August 23/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
You will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved
Mark 13/09-13: "‘As for yourselves, beware; for they will hand you over to councils; and you will be beaten in synagogues; and you will stand before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them. And the good news must first be proclaimed to all nations. When they bring you to trial and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say; but say whatever is given you at that time, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved."

Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on August 22-23/18
Bashir Gemayel The Dream And Cause Will Never Die/Elias Bejjani/August 23/18
Lebanese Chafe as Economic Blues Begin to Bite
Reuters/August 22/18
NAYA | Marwa Dergham: A crucial contributor to the field of medicine/Fatima Al Mahmoud and Tala Ramadan/Annahar/August 22/18
Between forming a cabinet and collapse in Lebanon/Khairallah Khairallah/Al Arabiya/August 22/18
Iran masses troops for controlling Iraqi-Syrian routes. Soleimani hits defiant Iraqi Shiite militia/DEBKAfile/August 22/18
Trump Aide Bolton: Putin Told U.S. He Can't Get Iranian Forces Out of Syria/Amir Tibon/Haaretz and Reuters/August 22/18
Businesses Expect Long Trade Fight Even After Trump/Daniel Moss/Bloomberg/August 22/18
A US-China Divorce Would Be Ugly/Michael Schuman/Bloomberg/August 22/18
If they were able to celebrate Eid/Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/August 22/18
The Great Middle Eastern War of 2019/Maj. Nadav Ben Hour, IDF and Michael Eisenstadt/The Washington InstituteظAmerican Interest/August 22/18

Titles For The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on August 22-23/18
Bashir Gemayel The Dream And Cause Will Never Die
Australian Political Challenger Says Country Mistaken to Receive Lebanese Immigrants
Qabalan Blasts ‘Corrupt Lobbying Tearing Country’ apart, Calls for Cabinet Formation
Health Inspectors Carry Out Shut Down Campaigns
Dagher Says Lebanon Must Seize Russian Initiative to End Syrian Refugee Crisis
Lebanese Chafe as Economic Blues Begin to Bite
NAYA | Marwa Dergham: A crucial contributor to the field of medicine
Between forming a cabinet and collapse in Lebanon

Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on August 22-23/18
Iran masses troops for controlling Iraqi-Syrian routes. Soleimani hits defiant Iraqi Shiite militia
Trump Aide Bolton: Putin Told U.S. He Can't Get Iranian Forces Out of Syria
Bolton: U.S. to Act 'Very Strongly' if Syria Uses Chemical Arms in Idlib
Israel and US will be targeted if Washington attacks — Iran cleric
Syria's al-Qaida Leader Vows to Fight on in Rebel Province
US, UK, France Vow to Act against New Syria Chemical Attacks
Syria militant chief warns Idlib rebels against talks with regime
Palestinians reject Trump pledge to give them something ‘very good’
Bahrain Halts New Visas for Qataris in Gulf Feud Salvo
U.S. Feud Helps Erdogan Deflect Blame for Turkey's Economic Woes
Bishop Murder Saga Rattles Egypt's Copts
US: Economic Effects of Iran Sanctions Stronger than Anticipated
Iraq Seeking US Exemptions on Some Iran Sanctions
Tehran Holds Onto Boosting Military Might
Lieberman Commends Truce, Israeli Army Capabilities
West Warns Assad over Chemical Weapons Use
Moscow Reinforces Hmeimim Base
Haniyeh: Israel’s Blockade of Gaza to be Lifted Soon
UN Envoy Salame Warns Libyan Patience Is Running Out
The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on August 22-23/18
Bashir Gemayel The Dream And Cause Will Never Die
Elias Bejjani/August 23/18
On the 36 annual anniversary of Bashir's election as Lebanon’s president on August 23/1982, we renew our vows and declare again our commitment to Bashir's cause and dream, to our national Lebanese identity, to liberation, to our deeply rooted dignity and to a holy ongoing peaceful resistance against the Iranian occupation and its local mercenaries.
Bashir's cause is not dead because it is Lebanon's cause..this cause that cannot die and will never die as long as one Lebanese citizen remains committed to Bashir's patriotic beliefs and loyalty to Lebanon, to the 7000 years of history and civilization … to Lebanon the 10452 km2.
36 years after the assignation of Bashir, the Lebanese cause is still alive in the minds and hearts of many patriotic Lebanese citizens in Diaspora as well as in Lebanon itself.
The Lebanese cause is still glowing in spite of the serious hardships, the numerous difficulties and the deviated and shameful conduct of many corrupted and marginalized Lebanese politicians as well as several major Lebanese parties who sadly gave up on the resistance and succumbed cowardly to the Iranian occupation.
In spite of all the major loses and setbacks, Bashir’s national dream for Lebanon is not dead, because no criminal can kill dreams and abort hopes.
Dreams are acts of intellectual imaging and portrayal of aspirations, objectives and hopes that people endeavour to fulfill in reality.
Bashir’s dream is still alive in the hearts and spirits of the patriotic Lebanese all over the world.
History teaches us that patriotic, national, and religious causes cannot be killed by assassinating their founders or those who lobby for them. In fact, the contrary usually happens.
History shows that major worldwide religions spread after the departure of their founding leaders. Christianity, for example, spread all over the world after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
The Pharisees crucified Jesus, believing his death would put an end to his new religion. They were disappointed, and Christianity became the number one religion in the whole world.
(Luke 12:4 “Don’t be afraid of those who kill the body and can do nothing more".)
In the steps of the Pharisees, Lebanon’s collaborators joined by some regional tyrants deluded themselves into believing that assassinating President-elect Sheik Bashir Gemayel, would also kill the Lebanese cause. They thought killing Bashir would destroy Lebanon’s history and identity, and sever the Lebanese from their roots.
What happened 2000 years ago, happened again in a way. History repeated itself and the contemporary Pharisees were no more lucky than the Pharisees of the Christ era.
Sadly 36 years after Bashir's assassination, our beloved Lebanon is still occupied and the 10452 km2 are not yet liberated. But in spite of all hardships and difficulties, the torch that Bashir lit and carried is still held high and glowing, and the struggle will go on.
The fight for Liberating our beloved country will not cease before complete liberation takes place.
Bashir, the cause and the dream is still alive.
Bashir spoke to the conscience of every Lebanese who believes in Lebanon and its people.
Bashir's dream is still alive.
Long Live Free Lebanon.
Australian Political Challenger Says Country Mistaken to Receive Lebanese Immigrants
Agence France Presse/Naharnet /August 22/18/Peter Dutton, the government lawmaker who has challenged Australia's prime minister for his job, is publicly perceived as a hard man and a leading hard-right conservative. His face is associated with turning back asylum seekers boats, stripping citizenship from extremists and striving to increase the English-language standards for migrants who want to gain citizenship. Dutton gave up the largest security portfolio in the government when he resigned as Minister for Home Affairs, who controls the newly created Department of Homeland Security designed to tackle the new security threats of a changing geo-political environment. While highly regarded by the conservative Liberal Party's hard-right faction, his broader appeal has been questioned, particularly among ethnic minorities. He has been criticized for saying the level of Lebanese Muslim immigration under a humanitarian program in the 1970s had been a mistake that Australia was now paying for through a rise in domestic extremism. He also attracted accusations of racism through comments that white farmers under threat of violence in black-majority South Africa should be treated as refugees because "they need help from a civilized country." He has angered many in the ethnic-African community by saying people in Victoria state were "scared to go out to restaurants of a night time" because of "African gang violence."Dutton, 47, is a former police drug squad detective from the politically and socially conservative state of Queensland. He was first elected to Parliament in 2001 and quickly rose to the rank of minister three years later. He became Minister for immigration and Border Protection in 2014, when he became responsible for Australia's contentious policy of sending asylum seekers who attempt to reach Australia by boat to immigration camps paid for by his government on impoverished Pacific island nations for Papua New Guinea and Nauru. The Australian navy also turns asylum seekers boats back to Indonesia, which Jakarta regards as an affront to Indonesian sovereignty.

Qabalan Blasts ‘Corrupt Lobbying Tearing Country’ apart, Calls for Cabinet Formation

Naharnet /August 22/18/Grand Jaafarite Shiite Mufti Sheikh Ahmed Qabalan urged all political leaders in Lebanon to facilitate the government formation, blasting at what he described as “corrupt lobbying” tearing up the country, the National News Agency reported on Tuesday. “The game of dictates and personal interests has pictured the country as a swamp soaked in waste, darkness and deals. Enough killing for this nation through the corrupt lobbying that shylessley ravage this country,” said Qabalan. Qabalan appealed in his sermon during prayers at Imam al-Hussein mosque in Burj al-Barajneh for “political and religious authorities to work together with honesty in order to remove obstacles hampering the lineup and to provide all the necessary facilities for the establishment of a government of national unity.”The Sheikh said the new government should be capable of “building an effective state, should have vision of economic development away from mentalities of distribution of shares and spoils.”Qabalan also voiced calls for the “safe return of Syrian refugees, away from political agendas,” he said.
Health Inspectors Carry Out Shut Down Campaigns
Naharnet /August 22/18/As part of health campaigns to ensure food safety, the Ministry of Health closed a restaurant, a supermarket and a slaughterhouse in the northern Batroun area for health violations. A health report issued by health ministry inspectors said “The Yard” resto-cafe in the northern city of Batroun was closed down after failing health inspection and finding evidence of pests. The ministry also closed a supermarket in Batroun, al-Aaila (The Family) after it seized large amounts of expired food products. The closure campaign included a slaughterhouse in Zahle and the Jabbour factory in Turbill-Zahle, said the report. The Health Ministry also withdrew from the Lebanese market a batch of Elle et Vire products, a French creme dessert, produced in France on 4, 5, 18 and 25 May 2018. It said according to Infosan Detection report it contained Baccilus Cereus bacteria.
Dagher Says Lebanon Must Seize Russian Initiative to End Syrian Refugee Crisis 21st August 2018/Kataeb's politburo member Serge Dagher on Tuesday criticized the current political performance in Lebanon as "irresponsible" and "unethical", stressing the need to speed up the government formation given that the country's economy is on the verge of collapse. "We consider the obstruction of the Cabinet formation as an unethical act that we totally reject," he said in an interview on Future TV. "The politicians' performance is being irresponsible due to their ambitions and personal interests. All local factions must realize that the country is heading for collapse. Thus, they ought to relinquish their selfishness and speed up the formation of a government that includes economic, environmental and health experts." "We hope that everyone would opt for a moment of national awakening and rise above all trivial issues because Lebanon is seriously on the brink of bankruptcy and collapse and, therefore, we must safeguard it," he stressed. Dagher reiterated the need to seize Russia's initiative on the return of Syrian refugees to their homeland, addng that Lebanon must benefit from Russia's influential role in the role and its good ties with Damascus to settle this issue. The Kataeb member said that the party wants the Lebanese-Syrian ties to be examined thoroughly while making sure to safeguard national dignity, adding that there are major issues that are still unresolved between the two countries, notably the case of Lebanese detainees in Syrian jails.
"Those who call for the normalization of ties with Syria, without treating past wounds and setbacks, must take into consideration the feelings of other Lebanese," he pointed out.

