August 22/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
You received without payment; give without payment
Matthew 10/08-15: "Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for labourers deserve their food. Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. As you enter the house, greet it. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgement than for that town.
Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on August 21-22/18
Bassil rejects interference in Yemen’s affairsظHussein Dakroub/The Daily Star/ August 21/18
Lebanon embraces Russia’s refugee initiative for Syria/Anton Mardasov/Al Monitor/August 21/18
The Great Recession Never Ended for College Humanities/Noah Smith/Bloomberg/August 21/18
Climate Change’s Long-Term Fix Has a Short-Term Cost/Mark Buchanan/Bloomberg/August 21/18
Russia's War on the West/Stephen Blank and Peter Huessy/Gatestone Institute/August 21/18
Abbas's Responsibility for Gaza Crisis/Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/August 21/18
Is "The Truth" the Truth When It Comes to Prosecutors/Alan M. Dershowitz/Gatestone Institute/August 21/18
Do not live away from the sea/Turki Aldakhil/Al Arabiya/August 21/18
How Aung San Suu Kyi used Kofi Annan to cover the military’s crimes/Dr. Azeem Ibrahim/Al Arabiya/August 21/18
Why involve Iraq in the Iranian Holocaust/Adnan Hussein/Al Arabiya/August 21/18
Turkey and Iran, fundamentalism and sectarianism/Abdullah bin Bijad Al-Otaibi/Al Arabiya/August 21/18

Titles For The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on August 21-22/18
Lebanon’s Economic Blues Begin to Bite
STL reschedules closing arguments in Ayyash case to Tuesday 11 September
Aoun Reportedly Called Assad to Discuss Refugees
Geagea Says New Govt. Must Preserve Sovereignty, Fight Corruption
FPM Sources Blast 'Hariri's Performance'
Wahhab: President Aoun, General Aoun's calls serve LebaneseSyrian mutual interests
Baarini says Hariri keen on forming unity government
Moussawi, Sarraf confer over restoring national rights in marine waters, unifying vision on land borders
Fneish to Lebanese sports delegation in Jakarta: You honored your country!
Rahi meets Hungarian House Speaker
Kabalan calls for swift government formation
Naiim Hassan calls for 'commitment to principles' on Eid al-Adha
Bassil rejects interference in Yemen’s affairs
Aoun talks upcoming UN General Assembly session with envoy
Lebanon embraces Russia’s refugee initiative for Syria

Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on August 21-22/18
Netanyahu, Bolton Adamant in Stopping Iranian Support to ‘Hezbollah’
Israeli army opens criminal probe into killing of two Palestinian teens in Gaza
Two arrested for allegedly spying for Iran in US
Iran Unveils First Domestic Fighter Jet
Russian hackers target US political institutions, Microsoft says
US imposes fresh sanctions for Russian cyber-related activity
Iran says ‘US won’t dare attack us,’ as it unveils first domestic fighter jet
Bahrain stops issuing entry visas for Qatari citizens
EU needs payment systems independent of US to keep Iran deal alive: Germany
Trump Administration Identifies 3 Syrian Priorities, Including 'Curtailing' Iran’s Influence
Iran, Qatar intervened to obstruct forming Iraq’s largest political bloc: Sources
Analysts: Qatar’s Financial Exposure Does not Allow Doha to Support Turkey
Trump vows ‘no concessions’ with Turkey over detained US pastor
Russia to begin delivery of S-400 missile system to Turkey next year
Kingsbury tube station shooting in London leaves three people injured
No indication NKorea nuclear activities stopped: UN’s IAEA
Pope will meet sexual abuse victims in Ireland: Vatican
The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on August 21-22/18
Lebanon’s Economic Blues Begin to Bite
Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 21 August, 2018/For Mazen Rahhal, a shop owner in a bustling district of Beirut, Lebanon's economy has seldom felt more precarious. In one store, he sells clothes at a fraction of their previous price. Another, which he rented to a rival business, now lies empty. Years of gradual stagnation have in 2018 merged with several newer trends: high-interest rates, falling house prices and questions about the currency at a moment of profound uncertainty as politicians wrangle over forming a new government.
For Lebanese businesses and people, economic unease and the lack of a government to take firm control over policy - some three months after they voted in a general election - have become ceaseless sources of worry. "We are struggling just to manage the costs we have to pay: from electricity, employee wages, everything," said Rahhal. His family has owned shops on Hamra Street, the main business thoroughfare of west Beirut, since the 1970s. As Lebanon rebuilt after its 15-year civil war ended in 1990, there was a period of economic growth, and as in its 1950s and 60s heyday, it drew tourists ready to open their wallets. But political problems grew over time. The war in neighboring Syria also made matters worse. Economic growth, which averaged 8-10 percent before the war, has averaged 1-2 percent since it began, and a purchasing managers' index for Blom Bank has shown business activity in decline every month since 2013. The state owes about 150 percent of the gross domestic product, much of it to local banks, whose own business is partly based on remittances paid into them by Lebanese working abroad, in turn partly drawn by attractive interest rates. Without a new government, Lebanon cannot institute the fiscal reforms needed to get its debt under control or unlock billions of dollars in pledged foreign investment in infrastructure to get the economy moving. Everybody Reuters interviewed said it was critical for Lebanon to form a government soon.

STL reschedules closing arguments in Ayyash case to Tuesday 11 September

Tue 21 Aug 2018/NNA - The Special Tribunal to Lebanon (STL) announced via Twitter on Tuesday that: "The Trial Chamber has rescheduled oral closing arguments in the #Ayyash et al. case from the parties and participating victims for the weeks of Monday 10 to Friday 21 September 2018, starting on Tuesday 11 September."

Aoun Reportedly Called Assad to Discuss Refugees

Naharnet/August 21/18/President Michel Aoun has recently held phone talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a media report said. Discussions tackled "the issue of Syrian refugees and means to expedite their return to their homeland," al-Akhbar newspaper reported on Tuesday. It also reported that Army Commander General Joseph Aoun has called Syrian defense minister and army chief Ali Abdullah Ayoub to offer greetings on Army Day. The two commanders touched on "the joint security coordination between the two countries through the work of the security coordination bureau, which is tasked with controlling the border and preserving security on the borders of the two countries," the daily added. The thorny issue of the Lebanese-Syrian ties has returned to the front burner in recent weeks.PM-designate Saad Hariri has recently 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.”

Geagea Says New Govt. Must Preserve Sovereignty, Fight Corruption

Naharnet/August 21/18/Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea announced Tuesday that the new government should "preserve sovereignty and freedom" and "fight corruption."Wishing prosperity for Lebanon in a message marking the Muslim feast of Eid al-Adha, Geagea said the new government should "reflect the people's will and their aspirations in terms of preserving sovereignty and freedom and relaunching the process of rebuilding state institutions through running them properly and fighting the rampant corruption in them." Geagea also hoped the Arab region will witness "peace and safety" and "the end of the bloody crises that we are witnessing today."

FPM Sources Blast 'Hariri's Performance
Naharnet/August 21/18/Free Patriotic Movement sources have criticized Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri over several files, including the government formation process, the Syria file and his stance on the Canada-Saudi Arabia row. "There are several question marks over PM-desigante Saad Hariri's performance, procrastination and his endorsement of the conditions of Progressive Socialist Party chief ex-MP Walid Jumblat and the Lebanese Forces," the sources told al-Joumhouria newspaper in remarks published Tuesday. "Hariri has committed mistakes that cannot be overlooked and ignored, seeing as in the Syrian file Hariri is a PM-designate who does not have the jurisdiction or the parliamentary majority to decide whether or not Lebanon will restore its relation with Syria," the sources said. Commentint on Hariri's solidarity with Riyadh in its crisis with Canada, the sources said such a stance could be "politically costly for Lebanon." "Hariri should not have acted unilaterally because it should be issued by the Council of Ministers, not by a PM-designate," the sources added.

Wahhab: President Aoun, General Aoun's calls serve LebaneseSyrian mutual interests
Tue 21 Aug 2018/NNA - "Arab Tawhid" Party Chief, former Minister Wiam Wahab, deemed via Twitter on Tuesday: "The initiative of the President [Michel Aoun] to contact Syrian President Bashar al-Asad, and the initiative of the Army Commander [Gen. Joseph Aoun] to contact the Syrian Chief-of-Staff, are two important initiatives that fall within the Lebanese-Syrian common interests."

Baarini says Hariri keen on forming unity government
Tue 21 Aug 2018/NNA - Member of the "Future" Parliamentary Bloc, MP Walid al-Baarini, assured Tuesday that Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri is keen on forming a national unity government in which all political constituencies are represented. He hoped that all sides in the country would meet the PM-designate halfway in this respect, closing ranks and working together to build the institutions for the sake of all the Lebanese. Speaking before various popular delegations who came to convey their well-wishes on the Adha Eid in the town of Mohammara in Akkar today, MP Baarini said, "The Eid is an occasion for friends, family and neighbors to come together and connect, and the Adha Feast carries a message of sacrifice and dedication to serve humanity." "We have identified our political choices, namely in serving our people and the interests of our country and our region by adhering to the approach of PM-designate Saad Hariri," added Baarini. "It is no secret to anyone that intransigence and adherence to personal interests serve not our national interests," he emphasized, calling for "joint cooperation in order to build the new Lebanon through a new government and a new mandate."

Moussawi, Sarraf confer over restoring national rights in marine waters, unifying vision on land borders
Tue 21 Aug 2018/NNA - Member of the "Loyalty to the Resistance" Parliamentary Bloc, MP Nawwaf al-Moussawi, deliberated Tuesday with Caretaker National Defense Minister, Yacoub Sarraf, over ways of restoring Lebanon's rights to its marine waters and unifying the national vision towards land borders. According to a statement by Hezbollah's Media Relations branch, it indicated that talks tackled "the best means to restore national rights in marine waters, especially in the exclusive economic zone, and to unify the vision on the land borders that have been re-defined several times since 1920.""Discussions also addressed the importance of establishing a commercial and transit port in the Naqoura area for the benefit and economic development of the region and the assertion of Lebanese sovereignty over all territories, especially those adjacent to the Palestinian territories occupied by the Israeli enemy," the statement added. "Such a port would ensure security and protection through the naval military base established in that strategic area, in addition to providing many job opportunities and restoring the demographic balance in all areas of Lebanon...becoming a vital artery that feeds the region from the coast to the Arab depth through the districts of Tyre, Marjayoun-Hasbaya and Western Bekaa," the statement went on. "Ways of ceasing violations on the natural reserve located in the city of Tyre, on the Rashidieh camp's side, with reviews of factual information from 2004 to 2017 based on aerial maps, also featured high during discussions," the statement concluded.

Fneish to Lebanese sports delegation in Jakarta: You honored your country!
Tue 21 Aug 2018/NNA - Caretaker Youth and Sports Minister, Mohammed Fneish, congratulated Tuesday the Lebanese delegation partaking in the 18th Asian Games hosted by the Indonesian city of Jakarta, praising the performance of Ray Bassil and Alain Moussa in reaping two gold medals for Lebanon in the shooting competition for various Asian athletic teams. Fneish also congratulated Dominique Abi Nader for winning the 86 Kg silver medal in free wrestling and Leticia Aoun for winning the bronze medal in Taekwondo. The Minister, who was in contact with Lebanon's delegation members today, hoped that they would reap more medals and good results for Lebanese sports in the Asian Games, adding, "The Sports Ministry's faith in these heroes was not in vain." Fneish concluded by congratulating the Lebanese on "this great sports achievement" and on the holy Adha Feast, hoping that "it would carry goodness and blessings to all of Lebanon and its people."

Rahi meets Hungarian House Speaker
Tue 21 Aug 2018/NNA - Maronite Patriarch Beshara Boutros Rahi, currently on an official visit to Hungary, met today with Hungarian House Speaker, Laszlo Kover, at the Parliament Building.

