Detailed Daily Lebanese & Lebanese Related LCCC English News Bulletins
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
whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward
Matthew 10/40-42/11,01: "‘Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.’ Now when Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and proclaim his message in their cities.""

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 26-27/18
Hezbollah Prepares to Contain Repercussions of US Sanctions against Iran/Paula Astih/Asharq Al-Awsat/August 26/18
Hizbullah Official Tamer Hamza: Like Insects, The Jews Will Not Change, Stealing Gold Is In Their Genes; "They Do Not Love Death; A Jew Would Rather Live 1,000 Years"/MEMRI/August 26/18
Aoun’s era should not be allowed to slip to that of Lahoud/Nadim Koteich/Al Arabiya/August 26/18
Caretaker Minister of Information, Melhem Riachy: LF supports Aoun's tenure, whoever tries to overthrow reconciliation will be cursed by ancestors and history/Sun 26 Aug 2018/ NNA
Pope Francis begs forgiveness and vows 'firm' pursuit of justice in sexual abuse scandal/The Guardian/August 26/18
Ankara Tries Turkish Cypriot Journalist for Criticizing Turkey/Uzay Bulut/Gatestone Institute/August 26/18
The US Can’t Bring Russia ‘to its Knees’/Leonid Bershidsky/Bloomberg/August 26/18
Would Iran be Allowed to Rewrite the History of the Middle East/Eyad Abu Shakra/ Asharq Al-Awsat/August 26/18
Trump has Flipped on the Fed. Will Conservatives Join him/Jeff Stein/The Washington Post/August 26/18
Iran’s hypocritical espionage activities must be stopped/Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/August 26, 2018
After Jerusalem, Netanyahu eyes the Golan Heights/Baria Alamuddin/Arab News/August 26/18
The Putin method: All nice and legal/Amir Taheri/Al Arabiya/August 26/18

Titles For The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on August 26-27/18
'Don't Play with Fire', Nasrallah Tells Those 'Betting on STL'
Alloush Says Hariri to Present Proposals to Break Govt. Impasse
Report: Hizbullah to Withdraw from All Non-Northern Syrian Regions
Moscow Proposes 'Deploying Troops in Lebanon' to Return Refugees
Yemen Reportedly Asks Security Council to 'Stop Hizbullah Threat'
Report: Syria Tells Hizbullah to ‘Keep Troops on Its Soil’
Rwanda's Foreign Minister arrives in Beirut
Samy Gemayel Stresses Commitment to the Cause of Kataeb Martyrs
Dagher: Lebanon Witnessing Bitter Reality That's Far From What Was Promised
Hezbollah Prepares to Contain Repercussions of US Sanctions against Iran
Hizbullah Official Tamer Hamza: Like Insects, The Jews Will Not Change, Stealing Gold Is In Their Genes; "They Do Not Love Death; A Jew Would Rather Live 1,000 Years"
Aoun’s era should not be allowed to slip to that of Lahoud
Caretaker Minister of Information, Melhem Riachy: LF supports Aoun's tenure, whoever tries to overthrow reconciliation will be cursed by ancestors and history

Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on August 26-27/18
Pope Francis begs forgiveness and vows 'firm' pursuit of justice in sexual abuse scandal
John McCain, U.S. War Hero and Political Maverick, Dead at 81
5.9magnitude earthquake rocks Iran's western Kermanshah province
US Official Lambastes EU’s €18 Mln Aid Package to Tehran
Iran Parliament Impeaches Finance Minister
Iran Defense Minister in Damascus, Says Will Help Rebuild Syria
UK-Iranian woman returns to Tehran jail after plea rejected
Pilot Killed in Iran F-5 Fighter Jet Crash
Senior U.S. Diplomat Visits Kurdish-Held Territory in Syria
Druze leader denies talks about IDF intervention in Syria
Palestinians Say U.S. Cut in Aid Amounts to 'Cheap Blackmail'
Iraq: Our Armament Cooperation with Iran Does not Include Airplanes
Turkey’s Erdogan says will bring ‘security and peace’ to Syria, Iraq
Kuwait terminates more than 3,000 expat public sector employees
ISIS claims responsibility for Egypt attack on police checkpoint in Sinai

The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on August 26-27/18
'Don't Play with Fire', Nasrallah Tells Those 'Betting on STL'
Naharnet/August 26/18/Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah on Sunday warned parties allegedly “betting on the Special Tribunal for Lebanon” against “playing with fire,” as he called for postponing the thorny debate on Lebanon's ties with Syria until after the formation of the new government. “Some March 14 circles are saying that the main reason behind delaying the formation of the government is that the Special Tribunal for Lebanon will issue its ruling in September and that there will be a new situation in the country to capitalize on,” Nasrallah said in a televised address marking the ouster of jihadist groups from the outskirts of several eastern border towns.
“The STL does not mean anything to us at all and its rulings are of no value regardless whether they are condemnation or acquittal rulings,” he added.
“To those betting on the tribunal: do not play with fire. Period,” Nasrallah warned.
The STL Trial Chamber has scheduled oral closing arguments in the Rafik Hariri assassination case for the period between Sep. 11 and Sep. 21. Four Hizbullah operatives are being tried in absentia over their alleged role in the killing.
The STL Prosecution has recently submitted a “Final Trial Brief” that explains the links between Hizbullah and the supposed assassination squads and draws attention to meetings and phone calls between senior Hizbullah and Syrian officials prior to the February 2005 attack. Separately, Nasrallah warned against creating “new obstacles” in the government formation process.
“We are still betting on internal dialogue regarding government formation but time is running out and quick efforts must be exerted to address the situation,” Nasrallah cautioned.
“Let us postpone the debate over the relation with Syria and the ministerial policy statement until after the formation of the government,” he urged. Nasrallah also noted that “claims that Hizbullah is now in control of Lebanon's decisions are aimed at pinning the blame on the party for all the current situations,” while pointing out that “the relation between Hizbullah and President (Michel) Aoun is a relation of trust.” “No one of us imposes his policies and orientation on the other,” Nasrallah added.

Alloush Says Hariri to Present Proposals to Break Govt. Impasse
Naharnet/August 26/18/Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri is “determined to present proposals to break the government deadlock,” an official from his al-Mustaqbal Movement said. “His mission knows no surrender nor inability, as long as he is capable of communicating with everyone and proposing objective ideas that can rescue the country,” ex-MP Mustafa Alloush told Asharq al-Awsat newspaper in remarks published Sunday. Alloush however ruled out an imminent breakthrough. Hariri was tasked with forming a new government on May 24. His mission is being hampered by political wrangling over shares, especially over Christian and Druze representation. Some parties such as Hizbullah and the Free Patriotic Movement have suggested that foreign countries, especially Saudi Arabia, are behind the ongoing delay. Hariri has meanwhile told reporters that the new government “will not be formed” should the pro-Damascus camp “insist on restoring Lebanese-Syrian ties.” But pro-Hizbullah journalist Salem Zahran said that the PM-designate has “informed Hizbullah” that his remarks were a “slip of the tongue.”

Report: Hizbullah to Withdraw from All Non-Northern Syrian Regions
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 26/18/Hizbullah has ordered its militants to withdraw from all Syrian cities and towns except for the Syrian north, a media report said. "The Syrian state does not need these forces after its army extended its authority over the entire Syrian geography, except for the north, for which it is preparing itself," Kuwait's al-Rai newspaper reported on Sunday. "Hizbullah is concentrating its entire military preparations on the border with Israel, because it is preparing for a scenario in which war could either erupt tomorrow or never at all," the daily added.

Moscow Proposes 'Deploying Troops in Lebanon' to Return Refugees
Naharnet/August 26/18/Russia has proposed sending a brigade from its military police 20 kilometers into Lebanon to facilitate the return of Syrian refugees to their country, media reports said. The suggestion was made during the latest Geneva meeting between the national security advisers of Russia and the United States, Lebanese political sources cited U.S. diplomatic and media reports as saying in remarks published Sunday by Kuwait's al-Anbaa newspaper. According to the reports, the Russian forces would be stationed in the Bekaa Valley near Syria's border in order to “create a corridor for Syrian refugees whose hometowns have become safe.”The refugees would be repatriated “with Russian guarantees and in cooperation with the Syrian and Lebanese authorities,” the sources said. “The Russian side stressed its ability to convince Lebanese President Michel Aoun of this idea, knowing that he is constitutionally capable of taking the decision to allow the Russia force to enter the country for a temporary period of 90 days,” the sources added. During that period, Russia would “provide around 1,000 buses while 500 Lebanese Army trucks and 500 Syrian army trucks would be deployed to transfer belongings, with guarantees that no returnee would be arrested,” the sources went on to say. U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton however rejected the proposal and considered that such a move would “violate Lebanon's sovereignty” at a time Washington is equipping the country's army, the sources added.

Yemen Reportedly Asks Security Council to 'Stop Hizbullah Threat'

Naharnet/August 26/18/The internationally-recognized Yemeni government has asked the U.N. Security Council to “take the necessary measures to stop the threat of Lebanon's Hizbullah,” media reports said. Yemen, Saudi Arabia and their Gulf allies accuse Hizbullah of offering support to Yemen's Iran-backed Huthi rebels. An Emirati minister warned last Sunday of “consequences” after Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah met in Lebanon with a Huthi delegation. The rebels 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: Syria Tells Hizbullah to ‘Keep Troops on Its Soil’

Naharnet/August 26/18/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.
Rwanda's Foreign Minister arrives in Beirut
Sun 26 Aug 2018/NNA - Rwanda's Foreign Minister, Louise Mushikabo, arrived at Beirut's Rafic Hariri International Airport for a two-day official visit, during which she will submit a letter on her candidacy for the position of Executive Secretary of the International Organization of La Francophonie, National News Agency correspondent said Sunday.Mushikabo will reportedly meet with President of the Republic Michel Aoun, House Speaker Nabih Berri, Prime Minister Saad Hariri, and her Lebanese counterpart, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil.
Samy Gemayel Stresses Commitment to the Cause of Kataeb Martyrs 26th August 2018/Kataeb leader Samy Gemayel on Sunday vowed absolute commitment to the cause which the party's martyrs died for, assuring that the Kataeb will never skid off the constants and values which were set by the founder and those who sacrificed their lives for the sake of the country. "Our mission as Christians and Kataeb partisans is to shore up those enduring unjustice. We won't allow abnormalities to become the general rule," Gemayel said following a mass in Bekiche to commemorate the Kataeb's martyrs. "We will rebuild this nation so that it would reflect the image and aspirations of our youths." "We have done everything so that our people lives in dignity. We are among the few who favored the nation over themselves so that we would keep our cause alive," Gemayel stressed.

