August 24/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery
Letter to the Galatians 04/21-31/05.01: "Tell me, you who desire to be subject to the law, will you not listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and the other by a free woman. One, the child of the slave, was born according to the flesh; the other, the child of the free woman, was born through the promise. Now this is an allegory: these women are two covenants. One woman, in fact, is Hagar, from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the other woman corresponds to the Jerusalem above; she is free, and she is our mother. For it is written, ‘Rejoice, you childless one, you who bear no children, burst into song and shout, you who endure no birth pangs; for the children of the desolate woman are more numerous than the children of the one who is married.’ Now you, my friends, are children of the promise, like Isaac. But just as at that time the child who was born according to the flesh persecuted the child who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also. But what does the scripture say? ‘Drive out the slave and her child; for the child of the slave will not share the inheritance with the child of the free woman.’So then, friends, we are children, not of the slave but of the free woman. For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery."

نشرات اخبار عربية وانكليزية مطولة ومفصلة يومية على موقعنا الألكتروني على الرابط التالي

Daily Lebanese/Arabic - English news bulletins on our LCCC web site.Click on the link below

Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on August 23-24/18
Bashir Gemayel The Dream And Cause Will Never Die/Elias Bejjani/August 23/18
ANALYSIS/Hezbollah is stronger than ever and closer to Europe than we think/Azmina Siddique/Al Arabiya/August 23/18
The Hunt for Hezbollah’s Weapons and the Limits of Civil–military Cooperation/Vanessa Newb/The Strategist/August 23/18
Houthi-Hezbollah Meeting Is Foreboding for Yemen's Future/The National/ August 23/18
Bahrain — the economy is in focus again/Hussein Shobokshi/Al Arabiya/August 23/18
Turkey-US military ties will endure despite political crisis/Dr. Theodore Karasik/Arab News/August 23/18
America’s Iran sanctions complicate Iraqi politics/Talmiz Ahmad/Arab News/August 23/18
The U.S. Will Spend Billions in Syria—Just Not on Rebuilding It/Krishnadev Calamur/The Atlantic/August 23/18

Titles For The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on August 23-24/18
Abu Khalil: Bachir Believed that Power Is Not About Partitioning
MP Nadim Gemayel Calls for Reviving Bachir's State Project
Aoun to Karem: We hope the United States will adopt a policy that promotes peace in the region
Aoun Affirms to U.S. Official Keenness on Defense Strategy Talks
Berri meets US Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs in Ain Teeneh
FPM to Geagea: In whose interest is the relinquishment of charter principles that strengthen the presidency's position, claiming LF's support to current mandate?
Jumblatt meets with US Defense Department delegation
Jumblatt for preserving Beirut Port's fourth basin
Geagea Says Hariri Won't Step Down, Laments Reported Assad Call
Geagea after meeting US delegation: Continued army support is necessary
Strong Republic Bloc: Selfdistancing policy rendered Lebanon a stable oasis
Abi Khalil via Twitter: Book of conditions approved by LF ministers following elections same as the one rejected prior to elections
Forbes Middle East Magazine awards Claudine Aoun Roukoz
Hariri Says Won't Forget Damascus Role in Tripoli Blasts
Bassil, FPM Hit Back at Geagea over 'President Share' Remarks
Pro-Aoun MP Says President Keen on Hariri, Settlement
Report: Hizbullah Doesn't Prefer 'Majority Government'
Hezbollah is stronger than ever and closer to Europe than we think
The Hunt for Hezbollah’s Weapons and the Limits of Civil–military Cooperation
Houthi-Hezbollah Meeting Is Foreboding for Yemen's Future

Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on August 23-24/18
Trump Says Market would 'Crash' if He were Impeached
Al-Baghdadi Urges 'Jihad' in Purported New Recording
Saudi Reportedly Seeking Death Penalty for Woman Activist
British Airways, Air France suspend flights to and from Tehran
US and Russia discuss 'removing Iranian presence from Syria'
Knifeman near Paris killed mother, sister: Security source
Trump says market would ‘crash’ if he were impeached
Trump accuses ex-lawyer Cohen of making up ‘stories’ to get plea deal
US pastor’s lawyer plans appeal to Turkish constitutional court
UK-Iranian Zaghari-Ratcliffe freed from Tehran jail for 3 days: husband
Afghanistan will not attend Russia-led peace talks with Taliban
Lavrov says ‘uninvited foreign forces’ in Syria should leave, in reference to US
Netanyahu heads to Baltics in search of European allies

The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on August 23-24/18
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.

Abu Khalil: Bachir Believed that Power Is Not About Partitioning 23rd August 2018/Kataeb's Deputy-President Joseph Abu Khalil on Thursday said that Martyr President Bachir Gemayel was fully aware that a country shouldn't be governed by any armed force other than the army, and that no political faction can take the place of state institutions. Speaking in an interview on Voice of Lebanon radio station to mark the 36th election anniversary of President Bachir Gemayel, Abu Khalil said that the latter was keen on defending the state's independence and prestige, adding that Gemayel was against double standards and made sure to separate between power and party affairs once elected as president. "Power is not about partitioning and should be steered clear of nepotism and share distribution," he said. "We must continue to dream and work on fulfilling our dreams as Bachir once said."
Abu Khalil warned that the country is deteriorating and the rule of law is disappearing, saying that all the agreements that have come after the assassination of Bashir were all flawed given that they maintained the presence of non-state armed factions.

MP Nadim Gemayel Calls for Reviving Bachir's State Project 23rd August 2018/MP Nadim Gemayel on Thursday commemorated the 36th anniversary of the election of martyr President Bachir Gemayel, saying that the latter sought the establishment of a real and strong state. "Our responsibility is to revive the state-building project and make a change," he told Voice of Lebanon radio station. “Today, we are living in a jungle that is plagued by corruption… All that we want is to live in an independent, free and sovereign country without any tutelage of any kind,” Gemayel stated. “We have long stood against Palestinian, Syrian and Israeli occupation. Thus, we should not replace them with any Iranian or American or Saudi or any other tutelage." “The strength of Bachir lied in his ability to protect the Lebanese army. We need a state to which the citizens would belong without any foreign allegiances,” he stressed. “Idleness and carelessness are prevailing today as no one wants to make any extra efforts to form the government. This is unfortunate given that the country needs to be rescued while local parties are preoccupied with partitioning and pleasing foreign powers,” Gemayel said. “A country cannot be built as long as there are still certain parties that are only seeking to settle their accounts with others,” he stressed.

Aoun to Karem: We hope the United States will adopt a policy that promotes peace in the region
Thu 23 Aug 2018/NNA - President of the Republic, Michel Aoun, expressed his hope that "the United States of America would adopt a policy to promote peace in the Middle East and the world at large, since that would bring tranquility and stability to the people.""Lebanon is committed to implementing UN Security Council Resolution # 1701 with all its stipulations," Aoun told US Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security, Robert Story Karem, during their meeting at Baabda Palace today, in the presence of US Ambassador to Lebanon, Elizabeth Richard.
The President called on the United States "to exert pressure on Israel to stop its violations of Lebanese sovereignty, especially the national airspace that is subject to continuous breaches by enemy warplanes to bomb Syrian territories."He also stressed "the importance of Washington's support to renew the mandate of UNIFIL, without any modification in its functions, number and budget, because this helps in maintaining stability, especially that the Lebanese army is aiding the international forces in their tasks and coordinating with them to this end."President Aoun thanked the United States for its assistance to the Lebanese army, which "proved its high efficiency in its victory over terrorism and in carrying out all the tasks assigned to it, foremost of which is maintaining stability at home and eradicating active and dormant terrorist cells."Meanwhile, the President reiterated his "intention to call for a national dialogue on the defense strategy after the new government is formed."He also underlined "Lebanon's ongoing battle against any activity related to the financing of terrorism or money laundering," adding that "the laws adopted in Lebanon in this regard are applied firmly and accurately, as proven by the international financial institutions."In turn, Karem said he was pleased to meet with President Aoun, referring to the United States' appreciation for his efforts to develop the capabilities of the Lebanese army. Karem emphasized his country's desire to strengthen relations between the Lebanese and American armies, and explained his country's position on the situation in Lebanon and the region, outlining the US administration's adopted strategy in this area.
Aoun Affirms to U.S. Official Keenness on Defense Strategy Talks
Naharnet/August 23/18/President Michel Aoun on Thursday told a visiting U.S. official that he is determined to call for national dialogue over a national defense strategy for the country. Thanking the U.S. for the assistance it is offering to the Lebanese Army, Aoun reiterated his announcement that he is “determined to call for national dialogue over a defense strategy after the formation of the new government.” Aoun voiced his remarks in a meeting with U.S. official Robert Karem, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs. The meeting was also attended by U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Elizabeth Richard. In an apparent reference to the U.S. sanctions on Iran, Aoun emphasized that “Lebanon is committed to combating any activity related to financing terrorism or laundering money.” “The related laws in Lebanon are being implemented firmly and accurately and the international financial institutions have acknowledged this,” the president told the U.S. visitor. Karem for his part said he was pleased to meet Aoun as he highlighted Washington's “appreciation of the efforts he has exerted to develop the capabilities of the Lebanese Army,” Lebanon's National News Agency said. He also expressed his country's desire to “reinforce ties between the Lebanese and U.S. militaries,” explaining Washington's stance on the situations in Lebanon and the region, NNA added.

