more important today is to remind Americans of the great successes the US has had in building a better world — one that has seen democratic values spread far and wide, countless people lifted out of poverty, and the longest period of great-power peace in the modern era — because that will be critical in rallying them to the task of defending the international order today.
Finally, all these efforts must feature strong and vocal leadership from the top. US officials must explain, in everyday language, why the liberal order is worth American sacrifice. They must explain what the consequences of its collapse would be. This is not an impossible task: The question of whether the liberal order will be preserved is ultimately a question of whether a world in which the US itself has thrived will endure or perish.
But if the American president doesn’t make that argument, we can hardly expect Americans to buy into it on their own.

Kofi Annan … A History of Many Wounds
Ghassan Charbel/Asharq Al-Awsat/August 20/18
It is rare for a face to tell both the history of its owner and that of the world. Kofi Annan’s face was of that rare cloth. He bore the deep sadness from the African continent and carried with him a clear stubbornness in seeking a more humane and less brutal world. Annan passed away without retiring his will or sadness.
History likes to shed the spotlight on larger-than-life figures. Those who destroy their countries or neighbors. Annan’s biography was neither exciting nor loud. He did not lead a revolution or leave corpses in his wake. The only weapons he trained on was international legitimacy. This is a shiny and fragile weapon. It could help you at times and betray you at others.
When we first became journalists, we relished covering stories about brutal leaders. Emperor Bokassa and his obsession with Napoleon. The oddities of Idi Amin and his heavily medaled chest. The horrors of Mobutu Sese Seko, who ordered a waiter thrown to the crocodiles because he made an error when the president was hosting a French businessman on his yacht.
Annan was not born from the same cloth as these figures. He did not rise from military barracks or backrooms of deceit. He chose early on to pursue a path at the UN where he made a name for himself there for four decades.
His appointment as UN secretary general was like appointing a soldier to command the army. The man already new the place in detail. He new of the negotiations, jurisdictions, budget, bureaucracy and peacekeeping missions. He knew very well that the UN was strong when powerful figures lent it some of their clout through their consensus. He knew that the UN would be crippled when the Security Council would be turned into an arena to settle scores and for the veto to be wielded to hinder resolutions. He knew that the international organization could not impose its resolutions except through the force of powerful countries and sometimes with their armies. Major powers are not running a charity, but they operate according to a network of interests, not principles.
The UN secretary general is expected to be a strong swimmer against powerful waves. He should learn how to suppress the urge to make loud statements, which deprived Boutros Ghali of another term in office. The secretary general must always swim with the UN permanent members. He should also not neglect the suffering of smaller countries and that the UN was established for peoples, not just governments. At times of consensus, the swimmer would appear like the leader. At times of international tensions, he would appear like a confused mediator struggling to stay afloat.
Annan knew that establishing a world that was less dark demanded more than striking difficult agreements on difficult decisions. He realized the importance of raising international attention on development, education, economy and respecting human dignity and central rights. He also realized the importance of the UN shedding light on the environment and climate change. He showed great attention to bolstering the policy of building bridges between races, religions and sects and reaping the fruit of scientific, technological, human and cultural progress.
From his office at the UN, Annan saw that the world was being flung between two vicious storms. The first took place when al-Qaeda carried out the September 11 attacks in order to ignite a war between the West and Islamic world. It was not easy to contain the ire of the wounded American empire, whose symbols of success and prosperity were targeted. The second took place when the American military overthrew the Saddam Hussein regime without international consent. The patient diplomat had no choice but to declare such a step as illegal from the UN perspective.
The international divisions reminded the secretary general of the limits of his role when conflicts between major capitals raged. He was reminded of this when he tried to approach the volatile Syrian crisis in his role as UN and Arab League envoy, but was later left with no choice but to step down.
Throughout his long UN career, Annan was witness to many complicated crises, dangerous behaviors and wide-scale massacres. It is not easy for a UN secretary general or international envoy to admit the limits of international action and wash his hands clean of crises. This is why Annan was bitter. He had hoped that the UN could have succeeded in easing the suffering in Rwanda and Srebrenica. He had hoped that it would succeed in containing the Syrian slaughter and preventing Iraq from slipping into the abyss. The UN employee, who believes in peace, feels a sense of responsibility for his failure to avert the piling up of bodies in this country or that. He feels a sense of failure in curbing the flow of refugees and stopping the killing machines of governments or militias.
Annan will make a long and painful testimony when he stands before the trial of history. The catastrophes that erupted after the two above-mentioned storms waned were not easy to confront. Previous safety valves were no more and regional wolves were let loose from their dens. Nuclear dreams, long-range rockets and merciless interventions. The international scene always needs someone to deter others and to clip their claws. The UN secretary general, however, was destined to make do with doctors who helped spread the disease and rubbed salt in the wounds.
Annan was a major witness during a rich and dangerous period in the world. He passed away still bearing many wounds, including those inflicted by those questioning his integrity after his son was embroiled in deals linked to the Oil-for-Food Program in Iraq.
Annan’s death is a loss for the dreamers of a less brutal world.

Erdogan Makes Some Worrying Friends
Therese Raphael/Bloomberg/August 20/18
Relations between the US and Turkey have been deteriorating almost as fast as the Turkish lira. In a speech on the Black Sea coast Saturday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made the ultimate dig against an ally: He threatened to switch teams.
“Before it is too late, Washington must give up the misguided notion that our relationship can be asymmetrical and come to terms with the fact that Turkey has alternatives,” he told the crowd. If the “disrespect” continues, his government will seek “new friends and allies.” On Tuesday, he doubled down, calling for a boycott on US electronic goods such as the iPhone.
By new friends, Erdogan means Russia — and to a lesser extent Iran. As with Turkey, both are led by proud authoritarians, face US sanctions and blame their economic woes on external enemies. They share a deep distrust of the West and have been cooperating in the Syrian conflict, while also strengthening bilateral economic ties.
