August 26/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


The Bulletin's Link on the lccc Site


News Bulletin Achieves Since 2006
Click Here to enter the LCCC Arabic/English news bulletins Achieves since 2006


Bible Quotations
So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead
Letter of James 02/14-23: "What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill’, and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith without works, and I by my works will show you my faith. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe and shudder. Do you want to be shown, you senseless person, that faith without works is barren? Was not our ancestor Abraham justified by works when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was brought to completion by the works. Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness’, and he was called the friend of God."

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 25-26/18
Where is the dissociation policy in Lebanon/Randa Takieddine/Al Arabiya/August 25/18
Lebanese economy hammered by political crisis, debt/Associated Press/ August 25/18
When and Why the World Went Wrong/Tyler Cowen/Asharq Al-Awsat/August 25/18
Turkey-US Tiff Shows How Deep NATO’s Problems Run/Hal Brands/Asharq Al-Awsat/August 25/18
Macron's Partition of France/Yves Mamou/ Gatestone Institute.
Analysis Everyone Wants to Get Iran Out of Syria. But No One Knows How to Do It/Amir Tibon/Haaretz/August 25/18
The social media phenomenon and bullying the authority/Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran/Al Arabiya/August 25/18
Iran and Haider al-Abadi’s battle/Hazem Saghieh/Al Arabiya/August 25/18
East is East, West is West, but is investing at home best/Dr. Mohamed A. Ramady/Al Arabiya/August 25/18

Titles For The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on August 25-26/18
Israel Accuses Iran, ‘Hezbollah’ of Plot to Sabotage Truce with ‘Hamas’
Security Forces Foil Terrorist Attack in North Lebanon, Arrest Suspect
Exclusive: Machnouk Says Claims About ‘Iran’s Victories’ are Illogical
Report: Aoun-Hariri Ties ‘Intact’, President 'Weighing Options' if Formation Delay Persists
Report: Syria Tells Hizbullah to ‘Keep Troops on Its Soil’
Washington Criticizes Nasrallah Meeting with Huthis
Report: Swiss President Expected to Visit Beirut
Marcel Ghanem introduces new debate show
Abu Nader: Kataeb's Opposition Role Is One of a Kind
Swiss President arrives in Beirut on Monday, says Lebanon and Switzerland have a lot in common
AlBukhari says more than 20 draft agreements between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia await cabinet formation
Australian Ambassador stresses his country's continuous support for Lebanon during a ceremony in his honor
Lebanese economy hammered by political crisis, debt
Where is the dissociation policy in Lebanon?

Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on August 25-26/18
Rise in drone attacks on Russian air base in Syria: Monitor
Syrian foreign minister to visit Moscow next week — RIA news agency
16 Republican Senators Urge US Treasury to Disconnect Iran from SWIFT
Rise in Drone Attacks on Hmeimim Airbase in Syria
Tripartite Meeting on Syria Constitution in Geneva Next Month
Russia Accuses Syrian Rebels of Preparing Idlib Chemical Attack
At Least 27 Hostages Held by IS in South Syria, HRW Says
Military Solution in Syria's Idlib 'Will Cause Catastrophe', Turkey FM Says
Under Fire, Iran's Rouhani Calls for Unity
U.S. Cuts More than $200 Million in Aid to Palestinians
UN Urges EU States to Accept Migrants Stranded on Italy Coastguard Ship
US Cuts More than $200 Mln in Aid to Palestinians
Solidarity with Libya in Combating Terror
Survivors of Last Major ISIS Battle in Mosul Beg for Food
Siemens Turns its Back on Iran, Tehran’s Challenge Goes to The Hague

The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on August 25-26/18
Israel Accuses Iran, ‘Hezbollah’ of Plot to Sabotage Truce with ‘Hamas’
Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 25 August, 2018/Israel has accused Lebanon’s “Hezbollah” and Iran of plotting an attack on a military patrol in the West Bank. Palestinian security forces this week thwarted the bombing attack intended to hamper ceasefire negotiations between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, according to an Israeli security report. The Palestinian forces discovered a large bomb on the road that connects the Palestinian villages of Beit Liqya and Beit Anan west of Ramallah, said the report. The forces defused the bomb and notified Israeli authorities, it added. The road is frequently used by Israeli forces. Had it exploded, the bomb would have caused huge losses and damages, because it was assembled with two gas canisters attached to an explosive device filled with nails. Sources noted that the bomb-making matched the modus operandi of “Hezbollah” and the Palestinian “Islamic Jihad,” which has operatives in Beit Liqya. Israeli investigators believe that plotting for such an attack on the eve of a truce agreement between Israel and “Hamas” was a message of discontent from Iran and its militias. “They have an objective in keeping a protracted war in Gaza,” the investigators said.

Security Forces Foil Terrorist Attack in North Lebanon, Arrest Suspect

Beirut - Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 25 August, 2018/Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces (ISF) foiled alleged ISIS terrorist attacks on Lebanese Army checkpoints and churches north of the country after arresting a suspect involved in the plot. The ISF Public Relations office issued a statement Friday announcing that the agency’s Information Branch has accomplished a quality operation by foiling a plan by ISIS to target an Army checkpoint and a church. The attack was to be executed by a Lebanese national, a former Roumieh prison inmate, who is affiliated to ISIS and is in direct contact with the organization in Syria. It said that based on judicial directives, ISF personnel performed a timely operation in the Jabal al-Badawi area, where they arrested H.S., a 23-year-old Lebanese citizen. It said that in early 2017, the arrested suspect was released from Roumieh where he was incarcerated for three years on charges of belonging to ISIS and of preparing to join the terrorist group in Syria. After being released from prison, H.S. was in contact with his relative M.S., a member of ISIS in Syria, seeking his help to move to the war-torn country and fight there. After contacting his relative, H.S. was linked to a person named Abu Hisham. The arrested suspect’s relative later informed H.S. to forget about going to Syria and instead, to work for the terrorist group in Lebanon. The ISF’s investigations revealed that H.S. was given instructions to execute terrorist operations against Lebanese Army personnel and checkpoints in the north of the country. The extremist group promised to provide him with weapons and explosive belts from Syria via the Wadi Khaled road. Abu Hisham had also asked H.S. to target a church. The arrested suspect confessed to belonging to the terrorist group and plotting the attacks. The ISF statement also said A.S, another suspect, was arrested for involvement in the terrorist plot.

Exclusive: Machnouk Says Claims About ‘Iran’s Victories’ are Illogical

Beirut - Thaer Abbas/Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 25 August, 2018/Lebanon’s caretaker Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk has said that recent claims made by 'Hezbollah' leader Hassan Nasrallah on Iran’s alleged “victories” are outdated. “There have been swift and unprecedented changes in the world, setting new foundations in international relations,” Machnouk told Asharq Al-Awsat in an interview. He criticized Nasrallah’s recent speech on the anniversary of the end of Israel’s 2006 war on Lebanon, saying “the world is no longer led through mobilization and wrong estimates.”He downplayed the 'Hezbollah' secretary-general’s claims that we have ushered in an “era of victories for the Iranian axis.”Giving the example of Syria and Iran’s involvement in support of the regime of Bashar Assad, Machnouk said that 70 percent of the war-torn country’s homes are destroyed and half of its population has been internally displaced and has fled to neighboring states. There are countless victims and the country is ruined, he added. Machnouk told the newspaper that Iran has been playing a role in Syria, but Russia and the United States consider it a “burden.” Russian officials also believe that Tehran is a “tiresome friend.” “I don’t think that its stay in Syria is part of the Russian or US strategy,” Machnouk stated. As for Iraq, he said cooperation between Washington and Tehran would cause further “political chaos” and place more burdens on the Iraqis. On the conflict with Israel, Machnouk mocked 'Hezbollah' claims that Israel is in continuous fear of an aggression from Lebanon. Since the end of the 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel, “not a single shot has been fired,” he said. Machnouk also discussed pressure on Lebanon’s PM-designate Saad Hariri to normalize relations with the Assad regime. Hariri has said “no government would be formed” if these demands persisted, irking Speaker Nabih Berri, who advocates for restoring normal relations with Syria. But according to Machnouk, “Berri has been clear in saying that no one has asked Hariri to head immediately to Damascus.” On Saudi Arabia and the war in Yemen, the interior minister stressed that Riyadh has not made an aggression on the country. The Iran-backed Houthi insurgents, he said, have dozens of ballistic missiles and are firing them on Saudi territories. They have allowed Iran to enter Saudi Arabia’s “backyard,” said Machnouk. “Saudi Arabia is a legitimate country defending its territories and people from attacks carried out by a sectarian neighbor that takes pride in following Iran’s strategy,” he added.

Report: Aoun-Hariri Ties ‘Intact’, President 'Weighing Options' if Formation Delay Persists
Naharnet/August 25/18/Relations between President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri are “not broken” because of conflict over the Cabinet formation, and the two men are holding contacts on a daily basis away from media spotlight, al-Akhbar daily reported on Saturday. “Contacts between the president and premier are not broken. There are daily contacts between the two either by phone or through delegates, but there is no need to announce this each time it happens,” sources close to Aoun told the daily.
“The President wants a government to be formed before he takes part in the upcoming foreign conferences and events," they said, referring to Aoun's warnings that he might take action if the delay persists. "The first will be the opening of the European Parliament in Strasbourg on September 12 where Aoun will be the guest of the year and will deliver an important speech,” they. “He will then lead the Lebanese delegation to attend the works of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on September 24, where he will deliver Lebanon's speech on 26 September. “It is important that Aoun goes to these conferences after the government has been formed, because it would have a positive reflection on the unity of the Lebanese position on the issues at hand,” they added. However, shall the delay in lining up the government persist, “one of Aoun’s options is to explain to the Lebanese the reasons hampering the formation. However, that will only happen after Aoun has a word with Hariri about the decisions the latter plans to take,” they added. Early this week, Aoun has warned that the timeframe for forming the new government is "not open-ended," hinting that he might take action in early September. Hariri was tasked with forming a new government on May 24. His mission is being hampered by political wrangling over shares, especially over Christian and Druze representation. Some parties such as Hizbullah and the Free Patriotic Movement have suggested that foreign countries, especially Saudi Arabia, are behind the ongoing delay.

Report: Syria Tells Hizbullah to ‘Keep Troops on Its Soil’
Naharnet/August 25/18/Hizbullah has reportedly “received an official request” from the Syrian leadership that its troops “should remain in Syria for an additional period of time,” even after the end of fighting in the north-west and north-east regions, al-Akhbar newspaper reported on Saturday. The paper said the party “has made internal arrangements to organize this stay on the basis that it will extend over a long period of time.” Hizbullah will “play a role assisting the Syrian authorities in accomplishing the civil reconciliation accompanied by the return of the displaced from Lebanon,” it pointed out.The party "will also have a role in organizing the situation along the Lebanese-Syrian border," it said.