Kabalan calls for swift government formation
Tue 21 Aug 2018 /NNA - Supreme Islamic Shiite Council Deputy Head, Sheikh Abdul-Amir Kabalan, reiterated the need for a swift government formation especially with the pressing socio-economic situation in the country. "Speeding-up the formation of the government is a national necessity to preserve and improve Lebanon's economy and achieve political, security and social stability," Kabalan said on the occasion of Eid al-Adha. Kabalan urged politicians to form a national unity government, away from foreign interferences for the sake of the Lebanese people. "We demand politicians to overcome obstacles that put Lebanon's economy and security at risk and threaten our stability," he added. In this context, Kabalan called upon the political class to rise above their personal and narrow interests for the " country's sake and to maintain the tripartite equation of "people, army and resistance. Commenting on the Lebanese-Syrian relations, Sheikh Kabalan called on all responsible officials to reactivate the Lebanese role in the "reconstruction of Syria" and facilitate the exportation of "Lebanese products" via the Syrian crossing. "We call for the consolidation of the Lebanese-Syrian relations and the activation of the joint cooperation agreements that both countries would benefit from," he stressed. Finally, Kabalan emphasized the importance of the return of Syrian Refugees to their country and hoped that peace and tranquility would prevail in all regions.

Naiim Hassan calls for 'commitment to principles' on Eid al-Adha

Tue 21 Aug 2018/NNA - Sheikh Akl of the Druze Community, Naiim Hassan, held on Tuesday in Abey the Adha Eid sermon, whereby he called for a strong adherence to the principles of dialogue, a fair settlement, a national reconciliation and anything that would solidify the foundations of coexistence. Hassan urged all political counterparts to stay away from escalatory discourse that would flare up "strife" and sectarian "instincts". He also wished that President Aoun's tenure would achieve the Lebanese people's dreams and aspirations. At the cabinet formation level, the Druze Sheikh criticized the political parties, holding them responsible for their failure to form a new government, especially in light of the political, security, economic and regional dangers. Finally, he hoped for the end of wars in Syria and Palestine, and for finding political solutions to conflicts on the basis of justice and equity, as well as consolidating a comprehensive and lasting peace.

Bassil rejects interference in Yemen’s affairs

Hussein Dakroub/The Daily Star/ August 21/2018
BEIRUT: Caretaker Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil Monday defended the government’s dissociation policy toward regional conflicts, saying Lebanon did not support meddling in Yemen’s affairs in what appeared to be implicit criticism of Hezbollah’s stance on the 3-year-old Yemeni war. “As a foreign minister, I am compelled to express Lebanon’s official position, which is dissociation [from regional conflicts],” Bassil said in a televised interview with Russian news channel RT aired from Moscow following a meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov. Bassil’s remarks came amid regional criticism of Lebanon for not complying with its declared dissociation policy after Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah met with a Houthi delegation in Beirut over the weekend. The United Arab Emirates’ Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash called on the Lebanese government to respond to the Houthi delegation’s visit to Beirut. “The Yemen crisis and its war are priorities that are intrinsically linked to the future security and stability of the Arabian Gulf. In this context, Lebanon cannot be a logistic or political station for the Houthis and ignore the fact that this would exacerbate the repercussions,” Gargash tweeted Sunday.
The UAE is part of the Arab coalition fighting the Houthis in Yemen to restore the internationally recognized government of Yemeni President Abed Rabbou Mansour Hadi.
Despite several reports claiming that Hezbollah has been involved in the Yemeni war alongside the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, the party never officially declared its participation. Hezbollah is a key ally of the Free Patriotic Movement headed by Bassil, who said he stood firm with the dissociation policy despite the FPM’s alliance with Hezbollah. “Hezbollah is a political ally, but when it comes to the official stance of Lebanon [on dissociation], there is no alliance there,” Bassil said. Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, who resigned from Riyadh in November last year, rescinded the resignation in December 2017 after his government, including Hezbollah, unanimously agreed on a policy of dissociation from regional conflicts and non-interference in the internal affairs of Arab countries. Bassil also tackled Nasrallah’s meeting with the Houthi delegation, held only a month after Yemeni Foreign Minister Khaled al-Yamani denounced Hezbollah’s interference in his country’s war. “We don’t support interference in Yemen’s affairs,” he said. Commenting on the government formation crisis, which has entered its third month with no solution in sight, Bassil said: “There are people who are demanding more than their share [in the Cabinet].”
He was referring to the Lebanese Forces, which is locked in a fierce rivalry with the FPM for representing the Christian community in the new government. The LF has insisted on being allocated a sovereign ministry among the four ministerial portfolios it was reported to have accepted in the latest proposal to end the Cabinet formation impasse.
LF ministers and lawmakers have accused Bassil of seeking to prevent their party from obtaining a significant Cabinet share based on the results of the May 6 parliamentary elections, when the party boosted its representation from eight to 15 MPs. In addition to the problem of Christian representation, the Druze representation is also posing a major hurdle to the government formation that has so far defied a solution amid insistence by former MP Walid Joumblatt, leader of the Progressive Socialist Party, on appointing the three ministers reserved for the Druze sect in a 30-member Cabinet.
Joumblatt’s demand is aimed at preventing his Druze rival, MP Talal Arslan, from being named a minister. Bassil is backing Arslan, an ally of the FPM, in his request to be named a minister. Top leaders used the three-day Eid al-Adha holiday, which began Tuesday, to call for the swift formation of a new government to cope with the country’s political and economic problems. In congratulating the Lebanese, and Muslims in particular, on Eid al-Adha, President Michel Aoun urged rival leaders to give priority to the country’s interests. “The circumstances surrounding Lebanon and the region’s states call for combined efforts by everyone to enable Lebanon to confront imminent challenges, the most important of which is the formation of a new government that will pursue the country’s reconstruction and recovery process,” Aoun said in a statement released by his media office. Visitors at Baabda Palace quoted Aoun as underlining the “importance of accelerating the government’s formation to cope with imminent developments, particularly the economic situation.”
Hariri, who left Beirut to spend Eid al-Adha abroad with his family, also sent warm wishes to the Lebanese people and Arabs celebrating the Eid. Hariri expressed his hope that “efforts exerted to form a new government will be crowned with success at the earliest possible time,” a statement from his media office said. He said he hoped the next government would reflect the “aspirations of the Lebanese and achieve their wishes for setting the state’s wheel into motion and lifting the nation toward the better.”
Caretaker Social Affairs Minister Pierre Bou Assi, one of three LF ministers in Hariri’s outgoing Cabinet, rejected FPM accusations that the LF’s demand for a sovereign ministry was obstructing the government’s formation.
“The Lebanese Forces has the right to demand a sovereign ministry. It has the capability, knowledge and intention to take a sovereign ministry and serve the country and the people through it,” Bou Assi said in a local TV interview. “The LF is not the obstacle to the government’s formation. It has made great efforts that led to the election [of Aoun] as president.”
He was referring to the 2016 Maarab understanding signed by the LF and the FPM that achieved inter-Christian reconciliation and contributed to Aoun’s election as president in October 2016.
Despite soaring tensions and exchange of accusations between the FPM and the LF over Cabinet shares that put the Maarab agreement in jeopardy, LF leader Samir Geagea said his party upheld the agreement which, he added, called for the distribution of ministerial portfolios equally between the FPM and the LF after allocating the president’s Cabinet share. “We will not abandon the agreement and we will return to it when the need arises. It is a four-page political agreement and the last page only deals with the issue of the government’s formation,” Geagea told a delegation of Lebanese expatriates at his residence in Maarab, north of Beirut. He said the two main Christian parties had agreed that in a 30-member government, the president would have three ministers and the remaining Christian ministers would be divided between the FPM, the LF and their respective allies. “We uphold the Maarab understanding, which cannot be annulled except with the will of its two parties. The attempt by one of the two parties to disown it can only be considered as a coup by one of the two parties against the agreement,” Geagea said, adding that the LF would get “a weighty share in the government.”

Aoun talks upcoming UN General Assembly session with envoy
The Daily Star/ August 21/2018/BEIRUT: President Michel Aoun sent his greetings to the Lebanese people on the occasion of Eid al-Adha, as he met with Lebanon’s envoy to the U.N. Monday to discuss an upcoming visit to the United Nations, a statement from the presidency reported. Amid a series of meetings with various officials at Baabda Palace, Aoun and United Nations Representative of Lebanon Amal Mudallali discussed preparations for the Lebanese delegation that will be headed by Aoun at the annual U.N. General Assembly session on Sept. 22. The renewal of UNIFIL's mandate was also a topic of discussion between Aoun and Mudallali, the statement said. The U.N. peacekeeping force's mandate is set to expire Aug. 31, though it is expected to be renewed in a Security Council vote. Aoun also received United Kingdom Ambassador to Lebanon Hugo Shorter in a farewell visit, as Shorter’s ambassadorial term comes to a close. Aoun and Shorter discussed bilateral relations and regional issues. The U.K. ambassador thanked Aoun for his cooperation during his term.

Lebanon embraces Russia’s refugee initiative for Syria
Anton Mardasov/Al Monitor/August 21/18
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov hosted his Lebanese counterpart Gebran Bassil in Moscow Aug. 20. The agenda of the talks included economic partnership, military-technical cooperation, protection of religious and ethnic groups, the situation in Gaza and the relationships between Russia and the Mashriq countries. The main item, however, was Russia’s initiative to return Syrian refugees home from neighboring countries.
During the final press conference, Lavrov said that Lebanon should not become a hostage to the Syrian crisis and the problem of refugees.
“We have discussed in detail the prospects for strengthening our cooperation on issues related to the safe and dignified return of Syrian citizens home, those who have found temporary refuge on Lebanese soil,” Lavrov said. “Conditions for this have been created and will continue to improve.”
He added that the Centre for the Reception, Allocation and Accommodation of Refugees that Russia established in Syria has been distributing information on the localities that are ready to receive people who wish to come back to their homes. According to Lavrov, nearly 7,000 refugees have returned from Lebanon during the last month alone.
Bassil noted that Lebanon supports Russia’s project and is willing to cooperate with Moscow and other parties. He argued, “The conditions in Syria have changed. Currently we see more and more areas where stability and safety have been established. So we do not see any reasons why Syrian refugees should stay in Lebanon.”
In late July, Putin’s special envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentyev visited Beirut to discuss repatriation. On Aug. 18, during bilateral talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Meseberg, Putin emphasized the humanitarian aspect of the Syrian conflict, pointing out that the return of the refugees would lift a weight off Europe’s shoulders and to make it happen, European countries must “help restore the water supplies, sewage systems, healthcare, the most basic things.”
Later, German government spokesperson Steffen Seibert stated that Berlin considers the discussion over reconstruction of Syria's devastated areas premature, as political peace is required first. However, Moscow is unlikely to give up on its project of repatriation because it both showcases Syria’s seeming stability and disguises regime’s numerous political problems.
In this sense, Bassil is quite well suited to negotiate with Russia. In June, during the visit of Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri to Moscow, he criticized the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), accusing it of preventing Syrian refugees from returning home and declaring that an “international conspiracy” designed to weaken Lebanon is holding them there.
During the latest meeting, Lavrov basically repeated Bassil’s claims. He noted that European countries “are coming to understand that precisely defined measures are needed” to repatriate Syrians, but Washington is impeding the repatriation process by refusing to take part in rebuilding infrastructure in government-controlled regions.
“It turns out that the Political Department of the UN Secretariat issued and circulated throughout the UN system in October 2017 a secret directive prohibiting organizations that are part of this system to participate in any projects to restore the Syrian economy, limiting their involvement to humanitarian aid and nothing more,” he complained.
Interestingly, Lavrov repeated the words of his predecessor, Igor Ivanov. In 2007, discussing the crisis in Lebanon after the murder of Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, Ivanov warned that Lebanon should not become a hostage of outside interests. The overlap in rhetoric means that Russia’s position remains unchanged and shows the meaningless formality of diplomatic exchanges.
As a result, Bassil has predictably supported the Russian initiative for repatriation, although Lebanon does not have any official contacts with the Syrian regime and the country's new government still has not reached a consensus on the issue.
Hariri and other anti-Syria parties object to this measure. On the same day the talks in Moscow took place, Minister of State for Refugees Mouin Merehbi stated that his office is not working with the Russians on repatriation. Earlier he had said that he was going to make the Russians guarantee that refugees would be returned to safe areas.
However, Hezbollah and its allies, such as Shiite Amal Movement and particularly the Christian Free Patriotic Movement created by President Michel Aoun and led by Aoun’s son-in-law Bassil, have repeatedly encouraged the return of Syrians, the majority of whom are Sunnis. The General Security directorate has declared that it was working with Syrian intelligence to organize repatriation and had already opened 17 centers all over the country do so. Lebanon's Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim and Syrian National Security chief Ali Mamlouk are both part of the Russian-Syrian-Lebanese Committee for Repatriation.
Lebanon’s fragmented and sectarian-based policies can be hardly called comprehensive and effective. Taking geographic and political realities into account, Hariri is likely to soften his position on the Syrian regime. In theory, foreign contribution to the repatriation process and investments is possible, yet Russia is unlikely to accept the West as a moderator in this process. At the same time, it is naive to think that Damascus sincerely cares for its citizens and is not just trying to project an image of a compassionate government for the sake of foreign policy goals. The media has already spread the words of Jamil al-Hassan, intelligence head of the Syrian Air Force, who claimed that dissent would be crushed and supporters of the rebellion punished.
In February the UNHCR published a list of conditions for repatriation such as a benign environment, guaranteed safety and amnesty for former refugees, including those who avoided military service. However, the UN’s latest reports show that these conditions are still not met and the regime continues to pit the remaining residents against the rebels.
**Anton Mardasov is a military affairs expert and journalist focusing on Syria, Iraq and extremist organizations. He is also a non-resident expert at the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC). On Twitter: @anton_mardasov