Dagher: Lebanon Witnessing Bitter Reality That's Far From What Was Promised 26th August 2018/Kataeb politburo member Serge Dagher on Sunday stressed that the party is not funded by any foreign power and, therefore, cannot be influenced to change its stances, adding that the Kataeb is made up of people who aspire to a free and independent Lebanon. “Our party relies on conscience and integrity. That's the reason behind our steadfastness in politics, unlike other parties which are funded by other nations and would vanish as soon as certain interests cease to exist,” Dagher told Voice of Lebanon radio station. “It seems as if there are two worlds in Lebanon: one where the politicians are busy partitioning seats, ministries and their interests, and another one where citizens suffer from electricity cuts, water shortage, traffic, garbage crisis, roadworks, increasing school fees, airport congestion and economic issues,” he added. “Our aim is not to undermine the presidential term or the government, given that their failure would entail the country’s failure. Regardless of what our political positioning would be, we have stated that we will hold onto positivity to help build Lebanon. Unfortunately, we are witnessing today a bitter reality which is far from what was promised,” he said. Dagher called on politicians to contribute to the government formation while taking into consideration what really serves Lebanon's interest. “All files in Lebanon are being precipitously and recklessly addressed. No one wants hostility between Lebanon and Syria. However, it is noteworthy to mention that the actual ruler in Syria at the time being is Russia, given that it is the one setting a plan for the refugees’ return and coordinating with the United Nations,” he stated, affirming that it is Russia, not Syria, who will actually achieve the refugees' return. “No one wants the Lebanese-Syrian ties to remain tense, but certain topics require fast solutions, notably the case of Lebanese detainees in Syrian prisons. Those keen on bilateral ties must work on clearing unresolved issues between the two countries,” Dagher concluded.
Exclusive - ‘Hezbollah’ Prepares to Contain Repercussions of US Sanctions against Iran
Beirut - Paula Astih/Asharq Al-Awsat/August 26/18
The new re-imposed US sanctions against Iran are acting as a new source of pressure on the Lebanese “Hezbollah” party, which is already suffering from sanctions imposed by Washington and the Arab Gulf states. The most recent of these sanctions, revealed in July, placed for the first time the names of “Hezbollah” political leaders on terrorism blacklists. The party has sought in the past few months to take the necessary measures to “contain” the repercussions of the new Iran sanctions, which were imposed after US President Donald Trump withdrew in May from the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran.
Despite its measures, the sanctions will likely affect the party and even the whole of Lebanon’s economy. Director of the Levant Institute for Strategic Affairs, Dr. Sami Nader said that “Hezbollah” will suffer direct consequences from the sanctions because it is part of the Iranian system. Moreover, he explained that the sanctions will not only affect “Hezbollah”, but Lebanon as well.
“All the sanctions that have been directly imposed on ‘Hezbollah’ and Iran have increased pressure on the business environment in Lebanon,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat. “They have also limited our room to maneuver,” he stated. “We are already suffering from a severe economic crisis. The side effects of the latest sanctions will automatically affect us because we are in the eye of the storm,” Nader went on to say. “This will only exacerbate the economic crisis.” He compared the situation in Lebanon to the one suffered by Turkey. Ankara was already suffering a deteriorating economy and its political crisis with Washington only compounded it, he remarked.“As long as ‘Hezbollah’ remains so entrenched in Lebanon’s social and economic fabric, then it will it be very difficult to say that the sanctions will only be limited to a few members of the party,” Nader noted. “The repercussions will reach the whole of Lebanon, which was supposed to be giving out positive signals to investors. Unfortunately, we are moving in the opposite direction,” he lamented.
The sanctions that were re-imposed on August 6 target Iran’s purchases of US dollars, metals trading and other dealings, coal, industrial-related software and its auto sector. A second batch of sanctions will take effect on November 4 and target Tehran’s oil shipments and banking sector. “Hezbollah” expert Qassem Qassir, meanwhile, ruled out the possibility that the Iran sanctions would directly affect the party. He explained that the party, as well as Iran, have been taken measures to contain the sanctions and accommodate to the new reality. He told Asharq Al-Awsat that the sanctions will definitely harm finances, but as long as “Hezbollah” and Iran continue to avoid relying on the global banking system, then the penalties will have a limited impact. He noted that Iran had grown accustomed to 30 years worth of sanctions and it managed with “Hezbollah” to find alternate channels to avert them. “So far, the sanctions have impacted Iran’s internal economic scene. They have not yet forced Tehran to alter its policies or external support for its allies,” Qassir said. “We do not know, however, what may happen on the long-term,” he added. “Hezbollah’s” precautions to avoid the impact of the sanctions mainly included reorganizing internal financial structures and securing various sources of funding, he revealed.

Hizbullah Official Tamer Hamza: Like Insects, The Jews Will Not Change, Stealing Gold Is In Their Genes; "They Do Not Love Death; A Jew Would Rather Live 1,000 Years"
MEMRI/August 26/18
Lebanese Shiite Sheikh Tamer Hamza, a Hizbullah official in the Beqaa region in Lebanon, said that the Jews have always been at the root of strife wherever they are and that the Quran describes them as "violators of treaties," to whom "humiliation and wretchedness" have adhered. Claiming that the Jews steal gold and "love money, especially gold and silver," Sheikh Hamza said that "it is in their genes, in their nature" and that they "must be dealt with as they deserve." The interview aired on the Bahraini Al-Maaref TV channel and was uploaded to the Internet on July 18.
The following are excerpts:
"We Must Talk About The Jews And Their Characteristics In The Quran"
Sheikh Tamer Hamza:"Wherever they live, whatever area they occupy, and wherever they have a presence – we must bear in mind that the Jews are at the root of any strife."
Host: "[The Quran says:] "Humiliation has been stricken upon them."
Tamer Hamza: "That is one of the ways they are depicted in the Quran."
Host: "Right."
Tamer Hamza: "What we must do – and this requires separate study – is talk about the Jews and their characteristics in the Quran. As we have mentioned, one of their main characteristics is that they are violators of treaties and agreements. One of the characteristics that has stuck to them is humiliation and wretchedness. One of their main characteristics is that they do not love death. A Jew would rather live a thousand years without budging from this material world. They love…"
Host: "Their miserliness is strong…"
Tamer Hamza: "They love money, especially gold and silver. It is well known that when they moved from country to country… One of the strange paradoxes about Jews, both men and women, is that if they were masters, they would rob others of their gold, and if they were maids or slaves, they would steal the gold of their masters. This is a matter of history. It is in their genes, in their nature.
"The Entire Human Race Has Developed Except For The Jews... Allah Created Each Insect With Certain Instincts... The Same Is True For The Jews"
"There is another paradox. We find that all the nations and all human societies… Anyone who reads about the history of the human race knows that if they had descendents and consecutive generations to this day… We find that the entire human race has developed except for the Jews. There has been no development whatsoever when it comes to their characteristics. Take ants or other insects, for example. Allah created each insect with certain instincts, and from the day Allah created them until now, they have remained the same, and they will remain the same until Judgment Day. The same is true for the Jews.
The Jews "Have Evil Genes"
"The characteristics [of the Jews] in the days of the Prophet Muhammad, as described by the Quran, have not changed even in modern times."
Host: "They have evil genes…"
Tamer Hamza: "This society is strange, and they must be dealt with as they deserve, and in keeping with their existence, their nature, and the genes, so to speak, of which they are composed."
Aoun’s era should not be allowed to slip to that of Lahoud
Nadim Koteich/Al Arabiya/August 26/18
The campaign led by Hezbollah in Lebanon to normalize relations with Bashar al-Assad’s regime goes beyond the traditional political acrimony in the country.
It’s a new moment of the bitter moments of confrontation against “the curse of geography.” So how is it when Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah has declared two triumphs: the victory of Lebanon in 2006, which he celebrated again, and victory in Syria, which he linked to the first, in a single speech?
There is a fait accompli in Syria in which the headline is that Assad has won. It is true that the victory came at the price of the destruction of nearly half of the country’s buildings and the immigration or internal displacement of more than 13 million people within and outside the country, with too many lives lost or maimed, but it’s still victory according to the standards of Assad and his allies. Nasrallah has already emerged victorious over Israel, at the expense of Lebanon's economy and its fragile civil peace, but the cost of all this was not taken into consideration in the balance of wins and losses.
Dubious normalization
Those who are pushing for normalizing relations between Lebanon and Syria are not driven by the “curse of geography” and what it requires in terms of building proper rules for the relationship between the two countries and reviewing Lebanese-Syrian ties before the Syrian war and after it but they are actually motivated by a fervent desire to invest in Assad’s victory, as they perceive it to be a victory achieved within Lebanon before being a Syrian one. To normalize relations with Syria, the representative of relations between the two countries shouldn’t be people like Syrian Major General Ali Al -Mamlouk, who is wanted by the Lebanese judiciary on charges of conspiracy against national security in the case of Michel Samaha! Those who want real normalization do not pretend they want to normalize ties for the sake of the Syrian refugees’ return home when in fact the regime rejects their return and puts conditions that make their return impossible, especially since it claims that Syrian society has become “more homogenous” after the war.
Are we supposed to believe that the person who refined this process of “homogeneity” of the Syrian society with the use of explosive barrels and mass displacement now wants to revert to the reality of “pre-homogenous” time?!
Those who are pushing for normalizing relations between Lebanon and Syria are not driven by the “curse of geography” and what it requires in terms of building proper rules for the relationship between the two countries and reviewing Lebanese-Syrian ties before the Syrian war and after it but they are actually motivated by a fervent desire to invest in Assad’s victory, as they perceive it to be a victory achieved within Lebanon before being a Syrian one
These are the consequences of the “times of victory,” and rushing to turn the clock back is linked to Lebanon’s location and its role, not just regarding Syria, but regarding other issues and roles in the region. In his recent speeches, Nasrallah clearly stated that Lebanon was at the brink of a new political phase. Nasrallah revived the public attack against Saudi Arabia, then his party received a Houthi delegation in Beirut to declare that it’s all one battle fought against one enemy on several fronts. While it is natural for Nasrallah to behave in this manner, the most frightening thing in this new phase is the ambiguous position of President Michel Aoun in terms of the political priorities pushed to the forefront by Hezbollah. There is growing skepticism that the political demands on the formation of the government, the distribution of quotas and the desire to diminish other parties’ power in it as expressed by the president's son-in-law, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, are not legitimate demands, but rather a cover to produce a government within a political perception that takes into consideration what Nasrallah expressed in his last speech about the victory of the axis to which he belongs.
Consequently, the position of President Aoun implies a political position that goes beyond his view of his powers or status to the political status and role of the era within the raging game of axes. Little by little, it seems that the president is exiting the area of compromise, which made him president, into a new territory which suggests that his election was indeed an early indication of the victories which Nasrallah is talking about today.
Policy of self-exclusion
On the Syrian issue, the president did not succeed in presenting his position as president of Lebanon who is destined to deal with the “curse of geography.” He neither cut the way for Hezbollah to invest in this “victory” nor set up national rules to rearrange Lebanese-Syrian relations.
On the subject of Lebanon's Arab relations, the president did not succeed in making the presidency a strong fortress for the policy of dissociation and transform the latter from a mere fig leaf that covers political weakness into a real policy that protects Lebanon and the interests of the Lebanese people.
The Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri did well when he said that no government will be formed if the price is normalization with the Assad regime. By taking this position, he calmly placed a very high ceiling supported by Walid Jumblatt and Samir Geagea. It’s probably best to go further in confronting Hezbollah’s ease to go back and play the Yemeni card and to confront its actual overthrow of the policy of dissociation. This requires a position from the president of the republic as without it, the prime minister's position will remain deficient and weak.
There are serious indications that “the era” is slipping in the wrong direction and that Hezbollah may succeed in turning the clock back amidst serious efforts to turn the presidency of Michel Aoun into something that resembles the time of Emile Lahoud.
Going back to the year 1998 is dangerous. The president’s responsibility is nothing less than historical.