Berri meets US Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs in Ain Teeneh
Thu 23 Aug 2018/NNA - House Speaker, Nabih Berri, met on Thursday at his Residence in Ain Teeneh with U.S Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs in the Department of Defense, Robert Karem, and his accompanying delegation in the presence of U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon, Elizabeth Richard. Discussions dwelt on the recent developments in Lebanon and the broader region, in addition to bilateral relations between both countries. Earlier, Berri welcomed German Professor Robert Gorter, with the preface to the legislation on cannabis cultivation featuring high during their discussions.

FPM to Geagea: In whose interest is the relinquishment of charter principles that strengthen the presidency's position, claiming LF's support to current mandate?
Thu 23 Aug 2018/NNA - In an issued statement by the Free Patriotic Movement's Central Media Committee on Thursday, it responded to the Lebanese Forces Party Chief, Samir Geagea's recent talk concerning representation within cabinet, saying, "In whose interest lies the relinquishment of charter principles that boost the Presidency's position while LF claims its supportive stand to the mandate?""The Free Patriotic Movement reminds the Head of the Lebanese Forces that the political choices and electoral alliances of the supporting parties, and those opposing the President of the Republic and others, have nothing to do with the representation of the Presidency as a constitutional entity within the government," the FPM statement indicated. "The Free Patriotic Movement refers the LF Chief to the Lebanese Constitution, which adopts a parliamentary democratic system that relies on the people's referendum based on coalitions and blocs established by parties and figures, away from the President, and thus, represented as groups according to the election results," the statement explained. "Accordingly, is it acceptable to consider the President of the Republic, whose large and independent representation is well-noted, to be part of these alliances and blocs?" the statement went on. The FPM deemed that such a logic "weakens the Presidency's position and its presence in the executive authority," regardless of President Aoun's wide popularity. "Is it not enough what the Taef has taken away of the first Presidency's powers, for us to raise this, neither scientific nor constitutional, logic by considering the President as part of a parliamentary bloc for the sole reason that it expressed support to the Presidential mandate?" questioned the FPM statement.On the Syrian refugees' issue, the FPM wondered about the reasons behind the contradiction in Geagea's stances, namely in declaring support to Minister Gibran Bassil's position on this issue while rejecting his moves via-a-vis the Prime Minister's prerogatives. "In whose interest lies such contradiction in a sovereign cause?" inquired FPM.

Jumblatt meets with US Defense Department delegation
Thu 23 Aug 2018/NNA - Progressive Socialist Party Chief, former Minister and MP Walid Jumblatt, met this afternoon with the US Department of Defense delegation headed by Assistant Minister of Defense for International Security, Robert Karem, accompanied by US Ambassador to Lebanon, Elizabeth Richard, and the Director of Special Policy for Lebanon at the US Department of Defense, Anne Drissen. Also attending were Caretaker Higher Education Minister Marwan Hamadeh and MP's Akram Shehayeb and Ghazi Aridi. Talks during meeting centered on the general prevailing situation and recent developments, according to a statement by PSP's Media Commission.

Jumblatt for preserving Beirut Port's fourth basin
Thu 23 Aug 2018/NNA - Progressive Socialist Party Chief, former Minister and MP Walid Jumblatt, called via Twitter on Thursday for "maintaining the fourth basin in the Port of Beirut, so that the Syrian and Israeli Ports will not benefit at Lebanon's expense."

Geagea Says Hariri Won't Step Down, Laments Reported Assad Call
Naharnet/August 23/18/Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea has stressed that Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri will not step down from the mission of forming a new government, as he lamented a reported phone call between President Michel Aoun and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. “PM-designate Saad Hariri will not be cornered and will not step down. If some believe that they can press him to step down they are mistaken,” Geagea said in an interview with MTV. He also noted that there are no “foreign” obstacles hindering the Cabinet formation process, emphasizing that “the issue is domestic and revolving around the presence of the LF and the Progressive Socialist Party in the government.” “I call on PM-designate Hariri to present a draft line-up to the president should things continue in the same manner, but I believe that it will not be accepted by President Aoun,” Geagea added. The LF leader also said he does not endorse Aoun's claim that “the presidential race has started.”“No one is trying to constrain (caretaker Foreign) Minister (Jebran) Bassil, but, quite to the contrary, he is the one trying to constrain others,” Geagea added. Commenting on the reported call between Aoun and Assad, Geagea said: “I do not accept that President Aoun hold talks with Bashar al-Assad. This is unjustifiable and unnecessary.”

Geagea after meeting US delegation: Continued army support is necessary
Thu 23 Aug 2018/NNA - Lebanese Forces Party Chief, Samir Geagea, highlighted the need for continuous support to the Lebanese army, following his meeting this afternoon with the US Department of Defense delegation, headed by Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security, Robert Karem, in the presence of US Ambassador to Lebanon, Elizabeth Richard. The encounter included a tour d'horizon tackling the general prevailing situation in Lebanon and the Middle East. Talks also focused on the support of the Lebanese army. "There can neither be any national resurrection nor continuity without the Lebanese army, so its continued support is absolutely necessary," stressed Geagea.

Strong Republic Bloc: Selfdistancing policy rendered Lebanon a stable oasis

Thu 23 Aug 2018/NNA - The Strong Republic Parliamentary Bloc deemed Thursday that "the self-distancing policy adopted by Lebanon has rendered it a stable oasis." Following its meeting in Maarab this afternoon chaired by Lebanese Forces Party Chief, Samir Geagea, in the presence of Caretaker Social Affairs Minister, Pierre Bou Assi, and MP George Adwan, the Bloc stressed its keenness on forming the government the soonest possible, because the precarious living situation does not allow for further delay. "The Lebanese Forces has exerted all efforts to accelerate the cabinet formation, from its adherence to political calm to ensure suitable circumstances for deliberations, to providing the maximum possible concessions for the birth of the new government," the Bloc indicated. Furthermore, Bloc members emphasized Lebanon's urgent need for a socio-economic financial emergency plan, since the situation is intolerable and foreshadows actual disasters if radical solutions are not reached. Meanwhile, the Bloc expressed surprise at the deliberate insistence on normalization with the Syrian regime and the rising tension in the country regarding controversial dossiers that were supposed to be suspended for the moment to ensure political stability, especially that the war in Syria is not over yet and peace and reconciliation have not been achieved. Accordingly, the Bloc called for withdrawing this issue from discussion in order to avoid its implications on the government formation, and to maintain internal political stability pending a final settlement under the Arab and international umbrella.

Abi Khalil via Twitter: Book of conditions approved by LF ministers following elections same as the one rejected prior to elections
Thu 23 Aug 2018/NNA - "The book of conditions approved by the Lebanese Forces cabinet ministers after the elections is the same as the one they rejected before the elections in August 2017...Obstruction remains to pass their project: regional electricity that would allow them local funding like other parties," Caretaker Water and Energy Minister, Ceasar Abi Khalil, said via Twitter on Thursday. He added in a second tweet: "A party whose electricity project is the size of a generator owner!"

