Detailed Lebanese & Lebanese Related LCCC English New Bulletin For August 29/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations
If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness
Second Letter to the Corinthians 11/21-30: "To my shame, I must say, we were too weak for that! But whatever anyone dares to boast of I am speaking as a fool I also dare to boast of that. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. Are they ministers of Christ? I am talking like a madman I am a better one: with far greater labours, far more imprisonments, with countless floggings, and often near death. Five times I have received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I received a stoning. Three times I was shipwrecked; for a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from bandits, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers and sisters; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, hungry and thirsty, often without food, cold and naked.And, besides other things, I am under daily pressure because of my anxiety for all the churches.Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I am not indignant?If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness."

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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 28-29/18
Lebanon's PM-Designate Says he Knows his Constitutional Powers/Thaer Abbas/Asharq Al-Awsat/August, 28/18
Hariri’s Tribunal Enters Final Stage, Deepens Conflict Between Lebanese/Youssef Diab/Asharq Al-Awsat/August, 28/18
Targeting Lebanon's Economy Would Only Threaten Hezbollah's Opposition/Michael Young/The National/August 28/18
Nasrallah Take Note: Some Spider! Some Web/Jerusalem Post/August 28/18
Amir Hatami in Syria: To stay or Withdraw/Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al-Awsat/August, 28/18
Kurds Who Fought Isis, Now Hunted By Iran's Regime/Jerusalem Post/August 28/18
Qatar and Turkey: Toxic Allies in the Gulf/Richard Miniter/Gatestone Institute./August 28, 2018
The Senator No One Could Ignore/Albert R. Hunt/Bloomberg/August, 28/18
Rouhani fails to convince as MPs demand answers/Camelia Entekhabifard/Arab News/August 28/18
Time to focus on water management in Arab world as source of growth and stability/Anders Jagerskog/Al Arabiya/August 28/18
US Sanctions Should Pressure Iran to Stop Supporting Terrorism/Fox News/Author: Ted Budd/August 28/18

Titles For The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on August 28-29/18
Dr. Walid Phares: Hezbollah-linked newspaper al-Akhbar claims a false story
Report: 'Pivotal' Regional Changes Place Lebanon in ‘The Eye of The Storm’
Report: Lebanon’s Salvation Through a National Consensus Cabinet
Bassil Says 'Strong President' Should Have Govt. Share, Parliament Bloc
Hariri Threatens to Name Govt. 'Obstructors', Says STL to Fulfill Justice
Mashnouq: Hails General Security, Rebukes 'Conditional' Opening of Nassib Crossing
Shock in Lebanon as Man Killed in 'IS-Like' Fashion over 'Blasphemy'
Lebanese Army Arrests Suspects in Hermel
Detainee Jumps Off 2nd Floor in Escape Attempt
Syrian Ambassador Makes Provocative Statement at Ain Al-Tineh
Souaid: Nasrallah Can't Disrupt STL's Verdict Through Finger Threats
Kataeb Party: STL Is the Only Chance to Uncover Long-Awaited Truth
Jumblat: Domestic Challenges as Important as STL, if Not More So
Lebanon's PM-Designate Says he Knows his Constitutional Powers
Hariri’s Tribunal Enters Final Stage, Deepens Conflict Between Lebanese
Targeting Lebanon's Economy Would Only Threaten Hezbollah's Opposition
Nasrallah Take Note: Some Spider! Some Web!
Syria Ready to Take One Million Returning Refugees, Says Moscow
U.S. Offered Assad to Leave Syria if Iran Withdraws From South, Report Says
Lebanese Report ( Al-Akhbar, a pro-Hezbollah Lebanese daily): Syrian Officials Met with US in June

Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on August 28-29/18
U.S., Canada Set for Talks to Revise NAFTA
Second U.N. Meeting on New Syrian Constitution Set for Next Month
Iran Says Advisers Will Stay in Syria
Damascus 'Legitimizes' Iranian Presence
U.S. Offered Assad to Leave Syria if Iran Withdraws From South, Report Says
Lebanese Report ( Al-Akhbar, a pro-Hezbollah Lebanese daily): Syrian Officials Met with US in June
UN Court Has No Jurisdiction in Iran Sanctions Case, US Says
Iran at The Hague: The Sanctions Are Devastating Our Economy
Rouhani Referred to Judiciary after Failing to Appease Lawmakers
Iran Tries to Escape its Stifling Crisis by Turning to Qatar
Russia in Biggest Naval Mediterranean Build-up Ahead of Idlib Offensive
Fatah Committed to Achieving Palestinian Reconciliation 'above All Else'
Abbas to Submit Formal Request for Palestinian State Full UN Membership
Israel Develops Missiles Capable of ‘Covering the Region’
Jordanian Monarch Calls for Supporting Refugee-Hosting States
Yemeni Official: Iranian Armament of Houthis Intensified during Hodeidah Operation Suspension
France's Environment Minister Hulot Announces Resignation
The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on August 28-29/18
Dr. Walid Phares: Hezbollah-linked newspaper al-Akhbar claims a false story
August 28/18/ Dr Walid Phares Told al Hadath TV that Hezbollah-linked newspaper al-Akhbar claim false story that "US intelligence visited Damascus to offer retreat from Syria versus granting US oil companies concessions." It claimed "the delegation flew on UAE flight." Obviously entire report is "fake news"It is most likely that Hezbollah fabricated this report in order to reassure public opinion that Assad-Hezbollah-Iran axis is strong and that the US "is begging for a withdrawal." Psychological Propaganda on public opinion"
Report: 'Pivotal' Regional Changes Place Lebanon in ‘The Eye of The Storm’
Naharnet/August 28/18/Lebanon must form a new government in order to “safeguard its internal arena” from the regional developments mainly “the latest US escalation in Syria,” al-Joumhouria daily reported on Tuesday. A senior political source expressed concern to the daily about the recent U.S. escalation in the neighboring country, “because Lebanon, as historically known, is directly impacted by the happenings around it.” “Evidently, the Americans will not allow the situation to turn against their interests in Syria, and the Russians are pushing for their own benefit too. Both sides are mobilized, and the situation is extremely dangerous. It is open to various possibilities,” said the source. “This serious situation in the region, which I do not think Lebanon will remain immune to if things get worse, requires the highest limit of internal immunization. The first step is to form a government, which, unfortunately, does not seem imminent,” he added. Last week, US President Donald Trump's national security adviser warned that the United States would respond "very strongly" if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad uses chemical weapons in an offensive to retake Idlib province.

Report: Lebanon’s Salvation Through a National Consensus Cabinet

Naharnet/August 28/18/Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri “will not step back from his mission” and is keen on forming a national consensus government to safeguard the investment programs that gained international approval at the Cedre conference, the Saudi Asharq al-Awsat daily reported on Tuesday. Sources close to the PM told the daily: “Hariri will not step back from his task to form a government. He insists on lining up a national consensus cabinet to protect the international investment programs agreed at the Cedre conference,” because he is confident that “it’s a salvation for Lebanon.” The sources pointed out that Hariri wants a government composed of the six major blocs represented in parliament so that none of them turns into a “veto power” against the projects. Hariri “does not wish to engage in political disputes with the parliamentary blocs during the formation process, because he will have to sit with them in the Cabinet later on to discuss how to govern the country into safety.”“Hariri knows well the articles stipulated in the Constitution on the subject of forming the government and the subject of the powers of the PM-designate,” added the sources in reference to attempts targeting the powers of the PM. Hariri was tasked with forming a government on May 24 but his missions has since been delayed because of wrangling between political parties over Cabinet shares. The major obstacles hampering the formation are the Christian and Druze representation. The Lebanese Forces, whose victory in the May parliamentary elections almost doubled its seats, demand four ministerial seats in addition to a so-called sovereign portfolio. On the other hand, former Druze MP Walid Jumblat and head of the Progressive Socialist Party insist on allocating the whole three Druze ministerial seats. Meanwhile, his rival, MP Talal Arslan of the Strong Lebanon bloc, also insists on getting a seat.

Bassil Says 'Strong President' Should Have Govt. Share, Parliament Bloc
Naharnet/August 28/18/Free Patriotic Movement chief MP Jebran Bassil said Tuesday that the president of the republic should have a share in the government and a parliamentary bloc in order to put the so-called “strong president” idea into action. “The president's ministerial share is not linked to a certain era and we must not return to strategic mistakes that have been committed since the Taef Accord all the way to the issue of the Orthodox Gathering electoral law and the issue of the strong president and how he should be elected,” Bassil said after the weekly meeting of the Strong Lebanon bloc. “We cannot tamper with these prerequisites or abandon them because someone is seeking political gains,” he added. “During the Taef Accord meetings, some said that the president should have a one third share in Cabinet, but we have not reached this stage and it should not be counted according to the number of MPs. The idea of the strong president is to add to his few powers the strength of a parliamentary bloc that would be his main supporter, or else what is the idea of a strong president?” Bassil went on to say. Referring to the ongoing delay in the Cabinet formation process, the FPM chief said: “We cannot confine the government formation process to issues beyond the Lebanese border.” “Several ambassadors have asked me about the government formation process and I responded with all due diplomacy and manners that this is a domestic affair. We hope that this patriotic approach will be endorsed in the formation process,” Bassil added. PM-designate Saad 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.”

Hariri Threatens to Name Govt. 'Obstructors', Says STL to Fulfill Justice

Naharnet/August 28/18/Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri warned Tuesday that he could soon name those who are “obstructing” the formation of the new government, as he stressed that the U.N.-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon will fulfill justice in the case of the assassination of his father, ex-PM Rafik Hariri. “If the government is not formed soon, I will name those who are obstructing its formation,” Hariri told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting for the al-Mustaqbal parliamentary bloc. “The issue of the government's formation is everyone's responsibility and it is only related to shares and political parties that are demanding additional portfolios,” Hariri added. He underlined: “I am the PM-designate and I will remain so and I will form a government together with the president. Period.” President Michel Aoun had on Monday urged Hariri to “take the initiative” and form a government as soon as possible. As for the renewed controversy over the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, Hariri said: “Hizbullah's stance on the tribunal is clear, will not change and is not new. My stance on the court is well-known and I'm keen on the country's security and stability but justice will be fulfilled.” Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah had on Sunday warned parties allegedly “betting on the STL” against what he called “playing with fire.”“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. “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. 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. Nasrallah has dismissed the court as a U.S.-Israeli scheme and vowed that the accused will never be arrested.