Washington Criticizes Nasrallah Meeting with Huthis

Associated Press/Naharnet/August 25/18/U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley criticized a meeting held between Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah and a delegation from Yemen's Houthi rebels on August 19.“This meeting between Hizbullah and Houthi leadership shows the nature of the regional terrorist threat,” Haley on Twitter. “Iranian proxies in Lebanon and Yemen pose major dangers to peace and stability in the entire Middle East. The international community should be taking notice of this and be very concerned,” she added. Hizbullah said on Sunday that its leader has met with a delegation headed by Houthi spokesman Mohamad Abdelsalam to discuss the latest developments in Yemen's civil war. UAE State Minister for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash has warned in a tweet Sunday of the “consequences” after Nasrallah’s meeting.
“How can the dissociation policy – which Lebanon needs for its political and economic balance and Arab and international position – correspond to Hassan Nasrallah's hosting of a delegation from the Huthi insurgents? This is a question which we call on Lebanon to deal with,” Gargash had said. US and Gulf states accuse Hizbullah of training and supporting the Iran-backed Shiite Huthi rebels, who are at war with a Saudi-led coalition allied with Yemen's internationally recognized government. Hizbullah, which is also an Iran-allied Shiite group, says the Huthis are fighting a war against Saudi and American imperialism.
Iran supports the Huthis but denies arming them. Saudi Arabia and Iran are bitter regional rivals.

Report: Swiss President Expected to Visit Beirut

Naharnet/August 25/18/Swiss President Alain Berset is expected to arrive on an official visit in Beirut during the weekend, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Saturday. Prominent diplomatic sources told the daily that Berset is scheduled to hold meetings with senior Lebanese officials.“He will meet Monday with President Michel Aoun at the Baabda Palace,” they said on condition of anonymity. The visit aims to strengthen relations at various levels between Lebanon and Switzerland's seven-member Federal Council, the country's executive branch, which Berset heads. “It comes in the framework of preparations for a series of cooperation agreements between the two countries,” concluded the sources.

Marcel Ghanem introduces new debate show
Annahar Staff/August 25/18 /Ghanem, a pillar of Lebanese political debate, will be hosting a new show titled "Sar Al Waqet", or "It's about time."
BEIRUT: After much media hype and anticipation, Lebanese political talk show host Marcel Ghanem introduced Friday his latest venture during a news conference broadcast on local TV station MTV. Ghanem, a pillar of Lebanese political debate, will be hosting a new show titled "Sar Al Waqet", or "It's about time." After 27 years hosting "Kalam Ennas" on LBCI, Ghanem elected to seek pastures new to "broaden the horizon."

Abu Nader: Kataeb's Opposition Role Is One of a Kind Saturday 25th August 2018/Kataeb leader's top adviser, Fouad Abu Nader, affirmed that the dream of martyr President Bachir Gemayel has not faded away, vowing to pursue it until the last breath. "As long as there are people striving for freedom, then this means that Bachir's path and ideology are ongoing," Abu Nader said in an interview on Voice of Lebanon radio station. "Bachir wasn't just a man, but rather a dream and an institution," he added. Abu Nader condemned the ongoing government formation stalemate, stressing that the Kataeb party has decided not to rush to any prejudgements before seeing the new government's performance. "The Kataeb party will carry out two steps: firstly, launch serious efforts to approve the decentralization draft law, and secondly, work on boosting Lebanon's neutrality." Abu Nader deplored foreign interferrence in the government formation process, saying that the country is heading towards bankruptcy while the political forces are busy wrangling over shares and posts. "There is a power struggle between sects [...]. Instead of thinking about all the important files that need to be addressed, we are wasting time with the rule of the jungle, with each of the local factions being affiliated to a regional axis," he said. Abu Nader hailed the Kataeb’s opposition role as unique and one of a kind, stressing that it has helped set a new pattern despite the fact that it did not yield the expected outcome.

Swiss President arrives in Beirut on Monday, says Lebanon and Switzerland have a lot in common
Sat 25 Aug 2018/NNA - President of the Swiss Confederation, Alain Berset, will begin a three-day official visit to Lebanon on Sunday at the invitation of President Michel Aoun, during which he will hold official talks on means to develop Lebanese-Swiss bilateral relations and activate them at all levels. The Swiss President will be accompanied by his wife, Dr. Moriel Berset, in addition to an official delegation. In a Tweet on the eve of his visit, President Berset expressed joy to be in Lebanon, saying, "I will visit Lebanon from August 26 to 28. Lebanon and Switzerland are multicultural and hospitable countries, and share many commonalities.""I am looking forward to meet with President Michel Aoun, House Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister Saad Hariri in order to strengthen the ties between both countries," he added. Finally, he pointed out that Lebanese Nicola Hayek is one of the founders of the widely-known Swiss watch brand, "Swatch".

AlBukhari says more than 20 draft agreements between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia await cabinet formation

Sat 25 Aug 2018/NNA - Saudi Charge d'Affaires, Walid Al-Bukhari, disclosed Saturday that "more than 20 project agreements have been drafted, pending the new government's formation for signature." Al-Bukhari hoped for a "qualitative leap" in bilateral relations following the new cabinet formation, noting, "The Saudi Kingdom is keen on promoting its relations with Lebanon in various fields, with the Lebanese best interests at heart." He added that his country aspires for "the finest relations with Lebanon based on mutual respect and joint benefits, and hopes for stability and a flourishing future for Lebanon."
Al-Bukhari's words came during a luncheon banquet held in his honor by the Lebanese-Saudi Business Council in Nabeh El-Safa this afternoon, in presence of political officials and prominent dignitaries.

Australian Ambassador stresses his country's continuous support for Lebanon during a ceremony in his honor

Sat 25 Aug 2018/NNA - Australian Ambassador to Lebanon, Glenn Miles, reiterated Saturday that his country "shares the concerns of Lebanon and continuously stands by its side." Miles referred to the large Lebanese expatriate community residing in Australia, saying, "Every time I tour the various Lebanese regions, I encounter Australians of Lebanese origin...This explains the tens of thousands of Lebanese emigrants coming from Australia to visit their home country this summer." The Australian Ambassador's words came during a luncheon banquet held in his honor this afternoon by Head of the Australian Council for the Middle East, Kamil Chlala, marking the near-end of Miles' diplomatic mission in Lebanon. Chlala praised "the positive role played by Ambassador Miles during his presence in Lebanon, which yielded many achievements at different levels." "Ambassador Miles has left a bright mark that will have an important and influential impact in the future," added Chlala, stressing on further boosting the Lebanese-Australian bilateral relations.