Forbes Middle East Magazine awards Claudine Aoun Roukoz
Thu 23 Aug 2018/NNA - Forbes Middle East Magazine awarded the founder and CEO of Clémentine Advertising Agency, Claudine Aoun Roukoz, for being one of the top Lebanese entrepreneurs in Lebanon's economy. In an issued statement by Claudine Roukoz's media bureau, it indicated: "Claudine Aoun Roukoz, CEO and founder of Clémentine Advertising Agency, was awarded for being one of the top entrepreneurs who influenced the Lebanese business and economic scene over the last decade at the Forbes Middle East Lebanon 100 High Profiles event. A gala dinner was organized to celebrate the achievements of Lebanon's most successful business leaders and influential figures whose enterprises are contributing to the growth of the local economy. During the event that took place on August 13, 2018 at Le Royal Hotel, Forbes Middle East Editor-in-Chief and CEO of Arab Publisher House, Mrs. Khuloud Al Omian, along with the representative of His Excellency General Michel Aoun, President of the Lebanese Republic, Minister of National Defense, Yaacoub El Sarraf, handed over the award to Mrs. Claudine Aoun Roukoz who said she was "very touched to receive such a prestigious accolade". She emphasized the "crucial role" that her family, and particularly her children, played in helping her climb the ladder in the business world and achieve success in her entrepreneurial career. Mrs. Aoun Roukoz, a natural-born entrepreneur, founded 'Clémentine' in September 2009. Since then, the venture has steadily been growing and consolidating its leadership in the market. She succeeded in leading her initially small Ad-Agency to a group of communication companies servicing Lebanese and regional top-notch clients. Political, human rights and environmental activist, she's also a special assistant to the President of the Lebanese Republic, H.E. General Michel Aoun, and Head of the National Commission for Lebanese Women where she thrives to ensure gender equality and social justice."
Hariri Says Won't Forget Damascus Role in Tripoli Blasts
Naharnet/August 23/18/Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri stressed Thursday that he cannot “forget” that two Syrian officers are accused of involvement in the deadly 2013 bombings that hit two mosques in the northern city of Tripoli. “On the fifth anniversary of the bombing of the al-Taqwa and al-Salam mosques, we all stand by Tripoli. We won't forget its martyrs and we won't forget that two Syrian regime intelligence officers took part in the crime and are being tried in absentia before the Judicial Council,” Hariri tweeted.
The PM-designate's remarks come at a time of high tensions in the country over the issue of restoring full relations with Damascus. On August 14, Hariri announced that the new government “will not be formed” should the pro-Damascus camp “insist on restoring Lebanese-Syrian ties.” “If others insist on restoring Lebanese-Syrian ties from the gateway of the reopened Nassib border crossing, then the government will not be formed,” Hariri said in a chat with reporters, referring to a key border crossing on the Syrian-Jordanian border that has been recently recaptured by Damascus. “I do not agree to a restoration of Lebanese-Syrian ties and this is nonnegotiable,” Hariri added. Pro-Hizbullah journalist Salem Zahran meanwhile announced that the PM-designate has told Hizbullah that his remarks were a “slip of the tongue.”

Bassil, FPM Hit Back at Geagea over 'President Share' Remarks
Naharnet/August 23/18/The Free Patriotic Movement and its chief Jebran Bassil snapped back Thursday at Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea over remarks he made about President Michel Aoun's share of seats in the new government. “Personal and collective political suicide is when a person harms himself, his brother and his community for the sake of political ministerial gains and a transient political moment,” Bassil tweeted. He also accused Geagea of “renouncing” the president's “jurisdiction,” the country's political “norms” and the FPM-LF agreement “while calling this support for the presidency.”The FPM meanwhile issued a statement warning that depriving the president of an independent ministerial share would “weaken the presidency and its position in the executive authority regardless of the president's identity.”The movement also reminded Geagea that the president's independent share was mentioned in the now-suspended Maarab agreement between the two parties. “We ask the LF's chief if this is how the president and his jurisdiction and tenure can be supported, while noting that any current concession would not only affect this presidential term but also the future presidential terms,” the FPM added. Geagea had explained in a TV interview on Wednesday evening that “the FPM has 17 or 18 MPs, while the Strong Lebanon bloc (29 MPs including those of the FPM) is the bloc of the new presidential tenure and accordingly its share includes the FPM's and that of the presidency combined.”

Pro-Aoun MP Says President Keen on Hariri, Settlement
Naharnet/August 23/18/President Michel Aoun is keen on the presidential settlement that led to his election and on Saad Hariri in the latter's capacity as Prime Minister-designate, an MP of the Strong Lebanon bloc has said. “Aoun's announcement that he will only wait until the beginning of September for the formation of the government is aimed at urging PM-designate Saad Hariri to form the government and not at creating a problem or dispute with him,” MP Salim Aoun told Asharq al-Awsat daily in remarks published Thursday. “The president and the Free Patriotic Movement are keen on the presidential settlement and on PM-designate Hariri, but we are also convinced that things cannot continue in the same manner with an open-ended timeframe,” Aoun added. “This would exhaust the presidential tenure and the achievements that should be made,” the lawmaker explained. He however added that his bloc is “confident that Hariri will not make us reach that stage because he also does not want it.”

Report: Hizbullah Doesn't Prefer 'Majority Government'
Naharnet/August 23/18/Hizbullah has informed concerned parties that it is not in favor of forming a so-called “majority government,” sources informed on Hizbullah's stances have said. “The party in interfering to certain limits in order to balance the stances. Its secretary general Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has stood against Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil's threat to resort to street protests two weeks ago, urging him to engage in dialogue with others and to take the initiative of visiting Speaker Nabih Berri,” the sources told al-Hayat newspaper in remarks published Thursday. “Berri's warnings against the repeated calls of some members of the Strong Lebanon bloc for withdrawing the parliamentary majority's mandate from Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri have also been heeded by Hizbullah, seeing as such a move is unconstitutional,” the sources added.

ANALYSIS/Hezbollah is stronger than ever and closer to Europe than we think
ازمينا صديّق من موقع العربية: حزب الله أقوى من أي وقت وأقرب إلى أوروبا أكثر مما نعتقد