Mashnouq: Hails General Security, Rebukes 'Conditional' Opening of Nassib Crossing
Naharnet/August 28/18/Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq hailed the “tremendous” efforts exerted by the General Security Directorate in maintaining Lebanon’s security, noting that complaints from people crossing the border between Lebanon and Syria have “rarely been reported,” within the six-year Syrian war that pressured people to cross into Lebanon. “Tremendous efforts have been exerted by the General Security. Within the last six years (the age of the Syrian war) we have rarely received any complaints from millions crossing the border,” Mashnouq told reporters. Mashnouq was addressing reporters from the General Security Directorate headquarters where he visited the Directorate chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim congratulating him on the 73rd anniversary of the Intelligence Agency. “The Directorate has proved ability to bear the burden of people of two nations,” added Mashnouq. The Minister denounced conditions set by the Syrian government to open the international Nassib crossing. “From the beginning of the Syrian crisis, Lebanon has opened all its crossings for the Syrian people. Syrian conditions set to open the only crossing for Lebanon do not reflect the Syrian people (will) and it should not be linked to political negotiation,” added Mashnouq. Media reports said earlier that Syria has rejected Lebanon’s quest to open the Nassib crossing (which helps revive businesses) unless the Lebanese government asks for it officially, not through delegates.
The international crossing between Syria and Jordan is the main crossing for Syrian exports to Jordan and the GCC countries. In April 2015, it fell under the control of Free Syrian Army and al-Nusra Front. On 6 July 2018, the Syrian army recaptured Nassib Border Crossing to the 2018 Southern Syria offensive. Lebanon hopes the crossing will be reopened after the Russia-backed Syrian regime took control and that trade will again begin to flow to help revive its economy.

Shock in Lebanon as Man Killed in 'IS-Like' Fashion over 'Blasphemy'
Naharnet/August 28/18/A Lebanese cleric and his brothers have murdered a man and mutilated his body in a method calling to mind the gruesome executions of the Islamic State jihadist group, media reports said. The incident in the northern district of Dinniyeh followed a verbal dispute between the cleric, Khalil al-Dhaibi, and the 43-year-old victim, Mohammed al-Dhaibi, over a “blasphemous slur,” the reports said. Al-Jadeed television said the cleric and his brothers “stabbed the man to death, mutilated his corpse and threw him on the side of the road near the town of Burj al-Yahoodiyeh.” “My brother, who had an aid card from the social affairs ministry, was buying goods from a supermarket before an argument broke out between him and the supermarket owner over a hike in prices,” the victim's brother said in an interview with al-Jadeed. “My brother, who was spontaneous in his actions, hurled a slur mentioning God over the high prices,” the brother added.“The cleric asked him why he was blaspheming against God and accused him of apostasy and my brother told him to mind his own business,” the brother explained. “Are you my God to hold me accountable,” he quoted his brother as telling the cleric. “The cleric responded and they engaged in a verbal clash and maybe charged against each other and the issue ended at that point,” the brother said. He added: “The cleric then brought his brothers and they ambushed my brother on the road.” “They mutilated his body... I met the forensic doctor and he told me about a wound that is 19 centimeters long, 7-8 centimeters deep and 6-7 centimeters wide near the heart... There is a wound near the lung while the hand is cut off and is barely attached to the body. There are also wounds on the legs, the head and the entire body,” the brother added. “They removed a part of his heart,” he said. A statement issued by the Internal Security Forces said the victim “insulted the cleric and cursed God” and that both men and the cleric's brothers used knives in the quarrel. “The ISF's Intelligence Branch arrested one of the brothers in hospital after he was wounded while the two others have turned themselves in to the Branch, knowing that they also suffered knife wounds,” the statement added. Al-Jadeed meanwhile said that the cleric is the imam of a mosque in the northern area of Deir Amar and that he “has turned himself in to security authorities while expressing pride in what he committed.”

Lebanese Army Arrests Suspects in Hermel
Naharnet/August 28/18/Several suspects were arrested at dawn on Tuesday in the northern city of Hermel after engaging in gunbattles a few days ago, the National News Agency reported. The Lebanese Army arrested three individuals in Hermel’s al-Marah neighborhood during security raids its carried out at dawn. The suspects are said to have engaged in fierce gun battles in the area a few days ago. Armed troops confiscated military rifles and ammunition in the possession of the suspects. The army has also raided some homes in al-Shawagir neighborhood and arrested two suspects wanted on judicial charges. The arrestees were taken to one of the barracks in the area for investigation. They will later referred to the judicial authority

Detainee Jumps Off 2nd Floor in Escape Attempt
Naharnet/August 28/18/A detainee threw himself off the second floor of the Justice Palace on Tuesday in a botched escape attempt. The National News Agency identified the man by his initials, J.S., saying he staged the attempt as he was being escorted by security forces following an interrogation session. “He landed on a car parked on the ground floor near the prison cell, suffering bruises and wounds,” NNA added. “He was immediately rushed to al-Hayat Hospital in a critical condition,” the agency said. It noted that the detainee is being held on drug dealing charges.
Syrian Ambassador Makes Provocative Statement at Ain Al-Tineh Tuesday 28th August 2018/Syrian Ambassador Ali Abdul-Karim Ali on Tuesday described Lebanese factions that are against the normalization of ties with Damascus as "voices of cacophony", calling on them to come to their senses and realize that it's in Lebanon's interest to re-establish ties between the two countries. “They must examine closely the brotherly Lebanese-Syrian relations based on an approach that serves Lebanon’s interest, before that of Syria. It is certainly in the best interest of both countries to restore ties because terrorism threatening Syria also endangers Lebanon," Ali said following talks with Speaker Nabih Berri in Ain Al-Tineh. The Syrian diplomat deemed anti-Damascus stances as "pathetic", saying that contacts are already ongoing between the two countries. “Bilateral ties already exist given that there’s a Syrian ambassador appointed in Lebanon and vice versa. Brotherly ties between the two countries necessitate a more realistic, acceptable and respectable discourse,” he added. “International enemies that waged a war against Syria over the past years are now seeking ways out of their arrogance so as to re-establish contact with Damascus. Shouldn't the same apply to a friend country that borders Syria?" he said. "Syria certainly needs Lebanon, but it is Lebanon the one that needs Syria more. Both countries are bound by geographical, historical and ancestral ties. Those who speak otherwise should reconsider their approach because it is shameful,” the Syrian ambassador concluded.

Souaid: Nasrallah Can't Disrupt STL's Verdict Through Finger Threats 28th August 2018/Former MP Fares Souaid on Tuesday said that the threat made by Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah in his latest speech was not directed at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon and its supporters, but rather at all the Lebanese.
On Sunday, Nasrallah defied once again the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) that is investigating the assassination of PM Rafik Hariri, reiterating that his group doesn't care about the ruling that is expected to be issued soon by the UN-backed court.
"The STL means nothing to us. Whatever it decides is worthless. To those betting on it we say: don’t play with fire," Nasrallah said. Speaking to the Kataeb website, Souaid stressed that Hezbollah leader cannot distort the STL's ruling through his finger threats, adding that Nasrallah doesn't need to stir up new events similar to those witnessed in May 2008 because Hezbollah already has the country in its grip. “Even the major political parties did not talk about the Special Tribunal for Lebanon because they no longer need taming as most of them have already been tamed,” Souaid deplored. “Nasrallah’s statement was particularly addressed to a group of Lebanese who still believe in justice and the STL, knowing that this group has paid a dire price and believes that justice will permanently prevail if it is served this time. The court will put an end to all crimes,” Souaid noted. “Nasrallah wanted to look as if he is downplaying the STL's verdict, while it is actually troubling and confusing him. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have brought up this subject by refuting in advance all the accusations against Hezbollah,” he stated.

Kataeb Party: STL Is the Only Chance to Uncover Long-Awaited Truth 28th August 2018/The Kataeb party on Monday blasted officials who are in charge of the government formation for not shouldering their responsibility amid the critical phase that the country is going through, criticizing them for focusing their attention on trivial political bickering and the conflict over power while disregarding the people's concerns. "The Kataeb party stresses the need to speed up the formation of a productive government that includes experts," read a statement issued following the weekly meeting of the Kataeb's politburo. "There is no priority other than the citizens' interest in having a government that manages their daily life affairs."The party renewed full commitment to the role of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, deeming it as the "only chance" that the Lebanese have been waiting to unveil the truth behind the assassination of PM Rafik Hariri. "This court certainly serves as a gateway to a safe and stable nation," the politburo affirmed. "The blood shed by both martyrs Pierre Gemayel and Antoine Ghanem, as well as all the others who were assassinated, is a trust consigned to the Kataeb party until justice prevails, no matter how long it takes."

Jumblat: Domestic Challenges as Important as STL, if Not More So

Naharnet/August 28/18/Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblat pointed out Monday that the country's domestic challenges could be “more important” than any developments related to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. “The STL is existent and the government is financing this tribunal. The court has condemned individuals and history cannot stop because of these individuals. The domestic financial challenges are as important as the STL, if not more so,” Jumblat said when asked whether there is a link between the delay in the Cabinet formation process and any expected developments related to the STL.
Jumblat was speaking to reporters after meeting Speaker Nabih Berri in Ain el-Tineh. The STL is trying four Hizbullah operatives in absentia over the 2005 assassination of ex-PM Rafik Hariri. The STL's prosecution has described the group's slain military commander Mustafa Badreddine as “the leader of the three-man team that coordinated the attack.” Separately, Jumblat stressed that there is no “Druze obstacle” blocking the formation of the new government. “There is no Druze obstacle. We're the ones who won the elections, unless we want to repeat the elections,” the Druze leader told reporters. “We must quickly overcome the governmental crisis because the economic situation cannot withstand further delay. Caretaker Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil has put us in the picture of scary facts,” Jumblat said. As for the demands of the Lebanese Forces, the PSP leader said: “The deputy premier post does not actually exist but the LF's demands are justified within the framework of a national unity government.”