Lebanese Chafe as Economic Blues Begin to Bite

Reuters/Wednesday 22nd August 2018
/For Mazen Rahhal, a shopowner 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 Gulf Arab tourists ready to open their wallets as they escaped the stifling summer heat of home. But problems were never far away.In 2005 prime minister Rafik al-Hariri was assassinated, opening up wide divisions over the roles of the Iran-backed Hezbollah group, and of powerful neighbor Syria.
Syria’s own war since 2011 has aggravated those rifts, while cutting off much of Lebanon’s overland trade and scaring off the mostly Sunni Muslim Gulf tourists, who feared the growing power of the heavily armed Shi’ite Hezbollah movement. Sclerosis ensued. After Hariri’s death, the government did not pass another state budget until last year. Parliamentary elections in 2009 were not held again until this May. Economic growth, which averaged 8-10 percent before the Syria 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.
Khoury Home is a major business in Lebanon. Its shops, a familiar sight across the country, sell home appliances. Romen Mathieu said he had told his staff every year since becoming the company’s chairman in 2013 that the coming year would be more difficult than the last.
“Now we reached 2018, and this year is disastrous, and I think we still didn’t see the tough part of this year,” he said. “If I have to say it in 2019, there won’t be anyone listening to me any more.”Compounding Mathieu’s difficulties, the government last year scaled back a series of incentives to banks for home loans, which contributed to a dip in the housing market. As fewer people bought houses, fewer wanted new fridges or televisions.
“Let’s not make fools of each other. There is no money in the market and we need to adapt to this situation and get used to it,” said Mathieu.
Not all businesses are suffering. Supermarket chain Spinneys has increased sales volumes because many of its goods are imported from Europe, and currency fluctuation has brought prices down, said chief executive Michael Wright. “We are selling more, our volumes are going up. But that’s balanced by a price drop,” he said. Since May’s election the rival political parties have squabbled over forming a new national unity government - one that contains enough of the major parties to ensure political backing across the country. 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.
Meanwhile, interest rates have risen as the authorities increasingly try to attract higher levels of the bank deposits on which government debt relies.
Those high rates are hurting too. Jessy Kojababian has been engaged for two years. Her wedding was fixed for September. But as interest rates rose, and the government incentives for banks to offer housing loans were scaled back, she and her fiance could no longer afford to buy a house. They have now canceled the wedding. “We were already booking everything for the wedding. The roses, the restaurant, the church. Everything. We paid a deposit of $6,000, so how can we get it back?” she said.

NAYA | Marwa Dergham: A crucial contributor to the field of medicine
Fatima Al Mahmoud and Tala Ramadan/Annahar/August 22/18
Since her early years in the Lebanese University, Dergham has been fascinated by the field of medical mistakes.
BEIRUT: Lebanon never had an established law to determine who’s to be held responsible when it comes to a deficiency or fault in medicine and pharmaceutical products, or what the imposed liabilities on that person are. Marwa Dergham, a lawyer and a legal counsel, wanted to tackle this particular untouched topic. In her latest publication, “The Civil Liability of the Drug Product for Hidden Defects in Medicines and Pharmaceuticals Products,” which was written for the purpose of shedding light on this specific matter, Dergham came up with a thorough research that was tailored to fit the pharmaceutical market in all its elements; the consumer, the producer, and the retailer, which is, in this case, the pharmacy.
Their world digitizing education in Lebanon and teaching coding
Dergham was inspired to write a legal guide after finding out that the imposed liability that Lebanon already has on the manufacturer when something goes wrong, is too broad and general and does not fit pharmaceutical products, and thus the terminology is vague.
The publication is tailored to fit the Lebanese context.
One of the main points of Dergham’ publication is to ensure the rights of both, the purchaser and the manufacturer. Her work stands as a reference for the doctor and the pharmacy as well. Dergham’s manual was influenced by the French law which stands as a support to people who were affected by the deficiency of a certain pharmaceutical product, and especially those who do not have enough information to back their stand with concrete information. The roadmap that she offered in her publication was suggested to the newly elected parliament and will be studied thoroughly by MPs in order to start taking it as a reference.
Dergham’s publication is composed of a full research study put together for two main objectives: humanitarian and legislative. The medical sector is one that touches up on the human health directly; which is why Dergham believes that it’s a crucial topic to be addressed. In her book, she objectively clarifies the legal rights and duties of consumers, producers, manufacturers and distributors. As such, the book can be used as a legislative introduction for Lebanese lawmakers to draft solid safety laws to doctrine the medical field. Simply put, her book helps explain the detailed legal procedure of who’s held accountable in the cases of medical error-inflicted illnesses.
Since her early years in the Lebanese University, Dergham has been fascinated by the field of medical mistakes, but she wanted a fresh angle for her Master’s thesis, which she found. “I wanted something that no one has spoken about yet,” Dergham told Annahar.
Completing her Master’s degree and applying for the Beirut Bar Association (BBA) all at once, Dergham published her book in two years, which was met with acclaim and support. The Lebanese Order of Physicians and the Order of Pharmacists were impressed by the publication and expressed their admiration with its high-end content, and the BBA supported her throughout the publishing process and rewarded her efforts with a huge book signing ceremony.
“People told me that I was going nowhere, they were trying to put me down,” recalled Dergham. “I challenged myself regardless.”Choosing a topic that hasn’t been explored before means choosing a topic with very limited resources to build on, which hindered Dergham’s writing process. Rather than succumb to the hardships, she completed extensive research, referring to books, online journals, medical experts and endless resources to put together an informative and crucial book. Her main concern was to steer away from inciting propaganda in her publication or touching on politics and corruption for fear of interferences in her writings, which defeats the purpose of an objective and reliable research study.
Dergham’s craving for challenges doesn’t end here. Publishing the book was only her first step and she’s currently going after more. “I don’t want to have published a book to put it on a shelf,” she said, adding: “I wrote that book to reach a certain goal and I will.”
In the meantime, Dergham is following up on the legislative objective of her book. She’s working closely with Lebanese ministers and deputies in hopes of integrating her publication into the Lebanese legal system, who have been responsive in turn.
Dergham has dedicated her profession to battling Lebanon’s absence of legal culture. The prominent issues are dispersed across all fields, including drug abuse, the health sector and women’s rights, all of which are sectors subject to her activism.
She often tackles awareness as an eminent first step toward solving any occurrence, illustrated in the workshops and lectures she often presents and participates in.
“People always blame the government and those in charge,” expressed Dergham, “But they also have responsibilities toward themselves and their society.”Along the lines of her profession and the changes she hopes to bring into the country, Dergham has plans for running in the upcoming Municipal Elections. “People believe that a woman, especially a veiled woman, is a different category, or that she can’t be an achiever. It’s important that I proved them wrong,” she told Annahar .
*Welcome to “Naya,” the newest addition to Annahar’s coverage. This section aims at fortifying Lebanese women’s voices by highlighting their talents, challenges, innovations, and women’s empowerment. We will also be reporting on the world of work, family, style, health, and culture. Naya is devoted to women of all generations — Naya Editor, Sally
Naya on Social Media:
Twitter: @BeirutNaya
Instagram: @NayaBeirut
Between forming a cabinet and collapse in Lebanon
Khairallah Khairallah/Al Arabiya/August 22/18
Simplifying things can help you understand – even if just a little – the Lebanese situation and its complications including the difficulty of forming a new cabinet by Saad Hariri. There is no government in Lebanon although it’s been three and-a-half months since the parliamentary elections were held on May 6.
This is not the first time there is delay in forming a cabinet. However, this time the delay is due to a clear desire to change the nature of the Lebanese system the foundation of which is the constitution that emanates from the 1989 Taif Agreement. There is a strange insistence - rather suspicious - on forming a cabinet according to “standards” that are based on the result of the parliamentary elections which still has different interpretations.
Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah used the word “standards” on the basis that he has a special interpretation of the result of the May 6 elections.
What Hassan Nasrallah did not say about these “standards” was said by Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Brigade in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Soleimani considers that Iran has the majority in the new parliament. He specified this majority with 74 MPs out of 128. What he is saying needs to be translated on the ground, especially since those whom Soleimani referred to as the majority did not object to his statements.
Two things are delaying the cabinet formation. The first one is the attempt to translate General Soleimani’s statements to reality and the other thing is linked to how the cabinet is being formed. According to the perspective of Hezbollah and its affiliates, it’s not the prime minister-designate who is forming this cabinet.
There is someone forming the cabinet for Hariri. This is something which the man who has a different vision to what the elections concluded cannot accept. There is a question that’s been asked since 2005, when Rafiq Hariri was assassinated, and it is basic in this current conflict: Is Lebanon an Arab country or does it follow an axis that in turn follows Iran?
Linked to country’s future
The issue is no longer about forming a cabinet as much as it is linked to Lebanon’s future. Those who want to protect Lebanon’s future do not talk about delusional victories that brought woes to the country and do not talk about a special interpretation of the parliamentary elections which were held according to a strange law – an interpretation that means Saad Hariri can settle with being a prime minister but without enjoying the post’s jurisdictions.
Saad Hariri is required to “manage” cabinet sessions and not be a prime minister. He must settle with a consolation prize that’s represented in the post he holds and not in the jurisdictions which this post allows him to have, including forming a reasonable and acceptable national “accord” government that reflects the reality of the balances in the country
Saad Hariri is required to “manage” cabinet sessions and not be a prime minister. He must settle with a consolation prize that’s represented in the post he holds and not in the jurisdictions which this post allows him to have, including forming a reasonable and acceptable national “accord” government that reflects the reality of the balances in the country. In brief, Rafiq Hariri’s convoy was not blown up on February 14, 2005, so Saad Hariri can come in 2018 and say Lebanon is a viable Arab country and that it is rather capable of benefiting from everything that’s happening in the region on condition that there is the minimum of stability, security and political awareness, and humbleness to be specific. Ever since the assassination of Rafiq Hariri and even before that, since extending the presidential term of Emile Lahoud in particular, there has been an attempt that aims to control Lebanon. The cover which the Syrian regime provided to those who carried out the assassination was nothing but a small part of this operation which widened after Hezbollah imposed a president on the Lebanese people. Saad Hariri went for this option following the Maarab reconciliation (the reconciliation between the Lebanese Forces and the Free Patriotic Movement) on one hand and in order to avoid the presidential vacuum which had lasted more than it should on another.
The party which wanted to get rid of Rafiq Hariri was not found so that the construction project, which was launched in 1992 and enthroned with restoring life to Beirut, can catch its breath. What was required was for assassination operations to resume after blowing up Hariri’s motorcade. What was required was triggering a war with Israel to destroy the country’s infrastructure so that Hezbollah can declare a “divine victory” – a victory which in the end turned out to be a victory against Lebanon and the Lebanese people.
What’s required is deepening the wounds which the Lebanese people suffer from in all their sects and to make the country hostage to an electricity, water, pollution and roads’ crisis. What’s required is for the Lebanese people to emigrate so those who stay behind are just those who serve the Iranian expansive project which knew how to be the first beneficiary from the assassination of Rafiq Hariri. This project only lives on thanks to its sectarian militias which control Iraq and which view themselves as the one with the first and final word in Lebanon.
What Hezbollah forgets these days is that there is a new analysis of the parliamentary elections’ results. This result does not allow it to marginalize Saad Hariri. There is nothing in the regional situation which indicates that the Syrian regime has restored its vitality and health. This regime has been living in the dustbin of history for a long time. Those who do not admit that it’s a regime that’s rejected by the sweeping majority of the Syrian people do not know anything about Syria, despite the disasters that have befallen on the revolution of people who have sought to restore some of their dignity since March 2011.
If there’s anything new in Syria these days then it’s not just summed up with the joint ISIS and regime massacre against As-Suwayda, the Druze majority city. The massacre which targeted a small sect, that’s major in the region, revealed the depth of the relation between the Syrian regime and those who supported it on one hand and ISIS on another.
What is also new are the Russian patrols in Golan. Russia is now the one protecting the disengagement agreement which Henry Kissinger was behind in 1974. If it was a must to talk about some sort of victory in Syria, this victory is for the Israeli-Russian-American alliance. There’s nothing which calls on Hezbollah to celebrate this victory which practically means that the occupied Golan has become a forgotten cause. What’s more important than all this is that there’s nothing in Lebanon which allows forming a cabinet that’s headed by Saad Hariri but that follows Hezbollah.
Yes there is another analysis of the elections’ result and the Syrian situation. This analysis allows Saad Hariri to resist. This is not just due to the fact that he’s assigned to form the cabinet according to constitutional norms and no party can deprive him of this appointment but it’s also because Lebanon has not completely fallen apart yet. Lebanon is still resisting despite all the crises it is suffering from, particularly economic. It’s no secret that there’s a huge difference between forming a semi-reasonable cabinet and between collapse. Is there a party that can bear the consequences of a collapse that begins with Lebanon entering or being involved in an Iranian game with no horizon of any kind?