Azmina Siddique/Al Arabiya/August 23/18
Hezbollah is stronger than at any time since its inception, according to a recent statement by the group’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah. The message was part of a television broadcast on the anniversary of a 2006 war with Israel, and in the ensuing 12 years Hezbollah is estimated to have significantly expanded its stockpile of weapons, including rockets and missiles.
Much of this increase in capability has taken place because of Hezbollah’s role in the Syrian conflict, where the Iran-backed group has its largest deployment outside of Lebanon (between 7,000 to 10,000 fighters) and is fighting alongside pro-Assad forces. According to the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Hezbollah has increased its weapons reserves, better trained its members and improved its tactical and operational skills during the conflict. Indeed, during the recent broadcast, Nasrallah announced the group would “very soon” celebrate victory in Syria.
Yet Hezbollah’s increase in operational capability will no doubt be offset by recently renewed US sanctions on Iran, which is estimated to fund its proxy Hezbollah by up to $200 million a year. These financial pressures are likely to make Hezbollah leverage its significant global network and put more effort into its international funding activities, which range from extortion to smuggling, spanning from South America to and via Europe.
Beyond the battlefield
Hezbollah has influence and operational capability beyond the battlefield, to which Europe is certainly not immune. For example, an undercover US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) investigation identified a UK-based Hezbollah associate who was carrying out money laundering as part of the group’s international drug trafficking network, alongside recent related arrests in France and Germany. A global network of shell corporations and criminal enterprises worth more than $1 billion a year also finances Hezbollah’s global terrorist activities, including a 2012 attack on a bus in Burgas, Bulgaria.
However, although Hezbollah presents a real threat to EU security and the issue has been debated in both the European and UK parliaments as recently as in January 2018, no EU member state apart from the Netherlands currently proscribes Hezbollah in its entirety. Instead, like the UK, the EU bans the group’s military wing and not its political one, even though in reality the group’s military and political leadership is unified. Even Nasrallah has implied there is little distinction between the two “wings” and Hezbollah’s deputy leader Naim Qassem has stated “we don't have a military wing and a political one”.
The decision to only partially proscribe Hezbollah reflects the complex nature of the organisation, which has a strong social welfare presence in Lebanon and holds half of the country’s parliamentary seats, following the elections in May. Indeed, when the initial decision to ban the militant wing of Hezbollah was made, UK authorities worried that full proscription of the organisation would hinder political and diplomatic engagement with Lebanon. Even earlier this year, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s Home Affairs team urged MPs to vote against a non-binding motion to ban the group in its entirety. Yet countries like the United States, Canada and the Netherlands have banned Hezbollah in full, but still continue to maintain full diplomatic relations with Lebanon.
Furthermore, full proscription of the group has received support from UK lawmakers from across the political spectrum, including Labour MP Joan Ryan and Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat. London Mayor Sadiq Khan has also called on the Home Secretary (Interior Minister) to ban the group in its entirety, as the loop-hole in distinguishing between the group’s two so-called ‘wings’ means that under UK law, the group’s supporters are free to fly Hezbollah’s machine-gun emblazoned flag on the streets of London every year during the ‘anti-Zionist’ Al Quds day march. These leading political voices have rightly recognised that seeing Hezbollah’s militant and political activities as distinct is a mistake.
The UK Home Secretary has the power to fully proscribe Hezbollah under the Terrorism Act of 2000 and should not allow Hezbollah’s multi-faceted nature to detract from the real and present threat it poses. Furthermore, the UK should encourage our EU neighbours to join us in a co-ordinated move, to signal Europe’s zero-tolerance towards militancy, crime and violence.
*Azmina Siddique is a Policy and Advocacy Advisor at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change. She tweets @AzminaSiddique
The Hunt for Hezbollah’s Weapons and the Limits of Civil–military Cooperation
Vanessa Newb/The Strategist/August 23/18
On 9 August in South Lebanon, a routine patrol of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was attacked by civilians. In the course of the incident, their vehicles were set on fire and their weapons and equipment seized. The event was exceptional: UNIFIL rarely encounters this level of violence from the local population. But there’s more to the story than random civilian violence.
In an age in which obtaining local cooperation for foreign militaries is viewed as a useful, if not essential, part of a successful peacekeeping operation, the case of the UNIFIL mission and the hunt for Hezbollah’s weapons provide useful insights into the limits of civil–military cooperation (CIMIC).
Since the six-week war between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006, the UNIFIL force based in South Lebanon has been tasked with overseeing the implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1701, which has three main objectives: maintaining security on the Blue Line between Lebanon and Israel (a line of withdrawal that constitutes the current border); reintroducing the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) to South Lebanon; and clearing South Lebanon of weapons other than those of the Lebanese government.
While the first two tasks have been well managed by the force, it is the third that tests the limits of UNIFIL’s comprehensive CIMIC program. The mission, composed of around 40 nationalities, conducts many CIMIC activities at both mission and battalion levels. For example, it provides free medical and dental care; emergency hospital treatment; funding for infrastructure; classes in yoga, English, cooking and computer skills; and schemes to aid the local economy, such as training in organic agriculture and training for medical staff.
Civilian relations with UNIFIL are good. The local population appreciates the material and technical benefits the mission provides and values the highly responsive nature of the force. The Blue Line is generally respected by locals, and the UNIFIL–LAF relationship is described by both parties as highly productive and congenial. But when it comes to searching for Hezbollah arms, UNIFIL is caught in the crosshairs of a domestic and international political conflict that it is unable to resolve. The international community would like UNIFIL to fully execute all of its objectives and rid the area of Hezbollah. At the local level, however, many civilians don’t want Hezbollah to give up its weapons. They believe that only Hezbollah can guarantee their security, not UNIFIL, and not the LAF, which, while respected, is regarded as underequipped. As one local councilman I interviewed put it, ‘It’s not that we don’t want our national army to defend us from Israel, but, until now, only Hezbollah has managed to do that for us.’
The debate over Hezbollah’s weapons is also a national one. The Lebanese government is split on the issue. One side, known as the March 14 movement, insists that Hezbollah’s military wing must disband and hand its weapons over to the LAF. Hezbollah argues that the LAF doesn’t have the military training and expertise to present a credible deterrent to Israel. Hezbollah also suspects that the March 14 movement would use its own weapons against it to destroy the group. That suspicion isn’t entirely unreasonable: WikiLeaks documents revealed that during the 2006 war, elements within the movement were discreetly advising the Israelis where to hit Hezbollah the hardest. Hezbol­lah also argues that the movement is soft on Israel and can’t be trusted to use the LAF against Israel to ensure that Lebanese sovereignty is respected. In other words, Hezbollah argues that it can’t be confident that the state would put its weapons to good use if it were to hand them over.
For UNIFIL, patrolling and searching for unauthorised weapons is a delicate task. Although the LAF is broadly supportive of the mission, it also has to accept that Hezbollah is a legitimate elected part of the Lebanese government, and in fact the dominant faction, to which the LAF ultimately has to answer. Hezbollah’s leader, Hasan Nasrallah, refuses to separate the group’s military wing from its political wing. UNIFIL’s inability to search private property in South Lebanon, where weapons are believed to be kept, isn’t just due to local support for the group and the risk of blowback in the form of attacks on patrolling troops. As the strategic partner of the LAF, UNIFIL needs to maintain good relations, but the LAF is also sensitive about its relations with the local population, especially in the south where it didn’t patrol until 2006.
Not only does the LAF have to consider its political masters in Beirut, but it’s also reluctant to search property without first obtaining a court order. This issue dates back to the civil war when the LAF was criticised for commandeering private property illegally. Concern for its own status and legitimacy in Lebanon renders the LAF unwilling or unable to conduct raids on civilian property.
The delicate balance of deterrence and cooperation required in peacekeeping is a unique one. But, ultimately, UNIFIL through its CIMIC and civil affairs activity in South Lebanon has established local credibility, but not local legitimacy. The local population hasn’t internalised the goals of the mission sufficiently to actively assist UNIFIL in searching for and destroying Hezbollah’s weapons. What’s been generated by CIMIC instead is a contingent and conditional relationship with the local population based on material self-interest.
That’s not a bad thing in and of itself, and this relationship enables UNIFIL to patrol in relative safety and prevent escalations on the Blue Line, which ultimately helps maintain peace and security in South Lebanon. But the limits of CIMIC are clearly revealed in this case, and raise the question of whether it’s ever really possible for a foreign force to obtain local legitimacy when there’s no national consensus over who the bad guys really are.

Houthi-Hezbollah Meeting Is Foreboding for Yemen's Future

The National/ August 23/18
The grainy, seemingly innocuous photograph of four solemn men sitting on sofas has far graver implications than it implies. The picture, disseminated by Hezbollah’s media office over the weekend, shows its Iran-sponsored leader Hassan Nasrallah sitting alongside a delegation of high-ranking Houthi militia, whose violent campaign in Yemen has perpetuated a three-year war. It confirmed what many in this region already know: that via its proxies, the Iranian regime is joining the dots in its bid to build a land bridge from Tehran to Beirut and destabilise the region in the process.
It is deeply concerning that the two groups are aligning interests, ahead of UN talks that aim to bring peace and prosperity to Yemen, not further chaos. The Houthi rebels, who have repeatedly tried to assert their right to control parts of Hodeidah and are embedded in Sanaa, are determined to stake a permanent foothold and power base. But as UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash tweeted in response to the photo of Houthi leaders cosying up to Hezbollah: “Lebanon cannot be a logistical or political station for Houthis”. For with each new alliance which the Iranian regime uses to spread its poisonous roots, the region teeters closer to instability.
The timing of the Lebanon meeting is significant given the approach of peace talks in Geneva between the Houthis and Yemen’s rightful government on September 6. The Iranians want a seat at the table but have no right to occupy one. It is clear that the Houthis are posturing and flaunting their ties to Hezbollah and Iran in a bid to negotiate from a position of apparent strength. It also seems that the Houthis are seeking to replicate what Hezbollah has achieved in Lebanon – to carve out a state within the state and fulfil Tehran’s military ambitions under the guise of governance. The flaws of such a system are evident in Lebanon’s fractured. Meanwhile the Houthis have shown themselves utterly incapable of governing in Yemen, where they have relied on violence and tyranny. Hezbollah’s preposterous claim that the Houthis are battling “imperialism” are nonsense when it is the rebels who have supplanted Abdrabu Mansur Hadi’s legitimate government. Indeed, the image released by Hezbollah makes a mockery of its previous denial of co-operation with the Houthis. In June, the Saudi-led coalition reported it had killed eight Hezbollah fighters alongside Houthi militia in Yemen. Meanwhile Hezbollah has been accused of providing training, support and ballistic missiles, supplied by Iran, to the Houthis. At this watershed moment, as the date of talks approaches, this unholy alliance is an omen of mal-intent. Attempts by the Houthis to establish a presence in Lebanon or to replicate the Hezbollah model within Yemen will threaten the region’s security still further and destroy hopes for peace for Yemenis, who must be served better.

The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on August 23-24/18
Trump Says Market would 'Crash' if He were Impeached
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 23/18/President Donald Trump said in an interview aired Thursday that the U.S. economy would collapse if he were impeached. "I will tell you what, if I ever got impeached, I think the market would crash. I think everybody would be very poor, because without this thinking, you would see -- you would see numbers that you wouldn't believe in reverse," Trump told the program Fox and Friends. Trump was responding to a question on his mounting legal woes after his former attorney Michael Cohen said under oath that Trump instructed him to commit a felony by breaking U.S. campaign finance laws. The U.S. president then launched into a rambling statement on job creation and other economic progress he said had been made during his presidency and insisted Americans would be much worse off if Hillary Clinton had won the 2016 election. "I don't know how you can impeach somebody who has done a great job," Trump said.