Lebanon's PM-Designate Says he Knows his Constitutional Powers
Beirut - Thaer Abbas/Asharq Al-Awsat/August, 28/18
President Michel Aoun has unceasingly exerted “media pressure” on Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, who stressed that he was aware on what the Constitution stipulates with regard to the government formation process. “Hariri won’t quit the premiership,” sources close to the PM-designate told Asharq Al-Awsat. Aoun said Monday that Hariri had spent enough time listening to the demands of political parties and therefore, he should now take the initiative to form the government. “We are waiting for him,” the president said. "Political and sectarian diversity creates problems when it comes to government formation. We listen to the demands of political parties and we aim to reach an agreement that would result in cabinet formation," Aoun added. In return, Hariri’s sources said the PM-designate deals with the deadlock through three principles, including his determination to form a national unity cabinet capable of protecting the investment program he is working to achieve and which was agreed on during the CEDER conference in April.“Hariri knows what the Constitution stipulates in regard to the cabinet formation and his powers, and therefore, the PM would not engage in disputes with any side,” the sources said. They added that Hariri wants the government line-up to include representatives from the country’s six largest parliamentary blocs. The president believes that Hariri is “confused” in handling the issue of the cabinet formation, Aoun’s visitors told Asharq Al-Awsat on Sunday. They said the president was not interfering in Hariri’s mission, but he had asked the PM-designate to adopt unified norms in the cabinet formation and not to keep any party outside the process. Speaker Nabih Berri also weighed in on the deadlock on Monday.
“This situation cannot go on in this manner,” Berri told reporters at his Ain al-Tineh residence.

Hariri’s Tribunal Enters Final Stage, Deepens Conflict Between Lebanese
Beirut - Youssef Diab/Asharq Al-Awsat/August, 28/18
The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) begins on September 10 the trials of four members of the “Hezbollah” security apparatus accused of assassinating former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.  This final phase will be devoted to the pleadings of the STL Prosecutor Norman Farrell, the representatives of the victims and the defense team for the accused, following which the tribunal will study the evidence and closing arguments and issue its final verdict four years after the beginning of the public trials. Hezbollah anticipated this important event, with its secretary general warning against “playing with fire.”  Hassan Nasrallah called for not linking the formation of the government with the final verdict of the STL, saying: “Frankly and clearly, the tribunal does not exist and its decisions do not concern us at all, do not play with fire ... Do not play with fire.”Well-informed sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Trial Chamber President, Judge David Re, has given Farrell and his team three days to present his arguments and evidence, and a similar time for the team of those affected by the crime, and then two days for the defense lawyers of each of the four defendants. The accused currently facing trial in absentia are Salim Jamil Ayyash, Hassan Habib Merhi, Hussein Hassan Oneissi and Assad Hassan Sabra. They are charged with conspiracy to commit a terrorist act, along with a number of other related charges. The UN Security Council classified Hariri’s assassination in February 2005 as a "terrorist" crime, appointed an international commission of inquiry, and then established the STL for the prosecution of the accused.
The sources described the ruling as “historic”. “It will be a strong verdict based on irrefutable evidence that cannot be questioned or politicized,” they said.  Meanwhile, Legal Expert Antoine Saad told Asharq Al-Awsat that Nasrallah’s recent warnings have indicated that he did not believe in the logic of institutions or national and international justice.  He noted that Nasrallah “is trying to pressure Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri by all means, starting with the file of the displaced Syrians to the normalization of relations with the Syrian regime and reaching the Special Tribunal.”  For his part, the coordinator of the General Secretariat of the March 14 coalition, former MP Fares Soeid said that the Hezbollah chief’s threats were not directed towards the international community, but towards the Lebanese people.
“Nasrallah’s threat affects politicians and free media figures, who do not enjoy political and security protection at the internal or external levels,” he noted.
Targeting Lebanon's Economy Would Only Threaten Hezbollah's Opposition
Michael Young/The National/August 28/18
Last week former Israeli Mossad chief Tamir Pardo proposed an idea that, he said, would “defeat” Hezbollah. Mr Pardo recommended that the US impose sanctions on Lebanon. These would be much more effective than a war against the party, he said, if "there was a clear message that sanctions would only be removed if Hezbollah gave up its arms or was absorbed entirely into the Lebanese army and Iran [withdrew] its tentacles completely from Lebanon”.
In making such a suggestion, the former Mossad official adopted an increasingly familiar line of those who are desperately searching for a way to be rid of Hezbollah. Amid signs of the party’s predominance in Lebanon – a model that has evidently appealed to its allies throughout the Middle East, including the Houthis – an increasing number of voices have suggested targeting Lebanese national institutions as a way of curbing Hezbollah's power.
Proponents of this approach reject the warning that destroying the institutions of the Lebanese state (and sanctions would certainly push the fragile economy over the edge) can only favour Hezbollah. They argue that because the party controls many of these institutions, undermining them would harm the party. So they blithely suggest that attacking the state, its economy and army, would lead to the magical end to which they aspire, namely Hezbollah’s downfall.
The problem with this idea, apart from the folly of creating another failed state in the region, is that it offers a superficial understanding of how Lebanon functions. It is undeniable that Hezbollah has major influence over the country but it is also true that the institutions of the state and Lebanese society respond to a much broader array of interests that in many cases are antithetical to Hezbollah’s, even if the group’s weapons make effective opposition difficult.
If one is expecting easy solutions with regard to Hezbollah, that won’t happen. Harming the state only risks undermining latent poles of opposition to the party. And Mr Pardo’s “solution” is unlikely to be more successful than other efforts to make Lebanon pay a price for Hezbollah.
For starters, the Iranian regime couldn’t care less about Lebanon’s economy. Moreover, Mr Pardo’s proposal is built on a false premise. He believes that economic pain would push the Lebanese to act against the party. But for many of them, turning against Hezbollah would entail provoking civil conflict, because the party will not voluntarily dissolve itself or cut ties with Tehran. In fact, it will resist doing so. Between economic pain and the pain of civil war, the Lebanese will choose the former.
Then there is the fact that the Lebanese have already paid a heavy price for Hezbollah and there was little they could do about this. In 2006, the party provoked a war with Israel that destroyed Lebanon’s infrastructure and led to almost two years of instability as the parliamentary majority and Hezbollah confronted each other.
The impact of this on Hezbollah’s fortunes was limited. But destroying the Lebanese economy and impoverishing much of society will only erode the power of a state that represents an alternative model to Hezbollah’s. What governments have realised is that this notion of an alternative model is essential. In certain situations where its power has slipped, the party has had to rely on the state, which the state exploited to cross previous red lines imposed by Hezbollah.
By embodying an alternative to the party, the state might be able one day to tilt the balance to its advantage. In the late 1980s, popular exasperation with wartime militias made many people support the Lebanese army with greater vigour. The army commander at the time benefited from this mood and happens to be Lebanon’s president today.
Certainly, such a process will be slow but undermining the state and economy would only play into Hezbollah’s hands. Hezbollah has always sought to discredit the state because what the state gains, the party loses. Systematically, Hezbollah has striven to undercut the state’s and army’s credibility to cover up for its own shortcomings. So pushing foreign countries to add to this by targeting the Lebanese state would only allow Hezbollah to pursue its agenda without credible state institutions left in place to act as rallying points for its opponents.
Recommending collective punishment is a familiar arrow in the quiver of Israeli officials. But rarely does it seem to work. If anything, it heightens polarisation that only benefits those advocating for the strongest line, in this case Hezbollah, which has the guns to make its arguments prevail. Mr Pardo is like all the others who believe they have found the silver bullet that will resolve the Hezbollah problem. He imagines that more ruin will advance things.
But the Israelis have bombed Lebanon on countless occasions, just as they have Gaza. Yet none of this has changed much, except to strengthen the argument of Hezbollah and Hamas that the military option against Israel is the only valid one. Israel or the US can severely damage Lebanon’s state and society with little effort. However, in the end, there is a very high probability that Hezbollah will be left standing alone, with no one in a position to question its actions.
Nasrallah Take Note: Some Spider! Some Web!
Jerusalem Post/August 28/18
In Nasrallah’s view, Israel is on the verge of collapse, a country in which its citizens are soft, fat and sassy.
It’s late August, and Israel is in the throes of its “cucumber season,” that annual period when – for a variety of reasons – not a lot is happening in the news.
And this year, cucumber season is likely to be quickly followed by the “silly season” – the period close to when new elections will be called – when the airways will be flooded by those trying to replace the government saying how absolutely dire everything is. They will say Israel is falling apart, marching toward theocracy, turning fascist, tanking economically and isolated diplomatically – and that the average citizen just wants to leave. Government officials will then counter that things have never been so good. It’s a time of hyperbole, when the country we hear about on the airwaves bears little resemblance to the one most of us live in. And in the midst of all the noise, it is important to distinguish between reality and wild exaggeration. Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah is unable to do that. In Nasrallah’s view, Israel is on the verge of collapse, a country in which its citizens are soft, fat and sassy. He said so much in a speech on Sunday, claiming that Israelis are no longer willing to fight for the state.
“The Israeli leadership knows that it is difficult to convince people to enlist in the elite units, the combat units, and everyone prefers to serve in rear units. They lack the willingness to sacrifice that they once had; they have no motivation to endanger their lives,” he was quoted as saying.
Somebody should be giving Nasrallah better intelligence. According to IDF statistics published last year, 67% of those who enlisted in the summer of 2017 wanted to serve in combat units, as opposed to 68.8% in 2016. One of the reasons given for the slight decline was a desire of increasing numbers to go into the army’s high-tech units – units of increasing import in modern warfare – where they will acquire skills that can be translated into lucrative careers later on. And even with that decline, the Army reported last year that – except somewhat in tank and anti-aircraft units – there are more applicants than places to fill. Moreover, in the elite commando units – the units that would be doing much of the fighting in Lebanon in case of another war – there are more applicants than available spots, and the competition to get into those units is intense.
Not exactly, as Nasrallah said, everyone preferring "to serve in the rear units.”
NASRALLAH’S SPEECH on Sunday was reminiscent of the infamous “spider web” speech he gave in May 2000 in Bint Jbeil, just days after then prime minister Ehud Barak withdrew Israeli forces from Lebanon. “Our brothers and beloved Palestinians, I tell you: Israel, which owns nuclear weapons and the strongest war aircraft in the region, is feebler than a spider’s web – I swear to God” he said. “The resistance has defeated the grand Israel. The resistance is conquering the great Israel.”Flush with a sense of victory following the Lebanon withdrawal, Nasrallah’s theory was simple: Israel is as fragile as a spider web, and all that he, the Palestinians or the Arab world had to do was to blow on it and – whoosh – it would disappear. Four months later, Yasser Arafat took his advice; following the breakdown of the Camp David talks – when he did not get all he wanted – he launched a protracted terrorist war against Israel: the Second Intifada. Arafat blew – and blew, and blew – but the spider web did not disappear. This resilient country did not buckle; its people lost neither their will to fight back nor their will to sacrifice – and they did not lose faith in the overall justice of their cause.
In 2006, Nasrallah tried to blow on the spider web himself, and Hezbollah kidnapped reservists Eldad Goldwasser and Ehud Regev, an action that triggered the Second Lebanon War. Although Israel did not perform in that war as well as many had expected, and although there were many flaws, Hezbollah was pounded – and the Lebanese border has been quiet ever since. Nasrallah, who lives in a Beirut bunker because of his fear of Israel, should keep this in mind when he predicts a loss of Israel’s backbone or fighting spirit. The country is a lot stronger, and the people are much more dedicated to it, than one could glean from reading the papers – especially during an electoral “silly season.” Nasrallah would also be well advised to go back and listen to Winston Churchill’s famous 1941 speech, where he spoke of French Marshal Philippe Petain’s prediction that Hitler would successfully invade Britain as he had done to France. “When I warned them that Britain would fight on alone whatever they did, their generals told their prime minister and his divided cabinet: ‘In three weeks, England will have her neck wrung like a chicken.’ Some chicken! Some neck!”
If Churchill would be responding to Nasrallah today, he might say: “Some spider! Some web!”