Lebanese economy hammered by political crisis, debt
Associated Press/ August 25/18
BEIRUT: Ahmad Harb opened his perfume shop on the main street of Beirut’s commercial Hamra district 35 years ago, and his business has weathered security and political crises in this volatile country, including a civil war.
He says this year has been the worst he’s seen: sales dropped by 90 percent and after the landlord raised the rent, he was finally forced to close the shop and move to a smaller, less expensive location nearby.
“There is no business. Nothing works in this country, everything is very expensive,” Harb said, standing woefully outside his now shuttered shop.
Nearly four months after Lebanon held its first general elections in nine years, politicians are still squabbling over the formation of a new government amid uncertainty over a long stagnating economy, struggling businesses and concerns over the currency.
Years of regional turmoil — worsened by an influx of 1.5 million Syrian refugees since 2011 — are catching up with the tiny, corruption-plagued Arab country. Lebanon has the third highest debt rate in the world, currently standing at about $81 billion, or 152 percent of the gross domestic product. In the absence of a new government, Lebanon has been unable to access billions of dollars pledged by foreign donors for foreign investment in infrastructure and other projects.
Meanwhile, many businesses are closing, some companies are laying off employees and even Lebanese living in the oil-rich Persian Gulf region have seen a drop in their business and income due to a drop in oil prices, translating into a decrease in remittances.
Amid this tight situation, many Lebanese who have cash are now spending less, fearing for the future. Residents complain they have to pay double for everything including private generators to deal with chronic electricity cuts and water trucks to cope with the dry summer months. Adding to the downward spin, the government earlier this year stopped awarding long-term housing loans with low interest rates because high demand has depleted money available.
Hardly a day passes without politicians warning that the worst is yet to come, raising fears among residents that the Lebanese pound, pegged at 1,500 to a dollar for the past two decades, might lose some of its value. Harb wonders where he will get the money next month when his children return to school. “The country is heading toward bankruptcy,” he said, referring to shops that have already closed down in Hamra Street, one of the top shopping districts in Beirut. On a walk through downtown Beirut in August, when restaurants would normally be packed with expatriates and tourists, the depression is easy to spot. Some restaurants have closed while others offer 30 percent discounts. Some shops are offering up to 70 percent off. Maamoun Sharaf, owner of a money exchange shop, said the delays in forming the Cabinet have had bad effects, but the situation had been bad even before that. “This year the economy did not do well. Even our business dropped by 50 percent,” he said.
Political disagreements have led to a delay in the implementation of loans and grants pledged at the CEDRE economic conference in Paris held in April. International donors pledged $11 billion for Lebanon but the donors sought to ensure the money is well spent in the corruption-plagued country.
Despite the crisis, the state last year approved a salary scale for civil servants that will cost an extra $800 million annually. The government imposed new taxes to fund the new salary structure, increasing the burden on a population that has already been suffering under high taxes with no return in the form of stable services such as water and electricity. Indeed, daily electric outages are a common occurrence.
Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh has repeatedly released statements assuring people that the currency is stable.
Some Lebanese banks have been raising interest rates on the local currency for clients who agree to change U.S. dollars to Lebanese pounds and put them in blocked accounts for a specific period of time. The move is backed by the Central Bank, which has been boosting its foreign currency reserves.
“There is a government paralysis in Lebanon but right now the Lebanese pound is safe. The Central Bank is trying to have dollars to boost its reserves in case of any economic crisis,” said economist Kamel Wazne.
He acknowledges, however, that the economy “is not well” and warns that state institutions and financial policies cannot be activated in the absence of a government.
Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, who has lobbied Western governments for assistance, is bogged down with the details of forming a government and divisions among politicians over whether Lebanon should resume normal contacts with Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government.
Hariri’s pro-Syria opponents have been pressuring him, saying normal contact should be resumed to help boost exports from Lebanon through the Naseeb border crossing with Jordan, which was recaptured by Syrian troops from rebels in July. Hariri is a harsh critic of Assad and is against having normal relations with the Syrian president.“The international community stood by Lebanon and what is needed now is for Lebanon to stand by Lebanon and to form a Cabinet quickly, because this delay negatively affects the economy,” said Wazne, who also referred to the debt that is expected to grow in 2018 by $5 billion due to a huge budget deficit.
Where is the dissociation policy in Lebanon?
Randa Takieddine/Al Arabiya/August 25/18
Hezbollah has recently received a Houthi delegation in Beirut’s southern suburbs. This represents a new and additional defiance of the Lebanese people who continue to yearn for a quiet and stable country. Lebanon has been hijacked by Hezbollah, which is sacrificing its sons in order to protect Bashar al-Assad and his forces. Hezbollah is also boldly interfering in Yemen’s war as it is training the Houthis, allows their television channel to broadcast from Lebanon and receives their delegation as a guest of honor in its celebrations. Hezbollah is setting with its Christian partner the broad parameters of foreign policy. Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, who aspires to succeed his father-in-law to the Lebanese presidency, is acting in accordance with the party’s desire. He demands normalization with Damascus because Assad, Hezbollah’s partner, needs legitimacy.
Support for Houthis
The foreign minister does not care about the dissociation policy. Under the pretext of returning Syrian refugees, he wants to coordinate with the Syrian regime and seeks normalization of relations between the two countries. Bassil has said this serves Lebanon’s interests. How can Lebanese interests be served by normalizing relations with the Syrian regime that has displaced millions of its own people and now claims it wants them to return? How would Lebanon’s interest be served when the dominating party in the country is involved in the Yemeni war on the side of the Houthis? How is this foreign minister working for Lebanon’s benefit, when he allows his country to be part of such a war while still aspiring to have good and brotherly relations with Gulf states? Believing that good relations with Syria gives Lebanon an opportunity to participate in its reconstruction is flawed reasoning. Lebanon has had a history of crises, wars and disasters. Its stability is now at risk because the dominant party’s actions along with that of its Iranian partner puts the country in great danger of coming under international sanctions, especially from the US. Lebanon, whether with the presence of Syrian refugees or without them, may confront the threat of fatal sanctions that it cannot tolerate.
The threat of US sanctions
The US administration had warned everyone against surrendering to what Hezbollah wants. Punishing Iran shows what can happen to Lebanon, which until further notice does not have oil, gas nor any basic products that it exports.
The economic situation cannot tolerate polices that take the country to the edge of the abyss just because some of parties want to flatter the Iranian axis believing that it is the strongest power in the region. Some who had ruled Lebanon before had placed their bets on Saddam Hussein in Iraq because they thought he was the strongest but their bet failed. Similarly, even the gamble on supporting Iran might fail, if circumstances continue to be as they are today. The Iranian axis is fragile, and its survival in Syria is not guaranteed, even if Assad and his group remain in power as they are not free and their decisions are in Russia’s hands. Believing that good relations with Syria gives Lebanon an opportunity to participate in its reconstruction is flawed reasoning. According to David Satterfield, the State Department's acting assistant secretary for the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, President Trump told Putin in Helsinki that no US funds will be allocated for the reconstruction of Syria as long as the Syrian regime continues to hinder the Geneva negotiations and does not want to talk about transition as part of a political solution. Satterfield said that Putin had heard this clearly from Trump in Helsinki.
It would not be realistic for Lebanon to think that restoring normal and good relations with Syria would give it the opportunity to reconstruct Syria, as long as there is no political solution for the situation in Syria. Who would desire to reconstruct a country in the presence of the armies of Iran, Russia and Hezbollah in its cities? The dissociation policy was the right one for Lebanon, but unfortunately the government is now controlled by a party that has hijacked its decision with the help of another party which it describes itself as “strong” and which is gambling on an axis which it believes is its path to the presidency. This “strong” party has placed this gamble even though it saw how the presidency would not have been attained without the support of Saad Hariri, who made a mistake when he chose to make a settlement to avoid vacuum.
Today, Lebanon still faces the same threat as long as Hezbollah and its axis have involved the country in regional wars, backed by Lebanon’s foreign minister who aspires the presidency under the umbrella of the Iranian axis.
The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on August 25-26/18
Rise in drone attacks on Russian air base in Syria: Monitor
AFP/August 25/2018/BEIRUT: Drone attacks on an air base in Syria used by Damascus ally Russia have increased since last month but all were shot down, a monitor said on Friday. “Drone attacks against Hmeimim have increased” since July, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, referring to Russia’s main military base in the war-torn country, where it intervened on the regime’s side in 2015 to help fight the armed opposition. The Britain-based Observatory reported 13 assaults in July and five this month, out of a total of 23 since the start of the year. In such attacks, small unmanned aircraft have been loaded with explosives. But “most of the drones are downed by Russian or Syrian air defenses before reaching their target,” Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP. The others were also downed. Hmeimim lies just west of opposition-held territory in the northwestern province of Idlib, which President Bashar Assad has said he intends to bring back under his control. The attackers “are sending a message to Russia that they are able to directly target the main center for Russian forces in Syria,” Abdel Rahman said. On Thursday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova blamed “terrorists” for the attacks. “The drone attacks they have launched have become regular in Hmeimim. Our air defenses have downed 45 of them,” she said. Earlier this month, Russian army spokesman Gen. Igor Konachenkov also reported a spike in these attempts in July. “Last month, we observed an increase in attempted drone attacks” against Hmeimim, he said on Aug. 16. Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham controls more than half of Idlib while a string of opposition outfits hold most of the rest. Analysts say Russia-backed regime forces will likely only target a small part of Idlib with any upcoming military campaign, around the town of Jisr Al-Shughur. Sam Heller, from the International Crisis Group think-tank, told AFP last week that “the Russians are convinced that the drones that have targeted their air base ... are emanating from the area around Jisr Al-Shughur.”

Syrian foreign minister to visit Moscow next week — RIA news agency
Reuters/August 25/18/The Syrian Foreign Minister will be visiting Russia end of this month. No details yet of the issues the minister will discuss with the Russian authorities.
MOSCOW: Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al-Moualem will visit Moscow at the end of August, the RIA news agency quoted the Syrian ambassador to Russia as saying on Saturday. Syrian ambassador Riad Haddad did not provide details of the issues the minister will discuss with the Russian authorities.
16 Republican Senators Urge US Treasury to Disconnect Iran from SWIFT
Washington - Heba El Koudsy/Al-Awsat/Saturday, 25 August, 2018/A group of 16 Republican senators led by Ted Cruz of Texas have urged US Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin to expel Iran from the main financial system that oversees international bank transfers. Their move on Thursday came as US President Donald Trump has been exerting strong pressure on Tehran after reimposing a wave of tough sanctions earlier this month targeting 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. “We urge you to take all necessary steps to ensure the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) disconnects the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) and all other designated Iranian financial institutions,” the senators wrote. "The administration's maximum pressure campaign will not succeed if Tehran “remains connected to SWIFT," they said. The senators stressed that “quick robust enforcement will be critical for the administration's maximum pressure strategy to succeed, both immediately to drain the Iranian regime's resources for malign behavior and as a signal of America's commitment to maintaining the integrity of our sanctions architecture."The letter came a day after Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton said the US sanctions are having a strong effect on Iran’s economy.

Rise in Drone Attacks on Hmeimim Airbase in Syria
Beirut- London - Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 25 August, 2018/Rebel and militant drone attacks on the Hmeimim airbase in Syria used by Damascus ally Russia have increased since last month but all were shot down, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Friday. "Drone attacks against Hmeimim have increased" since July, said the monitor, referring to Russia's main military base in the war-torn country, where it intervened on the regime's side in 2015 to help fight the armed opposition. The Britain-based Observatory reported 13 assaults in July and five this month, out of a total of 23 since the start of the year. In such attacks, small unmanned aircraft have been loaded with explosives. But "most of the drones are downed by Russian or Syrian air defenses before reaching their target", Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP. The others were also downed. Hmeimim lies just west of rebel and militant-held territory in the northwestern province of Idlib, which the regime head, Bashar al-Assad, has said he intends to bring back under his control. The attackers "are sending a message to Russia that they are able to directly target the main center for Russian forces in Syria", Abdel Rahman told AFP. Hayat Tahrir al-Sham controls more than half of Idlib while a string of rebel outfits hold most of the rest. On Thursday, Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova blamed "terrorists" for the attacks, using Damascus and Moscow's term for both rebels and militants. "The drone attacks they have launched have become regular in Hmeimim. Our air defenses have downed 45 of them," she said.

Tripartite Meeting on Syria Constitution in Geneva Next Month
Geneva - Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 25 August, 2018/The UN peace envoy for Syria will host Iran, Russia and Turkey for talks on drafting a new Syrian constitution on September 11-12, a United Nations spokeswoman said Friday. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura has been tasked with setting up a committee to write a new constitution for the war-ravaged country. The main foreign powers backing the project are Syrian regime allies Russia and Iran, as well as Turkey, which supports some opposition groups. Representatives of the three nations will meet de Mistura over two days at the UN's European headquarters in Geneva, spokeswoman Alessandra Vellucci told reporters. De Mistura has said he wants to have the constitutional committee in place before world leaders meet at the General Assembly in New York in late September. That will likely require further talks, including with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government, but Vellucci said she had no details of additional meetings next month. De Mistura's previous efforts to negotiate an end to the Syrian conflict have achieved no breakthroughs. More than 350,000 people have been killed and millions displaced since Syria's war started in 2011.

Russia Accuses Syrian Rebels of Preparing Idlib Chemical Attack

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 25/18/Russia on Saturday said Syrian rebels are preparing a chemical attack in Idlib province which will be blamed on Damascus and used as a pretext for Western powers to hit government targets in the war-torn country.
Moscow's accusation comes after US President Donald Trump's national security adviser John Bolton this week said Washington will respond "very strongly" if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad uses chemical weapons in an offensive to retake Idlib, one of the last rebel held provinces in the country. Russian defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a statement that the jihadist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham is "preparing another provocation of the 'use of chemical weapons' by Syrian government forces against the peaceful population of the Idlib province." He said the group delivered "eight chlorine tanks" to Jisr al-Shughur town in order to "stage" the attack and that these were later taken to a village eight kilometres (5 miles) away. The statement also said a group of militants "trained in handling poisonous substances under the supervision of specialists from the private British military company 'Oliva'" arrived in the town a day earlier. "The militants have the task of simulating the rescue of the victims of the chemical weapons attack dressed in the clothes of the famous 'White Helmets'," it said. Konashenkov accused British special services of being "actively involved" in the "provocation" which will "serve as another reason for the US, the UK and France to hit Syrian government targets with air strikes." In April, the US, 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. Russian stuck by its ally Syria and angrily insisted the Douma attack was staged by the White Helmets volunteer rescue service. In Jerusalem on Wednesday, Bolton said Washington was "concerned about the possibility that Assad may use chemical weapons again." "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 said. Speculation is increasing that there could be a Russian-backed government assault on Idlib, one of the so-called "de-escalation" zones set up as a result of talks by Russia, Turkey and Iran last year. On a visit to Moscow on Friday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu warned Russia that seeking a military solution in Idlib would be a "catastrophe" before meeting President Vladimir Putin. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the situation in Idlib is "multi-faceted" and called for separating out "the healthy opposition from terrorist structures." Damascus still holds the southeastern tip of Idlib, a strategically important province adjacent to Latakia on the Mediterranean coast that is home to Assad's clan.
More than 350,000 people have been killed and millions displaced since Syria's war started in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.