No wonder the lira, despite Tuesday’s modest rebound, has been hammered, with Russia and Iran’s currencies suffering too. There is something deeply unsettling about one of America’s longest standing allies threatening to link up with a historical rival and a sworn enemy instead. But is the threat credible?
Russia and Turkey have a history of cooperation and conflict. The two have fought each other in at least half a dozen wars, won mostly by Russia. But it was the post-1917 Bolshevik government in Moscow that reached out to support Turkey’s post-Ottoman nationalists. Lenin even enthused that the new Asian leaders might prove quick studies, “go over to the Soviet system, and, through certain stages of development, to communism.” The steel and aluminum industries that are the subject of Donald Trump’s new tariffs were built with Soviet help in the 1960s.
Still, Turkey’s NATO anchor, its European Union accession hopes and its close relationship with the US once meant that ties with Moscow were mostly managed on an ad hoc basis. The two were at such odds in Syria, where Turkey has long opposed Bashar al-Assad, that relations broke down completely after Turkey downed a Russian fighter plane in 2015. Erdogan apologized to Putin in 2016 and the two have grown closer ever since.
A combination of things has prompted the change. After the defeat of Turkish proxies in Syria by Russia, Erdogan’s focus shifted to containing Syrian Kurdish forces, whom he fears will link up with the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) in Turkey to pose a threat there.
The changes on the ground in Syria and a growing distrust between Turkey and the US, culminating in the dispute over the Turkish arrest of an American pastor, eased the way to a further warming of relations with Moscow. Turkey’s decision to buy Russian S-400 surface-to-air missiles, an unprecedented move for a NATO member, was like a blood bond.
And yet it’s odd that a cozy relationship with Russia carries the same imbalance of power that Erdogan so resents in his relationships with Western countries. In fact, Russia seems to be pulling all the strings.
Russia supplies more that half of Turkey’s gas resources, and the new TurkStream pipeline, which Gazprom plans to complete next year, will increase that dependency. Erdogan also handed Rosatom, Russia’s state-owned atomic energy company, the rights to build the Akkuyu nuclear power plant in Turkey — a $20 billion showcase of Russian-Turkish cooperation. Rosatom provided the financing and got 51 percent ownership. Akkuyu will reportedly supply 10 percent of Turkey’s energy needs.
Turkey’s trade with Russia is growing, but it’s nothing like its economic interests in Europe. More than 80 percent of all foreign direct investment in Turkey between 2002 and 2016 came from the West. Only 6 percent comes from Russia. Exports to Russia rose sharply in 2017, but are still less than 2 percent of the total, well behind Germany, the US and even Iraq.
It’s hard to see how Erdogan can squeeze much more from Moscow trade, given Russia’s own economic constraints. He has spoken of using national currencies rather than the dollar in Turkey’s trade with Russia and other countries, an idea Russia endorses. But how is that realistic? Russia’s Soviet predecessor had to use barter, counter-trade and various bilateral clearing agreements to get around the fact that the ruble wasn’t freely convertible, mostly trading within the Communist bloc that way. A national-currency based trade doesn’t sound a long way off from the old Comecon world.
Erdogan is too wily not to recognize the limits of his Russia friendship. But Putin has astutely played to the Turkish leader’s worst fears about the West and his internal enemies. The burgeoning relationship reflects both Erdogan’s desire to distance Turkey from the US and his twin domestic priorities: preventing another coup and preparing for any challenge from Kurdish insurgents. Economic considerations are secondary; at least for now.
But things can change quickly in febrile times. Erdogan has shown he can pivot when it makes sense, just as he embraced cooperation with Moscow in Syria. He may tire eventually of replacing one subservient relationship with another.

Turkey: Economic Crisis or Conspiracy?
Salman Al-dossary/Asharq Al-Awsat/August 20/18
Six weeks after Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s re-election as president, the Turkish lira is witnessing an unprecedented and disastrous decline. The currency had lost more than 40 percent of its value since the beginning of the year. Couple that with US sanctions, while keeping in mind that the aluminum and steel tariffs are only part of the crisis rattling the Turkish economy.
Turkish officials, starting with Erdogan and his foreign minister, were quick to declare that a conspiracy was being plotted against their country and which left the economy in ruins. The economy is being weighed down by massive foreign debt and very high inflation, which is edging on 15 percent. Standards and Poor’s expected inflation to reach its peak, at 22 percent, over the next four months.
Of course, blaming everything on a conspiracy is easier for politicians than to acknowledge what was really happening in the country. It was difficult for them to admit the fragility of the Turkish economy, which could do without reckless political decisions that could lead the country towards the edge of the abyss.
Erdogan, who has since 2002 won five terms in parliament, three local elections and two presidential elections through popular votes, has completely based his successes on the major economic improvement. It is this improvement that allowed him to rise to the top of the country’s political scene. His rivals and allies within and outside the ruling party have come and gone, while he alone remains – as prime minister, head of the party and later as president. The position changes, but the leadership remains.
The time has come for the figure, who achieved economic growth and improved living conditions, to face the moment when the economic honeymoon ends. He chose to toss the ball in the famous “conspiracy” court, ridding himself of the economic burden, which he had a hand in exacerbating. Populist rhetoric appeals to the people and blaming problems on the imperialist West is as attractive. However, Turkey’s crisis remains unprecedented and monetary and financial authorities appear to have no solution. No one wants to confront the crisis with necessary economic solutions, such as austerity measures, raising interest rates or slightly curbing economic growth.
We must point out Qatar’s awakening and backing of Turkey in this crisis. Turkish newspapers had criticized Doha’s “ungratefulness” and silence over economic crisis, prompting Qatar to take immediate action to save its ally. The bad news is that the 15 billion dollars that it pledged to invest in Turkey will only do so much. The economy needs immediate support of nearly 150 billion dollars, while also taking into account that Turkish companies owe more than 340 billion in debt.