Syria Ready to Take One Million Returning Refugees, Says Moscow
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 28/18/Russia's defence minister said on Tuesday that war-torn Syria would be ready to accept one million returning refugees, following Moscow-backed reconstruction work. "Since 2015, when towns and villages gradually started to be freed, more than one million people have returned home," Sergei Shoigu said in comments reported by Russian news agencies. "Now every opportunity has been created for the return of roughly one million (more) refugees," he told journalists. "Huge infrastructure reconstruction work is ongoing, the rebuilding of transport routes and security points so that Syria can begin accepting refugees." Russia, a long-time ally of Syria, launched a military intervention in 2015 to support the embattled regime of President Bashar al-Assad, a move that changed the course of the war.Assad and his allies have since recovered swathes of territory and the government is turning its attention to post-conflict reconstruction, with the aid of Moscow. The war that erupted in 2011, one of the most devastating conflicts since World War II, has displaced more than half of Syria's population, including more than five million beyond its borders. Most of them fled to neighbouring countries, particularly Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. Presidents Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump discussed the return of refugees at a summit in Helsinki last month. Moscow later said it had put forward plans to Washington to cooperate on their return to Syria but details have yet to be confirmed.
The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on August 28-29/18
U.S., Canada Set for Talks to Revise NAFTA
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 28/18/With a deal with Mexico out of the way, US trade officials are due to resume talks with Canada on Tuesday to try to salvage the North American Free Trade Agreement as a trilateral deal. After months of intense negotiations, the United States and Mexico announced an agreement Monday on a thorough overhaul of the 25-year-old free trade pact, but President Donald Trump suggested he could cut Ottawa out. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stressed in a phone call with Trump that the aim is to reach a new NAFTA deal. The leaders "had a constructive conversation" on NAFTA, and "look forward to having their teams engage this week with a view to a successful conclusion of negotiations," Trudeau's office said. Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland interrupted a trip to Europe to rush back to Washington to begin talks with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. And Mexican President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador called for a three-way trade deal, saying "it's important that Canada also be included." The outlines of a NAFTA 2.0 are now on paper, including provisions on auto trade, tougher worker protections and a provision to review the deal every six years. "It's a big day for trade. It's a really good deal for both countries," President Donald Trump said in announcing the agreement from the Oval Office, with Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto participating by telephone. Negotiators have worked for a year to update and rewrite NAFTA, but in the last five weeks Washington and Mexico City worked to resolve their bilateral issues without Ottawa. Trump stressed that he could go ahead without Ottawa in the new agreement. "We could have a separate deal or we could put it in the same deal," Trump said.
He indicated he would take a tough line with Canada on autos and dairy tariffs, long a source of tension between the neighboring countries.
Not a sunset clause -There is some urgency as the US seems keen to have the issue resolved before the November midterm elections, and Pena Nieto wants to sign before handing the reins over to Lopez Obrador on December 1.But Canada may not feel the pressure to hurry. Freeland's spokesman Adam Austen said in a statement Canada "will only sign a new NAFTA that is good for Canada and good for the middle class. Canada's signature is required." Mexican officials have insisted all along that the NAFTA must be a trilateral deal, but also acknowledged that either way it will have free trade commitments with both nations. Lighthizer said the administration would notify Congress by Friday of the new agreement, which would allow the required 90 days' notice to get the pact signed by December 1. However, it was unclear whether the administration has the authority to substitute NAFTA with a two-nation trade agreement. The Canadian team could be more amenable to the talks now that the United States has backed away from a controversial and strenuously-opposed provision to require the three nations to renegotiate NAFTA after five years. Instead, senior US officials told reporters the agreement had been extended for 16 years but would be reviewed every six years. If the parties agree to continue with no changes, it will be renewed for another 16 years. However, if the governments want to make changes, they will negotiate while the agreement remains in place, giving them a longer time horizon of 10 years to make changes, which is less likely to spook investors and businesses. "It's an alternative to sunset which we think works," another senior official said. And in fact, financial markets were delighted by the news with the S&P 500 and the tech-dominated Nasdaq stock indexes hitting fresh records at the close Monday. Mexico's peso strengthened against the US dollar, as did the Canadian dollar, while the US dollar index weakened slightly.
- NAFTA 2.0 -Lighthizer told reporters in a call that the agreement with Mexico provided the "highest standards" of any existing agreement on digital trade, financial services and labor rights. "We had a NAFTA agreement that had gotten seriously out of whack, that led to large trade deficits and needed updating," Lighthizer said. A key element of the US-Mexico talks has been content requirements for autos, which Mexico agreed to increase to 75 percent from North America to get duty free NAFTA treatment. The sides also agreed that 40-45 percent of cars must be made at "high wage" factories where workers receive $16 an hour in order to receive duty-free treatment, something that could deter off-shoring US auto manufacturing to Mexico. Lopez Obrador, a leftist free-trade skeptic who won a landslide election victory on July 1, said he considered it a good deal for Mexico.

Second U.N. Meeting on New Syrian Constitution Set for Next Month
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 28/18/The U.N. peace envoy for Syria will host senior officials from a range of Western and Middle-Eastern countries next month for talks on drafting a new Syrian constitution, the U.N. said Tuesday. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura has been tasked with setting up a committee to write a new constitution for the war-ravaged country. He is already set to host a meeting on September 11-12 at the U.N.'s European headquarters in Geneva of senior officials from the main foreign powers backing the project, Syrian government allies Russia and Iran, as well as Turkey, which supports some opposition groups. And on Tuesday, U.N. spokeswoman Alessandra Vellucci said de Mistura had convened a one-day meeting on September 14 with senior representatives from Egypt, France, Germany, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom and the United States. The meeting, Vellucci said, was to focus on "the way ahead on the political process" for Syria, "including the U.N. effort to facilitate the establishment of a constitutional committee." De Mistura has said he wants to have the constitutional committee in place before world leaders meet at the General Assembly in New York in late September. De Mistura's previous efforts to negotiate an end to the Syrian conflict have achieved no breakthroughs. More than 350,000 people have been killed and millions displaced since Syria's war started in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.
Iran Says Advisers Will Stay in Syria
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 28/18/Iran's military attache to Damascus told Iranian media on Tuesday that the country's military advisers would remain in Syria under a defense agreement signed this week. "The continued presence of Iran's advisers in Syria is one of the areas covered in the defensive-technical agreement between Tehran and Damascus," said Brigadier-General Abolghasem Alinejad, according to the Fars and Tabnak news agencies. It was announced on Monday that an agreement on security cooperation had been signed during a visit by Iran's Defense Minister Amar Hatami. "Support for Syria's territorial integrity and the independence of Syrian sovereignty were also emphasized in the agreement," Alinejad said. Tehran has provided steady political, financial, and military backing to President Bashar al-Assad as he has fought back a seven-year uprising.In an interview Monday night with the Beirut-based Al-Mayadeen television channel, Hatami said the agreement included the rehabilitation of Syria's defense industry.
Damascus 'Legitimizes' Iranian Presence
Damascus - London/Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 28 August, 2018/Iran and Syria signed a deal for military cooperation in a meeting between the defense ministers of the two countries in Damascus, Iranian media reported on Monday. "Syria is passing through the crisis stage and entering the reconstruction phase," said Iran's Defense Minister Amir Hatami, according to the Tasnim news agency. Hatami was on Monday on the second day of a two-day visit to Damascus, during which he held "detailed negotiations" with his counterpart Ali Abdullah Ayoub and the head of the regime, Bashar al-Assad, according to Tasnim. The "defense and technical agreement" provides for the continued "presence and participation" of Iran in Syria, added Hatami. Tehran has provided steady political, financial, and military backing to Assad since the war erupted in 2011. Hours after Hatami landed in Damascus, “Hezbollah” members were seen leaving Syrian territories. Sources said that convoys hoisting “Hezbollah” flags and carrying the group’s fighters left the area of Qusair in Homs province’s western countryside, and entered Lebanese territories through Hermel. It was not clear if Hezbollah’s move was linked to the agreement signed between Tehran and Damascus. "The most important element of the deal is the rebuilding of the Syrian armed forces and defense industries so that they can regain their full capacity," said Hatami, according to Tasnim. Separately, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem said during a visit to western towns and villages on Monday that the territory of the Sanjak of Alexandretta, now renamed Hatay, belongs to Syria. The minister was seen in a video during his visit to Al Samra village. “The Sanjak of Alexandretta is ours and we will have it back one day,” he was heard saying. His comments came as the Turkish Army boosted its forces in Morek near Hama, raising the number of military bases established following an agreement reached with Russia to 12
U.S. Offered Assad to Leave Syria if Iran Withdraws From South, Report Says
Haaretz/Aug 28, 2018
American intel officials met Syrian officials in Damascus last months for four hours, Lebanon's al-Akhbar reports
The United States offered the Assad regime to take its forces out of Syria in return for an Iranian withdrawal from the country's south, Lebanese newspaper al-Akhbar reported Tuesday.
Officials in Washington have not confirmed the report, which has not been published in U.S. media. In response to the report, the Syrians said that the U.S. forces are occupiers and must get out. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has long lobbied both the U.S. and Russia to remove Iran from Syria - the Iranian presence in Syria has triggered over a hundred of Israeli airstrikes in Syria
The U.S. and Russia are currently both building up a large navy presence off of Syria as the two countries try to head off a violent escalation in Idlib betweet Assad forces, rebels and possibly Turkey.
The Lebanese daily, considered close to Hezbollah, reported that U.S. intelligence agency representatives met last month in Damascus with senior officials in the Syrian regime's security establishment.
According to the report the meeting lasted four hours and the Americans set three conditions for their withdrawal, which would include leaving the al-Tanf base near the Jordanian-Syrian-Iraqi border triangle as well as the forces located east of the Euphrates River.
In addition to demanding Iranian withdrawal from south Syria, near Israel, the U.S. representatives demanded, according to the report, written confirmation that American companies would receive a portion of the oil market and that the U.S would get information about terrorists.
The Tasnim news agency reported on Monday that Iran and Syria signed a deal for military cooperation in a meeting between the defense ministers of the two countries in Damascus. Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami travelled to Damascus on Sunday for a two-day visit, meeting Syrian President Bashar Assad and senior military officials, and said that the agreement also stipulates helping rebuild Syria's military industry.
U.S. President Donald Trump's National Security Adviser John Bolton arrived in Israel on Sunday for discussions on the security situation in Syria. A senior White House official told Haaretz that when Bolton was in Moscow for preparations three weeks prior, Putin told him that he doesn't want to see Iranian forces remain in Syria but he's not sure Russia alone can get Iranian forces out of the country.
Iran currently has thousands of soldiers and militia fighters operating in Syria; Iran also expects to reap the benefits of Syria's reconstruction process once the war is over. Iranian officials have said that Tehran will not agree under any circumstance to remove its forces from Syria.
Russia is currently keeping Iranian forces at a distance of 85 kilometers from Israel's border, but the Israeli and American position over the past year has consistently been that Iran needs to remove all of its forces from Syria. Putin shares that position but doubts whether it can be implemented, according to the official.