The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on
August 22-23/18
Iran masses troops for controlling Iraqi-Syrian routes. Soleimani hits defiant Iraqi Shiite militia
DEBKAfile/August 22/2018
The Al Qods commander has set Iranian forces and their proxies three tasks:
A military buildup of Iranian and Shiite forces in the western Iraqi Anbar region and placing them on the ready for rapid response to the order to cross the border into Syria.
Seizure of the main Iraqi routes crossing into Syria, especially the highway linking Baghdad via Ramadi to Abu Kamal in eastern Syria. (See attached map)
A purge of central and western Iraq of military elements liable to hinder the movement of Iranian and Shiite forces towards the Syrian border.
Our intelligence sources have discovered that Soleimani began working on these objectives on Aug. 10. From that day until Aug. 19, six large explosions set on fire the weapons and ammo depots of the Iraqi Shiite Brigade of Abu al-Fadl al-Abbas near Lake Razaza, a few kilometers west of the Iraqi Shiite shrine city of Karbala. (See attached map.) This Shiite militia, one of the few which refuses to bend the knee to Tehran or Soleimani, was founded by Grand Ayatollah Ali Hosseini Sistani, the highest religious authority in Iraq, who is also widely respected in Iran. Its deployment around Lake Razaza places the militiamen in position for controlling the main highways from central Iraq to Syria. The explosions ordered by Soleimani were meant, say intelligence sources, to drive this noncompliant militia south of Karbala, out of the way for obstructing the Iranian drive for a land bridge from Iraq to Syria and the passage of troops across the border.
DEBKAfile’s military sources report that these actions by the Iranian general mean that a prospective US-Israeli operation against the Iranian presence in Syria would have to reach into western Iraq. This may be what Defense Minster Avigdor Lieberman meant when he described the IDF as the best army in the Middle East in command of forces “capable of reaching any point in the Middle East.”
Trump Aide Bolton: Putin Told U.S. He Can't Get Iranian Forces Out of Syria
Amir Tibon/Haaretz and Reuters/August 22, 2018/
In Jerusalem, U.S. national security adviser says U.S. not considering recognition of Israel's sovereignty over Golan Heights
WASHINGTON - U.S. President Donald Trump's National Security Adviser John Bolton, on a visit to Israel, said Wednesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin told the U.S. that Moscow could not bring about the withdrawal of Iranian forces from Syria.
In an interview with Reuters, Bolton said that Putin, who met U.S. President Donald Trump in Helsinki on July 16, also "told us that his interest and Iran's were not exactly the same. So we're obviously going to talk to him about what role they can play." Bolton is slated to meet his Russian counterpart, Nikolai Patrushev, in Geneva on Thursday. Bolton also said that the Trump administration was not considering at this time to recognize Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights, despite attempts to push for such recognition in Congress and from Israeli politicians. Such recognition is not on the table, at least for now, Bolton said. "I've heard the idea being suggested but there's no discussion of it, no decision within the U.S. government," Bolton told Reuters. "Obviously we understand the Israeli claim that it has annexed the Golan Heights - we understand their position - but there's no change in the U.S. position for now."Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has raised the issue of U.S. recognition of the Golan Heights as part of Israel during his first meeting with Trump in February 2017. Since then, a number of prominent Senators and members of Congress have also expressed support for such a move. However, within the Trump administration there is concern that such recognition could harm the administration's efforts to reach a deal with Russia on Syria. Under Trump, the United States has sought to disengage from Syria, where the previous administration deployed some troops and gave limited support to rebel Kurdish forces over the objections of NATO partner Turkey. Bolton sidestepped a question on whether these measures would continue, framing the U.S. presence as objective-based. "Our interests in Syria are to finish the destruction of the ISIS territorial caliphate and deal with the continuing threat of ISIS terrorism and to worry about the presence of Iranian militias and regular forces," he said in an interview.
*Reuters contributed to this report.

Bolton: U.S. to Act 'Very Strongly' if Syria Uses Chemical Arms in Idlib
Agence France Presse/Naharnet /August 22/18/US President Donald Trump's national security adviser warned Wednesday that the United States would respond "very strongly" if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad uses chemical weapons in an offensive to retake Idlib province. "We now see plans for the Syrian regime to resume offensive military activities in Idlib province," John Bolton told a press conference during a visit to Jerusalem. "We are obviously concerned about the possibility that Assad may use chemical weapons again," he said. "Just so there's no confusion here, if the Syrian regime uses chemical weapons we will respond very strongly and they really ought to think about this a long time."  The northern province of Idlib is home to the last major rebel bastion in Syria. In April the United States, France and Britain launched joint missile strikes on Syrian targets in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack in the town of Douma that left scores dead. Bolton also said that the Trump administration was not seeking to oust Iran's leadership with its reimposition of sanctions on Tehran. "Regime change in Iran is not American policy but what we want is massive change in the regime's behaviour," he said. Bolton arrived in Israel on Sunday for three days of talks expected to focus mainly on Iran and its presence in Syria. Israel and Syria share a border and Iran is backing Assad in his country's civil war, along with Russia and Iranian-backed Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pledged to prevent Iran from entrenching itself militarily in Syria, and a series of recent strikes that killed Iranians there has been attributed to Israel. "Every time that Iran has brought missiles or other threatening weapons into Syria in recent months Israel has struck those targets," Bolton said.
"I think that's a legitimate act of self-defence on the part of Israel," he added.

Israel and US will be targeted if Washington attacks — Iran cleric
Reuters/August 22, 2018/LONDON: A senior Iranian cleric warned Washington on Wednesday that if it attacked Iran, the United States and allied Israel would be targeted, as a war of words escalated after the reimposition of the US sanctions on Iran. Ahmad Khatami also told worshippers attending Eid prayers in Tehran that President Donald Trump’s offer of talks with Iranian leaders was unacceptable, as the US leader wanted Tehran to concede on its missile program and regional influence. “Americans say you should accept what we say in the talks. So, this is not negotiation, but dictatorship. The Islamic Republic and the Iranian nation would stand up against dictatorship,” Khatami was quoted as saying by Mizan news agency. “The price of a war with Iran is very high for America. They know if they harm this country and this state in the slightest way, the United States and its main ally in the region, the Zionist regime (of Israel) would be targeted,” Khatami said. Khatami did not elaborate which forces would carry out such attacks, but Iran has said it could target Israeli cities with its missiles if it is threatened. Iran also has proxies in the region, including Lebanon’s Hezbollah group. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday that the Islamic Republic’s military prowess was what deterred Washington from attacking it, and vowed to boost Iran’s military might. The Trump administration slapped sanctions back on Iran this month after withdrawing from the 2015 international nuclear deal with Iran, saying it was too soft on Tehran and would not stop it developing a nuclear bomb. Washington imposed new sanctions in August, targeting Iran’s car industry, trade in gold and other precious metals, and purchases of US dollars. Trump has said the United States will issue another round of tougher sanctions in November that will target Iran’s oil sales and banking sector. Trump’s national security adviser told Reuters on Wednesday that the US president wanted maximum pressure on Iran. “There should not be any doubt that the United States wants this resolved peacefully, but we are fully prepared for any contingency that Iran creates,” John Bolton said. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has rejected Trump’s offer of unconditional talks on a new nuclear deal, prompting Trump to tell Reuters in an interview on Monday: “If they want to meet, that’s fine, and if they don’t want to meet, I couldn’t care less.”

Syria's al-Qaida Leader Vows to Fight on in Rebel Province
Associated Press/Naharnet /August 22/18/The leader of Syria's al-Qaida affiliate has vowed to fight on in Idlib province, the country's last major rebel stronghold, in the face of a possible government offensive. Abu Mohammed al-Golani of the militant Levant Liberation Committee says state-sponsored surrenders of rebel groups, similar to those that recently occurred in southern Syria, won't happen in Idlib. His comments came as government forces have been sending reinforcements into Idlib, in the country's northwest along the border with Turkey. Syrian government forces captured rebel-held suburbs of the capital, Damascus, earlier this year as well as the southern provinces of Daraa, Quneitra and Sweida. Al-Golani's comments came in a video posted online to mark the Muslim feast of Eid al-Adha. The statement was posted shortly before midnight Tuesday.