Caretaker Minister of Information, Melhem Riachy: LF supports Aoun's tenure, whoever tries to overthrow reconciliation will be cursed by ancestors and history
Sun 26 Aug 2018/ NNA
"No one, or a very few, consider the danger of waiting, especially in light of a volatile and unstable regional situation so far," Caretaker Minister of Information, Melhem Riachy, said Sunday in an interview to "Voice of Lebanon 93.3" Radio Station.
Riachy reminded about Lebanon's self-distancing policy, saying, "There is a country that has made a decision to adopt said policy and practically, Lebanon must completely neutralize itself from all conflicts in the region without exception."
Commenting on the obstacles hindering the new government formation, the Minister deemed that "there are external and international interests that will intersect with the internal interests at a certain moment...but unfortunately when these interests intervene, calculations exclude the internal scene...and now the problem is internal and very local."
Riachy considered that Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri should adopt unified measures in forming the government in accordance with the results of the recent parliamentary elections, to be presented to the President of the Republic.
In the same context, he considered that adopting the formula of "one minister for every four deputies" is not a criterion relevant to the recent legislative elections' outcome, but could be part of the solution and could be adopted.
Asked about the LF-Baabda relations, the Minister stressed that the Lebanese Forces Party is keen on the success of Aoun's term and convinced that the second government will be much better than the first.
He also emphasized that the relationship with the President stems from three points, namely, the principles declared during Aoun's nomination from Maarab, the oath speech following Aoun's election and the partnership in achieving the presidential elections.
"The relationship with the President will not cease and I almost visit him every week or two or communicate with him, commissioned by LF Leader Samir Geagea, aside of my personal fondness for him," Riachy added.
In response to a question on the main topics discussed with the President, the Minister disclosed that the meeting touched on the dissociation policy, LF-FPM relations and distancing Lebanon from foreign conflicts.
Asked about the position of the Lebanese Forces concerning President Aoun's contact with Syrian President Bashar Assad, he said: "I did not talk to the President about this matter."
On the relation between the Lebanese Forces and the Free Patriotic Movement, Riachy refused the background of the rivalry between both sides to be the next presidential battle, referring to many perspectives on this subject. He reminded, herein, of what was agreed upon between the President and the LF Chief in the declaration of intent on June 2, 2015, that "any differences should not lead to disagreement."
"The President of the Republic, the LF Chief and the Patriarch are very keen on reconciliation, which they consider sacred," assured Riachy.
He emphasized that said reconciliation does not concern Lebanon alone, but also its eastern dimension, the Christians with all their force in the region, as well as the Christian-Islamic brotherhood. He added that the deep significance of this reconciliation did not only bring Christians to power in Lebanon, but also yielded political balance in the Lebanese State.
"Anyone who tries to overthrow the reconciliation will be cursed by the ancestors and history," Riachy underscored.
He continued to refer to a previous bet that the Lebanese Forces would not reap victory in the parliamentary elections. "It is our right to invest our victories in power," said Riachy, explaining that the Maarab Agreement clearly and explicitly points to the agreed upon quota: six ministers for the Lebanese Forces and their allies, six ministers for the Free Patriotic Movement and its allies, and three ministers for the President in case of a 30-member cabinet. "In the case of a 24-member government, then it would be 5-5-2 Christian ministers, and the President can decide on having 10 of the Muslim ministers," he explained.
The Information Minister criticized herein the attempts to distort a recent statement by the LF Chief regarding the President's share of ministers within cabinet, assuring that "if Geagea did not wish the President to have his own share, he would not have signed the Maarab Agreement that clearly stipulates his entitled share in this respect."
Moreover, Riachy stressed his Party's keen support for the current Presidential mandate.
Responding to a question on how the Maarab Understanding can thrive amidst the differences and disputes expressed via Twitter between the Ministers of Economy and Health and others, Riachy considered that "these are normal matters in the democratic life, especially that we are two allies and not followers. Some of the points in the debate will disappear when the new government is formed and a new page is opened, at which time each team will determine its relevant positions and stances."
"Contrary to all that is said, the manner of dealing within the Council of Ministers was very friendly and not negative," he added.
"I envy the Shiite dualism on the subject of appointments, and still do, knowing that our duality is not doomed, and we can do much more than the Shiite duality," Riachy went on. "We do not close our spectrum to others, but it is our right to represent our share, and not to be represented by others," he noted.
On the date of first of September set by the President of the Republic, Riachy said, "The President spoke to me about this matter. The first of September is the beginning of a more in-depth discussion with the Prime Minister, and in cooperation with him on the file of forming the government." "He will use all the powers vested in him by the Constitution after the Taef," Riachy added.
"The Prime Minister is not in need of anyone to urge him towards forming the government," he went on, noting that the Prime Minister is in need of eliminating the obstacles hindering the government's wheel from turning.
"We are also with the senate, administrative decentralization and the full implementation of the Taef Acoord, and in practice we believe in deeds, not words," Riachy said. "We have facilitated the task of the President of the Republic and told him that we will not hold on to the Deputy Prime Minister position if he wants it, as we facilitated the task of the Prime Minister when he asked Dr. Geagea to consent to four ministerial portfolios instead of five," said Riachy.
"I have briefed the President on these matters and the atmosphere was positive and excellent, contrary to all rumors...I informed him that we made all the concessions, and from now on he ought to offer us so that we can facilitate the cabinet formation," he disclosed.
On the work of the caretaking government, the Minister considered it "limited to the affairs of the State and ministries," noting that "time must take its toll for national consensus to form a government." He added that he is processing work at the Information Ministry in a regular and traditional manner regarding its internal aspects.
On the Lebanese Television dossier, Riachy noted that despite his good relations with the President of the Republic, he was unable to pass the issue of Tele-Liban due to a direct conflict with Minister Gebran Bassil.
"I do not blame Minister Bassil, for there are other parties in the government who did not help me pass the Information Ministry's restructuring project, which I worked on for a year and which was endorsed by the State Shoura and Civil Service Councils. It was not placed on the Council of Ministers' agenda," Riachy stated.
"I was neither able to pass the Editors' Syndicate project that could have rendered it [the Syndicate] the most pressing force in Lebanon," he added, hoping that the project would be placed on the next cabinet's agenda to be approved and referred to the Parliament Council.
Asked about the Syrian refugees issue and how to implement the Russian initiative regarding their return, in light of LF's objection to communication with the Syrian government, Riachy said, "We do not have to talk to the Syrian government to solve the crisis of the displaced and set up camps for them in safe areas."
"We know that 70 percent of Syria is destroyed and those who leave Lebanon will not be able to return to the destroyed houses...and reconstruction requires huge financial support from the big powers," Riachy went on. However, he explained that "considering the re-establishment of relations with Syria as the main effective factor for the return of refugees is exaggerated."
"All that is being said is to fill the lost time, awaiting the government formation and the modesty of some parties to re-consider their inflated demands...This is what hinders the cabinet formation," he underlined, noting that political parties are there to serve citizens and not the private interests of persons or sects.
On the summoning of some activists because of their views on social networks, Riachy said, "Not every word uttered by activists on the media is considered against the mandate...The summoning issue is not true. There is a court of publications that tries people for slander and no one is prosecuted for their positions."  "As a Minister of Information, I am against all these matters," he went on, noting that among his achievements was the free coverage provided by the Lebanese Television during the parliamentary elections for all people, despite the huge costs incurred by the Station in that respect.
The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on August 26-27/18
Pope Francis begs forgiveness and vows 'firm' pursuit of justice in sexual abuse scandal
The Guardian/August 26/18
Pope Francis has said the church must be “firm and decisive in the pursuit of truth and justice” as the issue of sexual and institutional abuse continued to dominate his fraught two-day trip to Ireland. Speaking at the Marian shrine in Knock in the west of Ireland, the pope begged for forgiveness for the “scandal and betrayal” felt by victims of sexual exploitation by Catholic clergy. “None of us can fail to be moved by the stories of young people who suffered abuse, were robbed of their innocence and left scarred,” Francis told tens of thousands at the shrine on Sunday morning.
“This open wound challenges us to be firm and decisive in the pursuit of truth and justice. I beg forgiveness for these sins and for the scandal and betrayal felt by so many others in God’s family,” he said. On arrival at Knock international airport, built privately to service the 1.5 million annual pilgrims to the shrine, Francis was greeted by hundreds of schoolchildren, whose excitement was undiminished by the mist and rain. At the shrine, built on the site of an apparition of the Virgin Mary in 1879, he spent some moments in private reflection before leading Angelus prayers. He then returned to Dublin, where he will celebrate mass in front of half a million people in Phoenix Park, before flying back to Rome on Sunday evening.
The visit, the first by a pope since John Paul II in 1979, has been overshadowed by the issue of abuse by clerics and institutions of the church, and its cover-up by bishops and other senior figures. Protests were planned to coincide with the papal mass on Sunday afternoon. In Dublin, survivors of sexual abuse and their supporters will gather at the Garden of Remembrance. In Tuam, in the west of Ireland, a vigil will be held at the site of a mass grave discovered at a mother-and-baby home, which contained the remains of almost 800 infants. There may also be protests inside Phoenix Park, although the Garda has banned placards or banners. On Saturday, Francis met eight survivors of abuse in a private meeting that lasted 90 minutes. Paul Redmond, who was born in a Catholic mother and baby home, said the pope had described the cover-up of abuse as “caca”, or excrement.
Survivors handed a letter to the pope, in English and in Spanish, telling him that 100,000 mothers were forcibly separated from their babies in Ireland, and were told it was a “mortal sin” to try to contact their children. “As an act of healing, Pope Francis, we ask you to make it clear to the elderly and dying community of natural mothers and adoptees, that there was no sin in the reunion. It should be encouraged and facilitated by the Catholic church,” their letter said.
Francis disappointed campaigners by failing to address their demands for concrete action against bishops and others who have facilitated or concealed abuse when he delivered a speech at Dublin Castle on Saturday. He restated previous acknowledgement of the “grave scandal” of abuse. “The failure of ecclesiastical authorities – bishops, religious superiors, priests and others – adequately to address these repellent crimes has rightly given rise to outrage and remains a source of pain and shame for the Catholic community. I myself share those sentiments,” he said. Leo Varadkar, the Irish prime minister, called for a new relationship between church and state in which religion was no longer at the centre of society. He said the time had come “for us to build a new, more mature relationship between church and state in Ireland – a new covenant for the 21st century”.
It would be one “in which religion is no longer at the centre of our society, but in which it still has an important place”, he said. Meanwhile, a retired Vatican diplomat has accused Pope Francis of being aware of abuse allegations against a former archbishop of Washington from 2013 but failing to take action. Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganٍ, 77, known for his conservative views, claimed he had an exchange with the pope in June 2013, three months after Francis was elected, in which he said there was a thick dossier on Theodore McCarrick. He said the pope did not respond, and McCarrick continued in his role as a public emissary for the church. In an 11-page testament, Viganٍ also named other cardinals and archbishops who he said knew about the McCarrick claims. “Corruption has reached the very top of the church’s hierarchy,” he wrote.
He said: “Although [Francis] knew that [McCarrick] was a corrupt man, he covered for him to the bitter end.” Last month, Francis accepted McCarrick’s resignation as a cardinal after fresh claims he sexually abused an 11-year-old altar boy and seminary students. McCarrick has maintained his innocence.
Viganٍ – a former ambassador to the United States – called for Francis to step down, saying: “In this extremely dramatic moment for the universal church, he must acknowledge his mistakes and, in keeping with the proclaimed principle of zero tolerance, Pope Francis must be the first to set a good example to cardinals and bishops who covered up McCarrick’s abuses and resign along with all of them.” The publication of the testament – which also contains a lengthy attack on homosexuality in the Catholic church – is another sign of growing rancour and divisions within the Vatican and top levels of the church over Francis’s papacy. --- The Guardian