Lebanese Report ( Al-Akhbar, a pro-Hezbollah Lebanese daily): Syrian Officials Met with US in June
Jerusalem Post/August 28/18
The report, which claims to provide an account of a US offer to the Syrian regime, is interesting for some of the details it provides and the agenda it seeks to fulfill.
It reads like an espionage thriller. After an airplane touches down in the dead of night at Damascus International Airport cordoned off by security forces, a “huge procession of black SUVs” whisks away a high-level delegation of US officials from “several intelligence and security agencies.” They travel to a secret military facility in Mezzeh west of Damascus, where the spooks meet with Ali Mamlouk, the mysterious Syrian security chief and adviser to dictator Bashar al-Assad. A coterie of Mukhabarat heavies from the Syrian Intelligence Directorate join in the four-hour parley.
This was the scene that played out in June, according to a report at Al-Akhbar, a pro-Hezbollah Lebanese daily and website. Published Wednesday, the article purportedly provides an account of a US offer to the Syrian regime whereby the Americans would pull out of their base at Tanf in eastern Syria. In coordination with Russia and the Syrian regime, the US forces that had been battling ISIS alongside the Syrian Democratic Forces would turn their desert stronghold over to the regime
But the US wanted a quid pro quo – that Iranian forces quit southern Syria. US oil companies would receive a “share of the oil sector” in eastern Syria, and Damascus would provide intelligence on any western ISIS members and potential ISIS threats to western interests.
According to the report, the Syrians considered but ultimately rejected the “tempting” offer.
You are an occupying power in Syria. You entered our territory forcibly without permission, and you can go out in the same way.” Syria is not a country that can be cut off from its roots. It is part of a broad axis in the region, and allied with Tehran and Hezbollah, the regime interlocutors told the Americans.Bottom line, Iran will not pull out of southern Syria, and if Americans want access to oil they can stand in line like everyone else.  As for foreign terrorists, “we are fully aware of the dangers these people pose to us and to you,” the Syrians allegedly said. As for foreign terrorists, “we are fully aware of the dangers these people pose to us and to you,” the Syrians allegedly said. Noteworthy in the report are the details it provides, and the agenda it seeks to fulfill. The United Arab Emirates role in the meeting is mentioned several times. First, the author claims that a UAE plane brought the US delegation. Second, the Syrians said they have provided intelligence on terrorism threats to the UAE, and the UAE is said to be interested in repairing relations with Damascus. The meeting allegedly happened in June before Damascus launched its offensive to clear the Syrian rebels in the south. In March, US President Donald Trump indicated that the US would be “coming out of Syria very soon. Let the other people take care of it now.” Assad said in May, during an interview with Russia’s RT, that the US should “learn the lessons of Iraq” and leave Syria. At the time Assad appeared to suggest the regime would be re-taking eastern Syria. The Al-Akhbar report comes in the context of other articles that seek to show how Syria and its allies in Lebanon continually stand up to foreign intervention. For instance, an article in June by the same author claims that Saudi Arabia had attempted a coup d’État in Lebanon, and failed. Saudi Arabia is also reported to have unsuccessfully pressured Syria to abandon its alliance with Iran.
The Syrian regime is now depicting itself as riding a wave of victories that will bring an end to its savage seven-year civil war. It wants to portray itself as deciding the future of Syria, and remove foreign forces, including the US and Turkey.
Damascus hosted a high-level Iranian military delegation over the weekend, including Iran’s defense minister, in a gesture meant to show that Iran is not leaving. The Al-Akhbar report appears to be in that context, portraying the Syrian regime as talking tough to Washington and being unwilling to negotiate whether Iranian troops and advisers stay.

UN Court Has No Jurisdiction in Iran Sanctions Case, US Says
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 28/18/The United States told UN judges Tuesday they had no jurisdiction to rule on Tehran's demand for them to order the suspension of debilitating nuclear-related sanctions against Iran. Iran has argued that US President Donald Trump breached a 1955 treaty with his decision to reimpose the sanctions after withdrawing from a multilateral nuclear accord. But US State Department lawyer Jennifer Newstead told the court in The Hague that it "lacks prima facie jurisdiction to hear Iran's claims". But Newstead argued that the United States had the right to protect its national security and other interests. The treaty "cannot therefore provide a basis for this court's jurisdiction" in the case, she said. The United States and several other world powers lifted sanctions on Iran under a 2015 accord after years of diplomacy. In return, Tehran made commitments not to seek to build nuclear weapons. Trump said the 2015 accord did not do enough to curb the threat from Iran. He pulled out of the accord in May and began reimposing sanctions this month. In the first day of hearings at the ICJ on Monday, Iran's lawyers said the sanctions were threatening the welfare of its citizens and disrupting tens of billions of dollars' worth of business deals.

Iran at The Hague: The Sanctions Are Devastating Our Economy
Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 28 August, 2018/The US views Iran's filing with the International Court of Justice as an attempt to interfere with its rights to take actions on national security grounds and will fight Tehran's claims, the State Department said on Monday as oral proceedings began before the court. "Iran’s filing with the ICJ is an attempt to interfere with the sovereign rights of the United States to take lawful actions, including re-imposition of sanctions, which are necessary to protect our national security. The proceedings instituted by Iran are a misuse of the Court," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement. Tehran launched the suit over US President Donald Trump's decision to reimpose sanctions that were lifted in the landmark 2015 accord. Iran demanded Monday that the Court order the United States to suspend the sanctions. Trump says the sanctions are needed to ensure Iran never builds a nuclear bomb. But Iran's representative Mohsen Mohebi branded them "naked economic aggression". His team of lawyers told the court in The Hague that the measures were already devastating Iran's economy and threatening the welfare of its citizens. "The United States is publicly propagating a policy intended to damage as severely as possible Iran's economy and Iranian nationals and companies," Mohebi said. "Iran will put up the strongest resistance to the US economic strangulation, by all peaceful means."US lawyers are due to give their response in arguments before the court on Tuesday. "We will vigorously defend against Iran's meritless claims this week in The Hague," said Pompeo. The US and Iran have clashed at the court in the past since they became enemies after 1979. Iran ignored a 1980 US suit at the ICJ over the seizure of American diplomats in Tehran, which the court found to be illegal. In another suit and countersuit, the ICJ found that the 1955 friendship treaty was still valid even though it was signed before the Iranian revolution. However, the court found in 2003 that neither actions by the United States against Iranian oil platforms nor Iranian attacks on American shipping violated the treaty. Meanwhile, President Hassan Rouhani said on Monday that Iran expects the remaining partners in its nuclear agreement to act quickly to preserve it, Rouhani made the comments in a phone call to French President Emmanuel Macron, according to IRNA. "Iran has acted upon all its promises in the nuclear agreement and, with attention to the one-sided withdrawal of America ...expects the remaining partners to operate their programs more quickly and transparently," he was quoted as saying.

Rouhani Referred to Judiciary after Failing to Appease Lawmakers
Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 28 August, 2018/Iranian President Hassan Rouhani failed to convince parliament on Tuesday that his plans will pull the country out of an economic nosedive worsened by America's withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal as most of the questions of lawmakers were referred to Iran's judiciary for further review. While Rouhani warned that "painting a bleak picture of people's lives will lead to further darkness," lawmakers voted four separate times to say they were unconvinced of his answers about Iran's recession, its cratering currency, unemployment and smuggling.
"Certainly, we made and we have made mistakes," Rouhani acknowledged at one point in a speech before parliament. In May, longtime deal skeptic President Donald Trump pulled the US from the nuclear accord and reimposed sanctions on Iran. That only fanned the flames burning through the country's economy from chronic unemployment, high inflation and drastic drops in its currency. Those problems sparked nationwide protests in December and January across Iran. Lawmakers already have fired Rouhani's labor and finance ministers this month amid the economic crisis. But Rouhani said those protests only strengthened Trump's hand to pull out of the atomic accord. "This lured Trump into saying that he will not remain in the deal," Rouhani said. "I want to assure the Iranian nation that we will not allow the US plot against the Islamic Republic to succeed," Rouhani told parliament in a session that was broadcast live on state television. "We will not let this bunch of anti-Iranians in the White House be able to plot against us."Most foreign firms have abandoned investment projects in Iran, and the next phase of renewed US sanctions in November will hit the crucial oil sector.  The lawmakers asked Rouhani about the government's failure in tackling the rise of unemployment, slow economic growth, and the fall of the country's currency rial - as well as revenue-sapping cross-border smuggling operations. Rouhani said his government had asked the Revolutionary Guards to help them in tackling the smuggling. Lawmakers also asked why the government had not adopted reforms in the financial sector and foreign exchange market, and sought an explanation why, more than two years after the nuclear deal, Iranian banks still had only limited access to global financial services. The parliament only found Rouhani's answer about the banking satisfactory and referred the rest to the judiciary.