US, UK, France Vow to Act against New Syria Chemical Attacks
Associated Press/Naharnet /August 22/18/The United States, Britain and France vowed on the fifth anniversary of a chemical weapons attack that they blame on the Syrian government to take action as they have in the past against any further attacks by President Bashar Assad's regime. A joint statement issued late Tuesday called the Aug. 21, 2012 sarin nerve gas attack that killed hundreds of people in the Ghouta suburb of Damascus "horrific." The use of sarin led to a U.S.-Russian agreement to eliminate Assad's chemical weapons, which averted U.S. military strikes against Syria. Since then, the three Western powers have accused Syria of resorting to the use of chemical weapons during military offensives in Khan Sheikhoun, Ltamenah, Saraqeb and Douma. Following the suspected chemical attack in Douma in April, the U.S., U.K., and France launched punitive military strikes in Syria. "As we have demonstrated, we will respond appropriately to any further use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime, which has had such devastating humanitarian consequences for the Syrian population," the statement said. The three governments implored Assad's supporters "to recognize that the unchecked use of chemical weapons by any state presents an unacceptable security threat to all states." The U.S., U.K. and France also expressed grave concern at reports of a Syrian government military offensive against civilians, schools, hospitals and other civilian infrastructure in the northern province of Idlib, the last major rebel-held bastion, and underlined "our concern at the potential for further — and illegal — use of chemical weapons.""We remain resolved to act of the Assad regime uses chemical weapons again," the Western allies warned. The 2012 U.S.-Russia agreement required Syria to join the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and declare all its chemical weapons and precursors. Syrian President Bashar Assad said in an interview in June with Russia's state-controlled NTV television channel that his government got rid of all its chemical weapons in 2013 and that allegations of their use are a pretext for invasion by other countries. But there is growing frustration at Damascus' failure to satisfactorily answer all outstanding questions from the OPCW about its declaration. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres reiterated in a letter transmitting the latest OPCW report to the Security Council that all open issues in the declaration must be resolved, and he strongly encouraged the Syrian government to do so. The U.S., U.K., and France welcomed the June 27 decision by OPCW member nations to take over the responsibility for determining blame for chemical attacks, saying this "will help ensure that the perpetrators of chemical weapons use in Syria cannot escape identification." The Security Council established a joint U.N.-OPCW investigative team in August 2015 to determine responsibility for chemical attacks in Syria. The so-called Joint Investigative Mechanism known as the JIM accused Syria of using chlorine gas in at least two attacks in 2014 and 2015 and the nerve agent sarin in an aerial attack on Khan Sheikhoun in April 2017 that killed about 100 people and affected about 200 others. The Khan Sheikhoun attack led to a U.S. airstrike on a Syrian airfield. The JIM also accused the Islamic State extremist group of using mustard gas twice in 2015 and 2016. Russia, a close ally of the Assad government, vetoed a Western-backed resolution last November that would have renewed the JIM mandate, leaving no way to determine accountability for chemical attacks in Syria. A Western-led campaign that included the U.S., U.K. and France succeeded in expanding the OPCW's investigations, which were limited to determining if chemical weapons were used in Syria, so that it can now determine responsibility for attacks as well.

Syria militant chief warns Idlib rebels against talks with regime
AFP/August 22, 2018/BEIRUT: The head of Syria’s leading militant alliance on Wednesday warned opposition factions in Idlib against taking part in any talks with the regime toward a government takeover of the province. Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) chief Abu Mohamed Al-Jolani spoke after President Bashar Assad warned that he aimed to retake control of the northwestern province on the Turkish border. The head of HTS, a former Al-Qaeda affiliate, warned fellow militants and other opposition fighters in Idlib, Syria’s last rebel-held province, against handing over their arms in surrender deals with the regime. “The weapons of the revolution and jihad ... are a red line on which concessions are unacceptable, and they will never be put on the negotiations table,” he said. Jolani’s HTS alliance controls around 60 percent of Idlib, while other Turkey-supported rebel groups hold most of the rest. The regime holds a small patch in the province’s southeast. “As soon as one of us thinks about negotiating over their weapons, they will have lost them,” said Jolani in a video posted on his group’s Telegram account. “Just thinking about surrendering to the enemy and handing over weapons is treason.”The Russia-backed regime has this year retaken key territory from rebels through a combination of deadly bombardment and surrender deals, both near Damascus and in the south. “The people of the north will not allow what happened in the south” to happen again in Idlib, the HTS leader said. In recent weeks, HTS and other rebel groups have arrested dozens of people, accusing them of collusion with the regime and working toward surrender deals. “The regime and its allies have tried to follow the same tactic of the so-called ‘reconciliation’ deals that struck down the southern” provinces of Daraa and Quneitra, he said. “But your brothers in the north from all factions realized what the enemy’s plans were, so we faced them and arrested their leaders, and thwarted the regime’s plan,” he said. Analysts say any regime offensive will probably be limited to a small area of Idlib, with a deal between Russia and Turkey likely to determine the fate of the rest of the province.
Turkey has forces deployed at observation points throughout the province. But, said Jolani, “our people need to realize that the Turkish observation points in the north cannot be relied on to face the enemy.” “Political stances can change in an instant,” he said. Since it started in 2011, with the brutal repression of anti-Assad protests, Syria’s civil war has killed more than 350,000 people and displaced millions.

Palestinians reject Trump pledge to give them something ‘very good’
AFP/August 22, 2018/RAMALLAH: Palestinian leaders rejected overtures by US President Donald Trump on Wednesday after he said they would get something “very good” in exchange for his country recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Senior Palestinian official Ahmad Al-Tamimi said the US president’s assertion that he had removed Jerusalem from future negotiations was “a continuation of the US policies in favor of Israel.”Speaking to official Palestinian news agency WAFA, he added that Trump’s push for a Israeli-Palestinian peace deal was impossible without “recognizing east Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state.”The December decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the US embassy to the city sparked fury among Palestinians, with the political leadership cutting off ties to the US administration. Palestinians see the eastern part of the disputed city as the capital of their future state. The opening of the US embassy on May 14 saw mass protests and clashes on the Gaza border in which at least 63 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire. Speaking to supporters in the United States on Tuesday, Trump again defended the move, saying he had eased future negotiations. “If there’s ever going to be peace — remember I said it — with the Palestinians, it was a good thing to have done because we took it off the table, because every time there were peace talks they never got past Jerusalem,” Trump said at a rally in the US state of West Virginia. “And you know what, in the (future) negotiations Israel will have to pay a higher price because they won a very big thing.” “Now (Jerusalem’s) off the table, there is nothing to negotiate. But they (the Palestinians) will get something very good because it’s their turn next.”The move has greatly complicated efforts by Trump’s administration to broker what he has called the “ultimate deal,” as the Palestinians will no longer accept US mediation. Speaking in Jerusalem on Wednesday morning, Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton said he hoped the Palestinian leadership would move on from the embassy issue.
“As a dealmaker, as a bargainer, he would expect, you would expect, I would expect that the Palestinians would say ‘ok, great, so we didn’t get that one, now we want something else, and we’ll see how it goes’,” Bolton told journalists as he wrapped up a three-day visit to Israel. Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, rejected Bolton’s comments and said east Jerusalem must be the capital of a Palestinian state. “The words of Bolton are nonsense and don’t correspond to reality,” Erekat said in a statement. “You cannot talk about peace without Jerusalem being the capital of an independent Palestinian state on the basis of the 1967 borders.”

Bahrain Halts New Visas for Qataris in Gulf Feud Salvo

Agence France Presse/Naharnet /August 22/18/Bahrain has stopped issuing new visas to Qataris, the interior ministry said late on Tuesday, in the latest salvo in a months-long feud between the energy-rich Gulf states. The small but strategic island kingdom severed relations with Qatar in June last year at the same time as regional kingpin Saudi Arabia and its allies Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. But it had continued issuing some visas to citizens of the emirate, which lies just 40 kilometres (25 miles) away on the mainland of the Arabian Peninsula. The ministry said only Qatari students studying in Bahrain would be exempt from the new measures, although visas already issued would remain valid. The measures were a response to the "irresponsible actions of the Qatari authorities, who do not consider the rights of neighbouring countries or the principles of international law," the ministry said in a statement carried by the official BNA news agency. The two sides have exchanged repeated allegations of violations of airspace or territorial waters and have launched multiple law suits through international tribunals. Bahrain and its allies have demanded that Qatar cut its longstanding ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and take a tougher line with Shiite Iran, which they accuse of meddling in the region's affairs. Qatar, which is to host the finals of the next football World Cup in 2022, has insisted it has the right to conduct an independent foreign policy. The result has been a highly fractious diplomatic and economic dispute between the Western allies that has no end in sight.

U.S. Feud Helps Erdogan Deflect Blame for Turkey's Economic Woes

Agence France Presse/Naharnet /August 22/18/President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is exploiting a bitter row with the United States to pin the blame for Turkey's increasingly acute economic troubles on an external enemy rather than problems at home, analysts say. Analysts had warned over recent months that pent-up imbalances meant Turkey's economy was headed for choppy waters, even before sanctions announced by President Donald Trump sparked a precipitous fall in the value of the lira. But the Trump administration's measures have allowed Erdogan to lump those issues together with the lira's plunge and place them firmly at the door of the White House, playing on an anti-Americanism that is present in all sections of Turkish society. Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkey Research Program at the Washington Institute, said Erdogan's control over the Turkish media -- a grip tightened after recent ownership changes -- allowed the authorities to easily paint the United States as the villain. "I think Erdogan has decided that while he did not want this crisis with the US to come to where it is, he is also going to use it," he told AFP. "Erdogan can shape the narrative domestically because he controls 90 percent of the media.
"He can now connect the economic crisis in Turkey, which is a result of his policies, to US sanctions solely."
'Plot against Turkey' -Well before Trump pushed the lira off the edge of a cliff on August 10 with a tweet that announced a doubling of steel and aluminium tariffs on Turkey, clouds had been gathering over the Turkish economy as inflation raced to almost 16 percent and the current account deficit widened. Erdogan had also undermined confidence in the currency with repeated statements regarded as baffling by some market players. He called interest rates the "mother and father of all evil" and said low interest rates were needed to bring inflation down. And one month after winning a new mandate in elections, Erdogan stunned observers by naming his son-in-law Berat Albayrak, a former energy minister without financial market experience, to head a newly expanded finance ministry. But once Trump triggered the crisis over the detention by Turkish authorities of US pastor Andrew Brunson, Erdogan was quick to denounce a "plot" that aimed to bring Turkey "to its knees". Meanwhile, pro-government media lined up to denounce what they termed an "economic coup", comparing events to the failed putsch that sought to oust Erdogan in 2016.
'Consolidate support' -Sinan Ulgen, president of the Centre for Economics and Foreign Policy (Edam), said Erdogan's strategy was "essentially to consolidate popular support at a time of economic crisis" by "minimising" the government's responsibility.
And Erdogan's rhetoric finds considerable echo throughout Turkish society, which has long been marked by a strong anti-American sentiment which only intensified after the failed putsch. Fethullah Gulen, the Islamic preacher Turkey accuses of masterminding the coup bid, has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999 and this led many, including even some top Turkish officials, to insinuate a US hand in the coup.
The United States has rubbished such claims while Gulen insists he had no involvement in the failed putsch. But anti-American rhetoric falls on fertile ground in Turkey, despite Ankara and Washington being NATO allies since 1952. According to a poll conducted earlier this year by the Center for American Progress, the US is viewed favourably by just 10 percent of Turks, with 83 percent holding unfavourable views. Erdogan, who has repeatedly been seen using Apple gadgets, even announced Turkey would boycott the iPhones of the US tech giant. Videos promptly appeared in social media showing Erdogan supporters gleefully smashing their iPhones. Meanwhile, shots were fired on the US embassy in Ankara early on Monday although the government was quick to denounce a "provocation" and vow that the perpetrators would be brought to justice.
'Just one person' -"With his actions, Donald Trump is hiding those who are truly to blame for the economic situation" in Turkey, said a European diplomat, who asked not to be named."And it is just one person who is preventing the central bank from acting and stopping the finance minister" from taking the necessary measures, added the diplomat, warning that Turkey was mistaken to think it could "take on the United States... especially President Donald Trump". On television and in newspapers, there is very little dissent from the government's line, with economists who take a different view forced to air their views only on Twitter. As long as there is no interest rate rise, "the ability of the central bank and finance ministry to reassure markets will be severely weakened," said Ulgen.