The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on
August 21-22/18
Netanyahu, Bolton Adamant in Stopping Iranian Support to ‘Hezbollah’
Tel Aviv - Nazir Majli/Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 21 August, 2018/Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser John Bolton met in Jerusalem on Monday, reiterating their demand for Iran to halt its support to Lebanon’s ‘Hezbollah’. A reliable source in Tel Aviv said that Netanyahu and Bolton discussed extensively how Iranian forces and their affiliated militias should be evacuated from Syria and how ‘Hezbollah’ should be returned to Lebanon. “By removing the sanctions (the nuclear deal) enabled Iran to bring in billions and billions of dollars to its coffers which only fueled Iran’s war machine in Syria, and to support terrorist groups,” said Netanyahu. He expressed gratitude to the US president for his decision to pull out from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, and to impose sanctions on the country. Netanyahu went on to describe Trump's decision to pull out of the “terrible” Iran deal and move the US Embassy to Jerusalem as "momentous." Bolton noted his “privilege and honor to be here in Jerusalem, Israel’s capital.”Netanyahu responded: “Israel believes it has no greater friend and ally than the United States. And I believe that the United States has no greater friend and ally than Israel.” “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’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 program,” said Bolton. He met on Monday a number of security officers and politicians. Bolton will resume his meetings on Tuesday by holding talks with Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, head of the National Security Council Meir Ben Shabat, Mossad chief Yossi Cohen and Chief of General Staff of the Israeli Army Gadi Eizenkot.

Israeli army opens criminal probe into killing of two Palestinian teens in Gaza

Reuters, JerusalemTuesday, 21 August 2018/Israel’s military said on Tuesday it would launch a criminal investigation into two incidents in which its troops shot and killed Palestinian teenagers taking part in protests along the Gaza border. The inquiry into the deaths of Abed Nabi, 18, on March 30, and 15-year-old Othman Helles on July 13, was the first announced by the military into its use of lethal force in the border demonstrations that began five months ago. At least 170 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli soldiers during the weekly protests, drawing international criticism of Israel. One Israeli soldier has been killed by a Gaza sniper. Protests have included attempts to breach Israel’s security fence along the frontier with the Hamas Islamist-run Gaza Strip. There was no immediate comment by Palestinian officials in the occupied West Bank or Gaza, where celebrations for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha have begun. A statement from the Israeli military said its initial inquiries into the two events raised “a suspicion that the shooting in these incidents was not in accordance with standard operating procedures”. Video posted on social media after the March 30 incident showed a Palestinian, identified by protest organisers as Nabi, dropping to the ground as he ran, holding a tyre. The organisers said he was shot with his back to Israeli forces. The Gaza Health Ministry said that in the July 13 shooting, Helles was hit in the chest. Israel has accused Hamas, regarded by the West as a terrorist group, of using the demonstrations as a cover for launching attacks. Hamas denies this. The protest campaign is pressing for an end to the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of Gaza and for the right to return to land that Palestinians lost to Israel in the 1948 war of its foundation. More than half of Gaza’s two million residents are war refugees and their descendants.
Citing security concerns over Hamas and other armed groups in Gaza, Israel and Egypt keep tight restrictions on their border crossings with the enclave which have reduced its economy to a state of collapse. The United Nations and Egypt have been leading efforts to mediate a long-term ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, tackle humanitarian issues in Gaza and improve its economy.

Two arrested for allegedly spying for Iran in US

Reuters, Washington/Tuesday, 21 August 2018/Two Iranian men were indicted on Monday for allegedly spying for Tehran in the United States, including conducting surveillance at a Jewish facility and gathering information on backers of the militant Iranian opposition Mujahideen-e Khalq, the Justice Department said. Ahmadreza Mohammadi-Doostdar, 38, a dual US-Iranian citizen, and Majid Ghorbani, 59, an Iranian citizen and resident of California, were charged in the indictment with acting on behalf of Iran by conducting the surveillance, the Justice Department said in a statement. Both were arrested on August 9. The indictment alleges Doostdar traveled from Iran to the United States in July 2017 to collect intelligence about entities considered to be enemies of the Iranian government, including Israeli and Jewish interests as well as people associated with MEK, it said. The Justice Department said Doostdar conducted surveillance in July 2017 of an ultraorthodox Jewish facility in Chicago, the Rohr Chabad House, including photographing the security features. Ghorbani attended an MEK rally in New York on Sept. 20, 2017, to protest the current Iranian government, taking photographs of the participants, which he later passed on to Doostdar and was paid about $2,000. The photos, many with handwritten notes about the participants, were found in Ghorbani’s luggage at a US airport as he was returning to Iran in December 2017, the Justice Department said. Ghorbani also attended an MEK-affiliated Iran Freedom Convention for Human Rights in Washington in May, where he again appeared to photograph speakers and attendees, the department said. He later spoke with Doostdar to discuss clandestine methods to deliver the information to Iran, it said. Iran considers the Mujahideen-e Khalq to be a terrorist group that seeks the overthrow of the government in Tehran. The group was listed as a terrorist organization by the US State Department until 2012.

Iran Unveils First Domestic Fighter Jet
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 21/18/Iran unveiled its first domestic fighter jet on Tuesday, with President Hassan Rouhani insisting that Tehran's military strength was only designed to deter enemies and was aimed at creating "lasting peace."Images on state television showed Rouhani sitting in the cockpit of the new "Kowsar" fourth-generation fighter at the National Defense Industry exhibition in Tehran. State media said it had "advanced avionics" and multi-purpose radar, and that it was "100-percent indigenously made" for the first time. Footage of the Kowsar's test flights was circulated by various official media. But live footage of the plane taxiing along a runway at the defense show was cut before it took off. "When I speak of our readiness to defend, it means we seek lasting peace. If we lack readiness, we welcome war," Rouhani said in a televised speech shortly after. "Some think when we increase our military power, this means we seek war. (But) this is peace-seeking because we don't war to happen," he added. "If we don't have a deterrent... it gives a green light for others to enter this country."The plane was first publicly announced on Saturday by Defense Minister Amir Hatami, who had said it would be unveiled on Wednesday. He gave few details of the project, focusing instead on Iran's efforts to upgrade its missile defenses. Hatami said the defence programme was motivated by memories of the missile attacks Iran suffered during its eight-year war with Iraq in the 1980s, and by repeated threats from Israel and the United States that "all options are on the table" in dealing with the Islamic republic. "We have learned in the (Iran-Iraq) war that we cannot rely on anyone but ourselves. Our resources are limited and we are committed to establishing security at a minimum cost," he said in a televised interview. The U.S. has sold hundreds of billions of dollars of weapons to Iran's regional rivals, but has demanded that Tehran curb its defence programs, and is in the process of reimposing crippling sanctions in a bid to force its capitulation.
Russian hackers target US political institutions, Microsoft says
Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnglishTuesday, 21 August 2018/Fake versions of several US political institutions’ websites were made to trick people with a goal of hacking into their computers by a group affiliated with the Russian government, according to Microsoft which announced its discovery Monday and disabled the websites.Acting on a court order, last week the company seized control of six fake websites involved in such efforts. The group has made phony versions of websites related to American public policy, the US Senate, the Hudson Institute, and the International Republican Institute (IRI). The websites were created in the past several months, and they were caught early as they were being set up, Microsoft said while not going into more specifics. The finding revealed the identity of the hacking group as APT28, which is the same group that had been linked to a Russian intelligence agency and was believed to have interfered in the US 2016 presidential election. US officials have been warning that the coming vote, in November, will be the target of interference efforts, and these latest events show the serious role that Russian operatives are playing ahead of the midterm congressional elections in the US. Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit lead the process of finding and disabling the websites, and the company is launching efforts to cyber-protect campaigns and election agencies that use its products. There is no evidence that the websites were used in attacks, according to Microsoft, but what is for sure is that visitors can be tricked by emails to open these websites, and doing so allows the attackers to hack their computers and steal their emails and all other documents they might have on their computers.

US imposes fresh sanctions for Russian cyber-related activity

Reuters, WashingtonTuesday, 21 August 2018/The United States on Tuesday imposed sanctions on two Russians and one Russian and one Slovakian firm under a US program targeting malicious cyber-related activities. In a statement on its website, the US Treasury said the sanctioned firms- Saint Petersburg-based Vela-Marine Ltd and Slovakia-based Lacno S.R.O.- and the two individuals were linked to Divetechnoservices, a previously sanctioned entity.
Iran says ‘US won’t dare attack us,’ as it unveils first domestic fighter jet
Agencies, TehranTuesday, 21 August 2018/Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday that the United States does not dare to attack Iran as it is aware of the Islamic Republic's military power and the high price of conflict. "Why the United States does not attack us? Because of our power, because it knows ...its consequences," Rouhani said in a speech broadcast live on state television. Rouhani also said the country had to develop its military forces to prevent other states taking over its territory and resources. "We should make ourselves ready to fight against the military powers who want to take over our territory and our resources."Iran unveiled its first domestic fighter jet at a defense show in Tehran on Tuesday. Images on state television showed Rouhani sitting in the cockpit of the new "Kowsar" plane at the National Defence Industry exhibition. It is a fourth-generation fighter, with "advanced avionics" and multi-purpose radar, the Tasnim news agency said, adding that it was "100-percent indigenously made". State TV said the plane had already been through successful testing and showed it waiting on a runway for its first public display flight. The plane was first publicly announced on Saturday by Defense Minister Amir Hatami, who had said it would be unveiled on Wednesday. He gave few details of the project, focusing instead on Iran's efforts to upgrade its missile defenses. Hatami said the defense program was motivated by memories of the missile attacks Iran suffered during its eight-year war with Iraq in the 1980s, and by repeated threats from Israel and the United States that "all options are on the table" in dealing with the Islamic republic. "We have learned in the (Iran-Iraq) war that we cannot rely on anyone but ourselves. Our resources are limited and we are committed to establishing security at a minimum cost," he said in a televised interview. The US has sold hundreds of billions of dollars of weapons to Iran's regional rivals, but has demanded that Tehran curb its defense programmes, and is in the process of reimposing crippling sanctions in a bid to force its capitulation.