Iran Tries to Escape its Stifling Crisis by Turning to Qatar
Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 28 August, 2018/Iranian President Hassan Rouhani proposed to the Emir of Qatar on Sunday that Tehran help Doha in the construction of infrastructure for the 2022 World Cup that is hosted by the Gulf state.Rouhani made the suggestion during a telephone call with Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad. The diplomatic and economic of Qatar boycott by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates has left a negative impact on its ability to host the world’s top football tournament. The four countries announced their boycott in June 2017 over Doha’s support and financing of terrorism. The ensuing crisis resulted in delays in meeting construction deadlines for the World Cup. Qatar used to rely significantly on importing its building material from Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Iranian media reported that Rouhani suggested to the Qatari ruler that Tehran take part in the construction of sports venues for the World Cup. Iran itself is suffering from a stifling economic crisis that has seen the currency lose half of its value since April. It has also come under re-imposed US economic sanctions that took effect in early August. There have been persistent, low-level strikes and demonstrations across Iran for months over high prices and unpaid wages that have occasionally turned into violent protests against the ruling regime as a whole.

Russia in Biggest Naval Mediterranean Build-up Ahead of Idlib Offensive
Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 28 August, 2018/Moscow is reinforcing its military presence in the Mediterranean near Syria, a Russian report said Tuesday, as speculation grows that Damascus is planning a campaign on rebel-held Idlib province. Quoting anonymous sources, the Kommersant daily reported that Russia sent two warships and an additional anti-aircraft missile system to the Mediterranean in August. Pro-Kremlin paper Izvestia said Russia currently has 10 warships and two submarines in Syrian waters, saying this amounted to Moscow's biggest military presence there since it became involved in the conflict in September 2015. According to Izvestia, Russia plans to send "several more" warships to Syria. The paper cited military experts as saying the fleet will be able to support the Syrian army's operations in Idlib.Russia's deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov has charged that Hayaat Tahrir al-Sham "is close to committing a very serious provocation in Idlib using chemical weapons."Moscow's accusations came after US President Donald Trump's national security adviser John Bolton said Washington will respond "very strongly" if Syrian regime forces used chemical weapons to retake Idlib. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Tuesday that the Russian military was in talks with leaders of armed groups in Idlib to reach a peace settlement, Russian news agency RIA reported. Shoigu said the aim of the Idlib talks was to reach peaceful resolution similar to the settlements in Syria's Eastern Ghouta and Daraa, RIA said.

Fatah Committed to Achieving Palestinian Reconciliation 'above All Else'
Ramallah - Kifah Zboun/Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 28 August, 2018/The Fatah movement informed Egyptian officials that Palestinian reconciliation should be a priority above all else. The reconciliation should be based on empowering the government in the Gaza Strip, after which a new agreement could be reached through the Palestinian Authority (PA). A Palestinian delegation met with Egyptian officials and informed them that the PA should restore its authority over the Strip above all else because it is the only body authorized to sign and implement agreements related to any part of Palestine, informed Palestinian sources told Asharq Al-Awsat. The delegation was headed by Azzam al-Ahmed, a member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization executive council and Fatah central council. Fatah also objected to the representation of small factions affiliated with Hamas that have no political status or standing in the talks, stressing that it will not meet with them in the future. Addressing a possible truce agreement between Israel and Hamas, the delegation told Egyptian officials that such a pact would be part of the so-called "Deal of the Century" plan to isolate Gaza from the West Bank and turn the Palestinian issue into a humanitarian one. It warned that the Palestinian leadership will respond to such a deal with unexpected measures. Ahmed stated that Egypt had offered new proposals to achieve Palestinian reconciliation. Fatah is supposed to inform Egyptian officials of its final position on a revised Egyptian paper on reconciliation.
Ahmed explained that views were exchanged on the issue of national reconciliation, but they did not see any positive development because all the meetings held in Cairo prior to last week’s Eid al-Adha holiday focused mostly on the truce.
Fatah’s position had a direct impact on the truce talks, which were postponed by Egypt after they were supposed to resume on Monday. Hamas also announced the postponement of the truce talks without giving any explanation. Hamas official Husam Badran said the movement’s stance was firm on “reaching real national unity based on the 2011 agreement.” Last week, President Mahmoud Abbas warned that there can be no two separate entities ruling Palestinian territories, stating that if the PA is not handed complete control of Gaza, Hamas will be held accountable.Israel, meanwhile, accused Abbas of trying to ignite a confrontation between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz said Abbas was purposefully instigating the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. “The PA should not get our backing,” he stated, adding: “They have purposefully created the humanitarian crisis in recent months, and they are interested in pushing us to a military conflict in Gaza.” “Abu Mazen is working to create bloody riots in Gaza, so that we, in turn, can hit Hamas – his enemies, and then he can travel around the world and denounce us,” Steinitz said. He said that it was in Israel’s interest to reach a ceasefire with Hamas in Gaza and that the PA and West Bank should be excluded from it.

Abbas to Submit Formal Request for Palestinian State Full UN Membership
Ramallah - Kifah Zaboun/Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 28 August, 2018/Minister for Jerusalem Affairs and Member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Adnan al-Husseini, said that President Mahmoud Abbas would submit a formal request for Palestine’s full membership in the United Nations during his address to the General Assembly in September. “After this speech there will be difficult and fateful decisions, the most important of which is the determination of the relationship with the occupation authorities,” he added. The expected Palestinian demand comes in response to the US positions on the Palestinian issue. The Palestinian Central Council set up a plan to confront the United States, beginning with a request for full membership in the United Nations (UN), then suspending recognition of Israel and abandoning all agreements with it. The Central Committee requested the Executive Committee to submit specific timetables that include a comprehensive definition of the political, economic and security relations with the occupation, including the suspension of the recognition of the State of Israel until the latter recognizes the State of Palestine on the borders of June 4, 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital. The permanent representative of Palestine to the United Nations, Riyad Mansour, said on Monday that “the legal procedures to obtain the full membership must pass through three phases, beginning with the UN Secretary-General, then the Security Council and finally the General Assembly.
“We have passed the first phase. The second will be difficult to attain as long as Washington continues to veto the adoption of a resolution by the Security Council in particular. The third phase is the General Assembly. In case the Security Council passed a resolution recommending the membership of the State of Palestine in the UN, then Palestine will have two-thirds of votes in the General Assembly to gain membership,” Mansour explained. In order for a country to become a member state in the UN, it should be supported by nine of the 15 UN Security Council members, provided that the veto is not used by one or more of the five permanent members.Palestine received an observer status at the UN in 2012, when 138 countries voted in favor of the draft resolution at the time, while nine opposed it and 41 abstained from voting.

Israel Develops Missiles Capable of ‘Covering the Region’
Ramallah/Asharq Al-Awsat/August, 28/18/Israel’s Defense Ministry announced Monday it had purchased a vast network of surface-to-surface precision missiles, for an undisclosed sum, and is reportedly seeking longer-range arms that can target the whole region. The ministry said only that the deal is worth “hundreds of millions of shekels.”“We are acquiring and developing precision fire systems that will enable the army within a few years to cover any point in the region,” said Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman. "The project for setting up a precision rocket and missile system is underway," he said in the statement. "Part of it is already in production and part is in the final phases of research and development,” he added. Lieberman made the announcement in a revised tweet after a previous one said the missile system is capable of hitting targets anywhere in the Middle East. He edited his tweet after the Maariv daily’s military analyst Yossi Melman questioned whether the missiles would reach the entire region, saying that was not true. The Defense Ministry said Israel Military Industries will supply the army with rockets that can hit targets between 30 kilometers and 150 kilometers away. “This precision firepower significantly improves the army’s capabilities and enables precise impact on remote launch, immediate availability and low mission cost compared to other combat systems,” it said in a statement. Among the missiles purchased were multiple launch rocket systems, or MLRS, which will be able to reach targets 40 kilometers away. These rockets have warheads that contain 20 kilograms of explosives and are guided by GPS. The system can fire 18 rockets per minute. Military analyst for the Yedioth Ahronoth daily Ron Ben-Yishai said that Lieberman is not planning a separate missile corps. He is rather seeking to arm the military with additional rockets and missiles to serve as backup for the air force's offensive capabilities in case Israel comes under attack on many fronts at the same time.

Jordanian Monarch Calls for Supporting Refugee-Hosting States
Amman - London - Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 28 August, 2018/King Abdullah II of Jordan called Monday on the international community to assume its responsibilities towards the countries hosting Syrian refugees. This came during his meeting with UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Filippo Grandi, who arrived in Amman on Sunday for an official visit. The meeting focused on cooperation between Amman and the UNHCR, particularly the provision of services to refugees in the country, according to a statement issued by the Jordanian Royal Court. The two sides discussed the growing pressure on services in Jordan due to the high numbers of Syrian refugees in the country, the statement said. King Abdullah called for continued coordination between Jordan and the UNHCR to ensure that "refugees and host communities receive the necessary support."The statement indicated that they also discussed the enormous burdens placed by the Syrian refugee crisis on Jordan's economy and the growing pressure it poses on service sectors, mainly education, health and infrastructure. Grandi, for his part, hailed Jordan's key role in providing humanitarian and relief aid to the refugees, stressing the keenness of the UNHCR to continue cooperation and coordination with the Kingdom to alleviate the impact of the refugee crisis. Some 650,000 Syrian refugees have registered with the UN in Jordan since the outbreak of the Syrian conflict in 2011, while Amman estimates their numbers to be at about 1.3 million. The Kingdom says that the cost of hosting them has exceeded 10 billion dollars. Turkey has been hosting more than three million displaced Syrians since 2011, but it is seeking now to move them into camps on the Syrian side of the border. Lebanon hosts less than one million refugees. The Syrian war has killed 340,000 people and displaced more than half of the population inside the country and abroad.

Yemeni Official: Iranian Armament of Houthis Intensified during Hodeidah Operation Suspension
Jeddah - Saiid Al-Abiad/Asharq Al-Awsat/August, 28/18/A local Yemeni official said that Iran has doubled its supply of arms to Houthi militias in Yemen during the suspension of the operation to liberate Al-Hodeida. He also revealed that several militia leaders have escaped the city following the strikes launched by the Coalition forces. In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, the governor of Al-Hodeidah, Dr. Hassan Al-Tahir, said that Iran had supplied weapons to the Houthis during the past period, through large boats, taking advantage of the period during which the army stopped its march towards the city center.
He added that the Houthi militias have brought in a large amount of weapons across the sea, or through mercenaries coming from African countries, exploiting their poor financial situation. On the political consultations to be held under the auspices of the UN in Geneva next month, the governor of Hodeidah said that these consultations should result in the departure of the militias from Hodeidah and its port. He stressed that the legitimate government had no choice but to confront the militias militarily to get them out of the city, noting that the army was ready for this option. Tahir said he did not have high hopes in the role of the United Nations to resolve the crisis, but noted that it was now “necessary to implement the UN resolutions… and to end the suffering of citizens.”