John McCain, U.S. War Hero and Political Maverick, Dead at 81
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 26/18/John McCain, a war hero and towering figure in U.S. politics, known for reaching across the aisle in an increasingly divided nation, died Saturday following a battle with brain cancer. He was 81.The senator's passing marked the end of a 35-year political career that brought the independent-minded Republican within reach of the White House as his party's presidential nominee. "It's been quite a ride," McCain, who was tortured during five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, wrote in a memoir published earlier this year. "I've known great passions, seen amazing wonders, fought in a war and helped make peace. I made a small place for myself in the story of America and the history of my times."McCain, who was being treated at his home in Arizona, was surrounded by his wife Cindy and his family during his final hours. "He was a great fire who burned bright, and we lived in his light and warmth," said Meghan McCain, one of the late senator's seven children -- three of them from a previous marriage. In Washington, flags on Capitol Hill and the White House were lowered to half mast in his honor. Near the driveway to his ranch in Sedona, Arizona, a sign read "Sen McCain, thank you for your service."A police escort accompanied the hearse that carried his body, as a fiery sunset cast its last light over the countryside McCain loved so dearly. Local residents brought flowers to honor the late politician. Friends and colleagues traveled to Arizona to bid McCain farewell in the months since his cancer diagnosis in July 2017.
All in his debt
U.S. President Donald Trump, who once mocked McCain's war record, said he sent his "deepest sympathies and respect." A rare Republican critic of Trump, McCain accused the president of "naivete," "egotism" and of sympathizing with autocrats. He cast a decisive vote last year that killed Republican attempts to repeal Barack Obama's health care reforms, something Trump never forgave. All living former U.S. presidents lined up to praise McCain for his deep integrity. "We are all in his debt," said Obama, the Democrat to whom McCain lost the presidency in 2008. "We shared, for all our differences, a fidelity to something higher -- the ideals for which generations of Americans and immigrants alike have fought, marched and sacrificed." McCain "was a man of deep conviction and a patriot of the highest order," said Republican George W. Bush (2001-2009). Democrat Bill Clinton (1993-2001) hailed McCain for having "frequently put partisanship aside," while Republican George H. W. Bush (1989-1993) praised him as "a public servant of the rarest courage."The late senator "was a man of honor, a true patriot in the best sense of the word," wrote Democrat Jimmy Carter (1977-1981). "Americans will be forever grateful for his heroic military service & his steadfast integrity." McCain spent more than three decades in the Senate, looming large in debates over war and peace and the moral direction of the nation. Earlier he served as a U.S. representative 1983-1987. McCain had been away from the Senate floor since last December, remaining at his ranch home for treatment of glioblastoma -- the same form of brain cancer that took the life of another Senate giant, Democrat Ted Kennedy, in 2009. Two former senators who became vice presidents, Democrats Al Gore and Joe Biden, praised McCain respectively as someone who would "work to find common ground" and "a friend" who "will be missed dearly." Sarah Palin, whom McCain plucked from obscurity to become his 2008 White House running mate, described him as "an American original" and "a fighter, never afraid to stand for his beliefs." Chuck Schumer, top Senate Democrat, said he would seek to rename a Senate building in his honor. "Thank you Senator McCain for your service to the nation," First Lady Melania Trump tweeted. From abroad, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said McCain's "lifetime of public service" was "an inspiration to millions," while NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said he would be remembered as an "Atlanticist" and NATO supporter.

5.9magnitude earthquake rocks Iran's western Kermanshah province
Sun 26 Aug 2018/NNA/Xinhuanet/An earthquake measuring 5.9 on the Richter scale jolted Iran's Tazeh Abad town in western Kermanshah province early Sunday, Iranian Seismological Center reported. The epicenter of the earthquake was at a depth of 8 km, 34.631 degrees north latitude and 46.220 degrees east longitude. People in Tazeh Abad town and the neighbourhood villages rushed to the streets in panic following the quake, state media reported. Families camped in parks and long queues were reported at gas stations in the province. According to the Tasnim news agency, water and power connections were broken and telephone lines were disrupted in the quake-hit region. The Red Crescent Society of Kermanshah province have dispatched six teams of rescue operators to Tazeh Abad town and affected villages. About 10 aftershocks ranging from 3.2 to 4 in magnitude took place in the region, but no casualties have been reported so far. ---

US Official Lambastes EU’s €18 Mln Aid Package to Tehran
Asharq Al-Awsat/Asharq Al-Awsat/August 26/18/US State Department Director of Policy Planning Brian Hook lambasted the European Union’s decision to give Iran 18 million euros in development aid, urging Brussels to cooperate with Washington in its efforts to put an end to Iranian threats to world order.
The State Department’s newly appointed special representative for Iran said the aid package “sends the wrong message at the wrong time.” “Foreign aid from European taxpayers perpetuates the regime’s ability to neglect the needs of its people and stifles meaningful policy changes,” Hook said in a statement. “More money in the hands of the Ayatollahs means more money to conduct assassinations in those very European countries,” he added. “The Iranian people face very real economic pressures caused by their government’s corruption, mismanagement, and deep investment in foreign conflicts,” he stressed. He added that the US and EU “should be working together instead to find lasting solutions that truly support Iran’s people and end the regime threats to regional and global stability.”President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers in May and is reimposing sanctions on Tehran, while other parties to the accord are trying to find ways to save the agreement. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasimi denied on Sunday that the aid was part of the proposed European economic package to keep Tehran in the nuclear deal. The EU funding is part of a wider package of 50 million euros earmarked in the EU budget for Iran, which has threatened to stop complying with the nuclear accord if it fails to see the economic benefit of relief from sanctions.
Iran Parliament Impeaches Finance Minister
Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 26 August, 2018/The Iranian parliament impeached on Sunday Finance Minister Masoud Karbasian amid a sharp fall in the rial currency and a deterioration in the economic situation. Karbasian lost the vote of confidence, which was carried live on state radio, by 137 votes to 121, with two abstentions. He is the second minister in President Hassan Rouhani's cabinet to be impeached this month, following the removal of Labor Minister Ali Rabiei on August 8. Iran has struggled with high rates of inflation and joblessness for years, despite a slight improvement following the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. Critics of Rouhani's government say it squandered the opportunities presented by the nuclear deal, which now looks increasingly moribund after the US pulled out of the agreement in May and began reintroducing sanctions. "Inefficiency and lack of planning have nothing to do with sanctions," said one conservative MP, Abbas Payizadeh, in a speech ahead of the vote. "Wrong decisions have harmed the people and led to individuals looting public assets," he added. Protests linked to the tough economic situation in the country began last December, spreading to more than 80 cities and towns and resulting in 25 deaths. Sporadic protests, led by truck drivers, farmers and merchants in Tehran’s bazaar, have continued regularly since then and have occasionally resulted in violent confrontations with security forces.

Iran Defense Minister in Damascus, Says Will Help Rebuild Syria
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 26/18/Iran's top defense official met with his Syrian counterpart in Damascus on Sunday, hailing their strong ties and pledging to play a role in the war-torn country's reconstruction. Tehran has provided steady political, financial, and military backing to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as he has fought back a seven-year uprising. On Sunday, Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami arrived in Syria for a two-day visit and met his Syrian counterpart Abdullah Ayoub. "Syria is in a very, very important juncture. It is passing through the critical stage and it is entering the very important stage of reconstruction," said Hatami, in comments carried by Iranian state broadcaster IRIB. He said it was agreed with Syria that Iran would have "presence, participation and assistance" in reconstruction "and no third party will be influential in this issue." Since it erupted in 2011, Syria's war has cost it approximately $388 billion (334 billion euros), according to the United Nations' Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA). Assad last month said reconstruction was his "top priority" in Syria, where more than 350,000 people have been killed and millions forced to flee their homes. World powers who long called for his ouster insist reconstruction aid should only come with political transition, but fellow regime ally Russia is pressing them to provide support. Ayoub, in comments carried by Syrian state media, championed the two countries' special relationship. "Syrian-Iranian relations are a model for bilateral ties between independent and sovereign nations," Ayoub said. The two countries have had strong ties for years. Iran has dispatched military forces to Syria but insists they are advisers, not fighters. Iran-backed groups, including Lebanon's Hizbullah, have also backed Assad's troops. With help from them and Russian warplanes, Assad has recaptured around two-thirds of the country and is now eyeing the northwest province of Idlib. "Idlib will return to the nation's bosom, and all Syrian soil will be cleansed of terrorism, either through reconciliation or ground operations," Ayoub said on Sunday. He also slammed the United States, which has established military bases in Syria to fight the Islamic State group. "The Americans are looking for a way to stay east of the Euphrates River to lock in their presence in this region," said Ayoub. The comments came a day after a senior U.S. diplomat, ambassador William Roebuck, visited territory around those bases and said the U.S. was "prepared to stay" in Syria to defeat IS, but was also "focused" on ousting Iran. According to Al-Watan, a Syrian daily close to the government, Hatami arrived with an Iranian military delegation and is expected to meet Assad during the trip.

UK-Iranian woman returns to Tehran jail after plea rejected
AFP, Tehran/Sunday, 26 August 2018/Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the British-Iranian woman who has been held in Tehran for more than two years on sedition charges, returned to prison on Sunday after temporary release, dashing her family’s hopes of an extension. “We have just heard the sad news that Nazanin’s extension has been refused and she has returned to prison,” said a tweet on the official “Free Nazanin” Twitter account. “Here is the moment she said goodbye to a distraught Gabriella,” it added, along with a picture of Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her four-year-old daughter. She was unexpectedly released for a three-day furlough on Thursday, and was reunited with members of her family outside the Iranian capital. Husband Richard Ratcliffe said they had received “mixed messages” from the Iranian authorities on Sunday, ahead of her return to Evin prison. The charity worker had initially been told her request for an extension had been approved, but then received a call telling her to return to prison by sunset. “She was shivering and shaking and crying - and said: ‘How can you take me away from my baby, when she needs me’?” he said in an email received by AFP. “Gabriella was crying and sucking her thumb -- she didn’t want her mummy to go back.”Ratcliffe said his wife, who has denied all charges filed against her in Iran, spent her time with her parents and daughter in Damavand, a mountain resort near Tehran. Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who works for the Thomson Reuters Foundation -- the media organization’s philanthropic arm -- was arrested at Tehran airport on April 3, 2016. She is serving a five-year jail sentence for alleged sedition.

Pilot Killed in Iran F-5 Fighter Jet Crash
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 26/18/An Iranian F-5 fighter jet crashed in southern Iran on Sunday killing its pilot, state media reported. The jet, a training aircraft, crashed as it attempted to land in Dezful in the southwestern Khuzestan province, the official IRNA news agency said. Its pilot was killed but his co-pilot survived and was hospitalized. The cause of the accident was unknown. Iran bought its F-5 fighters from the United States before the 1979 Islamic revolution and still has 48 in service, according to the latest estimates by Jane's IHS Markit. Last week, Tehran unveiled its first domestically built fighter jet, which is closely modeled on the F-5.