Bahrain stops issuing entry visas for Qatari citizens
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Tuesday, 21 August 2018/Bahrain has announced on Tuesday that due to the continuous aggressive irresponsible actions by the Qatari government against Bahrain, the kingdom decided to stop issuing entry visas to Qatari citizens. In a statement published on its website, Bahrain Interior Ministry declared that: “As a result of the continued irresponsible actions of the Qatari authorities against the Kingdom of Bahrain, It was decided to stop issuing visas to Qatari nationals, except Qatari students studying in the Kingdom of Bahrain, as well as those who hold valid visas.”The statement noted that the Qatari people are not the targeted party of this decision, as “They remain a natural extension of their brothers in the Kingdom of Bahrain” as the statement puts it. The Interior Ministry stressed that the brotherly relations between the two brotherly peoples cannot be harmed by the actions of the irresponsible Qatari authorities which do not take into consideration the principle of neighborhood or the principles of international law.

EU needs payment systems independent of US to keep Iran deal alive: Germany
Reuters, Berlin/Tuesday, 21 August 2018/Europe needs to set up payment systems independent of the United States if it wants to save the nuclear deal between Iran and major powers that was abandoned by President Donald Trump, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said. “That’s why it is indispensable that we strengthen European autonomy by creating payment channels that are independent of the United States, a European Monetary Fund and an independent SWIFT system,” Mass wrote in the Handelsblatt business daily. “Every day the deal is alive is better than the highly explosive crisis that would otherwise threaten the Middle East,” he added in the article to be published on Wednesday.

Trump Administration Identifies 3 Syrian Priorities, Including 'Curtailing' Iran’s Influence

London - Ibrahim Hamidi/Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 21 August, 2018/Washington’s priorities in Syria are now almost defined with the completion of President Donald Trump’s appointment of his specialized team for the war-torn country.
The US administration is seeking to achieve three top priorities: defeating ISIS and preventing its reappearance in the northeast of Syria; curtailing the Iranian influence and working with Moscow through dialogue and pressure to reach a political solution in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 2254. US experts, including the new envoy to Syria, have written a list of proposals featuring the establishment of an air and land embargo in eastern Syria in order to reach these goals. Iran’s role will prevail over talks between US National Security Adviser John Bolton and his Russian counterpart, Nikolay Patrushev, in Geneva on Thursday, following Bolton’s return from Israel. But Moscow is still pursuing other tracks in parallel with the Geneva negotiations: Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu will visit Russia on Friday to discuss the fate of Idlib and the isolation of Al-Nusra Front, ahead of the Russian-Turkish-Iranian summit in Tehran on September 7-8. All these talks are expected to establish for an international-regional platform that will allow UN Envoy Staffan de Mistura to proceed with the formation of the Constitutional Commission and host a meeting of the representatives of the three countries that are sponsoring the Astana process (Russia, Iran, and Turkey) in Geneva next month. However, Washington still studies that path with skepticism and dissociation – a fact that was highlighted at a meeting between US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and De Mistura in Washington last week, when the US side refused to make any contribution to the reconstruction of Syria (the areas under Damascus control) before the achievement of a political breakthrough under the Geneva process. Pompeo’s position came in line with the changes that took place in the US team in the Syrian-Iranian file. After lengthy consultations, Trump’s administration decided to appoint the official in the State Security Council for the Middle East Joel Rubin, as Assistant Undersecretary of State to join David Schenker, instead of David Satterfield, who is waiting to be appointed as ambassador to Ankara. The surprise was the appointment of former US ambassador to Baghdad and Ankara James Jeffrey as the State Secretary’s representative for engagement in Syria. Schenker, Jeffrey and others will join the US administration, coming from the Washington Institute for the Near East in the US capital. Jeffrey is known for his hostility towards Iran, and his position was clear when he expressed his rejection of the US withdrawal from Iraq. According to a western official, the appointments come at a time when Moscow and Washington are working on arrangements that “guarantee Israel’s security” under the agreement between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki last month. This was translated into the return of Syrian government forces to the Golan Heights, the activation of the disengagement agreement and Israel’s acquisition of a green light from Putin to strike Iran’s infrastructure in Syria. Washington’s ideas now appear clear in a paper prepared by a group of experts, including the new US envoy to Syria at the Washington Institute for Near East Studies on November 11. The recommendations entitled “Towards a New Policy in Syria,” noted that the imposition of sanctions and a no-fly zone in northern Syria would deprive the Assad regime and Iranian forces of access to supplies. At the same time, Tehran’s ability to provide support to the Syrian regime will be reduced by the US policy of increased pressure on the regime.
Iran, Qatar intervened to obstruct forming Iraq’s largest political bloc: Sources
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Tuesday, 21 August 2018/Iraqi sources attributed the failure of the meeting of the political blocs’ leaders, in Babylon Hotel Sunday evening, to the interventions of Iran and Qatar, where both countries contacted and exerted pressures on the Kurds and Sunni Arabs to boycott the meeting.According to the sources, the Iranian role is now exposed to prevent the formation of a larger bloc led by the Sadrist movement, which excluded the leaders of the Popular Mobilization units which is close to Iran, and most importantly it excluded former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who also has close relations with Tehran. However, a hidden role played by Qatar in the same direction was revealed in past days. On Sunday, the Babylon Hotel outside the Green Zone in Baghdad hosted a meeting to announce the largest parliamentary bloc of more than 200 seats. The list of invited guests included: Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi, leader of al-Nasr bloc, which has 42 seats, Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr, heading Sairoon block, which has 54 seats, Ammar al-Hakim, leader of al-Hikma movement, with 20 seats, Iyad Allawi and Saleh al-Mutlaq leaders of the national bloc with 25 seats, the leaders of the Sunni National Bloc, which has 35 seats and representatives of the two main Kurdish parties who together have about 40 seats. The absentees in this meeting were representatives of the Kurds and the Sunni National Axis Alliance, which led to the failure to form a parliamentary bloc that has the majority to form a government. According to sources in Baghdad, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards al-Quds Force commander Maj. Gen. Qassem Suleimani met with Kurdish leaders, which resulted in their absence from the meeting. Qatari officials also had secretly contacted Sunni Khamis al-Khanjar- heading al-Qarar Alliance- a close associate of Qatar and Iran, who in turn pressured leaders of the Sunni National Axis Alliance to boycott the Babylon Hotel meeting.

Analysts: Qatar’s Financial Exposure Does not Allow Doha to Support Turkey
Riyadh - Fatah Arahman Youssef/Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 21 August, 2018/Turkish efforts to save the plunging lira are unsustainable in the long term given the existing US sanctions, economic and banking experts said. The analysts stressed that the devaluation of the Turkish currency was the result of accumulated economic repercussions, noting that any efforts to stop the deterioration would only postpone the collapse, before another setback. Dr. Abdulaziz bin Saqr, head of the Gulf Research Center, told Asharq Al-Awsat that all the evidence “indicates that the Turkish lira crisis will not end soon. The problem is political in the first place, and this is an important dimension for reading the developments.”On the impact of the Qatari $15 billion on the Turkish lira, Bin Saqr said: “Qatar does not have the possibility of pumping directly the amount, but it promised to invest, and this needs more time… Those who read some important reports of some of the major financial banks will know the size of the financial exposure.”For his part, Fadl al-Buainain, a financial and banking analyst, told Asharq Al-Awsat: “The Turkish lira crisis is the result of cumulative economic repercussions that have never been a major cause of the problem. Therefore, any efforts to stop the deterioration of the lira will not achieve their goal.”Al-Buainain believes that the Qatari $15 billion support for the Turkish economy “will not resolve the current economic crisis."“The treatment needs a greater volume of investment flows and urgent programs that contribute to economic recovery,” he said. He pointed out that the Turkish financial sector and banks were required to pay $76 billion by the end of the year, noting that this would increase the burdens of the Turkish lira. He also stressed that the devaluation trend began in the last 10 years and accelerated over the past four years, as a direct result of the deficit of trade balance, the increase of sovereign debt and a tripled inflation rate, in addition to the wrong political and economic strategy adopted by Turkish President Recep Erdogan.
Trump vows ‘no concessions’ with Turkey over detained US pastor
Steve Holland, Jeff Mason, James Oliphant, Reuters/Tuesday, 21 August 2018/US President Donald Trump on Monday ruled out making any concessions to Turkey to gain the freedom of a detained American pastor and said he was not concerned that retaliatory tariffs he imposed will have a ripple effect and hurt the European economy. Trump, speaking to Reuters in an Oval Office interview, said he thought he had a deal with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan when he helped persuade Israel to free a detained Turkish citizen. He had thought Erdogan would then release pastor Andrew Brunson. “I think it’s very sad what Turkey is doing. I think they’re making a terrible mistake. There will be no concessions,” he said. Trump has imposed tariffs on imports of Turkish steel and aluminum in response to Erdogan’s refusal to free Brunson, raising concerns of economic damage in Europe.“I’m not concerned at all. I’m not concerned. This is the proper thing to do,” he said, when asked about the potential damage to other economies. Trump said Erdogan had wanted the Turkish citizen returned from Israel. Trump and Erdogan met in Brussels for a NATO summit in mid-July where they discussed Brunson’s case and what could be the way forward to release the pastor, a senior White House official said earlier. Turkey had sought US help to persuade the Israelis to release a Turkish woman who was being held in Israel, the senior official said. In exchange Turkey would release Brunson and other Americans being held in Turkey. Trump said he kept his side of the bargain. “I got that person out for him. I expect him to let this very innocent and wonderful man and great father and great Christian out of Turkey,” Trump said. Israel, which confirmed that Trump had requested Ebru Ozkan’s release, deported her on July 15. Ankara has denied ever agreeing to free Brunson in return. Trump added: “I like Turkey. I like the people of Turkey very much. Until now I had a very good relationship as you know with the president. I got along with him great. I had a very good relationship. But it can’t be a one-way street. It’s no longer a one-way street for the United States.”Trump had suggested earlier this month he would be willing to meet Iranian President Hassan Rouhani if the Iranians wanted to discuss the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program. The Iranians, including Supreme Leader Ali Khamanei, have shrugged off the offer. Asked to respond to Iran’s refusal to meet, Trump said it not matter to him whether they met or not.