At Least 27 Hostages Held by IS in South Syria, HRW Says
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 25/18/At least 27 people are being held by the Islamic State group in southern Syria, Human Rights Watch said Saturday as it deplored the hostage-taking as a "war crime". The group of mostly women and children were abducted by IS during a massive July 25 assault on the Druze community in Sweida, in which the jihadists killed more than 250 people. They are being held by IS to use as leverage in negotiations with the Syrian government and its ally Russia, according to HRW. "Hostage-taking is a war crime," the rights group said. "Civilian lives should not be used as bargaining chips," said its deputy Middle East director Lama Fakih. Of more than 30 people taken hostage in the July offensive, at least two have since died. A 19-year-old male student was beheaded and a video circulated of the killing, which was not released on the jihadists' usual channels. Later in August a 65-year-old woman died, with IS reporting she had been unwell. Additionally, two women were able to escape after being abducted from their home, a family member told HRW. Villagers provided the names of at least 27 people who remain in IS captivity, with children as young as seven among them, according to activists in Sweida province. The province is the heartland of Syria's Druze minority, followers of an offshoot of Shiite Islam who are are despised as heretics by the Sunni extremists of IS. IS is seeking the release of jihadists captured by the government in the neighbouring province of Daraa, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said earlier this month. The jihadists currently hold less than three percent of Syria, after losing swathes of territory to government forces backed by Russian firepower. But IS has proven it is still able to launch deadly attacks, with eight pro-government fighters killed and more than 60 wounded in an overnight raid in Sweida province. The attack brought to 54 the number of pro-government fighters killed in the past month, while 147 jihadsts have been killed, the Observatory said. Since the civil war erupted in Syria in 2011, more than 350,000 people have been killed and millions have fled their homes.

Military Solution in Syria's Idlib 'Will Cause Catastrophe', Turkey FM Says
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 25/18/Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu warned Friday that seeking a military solution in Syria's last rebel-held province of Idlib would lead to disaster. "A military solution there will cause catastrophe," Cavusoglu said at a press conference in Moscow with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov. "Not only for the Idlib region but for the future of Syria, it will cause catastrophe and the clashes may last a long time."

Under Fire, Iran's Rouhani Calls for Unity
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 25/18/Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called for unity on Saturday in the face of criticism from all sides of his handling of an economic crisis and tensions with the United States. "Now is not the time to unload our burdens on to somebody else's shoulders. We must help each other," Rouhani said in a televised speech at the shrine of late revolutionary leader Ruhollah Khomeini. "The country's problems and resisting foreigners' conspiracies is the responsibility of every one of us." With rapidly rising food prices, a dramatic currency collapse and the reimposition of US sanctions after it abandoned a 2015 nuclear deal, many Iranians are in a bleak mood. Much of his electoral base among reform-minded urbanites has lost faith in him, while working-class areas have seen months of sporadic strikes and protests that have occasionally turned violent. Some of the most virulent criticism has come from the hardline religious establishment who long opposed Rouhani's efforts to rebuild ties with the West. On August 16, an image went viral of a protest by seminary students in the shrine city of Qom, at which one placard warned Rouhani would meet the same fate as former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who was found dead in a swimming pool last year.Rouhani sought to play down the differences, saying: "The clerical, religious institutions and the government are alongside each other."But he added a typically cryptic warning: "No one can walk into the sea and not expect to get his feet wet."Hardliners have been blamed for stoking economic protests that have sometimes turned against the Islamic system as a whole. Rouhani still has the support of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who says he must remain in power to avoid further disorder. But Khamenei has also blamed government mismanagement, rather than foreign hostility, for the current crisis. "We are aware of people's pain, suffering and problems and all our efforts are geared at reducing these problems," Rouhani pledged..

U.S. Cuts More than $200 Million in Aid to Palestinians
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 25/18/The United States said Friday that it had canceled more than $200 million in aid for the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, leading their ambassador to accuse President Donald Trump's administration of being "anti-peace."A senior State Department official said the decision, made "at the direction of the president," came after a review of aid programs to the Palestinian territories. The funding previously allocated for programs in the West Bank and Gaza will "now address high-priority projects elsewhere," said the official. The move "takes into account the challenges the international community faces in providing assistance in Gaza, where Hamas control endangers the lives of Gaza's citizens and degrades an already dire humanitarian and economic situation," he said. In January, the United States had already made drastic cuts to its contribution to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA. Relations between the US administration and the Palestinian Authority took a nosedive after Trump announced the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. The Palestinians have suspended contacts with the administration and consider that it can no longer play a mediation role in the Middle East peace process. "This administration is dismantling decades of US vision and engagement in Palestine," Husam Zomlot, head of the Palestinian General Delegation to the United States said in a statement. "After Jerusalem and UNRWA, this is another confirmation of abandoning the two-state solution and fully embracing (Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin) Netanyahu's anti-peace agenda." The decision to cut Palestinian funding comes amid a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, which has seen a surge of violence since Palestinian protests began in March. At least 171 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire during demonstrations near the border with Israel. The US administration is pressing on with work on a peace plan that has been under discussion for months, leaving a vacuum in the Middle East in the meantime. "Weaponizing humanitarian and developmental aid as political blackmail does not work," Zomlot said."Only a recommitment from this administration to the long-held US policy of achieving peace through the two-state solution on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem, the capital of the state of Palestine, and respecting international resolutions and law will provide a way forward." Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy accused the White House of engaging in a "series of provocative and harmful acts" instead of coming up with a coherent policy to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Trump has tasked his son-in-law Jared Kushner and lawyer Jason Greenblatt to draft the peace proposals, saying earlier this week that there would be something "very good" for the Palestinians. The Palestinians see the eastern part of the disputed city as the capital of their future state.

UN Urges EU States to Accept Migrants Stranded on Italy Coastguard Ship
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 25/18/The UN's Refugee Agency on Saturday called on EU member states to urgently agree to take in some of the 150 people stranded on an Italian coastguard ship, after a fresh immigration row erupted between the bloc and Italy's populist government. Dozens of people have been blocked at the Sicilian port of Catania on the Diciotti vessel since Monday night because the Italian government is refusing to allow them to disembark without commitments from the EU to take some of them in.
Italy on Friday said it would pull its funding for the EU as a "compensatory measure" if the bloc refused to come forward and help with relocating the migrants. The UNHCR on Saturday said EU member states should "urgently" offer places to some of the migrants on the vessel, adding: "In the meantime, UNHCR urges Italian authorities to allow the immediate disembarkation of those on board". A high-level meeting of a dozen EU member states in Brussels on Friday, held to discuss what officials said was the broader issue of the disembarkation of migrants rescued at sea, failed to produce an immediate solution for the Diciotti migrants. "The European Union has decided to turn its back on Italy once again," Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio wrote on his Facebook page, adding that his country had no choice but to "take a compensatory measure in a unilateral way... we are ready to reduce the funds that we give to the European Union".
"They want the 20 billion euros ($23 billion) paid by Italian citizens? Then let them demonstrate that they deserve it and that they are taking charge of a problem that we can no longer face alone. The borders of Italy are the borders of Europe," he added.
Migration is a hot-button issue in Italy, where hundreds of thousands of people have arrived since 2013 fleeing war, persecution and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.
Under EU rules people must seek asylum in their country of arrival, but Italy's new government has increasingly barred boats from docking at its ports.
'Unconstructive comments' -Brussels quickly hit back at Di Maio's comments. "Unconstructive comments, let alone threats, are not helpful and they will not get us any closer to a solution," European Commission spokesman Alexander Winterstein told a briefing. "The EU is a community of rules and it operates on the basis of rules, not threats." No deal was struck about the Diciotti migrants at the talks, as a source at the European Commission said "this was not a meeting where decisions were taken".
However, the source said they discussed "the need for a shared and rapid solution for the migrants on board of the Diciotti as well as those most recently disembarked in Spain and Malta."EU figures for 2016 say Italy contributed just under 14 billion euros to the EU budget -- less than one percent of its gross national income -- while the bloc spent 11.6 billion euros in Italy. Di Maio, who heads the anti-establishment Five Star, said Italy didn't want the "mickey taken out of us by the union's other countries" on the distribution of migrants. "The EU was born of principles like solidarity. If it is not capable of redistributing 170 people it has serious problems with its founding principles," he said in an interview with state broadcaster RAI. Prosecutors from Sicily were travelling to Rome to question officials, including Italy's hardline Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, about the illegal detention of those onboard. "If a judge wants to arrest me, I expect it, no problem," Salvini said Friday.
- 'We've had enough' -Salvini stopped the majority of the migrants disembarking from the ship after they were rescued on August 15. His only concession was to allow 27 unaccompanied minors off the boat Wednesday. Opinion polls suggest that Salvini's stance has boosted his far-right League party's approval rating to around 30 percent -- a more than 10 point jump from its showing in March's election -- and is now level with the Five Star Movement with which it has governed Italy since early June. However, according to Salvini's own ministry, migrant arrivals are more than 80 percent down on the same period last year, with just over 19,500 arriving up to August 23, compared to 98,000 in 2017. In France, meanwhile, the presidency called for a "co-ordinated, long-term European mechanism" to distribute migrants that would include Italy. "There are forces in Italy that are looking to co-operate, we want to believe Italy wishes to play the game," the Elysee palace said.

US Cuts More than $200 Mln in Aid to Palestinians
Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 25 August, 2018/US is cutting more than $200 million in aid for the Palestinians, the State Department said on Friday. The funds originally planned for programs in the West Bank and Gaza, would address “high-priority projects elsewhere,” according to a senior State Department official. The decision, made "at the direction of the president," came after a review of aid programs to the Palestinian territories, he said in a statement. The move "takes into account the challenges the international community faces in providing assistance in Gaza, where Hamas control endangers the lives of Gaza's citizens and degrades an already dire humanitarian and economic situation," he added. Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi accused President Donald Trump's administration of using “cheap blackmail as a political tool.” “The Palestinian people and leadership will not be intimidated and will not succumb to coercion,” she said, Reuters reported. Ambassador Husam Zomlot, head of the PLO General Delegation to the United States, said in a statement: “Weaponizing humanitarian and developmental aid as political blackmail does not work.”In January, the US had already made drastic cuts to its contribution to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA. According to AFP, ties between the US administration and the PA took a nosedive after Trump announced his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, which led the Palestinians to suspend contacts with the administration and consider that it can no longer play a mediation role in the Middle East peace process. "This administration is dismantling decades of US vision and engagement in Palestine," Zomlot said. "After Jerusalem and UNRWA, this is another confirmation of abandoning the two-state solution and fully embracing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's anti-peace agenda."