No country in the world, regardless of how powerful or rich it is, can immediately provide this massive financial support. Only the International Monetary Fund has these means and Ankara is, so far, rejecting this option because of its insistence and conviction that it is absolutely not facing an economic crisis, but a political conspiracy.

Turkey and Iran, fundamentalism and sectarianism
Abdullah bin Bijad Al-Otaibi/Al Arabiya/August 20/18
What’s strange in the Middle East is that it’s a region where ringing slogans still work more than realistic policies and where backward identities work more than modern values. The clearest examples are the two states which adopt flagrant projects of fundamentalism and sectarianism, Turkey and Iran.
Ever since Turkish President Erdogan managed to control the pillars of the state in Turkey and strengthen his influence and his party’s influence within a clear strategy that used announced and unannounced policies, eliminated all rivals, whether parties and movements, and dealt a major strike that’s directed at his leaders and mentors from Necmettin Erbakan to Fethullah Gulen, Turkey has been facing escalating crises and problems.
The most recent crisis and the worst is the current crisis with the US due to the detention of an American citizen for reasons that seem unclear. The crisis of the Turkish lira began before the American sanctions were imposed, so it worsened after the Trump administration imposed the sanctions and confirmed that it will impose more sanctions based on how the Turkish stance develops.
The announced Turkish policy has an orientation to create a new model that seeks to evoke a deep past and that evades the legacy of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and the modern Turkish state. It’s doing so via a strong alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood in Arab countries and the world, i.e. give up the Ataturk secularism and head towards fundamentalism and political Islam.
What the Turkish and Iranian models confirm is that ideology does not produce a successful economy, slogans do not build strong and coherent states and developmental examples cannot be driven from the past but they’re built in the present and the future.
This is accompanied with the secret dream of restoring the Ottoman Caliphate and the conviction that the model of pragmatic fundamentalism can go centuries back in time towards a fake illusion that’s being marketed as something that happened once and can be restored. This fundamental approach is well-known in the discourse of all political Islam groups. Despite the failure of this approach over eight decades, these groups insist it is the most successful and market the idea that it’s actually Islam itself.
The Turkish policy is also well-known for adopting contradictions as it fully supports the Brotherhood Hamas Movement in Gaza and sends symbolic ships that bear ringing slogans while it has agreements with Israel and wide military cooperation with it. Although it’s keen on appearing as a strong state that does not back down, it backs down and apologizes in a strange way. The clearest example is the warm apology conveyed to Russian President Vladimir Putin after downing the Russian warplane in Syria. This is in addition to threats made against Israel and then backing down and establishing more relations.
It’s unlikely that Turkey will adopt “strategic stubbornness” like its ally Qatar did as those who got used to making concessions will make concessions again. The Qatari support to Turkey via $15 billion is just a drop in the ocean in terms of Turkey’s actual needs amid its suffocating crisis. Qatar is risking its more important relation with Washington especially that Qatar has been boycotted by four Arab states, and ever since the boycott, there has been strict supervision over the activity of its funds to limits its continuous support of terrorism in the region and the world.
Decline of the Turkish lira
The historical and unprecedented decline of the Turkish lira versus the American dollar and the investors’ decision to go against the government’s wishes and transferring more of their money into foreign currencies, particularly to the USD, are an important indicator of the distrust and worry. The lira’s decline more than 40% in a short period of time is not reassuring and the capital is a coward. The image is clearer when looking at the Iranian example, and this is for several reasons. The Iranian model is four decades old. This is in addition to its blatant sectarian nature that’s announced in the constitution and its policy in spreading the stability of chaos, supporting destruction and sponsoring all forms of terrorism via Shiite militias and Sunni organizations.
American President Donald Trump’s strategy towards Iran is clear, and it is getting clearer with time. The statements of the administration officials push towards more sanctions and further international mobilization against the mullahs’ regime amid keenness to support the Iranian people who are revolting against the sectarian fundamental regime. Trump has more than once welcomed negotiating with the regime according to new conditions that differ from those of the old miserable agreement which he withdrew from because it’s the “the worst deal ever.”
As we anticipate a new round of American sanctions against the Iranian regime, major international companies have begun withdrawing from Iran. Since some European countries have announced their opposition of the new American strategy against the Iranian regime, the major companies are concerned over their interests with the US and they are not concerned about the European political arguments. The new round of sanctions which include Iranian oil will be implemented on November 4.
The effect of American sanctions against the Iranian regime will not unfold immediately but gradually and continuously. It’s similar to the snowball effect. This is how international and regional sanctions work. Time is Iran’s worst enemy as the more time passes, the more the regime suffocates and will be forced to surrender.
Despite all the slogans made by the Iranian regime and the tone of defiance, it actually gives in and fears escalation so it settles with making statements that save face without angering or provoking the US. Despite the toughness they display, Iran’s mullahs do not only yield in major crises but they also sip poison, like the famous Khomeini statement in the end of the 1980s. The resemblance between the Turkish and Iranian models in the current circumstances does not mean a match. There are some differences which can be taken into consideration. However, the big picture paves way to compare between the two models, their ruling vision, the announced purposes and the adopted paths. This comparison means that the “best model” and “example” is in the past and not the present. What the Turkish and Iranian models confirm is that ideology does not produce a successful economy, slogans do not build strong and coherent states and developmental examples cannot be driven from the past but they’re built in the present and the future. A comparison can be made with the Saudi model that’s being built in the region, as beauty is enhanced by contrast.