Al-Baghdadi Urges 'Jihad' in Purported New Recording

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 23/18/The leader of the Islamic State jihadist group Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has called on Muslims to wage "jihad" in a purported new audio recording. He also called for attacks in the West in the Telegram message on Eid al-Adha, which comes as IS has lost most of its territory in Iraq and Syria. It is the first purported recording of the IS leader to be released since September last year. "Those who forget their religion, patience, jihad against their enemies, and their certainty in the creator's promise lose and are disgraced," the leader said. "But when they hold on to it, they are mighty and victorious, even if after a certain time."IS overran large swathes of Syria and neighboring Iraq in 2014, proclaiming a "caliphate" in areas they controlled. But they have since lost most of that to various offensives in both countries. The "caliphate will remain, God willing", Baghdadi however said in Wednesday's recording, addressing followers in the Middle East, Asia and Africa. It was not clear when the message was recorded, but Baghdadi appeared to criticize a $100-million pledge by Saudi Arabia last week to help rebuild Syria's northeast. He threatened the United States and Russia, who have both backed offensives against IS, saying that the jihadists had prepared "horrors" for them. Speaking of war-torn Syria, he criticized rebel fighters for agreeing to surrender deals with the Damascus regime, and called on opposition fighters to join his jihadist group. The IS chief made his only known public appearance in Iraq's second city of Mosul in July 2014.
-$25 million reward
Baghdadi has been pronounced dead on several occasions, but an Iraqi intelligence official said in May that he remains alive in Syrian territory by the Iraqi border. Baghdadi was said to move around with only a small group of followers. Originally from Iraq, Baghdadi has been dubbed the "most wanted man on the planet" and the United States is offering a $25 million reward for his capture. The Iraqi official said the noose was closing around the jihadist leader after Iraqi forces captured five top IS commanders in an unprecedented raid in Syria on March 24. In July, Iraqi intelligence services said Baghdad's son Hudhayfah al-Badri had been killed in Syria by three Russian missile targeting a cave where he was hiding. In September 2017, in a voice message attributed to Baghdadi, the IS leader called on his fighters in Syria and Iraq to "resist" their enemies. Today, after a vast military campaign by Iraqi forces backed by a U.S.-led coalition, the jihadist group only has sleeping cells in Iraq. In Syria, IS has faced two separate offensives by Russia-backed regime forces and another by a Kurdish-Arab alliance supported by the U.S.-led coalition. They hold a few pockets in the far east of the country near the Iraqi border, and retain a presence in the vast desert stretching from the capital to the frontier. IS has claimed a string of deadly attacks in the West in recent years. Baghdadi claimed responsibility for a July attack in Canada in which a gunman killed two people. The jihadist group had already said they were behind the shooting, but Canadian police said there was nothing to substantiate it. Baghdadi called on followers to carry out more attacks in the West. In Syria, the group killed around 250 people in attacks in the southern province of Sweida last month and still holds dozens of hostages, mostly women and children.

Saudi Reportedly Seeking Death Penalty for Woman Activist
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 23/18/Saudi Arabia's public prosecutor is seeking the death penalty against five human rights activists, including, for the first time a woman, campaigners say.The five stand accused of inciting mass protests in mainly Shiite areas of the Sunni-ruled kingdom's oil-rich Eastern Province and human rights groups charged that the execution threat was a calculated bid to stifle dissent. It comes as Saudi Arabia takes an increasingly combative approach to international criticism of its human rights record, imposing a raft of sanctions against Canada after it spoke out earlier this month. Female activist, Israa al-Ghomgham, who has documented the protests in Eastern Province since they began in 2011, would be the first woman activist to face the death sentence for rights-related work. She was arrested at her home along with her husband in December 2015, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said in separate statements this week. "Israa al-Ghomgham and four other individuals are now facing the most appalling possible punishment simply for their involvement in anti-government protests," said Samah Hadid, Amnesty International's Middle East director of campaigns. "We are urging the Saudi Arabian authorities to drop these plans immediately." Saudi officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
HRW said Ghomgham, her husband and the three other defendants face charges that "do not resemble recognizable crimes.""Any execution is appalling, but seeking the death penalty for activists like Israa al-Ghomgham, who are not even accused of violent behaviour, is monstrous," its Middle East director Sarah Leah Whitson said.
Horrifying message'
Amnesty said the unprecedented call for a death sentence against Ghomgham was a clear attempt to scare other dissidents into silence. "Sentencing Israa al-Ghomgham to death would send a horrifying message that other activists could be targeted in the same way for their peaceful protest and human rights activism," Hadid said. Amnesty says at least 12 other leading activists, including eight women, have been arrested in the kingdom since May -- just before the authorities ended their decades-long ban on women driving. Many of them had opposed both the driving ban and the wider system of statutory male "guardians" for women -- fathers, husbands or other relatives, whose permission is required to travel or get married. Earlier this month, Canada sparked fury in Riyadh by calling for the "immediate release" of the detained activists, including award-winning women's rights campaigner Samar Badawi. Saudi Arabia froze all new trade and investments, moved to pull out thousands of Saudi students from Canadian universities and pledged to stop all medical treatment programs in Canada. State airline Saudia also suspended flights to Toronto. The ultra-conservative kingdom has one of the world's highest rates of execution, with suspects convicted of terrorism, homicide, rape, armed robbery and drug trafficking facing the death penalty. Human rights groups have repeatedly raised concerns about the fairness of trials in the kingdom, an absolute monarchy governed under a strict form of Islamic law. The government says the death penalty is an effective deterrent against serious crime.

British Airways, Air France suspend flights to and from Tehran
Arab News/August 23/18/LONDON: British Airways and Air France on Thursday said they would suspend flights to Tehran from next month for commercial reasons, as US sanctions against Iran start to bite. "We are suspending our London to Tehran service as the operation is currently not commercially viable," BA said. The last outbound flight to Tehran will be on Sept. 22, and the last inbound flight from Tehran will be on Sept. 23, it added. The airline said the decision had nothing to do with US President Donald Trump's imposition of new sanctions on Iran, which has affected foreign businesses operating in the country, with many pulling out altogether. Air France, which had run connections to the Iranian capital via its low-cost operator Joon, told AFP it would axe the route on Sept. 18, blaming "poor commercial viability." The French carrier had already cut down on its Paris to Tehran connections from three a week to just one earlier this month. Dutch carrier KLM, part of the same group as Air France, said last month that it was also suspending Tehran flights due to "negative results and financial outlook."British Airways said it was in discussions with partner airlines to offer customers rebooking options, or would offer full refunds. The Airlines are the latest European companies announcing they will halt services and projects in Iran after the US reimposed certain sanctions on Tehran this month. The sanctions also target any companies continuing to do business with Iran. In November, the US will reimpose canctions against Iran's energy sector. Air France had resumed links to Tehran in April 2016 after the signing of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Lufthansa and Alitalia are among European companies still running flights to Iran despite the US announcement. On Monday French oil giant Total announced that it had officially quit its multi-billion-dollar gas project in the country. German carmaker Daimler, Deutsche Telekom and Deutsche Bahn have also all pulled out. Iran's top envoy to Britain said British Airways' decision to suspend flights to Tehran from September was regrettable. "Considering the high demand ... the decision by the airliner is regrettable," Hamid Baeidinejad said on Twitter.