Senior U.S. Diplomat Visits Kurdish-Held Territory in Syria
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 26/18/A senior U.S. diplomat has visited Kurdish-held territory in Syria as the minority negotiates with Damascus over the future of its semi-autonomous region. Ambassador William Roebuck was in the town of Shadidi in the northwestern province of Hasakeh after visiting the towns of Kobane and Minbej in recent days. He is expected to continue to Deir Ezzor, an eastern province where the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a U.S.-backed coalition of Kurdish and Arab fighters, is fighting the Islamic State group in the jihadists' last redoubt. "We are prepared to stay here, as the president (Donald Trump) has made clear, to ensure the enduring defeat of ISIS," Roebuck said, using an alternative acronym for IS. "We remain focused on ensuring the withdrawal of Iranian forces and their proxies as well." Washington has repeatedly criticized Tehran and its Lebanese ally Hizbullah for their roles in the Syrian conflict. Support from Russia, Iran and Hizbullah has allowed President Bashar al-Assad's government to regain much of the territory lost to rebels and jihadists in the early years of the country's seven-year war. Iranian forces and Tehran-backed Shiite militias have also been key to Assad's recapture of large swathes of Deir Ezzor province, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. But other areas of the oil-rich province are controlled by the SDF, which spearheaded the U.S.-backed fight against IS in Syria. Syria's war has left more than 350,000 people dead and displaced millions since it broke out with the brutal repression of an initially peaceful uprising in 2011. With the regime focused on crushing the rebellion, Kurdish forces carved out a de facto autonomous region in the country's north and northeast. Roebuck's visit comes as the Kurds and the regime engage in difficult talks over the fate of territory under SDF control. Assad's government now controls nearly two-thirds of Syria and is determined to reassert its authority over Kurdish-held territory, which forms the lion's share of the rest. But Kurdish leaders and their supporters are desperate to salvage what they can of their painstakingly built institutions.

Druze leader denies talks about IDF intervention in Syria
Daniel Salami/Ynetnews/August 26/18/After reports said Mowafaq Tarif had met with Druze from Syria who sought Israeli intervention in ongoing Syrian civil war in order to establish an area for a Druze entity in southern Syria, sheikh denies meeting ever occurred.The spiritual leader of the Druze community Sheikh Mowafaq Tarif denied on Sunday reports that he participated in a meeting with Druze from Syria, who asked that the IDF intervene in the fighting taking place in the war-torn country. According to reports, a meeting took place in Jordan between a Druze delegation from Israel and a Druze delegation from Syria, in which the latter asked that the IDF act in the ongoing Syrian civil war in order to establish an area for a Druze entity in southern Syria. According to a representative of the sheikh, no such meeting ever took place and the notion of a separate Druze state has never, and never will, be a subject for discussions. “The Druze community did not ask Israel to intervene militarily in what is happening in Syria. This is a false report, which is damaging to the community,” the statement said. “The members of the community in Israel are in pain and worry about the fate of their brothers in Syria and are in contact with them by phone every day,” it continued

Palestinians Say U.S. Cut in Aid Amounts to 'Cheap Blackmail'
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 26/18/U.S. President Donald Trump's administration is resorting to "cheap blackmail" against the Palestinians, revealing its true intentions by cutting more than $200 million in aid for the West Bank and Gaza Strip, senior Palestinian officials have said. A State Department official said Friday that the decision, made "at the direction of the president," came after a review of aid programs to the Palestinian territories. The funding would "now address high-priority projects elsewhere," it added. Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), said the decision amounts to an "admission of the true intentions behind American aid policy of intervening in the internal affairs of other peoples." U.S. aid "is not a gift to our people but a duty of the international community to take responsibility for the continuation of Israeli occupation, preventing the development of the Palestinian economy and society," he said. By slashing its aid to the Palestinians, the U.S. "once again reaffirms its disregard for its international commitments," Erekat added. Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the PLO's executive committee, accused the U.S. of using "cheap blackmail as a political tool.""The Palestinian people and leadership will not be intimidated and will not succumb to coercion. The rights of the Palestinian people are not for sale," she said. The United States had already made drastic cuts to its contribution to the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, in January. Relations between the U.S. administration and the Palestinian Authority took a nosedive after Trump in December decided to recognize the disputed city of Jerusalem as Israel's capital. The Palestinians have suspended contacts with Washington and believe it can no longer be an impartial mediator in the Middle East peace process.
Unite the ranks
After the latest blow, Ashrawi insisted that Palestinians living under Israeli occupation would not be coerced into surrendering their rights. "There is no glory in constantly bullying and punishing a people under occupation," she said in a statement. "The U.S. administration has already demonstrated meanness of spirit in its collusion with the Israeli occupation and its theft of land and resources," she said. "Now it is exercising economic meanness by punishing the Palestinian victims of this occupation."The Islamist movement Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, also denounced the aid cut. Facing "the American policy of blackmail" necessitated "unifying the Palestinian ranks," spokesman Fawzi Barhoum told AFP. In an initial reaction on Friday, the PLO's representative in Washington, Husam Zomlot, told the U.S. administration was "dismantling decades of U.S. vision and engagement in Palestine." He said Friday's move was "another confirmation" that Washington was "abandoning the two-state solution and fully embracing (Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin) Netanyahu's anti-peace agenda." The decision to cut Palestinian funding comes as a humanitarian crisis deepens in Gaza, which has seen a surge of violence since Palestinian protests erupted in March. At least 172 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire, the vast majority of them during demonstrations near the border.
Iraq: Our Armament Cooperation with Iran Does not Include Airplanes
Baghdad, London – Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 26 August, 2018/Iran positively responded to Iraq's demand to supply the country with Sukhoi 25 fighter jets as part of the two countries’ weapons cooperation, revealed senior commander of the Iranian Revolution Guards Corps Aerospace Force Brigadier General Pilot Shamseddin Farzadipour. This claim contrasted with statements by an official Iraqi source, who said this cooperation does not include airplanes, namely the Sukhoi jets. “ISIS’ presence in Iraq and its rapid occupation of Iraqi cities made the Iraqi government demand Iran's assistance to confront the terrorists," Farzadipour was quoted by the Fars news agency as saying. He added that Iran supplied Iraq with Sukhoi 25 jets and trained its pilots for 10 days for anti-ISIS operations. "The Iraqi pilots launched air operations in the outskirts of Baghdad two days after the planes were transferred to Iraq and combat operations were carried out with the support of the Iraqi ground forces and Popular Mobilization Forces," Farzadipour noted. But the Iraqi source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that there was no cooperation protocol between Iraq and Iran that includes aircraft, such as the Sukhoi jets. In 1991, Iraq moved 137 jets to Tehran to avoid them being destroyed by coalition aircraft during the second Gulf war. The source noted that since the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003, Iran did not return any of the airplanes. Iran and Iraq definitely have weapons cooperation, asserted the source, adding that Tehran provided Baghdad with various arms, especially during its war on ISIS. He insisted, however, that no cooperation protocol exists for warplanes. Security expert Fadel Abou Raghif told Asharq Al-Awsat that Iraq and Iran enjoy declared armament cooperation that covers various fields. This cooperation is confirmed by official Iraqi sources. However, he said that the cooperation does not include planes.
Turkey’s Erdogan says will bring ‘security and peace’ to Syria, Iraq
Reuters, Ankara/Sunday, 26 August 2018/Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan vowed on Sunday to bring peace and safety to Iraq and areas in Syria not under Turkish control and said terrorist organizations in those areas would be eliminated. Turkey, which has backed some rebel groups in Syria, has been working with Russia, which supports Syrian President Bashar al Assad, and Iran for a political resolution to the crisis. It has so far carried out two cross-border operations along its border with Syria and set up a dozen military observations posts in the northern Syrian region of Idlib.
The rebel-held Idlib enclave is a refuge for civilians and rebels displaced from other areas of Syria as well as for powerful jihadist forces, but has been hit by a wave of air strikes and shelling this month. The attacks posed a possible prelude to a full-scale Syrian government offensive, which Turkey has said would be disastrous. Speaking in the southeastern province of Mus to commemorate the anniversary of the Battle of Manzikert of 1071, Erdogan vowed to bring peace and safety to Syria and Iraq. "It is not for nothing that the only places in Syria where security and peace have been established are under Turkey's control. God willing, we will establish the same peace in other parts of Syria too. God willing, we will bring the same peace to Iraq, where terrorist organizations are active," he said. Erdogan also linked regional conflicts and an ongoing currency crisis in Turkey, which he has cast as an "economic war", to previous attempts to invade Anatolia, warning that the this would lead to the collapse of surrounding regions. "Those who seek temporary reasons behind the troubles we have been facing recently are wrong, very wrong. The attacks we face today... are rooted in history," he said. "Don't forget, Anatolia is a wall and if this wall collapses, there will no longer be a Middle East, Africa, Central Asia, Balkans or Caucasus."Turkey's lira has tumbled nearly 40 percent this year as investor concerns over Erdogan's grip on monetary policy and a growing dispute with the United States put pressure on the currency. Ankara has accused Washington of targeting Turkey over the fate of Andrew Brunson, an American pastor being tried in Turkey on terrorism charges that he denies. "Some careless people among us think this is about Tayyip Erdogan or the AK Party. No, this is about Turkey," Erdogan said.