Bishop Murder Saga Rattles Egypt's Copts
Agence France Presse/Naharnet /August 22/18/A scholarly bishop was found bludgeoned to death at the desert monastery he ran, and two monks are facing trial for killing him in an ambush on the way to Sunday mass. A murky murder saga is gripping Egypt's Coptic Church and the fallout is rumbling through an ancient community already facing grave threats.The Saint Macarius monastery lies in the dusty plains at Wadi el-Natrun, some 80 kilometres (50 miles) northwest of downtown Cairo. It was there on the last Sunday in July, prosecutors say, that two monks known by their ecclesiastical names Isaiah and Philotheos lay in wait. When 68-year-old Bishop Epiphanius passed by they pounced. Isaiah struck the abbot on the head three times with a metal bar as Philotheos kept watch, the charges say. The killing has rocked the close-knit Coptic clergy, shining a spotlight on a world often hidden from view. It is also rattling through the faithful, the largest Christian community in the Middle East. "This will have a huge impact. Coptic clergy are not just viewed as religious functionaries, but as fathers of the community," said Samuel Tadros from the Hudson Institute in Washington. "The murder of a bishop, inside a monastery, (allegedly) at the hands of two monks, will send shock waves inside the community." - Motive mystery -Weeks after Epiphanius' body was found, the reasons for his death remain shrouded in mystery. Prosecutors said on Sunday that Isaiah confessed to carrying out the murder due to "differences" -- but no more details were given. "What we know is very limited. The church and state agencies have not given away much," said Britain-based expert Shady Lewis. "Personal grudge could be a very strong possibility." Isaiah -- whose real name is Wael al-Saad -- had faced disciplinary proceedings before and was quickly defrocked after Epiphanius' body was found. The Church has released little more information on the death, saying the investigation is in the hands of the authorities. "It is not to our advantage to cover up wrongdoings," said leader Pope Tawadros II in a statement, describing the incident as a "crime". While the motive remains unclear, the killing and reactions to it have focused attention on schisms in the Church. Long-standing disagreements over religious dogma, the independence of monasteries and power struggles have all come under the microscope. Epiphanius backed teachings advocating less involvement in worldly affairs and upset some in the Coptic establishment by questioning the legacy of the former head of the Church. But just as in any organisation it seems that feuds within the Church, including the one that might have killed him, can often be more basic. "Most conflicts are localised, fluid and run around personal loyalties, power shares, financial issues, prestige," said Lewis. "Dogma plays a role of course, but the main struggle is around centralising power within the Church, imposing hierarchal authority."In the wake of the death, the Church leadership took wide-ranging steps. It placed a one-year moratorium on accepting new monks, banned current ones from social media, tightened financial controls and refocused attention on spiritual life.
Tawadros himself deleted his Facebook account, slamming the site as a "waste of time". Gamal Asaad, a prominent Coptic thinker, said the death set off a warning bell for Church leaders that they have to reform and heal the rifts. "During the funeral of the late Epiphanius, Pope Tawadros told the monks that they are monks in the monastery and not following any one person," he said.
Facing threats -For Copts in Egypt the furore around the death of Epiphanius is just the latest challenge they have faced. For years the community, about 10 percent of Egypt's mainly Sunni Muslim population of 100 million, have coped with marginalisation and the ire of extremists.
Inter-religious clashes have strained relations between faiths and bloody bombings claimed by the Islamic State group have targeted Coptic worshippers. Like other minority groups, the Coptic authorities have aligned closely with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who led the ouster of Islamist leader Mohamed Morsi after protests against his rule. While the murder may have dented the reputation of the clergy, few doubt the Church will maintain its central role for Copts. For a community that sees itself under threat the Church provides the main identity and mediates relations with the state. But beyond the latest scandal it appears many Copts still feel vulnerable. Accountant Peter Fangary says he is hoping to leave Egypt one day -- in part because of the greater pressures he feels as a Copt. "Life is more difficult for Christians here," the 30-year-old told AFP, describing a general sense of prejudice he feels.
As for the murder of Bishop Epiphanius, he has heard of it of course, even if he rarely goes to church.
"I think Satan can lead anyone astray," he said of the case.
"I think Satan can make them kill."
US: Economic Effects of Iran Sanctions Stronger than Anticipated
Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 22 August, 2018/US sanctions are having a stronger effect on Iran's economy than anticipated, President Donald Trump's national security adviser John Bolton said on Wednesday, pledging further measures against Tehran. "I think the effects, the economic effects certainly, are even stronger than we anticipated," Bolton told a press conference in Jerusalem. "We are going to do other things to put pressure on Iran as well, beyond economic sanctions," he said without elaborating. Bolton was asked whether the United States had discussed any plans with Israel on how to capitalize on economic protests in Iran and if the demonstrations posed any tangible threat to the Tehran government. "Just to be clear, regime change in Iran is not American policy. But what we want is massive change in the regime's behavior," Bolton said. The Trump administration re-imposed sanctions this month after withdrawing from the 2015 international nuclear deal with Iran, which Washington saw as inadequate for curbing Tehran's activities in neighboring Middle East countries and denying it the means to make an atomic bomb. The Iranian economy has been beset by high unemployment and inflation and a rial currency that has lost half its value since April. The reimposition of sanctions could make matters worse. Thousands of Iranians have protested against sharp price rises of some food items, a lack of jobs and state corruption. The protests over the cost of living have often turned into anti-government rallies. During the press conference, Bolton slammed Tehran’s regional activity. "Iranian activity in the region has continued to be belligerent: what they are doing in Iraq, what they are doing in Syria, what they are doing with Hezbollah in Lebanon, what they are doing in Yemen, what they have threatened to do in the Strait of Hormuz," he said. Bolton arrived in Israel on Sunday for three days of talks focusing mainly on Iran and its presence in Syria.
Iraq Seeking US Exemptions on Some Iran Sanctions
Baghdad - Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 22 August, 2018 /Iraq’s economy is so closely linked to Iran that Baghdad is going to ask Washington for permission to ignore some US sanctions on its neighbor, Iraqi government and central bank officials said.  US President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from an international deal aimed at limiting Iran’s nuclear program earlier this year and reimposed trade sanctions. Washington has said there will be consequences for countries that do not respect the sanctions. Baghdad is in a difficult position. Iraq imports crucial supplies from ally Iran but its other major ally is the United States, which provides security assistance and training. The request would mark an important change in political tactics for Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. He initially said Baghdad would respect all the US sanctions but faced heavy criticism from rivals. The officials told Reuters a delegation will travel to Washington to ask for exemptions in applying the sanctions. They did not say when that trip would take place. “The government plans to ask Washington for a waiver. It’s going to happen soon,” one central bank official said. An official in Abadi’s office declined to comment. An official in the US State Department said it was discussing Iran policy with its partners around the world. “We have given the same message to all countries around the world that the President has said, the United States is fully committed to enforcing all of our sanctions,” the official said. “Iraq is a friend and important partner of the US and we are we are committed to ensuring Iraqi stability and prosperity.” Iraqi officials fear shortages of key items if Baghdad complies with all the sanctions. This could lead to political turmoil at a delicate time in Iraqi politics. Iraq imports a wide range of goods from Iran including food, agricultural products, home appliances, air conditioners and spare car parts. The goods element of Iranian imports to Iraq was about $6 billion for the 12 months ending March 2018, about 15 percent of Iraq’s total imports for 2017. There are also energy contracts between the two countries contributing to a volume of trade of $12 billion last year. The officials said they were asking each ministry to put together a list of imports that are essential for Iraq’s economy. Those items will make up the request for exemptions. The US sanctions that came into effect earlier this month target Iran’s trade in gold and other precious metals, its purchases of US dollars and its car industry. Other sanctions will come into force in November.
Abadi has said Iraq will still respect the requirement on US dollar purchases, which is a major part of the sanctions and one of the most awkward for businesses, given energy and other big trade deals.It means that Iraqi banks and the government cannot pay the Iranian government or Iranian entities in dollars. The central bank circulated a warning to private banks to abide by the ban on dollar transactions but it will allow transactions in euros, one central bank official said. The sanctions are particularly sensitive for companies with US operations. Trump has said that those who do business in Iran will not be able to do business in the United Sates. But most Iraqi private companies will be relatively unharmed by the sanctions, said a Western diplomat in Baghdad. “Plenty of Iraqi businesses don’t have US investments, don’t deal in dollars. Those can carry on dealing with Iran without issue,” he said.
It is government and public sector-run energy, construction and car industries, which will take a bigger hit, one Iraqi trade ministry official told Reuters. “We rely mainly on Iran as a source of construction materials and automobiles, including spare parts, due to low prices and the ease of shipping through many joint border crossings,” he said. Even if the government has committed to complying with some of the sanctions, it may be difficult to enforce. Local traders may still be happy to deal with Iranian counterparts because the fall of the Iranian rial against the US dollar has made goods cheap and political and economic ties between the two countries are strong. “It will be mission impossible for the government to prevent Iranian commodities from flowing across more than 1,300 kilometers of joint borders,” said Basim Antwan, a leading Iraqi economic consultant and member of the Iraqi Businessmen Union. “Iran will use every single option at hand to keep the exports flowing, including the help of allied militia groups to secure what could be called ‘organized smuggling’.”Some Western diplomats say Abadi must now come up with a compromise to balance US and Iranian interests. “There is a fear that Washington will force Iraq into a ‘you are with us or against us’ situation,” the Western diplomat said. “They should not force Iraq to make that choice.” Meanwhile, Iran said on Tuesday it had resumed supplies of electricity to Iraq and other neighboring states 10 days earlier, after shortages in Iraqi cities sparked unrest in July. Tehran stopped supplying electricity to Iraq in July due to unpaid bills and because of a rise in Iranian consumption during the summer. The power shortage in Iraq sparked protests in Basra and other cities, as people blamed what they called an inept and corrupt Iraqi government. A number of protests have also broken out in Iran in recent months over regular power cuts and water shortages.