From Abu Muslim al-Khorasani to Qassem Soleimani, and vice versa
Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/August 20/18
I have recently watched an old video of Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani in which he was talking in a “Persian” nationalistic way and not a Shiite, religious and “Karbala-like” way, as if he was a preacher of Shah Pahlavi or as if he’s a student of nationalist Persian thinker Ahmad Kasravi! The supporters of the Khomeini regime have sung songs and written poems about Qassem Soleimani, and he was presented as a brave “Persian” hero like Rostam or Abu Muslim al- al-Khorasani! For example these days, Soleimani is active in gathering Iraqi Shiite parties in support of Iran and preventing any distance between Baghdad’s rulers and Tehran’s reference despite the loudness of Muqtada al-Sadr and his people. Iran did not settle with dispatching Soleimani to intervene in the negotiations to form a cabinet, as he has been in Najaf for several days now, but it also involved Mohammed al-Kawtharni, the man in charge of Iraqi affairs in the Lebanese Hezbollah Party, to mediate and bring together Shiite political parties who support Iran. This is according to Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.
Speaking of Iraqi Shiite parties in support of Iran, the name of the Khorasani militias, which is considered one of the Mobilization Forces’ most dangerous militia in shape and content, has surfaced. It’s an announced organic substantial part of the Revolutionary Guards and which is managed by Qassem Soleimani himself, according to the Tasnim news agency which is affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards. According to a report published by Al-Quds Al-Arabi daily, some analysts in Iran think that selecting this name for the Khorasani Brigades implies that the militias will play the role of Abu Muslim al- al-Khorasani who toppled the Umayyad Caliphate and avenged for the Persians.
Past and present
According to the dictionary of Islamists themselves, including Khomeini, mixing between Islamic religious slogans and the mentality of Persian “Jahiliyyah” vendetta is what draws the comparison between Abu Muslim al-Khorasani from the past and Soleimani at present!
In the history he wrote about the Umayyad and the Abbasid, Egyptian historian Mohammed al-Khudari explained the reason as to why the real founder of the Abbasid state Caliph Al-Mansur ordered killing Abu Muslim al- al-Khorasani. “It’s because Abu Muslim wanted to be in command of Khorasan, topple Al-Mansur and then select another man for the caliphate who is under his command and authority so the decision is that of the people of Persia.” (Page: 431) We’re not recalling a “mummified” historical figure but a figure that’s active in the Iranian political sentiment, or in its elite, and proof to that is that Abu Muslim’s biography was included in the history curriculum in intermediate school. There is a football team in Mashhad called Abu Muslim al-Khorasani club.
The difference so far is the violent end of Abu Muslim al-Khorasani at the hands of Al-Mansur and the destruction of his hybrid dreams between religion and nationalism. So will the circle of resemblance between Qassem al-Khorasani, or al-Soleimani, be complete with his predecessor Abu Muslim?
We are still spreading out the carpets of history.

The impact of US sanctions on militias
Radwan al-Sayed/Al Arabiya/August 20/18
Recently, demonstrations broke out in Saladin Governorate because militant organizations are still in control there as well as in neighboring Diyala and in Al-Anbar, Nineveh and Mosul. The Governor of Saladin named militias such as As’ib Ahl al-Haq, al-Nujaba and Hezbollah Movement in Iraq.
The main reason for protests is that some militias which belong to the Popular Mobilization Forces that was recognized by the ruling Shiite authority to fight ISIS in 2015 kidnapped and killed tribal leaders.
Militias rule the roost
Interestingly, the protesters did not dare demand the dissolution of these militias, but demanded that they be moved to the Iraq-Syria border, to be replaced by the army as well as the federal and local police!
Iran has tested that whenever it bargains with US by threatening Israel, the bargain succeeds.Tens of thousands of these militia members - especially the Badr militia which is led by Hadi al-Amiri who is nominating himself for the premiership because his bloc won the second place in recent general elections, falling behind the party led by Moqtada Al Sadr - receive salaries from the government as they are considered to be wings of the army. The Iraqi parliament voted on this in the end of 2015.
As it’s clear, these wings have not settled with official salaries and have become a party of the semi legitimate administration of Sunni provinces and practice bribery, blackmailing, intimidation and murder if they’re not always paid what they ask for.
In 2016, a famous operation was carried out between Al-Anbar and Saladin governorates; when so-called Qatari ‘fishermen’ were detained. They were not released until a ransom was paid but there have been conflicting reports over the ransom’s amount and according to semi-official information, it reached $1.15 billion. Thus, if the question is how much American sanctions will impact Iran’s funding of these militias, the answer would be that these ‘Iranized’ militias would not be greatly affected, as they and other corrupt parties have been receiving their wages from inside Iraq for years, either by receiving funds from the Iraqi army or by exploiting their control over Sunni governorates and their infiltration of penetrating the security apparatuses and the administration.
Americans and the Arabs are hoping that if Abadi remains the prime minister and allies with the Sadr movement, the Wisdom movement and some Sunni parties, the political and security control of the abovementioned militias would decline. However, corruption and financial extortion of people will most probably not decline. What is being said about Iraq can also be said about Lebanon. Hezbollah has begun establishing its ‘statelet’ in Lebanese areas which have a Shiite majority but after its occupation of Beirut in 2008, it fully infiltrated the Lebanese state as it seized control of the port, airport and the army’s intelligence. It also divided ministries that make revenues with other political parties. Even if we assume that strict supervision over banks and money transfer will prevent Hezbollah from making revenues of drugs and money laundering, a quarter to one third of the Lebanese state’s revenues are still under its control. Therefore, if it saves a little, it can manage without direct Iranian funds.
Iran’s funding of proxies
It is well known that Hezbollah has been receiving steady flow of funds from Iran since 1982, which peaked on three occasions — after the 2006 war, during its intervention in Syria and since the time it lent support to Houthis in Yemen. It is said that between 2012 and 2015, money spent on military experts who went to Yemen from Lebanon and money allocated for other forms of aid was spent from then-Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki’s office, but now most of the funding for the Houthis comes from Iran.