US and Russia discuss 'removing Iranian presence from Syria'

Arab News/August 23/18/LONDON: Donald Trump’s national security adviser said on Thursday he discussed with a senior Russian official the removal of the Iranian presence from Syria. Speaking after meeting the head of Russia's National Security Council, John Bolton said the White House’s aim after pulling out of the nuclear deal with Iran, partly because of Tehran’s interventions in Arab countries, was to make sanctions “more extensive and effective.” “Our objective is that all Iranian forces return to Iran ... And we talked about a variety of ways in which it might be accomplished through a series of steps,” Bolton said after talks in Geneva. In May, Trump pulled the US out of the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, which curbed Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for an easing of crippling economic sanctions. Trump criticised the deal for allowing Iran to continue its ballistic missile program and that Tehran had continued its aggressive foreign policy through its proxy militias in country’s like Syria and Yemen. Russia’s involvement in Syria has been a source of tension with the US. Russia and Iran have both provided vital military support for Bashar Al-Assad, who now has the upper hand in the seven-year war. The US reintroduced sanctions against a number of areas of the Iranian economy this month, including dollar-related transactions. In November sanctions are to be introduced against Iran’s energy sector. Bolton said that the sanctions were designed to “put maximum pressure on the regime.” The Trump advisor also said he had warned Moscow against meddling in the US midterm elections in November. “I made it clear we wouldn't tolerate (election) meddling in 2018 and we were prepared to take necessary steps to prevent it from happening," Bolton said after more than five hours of talks with Patrushev. The US has already imposed economic sanctions against Russia over its alleged meddling in the 2016 US presidential election. Moscow denies the allegations. Bolton said the issue of meddling in elections had prevented the two sides from issuing a joint final statement, Reuters reported. Meanwhile, Republican politicians are calling for Iran to be expelled from the main financial system that oversees international bank transfers. A group of 16 senators led by Ted Cruz of Texas urged Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin on Thursday to take “all necessary steps” to disconnect Iran from the SWIFT network. They said the renewed US sanctions would not be effective unless that step is taken. In the latest signs that the sanctions on Iran are starting to bite, British Airways and Air France both said on Thursday they would be halting flights to Tehran next month.

Knifeman near Paris killed mother, sister: Security source
Staff writer, Al Arabiya/EnglishThursday, 23 August 2018/Two persons weres killed and one seriously wounded in a knife attack in the Paris suburb of Trappes, a police source said. The knife attacker was then shot down by police and killed, the source said.
Meanwhile, a French interior ministry source confirmed that the two killed in in the knife attack were mother and sister of assailant. Earlier Reuters quoted a source as saying that: “The reason behind the attack and his profile are not known yet and are being looked into.”
On the other hand, ISIS the extremist group claimed t the knife attack that killed two people 30 Km outside the French capital on Thursday. “The person who carried out the attack in Trappes, southwest of Paris, was an Islamic State fighter,” its propaganda channel Amaq said. “He carried out the attack in response to calls to target subjects of the countries of the coalition” fighting IS, it said. Trappes is an underprivileged town situated in an overall wealthy area west of Paris, with a population of around 30,000 and is part of the far suburbs of the greater Paris area. Only a short drive from the wealthy area of Versailles, home to the world-famous Versailles Palace, the town is known for problems linked to poverty. It has a large Muslim population and about 50 locals are suspected of having left France to fight for the ISIS extremist group in Syria and Iraq, French security sources have previously told AFP. With Agencies

Trump says market would ‘crash’ if he were impeached

AFP, Washington/Thursday, 23 August 2018/President Donald Trump said in an interview aired Thursday that the US economy would collapse if he were impeached. “I will tell you what, if I ever got impeached, I think the market would crash. I think everybody would be very poor, because without this thinking, you would see- you would see numbers that you wouldn’t believe in reverse,” Trump told the program Fox and Friends. Trump was responding to a question on his mounting legal woes after his former attorney Michael Cohen said under oath that Trump instructed him to commit a felony by breaking US campaign finance laws. The US president then launched into a rambling statement on job creation and other economic progress he said had been made during his presidency and insisted Americans would be much worse off if Hillary Clinton had won the 2016 election. “I don’t know how you can impeach somebody who has done a great job,” Trump said.

Trump accuses ex-lawyer Cohen of making up ‘stories’ to get plea deal

AFP, Washington/Wednesday, 22 August 2018/US President Donald Trump lashed out at Michael Cohen on Wednesday after his former lawyer implicated him in campaign finance violations, accusing him of making up “stories” in order to get a plea deal. The president's longtime lawyer dealt him a bitter political blow on Tuesday as he admitted to charges in New York that included making illegal campaign contributions -- and pointed to the president as a co-conspirator. At almost the same time, Trump's former campaign chief Paul Manafort was found guilty of eight counts of tax and bank fraud by a jury in Virginia. In his first reaction to the Cohen bombshell, Trump asserted in a series of tweets that his campaign finance violations were “not a crime.”“Michael Cohen plead (sic) guilty to two counts of campaign finance violations that are not a crime,” he tweeted, adding that “President Obama had a big campaign finance violation and it was easily settled!”Trump's former lawyer, Michael Cohen, leaves federal court in New York City. (Reuters) Trump contrasted Cohen's actions with those of Manafort, who he described as “such a brave man.”“I feel very badly for Paul Manafort and his wonderful family,” Trump wrote. “Unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to 'break' - make up stories in order to get a 'deal.'““A large number of counts, ten, could not even be decided in the Paul Manafort case. Witch Hunt!” Trump wrote, referring to the counts on which the jury could not reach a unanimous decision. He did not have similarly kind words for his ex-attorney. “If anyone is looking for a good lawyer, I would strongly suggest that you don't retain the services of Michael Cohen!” Trump wrote.

US pastor’s lawyer plans appeal to Turkish constitutional court
Reuters, Istanbul/Wednesday, 22 August 2018/The lawyer for the American Christian pastor on trial for terrorism charges in Turkey said on Wednesday he planned to appeal to the constitutional court to seek Andrew Brunson’s release after being rejected by a lower court last week. Brunson is at the center of a row between Turkey and the United States, which has exacerbated a crisis in Turkey’s lira and reverberated across global markets. The evangelical pastor, who has lived in Turkey for two decades, has been detained for 21 months on terrorism charges, which he denies. He is under house arrest. “Once the upper court’s rejection has been confirmed in writing we will apply to the constitutional court,” lawyer Ismail Cem Halavurt said in comments reported by Turkey’s Hurriyet newspaper that he confirmed to Reuters. Once domestic legal avenues are exhausted, if necessary the defence would then apply to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), he said. “We are hopeful regarding the constitutional court, but if it is rejected there, we will go to the ECHR without hesitation,” he said. The court in Turkey’s Izmir province which last week rejected the appeal said evidence was still being collected and the pastor posed a flight risk, according to a copy of the court ruling seen by Reuters. Abdulkadir Selvi, a Hurriyet newspaper columnist close to the government, likened the constitutional court appeal plan to the case of journalist Mehmet Altan, who took a similar course of action and was released in June after being jailed on charges of aiding coup plotters. Brunson is accused of terrorism charges and aiding the network of a US-based Islamic preacher blamed by Ankara for masterminding a coup attempt in July 2016 against President Tayyip Erdogan. In an interview with Reuters on Monday, US President Donald Trump said he would give Turkey no concessions in return for the release of Brunson. Ankara has not responded to Trump’s comments. Trump, who counts evangelical Christians among his core supporters, has become a vocal champion of the pastor’s case.

UK-Iranian Zaghari-Ratcliffe freed from Tehran jail for 3 days: husband
AFP, London/Thursday, 23 August 2018/Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian woman who has been in prison in Tehran for more than two years on sedition charges, has been released for three days, her husband said Thursday. “Nazanin was released from Evin prison on furlough this morning. Initially the release is for three days -- her lawyer is hopeful this can be extended,” Richard Ratcliffe said in a statement.

Afghanistan will not attend Russia-led peace talks with Taliban
Reuters, AFP, Kabul, Washington/Wednesday, 22 August 2018/Afghanistan will not attend peace talks hosted by Russia, two senior government officials said on Wednesday, a decision that could make Moscow reconsider its plan to invite the Taliban to a multinational conference to discuss the future of the country. The conference scheduled for September 4 is aimed at bringing Taliban representatives to the negotiating table in Moscow. Russia has invited 12 countries, including the United States, to the Moscow talks but Washington has declined the invitation. “We have decided against attending the Moscow conference,” said an official working with the foreign ministry in Kabul, adding that the government will “hold direct talks” with the Taliban, without the direct involvement of foreign powers. ‘Opportunity for peace’ Meanwhile, the top commander for US and NATO forces in Afghanistan said on Wednesday that warring parties now have an “unprecedented” opportunity for peace, and insisted President Donald Trump’s strategy for the beleaguered country is working. “We have an unprecedented opportunity, or window of opportunity, for peace right now,” said General John Nicholson, the outgoing commander of NATOs Resolute Support mission. He spoke to Pentagon reporters a year after Trump unveiled his strategy for Afghanistan, which includes renewed efforts to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table.