Solidarity with Libya in Combating Terror
Cairo - Khalid Mahmoud/Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 25 August, 2018/The United Nations Support Mission in Libya has urged the Libyan authorities to launch a transparent probe into a terrorist attack on al-Kaam checkpoint east of the Libyan capital Tripoli that has left several people dead and injured. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Libya, Ghassan Salame, expressed his deepest condolences to the families of the victims and to the Libyan government and wished the injured a speedy and full recovery, a UNSMIL statement said on Thursday.
“Acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable,” it said, calling on the Libyan authorities to launch a transparent investigation into the attack, which took place on Thursday, and bring the perpetrators to justice through a fair trial. The mission expressed “solidarity with the people of Libya in resisting attempts to spread fear, intimidation and hatred.” “The UN is committed to a Libyan-led political process that will strengthen a unified Libya and build trust and mutual understanding through peaceful and inclusive dialogue,” the statement added. The Italian embassy in Tripoli also strongly condemned the attack, saying in a tweet that “terrorism has no place in Libya.”The Arab League also reiterated its full support for Libya in combating terrorism. It stressed in a statement its backing “to any measure that would consolidate security and stability in the country.”Militants suspected of links to ISIS have killed seven people and injured 10 others, mostly security forces, in the attack on the checkpoint in the town of Zliten.

Survivors of Last Major ISIS Battle in Mosul Beg for Food
Mosul - Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 25 August, 2018/On a scorching August afternoon, an angry crowd besieged a mini-truck loaded with meat of two slaughtered cows amidst the ruins of what was the last ISIS bastion in Mosul. In a desperate scramble, they grabbed beef from a man standing in the open back of the truck and, after it pulled away, some stayed on to descend on the next one to arrive. Part of an annual ritual of Eid al-Adha celebrations, the deliveries did little to satisfy people living in the rubble of Mosul’s Old City more than a year after ISIS was ousted in a final battle reduced many inhabitants to homeless beggars, Reuters reported. Since Iraqi forces celebrated victory over ISIS, life for the inhabitants of ancient west Mosul has hardly improved. That has not left them happy with the government in Baghdad they long accused of treating them like second-class citizens. In early August, Hazem Mohammed, 52, and his family returned to a heap of debris that used to be his home next to a heavily damaged former football field, a few minutes’ walk from deserted ruins still reeking of unrecovered human remains. Mohammed settled down in a tent pitched outside his old house, affording his family a little shade in the 43 Celsius summer heat. On Thursday, his wife boiled water on an open fire outside the tent with small children playing inside. “I decided to live with my family in this tent to encourage the Iraqi government and humanitarian organizations to rebuild my house and other destroyed houses in the Old City,” he told Reuters. “We are a poor family. We don’t have money to live in dignity. We suffer from lack of food and we don’t have enough furniture because it is under the ruins of our house now.” A passing car stopped at the tent and the driver, who gave his name as Mohammed Saleh, handed out a bag of Eid meat. The reconstruction plan for Mosul and the whole of surrounding Nineveh governorate targeted 78 projects for 2017-2018 worth 75.5 billion Iraqi dinars (£49.2 million), supplemented by a 135-million-euro (£121.8 million) loan from Germany, according to ReFAATO figures published on Aug. 20. But experts say rebuilding Mosul alone - which had a pre-war population of 2 million and now has 646,000 homeless - is expected to cost billions of dollars.

Siemens Turns its Back on Iran, Tehran’s Challenge Goes to The Hague
The Hague - London - Asharq Al-Awsat/August 25/18/Iran’s legal challenge against renewed sanctions by the United States goes before the UN’s top court Monday, as Tehran seeks to avert painful punitive measures that could hurt its still fragile economy, AFP reported on Friday. Tehran filed a suit against US President Donald Trump’s decision to reimpose economic sanctions at the Hague-based International Court of Justice last month. The ICJ is expected to take a couple of months to decide whether to grant Tehran’s request for a provisional ruling, while a final decision in the case could actually take years, the news agency said. Meanwhile, German industrial manufacturing giant Siemens said it was scaling back its Iran business after the reimposition of economic sanctions by the US, the German news agency dpa reported Friday. The Munich-based company explained it would take appropriate steps "to bring business activities in Iran in line with the changing multilateral situation."Siemens said it would continue to ensure compliance with all export restrictions and regulations "including US secondary sanctions.”The US Embassy in Germany welcomed the news in a post on Twitter, pointing out that Siemens was not the only German company to leave Iran. “We are pleased to see Siemens joining other German companies like deutschetelekom, Deutsche Bahn, and Daimler in leaving Iran,” the tweet said. Last May, Siemens Chief Financial Officer Ralf Thomas told reporters the company would closely monitor the situation in Iran after Trump pulled the US out of a nuclear deal. “We are assessing the implications of the Iran decision,” Thomas had said. Trump slapped fresh punitive measures on Iran in early August after pulling out of the nuclear deal negotiated under his predecessor, Barack Obama. Trump accuses Tehran of financing terrorism.
The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on August 25-26/18
When and Why the World Went Wrong
Tyler Cowen/Asharq Al-Awsat/August 25/18
What exactly has gone wrong, and when and why? The open, democratic world order based on egalitarian rights and the rule of law — liberalism, for lack of a better term — is under increasing pressure. The signs, serious and less so, are everywhere.
The trend has now hit so many nations that the explanation has to be global. Social media are frequently cited as a driving force, but I would like to consider an alternative or perhaps complementary possibility for the breakdown of liberalism: As World War II and the Cold War recede in our collective memory, people in the West are simply becoming less cooperative.
Think back to the years during and after World War II. Western leaders created an unprecedented array of multilateral institutions, including NATO, the World Bank, the IMF, the Bretton Woods system, the United Nations, and what later became the World Trade Organization. These institutions found widespread levels of support both at home and abroad, and they persisted.
After the end of the war, there was a general (and correct) sense that international cooperation had been crucial to the Allies' victory, and that it would be necessary moving forward. World War II affected the lives of so many people, in most Western countries, that this feeling was deep and widespread. Furthermore, the ideas of the “populist right,” which in some ways resembled the now-discredited views of the Axis powers, were not very appealing.
And then the Cold War came, giving these basic cooperative instincts a second lease on life. The Soviet Union and China seemed like dangerous nations with malevolent intentions, and their rise strengthened the cooperative tendencies of the West all the more. In the mid-1970s, “America First” would have seemed like a crazy strategy, and the UK was joining what is now called the European Union rather than leaving it. Meanwhile, utterly demonizing one’s domestic political opponents was considered bad form; the real villains were abroad, and some measure of bipartisanship was needed to beat them.
In due time, however, as those who led and fought World War II died and the threat of communism faded, so has the notion of an external enemy. There is no external “ism” — such as communism or fascism — against which liberalism can so readily be defined. China remains a geopolitical issue, but is not seen as a direct threat aside from some parts of Asia and the Pacific.
In other words, it could be that the fractious and increasingly nationalistic politics of today are how things naturally are — and the anomaly is this decades-long period of cooperation and harmony.
This is not exactly reassuring. But if you look at the partisan, controversy-laden, personality-intense, and often stupid American politics of much of the 19th century, it seems plausible. Without the presence of strong external enemies, cooperation breaks down.
There is another explanation for the rise in anti-liberal sentiment: immigration. Through a series of historical accidents, it was kept off the table as a major issue for many decades. The US had choked off immigration in 1920, and at first the liberalization of the 1960s did not have much of a visible impact on the American population. In those early decades after the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965, many poor nations were so poor and unfree that it wasn’t easy to leave them.
As for Europe, in-migration was too small to make much of a political impact. For a while in the 1960s and 1970s, the bigger story was emigration, due to high taxes, from countries such as the UK and Sweden. The presence of the Iron Curtain also blocked some of the routes and sources that enable some migration to Western Europe today.
In a democratic society where there simply isn’t much immigration, it is much harder for nationalists and populists to use it as an issue. But today much of the West has seen high immigration for 20 years or more, giving nationalist and populist forces a major talking point. Even if most of the population is broadly pro-immigration, perhaps a core of 15 to 20 percent will not be. With that base, a movement of counterreaction can have real political impact. The implication of all this? It’s as clear as it is depressing: Nationalism and populism aren’t going away anytime soon.