Over the last five years, Hezbollah’s forces in Syria never dropped below the strength of 10,000, and sometimes even reached the figure of about 20,000. However, it’s now said to number around 8,000 and is reportedly dispersed along the Lebanese-Syrian border, as well as entrenched in Al Qusayr, Homs and Aleppo and deployed on the Syria-Iraq border.
It is reported that Iran has spent $30 billion in Syria, which includes about $6 billion to $8 billion on Hezbollah and its equipment. If this period is about to come to an end, the Iranian-backed party shrinks on Lebanese territories while holding on to its weapons and controls the Lebanese state along with other corrupt parties, it will not need more funding from Iran, which is currently feeling the squeeze of US sanctions. As for Syria, it’s where Iran spent the most. Apart from the open line of credit to the Assad regime, the Iranians have certainly spent and are still spending on the Iraqi, Pakistani and Afghan militias, which they had formed, trained and dispatched to help Assad’s forces. These forces kept the regime from falling until Russia intervened in 2015.
There are still about 3,000 Iraqis, 15,000 Pakistanis and Afghans, and about 5,000 of the Revolutionary Guards. An Iranian credit line still extends for the regime. However, Iran may now have to withdraw its militias and probably some of its Revolutionary Guards forces from Syria, not only because of financial pressures but because of the pressure exerted by Israel and Russia. It is obvious that Russia is now trying to find funding alternatives for the Syrian regime via the issues of reconstruction and return of refugees, and via Europeans and others who are also ready to come to the aid of Assad, both publicly and in secret. On the other hand, Iran has a huge and long-term investment in “Assad’s Syria” and it will not easily give up on this investment, nor would it give up on Hezbollah, despite the huge expenditure. However, what is more important: internal stability or Syria or Hezbollah or Palestine and its organizations?! This is a difficult equation, but its imbalance would not appear unless the crisis and sanctions period prolongs.
Turning Palestinian cause into a ruse
Few months ago as well as now, Iranian protestors chanted against Palestine and even against Jerusalem considering that the policies of exporting the revolution, liberation and establishment of Hezbollah are all linked to the conflict with Israel.
In Palestine, Iran has had the Islamic Jihad since the 1980s, and it has had Hamas since the second half of the 1990s and other smaller factions that converted to Shiism after 2010. However, Iran’s support for these militias was never linked to the liberation of Palestine, despite the huge mobilization campaigns on Jerusalem Day since Khomeini’s times. It’s actually linked to arguments with the US. Ever since Clinton’s era to Trump’s term, Iran has tested that whenever it bargains with US by threatening Israel, the bargain succeeds. Hence the 2006 war happened, Hamas took over Gaza in 2007 and afterwards secret then public negotiations were held between the US and Iran. When Hamas’ behavior incited a small or a major war on Gaza, this meant a crisis in negotiations over the nuclear program! Then after developments in Syria and Yemen, Nasrallah repeatedly said without caring about revealing what’s hidden that the war in Syria is more important than fighting against Israel and that the war in Yemen has a higher significance than any other struggle!
Converting to Shiism and harassment of the Arabs, specifically Saudi Arabia, are the two permanent priorities. The Iranians, Nasrallah and probably even Hamas now know that harassing Israel during Trump’s term in office would lead to huge destruction.
Thus, I believe that Iran will continue to support Palestinian militias with the minimum but if it does not benefit, it will not advise Hamas to go to war to upset America and Israel. I have heard from Palestinians belonging to Hamas and Al-Jihad in Lebanon that they are facing financial problems and that the Iranians are delivering scant finances to armed groups. Thus, indirect negotiations have already started between Hamas and Israel for the sake of peace. Meanwhile, the Egyptians are also hoping that their attempts to reconcile between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority would succeed this time.
Iran has for a long time invested in causing disturbances and destruction in Arab countries. So will Iran change its strategic thinking, not just because of its financial constraints, but also as part of an over-all revision of the benefits of such a policy for the Islamic Republic since the four decades of the revolution? Would it review its policy of spreading destruction in the Arab world, even in a country having a Shiite majority like Iraq?

Question: "What does the Bible mean that we are not to judge others?"
Answer: Jesus’ command not to judge others could be the most widely quoted of His sayings, even though it is almost invariably quoted in complete disregard of its context. Here is Jesus’ statement: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” (Matthew 7:1). Many people use this verse in an attempt to silence their critics, interpreting Jesus’ meaning as “You don’t have the right to tell me I’m wrong.” Taken in isolation, Jesus’ command “Do not judge” does indeed seem to preclude all negative assessments. However, there is much more to the passage than those three words.
The Bible’s command that we not judge others does not mean we cannot show discernment. Immediately after Jesus says, “Do not judge,” He says, “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs” (Matthew 7:6). A little later in the same sermon, He says, “Watch out for false prophets. . . . By their fruit you will recognize them” (verses 15–16). How are we to discern who are the “dogs” and “pigs” and “false prophets” unless we have the ability to make a judgment call on doctrines and deeds? Jesus is giving us permission to tell right from wrong.
Also, the Bible’s command that we not judge others does not mean all actions are equally moral or that truth is relative. The Bible clearly teaches that truth is objective, eternal, and inseparable from God’s character. Anything that contradicts the truth is a lie—but, of course, to call something a “lie” is to pass judgment. To call adultery or murder a sin is likewise to pass judgment—but it’s also to agree with God. When Jesus said not to judge others, He did not mean that no one can identify sin for what it is, based on God’s definition of sin.
And the Bible’s command that we not judge others does not mean there should be no mechanism for dealing with sin. The Bible has a whole book entitled Judges. The judges in the Old Testament were raised up by God Himself (Judges 2:18). The modern judicial system, including its judges, is a necessary part of society. In saying, “Do not judge,” Jesus was not saying, “Anything goes.”