Lavrov says ‘uninvited foreign forces’ in Syria should leave, in reference to US

Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Thursday, 23 August 2018/Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said all foreign forces in Syria, which have not received an invitation from Bashar al-Assad’s regime, should be withdrawn, in reference to US forces. Lavrov’s remark came in response to US national security adviser John Bolton’s comments on the need for Iran to withdraw from Syria. Russia has accused the United States of obstructing counterterrorism efforts in the Syrian province of Idlib. On Wednesday, the US National Security Adviser John Bolton said that Russia is “stuck” in Syria and looking for others to fund its post-war reconstruction, , describing this as an opportunity for Washington to press for Iranian forces to quit the civil war-wracked country. Read more

Netanyahu heads to Baltics in search of European allies

AFP, Jerusalem/Thursday, 23 August 2018/Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday he wanted to counter the EU's “not always friendly” relations with his country by deepening ties with eastern European nations, as he left for a Baltic summit. “I want to achieve a balance in the European Union's not always friendly relations with Israel in order to maintain fairer relations,” Netanyahu said before boarding the plane for the first-ever visit by an Israeli premier to Lithuania. “I am doing it through contacts with blocs of European Union countries, eastern European countries, and now with Baltic countries and other countries, of course.” Netanyahu will meet the leaders of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia together in Vilnius during his visit, which is set to last until Sunday. He has regularly sought sympathetic ears within the EU, particularly among countries that can serve as a counterweight to the critical treatment Israel often receives from western European nations over its policies in the Palestinian territories it occupies. Netanyahu has also been eager to convince European countries to exert more pressure on Iran after the United States pulled out of the nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers and re-imposed sanctions -- something Israel had advocated for. European countries have sought to rescue the deal, to which the EU was one of the signatories. They say it is working as intended, keeping Israel's arch-enemy Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons for now. Separately from the Baltics, Netanyahu has found common cause among eastern and central European countries with nationalist leaders, notably the so-called Visegrad Group of Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. During a visit to Hungary last year, he denounced EU demands of Israel -- such as those related to its occupation of the West Bank -- as “absolutely crazy”, in closed-door remarks picked up by a microphone and overheard by journalists.
The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on August 23-24/18
Bahrain — the economy is in focus again!
Hussein Shobokshi/Al Arabiya/August 23/18
As the fear-mongering campaign against Bahrain’s economy predicting gloom and doom continues, it is very important to separate news reports about the general state of the economy in the region and those just focusing on Bahrain’s woes. Since the Gulf Arab states are reeling from severe economic recession, Bahrain cannot be an exception. As a matter of fact I generally follow news sources as much as I follow the news itself because today we are living in an era of fake news and controlled media. The sources of the negative coverage of Bahrain continue to be the media organs of the coup regime in Qatar and the regime of Wilayat Al-Faqih in Iran and its proxy — the terrorist organization of Hezbollah — in Lebanon. This negative coverage is not accidental, it is in fact part of a systematic and sustained campaign to harm Bahrain and its economic interests and the events in the recent past bear testimony to this fact, which must be dealt with earnestly.
Banking, financial hub
Following the breakout of civil war in Lebanon, financial institutions in Beirut, which served as a regional financial hub, looked towards Bahrain as an attractive and a viable alternative due to its political stability and the strength of its banking system. Gradually, Bahrain became the most lucrative destination for global financial institutions replacing Beirut. Later in the same period, as Britain was preparing to withdraw from Hong Kong and hand it over to China after the independence agreement, London was seriously looking for an alternative “destination” for capital investments in the east. Bahrain was among the three names Britain had shortlisted for the final selection and suddenly Hamad Bin Khalifa, who was then crown prince of the coup regime in Qatar, led a fierce campaign against Bahrain for its alleged “occupation” of Qatari islands (Qatar and its ruling family belong to Bahrain). The sources of the negative coverage of Bahrain continue to be the media organs of the coup regime in Qatar and the regime of Wilayat Al-Faqih in Iran and its proxy — the terrorist organization of Hezbollah — in Lebanon. This negative coverage is not accidental, it is in fact part of a systematic and sustained campaign to harm Bahrain and its economic interests and the events in the recent past bear testimony to this fact, which must be dealt with earnestly Qatar began sending mercenaries to provoke military skirmishes on the islands, which Qatar falsely claims that Bahrain occupies. Qatar also launched its media platforms for propping up strange characters in the name of Bahraini opposition and appointed a public relations company specializing in “smear campaigns” to highlight negative news in the British press about Bahrain. Manama’s ‘smart’ economic strides  The campaign was successful and Bahrain was excluded as a candidate. Bahrain then made “smart” economic strides. Bahrain now hosts the headquarters of the largest asset management company, Investcorp, which continues to be a leading global provider and manager of alternative investments. Apart from it, Bahrain has been able to bring the most important sporting event to the region, the Formula One race. Yes, there are major problems and challenges facing Bahrain. It is not the only one in this matter. This is why it is important to carefully reflect who is saying what and who is the real beneficiary. Do the coup regime in Qatar and the regime of the Wilayat Al-Faqih in Iran wish good for Bahrain so that the news from them is taken seriously? On the contrary, their long list of schemes against Bahrain makes decision makers in Bahrain cautious and careful. There are problems and challenges facing Bahrain in economic affairs. It is not a private Bahraini case, and there are wise people inside Bahrain who are capable of solving it because it is not the first challenge they face.

Turkey-US military ties will endure despite political crisis
Dr. Theodore Karasik/Arab News/August 23/18
Let’s get to the point: Turkey’s military relationship with the US is not going to be vastly changed by the ongoing political punching match between Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Donald Trump over American Pastor Andrew Brunson and an array of other issues. Politics, especially today, is noisy, distracting, and vicious. Military-to-military relations operate on a different tempo than bilateral politics. The Pentagon said there has been no interruption in the military relationship between Washington and Ankara amid a tariff war.
The plight of Brunson, an American citizen held illegally in Turkey since 2016, is driving the current war of words and economics. The White House is clear on the fact that Brunson is being treated as a political prisoner by Turkey and so is sanctioning some of its highest officials.
Ankara tried to raise the deportation of Pennsylvania-based Turkish fugitive Fethullah Gulen and later asked the White house to drop investigations into one of Turkey’s main banks, Halkbank, for breaking US sanctions over the financial institution’s dealings with Iran. This White House is blunt: A real NATO ally wouldn't have arrested Brunson in the first place; and the Gulen issue is completely off limits.
The US Congress is acting in concert with the White House in a sign of unusual unity. Turkey is an F-35 program partner, with key facilities in the country geared specifically for the program and tied ultimately to Ankara’s NATO flank. Turkey is currently slated to receive two of the jets, but Congress is slated to block the transfer as part of the Brunson affair. Just two months ago, despite the growing political crisis, Lockheed Martin formally handed over the two F-35s for Turkish pilots to begin training alongside American pilots in Arizona. These jets are the first of what Ankara hopes will be a robust 100-aircraft fleet.
Moreover, the $716 billion John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 asks the Pentagon to produce a plan within 90 days to outline how Turkey will be phased out of the production chain of the F-35 and how much this change of plan would cost the US and other countries. While that study is being conducted, the American defense sales strategy will need to undergo a rethink if there is a strong trickle-down effect. It is important to point out that Erdogan and Trump will likely be at the UN General Assembly meeting next month.
Despite increasingly toxic Turkey-US relations, the constant is the two countries' military relationship, which will continue despite all the theatrics and Twitter explosions.
Turkey’s dealings with Russia are causing an American headache. The Pentagon is concerned about Turkey’s relationship with Moscow, especially regarding the $2.5 billion deal to purchase and eventually deploy Russia’s S-400 missile defense system. This standalone, non-interoperable air defense missile system adds nothing to Turkey’s defense and is a political card that will allow Russian military personnel into the NATO country to tend to its maintenance and repair. Yet, if Turkey’s economy is suffering for a prolonged period of time, payment to Russia will not come soon — unless Qatar injects more money into Turkey’s ailing economy. The Turkish-US political relationship is also fraying over Washington’s training support for Ankara’s enemies in northern Syria. Turkey is seeking to expel the American-trained and equipped Kurdish forces that were necessary in fighting Daesh. Equally contentious for America and NATO is the airbase at Incirlik. It has been a political pawn since its inception, so whatever occurs with the base and whether there are restrictions is all part of the political theater.
Turkey sees itself as being in a position of power. It is one of the oldest and largest of the NATO forces and sees itself as an ally of the organization, as well as the “tip of the spear” in the fight against Daesh both internally and externally. Now back to the main point: Turkish-US military cooperation continues to deepen in Syria despite the crisis in political relations. The two NATO allies are engaging in joint military patrols in northern Syria’s Manbij region. These patrols are building local capacity for Ankara in terms of transfer of authority and local governance. Turkey likes to show its success in Afrin as a model. Naturally, Manbij has been a point of tension in Turkish-US relations since the Syrian Democratic Forces captured the city from Daesh. Importantly, a large part of the SDF is made up of the Syrian Kurdish militia the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which is considered by Ankara as a terrorist group linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). But that is about to change thanks to the joint Turkish-American patrols. These patrols will create an environment that will lead the YPG to move east of the Euphrates. With this move, Turkey will control a broad swath of northern Syria that might be in better hands than it would be with Damascus, which may be beneficial to Washington in the future. Nevertheless, given the increasingly toxic Turkish-US relationship and its unpredictability, the potential fallout from an accident that is not de-conflicted quickly could ruin immediate military-to-military relations. That is a possibility, but the military bonds between Turkey and the US remain strong. Nowadays assumptions and institutions are constantly shifting — the constant is the Turkish-American military-to-military relationship, which will continue despite all the theatrics and Twitter explosions.
**Dr. Theodore Karasik is a senior adviser to Gulf State Analytics in Washington, D.C. He is a former RAND Corporation Senior Political Scientist who lived in the UAE for 10 years, focusing on security issues. Twitter: @tkarasik
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view