Turkey-US Tiff Shows How Deep NATO’s Problems Run

Hal Brands/Asharq Al-Awsat/August 25/18
NATO is having a rough summer. Fresh off President Trump’s deliberately disruptive behavior at the alliance summit in July, NATO has suffered a high-stakes blowup between two key members: the US and Turkey.
That dispute crystallized over the fate of an American pastor, Andrew Brunson, being held in Turkey on spurious charges of supporting a failed coup against Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2016. It has been punctuated by economic sanctions, escalating threats and counter-threats, and speculation that Turkey might punish Washington by aligning itself with Moscow.
Yet the problems between the US and Turkey run much deeper than the dispute over Brunson, and go back for many years. Likewise, the problems NATO confronts run deeper than the unique challenges posed by a US president with no love for Atlanticism. NATO is facing a series of bigger structural challenges. Trump did not cause these problems, but he is not making them any easier to solve, either.
The US-Turkey crackup is a good illustration. It erupted on Trump’s watch, and he has not handled it particularly well: By publicly condemning Turkey, and by implying that the punitive tariffs he imposed on Turkish imports will not be removed even if Brunson is released, Trump has given Ankara little incentive or pathway to resolve the crisis in a way favorable to Washington.
Yet the US-Turkey relationship was destined for trouble even before Trump took office. The combination of America’s counter-ISIS campaign (which relied heavily on Syrian Kurdish groups that the Turkish government considers mortal enemies), Erdogan’s increasing authoritarianism and anti-Americanism, Ankara’s decision to purchase sophisticated air defense systems from Russia, and widespread — albeit incorrect — Turkish suspicions the US was behind the July 2016 coup attempt was pushing matters toward a crisis regardless of who occupied the White House.
Something similar could be said of NATO writ large. To be sure, Trump has injected a new level of distrust and discord into the relationship, above all by evincing disdain for NATO’s founding premise: that the US and its allies can better promote their security and prosperity together. But one of the reasons Trump’s behavior has proven so destabilizing is that he inherited an alliance that was experiencing several accumulating strains.
First is the crisis of burden-sharing, to which Trump has often pointed. The president is wrong to say the allies are simply sucking the wealth and vitality out of the US, and it would be profoundly dangerous if Europe reverted to a situation in which arms races and security competitions were rampant. But something is undoubtedly wrong when three of the richest countries in the world — France, Germany and the UK — would struggle to deploy and sustain a single brigade if Russia attacked the Baltic nations. After the Cold War, too many NATO countries aggressively dis-invested in defense. Vladimir Putin has subsequently reminded them what military power is for, but the alliance faces a long road back from its post-Cold War atrophy.
Second, even before Trump was elected, NATO was being tested by the alliance’s shifting threat geography. During the Cold War, an aggressive Soviet Union was everyone’s problem: There would be nowhere to hide if war broke out. Today, however, NATO has expanded and the Russian military threat is more concentrated in Eastern Europe, so the fundamental cohesion that a shared, overarching danger creates has faded.
Countries on the eastern flank still see Russia as an existential threat, but countries in NATO’s south are more fearful of terrorism and migration flows. Although these southern countries do worry about Russian electoral meddling and information warfare, they are often less supportive of economic sanctions and other aspects of a more assertive posture toward Moscow. Two of these allies — Greece and Italy — have been particularly eager to get back to business with Putin, in hopes of increasing economic ties to Russia.
Third, US relations with NATO are being tested by the fact that even amid renewed Russian aggression, the alliance is simply no longer as central to global affairs or US strategy as it once was. The proportion of global GDP and military spending Europe accounts for has steadily declined relative to Asia’s share. Moreover, the greatest long-term threat to US security and influence is not found in Europe but on the other side of the world.
The NATO allies are simply not positioned to help Washington deal with the rise of China in the way that they helped it deal with Moscow during the Cold War, or even with post-Cold War threats in the Middle East. This inability unavoidably makes NATO loom somewhat smaller in American statecraft; it makes it easier for Trump to argue — incorrectly — that the alliance is “obsolete.”
Fourth, NATO is being lashed by severe political instability on both sides of the Atlantic. From Washington and London to Paris and Rome, establishment parties and politicians are losing ground to populists and other formerly fringe figures. This instability is already weakening NATO in some respects — an inward-focused UK, consumed by Brexit, is less useful than a confident, outward-facing country.
More troubling still, a resurgence of authoritarian and quasi-authoritarian politics is roiling countries such as Turkey, Hungary and Poland. In some cases, these governments have evinced admiration for Putin as a fellow right-wing authoritarian, raising questions about how effectively the alliance can combat Russian revisionism. The authoritarian resurgence within NATO is also testing the proposition that the alliance is united not just by shared geopolitical interests but shared political values.
Finally, if the advent of Trump has left many Europeans deeply concerned about US judgment and policies, these concerns were building well before Trump arrived. During the George W. Bush years, many Europeans were aghast at what they deemed abrasive, unilateral and destabilizing American policies, particularly the invasion of Iraq. During the Obama years, many European Atlanticists worried that the US was pulling back from global leadership. The Syria red-line incident in 2013, when Obama declined to use force against Bashar al-Assad in response to massive chemical weapons attacks on Syrian civilians, was particularly searing in this regard. If Trump’s presidency has proven so alarming to European observers, it is because he seems to combine the unilateralism and the strategic diffidence they disliked in Bush and Obama.
None of this is to say that NATO is doomed. The alliance would not have survived for nearly 70 years were it not inherently resilient and deeply institutionalized. It remains the single most powerful geopolitical coalition in the world. And there remain plenty of issues where trans-Atlantic cooperation is needed: restraining Russia, addressing instability in the Middle East and North Africa, countering Chinese economic coercion, and others.
This is why committed Atlanticists in the US and Europe have been working so diligently to preserve and strengthen the alliance. Those efforts have hardly been fruitless: To give just one example, NATO has actually been making painfully slow but nonetheless discernible progress in creating a meaningful deterrent to Russian aggression in Eastern Europe.
Yet this is where Trump’s role is so problematic. Today as in the past, dealing with the major challenges NATO faces requires strong political leadership from the alliance’s key members. In particular, it requires that the US — the indispensable catalyst of collective action — play an assertive role in standing up for NATO’s values and interests, and in uniting rather than dividing the alliance. Trump has little apparent interest in playing this role; any increases in defense spending he cajoles out of the Europeans are likely to be outweighed by the doubts he is sowing about US intentions and competence, and by the havoc he is wreaking whenever NATO gathers.
Trump can rightfully complain that the alliance was entering stormy seas even before he took the helm. He cannot evade responsibility for his failure to act as the captain NATO needs right now.

Macron's Partition of France?
Yves Mamou/ Gatestone Institute.
The first legislative rider abolished the obligation of religious associations to declare themselves as lobbying groups -- a measure that clearly opens the way for entities such as Muslim Brotherhood to lobby Members of Parliament without leaving a trace.
Is it, however, the business of the secular State of France to organize Muslims and train "republican" imams?
The tradition in France ever since the 1905 secularism law -- one accepted by all religions except Islam -- is that religion may not to impose its rules on secular society. Now it is France that must adapt to Islam.
The big question is: Who will be heading and managing this new framework? Will it be the Muslim Brotherhood, the most powerful organization, which controls more than 2,000 mosques in France? Or a young guard of Muslim technocrats close to the president but with no ties to mosques, imams and the organized Muslim community in general?
In a confessional book, "A President Shouldn't Say That...", published in 2016, a few months before the 2017 French presidential election, France's then President François Hollande admitted that France has "a problem with Islam. No one doubts it," he wrote. He wrote as well that France has a problem with veiled women in public and with mass immigration. Then he added: "How can one avoid a partition? Because that is still what is happening: a partition".
The "partition" about which Hollande was talking was the partition of France -- one part for Muslims and another for non-Muslims.
Hollande's successor, President Emmanuel Macron, elected to office in 2017, appears to think that this risk of partition is actually the solution. Looking at what he has said and done since his election, one can say that the division of the country is in progress. Officially, of course, Macron continues to be the guardian of the Constitution, which embodies national unity. But step by step, a strategy of the partition of France appears to be at work.
The first step of this partition process was, it seems, to create a new adversary. For Macron, the adversary was not radical Islam, which some see as having murdered hundreds of people in France in recent years, but radical secularism, which has never murdered anybody. In December 2017, for instance, a few months after his election, Macron organized a meeting with the representatives of six religions (Catholic, Protestant, Eastern Orthodox, Muslim, Jewish and Buddhist) at the presidential Elysée Palace. At this meeting, Macron reportedly "critically questioned the radicalization of secularism." Not much filtered out of this meeting beyond that little quote -- presumably on purpose. In October 2016, before his election, Macron had denounced the defenders of "a spiteful vision of secularism." After his election, however, the presidential creed has never varied. According to it, political Islam is a not the problem; the resistance to it is.In this strategy -- to isolate secularism and build it up as the new adversary -- Macron needed allies. He found one easily in the guise of the Catholic Church, which has suffered in France since a law in 1905 broke the link between Church and state. In April 2018, Macron accepted an invitation from the Conference of Bishops of France, and, in the sumptuous decor of the College of the Bernardins, in front of more than 400 Catholic personages, the President of the French Republic, Emmanuel Macron, delivered an erudite and lyrical speech, empty of any proposition apart from an allusion to "repair the damaged link" between the Church and the state. After the speech, the 400 Catholic officials jumped to their feet and gave him a standing ovation.
In June 2018, Macron revitalized his vision by visiting Pope Francis in the Vatican and accepting from him the inherited title of Honorary Canon of the Basilica of St. John Lateran. Macron also reaffirmed his willingness "to deepen our relations of friendship and trust with the Holy See".
With this powerful Catholic ally in his pocket, Macron could launch the second stage of what seems his partition strategy: To launch a process of empowering the Muslims in France by entrusting them with the keys of "urban policy," the synonym for France's integration and assimilation policy. In the last 30 years, the French state has poured 48 billion euros into renewal projects in the poor suburbs that house millions of immigrants -- including millions of first-, second- and third-generation Muslim immigrants. The new buildings, new roads and new public transit vehicles, however, seem to have produced the opposite of the desired effect: recurrent riots, attacks on schools and police precincts, drug dealing on almost every corner, a proliferation of Salafist mosques and more than 1,700 jihadists gone to join ISIS.
In May 2018, Macron skillfully rejected the recommendation of the Borloo Report to pour another 48 billion euros over another 30 years, a policy that has already failed. Instead of continuing to buy a (shaky) social peace with billions of taxpayers' money, Macron did better: he created the "Presidential Council of the City", a political structure, composed mostly of Muslim notables (two third of the total members of the Council) and representatives of organizations working in the suburbs. Today, this body is in charge of monitoring the urban policy. There are no more billions, but there is a "Muslim advisory committee" to redirect the money from the old policy. Two agencies are involved in financing the renovation of neighborhoods in "sensitive urban areas": ANRU (National Agency for Urban Renewal) and ACSÉ (Agency for Social Cohesion and Equal Opportunities). Both of these agencies will soon be replaced by the Office of the Commissioner General for Territorial Equality. The budget devoted to the urban policy, described in the draft budget, law amounts to 429 million euros for 2018.
The idea of entrusting the keys of the Muslim suburbs to Islamic organizations is not new. It was first formulated by State Counselor Thierry Tuot in a famous report, "The Great Nation: For an Inclusive society", presented in 2013 to then-Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault. The main proposal in the report was to transfer urban policy to Islamic organizations, with the role of the State being reduced merely to subsidize them.
To complete this scheme of empowering political Islam in France, two legislative riders were voted in the "Law for a State in the Service of a Trusting Society", at the end of June 2018. The first legislative rider abolished the obligation of religious associations from declaring themselves as lobbying groups. This measure clearly opens the way for entities such as the Muslim Brotherhood movement to lobby Members of Parliament without leaving a trace. The second legislative rider -- in contravention of the secularism law of 1905 -- authorized all religious organizations to act as private actors in the real estate market. According to the Comité Laïcité République (Committee for Secularism of the Republic, CLR), this legislative rider would deprive a municipality or a region of the ability to appropriate land or buildings sold by a church or a mosque. "Thus, the code of town planning and the law of 1905 would be modified for this purpose" said CLR. In other words, private funding for creeds is allowed.
The third stage of partition is a work in progress. It concerns the tentative plan to build an "Islam of France" -- disconnected from the old "Islam in France." In other words, the Grand Mosque of Paris may no longer be considered as if it is the equivalent of the Algerian Embassy. "As soon as this autumn, we will give to Islam a framework and rules to be sure this religion will be exercised in a manner consistent with the laws of the Republic", Macron said. It was a surprising declaration because the tradition in France since the 1905 law -- and a tradition accepted by all religions except Islam -- is that religion may not to impose its rules on secular society. Now it seems that France has to adapt to Islam.
What will happen in September? The government seems to be thinking of doing what Austria did: cutting the financial ties between French Muslim communities and their countries of origin (e.g. Turkey, Algeria, Morocco); creating a tax on the halal business (which makes more than 6 billion euros annually), and then using these new tax revenues to train "republican" imams in France.
The government also appears to intend to create a kind of national agency to organize pilgrimages to Mecca. Estimated at more than 250 million euros, the business of pilgrimages is trusteed by about 40 Muslim travel agencies approved by the Ministry of Hajj of Saudi Arabia to receive their quotas of visas. Many Muslim travel agencies are rumored to operate illegally and charge exorbitant prices for bad service. So, Macron is supposed to reform and give the system an appearance of "normalcy". These are the "framework" and "laws" Macron is talking about.
The big question is: Who will be heading and managing this framework? The Muslim Brotherhood, the most powerful organization, which controls more than 2,000 mosques in France? Or a young guard of Muslim technocrats close to president but with no ties to mosques, imams and the organized Muslim community in general? We will soon know. Additionally, rumors are spreading that Tareq Oubrou, an imam in Bordeaux, and known to be a prominent figure of Muslim Brotherhood, could become "Grand Imam of France".
Is it, however, the business of the secular State of France to organize Muslims and train "republican" imams? No, not even slightly. Is it a problem that two-thirds of the imams serving in France are not fluent in French? Can Islamist imams be trained the "republican" way? Yes, but for what result? The imam of Brest, in Brittany, became famous because he was filmed explaining to children that music could transform a listener into a pig or a monkey, and he filmed himself drinking camel urine; it is written in a Hadith that camel urine is good as medicine. In 2017, the same imam of Brest was graduated, "referent-secularity" – meaning, an Islamist informed about what is secularism but with no obligation to respect it -- from the University of Rennes in Brittany.
Back in 1627, Cardinal de Richelieu, the prime minister of King Louis XIII, stormed the city of la Rochelle in southwest France to bring back the Protestants to the bosom of France. Now, in 2018, Macron is providing aid to French Muslims to bring back the Muslims to the bosom of France.
*Yves Mamou, author and journalist, based in France, worked for two decades as a journalist for Le Monde. His next book, "Le Grand abandon, les élites françaises et l'islamisme," (The Great Abandonment, French Elites and Islamism) is to be published in October, 2018.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Analysis Everyone Wants to Get Iran Out of Syria. But No One Knows How to Do It
أمير تيبون من الهآررتس: الجميع يريد اخراج إيران من سوريا ولكن لا أحد يعرف كيف يفعل ذلك