Elsewhere, Jesus gives a direct command to judge: “Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly” (John 7:24). Here we have a clue as to the right type of judgment versus the wrong type. Taking this verse and some others, we can put together a description of the sinful type of judgment:
Superficial judgment is wrong. Passing judgment on someone based solely on appearances is sinful (John 7:24). It is foolish to jump to conclusions before investigating the facts (Proverbs 18:13). Simon the Pharisee passed judgment on a woman based on her appearance and reputation, but he could not see that the woman had been forgiven; Simon thus drew Jesus’ rebuke for his unrighteous judgment (Luke 7:36–50).
Hypocritical judgment is wrong. Jesus’ command not to judge others in Matthew 7:1 is preceded by comparisons to hypocrites (Matthew 6:2, 5, 16) and followed by a warning against hypocrisy (Matthew 7:3–5). When we point out the sin of others while we ourselves commit the same sin, we condemn ourselves (Romans 2:1).
Harsh, unforgiving judgment is wrong. We are “always to be gentle toward everyone” (Titus 3:2). It is the merciful who will be shown mercy (Matthew 5:7), and, as Jesus warned, “In the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:2).
Self-righteous judgment is wrong. We are called to humility, and “God opposes the proud” (James 4:6). The Pharisee in Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector was confident in his own righteousness and from that proud position judged the publican; however, God sees the heart and refused to forgive the Pharisee’s sin (Luke 18:9–14).
Untrue judgment is wrong. The Bible clearly forbids bearing false witness (Proverbs 19:5). “Slander no one” (Titus 3:2).
Christians are often accused of “judging” or intolerance when they speak out against sin. But opposing sin is not wrong. Holding aloft the standard of righteousness naturally defines unrighteousness and draws the slings and arrows of those who choose sin over godliness. John the Baptist incurred the ire of Herodias when he spoke out against her adultery with Herod (Mark 6:18–19). She eventually silenced John, but she could not silence the truth (Isaiah 40:8).
Believers are warned against judging others unfairly or unrighteously, but Jesus commends “right judgment” (John 7:24, ESV). We are to be discerning (Colossians 1:9; 1 Thessalonians 5:21). We are to preach the whole counsel of God, including the Bible’s teaching on sin (Acts 20:27; 2 Timothy 4:2). We are to gently confront erring brothers or sisters in Christ (Galatians 6:1). We are to practice church discipline (Matthew 18:15–17). We are to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).
Recommended Resource: Who Are You to Judge? by Erwin Lutzer

The Battle of Yarmuk: History’s Most Consequential Muslim/Western Clash
Raymond Ibrahim 0 Comments/National Review Online/August 20/18
Editor’s Note: The following account is excerpted and adapted from the author’s new book, Sword and Scimitar: Fourteen Centuries of War between Islam and the West.
On this date, August 20, in 636, the first major military clash between Islam and the West was fought. The Battle of Yarmuk is now little remembered, but its outcome forever changed the face of the world, with ripples felt even today.
Four years earlier, in 632, the prophet of Islam had died. During his lifetime, he had managed to rally the Arabs under the banner of Islam. On his death, some tribes that sought to break away remained Muslim but refused to pay taxes, or zakat, to the caliph, Abu Bakr, Muhammad’s successor. Branding them all apostates, the caliph initiated the Ridda (“apostasy”) Wars, which saw tens of thousands of Arabs beheaded, crucified, or burned alive. In 633, these wars were over; in 634, so was the life of Abu Bakr. It would fall to the second caliph, Omar bin al-Khattab (r. 634–44), to direct the full might of the once feuding Arabs — now one tribe, one umma — against “the other.”
Almost instantly, thousands of Arabs flooded into Christian Syria, slaughtering and pillaging. According to Muslim historians, they did that in the name of jihad — to spread Allah’s rule on earth. Emperor Heraclius, who had just experienced a decade of war against the Persians, proceeded to muster his legions and direct them to Syria, to quash these latest upstarts. Roman forces engaged the invaders in at least two significant battles, Ajnadayn (in modern-day Israel, in 634) and Marj al-Saffar (south of Damascus, 635). But “by Allah’s help,” writes Muslim chronicler al-Baladhuri (d. 892), “the enemies of Allah were routed and shattered into pieces, a great many being slaughtered.”
Heraclius had no intention of forsaking Syria, for centuries an integral part of the Roman Empire. He had recently recovered it from the Persians and was not about to abandon it to the despised Saracens, So, by spring 636, the emperor had managed to raise a large multiethnic army, recruited from all over Christendom, according to al-Waqidi (747–823), a Muslim chronicler and the author of Futuh al-Sham, the only detailed (though often suspect) account of the Arab conquest of Syria. (Unless otherwise indicated, all direct quotes that follow are from Futuh and translated by me.) Some 30,000 Christian fighters began their march south. Muslim forces, numbering approximately 24,000 — with women, slaves, children, camels, and tents in tow — withdrew from their recently conquered territories and congregated by the banks of the Yarmuk River in Syria. The landscape was dominated by two ravines, one along the Yarmuk and the other along the Wadi Ruqqad, each with a vertical drop of 100 to 200 feet — a deadly prospect for anyone fleeing in haste.
The Arabs dispatched a hurried message to Caliph Omar, complaining that “the dog of the Romans, Heraclius, has called on us all who bear the cross, and they have come against us like a swarm of locusts.” Given that “to see Christendom fall” was Omar’s “delight,” to quote from the Shahnameh, that “his meat was their humiliation,” and that “his very breathing was their destruction,” reinforcements were forthcoming.
Heraclius appointed Vahan, an Armenian and a hero of the Persian Wars, as supreme commander of his united forces. The supreme leader of the Arabs was Abu Ubaida, but Khalid bin al-Walid, whom Muhammad had dubbed the “Sword of Allah,” commanded thousands of horsemen and camel riders behind the infantry and influenced military decisions.