America’s Iran sanctions complicate Iraqi politics
Talmiz Ahmad/Arab News/August 23/18
Iraq’s caretaker Prime Minister Haider Abadi has had a difficult fortnight. On Aug. 7, US President Donald Trump reinstated sanctions on Iran following America’s withdrawal from the nuclear agreement. The president’s executive order banned the use of US dollars by Iran and barred imports of Iranian vehicles, graphite, aluminum, steel, coal and software used in industry. These are a precursor to the more stringent sanctions on Iran’s oil sales, shipping and financial transactions that will be enforced from Nov. 5.
But the reverberations of this announcement have already been felt in Iraq. Abadi immediately made a convoluted statement: He rejected the idea of sanctions in principle but said that Iraq “will abide by them to protect the interests of our people.”
These remarks led to a storm in Iraq. The PM was sharply criticized by the country’s president, the head of the Kurdistan Regional Government, his own Da’awa Party, and a wide range of Shiite political parties and militia. Iranian media was equally harsh, while Tehran also cancelled a proposed visit by Abadi.
While some regional Arab commentators welcomed Abadi’s position and criticized the “rabid campaign” against him, others saw him as the “most prominent victim” of US sanctions and said his posture was “muddled and compromising.”
On Aug. 13, Abadi tried to regain some lost ground when his spokesman clarified that Iraq would only abide by those sanctions that covered dollar-related transactions with Iran. And this week it has been reported that Baghdad will send a delegation to Washington to ask for exemptions from the sanctions.
The announcement of US sanctions came as Iraq’s various political alliances jostled to form a government following the May elections. The manual recount of votes declared on Aug. 9 has shown hardly any change in the results announced earlier. Thus, though the Sairoon coalition led by Muqtada Al-Sadr continues to lead the pack, it has only 54 seats in a 329-member house. It is followed by the pro-Iran Fatah coalition with 48 seats, Abadi’s Nasr group with 42 seats, and former Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki’s State of Law alliance with 25 seats.
Since the elections, both Iran and the US have been attempting to influence the government formation. While Iran would like to retain its predominant influence in Baghdad, particularly through its sectarian affiliates, the US is seeking to undermine this link and secure a government that is closer to Washington and the Gulf states. The announcement of US sanctions came as Iraq’s various political alliances jostled to form a government following the May elections
The sanctions announcement has highlighted Iraq’s sharp sectarian and political divisions. The US is supporting Abadi’s prime ministership in the new government, set up in association with the Al-Sadr-led alliance, which explains Abadi’s half-hearted acceptance of the sanctions announcement. The negative response to his statement and the strong pro-Iran positions of several groups, such as those of Fatah and Al-Maliki, also reflect their electoral calculus, commencing with neutralizing Abadi’s ambitions. This led Abadi to hurriedly moderate his stance, though it might not improve his fortunes.
Al-Sadr has been projecting himself as an Arab nationalist, but he has been careful not to alienate Iran and has also been in discussions with the Fatah Alliance, which is largely made up of the Iran-backed Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi that was in the vanguard of the fight against Daesh. Al-Sadr could also opt to remain in opposition. Whatever the shape of the new government in Iraq, US sanctions have affirmed that Iran’s influence in the country will remain undiminished.
*Talmiz Ahmad is a former Indian diplomat.

The U.S. Will Spend Billions in Syria—Just Not on Rebuilding It

Krishnadev Calamur/The Atlantic/August 23/18
When President Donald Trump said on Twitter this weekend that the United States had ended “the ridiculous” $230 million in civilian funds it provides for Syria, he seemed keen to emphasize the savings to the U.S. He did not add that the United States will continue spending billions of dollars in the country to fight isis. The stabilization funds—for projects like irrigation and demining—could have helped the U.S. preserve an element of its influence in the high-stakes diplomatic game being played out in Syria. Russia, Iran, and the Kurds are battling to maintain their gains in the country; Turkey is working to ensure the Kurds lose theirs; and Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates are invested in ensuring that Iran doesn’t emerge dominant in yet another Arab state. Russia, for example, is reportedly stepping up its aid and reconstruction efforts now that its ally Bashar al-Assad has regained control over much of the country.
And it’s Assad’s near-victory that makes U.S. involvement in civilian reconstruction a fraught proposition—implying as it does American support on de facto behalf of a regime the U.S. has twice bombed for using chemical weapons against civilians. Announcing the withdrawal of aid on Friday, the State Department spokeswoman emphasized that its mission in Syria was counterterrorism, not reconstruction, and that the Saudis would pick up the funding slack. In a conference call with reporters on Friday, State Department officials said the amount of U.S. funding withdrawn had already been offset by $300 million in contributions from U.S. allies, including Saudi Arabia. Heather Nauert, the State Department spokeswoman, said on the call: “The entire reason that the United States is involved in Syria is … for the defeat of isis.” (The U.S. is still providing humanitarian assistance to Syria, with nearly $8 billion spent since the conflict started in 2011.)
isis, which at the height of its powers in 2014 controlled a significant area in the region that straddles Syria and Iraq, has now been pushed out of about 99 percent of the territory it held, according to Brett McGurk, the special presidential envoy for the global coalition to counter the Islamic State. Yet fighting them remains significantly more expensive than the just-ended civilian-aid program—the Pentagon is set to receive $15.3 billion in fiscal year 2019, which begins October 1, for the purpose. That figure is a slight increase from the amount of money spent this fiscal year, $13 billion. But as Anthony Cordesman, a defense expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, noted, the increase is “almost solely because of the expanding effort to create more effective forces in Iraq.” The U.S. has about 2,000 troops in Syria, who train, advise, and assist forces that fight isis; another 3,765 U.S. troops remain in Iraq serving the same purpose.
While isis might have been pushed out of nearly all of the areas it controls in Syria, it is Assad’s forces, backed by Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah, that have retaken much of that territory, as well as many of the areas once controlled by anti-Assad rebel forces—and nearly all of the country’s population centers. The areas Assad’s forces haven’t retaken, such as the rebel-controlled Idlib province in the northwest, are firmly in Assad’s crosshairs.
By withdrawing the civilian funds, the Trump administration will likely help delay the return of millions of Syrians displaced by the conflict. The overwhelming majority of those displaced live in Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan. More than a million have also made their way to Europe. The U.S. has resettled about 20,000 Syrians since the conflict began in 2011, including 56 in 2017 as of July 31. In Moscow, Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, accused the U.S. of “trying to artificially slow down the process of the refugees’ return by refusing to participate in the restoration of infrastructure in Syria.”
As Syria starts shifting from conflict to reconstruction, a process that is expected ultimately to cost hundreds of billions of dollars, the U.S. says it won’t support international funding unless the United Nations unequivocally says there is progress in the political process in Syria. “We have been very clear, as clear as it is possible to be, with the government of Russia that there will be no international reconstruction assistance for Syria without the irreversible political process validated by the UN,” David Satterfield, the top U.S. diplomat for the region, said in the same conference call with Nauert. “There should be no ambiguity about that.”
Nor should there be any ambiguity about the fact that the U.S. military will remain in the region for some time. McGurk said on the Friday call that the U.S. is preparing the final phase of its plans to defeat isis.
“That will be a very significant military operation because we have a significant number of isis fighters holed up in a final area of the Middle Euphrates Valley,” he said. “And after that, you have to train local forces to hold the ground to make sure that the area remains stabilized so isis cannot return. So this mission is ongoing and is not over.”