Tehran Holds Onto Boosting Military Might
London - Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 22 August, 2018/Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday his country would boost its military might to deter the US, as Iran showcased a new fighter jet. "Why does the United States not attack us? Because of our power, because it knows the consequences,” Rouhani said in a speech broadcast live on state television ahead of Wednesday's National Defense Industry Day. "We should make ourselves ready to fight against the military powers that want to take over our territory and our resources," he added. Rouhani compared the sanctions on Iran with the US trade war with China and its new tariffs on some imports from Turkey and European countries. "It's not only us who do not trust America. Today even Europe and China do not trust them; even American allies like Canada have lost their trust," he said. Reuters said that earlier on Tuesday Rouhani attended a ceremony, broadcast by state TV, that included the fly-past of a new fighter jet called Kowsar, which Iran says is "100-percent indigenously made" and able to carry various weapons and to be used for short aerial support missions. However, some military experts believe the fighter jet is a carbon copy of an F-5 first produced in the United States in the 1960s. "It is a natural reaction to the economic difficulties," Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman. "They are under pressure because of the American sanctions and react by inventing stories," he told reporters in Israel, adding however: "But it should not be taken lightly."Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's spokesman for Arab affairs, Ofir Gendleman, went further and tweeted that the aircraft unveiled Tuesday by Iran was an old American model. "The Iranian regime unveils the Kowsar aircraft and pretends that it is '100 percent indigenously made'... but I immediately saw that it is a very old American military plane... of the F-5 type," he wrote.

Lieberman Commends Truce, Israeli Army Capabilities
Tel Aviv - Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 22 August, 2018/Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman has lauded the latest developments at the Israeli border with the Gaza Strip and Hamas movement’s compliance with the truce. The policy endorsed by the government and the strict practices of the Israeli army led to “a decrease in the number of incidents,” he said. He rejected claims that Hamas is breaching the truce, saying: “I see in the media ‘there has been a balloon in the south,’ they say. Yes, there were balloons, but they are balloons only, not incendiary balloons.” “We are in fact talking to the Egyptians, the United Nations and the international community,” Lieberman said while on a visit to an Israeli army military exercise in the North. The Israeli army is the strongest in the Middle East and is ready to fight in two fronts simultaneously, in the north and south, he affirmed. Lieberman has met with US President Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser John Bolton. He said the meeting tackled several security issues including the situation in Iran, Syria and the Gaza Strip. “We have a very supportive president in the White House and a very supportive administration and this gives us significant maneuvering room vis-à-vis our enemies to the north and south,” Lieberman’s office quoted him as saying. “Thank you, John, for your great contribution to Israel’s national security,” he told Bolton. Bolton traveled to Geneva to meet with his Russian counterpart to follow up the outcomes of the summit held between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki last month.

West Warns Assad over Chemical Weapons Use
Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 22 August, 2018/The United States, France and Britain have threatened to respond if the head of the Syrian regime, Bashar Assad, uses chemical weapons in its offensive to retake Idlib province. In a joint statement, the three powers said they were "gravely concerned" over the military offensive in Idlib and the resulting humanitarian consequences. "We also underline our concern at the potential for further – and illegal – use of chemical weapons," they said. "We remain resolved to act if the Assad regime uses chemical weapons again."The three UN Security Council powers released the joint statement to mark the fifth anniversary of the sarin attack in Ghouta that killed more than 300 people. That attack, which the West blamed on Assad's forces, led to a US-Russian agreement to rid Syria of its chemical stockpile and its means to produce the deadly chemicals. The US, France and the UK in April launched airstrikes on Syrian targets in response to a chemical weapons attack in the town of Douma that left scores dead. The one-night operation hit three sites in Syria. "Our position on the Assad regime's use of chemical weapons is unchanged," the three countries said in their statement. "As we have demonstrated, we will respond appropriately to any further use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime, which has had such devastating humanitarian consequences for the Syrian population."John Bolton, US President Donald Trump's national security adviser, also warned that Washington would respond "very strongly" if Assad uses chemical weapons in the offensive on Idlib, the biggest area in rebel-held hands, which borders Turkey. "Just so there's no confusion here, if the Syrian regime uses chemical weapons we will respond very strongly and they really ought to think about this a long time," Bolton told a press conference during a visit to Jerusalem.

Moscow Reinforces Hmeimim Base

Moscow - Raed Jabr/Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 22 August, 2018/Moscow on Tuesday made further reinforcements at its Hmeimim Air Base in Syria’s Latakia province, after several drones with improvised explosive devices have targeted the military airport. The Russian Defense Ministry announced it has provided the base with an amended version of the Pantsir missile system, a family of self-propelled, medium-range surface-to-air missile systems. It said the previous Pantsir version had failed to repel attacks. On Tuesday, Russian newspaper Izvestia released details on the measures taken by the Russian Defense Ministry to enhance the Hmeimim Air Base’s defensive powers, after discovering gaps in their level of protection from close range weapons. The Ministry’s measures came as Syrian regime troops enhanced their presence in Latakia and in the province of Idlib. Damascus is preparing to launch a military operation in Idlib amid diplomatic efforts led by Moscow and Ankara to reach an agreement on the province. Separately, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Tuesday that Druze community elders in Sweida assigned on Tuesday several people to a committee tasked with negotiating the release of kidnapped men and women from the province. On July 25, ISIS launched coordinated attacks in the southern province, causing over 250 victims. ISIS members also kidnapped about thirty women and children, while at least 17 men went unaccounted for. “Due to the present circumstances ... a negotiating committee is formed with regard to the abductees of the Sweida province,” a statement issued by the Druze elders said. It added that the work of the committee is limited to following up the case of the captives and reaching out to the concerned authorities to secure their release and return them to their families unharmed.

Haniyeh: Israel’s Blockade of Gaza to be Lifted Soon
Ramallah - Kifah Ziboun/Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 22 August, 2018/Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said Tuesday that an end to Israel's more than decade-long blockade of the Gaza Strip was "around the corner", without having to offer concessions. Speaking during prayers for Eid al-Adha in Gaza, Haniyeh said that any agreement with Israel would come "with a national consensus and an Arab safety net in order to establish the necessary safeguards to implement what is agreed upon". But Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah warned Hamas of reaching a unilateral truce deal with Israel on Gaza, saying: "We are counting on the Palestinian people in Gaza to foil this scheme."Hamdallah told journalists after laying a wreath at the grave of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in the West Bank city of Ramallah that “a waterway between the Gaza Strip and Cyprus or El-Arish [in Egypt] is not the solution."He pointed out that the US administration has already started implementing the so-called "deal of the century" after recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, relocating the US embassy to the holy city, cutting aid to the Palestinians, attempting to close UNRWA offices and separating Gaza from the West Bank."Empowerment of the government doesn't mean that there is a judicial system in the West Bank and another one in Gaza Strip," he said, adding that reconciliation is "in response to the US administration and occupation attempts to cut off the Gaza Strip from the West Bank."

UN Envoy Salame Warns Libyan Patience Is Running Out

Cairo - Khalid Mahmoud/Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 22 August, 2018/UN Special Envoy to Libya Ghassan Salame has urged Libyan citizens to express their contempt towards the delay of official institutions in fulfilling their obligations, criticizing the slow pace of government action and further deterioration of the country's public services sector. Salame denied reports of his deteriorating health or of the UN chief’s intentions for appointing a new envoy to Libya. Speaking to “Libya Al Ahrar” channel late Monday, Salame expressed dissatisfaction with the slow pace of official action. All institutional work in the country is either slow or dysfunctional, he explained while adding that Libyans are frustrated and impatient with poor services and delay in the decision-making progress on important issues. Salame defended his mission and fight for a Libyan approval for legislation on a constitutional referendum which makes way for presidential and parliamentary elections before the end of 2018. However, he admitted that he merely spearheads diplomatic efforts and not military intervention. He explained that he is trying to convince the Libyan parliament to complete what citizens expect from the law, reminding parliamentarians and officials that the people have run out of patience. Salame pointed out that he contacted a number of countries with a message on further delay in elections being unacceptable and that the political process must go faster. Having considered Libya to be the victim of external interference, Salame stressed that the UN mission is doing its utmost to reach out to all parties to end the political crisis. The United Nations Support Mission in Libya UNSMIL on Sunday expressed its strong condemnation of acts of violence, intimidation and obstruction of the work of the Libyan sovereign institutions by militiamen in Tripoli. It called on the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord headed by Fayez al-Sarraj to take the necessary steps to prosecute those responsible for such criminal acts.
The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on August 22-23/18
Businesses Expect Long Trade Fight Even After Trump
Daniel Moss/Bloomberg/August 22/18
Let’s not get too excited in response to talks about talks among officials from the US and China. Tussles over trade are likely to be the norm no matter who wins the midterm elections or sits in the Oval Office.
That was the view of most people polled by Chan Chun Sing, Singapore’s trade minister, at an American Chamber of Commerce lunch last week. Chan asked for a show of hands on which scenario is most likely: trade tensions will dissipate after the November congressional elections, wane after “personalities” leave office, or continue indefinitely so that executives should brace for the long haul. The last received an overwhelming show of hands.
The vote was instructive because it’s indicative of a growing realization, not just in Singapore, that there are long-term forces shaping the US-China trade war that go beyond simply Donald Trump. There are few votes in full-throated advocacy of trade even in places that, in theory, should be all for it.
At diners I visited in eastern Colorado and western Kansas this month, places rich in agriculture that stand to lose from trade conflict, most conversations were shaped by Fox News, to which TVs were tuned. In Limon, Colorado, complaints among men in tractor and camo caps at the Country Pride diner were about CNN, Democrats and how Barack Obama was allegedly trying to take credit for low unemployment and the stock market’s record high this year.
If ructions over trade are here to stay and barriers of one form or another are going to be a quasi-permanent feature of the commercial landscape, that raises a critical question: What are corporations doing about it? Global supply chains were built up layer-upon-layer over decades. If firms are to adjust to what may essentially be a new business model, they need to be giving serious consideration to this — like, yesterday — and informing shareholders, customers and employees. There’s very little sign this is happening.
Deborah Elms, executive director of the Asian Trade Center in Singapore, finds the silence deafening. Discussing the global landscape in her office after the minister’s speech, Elms says she can’t find any executive at any company of any size who can identify a plan or even who has it. Either they don’t have one, which runs counter to the idea that something has fundamentally changed, or they don’t want to make themselves a target by going public. No executive wants to be the one who invites the tweetstorm from the Oval Office.
Once you accept that something fundamental has changed, it’s not hard to imagine the day some companies just decide to spin off Asian operations into separate businesses. Whatever is going to be destined for the American market, just bring it on home, behind tariff walls or other kinds of restrictions. Whatever is made or sold in Asia, keep that line for that region. Gradually, the center of gravity may become the Asian business. Spending decisions and executives looking to get ahead will focus on that region while the American infrastructure businesses continues to deteriorate. Depending on what Asian country you are talking about, you have economic growth rates of about 5 percent or 6 percent. The US is moving along between 2 and 3 percent.
Once economic nationalism takes hold, Elms reminded me, everyone wants a piece of it. No industry wants to be the one left out in the cold. If observers in Singapore, a place built on trade, reckon that today’s scuffles are more than a passing fad, we need to pay attention. And keep foul-weather gear handy.
A US-China Divorce Would Be Ugly
Michael Schuman/Bloomberg/August 22/18
A financial adviser I know, Frank Astorino, says nothing destroys wealth like divorce. That’s a warning China and the US should keep in mind as they intensify their trade war. If they continue down the road they’re on, an economic separation between the world’s two largest economies is a very real possibility. And the costs would likely exceed any marital spat in history. Sure, there’s always a chance that Donald Trump and Xi Jinping could renew their friendship and hash out a deal. But if they follow through on their threats -- which they so far have -- practically all products traded between the two countries would face punitive tariffs. Meanwhile, Washington is finalizing tighter restrictions on foreign investment, obviously aimed at blocking Chinese firms from US acquisitions. Add in China’s existing barriers to foreign business, which could well increase amid the dispute, and what you get is something that was unthinkable only a few months ago: China and the US could dissolve the bonds of trade and investment that have made them highly intertwined and interdependent for so many years. The world hasn’t seen a divorce of such global consequence since Henry VIII. Some might say the marriage was an unhappy one to begin with. Many Americans see China as an unreliable partner who cheats and steals. And many Chinese policymakers -- who have lately embarked on a grand quest to replace foreign products and technology with local substitutes -- think close ties with the US have outlived their usefulness.
But both countries will undoubtedly find that breaking up is hard to do. Open access to the US market has been a cornerstone of China's growth since the 1980s. It's true that China’s domestic market is now so large that exports are less critical, but the US economy is still $7 trillion larger than China’s -- a difference equivalent to the national output of Brazil, France and India combined. No ambitious Chinese company could claim to be truly global without a US presence. That’s why Chinese automaker Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co. recently opened a Volvo factory in South Carolina, even though it has ample opportunities to sell sedans at home.
A good chunk of what China exports to the US is assembled locally, with the purpose of shipping finished products (such as iPhones) to American consumers. Restricted access to the US would force Chinese and foreign companies to reorder their supply chains in a host of sectors, from electronics to clothing to toys, dealing a serious blow to Chinese manufacturing. It would also dent China's hopes of becoming a global hub for cutting-edge products. Without competitive access to the American market, at least some of the capacity that could've been built in China would have to be located elsewhere.
The costs would be high for the US, too. Homi Kharas of the Brookings Institution projects that by 2030, China will account for 22 percent of global consumer spending by the middle class, compared to just 7 percent for the US. Those new Chinese shoppers might be lost to European, Japanese or local brands if US companies face stiffer barriers to doing business in China than they already do.The US could also forfeit investment. As China’s major companies expand globally, they'll become far bigger investors overseas (much as Japanese firms did in the 1980s). Facing a hostile environment in the US, Chinese businesses would likely direct that capital elsewhere. According to the American Enterprise Institute, Chinese investment in the US plunged by half in 2017 from the year before; AEI scholar Derek Scissors blames a combination of a state-driven reduction of certain Chinese outbound spending and tougher scrutiny of Chinese deals by the US. The biggest danger of a US-China split, however, might not be economic. Arguably, one reason China’s rise has so far been generally peaceful is that its economy is so integrated with the world’s preeminent military, political and economic power. If those ties wither, outright conflict could become more likely. Of course, any separation may not be final. Starbucks Corp. is probably in China to stay. But over the past four decades, the two countries have built a life together that has brought untold benefits to consumers, households and shareholders. Recklessly spiralling toward divorce puts all that at risk. Recovering the lost wealth could take a lifetime.