Kuwait terminates more than 3,000 expat public sector employees
Arab News/August 26, 2018/DUBAI: Kuwait has terminated the employment contracts of 3,140 expatriate public sector employees, the chairman of the Civil Service Commission Ahmad Al-Jassar said, according to local daily Kuwait Times.
The contracts were terminated as part of the Kuwaitization push to replace expat employees with nationals in the government sector. The government has earmarked 44,752 expats for termination – including the 3,140 that have already been dismissed. Statistics show expats are employed across 46 government sectors, including 25,948 in teaching and training, 6,474 in services, 3,537 in law and Islamic affairs, 2,876 in engineering and 1,539 in social and educational services as well as sports.
ISIS claims responsibility for Egypt attack on police checkpoint in Sinai
Reuters, CairoSunday, 26 August 2018/ISIS on Sunday claimed responsibility for an attack on an Egyptian police checkpoint in northern Sinai, the group’s Amaq news agency reported, saying 15 soldiers were killed or wounded in what it described as an infiltration operation. Egypt’s state news agency MENA said on Saturday that security forces foiled an attack on a checkpoint west of the city of al-Arish, and killed four militants while other fled. MENA made no reference to any casualties among security forces in the attack, but the privately owned al-Masri al-Youm newspaper reported that four policemen had died. Egyptian troops, backed by police, have since February been conducting a major operation targeting Islamist militants behind a wave of attacks against security forces and civilians. Hundreds of suspected militants have been killed or captured in the operation. Amaq said ISIS militants targeted the Kilometre 17 checkpoint west of al-Arish, without giving any evidence or details on how many were involved. MENA, citing an unnamed source, said Egyptian police confronted the militants who tried to storm the checkpoint, killing four of them while the rest fled. The Egyptian army military campaign began after President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi ordered the army and security forces to crush militants after gunmen killed hundreds of worshipers at a mosque in Sinai last November. Egypt says fighting Islamist militants is a priority to restore security to the country of some 96 million people after years of turmoil that followed Arab Spring protests in 2011. Sisi’s critics say his presidency has brought a harsh crackdown on dissent.
The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on August 26-27/18
Ankara Tries Turkish Cypriot Journalist for Criticizing Turkey
Uzay Bulut/Gatestone Institute/August 26/18
"The atrocities of the Turkish army included wholesale and repeated rapes of women of all ages, systematic torture, savage and humiliating treatment of hundreds of people, including children, women and pensioners during their detention by the Turkish forces, as well as looting and robbery on an extensive scale, by Turkish troops and Turkish Cypriots." — The Cyprus Federation of America.
"You are hostile. Hostile to everything that is good, beautiful and right... You are not protesters, you are terrorists. You hit, broke, destroyed and attempted to murder us. You call that a protest? You are like the Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi, Boko Haram in Nigeria, and jihadist marauders who carry out beheadings in Syria." — Şener Levent, the editor-in-chief of the Turkish-language daily newspaper Afrika in Cyprus, who is being tried by Turkey for two articles he recently wrote.
In an attempt to change the demographic structure of the area, thousands of illegal settlers have been brought from Turkey to the occupied part and around 43,000 Turkish occupation troops have been stationed there.
Turkey does not want any of its crimes against the island to be exposed -- particularly by Turkish Cypriots. It appears that what is once again being targeted in these lawsuits against Afrika is not only Levent's courageous journalism but also the freedom and sovereignty of Cyprus.
A veteran journalist in Europe's last divided city, Nicosia, has been targeted and intimidated by Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for criticizing Turkey's actions in Cyprus and elsewhere in the region.
Şener Levent, editor-in-chief of the Turkish-language daily newspaper, Afrika, in Cyprus, has been charged with crimes by Turkish prosecutors in Ankara. The charges concern the January 21 front page of the newspaper, which criticized Turkey's invasion of the Syrian city of Afrin as well as an article by Levent about a violent mob action against his newspaper on January 22.
Afrika, which has a left-wing political stance, is located in the occupied northern section of Nicosia and covers news related to Cyprus, Turkey and the wider region. The initial version of Afrika was the newspaper Avrupa ("Europe"), established in 1997 and printed for 4 years before Afrika replaced it.
The paper has been especially critical of Turkey's occupation of the island, and various crimes the Turkish military has committed there.
As a result of the Turkish invasion in 1974, Nicosia, the capital of the Republic of Cyprus, remains divided, with the northern part occupied and controlled by the "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus," or the "TRNC", recognized only by Turkey. The free, southern section of the city is governed by the Republic of Cyprus. The two parts of the city are separated by a UN-patrolled demilitarized "buffer zone."
Because of its reporting, Afrika has become used to attacks and intimidation from pro-Turkish mobs and faced dozens of court summonses from Turkish Cypriot authorities. Previous court summonses were carried out by authorities in Turkish-occupied Cyprus; these recent ones are ordered by the Turkish government in Ankara. Levent has also been jailed for allegedly undermining the authorities in Turkish-occupied Cyprus and released after protests.
Yet, the 2017 Turkish constitutional referendum that officially increased the powers of President Erdogan, coupled with Erdogan's reelection as president on June 24, as well as Turkey's increasingly aggressive foreign policy, seem to have escalated pressures against Levent and his newspaper. In an interview with Gatestone, Levent said:
"For the first time in our history, Ankara is putting us on trial. I am not a citizen of Turkey. But the police came to my office on behalf of Ankara to inform me of the criminal charges against me and the impending trial and requested that I should raise a defense. I said I will not, for I have not committed a crime. And I rejected the accusations."
Turkish authorities refer to the brutal Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974 as "a peace operation" and have code-named Turkey's 2018 military intervention in Afrin "Operation Olive Branch". Afrika, however, in its headline denounced the Afrin offensive, calling it "a campaign of invasion by Turkey." Levent also wrote a column drawing parallels between Turkey's invasion of Afrin and Turkey's invasion of Cyprus.
Outraged by Afrika's reporting, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attacked it as "a shabby newspaper" and called on his "brothers from northern Cyprus... to give the required response."
On January 22, Erdogan supporters in Cyprus attacked the newspaper's building. They removed and destroyed the newspaper's sign and replaced it with a Turkish flag, then raided and plundered the offices inside.
Levent penned another article on February 1, calling out those who targeted the newspaper. He wrote, in part:
"My pen is persistent. Even I can't make it stop. Do you think your stones, your Sultan, or your slogans of takbir ['Allah is the greatest'] can? You are hostile. Hostile to everything that is good, beautiful and right.
"You are not protesters, you are terrorists. You are like the Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi, Boko Haram in Nigeria, and jihadist marauders who carry out beheadings in Syria.
"You came here in 1974. We still have not been able to even find our [Cypriot] missing people after you cut off their ears and threw them in wells. The women and young girls that you raped continue their lives with the shame [of what you did to them]... From what hell and how did you come to my country [Cyprus], which smells of jasmine and lemon? Buzz off. You will go back! You will go back just like you came."
The result: Criminal cases have been filed by prosecutors in Ankara against Levent and the paper's director, Ali Osman, for "offences including plotting mischief and insulting and degrading Turkey," Levent said.
"We are also being tried for a cartoon about Erdogan printed in our newspaper. I don't even know who the cartoonist is. I found it on the social media and published it with the caption that reads 'no comment'. But we are investigated for that, too."
Levent's first hearing was held in Nicosia in June and the second one is scheduled to take place there on September 20. About 30 to 40 "expert witnesses" will testify against him in court, he said.
Physical threats to Afrika are also nothing new. "Our printing plant was bombed twice -- in 2000 and 2001," Levent told Gatestone. "The perpetrators have not been found yet. Some hitmen from Turkey also fired bullets at our building twice in 2001."
Levent said that he has recently filed a lawsuit against Erdogan for "inciting violence against Afrika" prior to the January 22 mob attack.
"For the last 20 years, hundreds of court cases have been filed against me due to my writings. These cases requested up to 5,000 years prison sentence for me in total.
"Most of those have dropped due to a lack of grounds for legal action. I won some of them but was convicted for others. For example, in 2002, I was sentenced to 6 months in prison and was jailed for two months. Then the High Court decided that I should be released, ruling that monetary fines rather than imprisonment should be given in media trials. There are also other cases that are ongoing.
"I have been exposed to all kinds of pressure and violence. The only thing they have not done yet is kill me."
Levent, as a citizen of the Republic of Cyprus, says he will run as a candidate for the 2019 European Parliament election and that EU institutions and Greek Cypriot journalists in Cyprus have been very supportive of Afrika.
In response to the pressures, the government in non-occupied Cyprus has reached out to the European Union and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) asking them to step in and defend the freedom of expression and freedom of the press. Cypriot government spokesman Prodromos Prodromou wrote in a statement that the European Parliament was "closely monitoring the case." The European Commission also told Cyprus News Agency that it was aware that criminal proceedings had been initiated in Turkey against Levent, Osman and Afrika.
In the meanwhile, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Harlem Désir, has urged Turkish authorities to drop the lawsuits against Levent and Osman:
"The Representative recalled that the Nicosia-based newspaper Afrika has been under significant pressure for an extensive period of time... and stressed that violence and intimidation of journalists is unacceptable."
So far, there has been no response from Erdogan's government.
The Cyprus Federation of America describes the actions of Turkey's military in Cyprus during and after the 1974 invasion:
"The atrocities of the Turkish army included wholesale and repeated rapes of women of all ages, systematic torture, savage and humiliating treatment of hundreds of people, including children, women and pensioners during their detention by the Turkish forces, as well as looting and robbery on an extensive scale, by Turkish troops and Turkish Cypriots."
Since 1974, in an attempt to change the demographic structure of the island, thousands of illegal settlers have been brought from Turkey to the occupied part of Cyprus, and around 43,000 Turkish occupation troops have been stationed there.
In the 21st century, Cyprus, a member state of the European Union, continues to be occupied by a NATO member and EU hopeful, Turkey, which does not want any of its crimes against the island to be exposed -- particularly by Turkish Cypriots.
It appears that what is once again being targeted in these court actions against Afrika is not only Levent's courageous journalism but also the freedom and sovereignty of Cyprus.
*Uzay Bulut, a journalist from Turkey, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Gatestone Institute. She is currently based in Washington D.C.
© 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.

The US Can’t Bring Russia ‘to its Knees’

Leonid Bershidsky/Bloomberg/August 26/18
The US’s sanctions policy against Russia is evolving from trying to nudge the Kremlin in a desired direction to inflicting maximum pain. This is a slippery slope, and it’s time to consider the most extreme consequences for Russia, as well as the US and its allies.
During a Senate Banking Committee hearing this week, a telling exchange took place between Republican Senator John Kennedy and the Trump administration’s senior sanctions officials.Kennedy demanded to know what they would do if the president ordered them to bring the Russian economy "to its knees.” They wouldn’t give a straight answer, saying instead that the ramifications of such a goal would need to be assessed and that current sanctions were already aggressive. Irritated, Kennedy insisted: “But the economy hasn’t been brought to its knees!”
His frustration is understandable. The US has levied sanctions, or said it will, in response to a series of Russian actions: the annexation of Crimea, the fomenting of a pro-Russian rebellion in eastern Ukraine, the attempted poisoning of an ex-spy in the UK and a string of cyberattacks.
Treasury Undersecretary Sigal Mandelker said in her testimony that she believes Russia’s “adventurism” has indeed been checked by the economic pain the sanctions have inflicted.
Obviously, the US measures are a nuisance on several levels. They have triggered a drop in foreign direct investment from which Russia, despite its recent economic growth, hasn’t recovered. Some big energy projects have been set back by at least a few years. Then there’s the damage to wealthy Russians and their companies. It’s unclear how many of their assets have been frozen, but a US Treasury Department report to Congress this month put the number in the “hundreds of millions of dollars” in the US alone. Anyone would like such problems gone. But Russia’s unapologetic stance, and the absence of any steps by President Vladimir Putin that could be interpreted as a peace offering, show that the Kremlin isn’t prepared to give any ground to get the US to step back. That creates the temptation in Washington to make such pressure overwhelming. Even if the Trump administration doesn’t want to go there, many legislators do. In the most extreme case, Washington could impose the same kind of embargo as it did on Iran. That would make it impossible for any company with ties to the US to have any dealings with Russia. It could cut off all Russia’s banks from the dollar-based financial system and punish buyers of the country’s oil and gas. Not even the most hawkish are willing to consider the oil and gas part of this option. Russia is the biggest natural gas exporter in the world and produces about three times as much crude oil as Iran. Removing it from the market would unleash a global energy crisis.
The Senate bill goes about as far as is possible without setting off such cataclysms. Further restrictions against Russia’s energy and tech industries would likely mean reprisals for US companies operating in the country. The biggest 50, among them Philip Morris International Inc., PepsiCo Inc. and Procter & Gamble Co., have sales of about $16 billion there, according to Forbes Russia. The Kremlin has been as hesitant to declare war on these businesses as the last two US administrations have been to use maximum economic force against the Russian energy and finance sectors.
As the US begins to consider an all-out economic war, the two strategic questions it needs to answer are: what it is willing to pay to extract any concessions from the Putin government at all, and how long it is prepared to wait.  Macroeconomically, Russia, with unemployment at a record low, modest inflation and $400 billion of international reserves, is unlikely to collapse. If less than maximum pain is applied, Russia could manage for years with relatively low growth. That is the basis for Putin’s calculations. It bodes badly for the current direction of US policy. If Washington inflicts as much pain as it can — and nothing changes — it will be a painful failure for the superpower.