Amir Tibon/Haaretz/August 25/18
Russia would essentially have to fight Iran to get it out of Syria, where Tehran aims to continue the 30-year alliance and benefit from the reconstruction after the civil war, experts say
WASHINGTON — The U.S. national security adviser, John Bolton, has devoted the past week to discussions with Israel and Russia on the future of Syria. At the beginning of the week, just before he arrived in Israel, Bolton said Russia agreed with the United States that Iranian forces must leave Syria, but Moscow doesn’t think it has the ability to force them out. At the end of the week, as Bolton heads back to Washington, that statement still seems true.
On paper there seems to be a consensus among Israel, the United States, Russia and leading Arab countries that Iran must get out of Syria. “The military threat Iran poses in Syria is a big concern everywhere in the region,” a senior White House official told Haaretz. The sticking point, however, is the best way to deal with that military threat. Everyone wants Iran out, but does anyone have a credible plan to achieve this?
So far, Israel has laid the responsibility for pushing Iran out on Russia. The Moscow-Tehran alliance helped Syrian President Bashar Assad emerge victorious from seven years of civil war. Iran played an important role in Assad’s victory, but Russia’s role was decisive, and Israeli officials were hoping that President Vladimir Putin would use his influence to drive Iran out.
Russia, however, has told Israel a number of times that it doesn’t have this ability. At one point, Putin told Bolton that he also wants Iran to leave Syria, but that Russia alone can’t achieve this. So far, Russia has kept Iranian forces 85 kilometers (53 miles) from the Israeli border, with one notable exception: Iranians are still present in and around Damascus.
The Trump administration, meanwhile, has included an Iranian withdrawal from Syria among the dozen conditions for any new agreement between Tehran and Washington that would replace the 2015 nuclear deal. U.S. policy is to tighten financial pressure on Iran through sanctions in the hope that Tehran either returns to the negotiating table and agrees to leave Syria, or its economic crisis worsens and the Islamic Republic is forced to minimize its investment in military interventions abroad.
Waiting for the reconstruction
Still, some analysts believe that the entire debate over “pushing Iran out of Syria” is unrealistic. Iran has thousands of soldiers and Shi’ite militia fighters on Syrian soil, and it’s anxiously waiting to reap the benefits of Syria’s reconstruction process. Getting all of its military and loyal militias out of Syria could hurt its plans to profit from the rebuilding at a time when the country desperately needs income because of the American pressure.
Tamara Cofman Wittes, a Middle East expert at the Brookings Institution, wrote last month on Twitter that “Iran and Syria have an alliance of 30+ years’ duration,” adding that the idea that the United States, even with Russia’s concurrence, could engineer Iran’s ouster from Syria was preposterous. She called this “yet another dishonest statement of U.S. policy toward this horrific war.”
Hussein Ibish, an expert at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, told Haaretz that for Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, three of Iran’s main rivals in the Middle East, the key objective right now is to contain Iran’s presence in Syria. “They originally wanted to see Iran rolled out of Syria, but there is an understanding that right now, this will be very hard to achieve,” Ibish said. “A more realistic goal, for the time being, is to deny Iran any further victories and achievements in Syria.”
One concern for those countries and Israel is the possibility of Iran creating a “corridor” of military and political power stretching from Tehran to Iraq, Syria and into Lebanon. Israel considers that scenario a strategic threat and has shown that it won’t hesitate to take military action to stall the emergence of such a corridor. But there’s a big difference between blocking that scenario and completely kicking Iran out of Syria.
“Bolton’s assessment is sadly realistic. It would take a level of commitment by Russia that is not in the cards – essentially to fight Iran in Syria – to ensure Iran’s full departure,” said Dan Shapiro, the previous U.S. ambassador to Israel.
“So Israel and the U.S. should focus on ensuring that Israel continues to have the freedom of action necessary to strike Iranian targets in Syria as needed to keep the threat from reaching unacceptable proportions. And U.S. troops should remain in Syria, which helps impose limits on areas Iran can operate.”
One option that has been raised by some Israeli officials is that Assad could eventually become a partner for ensuring Iran’s ouster. The logic is that just like Russia, Assad has no use for an Iranian presence in his country once he ensures his victory in the civil war.
In fact, Iran can only become a source of danger for Assad because of Tehran’s possible confrontations with Israel. But Assad contradicted this thesis by saying last month that he wants Iran and Hezbollah to remain in Syria for a long time and help him ensure his country’s stability.
Keeping Assad
Also, some experts believe that trying to work with Assad will be inevitable for the United States and other players in the region as he deepens his control over his country. “Normalization of Assad” is how Aaron David Miller, a former Middle East adviser to Republican and Democratic administrations, described the emerging policy.
Assad is “the problem but will likely be part of a solution,” Miller wrote on Twitter, adding that this process “began under Obama; has accelerated under Trump’s courting of Putin. Israel has bought on; the Lebanese too; Turkey will have no choice; and Jordan as well.”
A senior European diplomat has told Haaretz that European leaders are concerned about possible U.S.-Russian understandings on Syria that would include Washington allowing a “normalization” of Assad.
But can some level of acceptance of Assad help drive out Iran? The same European diplomat said the chances of that happening are “very low,” explaining that “Assad needs Iran and will continue to need Iran in the near future. His rule is not going be strong and stable even once he controls the entire country. Iran’s presence will help him deter the angry and oppressed population of his country from even thinking about reigniting the civil war. He won’t give up on that anytime soon.”
A key aspect of Iran’s support for Assad has been its use in Syria of Shi’ite militias from countries in the wider region such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Any discussion about Iran’s future in Syria includes those militias, and there are no signs at the moment that the Assad regime is willing to get rid of them.
“Their continued presence in Syria provides the regime with an opportunity to consolidate its rule and expand its authority beyond major urban population centers,” said Ali Alfoneh, an expert on Iran who has written about the various militias operating in Syria. “In the longer term, we may even witness a permanent presence of those militias on Syrian territory and a demographic-sectarian change in strategic areas.
Alfoneh added that “I have the sense that we have reached a point where all parties involved are used to the presence of these militias, including Israel. As long as there is no or very small Shi’a militia presence at the Israeli border, all parties can live with status quo.” Despite all the rhetoric about kicking Iran out of Syria, that last observation seems to be true – at least for now.