If they were able to celebrate Eid...
Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/August 22/18
How was Eid for the people of the Palestinian refugee camp Al-Yarmouk in Damascus? How did the residents of towns in Idlib, north of Syria, and on its borders celebrate? What gifts did people in As-Suwayda and the proud Jabal al-Arab exchange during Adha?
How did the people of Hodeidah, Al-Bayda, Mocha, Bayt al-Faqih, Al Luhayyah, Al-Malaheez and Sanaa celebrate Eid?
What about the residents of Sirte, Al Bayda', Darnah and the oil crescent in Libya? How did they spend Eid?
To what image did the people of Basra, Samawah, Nasiriyah, Najaf and Baghdad rejoice for the occasion of Eid al-Adha?
These are areas, cities, towns and camps from some of our countries in this part of the world, areas which have become addicted to misery and to drinking up hardships, drop by drop until their veins dried out and all signs of life withered and the leaves of joy shattered.
In Syria, the image of disharmony is more flagrant and clearer between a Turk, an Iranian, a Russian and an American, and from Bashar’s camp or his rivals or those who waver between either.
In Yemen and Libya, you can say the situation is close to that. It’s as if being in harmony, allying and getting acquainted with the reality of war and the non-state while losing security, the domination of the law and criminalization of the militant reality and logic became the only reality that seems endless and that everyone must adapt with, or rather constitutionalize and legitimize life through it and based on it!
Who and what is the victim in this miserable scene?
May every year find you in good health. May God save the people and those exhausted from the areas we mentioned here.