Russia to begin delivery of S-400 missile system to Turkey next year

Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Tuesday, 21 August 2018/Russia is to begin delivery of S-400 missile defence system to Turkey next year, the Interfax news agency cited Russia’s state arms exporter Rosoboronexport as saying on Tuesday. The S-400 Triumf is considered the latest Russian long-range anti-aircraft missile system. The United States has expressed concern that NATO member Turkey’s planned deployment of the Russian-made S-400 could risk the security of several US-made weapons used by Turkey, including the F-35 jet. Rosoboronexport also said it would switch to using local currencies in deals with foreign trade partners, instead of using the dollar, the RIA news agency reported.
Since 2016 Turkey started negotiations with Russia on the potential purchase of S-400 air missile defense systems, Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik said on Friday, adding that Ankara was also in touch with other countries on missile defense. Read more
On the other hand, In February the Saudi Ambassador to Moscow Raed bin Khaled Qrimli said that the negotiations to supply Saudi Arabia with Russian missile systems S-400 is in its final stages, reported Okaz Saudi newspaper via Russian News Agency (TASS).
In a related context, TASS pointed out that the Russian President adviser for Technical Cooperation Vladimir Kuzin said in an interview with the Russian Kommersant newspaper, earlier, that the documents for shipments of S-400 to Saudi Arabia, was signed and approved by all standards. On October 5, 2017, TASS quoted the information office of The Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation (FSVTS) as confirming an agreement with Saudi Arabia, for the sale of the S-400 air defense system, a Kornet-M anti-armor system and a rocket launcher Tos-A1, the AGS-30 grenade launcher and the Kalashnikov AK-103, during King Salman’s visit at the time.
With Reuters

Kingsbury tube station shooting in London leaves three people injured
Reuters/Tuesday, 21 August 2018/A shooting at London’s Kingsbury tube station has left three people injured, police said on Monday night, adding that the shooting is “not terror related.”“Police and LAS (London Ambulance Service) were alerted at around 2145hrs on Monday, 20 August, to reports of shots fired in Kingsbury Road, NW9”, the Met police said in a statement. The injured people are not believed to be in a life-threatening condition, the police said.“A crime scene is in place and local roads are closed. There has been no arrest at this early stage,” the statement added.
No indication NKorea nuclear activities stopped: UN’s IAEA
AFP, Vienna/Tuesday, 21 August 2018 /The UN’s nuclear watchdog said it had not seen any indication that nuclear activities in North Korea have stopped despite its pledges to denuclearize. “The continuation and further development of the DPRK’s nuclear program and related statements by the DPRK are a cause for grave concern,” said a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), referring to North Korea’s official name. The report, published late Monday, by the director general of Yukiya Amano is to be submitted to an IAEA board meeting in September. In 2009 Pyongyang expelled IAEA inspectors from its Yongbyon nuclear site and has since refused to allow IAEA inspections on its territory. The watchdog has stepped up monitoring through open source information and satellite imagery, it said. “As the Agency remains unable to carry out verification activities in the DPRK, its knowledge of the DPRK’s nuclear programme is limited and, as further nuclear activities take place in the country, this knowledge is declining,” it said. Between late-April and early-May, there were indications of the operation of the steam plant that serves the radiochemical laboratory at the Yongbyon site, according to the report.
However, the duration of the steam plant’s operation was not sufficient to have supported the reprocessing of a complete core from the experimental nuclear power plant reactor, it added. North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump held a groundbreaking summit in Singapore in June. At the meeting the pair struck a vague agreement to denuclearize the Korean peninsula, but there has been little movement since. Before this, Kim met South Korean President Moon Jae-in in April for their first summit. They agreed to push for a declaration of an end to the Korean War this year.
Pope will meet sexual abuse victims in Ireland: Vatican
Reuters, Vatican CityTuesday, 21 August 2018/Pope Francis will meet victims of clergy sexual abuse during his visit to Ireland this weekend, the Vatican said on Tuesday. Spokesman Greg Burke told reporters at a briefing on the August 25, 26 trip that the meeting will not be announced until after it is over and that it will be up to the victims if they want to speak afterwards. On Friday, The Vatican, in its first response to a damning report by a US grand jury on sexual abuse of children by priests in Pennsylvania, on Thursday expressed “shame and sorrow”. The grand jury on Tuesday released the findings of the largest-ever investigation of sex abuse in the US Catholic Church, finding that 301 priests in the state had sexually abused minors over the past 70 years.
The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on August 21-22/18
The Great Recession Never Ended for College Humanities
Noah Smith/Bloomberg/August 21/18
Humanities education in the US is in free fall. And the decline probably shows that the nature of what American students want out of college education is changing — more young people are in it for the money.
Northeastern University history professor Benjamin Schmidt recently wrote a long blog post in which he showed, very convincingly, that the number of American undergraduates majoring in the humanities has dropped in the last decade. Five years ago, Schmidt thought that it might be a temporary blip after the Great Recession. But now he has changed his mind.
The last five years have been brutal for almost every major in the humanities … there is, in the only meaningful sense of the word, a crisis … Rather than recover with the economy, [the] decline accelerated around 2011-2012.
Schmidt documents the decline with a number of data points. From 1990 through 2008, degrees in English, history, foreign languages and philosophy represented about 8 percent of all US college degrees; today, it’s just under 5 percent. Classical studies, the arts, religion and comparative literature have all shared in the decline to varying degrees. Only communications, ethnic and gender studies, and linguistics appear to be holding steady, though the latter two represent only about 0.3 percent and 0.12 percent of all degrees, respectively. Humanities degrees haven’t just fallen in percentage terms, but in absolute numbers as well.Why is this happening? Schmidt lists some theories, but the timing of the downturn seems to make it clear that economics plays a role. The job market was tough for much of the decade after Great Recession. More than that, the aftermath of the financial crisis likely dealt a permanent blow to many Americans’ expectations of smoothly rising prosperity and wealth; for the generation that came of age during and after the recession, the knowledge that economic disaster could strike at any time is now seared into their worldview.
That feeling of permanent danger and scarcity means that young people probably no longer feel as if they can afford to major in whatever strikes their fancy. Instead, they feel like they have to take the safe path and go for the money. And they can’t help but notice that — with some exceptions — the chances of finding a job generally tend to be higher for science, technology, engineering and math graduates than humanities graduates.
Also, students with STEM and economics degrees tend to earn more money than their peers in the humanities.
The theory that college kids are going for the money is bolstered by several other trends that Schmidt reports. As would be expected, STEM and economics majors have gained market share, as have professional-oriented majors in areas like health. Soft social sciences like sociology and anthropology, which often don’t yield great results in the job market, are also on the decline. A third fact that supports the theory is that humanities majors enjoyed a huge spike in popularity in the economically booming 1960s, only to fall in the 1970s when the economy slowed.
So whatever other reasons are leading students to ditch the humanities and soft social sciences for STEM and economics, money seems to be part of the story. The job market has now recovered from the Great Recession, but it will be several years before a generation goes to college whose formative years weren’t shaped by bad economic times.
So will the humanities recover? If the 1970s plunge in humanities degrees is any indication, the drop in humanities majors could be long-lasting. Humanities departments are likely to shrink in response to lower undergraduate enrollment. That, combined with a dearth of older humanities graduates to serve as role models, will probably mean less student interest for a long time. Meanwhile, money might not be the only reason students are fleeing the humanities and soft social sciences. The rise of graphics software, spreadsheets and statistical software means that we live in an increasingly data-driven age. It’s noteworthy that Schmidt, a historian, makes his argument that his field is in decline using graphs and numbers rather than flowery prose.
One force might help humanities education to recover — the rise of machine learning. Many who follow the rapid progress of machine learning — sometimes labeled artificial intelligence — believe that soft skills will become increasingly important to the job market in the coming decades. With machines doing much of the technical work now done by engineers, the theory goes, companies will need humans to interact with other humans — providing customer experience, making strategic decisions and building business relationships.
Those are all tasks that the humanities, with their emphasis on empathy, persuasion and human emotion, are well-equipped to provide. Even if machines don’t end up taking engineers’ jobs, a greater focus on persuasive writing and constructive relationship-building interaction in college humanities courses — rather than close reading of texts or other academic-style activities — would probably make these majors seem more practical and career-oriented to prospective students. Instead of hectoring students to focus on personal well-roundedness and general education, the humanities would be well-served by touting the practical benefits of the soft skills they impart.

Climate Change’s Long-Term Fix Has a Short-Term Cost

Mark Buchanan/Bloomberg/August 21/18
Global warming is getting a little scary, as its consequences emerge more quickly than most scientists had expected, in soaring global temperatures, unprecedented wildfires and many other effects. This year is on target to be the fourth hottest ever, only just behind the three previous years. Meanwhile, humanity has made very little progress in taking action, with carbon dioxide emissions higher now than ever before, having actually increased 60 percent over the past 25 years — all while we’ve been fully aware of the problem.
But hope for a simple fix — such as a carbon tax, the preferred option of most economists — is naive, even setting aside the formidable political challenges. Among other things, a new study suggests, a meaningful carbon tax could trigger food shortages by 2050 for many of the poorest people in the world, and even be worse than climate change continuing completely unabated.
In the research paper, published in Nature Climate Change, scientists compared estimates of how either climate change or a strong carbon tax would affect the global population at risk of hunger. The changing climate will directly hit agricultural productivity, while a carbon tax would raise energy prices, a key agricultural input. The study found that a stringent carbon tax would be likely by 2050 to have a greater negative impact on hunger than climate change, with problems worst in vulnerable regions such as sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
Of course, these are only estimates, and there’s plenty of uncertainty in this analysis. It rests on assumptions, for example, about how rising temperatures and other climate effects will influence food productivity, something we know little about. Indeed, other recent research concludes that rising temperatures could reduce GDP even in developed nations by as much as one-third by 2100. Uncertainties aside, the researchers’ best guess is that on the matter of food security, climate change would be bad, but a carbon tax big enough to reduce emissions significantly could actually be worse. That’s bad news.
Does this mean we shouldn’t address climate change? Hardly. It actually only points out why we’re going to have to be creative in finding ways to deal with the negative short-term consequences of the policies that will deliver long-term benefits. In addition to emissions reductions, we’re going to need wise agricultural policies, stronger social safety nets, and better international cooperation.
Policies designed to avoid climate disaster a century into the future and beyond might be expected to have some negative consequences over times as short as 30 years. By analogy, fire extinguishers have negative short-term consequences for the interiors of houses, but we generally think that using them is a good idea, because we can do other things to deal with those consequences and avoid having to rebuild the whole house.
Likewise, if governments implement a carbon tax — or take other serious actions on climate — they can also take further steps to handle adverse consequences stirred up as a result. Revenue from the tax could be used for food aid, for example, or to transfer more efficient production methods to food insecure regions, which might also further reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The real message of the paper is that a useful carbon tax could cause serious problems, if put in place in the absence of any other policies to make agriculture more resilient or to come to the aid of those most at risk.
In this sense, the paper makes a useful if somewhat mundane point — that long-term climate policy will stir up short-term issues, like food security. It offers valuable information on where we ought to be thinking about what other policies we might put in place to counteract these problems, and so ensure a path forward not just for some, but for everyone.