Would Iran be Allowed to Rewrite the History of the Middle East?

Eyad Abu Shakra/ Asharq Al-Awsat/August 26/18
I still remember the US State Department’s annual reports about states that “sponsor and support terrorism”.
Practically, most of these states, as per the expressions of the latter years of the Cold War were also known as “rogue states”; and sure enough, included in these reports were some Arab regimes that used to boast “steadfastness” and “confrontation” sometimes, and some other times “rejection” and “resistance”!
After the experience, however, we now know that the accusations of “roguishness” and “sponsoring and supporting terrorism” were flexible, selective, expedient, and may even be ignored. Some “rogue” and “terrorism-supporting” states have been punished and had their regimes toppled, while others have been rewarded several times after Washington decided to deal with them diplomatically and blackmail them so they would only “change their behavior”.
In Iraq, Saddam Hussein’s regime was deemed guilty of using chemical weapons in Halabja in 1988, and before that date Israel was quick to abort its nascent nuclear program in 1981. Saddam was also condemned for invading a neighboring state, Kuwait, in 1990. This justified the formation of a broad coalition that liberated Kuwait militarily. Sanctions were imposed, as well as a crippling siege, that were only lifted after Iraq itself was invaded and its regime brought down in 2003.
The opposite happened to Iran. Here, since the first days of the 1979 Khomeinist revolution the revolutionaries declared their regional project. “Exporting the Revolution” was, and still is, the raison d’etre of Khomeinist Iran, and is still being promoted by unrelenting inflammatory and provocative rhetoric. Indeed, the failed role of “The policeman of the Gulf” long associated with the late Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, has been now dwarfed under the “Mullahs” as Iran’s sphere of influence extends westwards to the Mediterranean shores to include Lebanon, Gaza, Syria and Iraq.
Furthermore, even in what happened in Halabja, which is a stone’s throw from the Iranian borders, Iraqis are well aware of Iran’s tacit role there and then. In addition, while Saddam’s frequent ruthless suppression deserves condemnation, especially, when targeting liberal, secular and progressive groups; the fact is that some of his actions were taken in preemptive self-defense. Sectarian groups financed, armed, trained and controlled by the Mullahs’ regime were already active inside Iraq, and were threatening and trying to sabotage the Baath government.
Today, it is clear for all to see how Iran is behaving in Iraq, taking over its political decision making process, and controlling its military and security affairs through sectarian organizations and militias commanded by its Iraqi henchmen, who had even fought with the Iranian forces against their Iraqi brethren during the Iran-Iraq War (1980 - 1988).
Moreover, on the nuclear front, Khomeinist Iran’s nuclear ambitions have never been in doubt. Moscow, actually, was aware of Russia’s role in developing the Iranian nuclear project, and yet it neither seriously attempted to stop it, nor allowed Israel to attack its facilities as it did with Iraq’s.
The Iran-Iraq War broke out only one year after the Khomenist revolution. That year witnessed not only settling scores in a bloody manner within Iran itself, but also regional agitation aiming at “exporting the revolution”, bringing down neighborly regimes and imposing its hegemony over the Middle East. Thus, before attempting to identify who fired the first shot in that war, it would be useful to understand the overall situation then.
In 1988, the hostilities ended, as Khomeini’s declaration that he was “drinking a chalice of poison”, but in truth the war was only temporarily suspended. What happened was merely putting off “exporting the revolution” until a more opportune moment.
The project was not finished, but rather strategically benefited from two American moves:
The first move was the invasion of Iraq executed by George W. Bush’s administration in 2003, based on the vision and advise of Washington’s “Likudniks” and “Neo Cons”. This invasion brought down the Baath regime and handed Iraq on a platter to Iran. Later on, when the Iranians began to worry about the possibility that the American might stay in Iraq, Tehran’s ally in the Syrian capital Damascus, Al-Assad regime, took over the task of facilitating the entry to Iraq of Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups through its agents planted inside these group, in order to attack and harass American troops and force Washington to withdraw. The plan worked. The Assad regime carried out the task immaculately, and why not, recalling it was Iran’s “trusted” ally during the Iran-Iraq War, indeed, it was the only Arab regime to openly take that position.
The second move was Barack Obama’s decision to make Iran Washington’s favorite Middle East partner at the expense of its old allies. This choice was translated by accepting the idea of a “nuclear Iran” through an agreement that only delays the military fruits of its nuclear capabilities, but, at the same time leave Iran to do what it pleases in the region. During the Obama presidency, Iran was no longer a “supporter of terrorism” after it had managed to nurture another kind of “terror”, called ISIS - an Al-Qaeda off-shoot - whose ugly atrocities would divert the attention away from Iran’s expansionist strategy.
Both, the Iranian and Syrian regimes, were rarely missing from the State Department’s “terrorism” reports, but during the Obama presidency they became the main beneficiaries from Washington’s regional policies.
Well, what about today, after Donald Trump replaced Obama? Trump’s controversial relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin does not usher any significant or radical change. The rehabilitation of the Assad regime is an extremely dangerous sign for the future, without dwelling too much on the much trumpeted “Iran’s withdrawal from Syria”, or dealing with the now teetering Turkish ambition there.
Contrary to appearances, Washington’s “agreements” with Moscow do not give the impression that Iran’s regional strategy is being targeted, and so far only Israel’s leadership seems to be relaxed enough to carry out its sinister internal arrangements (such as the controversial Nation-State Law).
Looking at the overall scene in the Middle East, there are no practical measures taken to eliminate Iran’s hegemony, at least in Iraq and Lebanon, where it is meddling in the process of forming governments, appointing ministers and applying the labels of “patriotism” and “treason”! Given all this, is there a chance of preventing Iran from rewriting the history of the region?

Trump has Flipped on the Fed. Will Conservatives Join him?

Jeff Stein/The Washington Post/August 26/18
Lower interest rates help spur economic growth, decreasing the cost to businesses of new investments and the amount consumers have to spend on interest. Higher interest rates have the opposite effect, which could potentially slow a strong economy that has been a key selling point of the Trump administration.
Rates have been at historic lows for a decade, part of a Fed effort to stimulate the economy in the aftermath of the financial crisis and Great Recession. But the central bank is now raising rates, citing strong overall economic growth and the lowest unemployment numbers in years. The next hike is widely expected for when the Fed meets in September.Many conservative economists have been calling for higher rates for years. Jeffrey Dorfman, an economics professor at the University of Georgia and vocal critic of the Fed during the Obama administration, lamented that conservative opposition to lower interest rates had softened under Trump.
"My personal opinion is most people in Washington are incredibly hypocritical and change their opinion based on which party is in power," Dorfman said. "The Fed lowered rates too far and kept them low too long."'
President Donald Trump has disagreed, publicly calling for Powell to keep interest rates low. That move has also broken longstanding precedent that presidents not interfere with the independence of the central bank. In a recent private meeting with Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., Powell gave assurances of the Fed's independence.
Other conservatives side with Powell over the president. Brian Riedl, an analyst at the libertarian-leaning Manhattan Institute, said Trump had broken with conservatives on a range of key economic questions, including monetary policy.
"It's not surprising he wants that to keep the growth going," Riedl said. "But conservative economists prioritize stable money as a necessary component of economic growth and not letting that over-inflate and overheat."
Conservative economist Stephen Moore, of the Heritage Foundation, said his bigger complaint with the Federal Reserve during the Obama administration was its purchase of trillions in assets. He also said some inflationary fears had been exaggerated, pointing to an only modest rise in commodities prices.
"I see arguments on both sides: It's not an open-shut case the Fed should be raising rates," Moore said. "But Trump's point is a legitimate one: we have a booming economy with some wage gains, and that's what we want."

Iran’s hypocritical espionage activities must be stopped
من الضروري أن يتم وقف أنشطة إيران التجسسية المنافقة

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/August 26, 2018
Last week, two Iranians were arrested and indicted in the US for allegedly spying for the Iranian regime. The United States Federal Court charged Ahmadreza Mohammadi Doostdar, 38, in Chicago and, Majid Ghorbani, 59, in California.
According to the US Justice Department, the pair are charged with “knowingly acting as agents of the government of Iran without prior notification to the Attorney General, providing services to Iran in violation of US sanctions, and conspiracy.”
Earlier this year, after an investigation by Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, the federal prosecutor’s office ordered the German police to carry out raids on properties around the country linked to suspected Iranian spies. Those individuals were strongly believed to have spied on persons and organizations ” on behalf of an intelligence unit associated with Iran.”These developments are intriguing, and at the same time ironic — in the sense that the Iranian authorities repeatedly accuse other countries of interfering in Tehran’s domestic affairs, and invest significant political capital in presenting the Islamic Republic as a victim in the Middle East. For example, the Iranian Ambassador to the United Nations, Gholamali Khoshroo recently stated in a letter to the UN Security Council that the US government (under President Donald Trump) “has stepped up its acts of intervention in a grotesque way in Iran’s internal affairs under the pretext of providing support for sporadic protests.”And while the Iranian regime is making such bold statements, and spreading its victimhood narrative, the regime itself has long been involved in dispatching and/or training individuals to spy for Tehran in foreign territories.
Last year, not long before an Iranian-born Canadian was arrested in the State of Washington for illegally assisting the Iranian regime, Iran’s Minister of Intelligence admitted in a rare interview that there exists a “lobby group for the Islamic Republic of Iran” in Washington DC which is working to advance Iran’s interests. He boasted that many dual Iranian citizens in the West are significant capital for Tehran because they are devoted to the Islamic Republic and the advancement of its ideals.
The latest arrests in the US and Europe demonstrate that Iran’s ruling mullahs have several goals.
Iran must be held accountable for blatantly violating the sovereignty of other nations through its agents and spies.
First of all, Tehran is focusing on gathering sensitive information on three main topics: Western politicians, Jewish communities, and dissidents or opponents of the Islamic Republic — specifically the Iranian opposition.
Such acts of espionage will most likely endanger the national security of other nations. Furthermore, by spying on politicians in foreign countries the Iranian regime is most likely seeking to strengthen its illegal lobbying operations, and attempting to change the position of those politicians in favor of the Islamic Republic. Secondly, since 1979, Tehran has considered Israel, or as the regime refers to it, ”Little Satan,” its major enemy in the region. Therefore, spying on Jewish cultural, religious, and political institutions is a critical function of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence. Those who were arrested in the US recently were charged with "acting on behalf of the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran by conducting covert surveillance of Israeli and Jewish facilities in the United States”. The information gathered by Iran’s spies is sent to Tehran, analyzed by the Ministry of Intelligence and later used as critical data to shape, adjust, and more effectively advance the policies of the state’s apparatuses, specifically those of the Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the Office of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Presidential office, and the foreign ministry.
Third, Iran has been ratcheting up its espionage acts against dissidents — particulary the National Council of Resistance of Iran, the major opposition group which is based in Paris.
It is an umbrella organization of which Mujahideen-e Khalq (MEK) is part, and it seeks regime change in Iran. Every year in Paris, the NCRI holds the world’s largest gathering of those who advocate freedom and democracy in Iran. It is worth noting that the Iranians who were recently arrested were charged with working with the Iranian regime "in order to conduct covert surveillance on and to collect information from and about” the MEK. According to the FBI, the data that the Iranian regime gathers can be used to put together "targeting” packages for "capture/kill operations.” It can also be used to recruit more agents, launch cyber-attacks against targets, arrest individuals who are linked to dissident group in Iran, and to neutralize the opposition group’s operations and agenda.
Iranian leaders fear the soft power of the opposition more than the hard power of foreign countries. It is likely that the Iranian regime has a much larger number of spies overseas than just those who have been arrested so far.
Iran must be held accountable for blatantly violating the sovereignty of other nations through its agents and spies.
**Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh

After Jerusalem, Netanyahu eyes the Golan Heights
Baria Alamuddin/Arab News/August 26/18
Benjamin Netanyahu is a man with a large appetite. Generous Uncle Trump recently allowed him to feast upon Jerusalem in its entirety. Now Netanyahu is agitating to devour the Golan Heights too. And perhaps large segments of the West Bank. And why not the Lebanese Shebaa Farms region?
Instead of firmly telling Israel’s prime minister that annexing other people’s land is a grave breach of international law, US National Security Adviser John Bolton last week smiled indulgently and told him ‘Perhaps, but not yet!’ With Trump and Netanyahu drowning in their respective criminal investigations, annexation of the Golan could be their golden opportunity to divert the news agenda.
Israel is emerging as a net winner from the catastrophic instability in the region; not least in southwestern Syria where the regime’s weakness and Russia’s action against Iranian proxies allows Israel to enjoy the pretentions of a regional power in the strategically crucial Golan.
With Trump cutting another $200m in essential aid to the Palestinians last week, has their cause ever appeared so bleak? The two-state solution appears dead and buried, yet the world and Arab states pay scant attention. Israel’s outreach to Hamas threatens de facto perpetuation of Gaza’s separation from other Palestinian territories. For decades, Israel and Iran had shared an agenda of dividing the Palestinian cause. Their efforts are finally bearing fruit.
The West Bank, meanwhile, endures slow strangulation; encircled and fragmented by the relentless and illegal building of settlements. With Jerusalem’s municipal borders extending toward the Dead Sea, aggressive town planning is squeezing Palestinians out of their capital altogether. Palestinians are told they may be allowed to make the isolated and faceless Abu-Dis housing block their capital. But capital of what?
Senior figures from Palestine and the region recently told me that they felt the Palestine Liberation Organization’s mutation into the Palestinian Authority had been a strategic mistake. With the Palestinians pressured on all sides, they speculated that the only option could be a return to the PLO’s aspirations of liberation. They stressed that Palestinians mustn’t give up; mustn’t lose their attachment to their land by leaving; and mustn’t be seduced by Israel into allowing their cause to be hijacked by extremists.
Israel is emerging as a net winner from the catastrophic instability in the region; not least in southwestern Syria.
Netanyahu’s new apartheid law defines Israel on theocratic foundations; consigns non-Jews to second-class citizenship; and confers quasi-legal status upon settlements. UN mechanisms for international justice have faced a war of attrition with US-Israeli bureaucratic terrorism (funding cuts, obstructionism, boycotts and campaigns of incitement). It is thus unsurprising that racist, inhuman laws don’t even elicit token diplomatic gestures like the temporary withdrawal of ambassadors or formal rebukes. After the defunding of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and other essential programs, who will educate and feed Palestine’s children? If they are left uneducated and unemployable, who is at fault when these young people are seduced by extremism?
When the Trump administration gifted Jerusalem to Israel last year the US president hinted that reciprocal concessions could be offered to the Palestinians. Bolton categorically killed off that prospect last week; indicating that this was up to the parties themselves — as if Netanyahu may warm-heartedly grant meaningful concessions to the Palestinians in a spontaneous gesture of goodwill.
Jared Kushner (who, apart from occasional sycophantic visits to Uncle Netanyahu, has been invisible all year) is heralded as the man who will emerge with a definitive peace plan. However, the absence of substantive consultations and the Trump administration’s ideological leanings make it certain that this deal will be a bespoke package, geared toward Palestinians surrendering their few remaining rights; entailing recognition of the settlements; and leaving Palestinians with scattered scraps of land. Meanwhile, President Abbas will be denounced as a terrorist-sympathizer and enemy of peace if he doesn’t rush out and embrace these attempts to legalize theft. We hear the elderly Abu-Mazin is hunting for a successor, but who would desire this impossibly thankless role?
Trump believes that the US presidency renders him omnipotent: When he tells blatant lies on live TV, these falsehoods enjoy the status of truth because he is The President. When he says that Jerusalem is “off the table” and belongs to Israel, this becomes an incontrovertible fact, because Trump says so. Netanyahu partakes in this grotesque delusion: Israel passes outrageous racist laws, steals other people’s land and strips them of their rights — yet with the US administration’s stamp of approval, theft, oppression and racism miraculously become legally justified.
Lies and injustice remain lies and injustice — even if the most powerful man in the world gives them his blessing, and even after five, 50 or 500 years. It is sickening to hear anyone say that the Palestinians will eventually learn to stomach the dispossession of their homeland, as if the Palestinians are an inconvenient truth that will ultimately disappear and cease troubling our consciences.
Seventy years on, the Palestinian nation is no closer to disappearing. Just because international justice has ceased to exist doesn’t mean that mankind has abandoned its own sense of justice. Trump and Netanyahu are welcome to make vacuous claims that Jerusalem and the Golan are Israeli. They could equally claim that black is white, or that “the truth is not the truth,” as Trump’s top lawyer declared last week.
But Trump and Netanyahu do not possess magic powers with which to suspend reality: Justice is justice. And justice will ultimately catch up with them. Like King Canute, who believed he had the power to stop the tide coming in, they will eventually drown in their lies, their hubris and their corrupt attempts to pervert the path of justice, to be cast into the unforgiving dustbin of history.
I remain optimistic that maybe not my children but my grandchildren — inhabiting a fairer world — will live to see a just solution for the Palestinians and the long-suffering people of this region.
*Baria Alamuddin is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster in the Middle East and the UK. She is editor of the Media Services Syndicate and has interviewed numerous heads of state.

The Putin method: All nice and legal
Amir Taheri/Al Arabiya/August 26/18
Whether you like him or not, you can’t but admit that Vladimir Putin is a master tactician. When it comes to short and medium-term political coups none can match his success often achieved with minimum cost to himself.
Putin’s latest success is the so-called Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea, signed by all five littoral states last week, breaking a 22-year long log-jam. The convention could turn the world’s largest lake into an aero-naval military base for Russia and give Moscow the final word in exploiting and marketing the basin’s immense energy reserves.
Only 24 hours after the convention was signed, Moscow announced that work had started on a huge new base in Dagestan, one of Russia’s “federal” republics in the Caucasus. The new base will supplement older facilities that already exist in Astrakhan at the northern tip of the Caspian. Together, they will give Russia overwhelming military superiority for operations in Trans-Caucasia, the Middle East, Central Asia and the Black Sea rim.
Legal veneer
But that is not all. Three of the littoral states, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan badly wanted the convention to provide a legal veneer for the juicy contracts they have already signed with American and European oil giants, not to mention other big contracts being negotiated. The obstacle to all that was the Republic in Iran which, for two decades, had argued that the Caspian was a lake under joint Irano-Russian sovereignty based on three treaties signed between the two in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Both Boris Yeltsin Dmitri and Medvedev, Putin’s predecessors as president, failed to make the Tehran mullahs budge through formal negotiations.
Putin broke the log-jam by ignoring the official Iranian government, that is to say the President and the Foreign Ministry, and in 2015 going direct to the “Supreme Guide” for a deal. The deal was that Putin will help Iran keep Syrian despot Bashar al-Assad more or less in power in Damascus in exchange for which Iran would remove its veto on the Caspian Convention. In just over two years, Putin delivered his part of the bargain, at least for the time being. It was now Iran’s turn to deliver on Khamenei’s promise of dropping Iran’s historic claims on the Caspian.
The beauty of the operation is that the convention was launched and completed within what looks like a perfectly legal framework and with the consent of Russia’s neighbors in the Caspian. The beauty of the operation is that the convention was launched and completed within what looks like a perfectly legal framework and with the consent of Russia’s neighbors in the Caspian. Always looking for an extra something, Putin persuaded Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to let Russia have a share of their oil as a reward for “the taming of the Iranians.”
But that wasn’t all either. Putin persuaded the mullahs to hand Iran’s biggest energy contract so far to state-owned Russian firms. That is truly historic as it marks the end of over a century of Iranian refusal to let Russia, in its various epiphanies as Tsarist and/or Soviet Empire, a bite of the Iranian oil apple. All done nice and legal, as is Putin’s method.
Incursion into Georgia
We saw the same method in August 2008 when Putin did a bit of mise-en-scene by staging a supposed Georgian invasion of Russia as an excuse for counter-attacks that led to the occupation of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, some 25 per cent of Georgian territory. Russia, Putin claimed, had acted in self-defense, and the mise-en-scene was so convincing that inspectors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) could not counter it in an effective way.
All nice and legal.
Later, Putin annexed South Ossetia after holding a popular referendum, again nice and legal. As for Abkhazia, the local government unanimously agreed to let Russian troops stay there and pretty much run things in a nice and legal way. The same nice and legal way was used to annex Crimea where a popular referendum was held under Russia’s benevolent auspices. The same nice and legal method was used to allow Russian “volunteers” to operate in eastern Ukraine, complete with their tanks, missile-launchers and fighter jets in defense of Russian-speaking dissidents whose human rights were violated by “European fascists” in Kiev. Putin has also used his nice and legal method on the domestic scene. He didn’t change the Russian Constitution to allow himself retaining the presidency for as long as he could. Instead, he enlisted his protégé Medvedev to act as a stop-gap president for one term after which the boss would return to the Kremlin.Russian oligarchs have had a taste of that method.
Putin didn’t use extra-legal means to make them cough out part of their illegally acquired fortunes. Instead, he brought them together, gave them a nice dinner of caviar and borscht, and showed them the very legal dossiers detailing their violation of every Russian law imaginable. The oligarchs were then politely invited to choose between sharing their fortunes and going to jail. Making himself indispensable has been Putin’s chief asset in achieving tactical successes. The mullahs of Tehran need him as a protector against the big bad wolf in Washington. Bashar al-Assad owes his life to the Russian master. Benjamin Netanyahu needs him to keep the Iranians and their Lebanese, Afghan and Pakistani mercenaries as far away from Israeli ceasefire line as possible.
Erdogan's need
Recep Tayyip Erdogan needs Putin as a metaphor to back his fantasies about “new alliances’ away from NATO and the US. The Caspian littoral state chiefs need him if only to make sure he wouldn’t pull the carpet from under their feet. Despite their huffing-and-puffing, the Europeans also need Putin to continue the flow of cheap energy that keeps their economies afloat. With all that one could say: So far, so good! That ill-omened phrase, however, cannot determine what the longer term might bring. History is full of instances of tactical victories ending in strategic defeats. Putin’s rank in the KGB was that of a lieutenant colonel. And, as military historians know, tactical victories are often the work of colonels while strategic victory can only come from generals.