The Great Middle Eastern War of 2019
حرب الشرق الأوسط الكبرى لسنة 2019

Maj. Nadav Ben Hour, IDF and Michael Eisenstadt/The Washington InstituteظAmerican Interest/August 22/2018
Far from simply replaying the 2006 Lebanon war, the next conflict on Israel’s northern frontier will likely involve many more actors on multiple fronts, raising unprecedented challenges for escalation management.
Growing tensions on Israel’s northern border have raised concerns about yet another Israel-Hezbollah confrontation or a war between Israel and Iran in Syria. Such a war may not be limited to the original participants, but could involve an array of Shi’a militias and even the Assad regime, and could span the region—thereby affecting vital U.S. interests.
Two factors are driving these tensions: efforts by Hezbollah and Syria—with Iran’s help—to produce highly accurate missiles in Lebanon and Syria that could cripple Israel’s critical infrastructure and make life there intolerable; and Iran’s efforts to transform Syria into a springboard for military operations against Israel and a platform for projecting power in the Levant. Iran, however, while pursuing an anti-status quo agenda that has often brought it into conflict with Israel and the United States, has shown that it seeks to avoid conventional wars and consequent heavy losses to its own forces. Instead, it relies on proxy operations, terrorism, and non-lethal shaping activities. Yet it has occasionally been willing to venture high-risk activities that entail a potential for escalation. (Example: Iranian forces in Syria launched an explosives-laden UAV into Israeli airspace in February; it was shot down, but the incident sparked a round of clashes.)
Israel also seems intent on avoiding war, though its actions show that it is willing to accept the risk of escalation to counter these emerging threats. Indeed, since 2013 it has carried out more than 130 strikes in Syria on arms shipments destined for Hezbollah, and since late 2017 it has expanded this “campaign between the wars” to target Iranian military facilities in Syria—without, thus far, sparking a wider confrontation.
Complacency is, however, unwarranted. The two major Arab-Israeli confrontations of the recent past (Lebanon 2006, Gaza 2014) resulted from unintended escalation. The emerging dynamic between Israel, Iran, and the “axis of resistance” is a formula for a third major “accident,” and so deserves careful analysis.
The potential for yet another war—one of unprecedented scope and complexity—is an outcome of the Syrian civil war, which has enabled Iran to build a military infrastructure in Syria and to deploy its Shi’a “foreign legion” to Israel’s borders. War is now possible on multiple fronts and in far-flung theaters, fought on land, in the air, at sea, and in information and cyber domains by fighters from Hezbollah, Iran, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and even Yemen. The widened scope of a possible war will create new military options for Iran and Hezbollah, and stretch Israeli capabilities to their limits.
Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah said as much, though perhaps with some exaggeration, when he warned in June 2017 that “if an Israeli war is launched against Syria or Lebanon it is not known that the fighting will remain Lebanese-Israeli, or Syrian-Israeli,” and “this could open the way for thousands, even hundreds of thousands of fighters from all over the Arab and Islamic world to participate.” Likewise, IRGC Commander Mohammad Ali Jafari stated in November 2017 that, “The fate of the resistance front is interwoven and they all stand united, and if Israel attacks a part of it, the other component of the front will help it.”
Such a war is most likely to occur as a result of unintended escalation, after another Iranian action against Israel from Syria, or after an Israeli strike in Lebanon or Syria (for example, against missile production facilities). It could start as a result of a U.S. and/or Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear program. It might even come about as a result of a conflict that starts in the Gulf but that reaches Israel’s borders—perhaps as a result of Iranian diversionary moves (much as Saddam Hussein tried in 1991 to derail the U.S. military campaign to expel Iraqi forces from Kuwait by launching missiles at Israel).
A new northern war could resemble one of several scenarios:
Lebanon War Plus. A war between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon, in which Iranians, thousands of foreign Shi’a fighters, and even Hamas (which has established a limited military presence in southern Lebanon) also participate. The Syrian front remains relatively quiet, with Israel acting there on a limited basis to interdict the movement of fighters and capabilities into Lebanon.
War in Syria. A war between Israeli and Iranian forces, Shi’a militias (including Hezbollah fighters), and perhaps even elements of the Syrian military, fought on Syrian territory. The Lebanese front remains relatively quiet. Should Syrian ground forces get drawn into combat, however, Russia might intervene to protect its client.
A Two-Front War. A war in Lebanon and Syria between Israeli and Iranian troops, Hezbollah, Shi’a militias, and perhaps even elements of the Syrian military, in which both sides treat Lebanon and Syria as a single, unified theater of operations.
All three of these scenarios entail a potential for escalation or spillover into secondary fronts or theaters, and the involvement of additional actors:
Additional Fronts/Theaters. A war in Lebanon and/or Syria might prompt: attacks on Israel from Gaza, unrest in the West Bank, or terrorist attacks in Israel; Houthi attacks on Israeli interests (such as Israeli maritime traffic in the Bab al-Mandeb Strait), or Israeli strikes on Houthi targets in Yemen; missile attacks on Israel by Shi’a militias in Iraq, and Israeli counterstrikes. Some of these militias have already warned that the latter could trigger attacks on U.S. personnel in Iraq.
Israel vs. Iran. During fighting in Syria or Lebanon, Israel attacks Iran to strike a blow against the central pillar of the enemy coalition, and to thereby influence the course of the war. Alternatively, Iran augments attacks on Israel from Syria or Lebanon with attacks from its own territory, perhaps after suffering heavy losses in Syria. These could take the form of air or missile strikes and/or destructive cyberattacks on military targets and critical infrastructure.
A Regional War? A low-probability/high-impact scenario in which a conflict in the Levant morphs into a regional war involving Saudi Arabia and perhaps the United Arab Emirates as well. Israel responds to attacks on its critical infrastructure with air strikes or cyberattacks on Iran’s oil industry or even its nuclear facilities—with the encouragement and perhaps logistical assistance of Gulf Arab states. Iran retaliates against Israel, but also conducts missile strikes, sabotage, or cyberattacks on Arab oil facilities across the Gulf, leading to escalation there, and perhaps even military intervention by the United States.
For Israel, planning for and fighting the next northern war will entail unprecedented challenges, due to uncertainties regarding the number of actors involved, the potential for combat on multiple fronts, theaters, and domains (including cyber), and the role of the great powers. Moreover, because the military capabilities of both sides and the geopolitical environment are rapidly evolving, and because Iran began its entrenchment in Syria only recently, the character of a future war will be greatly influenced by its timing. A war in 2019 might be very different from a war in 2025.
Despite these uncertainties, recent experience and current trends permit several generalizations. Israel’s next northern war will be far more wide-ranging than prior conflicts. Israel may start with an intense air campaign to counter the threat of enemy rocket and missile forces and militias, but effectively dealing with this threat will require large-scale ground operations. Israel’s enemies will not be satisfied only with launching rockets and missiles at Israeli military facilities, population centers, and critical infrastructure, but they will try to use ground forces to infiltrate Israeli lines and to capture Israeli villages and small military outposts. They will also likely employ cyber warfare in support of conventional military operations (for instance, to disrupt Israeli missile defenses), and perhaps against critical infrastructure, to achieve strategic effects.
In past conflicts with Hezbollah, Israel focused on the organization’s military forces, its leadership, military specialists, and elements of the Lebanese infrastructure that facilitated its operations. In the next northern war, the dilemma of whether to prioritize action against immediate threats or enemy centers of gravity and critical enablers will be acute; substantial effort needs to be invested in identifying centers of gravity that can be targeted to hasten war termination on favorable terms.
Russia is a key actor in Syria and could be a key factor in a future war: Will Moscow stand aside, or will it constrain Israel’s ability to strike pro-regime forces in Syria, to prevent the unraveling of the Assad regime’s post-2015 civil war gains? And will Washington remain militarily uninvolved—beyond perhaps augmenting Israeli missile defenses—or will it play a more active role, seeing this as an opportunity to strike a blow against Iran, and thereby advance its goal of undermining the latter’s influence in the region? Depending on how events play out, Israel could face a disquieting possibility: Russian efforts to thwart its use of decisive force, U.S. reticence, and ineffectual great power diplomacy could prevent Israel from achieving its full military aims—not entirely unlike the denouement of the October 1973 war. That could ensure a protracted war, and perhaps a war that ends without Israel fulfilling its aims.
The next northern war will require new operational concepts and a rethinking of Israel’s “way of war,” especially its approach to attaining military decision via defeat mechanisms tailored to its adversaries. The challenge for planners is great because they are dealing with a complex emerging threat consisting of many actors, operating on multiple fronts, with no single, well-defined center of gravity. In addition, there will be many other factors that Israeli military planners will have to consider when grappling with this complex operational environment:
Ends, Ways, and Means. Israel’s war aims would likely be shaped by how a war begins and its geopolitical context. Would Israel aim to degrade enemy forces and to demoralize them? Disrupt the cohesion of the axis of resistance? Discredit the enemy’s “resistance doctrine”? Destabilize Syria and/or Iran? Or simply reestablish deterrence and bring about a prolonged period of quiet? How many of these goals are attainable? Should Israel focus on Hezbollah and Nasrallah? On Lebanese infrastructure that facilitates Hezbollah’s activities? On Iran and IRGC head Soleimani? On the Shi’a militias? Or on the Assad regime? How much emphasis should be placed on targeting the enemy’s field forces, military infrastructure, leadership, and motivation/morale, and how should Israel prioritize and phase these efforts? Finally, how will Israel resolve the tension between the imperative to end its wars quickly in a way that restores deterrence—which will require it to inflict heavy damage on enemy forces that in many cases will be embedded among civilians—and its desire to avoid unnecessary escalation, as well as fulfill its obligations under the law of armed conflict?
Images of Victory. Israel has a much higher bar for success than its enemies. If the axis of resistance can disseminate images of its flags flying over captured Israeli military outposts or villages (even if subsequently retaken), land blows to Israel’s critical infrastructure, and continue to launch rockets against Israel on the final day of combat, they will claim victory. It may not be possible, however, for the axis of resistance to preserve the luster of these putative achievements in the face of significant combat losses and widespread devastation in Lebanon, Syria, and even Iran.
Scope of Operations. Israel has always tried to avoid multi-front wars that require it to split its forces. A key unknown is whether Hezbollah or Iran would try to limit or expand a conflict with Israel. Would Hezbollah eschew a fight in Lebanon to preserve its military assets there, avoid widespread destruction to the country’s infrastructure, and avert a political backlash? Would Syrian forces actively participate in such a war? Would Iran encourage the Houthis to attack Israeli shipping in the Red Sea, or would the Houthis do so without being asked? Would Hezbollah and Iran launch terrorist attacks against Israeli interests from the outset of a war, or might they try to de-escalate a potentially devastating conventional conflict in the Levant in order to launch a less risky, low-intensity terrorist “war in the shadows” against Israeli interests worldwide? And might Israel threaten to bring the war to Lebanon or Iran in order to prevent further escalation and bolster deterrence?
Hezbollah’s Dilemma. Hezbollah has more than 100,000 rockets and missiles in Lebanon—sufficient to overwhelm Israeli defenses—though most are not very accurate. Iran has thousands more—though most cannot reach Israel. After seven years of civil war, Syria has relatively few missiles left—though it is trying to rebuild this capability. Hezbollah’s Lebanon-based rocket and missile force is the key to achieving truly strategic effects against Israel, and a basic assumption over the past decade is that in the next war on Israel’s north, Hezbollah will be the main participant. But this may not be the case, because that would invite massive Israeli air strikes and ground operations and lead to widespread devastation in Lebanon—an outcome Hezbollah will presumably want to avoid. And so its dilemma: how to exploit the potential of its rocket and missile force without destroying Lebanon or jeopardizing this strategic asset, which may be needed later in the war to counter Israeli escalatory moves. This may be why Hezbollah (with Iran’s help) is creating its own Syrian and Iraqi proxies to fight for it in the Golan—and why Israel is trying to disrupt some of these efforts.
Mobilization Potential. Only a fraction of Iran’s Shi’a foreign legion is based in Syria (perhaps 10,000 to 20,000 of the nearly 200,000 foreign fighters it claims to have trained). In the event of an unanticipated war with Israel, it could take weeks for Iran to deploy available militia forces based outside of Syria, and Israel would undoubtedly interdict them en route to the front. Due to attrition and their relatively low level of training, these forces may not add much to the war effort.
Axis of Overreach? Axis of resistance members have frequently overreached (for example, Hezbollah vs. Israel in 2006, Iran vs. Israel in Syria in 2018) and they might do so again by goading Israel into yet another devastating war. This could narrow their postwar military options, unravel recent hard-won military gains of pro-regime forces in Syria, and further destabilize Lebanon and even Iran. Washington should use the specter of such outcomes to induce Russia to restrain its axis of resistance partners in wartime.
The next war on Israel’s northern front, whether it starts in Lebanon or Syria, will not be just a more extensive and destructive replay of the 2006 Lebanon War. Developments since then ensure that such a war will likely involve many more actors, a much larger theater of operations, unprecedented challenges for escalation management, warfighting, and war termination—and the possibility of a regional conflagration.
The complexity of the emerging operational environment demands detailed analysis of its implications for the United States and Israel through wargaming, red-teaming, and joint planning efforts; the development of new Israeli operational concepts; the proper prioritization and phasing of military operations and the identification and targeting of enemy centers of gravity; and an active U.S. diplomatic and military posture to ensure that a potentially devastating local war does not become a destabilizing and destructive regional conflict.
That said, the foregoing assessment suggests several ways that the United States and Israel can shape the operational environment to enhance the odds of an outcome compatible with their shared interests with respect to Iran and its axis of resistance, should war come:
Play on Iran’s Escalation Aversion. Iran generally seeks to avoid or deter conventional wars, and is sensitive to threats to the regime and the homeland. Accordingly, U.S. and Israeli decision-makers should use the potential for escalation inherent in a possible northern war to deter Iran from actions that could lead to such a conflict in the first place, or its spread to Iran—which could jeopardize Iran’s vital economic interests (if, for example, its oil infrastructure were to be hit), and the stability of the Assad regime in Syria.
Support Israel’s “Campaign Between the Wars” in Syria. Israeli attempts to disrupt Iran’s military build-up in Syria have already sparked clashes there. Yet such efforts might reduce the need for Israeli preventive action in a crisis, the potential for escalation in wartime, and the amount of damage wrought in a future war. The U.S. government should support these efforts, and reinforce Israeli diplomacy with Russia to preserve Israeli military freedom of action in Syria. It should also quietly indicate to Russia that a war in Syria might jeopardize Moscow’s recent military achievements there, by encouraging surviving Syrian rebel groups to resume their fight against an enfeebled Assad regime.
Keep Hezbollah “Out.” Because of the size of its rocket and missile arsenal and its ground forces, keeping the bulk of Hezbollah’s forces out of a northern war and preventing such a war from spreading to Lebanon may greatly facilitate efforts to prevent a limited local war from becoming a much bigger war, and from perhaps sparking a regional conflagration.
Keep U.S. Forces “In” Syria. The presence of even a small U.S. military contingent in northeastern Syria might discourage pro-Iranian Shi’a militias from moving through these areas to the front with Israel during wartime, and limit their movement to a few roads in southeastern Syria—thereby facilitating their interdiction by Israel. For this and a host of other reasons, the U.S. military should retain a limited ground presence in northeastern Syria.
Foster Arab-Israeli Cooperation. The possibility of war between Israel, Iran, and its axis of resistance raises questions about covert or tacit contributions by various Arab states to a common war effort. Washington should encourage quiet military coordination and cooperation between Israel and these states, which could greatly complicate war-planning and warfighting for Iran and its proxies.
Ending the War. Conflict termination has posed challenges in recent Arab-Israeli conflicts, and the multiplicity of actors with diverse interests involved in a northern front war will make this even more complicated than before. After the Cold War, the great powers no longer felt a need to intervene to prevent the defeat of their clients or to avoid a superpower confrontation. Russia is back in Syria, however, and it might or might not decide to constrain Israel or its partners in the axis of resistance. Russian behavior, even if somewhat ambiguous in practice, could ensure that the next war will be a long one. The challenge for U.S. and Israeli diplomacy is to arrive at sustainable understandings with Russia to ensure that it plays a constructive role during the next war, and in efforts to end it. Russia may prove neither willing nor able to do so, but it would be irresponsible not to explore the possibilities.
This reality further underscores the need for Israel to develop viable operational concepts, new “ways of war,” and credible defeat mechanisms, so that it can decide and terminate future wars on its own terms. And it highlights the need for the United States to remain engaged in the region so that if war comes, it can ensure that Israel has the freedom of action to achieve its war aims, and thereby advance U.S. interests in countering and curtailing Iranian influence in the region.
**Maj. Nadav Ben Hour, IDF, is a visiting military fellow with The Washington Institute. Michael Eisenstadt is the Institute’s Kahn Fellow and director of its Military and Security Studies Program. This article originally appeared on the American Interest website.