Russia's War on the West

Stephen Blank and Peter Huessy/Gatestone Institute/August 21/18
If one examines Russia's proposals, there is a shell game going on. Russia wants the United States to abide by treaties that they themselves are breaking. Russia, for instance, has been breaking the INF Treaty since the 1990s, a fact essentially admitted by the Russian press in 2007.
The real Moscow build-up of nuclear warheads and associated missiles and bombers are tailored for short, intermediate, and long-range missile strikes. These systems, along with Russian published doctrine and testing, reveals a Russian military preparing to use nuclear weapons (as well as chemical and biological weapons) for war-fighting purposes and to threaten not only military targets but population centers as well.
Russia's proposals also aim to block American conventional global strike programs and capabilities and to seek guarantees that American and allied missile defenses, especially those in Europe, will either not be built or will be strictly limited.
Russia's public displays of the new programs is no doubt designed both to intimidate the West into not responding to Russian provocations, and to force the U.S. into one-sided arms control deals in their favor, out of fear of emerging Russian nuclear arms.
After the Helsinki Summit was over, the Russian government, the Russian and American media, and many Russian experts in the West have been calling for the United States and Russia to agree quickly to either an extension of the 2010 New Start Treaty, or a new follow-on arms control agreement; the New Start Treaty between the two countries is scheduled to expire in 2021.
Many of these calls for new negotiations and a new treaty are primarily driven by alarm at the bad state of East-West relations, the belief in the inherent benefits of arms control in general, and that arms control remains the area where it is easiest to secure Russo-American dialogue.
Additionally, arms control is historically the arena where Moscow most feels it is being treated as an equal by the United States. According to some American arms control enthusiasts, such deals also provide opportunities for Russia to achieve "parity" and supposedly thus stability between the two nations. Therefore, in the name of international security and East-West dialogue, it is argued, it is necessary to resume arms control talks with Moscow.
It is often assumed that "right wing" ideologues are opposed to arms control with the Russians, just as they purportedly were during the Cold War. This view is apparently based on another assumption: that "right-wingers" desire U.S. superiority over Russia and other armed adversaries, a superiority that bilateral arms control deals would preclude. However, it has always been the case that arms control, when done correctly, has been a policy designed to advance U.S. interests, not an effort to satisfy Soviet-Russian neuroses about being equal to the U.S. Therefore, the test of a credible arms control proposal and/or process is whether it advances U.S. interests.
The facts, ironically, are that it was under Ronald Reagan and the first Bush administration, that genuine arms control reductions were first achieved. Under the 1987 Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) and the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Talks (START) agreements between the United States and the Soviet Union, the U.S. fundamentally altered the strategic balance in favor of the U.S. and the Western alliance, by cutting Soviet-era nuclear warheads by nearly 10,000.
The START treaty is in marked contrast to previous United States-Soviet agreements, such as the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks, or SALT treaty of 1972 that allowed massive growth in the Soviet nuclear arsenal. Particularly troubling was the SALT treaty acceptance of the Soviets' massive increase from 1972-80 in large, heavy, multiple warhead land-based missiles that the United States perceived as a key threat to strategic stability.
Arms control with Russia is also problematic for other reasons. The Russians have no media and other pressures on their negotiators to "get a deal" or "play fair". Moreover, the Russians always cheat on such deals, and the verification measures in place often turn out to be seriously deficient.
Also, the current Russian nuclear forces are nearing complete modernization, (85% or more will be fully modernized by 2020). In contrast, the United States is just beginning its nuclear modernization effort, which will not be nearing completion until well in to the 2030's, first with the initial deployment of a new bomber in 2027, a new land-based ICBM in 2029 and a new Columbia-class submarine in 2031.
This schedule, furthermore, assumes full, uninterrupted funding and support for these nuclear programs.
So far, the Congress has not only fully funded the nuclear enterprise but has provided additional funding for the modest acceleration of the bomber and land-based missile modernization programs. Should the arms control community get its wish on future strategic arms control, however, we will cut both our land-based missiles and submarines at seas. For example, most of the 400 currently deployed Minuteman land-based ICBMS, (each with just one warhead), would have to be eliminated, or, as some arms control proponents have suggested, half of the United States' planned 12 new submarines would never be built.
Such reductions would be terrible, both for strategic stability and the military balance between the United States and Russia. The U.S. would be dramatically reducing its ability to add warheads to its force structure if Russia broke out of current or future arms agreements. And the U.S. would end up with a seriously deficient force to cover enough of an adversary's targets it would need to hold at risk in order to provide credible deterrence.
In one reasonable calculation, reducing America's overall strategic warheads to 1000 from 1550 would, according to General Stephen Wilson, the USAF Vice Chief of Staff, end up leaving the United States with as few as ten key nuclear targets that , if eliminated, would disarm the United States. That force compares to more than 500 such targets the U.S. maintains in its nuclear forces today.
Finally, whatever merits there may be in favor of more arms control, the evidence is firmly on the side of those saying to slow down and look first. The U.S. needs to begin by understanding what Putin is proposing, why he is doing so now, and whether new arms control discussions actually advance U.S. interests at the present time.
According to a July 26, 2018 report in the Russian newspaper Kommersant, the Russians proposed at the Helsinki summit that both the United States and Russia reaffirm their commitment to the New Start and INF treaties, the Vienna Document on conventional forces exercises, and the Open Skies Treaty.
Those Russian ideas perhaps -- probably not coincidentally -- equate to those advanced by many Western arms-control advocates.
If one examines these proposals, however, there is a shell game going on. Russia wants the United States to abide by treaties that they themselves are breaking.
Russia, for instance, has been breaking the INF Treaty since the 1990s, a fact essentially admitted by the Russian press in 2007.
Despite the fact that by now three administrations have noted these treaty violations, there has been no direct INF-type missile programmatic response to Russian actions by the United States.
In other words, the Russians are violating the INF treaty with impunity, while, as noted nuclear expert Franklin Miller noted earlier this year, they are also violating nine key international agreements with the United States. Miller explains:
"So when the Nuclear Posture Review of 2018 was being drafted, we were aware that Russia was in violation of: the 1975 Helsinki Final Act, by which it pledged not to use military force to change borders in Europe; the 1994 Budapest Accord, wherein it guaranteed the sovereignty of Ukraine; the 1999 Istanbul Agreement, where it pledged to take its forces out of Moldova and also the Georgian provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia; the Presidential Nuclear Initiatives of 1991 and 1992; the 2002 Open Skies Treaty; the 2011 Vienna Document; the 1987 INF Treaty; and now as Britain and the world is acutely aware, we also know Russia has violated the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention. Now, it's really difficult to do business with a government that so blatantly violates its international commitments and lies about it. We should be quite clear."
Regarding the United States and Russian New Start Treaty of 2010, Moscow released figures earlier this year that suggest it is violating that treaty too. As the distinguished expert and former OSD nuclear expert Mark Schneider has observed, Moscow deployed 26 new and heavily MIRVed (multiple independent reentry vehicles) warheads, but at the same time insisted that its deployed warhead numbers declined by 116. It is what former President George W. Bush diplomatically described as fuzzy math.
Russian commentators writing in 2017 claimed that Moscow had, in fact, more deployed warheads than the New Start treaty allows. Observance of the New Start treaty is, to say the least, in a precarious state.
The Vienna Document, mentioned above, "is a confidence- and security- building measure in which members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) agree to inspections and data exchanges in order to increase transparency of their conventional forces."
Since Russia suspended its implementation of Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) in 2007, however, there has been a subsequent loss of transparency around what exact conventional forces Russia is maintaining in the NATO-Russia border region.
Moscow has thereby also escaped conventional weapons arms control even as it has built up those forces on an accelerated rate since 2008.
Russia now has more than 20 ongoing nuclear weapon projects comprising both new weapons and modifications of late Soviet designs. They include weapons programs such as hypersonic missiles and the Status-6 submarine-launched drone.
Russia's public displays of the new programs is no doubt designed both to intimidate the West into not responding to Russian provocations, and to force the U.S. into one-sided arms control deals in their favor, out of fear of emerging Russian nuclear arms.
Such disinformation is standard Russia fare. Although, to be clear, a large number of Russian nuclear systems are being modernized, some Russian images and videos of supposed new nuclear weapons systems depict weapons that probably don't exist. (This will be explored at length by Stephen Blank, "Reflections on Russian Nuclear Strategy," in the forthcoming The Routledge Handbook of Russian National Security.)
Fortunately, the Russian "fake news" gambit appears to have failed so far, as the U.S. Congress has actually accelerated U.S. nuclear modernization efforts, including adding funding for the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) and B-21 bomber programs.
Congress followed the requested nuclear modernization plan laid out by the Trump administration's 2018 Nuclear Posture Review and detailed in its legislative reports on the defense bill, with some 40 defense programs aimed at deterring the growing Russian military threat.
While many Russian military programs are indeed real, US. intelligence agencies have also informed Congress that images of some of the "new programs" unveiled by Putin were films of fake missiles as part of a continued crude propaganda offensive.
The real Moscow build-up of nuclear warheads and associated missiles and bombers are tailored for short, intermediate, and long-range missile strikes. These systems, along with Russian published doctrine and testing, reveals a Russian military preparing to use nuclear weapons (as well as chemical and biological weapons) for war-fighting purposes and to threaten not only military targets but population centers as well.
Further, as noted above by Miller and others, Russia is essentially breaking every existing arms control agreement including the INF, New Start and CFE treaties, the Vienna Document, the Chemical Weapons Convention, and with its revived biological warfare capability, the Biological Weapons Convention of 1969. Therefore, reaffirming treaties as Russia proposes, absent any credible mechanisms for verification, enforcing adherence or retaliating for Russian violations, is senseless. Doing so would not be negotiating but surrendering to Russian mendacity and treaty violations. Putin's proposals at this time suggest that having nearly rebuilt his arsenal, he wishes to inhibit the new U.S. rebuilding drive that has just begun, and possibly wants to reduce the economic burden of these programs on Russia.
Russia's proposals also aim to block American conventional global strike programs and capabilities and to seek guarantees that American and allied missile defenses, especially those in Europe, will either not be built or will be strictly limited.
In other words, Putin's proposals aim to stop the U.S. defense rebuilding program proposed by President Trump and so far, approved by Congress, while simultaneously preserving a free hand to violate existing arms treaties with impunity and without fear of retaliation.
The most recent sign of this double standard was Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu's criticizing "the deliberate strengthening of NATO's military," at a time when Russia admits to having created 70 new units on its Western border, where Moscow already enjoys conventional superiority.
While in principle, arms control may or may not be desirable -- and the U.S. certainly has a shared responsibility with Russia to prevent a nuclear war and increase stability -- President Putin's proposals are not about arms control but part of another round in the political war Moscow is now waging against the West , just as it has since 1917. Only now, as Russia seeks nuclear superiority over the United States with which to coerce it to back down or surrender in emerging European or Middle East confrontations or conflicts that may face the U.S. in the future, the stakes are much higher.
*Stephen Blank is Senior Fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council. Peter Huessy is Director of Strategic Deterrent Studies at The Mitchell Institute.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Abbas's Responsibility for Gaza Crisis

Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/August 21/18
In a letter to the UN Secretary-General, Mahmoud Abbas's Foreign Ministry accused Israel of committing "crimes" against Palestinians civilians, especially in the Gaza Strip, and renewed the call for providing "international protection" for the Palestinians.
This is the same Abbas whose sanctions have triggered the recent violence along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel. If anyone needs "international protection," it is those protesters who are being targeted by Abbas's security forces in the West Bank.
Abbas is especially worried that the international community will be funding economic and humanitarian projects in the Gaza Strip behind his back. He wants the money to be spent through his government. He wants to control every penny the international community earmarks for the welfare of his people.
What exactly does Abbas want? He wants the people of the Gaza Strip to continue protesting so that he will be able to continue to demonize Israel.
The Palestinian Authority (PA) is continuing to pursue a policy of double-dealing regarding the Gaza Strip.
On the one hand, President Mahmoud Abbas and the PA leadership continue inciting against Israel by holding it solely responsible for the humanitarian and economic crisis in the Gaza Strip. On the other hand, Abbas and his Ramallah-based government continue to impose strict economic sanctions on the Gaza Strip.
Now, Abbas is bending over backwards to foil a cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas and the other Palestinian terror groups in the Gaza Strip. Abbas says he is worried that such a deal would pave the way for the implementation of US President Donald Trump's yet-to-be-announced plan for peace in the Middle East.
Although they have never seen the Trump plan, Abbas and the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah claim that it envisages the establishment of a separate Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip. They also argue that the Trump plan seeks to transform the Palestinian-Israeli conflict from a political and national conflict into one that is related only to humanitarian and economic issues. Abbas says he fears that the humanitarian and economic aid that the international community is promising to the Gaza Strip, as part of a cease-fire deal, is aimed at extracting concessions from the Palestinians, especially on issues related to Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees.
Abbas also claims that any cease-fire agreement would solidify the split between the West Bank and Gaza Strip. He argues that the PLO, the "sole, legitimate representative of the Palestinian people," is the only party authorized to sign an agreement with Israel.
Reminder: In March 2018, Abbas and his government decided to impose a series of punitive measures against his own people: the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. The measures include, among other things, halting payments to thousands of civil servants and forcing thousands of others into early retirement. He also decided to stop paying Israel for the electricity it supplies to the Gaza Strip and limited the amount of medicine shipments to the coastal enclave.
Abbas has defended his sanctions against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip by arguing that Hamas was refusing to hand control over the coastal Gaza enclave to his government in accordance with previous "reconciliation" agreements signed between his ruling Fatah faction and Hamas.
Subsequently, violent riots by Palestinians along the Gaza-Israel border -- organized by Hamas and labelled as the "March of Return" -- which began in March, reached their peak when arson kites and balloons were launched into Israel.
In other words, it is Abbas himself who bears full responsibility for the clashes between Palestinians and Israeli troops along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel. Were it not for his sanctions, the Palestinian factions would not have waged the "March of Return" -- the primary goal of which is to protest the deteriorating conditions inside the Gaza Strip, for which they blame Israel rather than their own leaders. The blood of the more than 150 Palestinians killed in the riots is on his hands alone.
Left: A Palestinian rioter behind a smokescreen from a burning tire, at the Gaza-Israel border fence, June 8, 2018. (Photo by Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images) Right: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. (Photo by Kevin Hagen/Getty Images)
The violence of the past few months along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel could have been avoided had Abbas agreed to lift the sanctions he himself imposed on the two million residents of the Gaza Strip. He chose, however, to continue his measures so that the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip would continue directing their anger towards Israel. Abbas has no headquarters or offices in the Gaza Strip where the Palestinians there can protest against him. So, he had nothing to worry about when he decided to punish his own people. He also had nothing to worry about regarding the international community because he knows that, as usual, it will blame only Israel for the crisis in the Gaza Strip.
Today, as Egypt, the United Nations and other parties scramble to reach a long-term cease-fire between Hamas and Israel, Abbas suddenly seems to be feeling uncomfortable. In the past few days, he and his senior officials in Ramallah have been inciting against the proposed cease-fire deal by claiming that it is part of an Israeli-American conspiracy to separate the Gaza Strip from the West Bank and pave the way for the implementation of Trump's unseen peace plan. Abbas is especially worried that the international community will be funding economic and humanitarian projects in the Gaza Strip behind his back. He wants the money to be spent through his government. He wants to control every penny the international community earmarks for the welfare of his people.
Let us get to the nitty-gritty: Abbas is seeking to prolong the suffering of his people in the Gaza Strip so that he can keep deflecting the Palestinians' rage and violence toward Israel. He also seems to be hoping that the sanctions he imposed on the Gaza Strip might prompt the Palestinians living there to revolt against Hamas. While he has succeeded in his first goal -- triggering a wave of protests against Israel -- Abbas's desire to see Palestinians rise against his rivals in Hamas has thus far been unsuccessful.
Instead of helping to resolve the crisis in the Gaza Strip, Abbas is continuing to pour oil on the fire by inciting against Israel and the US administration. In recent speeches before the PLO Central Council in Ramallah, Abbas has repeatedly denounced Israel and the US and accused them of conspiring against the Palestinians and of being "partners" in "crimes" against the Palestinians. He has also vowed to continue his boycott of the US administration because of its "bias" in favor of Israel.
It is not clear how a cease-fire in return for improving the living conditions of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip is linked to any Israeli-American conspiracy. Since when is economic and humanitarian aid considered a conspiracy against the Palestinians?
Abbas, like most Arab leaders, never cared about improving the living conditions of the Palestinians. They could easily have helped the Palestinians build a strong economy and proper state institutions. Instead, Abbas and these Arab leaders want to keep the Palestinians living in refugee camps and poverty so that they can continue extorting money from the world and putting all the blame on Israel. Arab leaders seem to care about only one thing: enriching their personal bank accounts and securing the future of their own sons and daughters.
How can he talk about Trump's purported peace plan when neither he nor any Palestinian has ever seen it? How do he and his senior PLO official, Saeb Erekat, know that Trump's purported plan is aimed at "liquidating" the Palestinian cause and national rights?
Equally disingenuous is that Abbas, who is responsible for the current wave of violence along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel, is now demanding that the international community, specifically the UN, provide "international protection" for the Palestinians against Israeli measures. In a letter to the UN Secretary-General, Abbas's Foreign Ministry accused Israel of committing "crimes" against Palestinians civilians, especially in the Gaza Strip, and renewed the call to provide international protection" for the Palestinians.
This is the same Abbas whose sanctions are depriving cancer patients of chemotherapy medicine in the Gaza Strip.
This is the same Abbas whose sanctions have deprived thousands of civil servants of their salaries in the Gaza Strip.
This is the same Abbas whose sanctions have triggered the recent violence along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel.
Abbas is calling for "international protection" for the Palestinians while he is doing everything he can to wreak havoc on his people in the Gaza Strip. He does not want a cease-fire between Hamas and Israel; he does not want to lift the sanctions he imposed on the Gaza Strip, and he does not want the international community directly to fund economic and humanitarian projects that would improve the living conditions of his people. So what exactly does Abbas want? He wants the people of the Gaza Strip to continue protesting so that he will be able to continue to demonize Israel.
Worse, Abbas does not want his people to raise their voice against his sanctions. Palestinians who have been protesting against his punitive measures in the West Bank have been repeatedly beaten by Abbas's police forces. Just last week, Abbas's security officers broke up a peaceful protest in Ramallah against his sanctions. Abbas is fine with protests as long as they call for bringing down Israel or the US. But Palestinians who dare to criticize his policies often find themselves subjected to various forms of punishment, including detention and beatings.
Abbas's crackdown on protests against his sanctions are yet another sign of his policy of double standards regarding the Gaza Strip. If anyone needs "international protection," it is those protesters who are being targeted by Abbas's security forces in the West Bank. Abbas's actions and words have shown that the well-being of his people is the very last thing on his mind.
Abbas has one strategy: to incite his people against Israel and the US. He is prepared to fight against Israel and the US to the last Palestinian. It is a battle he is waging at the cost of cancer patients and needy families. For him, a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip is a bad thing because it could bring calm and deprive him of his ability to whip up hatred against Israel and the US.
The question remains: Will the international community allow Abbas to continue playing his dirty game at the expense of his people or will it wake up and realize that Abbas is part of the problem, not part of the solution? The best way of employing pressure on Abbas is by making it clear to him that as long as he continues with his policies, including the incitement against Israel and the US, the international community will not fund his government.
**Bassam Tawil is a Muslim Arab based in the Middle East.
© 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.

Is "The Truth" the Truth When It Comes to Prosecutors?
Alan M. Dershowitz/Gatestone Institute/August 21/18
All the Special Counsel needs, in order to charge a subject of an investigation with lying to a prosecutor, is a single witnesses willing to contradict the subject.
The witness may not only be "singing," he may also be "composing" -- that is, making up or embellishing a story because he knows that the better his story, the better the deal.
Under federal law, the testimony of such a "flipped witness" need not be corroborated in order to secure a conviction.
Even one question that results in an answer that is contradicted by one witness would be enough to spring the perjury trap.
When Rudy Giuliani stated, perhaps inartfully, that "truth isn't truth," he was getting at a higher -- or should I say lower -- truth. This is a truth that virtually every experienced defense attorney and prosecutor understands: namely, that prosecutors get to pick which witness -- and which "truth" -- to believe.
Giuliani was discussing US President Donald Trump's decision whether or not to be interviewed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Giuliani made the point that even if President Trump testified truthfully, he could be accused of lying to a prosecutor -- a serious felony -- if the prosecutor chose to believe witnesses who have provided a different account.
To be specific, President Trump has stated publicly that he was not aware of the Trump Tower meeting between a Russian woman and his son until after it took place. One of Trump's attorneys at the time, Michael Cohen, has apparently said that Trump was aware of the meeting.
President Trump has also stated that he did not ask former F.B.I. Director James Comey to go easy on Michael Flynn. Comey has said that President Trump did.
If President Trump were to repeat these denials in an interview with a prosecutor, he would be walking into a perjury trap even if he truly believed that his denials were the complete truth, and even if he actually were telling the complete truth. All the Special Counsel needs, in order to charge a subject of an investigation with lying to a prosecutor, is a single witness willing to contradict the subject. The witness may himself be a criminal who has been squeezed into "singing" in order to save his own skin. The witness may not only be "singing," he may also be "composing" -- that is, making up or embellishing a story because he knows that the better his story, the better the deal. Under federal law, the testimony of such a "flipped witness" need not be corroborated in order to secure a conviction.
US Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating US President Donald J. Trump. Commentators who repeatedly pronounce that if the president is telling the truth he risks nothing by submitting to an interview, are simply wrong.
Because of these realities, most experienced defense attorneys would never allow their clients to get into a swearing contest with a flipped witness, even if the client were telling the absolute truth. That is what Rudy Giuliani meant when he said, in the context of a decision whether to have his client interviewed by the Special Counsel, that "truth isn't truth." Truth may be truth in science (although even scientific truth is subject to challenge and revision), but when it comes to a Special Counsel, truth is often in the eyes -- and ambitions -- of prosecutors, who decide which "truth" to believe.
Every experienced defense attorney with whom I have discussed this issue has said that he or she would never advise a client in President Trump's situation to be interviewed by the Special Counsel, even if that interview were limited to a handful of questions. Even one question that results in an answer that is contradicted by one witness would be enough to spring the perjury trap. That is why pundits and commentators who repeatedly pronounce that if President Trump is telling the truth he risks nothing by submitting to an interview, are simply wrong. Many former prosecutors who repeat this falsehood in their roles as "expert" commentators know the truth. But in their "anything goes" attitude when it comes to nailing President Trump, they are willing to mislead the public into believing that only witnesses who willfully lie are at risk from an interview.
Traditionally, it has been liberals and civil libertarians who have complained about prosecutors springing perjury traps using questionable flipped witnesses. Traditionally, it has been conservatives and law-and-order types who have defended this tactic. But now that President Trump is in the cross-hairs of the Special Counsel, the attitudes have been flipped as quickly as a witness threatened with prosecution.
Hypocrisy abounds on both sides. I, for one, am pleased that Rudy Giuliani, who himself was a tough prosecutor, now understands how this tactic can be used to trap innocent people. I am disappointed, however, that so many liberals, civil libertarians and defense attorneys are unwilling to criticize this tactic when it is directed at a President of whom they disapprove.
*Alan M. Dershowitz is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law Emeritus at Harvard Law School and author of The Case Against Impeaching Trump, Skyhorse Publishing, July 2018.
© 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.

Do not live away from the sea

Turki Aldakhil/Al Arabiya/August 21/18
We all cry over the time that had passed before our eyes. Sometimes we sit on the couch or lie in bed without having a clue what we must do in this particular minute of this long hour in a short age. During the past years of the 20th century and at the beginning of the current century, the term “average life expectancy” emerged. It’s an extremely important term which sometimes countries are categorized and evaluated based on since humanity have overcome the times of illnesses and diseases which doctors could not fight.
Due to sanitation, the city’s appetite to receive those coming from the outskirts increased. Thanks to mold, yes dear reader, thanks to mold, pharmacologist and botanist Alexander Fleming discovered the first antibiotic substance in 1928. His genius discovery is what doubled our average life expectancy today.
Since the accumulation of knowledge is an effort that the likes of Fleming start in their small laboratories so they later become a collective gain to all humans, the average life expectancy by 2030 will exceed 90 years in many advanced countries. I do not envy anyone for the number of years they will live. However, like others who read this piece of information about the average life expectancy reaching 90 years in The Lancet, I wonder what can be done with 90 years on this earth?
In all cases, everyone agrees that increase in the average life expectancy requires preparation and planning on all levels beginning with countries’ and international organizations’ unified efforts to provide the basic essentials of a decent living for every individual on earth. I will not add anything more to what Majid Ezzati, the leader of the research team which reached the abovementioned conclusion and the professor at the School of Public Health in Imperial College in London, said when he noted that: “The fact that we will continue to live longer means we need to think about strengthening the health and social care systems to support an ageing population with multiple health needs.”
I am more interested in the hours which one spends alone and doing nothing after all the essentials of a decent life have been provided to him. I mean the leisure hours which pass quickly like summer’s rain. How do you accumulate the minutes and seconds to make time in your favor, even in your free time. Let’s directly say I am wondering: What are the hobbies which prolong man’s age and benefit him and those around him the most, my dear who is enjoying the summer vacation and the Eid holiday these days?
We all have our free time and these leisure hours are a pleasure, if deserved. Businessmen, politicians and frequent travelers must leave this free hour as it is in their schedules. Yes, a free hour for an accomplished man has its own way of being an added record that gives his other hours the advantage of defining a work hour.
The majority, however, does not enjoy this characteristic – i.e. the characteristic of having the free hour a purpose on its own. So how can I and you get ourselves used to uncostly hobbies that become a habit with days and which add flavor to these long hours of a short life, even if it extends to 90 years, as Ezzati and his colleagues concluded in their research?
Finding your passion
I know that what I will say has been repeatedly stated like cold advice, and I swear that I begin this with first advising myself, but the answer is reading, my dear. Nothing can match getting used to reading in free time.
Reading has another characteristic as it elevates the value of time spent while reading. With time, it’s no longer a burden but a beautiful escape from everything, to a habit that makes everything after it different. Reading an old book makes you travel in time and sit with wise men. Reading biographies helps you imagine great men’s lives. Reading a novel that you’ve postponed reading for a long journey helps you travel to two places while you’re still on your seat.
We all cry over the time that had passed before our eyes. Sometimes we sit on the couch or lie in bed without having a clue what we must do in this particular minute of this long hour in a short age.
Choose a form of sports to practice without watching it. Take your children to the park to walk. Escape from the summer sun to the beach or to a close resort and if you can, don’t ever live away from the sea. If you don’t swim, you can walk by it. Both sports are very useful. Add to that the virtue of patience which no one learns like the fisherman who casts his net in the waters while he clears his head from life’s pending issues and work troubles.
Try the obsession of collecting and possessing. I have a friend who spends three hours every week tracing rare currencies. I have another who last year traveled to Egypt to possess a 70-year-old stamp. All this began with a small obsession, then became a way of life. American celebrity Tom Hanks spends his free time collecting typewriters, and he’s had this habit since 1978. He said he is a typewriter enthusiast because he loves its sound and the feeling of writing.
Warren Buffett, a business magnate who is close to 90 years old, loves to play the small guitar in his free time. This is his announced hobby. His close friend Bill Gates, one of Microsoft founders and one of the world’s richest men, spends his free time playing Bridge, and he also plays Tennis.
Meryl Streep loves knitting, and knitting like fishing is a hobby that spins time while one clears his mind. Reading, sports, meeting new people in groups of those obsessed with collecting, traveling, contemplating and listening to music will make your free time fruitful so they become a beautiful habit without the burden of forcefully looking at the slow clock of time in a short age. In all cases, try not to live away from the sea!