Before battle, Vahan and Khalid met under a flag of truce to negotiate. The Armenian commander began by diplomatically blaming Arabia’s harsh conditions and impoverished economy for giving the Arabs no choice but to raid Roman lands. Accordingly, the empire was pleased to provide them with food and coin on condition that they return home. “It was not hunger that brought us here,” Khalid responded coolly, “but we Arabs are in the habit of drinking blood, and we are told the blood of the Romans is the sweetest of its kind, so we came to shed your blood and drink it.
Vahan’s diplomatic mask instantly dropped and he launched into a tirade against the insolent Arab: “So, we thought you came seeking what your brethren always sought” — plunder, extortion, or mercenary work. “But, alas, we were wrong. You came killing men, enslaving women, plundering wealth, destroying buildings, and seeking to drive us from our own lands.” Better people had tried to do the same but always ended up defeated, added Vahan in reference to the recent Persian Wars, before continuing:
As for you, there is no lower and more despicable people — wretched, impoverished Bedouins. . . . You commit injustices in your own nation and now ours. . . . What havoc you have created! You ride horses not your own and wear clothes not your own. You pleasure yourselves with the young white girls of Rome and enslave them. You eat food not your own, and fill your hands with gold, silver, and valuable goods [not your own]. Now we find you with all our possessions and the plunder you took from our coreligionists — and we leave it all to you, neither asking for its return nor rebuking you. All we ask is that you leave our lands. But if you refuse, we will annihilate you!
The Sword of Allah was not impressed. He began reciting the Koran and talking about one Muhammad. Vahan listened in quiet exasperation. Khalid proceeded to call on the Christian general to proclaim the shahada and thereby embrace Islam, in exchange for peace, adding: “You must also pray, pay zakat, perform hajj at the sacred house [in Mecca], wage jihad against those who refuse Allah, . . . befriend those who befriend Allah and oppose those who oppose Allah,” a reference to the divisive doctrine of al-wala’ wa al-bara’. “If you refuse, there can only be war between us. . . . And you will face men who love death as you love life.”
“Do what you like,” responded Vahan. “We will never forsake our religion or pay you jizya.” Negotiations were over.
Things came to a head, quite literally, when 8,000 Muslims marching before the Roman camp carried the severed heads of 4,000 Christians mounted atop their spears. These were the remains of 5,000 reinforcements who had come from Amman to join the main army at Yarmuk. The Muslims had ambushed and slaughtered them. Then, as resounding cries of “Allahu akbar” filled the Muslim camp, those Muslims standing behind the remaining 1,000 Christian captives knocked them over and proceeded to carve off their heads before the eyes of their co-religionists, whom Arabic sources describe as looking on in “utter bewilderment.”
So it would be war. On the eve of battle, writes historian A. I. Akram, “the Muslims spent the night in prayer and recitation of the Quran, and reminded each other of the two blessings that awaited them: either victory and life or martyrdom and paradise.”
No such titillation awaited the Christians. They were fighting for life, family, and faith. During his pre-battle speech, Vahan explained that “these Arabs who stand before you seek to . . . enslave your children and women.” Another general warned the men to fight hard or else the Arabs “shall conquer your lands and ravish your women.” Such fears were not unwarranted. Even as the Romans were kneeling in pre-battle prayer, Arab general Abu Sufyan was prancing on his war steed, waving his spear, and exhorting the Muslims to “jihad in the way of Allah,” so that they might seize the Christians’ “lands and cities, and enslave their children and women.”
The battle took place over the course of six days. (For a more detailed examination of Yarmuk, see my master’s thesis, 2002, The Battle of Yarmuk: An Assessment of the Immediate Factors behind the Islamic Conquests.) The Roman forces initially broke through the Muslim lines and, according to colorful Muslim sources, would have routed the Arabs if not for their women. Prior to battle, Abu Sufyan had told these female Arabs that, although “the prophet said women are lacking in brains and religion” (a reference to a hadith), they could still help by striking “in the face with stones and tent poles” any Arab men who retreated from the battle to camp. The women were urged to persist until the men returned to battle “in shame.”
Sure enough, whenever broken ranks of Muslims fell back, Arab women hurled stones at them, struck them, and their horses and camels, with poles, taunting them: “May Allah curse those who run from the enemy! Do you wish to give us to the Christians? . . . If you do not kill, then you are not our men.” Abu Sufyan’s wife, Hind, is said to have fought the advancing Romans while screaming “Cut the extremities [i.e., phalluses] of the uncircumcised ones!” On witnessing her boldness, the Arab men are said to have turned and driven back the advancing Romans to their original position.
On the fourth day, the Muslims managed to reverse the tables and advance against a broken line of retreating Christians. No women were present to chastise the retreating Romans, and a multitude of archers unleashed volley after volley on the rushing Arabs. “The arrows rained down on the Muslims. . . . All one could hear was ‘Ah! My eye!’ In heavy confusion, they grabbed hold of their reins and retreated.” Some 700 Muslims lost an eye on that day.
Concerning the sixth and final day of battle, Muslim sources make much of the heavy infantry of the Roman army’s right flank, referring to its soldiers as the “mightiest.” These warriors reportedly tied themselves together with chains, as a show of determination, and swore by “Christ and the Cross” to fight to the last man. (The Arabs may have mistaken the remarkably tight Roman phalanx for fetters.) Even Khalid expressed concern at their show of determination. He ordered the Muslims at the center and left of the Arab army to bog down the Christians, while he led thousands of horsemen and camel-fighters round to the Roman left faction, which had become separated from its cavalry (possibly during an attempt at one of the complicated “mixed formation” maneuvers recommended in the Strategikon, a Byzantine military manual).