The social media phenomenon and bullying the authority
Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran/Al Arabiya/August 25/18
There is at least one smart device in every person’s hand. The Saudi Communications and Information Technology Commission states that there are 43 million mobile phone subscribers in Saudi Arabia.
Certainly, the number in other Gulf States is close to this. Most of the subscribers use the applications found on these phones – applications which are deceitful and which disillusion users as it makes them think their ability to influence is huge. However, anyone who has been observing this social media phenomenon knows that a generation of idiots is fast spreading in a terrible way.
The new agent of chaos
This phenomenon has weakened intelligence, destroyed the book, dissipated the gift of memorizing and made hobbies like writing with the pen a memory from the past.
The gravity of this phenomenon is represented in its disastrous consequences on societies. The smart device is about to replace the social construct. For example, at the peak of Saudi preparations for the Hajj season, a person assaulted a security personnel, thus threatening and disobeying public order. This is an assault against the party which represents “the state’s legitimate use of force” as Max Weber puts it.
It is not enough to merely regulate the price of advertisements on social media networks. What is more important is to limit their misuse and employ them for the right purposes because this bullying as such deeply threatens the state’s entity and its stability, misleads the public perception, disrespects rules and laws and causes chaos that has audaciously turned against the values regulating the public domain.
What’s also noticeable is that these tools are used to exacerbate existing ills or to spread new contagion, thus promoting chances of sedition, igniting symbolic civil wars and waking up eradicative identities.
Social media tools are often used to exacerbate existing ills or to spread new contagion in society
Terrorist governments may exploit the influence of those to whitewash their projects and root their militant situation via those involved in this phenomenon and of whom the majority of them belongs to the young and enthusiastic generations. They either become rogue revolutionaries, destructive terrorists or professional criminals. The countries that are addicted to supporting such social media users are well known, and the countries of the region and the world have suffered from the consequences.
It is foolish to equate being garrulous with exercising freedom of expression. The truth is that these forums are mere platforms for financial dealings, verbal buffoonery and for venting idiocy. We must stop the public from such activities, and state institutions must undertake extensive legislative studies to rationalize the use of social media.
Assault on intelligence
It’s dangerous how this phenomenon has strengthened values that are hostile to humanity. One of the most dangerous side effects of this malaise is the rise in unjustified egocentrism. The blight increases when governmental institutions make things worse by polarizing these groups to eradicate certain phenomena or by utilizing them for publicity, and we have seen the negative results of such use.
The social media phenomenon has also blurred the difference between arguments made in chat forums and analyses conducted by using scientific standards. The masses by their nature, as Gustave Le Bon put it, are not too inclined to reflect. Le Bon said that knowing the temperament of the masses is very important for rulers of a state in order to be wary of the consequences of any negligence of a reckless act that may happen and harm the state entity.
Despite the differences between the two phenomena, i.e. what Le Bon discusses and what we suffer from, it seems that some of the matters that he discussed could be of use to us. For example, Le Bon said that the individual forming part of a crowd acquires, solely from numerical considerations, a sentiment of invincible power which allows him to voluntarily yield to instincts in an irresponsible manner. He said that great decay happens when the conscious personality disappears, making way for a blind fellowship with the joint blind conviction of the need to go through a journey which limit is the mirage.
Need for studying social media
We must admit that the menace of social media has reached its limit. The state must immediately take the initiative to investigate and analyze this phenomenon, and then assess the situation to finally rationalize its effectiveness and control its limits. As for the slogans of freedom of expression and the right to have a say, then these all come in second after guaranteeing the security of the state and its institutions and are dependent on it.
This creeping trend has not stopped at flaunting, boasting and being audaciously ignorant but its waves have reached security men. This is a very dangerous indicator because it threatens the foundations of the state.
In his book Al-Basa’ir wa al-Dhakha’ir, Abu Hayyan al-Tawhidi said that when Abu Hubayra was asked: What are the limits of stupidity?! He said: It has no limits.
The same applies to the social media phenomenon. It’s a state of a disastrous collective stupidity.

Iran and Haider al-Abadi’s battle
Hazem Saghieh/Al Arabiya/August 25/18
The recent political and media backlash faced by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, as well as Tehran’s refusal to receive him, has not only exposed the criticality of the Iraqi situation and position but also hints there is an available opportunity that must not be ignored.
Abadi said he disagrees with the policy of sanctions but he added that he cannot but commit to them out of concern for Iraq’s national interests. This stance also expresses the country’s humble capabilities.
Following the attack against him, he had to ease his position and decided against having any financial deals with Tehran in dollars.
National interest trumps sectarianism
Abadi’s stance is correct as any statesman has to give priority to his country’s national interests and give due consideration to the balance of power. Even Iran had taken a similar decision when Iraq was facing severe economic sanctions that impoverished its people but did not affect Saddam Hussein’s hold on power.
However, Abadi’s position clashes with facts and interests that have accumulated since 2003, particularly since the US troops’ withdrawal which began in 2007 and which concluded in 2011 leaving Iraq under Iran’s mercy as the only player.
Haider al-Abadi’s conviction of the necessity to take an unusual step to limit Iraqi collapse is most probably sensing approval by Al-Sistani reference
In Iraq, two major wills converged. The first was of Iran that sought to fill the vacuum left by the West, especially by the US, and that sought through neighboring Iraq to control an imperial geographic range that stretches from Yemen in the south to Gaza in the west so it (Tehran) can have the final word regarding the situation of some Arab countries, mainly Syria, and to control the course of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
The second will is that of certain Iraqi Shiite parties that have always had Iran’s sponsorship and support. These parties, primarily former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and the Popular Mobilization Forces and its militias, have since the beginning preferred to hand over Iraq to Iran on a golden plate.
This relationship, among other issues, causes this confusion between the national identity and the religious and sectarian identities, and which our region suffers from.
Iran’s diabolical design
Anyway, the confluence of these two dynamic wills established a huge network of interests and loyalties that obstructed the Iraqi state and its proper operation. It also provoked Iraqi nationalism and mobilized non-Shiite Iraqis, whether Sunnis, Kurds and others.
The process of collapse recently reached an advanced stage, as evident in the popular protests against corruption and against the water and electricity crises. These protests were preceded by the position of Muqtada al-Sadr, whose bloc came in first in the parliamentary elections in Iraq.
Meanwhile, the protesters did not hesitate to call out Iran and to demand liberation from its influence and from its followers. This further revealed how critical the situation is.
On the other hand, the Iraqi national project amid these policies is threatened by unprecedented challenges, such as the emergence of ‘southern unrest’ demanding to separate Basra from Iraq.
Haidar al-Abadi’s conviction of the necessity to take an unusual step to limit Iraqi collapse is most probably sensing approval by al-Sistani reference.
The weight represented by the Shiite reference will be major to face the forces that have rushed to attack the prime minister and who are striking with Iran’s sword. However, it is also certain that Iran’s situation itself has provided an encouraging factor that cannot be underestimated.
Throwing off Iran’s yoke
The terrible economic conditions, the growing conflicts within the ruling elite and the rising accusations among its parties are encouraging to go ahead and regain Iraq’s freedom from Iran’s clutches.
This does not negate the fact that Iran will try, be it directly or through its proxies, to resume its battle against Abadi by all means, as losing Iraq will be an inevitable prelude to the end of the regional and imperial project which it sponsors.
After all, Iraq is too important for Iran to give up. Since that’s the case, it’s urgent that Arab countries say their word and associate it with actions in a confrontation the consequences of which are not limited to Abadi or even the Iraqis but go beyond.

East is East, West is West, but is investing at home best?

Dr. Mohamed A. Ramady/Al Arabiya/August 25/18
The on-going saga about Tesla and the now infamous tweet by its CEO Elon Musk to take it private, apparently done while driving and under the influence of taking a sleep inducing medication Ambien but which unfortunately for him and Tesla investors, seemed to have caused the opposite hyper active effect, has raised questions about investing surplus funds abroad in such companies or at home.
Apparently, the Saudi Public Investment Fund already holds around 5 percent of Tesla shares and Mr Musk was under the impression that he had received encouragement and a commitment from the PIF to take the company private, when in all probability the Saudi sovereign wealth fund advised that more due diligence was needed.
Musk said his confidence was based on conversations with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, which first expressed interest in helping take the company private in early 2017. What ever Mr Musk believed, even Tesla’s Board of Directors were taken by surprise by the tweet and the company is now under investigation by the U.S Securities and Exchange Commission after investor lawsuits were filed.
The famous saying that countries, and by extension companies, do not have permanent friends but permanent interests is very apt today, exemplified by the exit of many companies from Iran after the USA imposed sanctions on that country and affecting any companies doing business in the USA. The bewildering ebbs and flows of regional and international geo political alliances and divisions adds to economic and financial risk for investment decisions. Questions then arise for the Gulf oil producers on the central issue of diversifying their economies from oil reliance and whether the investment decisions taken create a true non oil goods and service base, preferably export led, and not dependent on the vagaries of high oil prices and government incentives and pay-outs?
The oil producers raise revenues either from energy related exports or through domestic fees and taxes. The use and direction of these revenues are of crucial importance for the future well being of the single resource economies. Do they use these primarily as part of a “financial diversification” through investments abroad in a variety of assets, hoping to gain above average financial returns, or do they primarily use these funds for “economic diversification”, investing in domestic infrastructure, and local job generation projects, with possibly lower short term economic returns until the projects cab stand on their feet and be weaned away from government subsidy support? Are these two objectives fundamentally at odds and lead to completely different outcomes, and above all, if financial diversification is the primary route, who will be the custodian of these revenue investments to ensure accountability and transparency in decision-making?
It is not that Gulf countries do not have the necessary mechanisms in place for such oversight, given their long experience with Central Banks and Monterey Agencies who have been the conservative custodians of sovereign reserves in a prudent manner, albeit on lower financial return basis. But these institutions will argue that their mandate is for prudent monetary and investment policies, primarily high rated sovereign bonds and not investment in potentially more attractive but riskier private sector institutions. Over the past few decades, there has been an emergence of Sovereign Wealth Funds ( SWF’s ) who have actively sought out international and local participation whether direct or private equity investments as economic globalization, fear of concentration in one or more financial market, credit downgrades have made SWF’s become more adventurous in their investment choices.
But the problems these SWF’s face remains the same – where to invest, which asset class, directly or thorough professional managers, how to assess risks and monitor on-going investments in the face of conflicting demand for domestic investments and societal pressure to do so, are they active Board members or passive investors, and, of major importance, do they possess the necessary professional capacity to do all these tasks.
Strategic desire
Where to invest and their consequences can be no trivial matter in an age of immediate social media scrutiny, given the collateral impact on SWF investments from potential lawsuits and inappropriate social behaviour by management as some of the more high profile SWF investments have been exposed to. Learning by doing from international investment mistakes is sometimes not a luxury that some of these SWF’s can afford.
Besides Tesla, the PIF has made substantial commitments to other technology companies or investments, including a $45 billion agreement to invest in a giant tech fund led by Japan’s Softbank. Then there’s $3.5 billion invested in U.S. ride-sharing firm Uber, the $1 billion pumped into Virgin Group’s space ventures, and another $20 billion tentatively committed to an infrastructure investment fund planned with Blackstone. The PIF fund is estimated to have over $250 billion in asset but also has many claims on its resources, both financial and political. More than half of its assets are tied up in large Saudi companies, such as SABIC and others whose stocks could be difficult to sell en masse. Above all, there is now pressure to spend money at home to create jobs, especially through a more invigorated “local content” policy that advocates some minimum local content production from foreign joint venture partners. The landmark Saudi Aramco IKTVA or In- Kingdom Total Value Added localisation program - launched in 2015 with the aim of ensuring a 70 percent local content by 2030 and many new jobs, is now emulated in the wider economy especially in the strategic big ticket defence sector.
The debate and pros and cons on where to invest, abroad or at home will continue, and it could be complementary instead of being mutually exclusive, especially if the international investment promises to transfer technology back home and help to establish a viable industrial base and job creation. This should really be one of the key criteria for international investment selection. It could be that the PIF’s initial investment in Tesla was motivated by a strategic desire to eventually set up an electric car industry in Saudi Arabia that reduces global fossil fuel consumption, although it seems difficult to square on how this fits in with an oil export dependent economy like the Kingdom.

Where is the dissociation policy in Lebanon?
Randa Takieddine/Al Arabiya/August 25/18
أين النأي بالنفس في لبنان؟
رندة تقي الدين/الحياة/24 آب/18