How Aung San Suu Kyi used Kofi Annan to cover the military’s crimes

Dr. Azeem Ibrahim/Al Arabiya/August 21/18
When Aung San Suu Kyi was first elected as the leader of Myanmar, she was fully aware the country had an image problem - particularly in regards to it’s treatment of the Rohingya minority. When pressed she always claimed that these were deeply ingrained and complex issues that do not lend themselves to simple prescriptions. In order to untangle this complexity, she therefore commissioned the world’s leading diplomat to study and make recommendations on the issue. The Final Report of UN Commission to Rakhine State was subsequently published in August 2017 and its recommendations were clear:
•Myanmar must use its existing nominal citizenship pathway processes to actually extend citizenship to over one million Rohingya who are entitled to it.
•It must overhaul the 1982 Citizenship Law which the Myanmar authorities have used to render almost the entire Rohingya population stateless in the land of their birth, against the prescriptions of international law.
•It must lift restrictions against the freedom of movement of Rohingya in the state.
•It must close the internally displaced people’s (IDP) camps and allow the Rohingya interred there to return to their properties.
•It must allow full humanitarian access to UN agencies and international NGOs.
•It must allow full access to both local and international media to document the situation in the State.
•It must allow the Rohingya and any other minority group equal access to healthcare and education to every other citizen of the country.
•It must allow and facilitate representation of the Rohingya and any other minority groups in local and central government.
•Myanmar’s judiciary must practice the rule of law and abide by international standards of impartiality and transparency.
All perfectly sensible recommendations which those of us in the international community who have been following the plight of the Rohingya have been calling for years.
In the past, the Myanmar government used to deflect such recommendations, whether they were put forward by UN humanitarian officials, or NGOs such as Médecins Sans Frontières, on the grounds that they were put forward by ‘international pressure groups’ who were politically hostile to the government. Even after the 2015 election which brought Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi to power, the same line was taken: Suu Kyi has always said that the situation in Rakhine state is complicated, and nobody should rush to specific solutions.
It was in fact in this context that she commissioned Kofi Annan to investigate and produce a report on the matter.
Political ploy
In hindsight we can now confidently determine that the entire exercise was nothing but a political ploy to demonstrate to the world that she is doing what she can. It is on the back of this approach that she even managed to get sanctions lifted from Myanmar by convincing former US President Obama that things were moving towards resolution in Rakhine state at reasonable speed. All the while, she was playing to the domestic crowd and to the Army, by dragging things out and taking no action on the ground against either the ultra-nationalist civilian groups, the Rakhine State authorities, or the segments of the federal security forces who were carrying out the abuses against the Rohingya.
After completely ignoring all of Annan’s recommendations, Aung San Suu Kyi would go on and establish a number of other commissions to “get to the bottom of this crisis”. In this spirit, Bill Richardson, one of America’s most experienced diplomats, and a man with a remarkable humanitarian history in the Balkans and Iraq, agreed to join an international panel set up by Aung San Suu Kyi to advise on the Rohingya refugee crisis.
But, only weeks later he quit this position, stating that the “advisory board is a whitewash”, and that he did not wish to be “cheerleading” the policies of the Myanmar government. This was to be expected. Bill Richardson is a man of principle, while the political gestures that Aung San Suu Kyi has been making towards the Rohingya situation ever since she has come to power have never had the weight of conviction behind them.
The story of this advisory panel is the same story as the Kofi Annan commission, and the same story as the repatriation agreement with Bangladesh and now the same story as Ambassador Kobsak Chutikul. While the Myanmar army continued to purge the Rohingya off their native lands, Aung San Suu Kyi made it her business to provide them with political cover by setting up commissions, signing deals and treaties, and generally keeping busy and looking like useful things are being done. But Richardson and Chutikul are highly experienced diplomat, and can spot a stitch-up when they see one. It is hardly surprising that they refused to be complicit in this farce.
To avoid being left exposed, Aung San Suu Kyi, has now decided to set up another “independent commission of enquiry.” We got a taste of things to come in a news conference last week when the chair of the commission, Amb. Rosario Manalo from the Philippines, said: “I assure you there will be no blaming of anybody, no finger pointing of anybody because we don't achieve anything by that procedure.” So a commission set up for accountability will not be blaming anyone for the genocide and ethnic cleansing of an entire people.
The international community should therefore recognise these commissions for what they are: mechanisms to look busy and buy time until world attention moves on and the Rohingya become a permanent fixture in Bangladesh. The late Kofi Annan had no way of knowing at the time that Daw Suu is insincere, however we have no excuses.

Why involve Iraq in the Iranian Holocaust?
Adnan Hussein/Al Arabiya/August 21/18
This only happens in a country which its state doesn’t have full powers or full sovereignty. What is meant here is that a person who is a national of a foreign State living in that country and has no official status is interfering with the domestic affairs of that country and it’s State. The “new” emerging Iraq after toppling the regime of Saddam Hussein in 2003 a striking vivid example.
In the Iraqi city of Najaf, the place where Shi'ite clerics from different countries prefer to live as it is the headquarters of the supreme authority of the Shiite community live an Iranian cleric named Ayatollah Mujtaba Khamenei. He has been representing Ali Khamenei in Najaf since 2015. As a religious leader, his role should have been restricted to the religious matters and collecting the Zakat for the supreme leader. Yet, ever since his arrival to Najaf, Mujtaba Khamenei has been promoting the political, doctrinal and intellectual ideology of the state of the Faqih, which is opposed by most of the major Shiite clerics, including Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the greatest Shiite theorist.
Contrary to what is assumed, in recent months, this man has been interfering in Iraqi internal affairs, provoking Iraqi nationalism, the latter expressed its angry reactions through social media sites as well as cultural, political and popular circles.
In his weekly press conference, on September 7th, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi was asked about his government's position regarding the new sanctions imposed by the United States on Iran and how the latter warned against the consequences of violating them, he answered saying: “In principle we are against sanctions in the region. Sieges and sanctions destroy societies and do not weaken the regimes (...) we consider it a fundamental strategic error and a false move, but we will commit to protecting the interests of our people. We do not interact with it or sympathize with it, but we commit to it."
Interfering in Iraq's internal affairs
It is clear that Abadi did not express any support for the sanctions, but he expressed a position that no one in his position can disagree on, because that would result in a confrontation with the largest international force in an issue that doesn’t hold any interest to Iraq.
The representative of the Iranian supreme leader living in Najaf, who is not an official representative of the Iranian state, but a personal representative of Khamenei as a cleric, chose to violate the rules put in place in all countries of the world for foreign residents, when he blamed the Iraqi Prime Minister for what he said, saying that his statements were “ irresponsible” and “ in contradiction with the loyalty, the honorable positions of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the blood of the martyrs it provided to defend Iraq and purge the land from the decay of ISIS, as he put it. He went further than that by saying that Abadi's statement “reflects his psychological defeat towards America, as well as an offense to the Iraqi people”, and considered that “Abadi has engaged with America, and is a subordinate to it in its plots on the neighbor of Iraq, Iran, which is united with the Iraqi people in religion and positions.”
In previous occasions, Mujtaba Khamenei sought to interfere in Iraq's internal affairs, the latest of which was in June after the results of the parliamentary elections. During a meeting with leaders of political forces and Shiite armed factions in the presence of General Qassem Soleimani and the Iranian ambassador in Baghdad, Mujtaba Khamenei declared That “Iran will not allow the Communists, secularists and Baathists to control the government in Iraq,” in reference to the victory of a number of Communists, and other civilians, in the recent parliamentary elections at the expense of many of the symbols of sectarian, Shiite and Sunni ideologies. Such statements were also made by Ali Akbar Velayati, adviser to the Iranian leader, during an unofficial visit to Iraq in February. Iran itself canceled a planned visit to Abadi in Tehran and launched a media campaign against him. Some Iranian officials also called on Iraq to pay hundreds of billions of dollars to Iran for "compensation" for the Iraq-Iran war of the 1980s.
Iraq qualifies to play the role of mediator between Iran and the United States, but the capacities of this role has weakened now because of Iranian statements sustained by the position of some Iraqi Shiite forces which are at odds with the position of the Iraqi government.
Naturally, no one could have gone this far in a state that have full of sovereignty. The post-2003 State of Iraq itself has personally chosen to reduce its sovereignty. The system of sectarian and national quotas agreed upon by the political class that came to power with ongoing US-Iranian support to this day have paved the way for foreign intervention. The conflicting political forces fighting over power, influence and money have always sought more domination from foreign powers and used to preserve their quotas. This has produced a weak Iraqi state that seduces other to neglect its sovereignty and independence. The government has always been almost paralyzed by conflicts and rivalries over positions and privileges, in the forefront privileges of huge deals that pour important amount of money, as a results hundreds of billions of dollars of development budgets have poured into the coffers of influential parties, mostly Islamic, and to the personal accounts of their leaders outside of Iraq. This resulted in the devastation of the people, especially the people of the southern and mid provinces with a Shiite-dominated population subject to Shiite militias and parties, which are loyal to Iran with a power so overwhelming that it shadows that of the state and the country. This is another side of the temptation to overlooking the sovereignty of Iraq and the powers of the Iraqi state, as expressed by the statements of Iranian officials who want to dictate the lives of the Iraqis in what they can and can’t do, and involve them in an inferno of Iranian regional and international conflicts.
The worst part is that there are Shiite leaders who did not hesitate to criticize Abadi and blame him because he did not take a position that confirms Iraq's non-compliance with US sanctions. Some of these leaders threatened to work against these sanctions and attack US targets in Iraq if Washington proceeds with its sanctions against Tehran.
The position of the Iraqi government, expressed by Abadi, is the right position because it takes into account the national interests of Iraq, and it also qualifies Iraq to play the role of mediator between Iran and the United States, but the capacities of this role has weakened now because of Iranian statements sustained by the position of some Iraqi Shiite forces which are at odds with the position of the Iraqi government.

Turkey and Iran, fundamentalism and sectarianism
Abdullah bin Bijad Al-Otaibi/Al Arabiya/August 21/18
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.