France's Environment Minister Hulot Announces Resignation
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 28/18/France's Environment Minister Nicolas Hulot, one of the most popular members of President Emmanuel Macron's government, announced his resignation on Tuesday. "I am taking the decision to leave the government," he said on France Inter radio, adding that he felt "all alone" on environmental issues within the cabinet.

The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published
August 28-29/18
Amir Hatami in Syria: To stay or Withdraw?
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al-Awsat/August, 28/18
Iran’s Minister of Defense Amir Hatami, whose visit to Damascus last week was interesting, spoke of Iran’s desire to “strengthen Syria’s military arsenal” and help it “expand its military equipment,” as reported by the Iranian Students' News Agency (ISNA). He hinted that he’s “trying to pave the way for the next phase of cooperation.” So what is this next phase? Does it mean Iran’s withdrawal from Syria? The attempt to end the twin-status between the Iranian and Syrian regimes has not succeeded despite the Israeli shelling of Iranian troops in Syria, and which is on the largest scale since the 1973 war, and despite Russia’s declaration that it does not support Iran’s continuous presence in Syria and will not protect it from the Israeli airstrikes. The Americans said they tried to tempt the Damascus regime but failed, and Iran’s media outlets in Lebanon had claimed that Saudi Arabia tried and failed.
Damascus’ relation with Tehran is an old ongoing problem for the region that goes back to the period of the Iranian-Iraqi war in the 1980s. It developed within the framework of the alliance of necessities, the Syrian Baathist thus allied with the religious Iranian.
In the end of the 1990s, there was no longer a reason for this relationship of necessity. The father Hafez al-Assad sought to diminish confrontations – paving the way for after his death – so he adopted a rapprochement attitude with Saddam’s besieged regime, reconciled with Turkey after handing over the leader of the Kurdish-Turkish opposition and negotiated with Israel over peace and reached an advanced stage of an agreement with it in Geneva. Israel however obstructed signing the deal under the pretext that Assad’s health was deteriorating and that it’s afraid of Syria’s future after him.
As Bashar ascended to power, optimism reigned in the region until it turned out that the relation with Tehran had become deeper in secret. This was confirmed after Israel’s withdrawal from South Lebanon. The Israeli troops’ withdrawal was supposed to pave way for breakthroughs which include the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon and reconciliations that are in parallel with Saudi Arabia’s peace project which Syria and all Arab and Muslim countries had approved of. However, the complete opposite happened as the two allies, Iran and Syria, intensified their presence in Lebanon. They executed a wave of assassinations and the two regimes almost completely dominated the country. There was no longer any doubt that there is a special relation between Damascus and Tehran after the two allies’ cooperation in adopting the Iraqi resistance and supporting terror groups in Iraq, including al-Qaeda, Al-Zaraqawi and ISIS later became clear. Later on, the term “the rise of the Shiite crescent” emerged. Today, attempts to get Iran out of Syria seem tantamount to cutting off the umbilical cord – the possibilities of their success are low. The relationship is solid rock between the two regimes and also as a result of the decline of Assad’s security and military institutions as a result of the civil war. The calculations of the next phase have three points to take into consideration. The first one is the Trump administration’s demand from Iran to get out of Syria, as part of the 12 conditions set to end its economic war. The second one is Israel’s insistence to get Iran’s forces and militias out of Syria or else their capabilities will be destroyed. The third one is that for the Assad regime to stay, the Americans had set the condition that Iran and its militias exit the country. The Trump administration has backed down on withdrawing from Syria and decided to maintain its military and political presence there.  Theoretically, the Iranian forces’, Hezbollah’s and others forces’ exit seems like the expected result but who will believe Iran is willing to cooperate and withdraw after all the massive human and financial losses it endured in Syria’s war? Its withdrawal will be considered a free defeat and will weaken the Tehran government’s negotiating capability with Israel and the US. It will also end its investment in Lebanon, i.e. Hezbollah which it built from zero and spent billions of dollars on. As for Assad, his alliance with Tehran is old and dates back to the beginning of his years in governance. All old attempts to break this alliance have failed over the course of a decade and a half.

Kurds Who Fought Isis, Now Hunted By Iran's Regime
جيرازولم بوست: إيران تطارد الأكراد اللذين حابوا ضد داعش
Jerusalem Post/August 28/18
Kurds who joined PAK are from Iran, but fled the Islamic Republic’s repression to find refuge in the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government areas of northern Iraq.
alek was a great guy, he was always laughing. When I heard he had been killed I teared up. It gutted me,” recalls one of the men who served alongside Said Kazim Kalhur, known as “Malek” to his friends and comrades in the Kurdistan Freedom Party (PAK). The small group of dedicated fighters in the PAK played a key role in fighting ISIS at several frontlines held by Kurdish forces between 2014 and 2017. Now some of those veterans have been kidnapped and killed by Iran’s regime, members say.
Kurds who joined PAK are from Iran but fled the Islamic Republic’s repression, and found refuge in the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government areas of northern Iraq. According to PAK, four of their members have been targeted by Tehran in the last month. Malek was poisoned. Arman Ghafouri, an environmentalist, was also tortured and killed. Two others had returned to Kurdish areas in Iran and were kidnapped by the regime, accused of supporting revolts and protests that have rocked Kurdish towns over the last months
Malek’s story struck a cord with those who served with him at Bashiqa and later during the Mosul offensive in October 2016. They asked that their names not be used to protect their identity. “Malek hated ISIS. He hated what they stood for and represented. I remember one day during a firefight at Bashiqa he stood there cursing them.” Malek’s job was as a heavy machine gunner in the unit, and he drove the truck that the machine gun was mounted on. “He was a brave guy, a pure warrior.”
According to a statement from the group, he had returned to western Iran to visit his family. “He was caught on March 3, and was taken by the Ettela’at [intelligence services]. After many sessions of questions and a series of torture, he did not share any information and was not ready to work with the regime.” Eventually he was served a cup of water that was poisoned. “On August 9, two other PAK members were on their way to rescue a wounded Peshmerga from PAK near Saqqez.” According to the statement they were caught by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
In recent months numerous Kurdish groups, and average people throughout Iran, have increased protests against the regime. This comes in the context of protests that broke out in December 2017 and also increasing US sanctions. Across Iran a variety of economic factors as well as anger over suppression of minority groups such as the Kurds, have caused protests. The IRGC has targeted Kurdish groups that it views as a threat. The PAK says that it members have been targeted because they were well trained during the years of the war on ISIS and had been preparing to return to confront the regime in Iran. The PAK also fought Iranian-backed Shia militias in Iraq in clashes near Prde (Altun Kupri) on the road between Kirkuk and Erbil in October 2017. PAK’s commander Hussein Yazdanpanah has been outspoken in his opposition to the role of Iranian-backed Shia militias in Iraq and also Iran’s theocratic regime, which he and other PAK members see as linked. Tehran also views the PAK as a threat inside Iran. “We are not in the mountains. We are inside the cities, and people see that. We have gained the people’s hearts.”