To make matters worse, a dust storm — something Arabs were accustomed to, their opponents less so — erupted around this time and caused mass chaos. The Romans’ large numbers proved counterproductive under such crowded and chaotic conditions. Now the fiercest and most desperate fighting of the war ensued. Everywhere, steel clashed, men yelled, horses neighed, camels bellowed, and sand blew in the face of the confused mass. Unable to maneuver, most of the Roman cavalry, carrying along a protesting Vahan, broke off and withdrew to the north.
Realizing that they were alone, the Christian infantry, including the “chained men,” maintained formation and withdrew westward, to the only space open to them. They were soon trapped between an Islamic hammer and anvil: A crescent of Arabs spreading from north to south continued closing in on them from the east, while a semicircle of the Wadi Ruqqad’s precipitous ravines lay before the Christians to the west. (Khalid had already captured the only bridge across the wadi.)
As darkness descended on this volatile corner of the world, the final phase of war played out on the evening of August 20. The Arabs, whose night vision was honed by desert life, charged the trapped Romans, who, according to al-Waqidi and other Muslim historians, fought valiantly. The historian Antonio Santosuosso writes that
soon the terrain echoed with the terrifying din of Muslim shouts and battle cries. Shadows suddenly changed into blades that penetrated flesh. The wind brought the cries of comrades as the enemy stealthily penetrated the ranks among the infernal noise of cymbals, drums, and battle cries. It must have been even more terrifying because they had not expected the Muslims to attack by dark.
Muslim cavalrymen continued pressing on the crowded and blinded Roman infantry, using the hooves and knees of their steeds to knock down the wearied fighters. Pushed finally to the edge of the ravine, rank after rank of the remaining forces of the imperial army, including all of the “chained men,” fell down the steep precipices to their death. Other soldiers knelt, uttered a prayer, made the sign of the cross, and waited for the onrushing Muslims to strike them down. No prisoners were taken on that day. “The Byzantine army, which Heraclius had spent a year of immense exertion to collect, had entirely ceased to exist,” writes British lieutenant-general and historian John Bagot Glubb. “There was no withdrawal, no rearguard action, no nucleus of survivors. There was nothing left.”
As the moon filled the night sky and the victors stripped the slain, cries of “Allahu akbar!” and “There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger” rang throughout the Yarmuk valley.
Following this decisive Muslim victory, the way was left wide open for the domino-like Arab conquests of the seventh century. “Such a revolution had never been,” remarks historian Hilaire Belloc. “No earlier attack had been so sudden, so violent, or so permanently successful. Within a score of years from the first assault in 634 [at the Battle of Ajnadayn], the Christian Levant had gone: Syria, the cradle of the Faith, and Egypt with Alexandria, the mighty Christian See.”
Without the power of hindsight afforded to historians living more than a millennium after the fact, even Anastasius of Sinai, who witnessed Muslim forces overrun his Egyptian homeland four years after Yarmuk, testified to the decisiveness of the battle by referring to it as “the first terrible and incurable fall of the Roman army.” “I am speaking of the bloodshed at Yarmuk, . . . after which occurred the capture and burning of the cities of Palestine, even Caesarea and Jerusalem. After the destruction of Egypt there followed the enslavement and incurable devastation of the Mediterranean lands and islands.”
Indeed, mere decades after Yarmuk, all ancient Christian lands between Greater Syria to the east and Mauretania (encompassing parts of present-day Algeria and Morocco) to the west — nearly 4,000 miles — had been conquered by Islam. Put differently: Two-thirds of Christendom’s original, older, and wealthier territory was permanently swallowed up by Islam. (Eventually, and thanks to the later Turks, “Muslim armies conquered three-quarters of the Christian world,” to quote historian Thomas Madden.)
But unlike the Germanic barbarians who invaded and conquered Europe in the preceding centuries, only to assimilate into the Christian religion, culture, and civilization and adopt its languages, Latin and Greek, the Arabs imposed their creed and language onto the conquered peoples so that, whereas the “Arabs” were once limited to the Arabian Peninsula, today the “Arab world” consists of some 22 nations across the Middle East and North Africa.
This would not be the case, and the world would have developed in a radically different way, had the Eastern Roman Empire defeated the invaders and sent them reeling back to Arabia. Little wonder that historians such as Francesco Gabrieli hold that “the battle of the Yarmuk had, without doubt, more important consequences than almost any other in all world history.”
It bears noting that if most Westerners today are ignorant of that encounter and its ramifications, they are even more oblivious as to how Yarmuk continues to serve as a model of inspiration for modern-day jihadis (who, we are regularly informed, are “psychotic criminals” who have “nothing to do with Islam”). As the alert reader may have noticed, the continuity between the words and deeds of the Islamic State (ISIS) and those of its predecessors from nearly 1,400 years ago are eerily similar. This of course is intentional. When ISIS proclaims that “American blood is best and we will taste it soon,” or “We love death as you love life,” or “We will break your crosses and enslave your women,” they are quoting verbatim — and thereby placing themselves in the footsteps of — Khalid bin al-Walid and his companions, the original Islamic conquerors of Syria.
Indeed, the cultivated parallels are many. ISIS’s black flag is intentionally patterned after Khalid’s black flag. Its invocation of the houris, Islam’s celestial sex-slaves promised to martyrs, is based on anecdotes of Muslims dying by the Yarmuk River and being welcomed into paradise by the houris. And the choreographed ritual slaughter of “infidels,” most infamously of 21 Coptic Christians on the shores of Libya, is patterned after the ritual slaughter of 1,000 captured Roman soldiers on the eve of the Battle of Yarmuk.
Here, then, is a reminder that, when it comes to the military history of Islam and the West, the lessons imparted are far from academic and have relevance to this day — at least for the jihadis.
*Raymond Ibrahim is the author of SWORD AND SCIMITAR: Fourteen Centuries of War between Islam and the West.