Qatar and Turkey: Toxic Allies in the Gulf
Richard Miniter/Gatestone Institute./August 28, 2018
"Iran's continued support of the Hezbollah terrorist organization with both financial and political assistance, as well as weapons and tactical training, deserves close examination. Western diplomats and Lebanese analysts estimate that Iranian financial support for Hezbollah averages around $100 million each year, sometimes reaching amounts closer to a quarter of a billion dollars.... All of these activities pose a direct threat to U.S. security interests, contribute to the prolonging of conflicts across the Middle East, and pose threats to our key allies in the region." — US Representative Ted Budd, member of the Financial Services Committee and its Terrorism and Illicit Finance Subcommittee.
Why not consider expanding the US deployment at Al-Dhafra airbase in the United Arab Emirates as a replacement for the airbases used by the US in Qatar and Turkey, if the UAE accept the idea?
If one nation is able to defy or undermine U.S. policy while still pocketing the benefits of America's friendship, many others may follow Qatar's example. Why should other Arab nations endure domestic criticism, for supporting America's war on terror if they can subvert America but still enjoy America's military protection and their access to the world's largest market?
These days, America has more trouble with its allies than its enemies.
Consider the strange case of Turkey and Qatar, two putative American allies. Both nations host essential U.S. air bases while supporting Islamist political parties, increasingly cooperating with Iran, America's most determined enemy in the region, and actively subverting U.S. policy in the region.
Questions began with the arrest of Andrew Brunson, an American-born Christian pastor who has lived in Turkey for 23 years without incident. Then, on October 7, 2016 Brunson and his wife Norine were seized as alleged coup plotters. Norine was released after being held for 13 days, without any charges being filed. Andrew Brunson has remained in detention since 2016 and the charges, when they finally appeared, were numerous and impossible to believe. Example: Brunson is a part of Mormon-inspired CIA plot to topple Turkey's elected government. (Brunson is not Mormon and has no known CIA connections.) If convicted, he faces up to 35 years in prison.
Turkey revealed its true intentions when it offered to exchange Brunson for Fethullah Gülen, a self-exiled Turkish Islamic cleric who lives in Pennsylvania. The Turkish government believes that Gülen and his alleged "Fethullah Gülen Terror Organization" are behind the July 2016 alleged attempted "coup" against the Turkish government. Dissidents maintain that the "coup" was manufactured to give the elected Islamist government cover to purge pro-secular senior military officers, opposition politicians and critical journalists. For more than a decade, Turkish politics has been roiled by a debate about undoing many of secular traditions and laws enacted at the founding of modern Turkey in the 1920s, but now moving toward a more Islamic model that is friendlier to Iran's Islamic dictatorship and less so toward the US and the EU. Brunson apparently became a pawn in a larger chess game.
Enter President Donald J. Trump, who has publicly called for Brunson's release while privately rejecting the idea of turning over Gülen, a legal U.S. resident, to a foreign court system unlikely to give him a fair trial in a charged political environment. Next, Trump piled on economic sanctions to try to spring the jailed American pastor.
Those sanctions have gravely wounded Turkey's weakening economy, but not weakened its resolve. Turkey's currency registered a 40% drop against the U.S. dollar this year. Foreign direct investment into Turkey has also slowed significantly this year. Still, its government has stayed the course and refused to free Brunson. Indeed, it upped the ante: Turkey's leader called on his followers to boycott iPhones and other iconic American products.
Remember, Turkey is a NATO ally of the United States and the second-largest contributor of troops to that vital alliance. It is also home to key U.S. air bases, including Incirlik, a massive complex near Adana housing some 5,000 US airmen.
As U.S. sanctions tightened, another U.S. ally, Qatar, intervened. Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani pledged to invest $15 billion in the Turkish economy during a recent visit -- and plainly declared that the point of the investment was to blunt the force of U.S. sanctions. With friends like these...
It is worth taking a closer look at America's putative ally, Qatar. It is also home to a major US air base at Al Udeid, from which American warplanes bomb the Taliban, ISIS and elements of Al Qaeda.
Yet Qatar funds some of the same groups that America bombs. The gas-rich peninsula channels money to Al Nusra, a Syria-based affiliate of al Qaeda. It had funded Taliban leaders in the run-up to the September 11 attacks and, just a few years ago, reportedly paid some $1 billion to Iran-backed terrorists to ransom captives held in Iraq and Syria.
Qatar funds still other groups that kills Americans. Qatar's emir has publicly and proudly announced his financial support for Hamas, which has been officially designated as a "terrorist organization" by the U.S. and the E.U. and Israel. Also, let us not forget the hundreds of millions of dollars that Qatar gives to the Muslim Brotherhood, which is the gateway organization for almost every Sunni jihadi terrorist band in the Middle East. Al Qaeda's current leader, Dr. Ayman al Zawahiri, began his extremist journey in a Brotherhood chapter in Egypt, as did September 11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in its Kuwait branch. The onetime head of Al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al Zarqawi, was indoctrinated in the Brotherhood's Jordan offshoot.
The emir has also welcomed Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Muslim Brotherhood's spiritual guide, to live in Qatar, as well as various senior Hamas officials.
Al Jazeera, Qatar's state-run broadcaster, frequently lionizes these groups, giving them air time to legitimize their murderous views toward Israel and America as well as their Arab neighbors.
Add to that, Qatar's alleged hacking of U.S. citizens (including former Republican National Committee finance chairman Elliott Broidy) and distributing their private emails to journalists, according to U.S. court filings.
In addition, Qatar's funding of lobbyists (at some $100,000 per month) who are close to the current chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee and that committee's ranking Democrat.
Senator Ted Cruz's former deputy chief of staff, Nick Muzin, pulled down $300,000 per month from Qatar, according to Reuters.
Finally, Qatar has drawn close to America's biggest regional rival, Iran. It shares the vast offshore Pars gas field with the Islamic Republic — providing a river of money to the very nation that America suspects of building nuclear weapons and the long-range missiles to carry them to U.S. bases in the Middle East and Europe.
US Representative Ted Budd, a member of the Financial Services Committee and its Terrorism and Illicit Finance Subcommittee, in an essential article, states:
"Iran's continued support of the Hezbollah terrorist organization with both financial and political assistance, as well as weapons and tactical training, deserves close examination. Western diplomats and Lebanese analysts estimate that Iranian financial support for Hezbollah averages around $100 million each year, sometimes reaching amounts closer to a quarter of a billion dollars...All of these activities pose a direct threat to U.S. security interests, contribute to the prolonging of conflicts across the Middle East, and pose threats to our key allies in the region."
Taken together, the pattern is clear. Far from faithfully supporting current U.S. policy, Qatar is using every means at its disposal to subvert or alter it. Its slap-in-face funding of Turkey, while a US citizen is held captive there, is simply the latest example of the behavior of Qatar, supposedly a US ally.
Strangely, the Trump Administration seems to be of two minds about Qatar. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has spoken positively about Qatar's counter-terrorism efforts while the State Department has soft-pedaled Qatar's outrages. President Trump himself has not been consistent in his public statements about Qatar. According to an April 18, 2018 article in the New York Times:
"President Trump, who last year denounced the Persian Gulf state of Qatar as a "funder of terrorism" and backed its rivals in a contentious regional feud, welcomed its monarch to the Oval Office on Tuesday and portrayed him as a partner in the fight against extremists.
"The friendly visit represented a remarkable turnaround for a president who had once portrayed Qatar as part of the problem."
Ultimately, the Trump Administration will have to decide which set of its allies to back: Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the Gulf Arab states, or Qatar and Turkey, each of which have cozied up to Iran. The way forward begins with a simple question: Which set of allies actually supports America and its objectives in the Middle East? Why not consider expanding the US deployment at Al-Dhafra airbase in the United Arab Emirates as a replacement for the airbases used by the US in Qatar and Turkey, if the UAE accept the idea?
An expanded US deployment at Al-Dhafra airbase in the United Arab Emirates could be considered as a replacement for the airbases used by the US in Qatar and Turkey. Pictured: A U.S. Air Force Memorial Day ceremony at Al Dhafra Airbase, May 28, 2018. (Image source: U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Erica Rodriguez)
Resetting the alliance with Qatar will not be easy or cost-free. America maintains a large presence in the Al Udeid military base in Qatar, and Qatari investments in the U.S. economy are measured in billions. Hard choices lie ahead.
The cost of doing nothing, however, is even greater. If one nation is able to defy or undermine U.S. policy while still pocketing the benefits of America's friendship, many others may follow Qatar's example. Why should other Arab nations endure domestic criticism for supporting America's war on terror if they can subvert America but still enjoy America's military protection and their access to the world's largest market? What is a US ally if lip service will do the trick?
Richard Miniter, widely published in leading outlets, is author of three best-selling books and currently CEO of the American Media Institute, a non-profit news organization that provides original content to 180 major newspapers and 220 African-American weeklies.
© 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 Senator No One Could Ignore
Albert R. Hunt/Bloomberg/August, 28/18
John Sidney McCain's life and legacy are summed up by one word: courage. No modern American public figure more embodies that quality than the Arizona senator who died Saturday after a battle with brain cancer.
He displayed courage during five and a half years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, then he displayed a different kind of courage leading the effort to normalize relations with that country even though it had beaten and tortured him.
McCain was a favorite of human rights activists, often greeted as a hero during his frequent visits to refugee camps.
It took guts to respond to the embarrassment of accepting campaign contributions from a corrupt banker during the 1980s while he was a freshman senator, by leading a long effort to reform the campaign-finance system.
"His courage was much like his personality: quick, defiant," said Mark Salter, McCain's friend, speechwriter and political alter ego. "He had guts. Others have guts; he used his for other people, particularly the oppressed." Salter co-authored a half-dozen books with McCain, including one titled, "Why Courage Matters: The Way to a Braver Life."
McCain's death leaves the Republicans with a 50-49 Senate majority. His replacement will be named by the state's Republican governor, Doug Ducey, who will face pressure from both a strong right-wing, pro-Trump wing of his party and a faction loyal to McCain. The senator and Trump had genuine contempt for one another.
McCain, who served more than 31 years in the Senate starting in 1987 after four in the House, was one of the two most important American politicians over the last 70 years who never made it to the Oval Office. (The other was Edward Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, who died in 2009 after 46 years in the Senate.) He was the senator no one could ignore.
He was a moderate conservative and foreign-policy hawk who opposed dictators, political corruption and Pentagon waste. He admired Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan, though he liked to cite as his real heroes President Theodore Roosevelt and the fictional Robert Jordan, the stoic anti-fascist fighter of Ernest Hemingway's novel "For Whom the Bell Tolls."
He was no saint. He could display a temper so volcanic that some colleagues thought it made him temperamentally unsuited to be president. (I was on the receiving end of a couple of those outbursts, and strongly disagree.)
He also engaged acts of great kindness. When former Democratic Congressman Morris K. Udall was dying of Parkinson's disease, for example, McCain would go the veterans' hospital and read to him.
He loved the political arena, identifying with the saying "A fight not joined is a fight not enjoyed." But he was serious about his hard-line foreign policy views, shaped by Vietnam. As a 31-year-old Navy pilot, he was shot down on his 23rd mission over North Vietnam. The son and grandson of admirals, he was brutalized as a trophy prisoner, yet refused an offer to be released ahead of another American who'd been imprisoned longer.
He thought the US didn't fight to win that war, and became a consistent advocate of US intervention in conflicts from the Middle East to the Korean peninsula. He harbored a special contempt for Putin.
While conservative on government spending, regulation and some social issues, he maintained working relationships with many liberals and cultivated a reputation as an independent maverick.
His pursuit of campaign-finance reform infuriated many of his Republican colleagues. In 2002, he joined forces with the liberal Democratic Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin to win passage of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act banning large contributions to national party committees. It won them a John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage award, though its effect was later blunted by Supreme Court decisions that reopened the spigots for big-money influence peddling in politics. His initiative grew out of what he called his most painful personal moment, taking gifts from a sleazy businessman named Charles Keating.

Rouhani fails to convince as MPs demand answers
Camelia Entekhabifard/Arab News/August 28/18
Iran’s finance minister was sacked by parliament on Sunday as a direct consequence of the government’s struggle to manage the economic crisis that has become a major threat to the regime. Government members have pointed their fingers at US President Donald Trump and blamed his withdrawal from the nuclear deal and newly reimposed sanctions as the main reason for Iran’s hardship and its collapsing economy.
President Hassan Rouhani also appeared before the parliament on Tuesday to answer members’ questions on the state of the economy, as the MPs wanted to hear Rouhani’s plan of action for when the more stringent US sanctions on oil hit on Nov. 4. Instead the president mainly focused on the good relations he has with the parliament and the entire establishment and how he can expand these ties. There was not much about his government’s plan of action for addressing the upcoming sanctions or how he can improve the economy based on the current circumstances. Basically, Rouhani did all he could to prevent his own impeachment rather than try to convince the ordinary Iranians that he is doing his best to improve their living conditions. The MPs were not satisfied with the president’s explanations, and I doubt the public will be either.
Interestingly, at the beginning of the session Rouhani said that the White House would not be happy with the outcome. Perhaps he meant that the MPs wouldn’t embarrass him with the sort of questions that would please the nation’s enemy.
If Rouhani can survive the fallout from this grilling and parliament does not impeach him, then his next foreign trip will be to the UN next month. Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif are due to attend the organization’s 73rd General Assembly in New York, but mainly with the aim of finding a way of avoiding the next round of US sanctions. Zarif says the US is waging “psychological war” against Iran.
If Rouhani and his team are counting on the US midterm elections and Trump’s current domestic crisis to work in their favor, then they are wrong.
For them, the US dishonored the nuclear accord, but Trump has said many times that he is willing to reach a better and more comprehensive deal if the Iranians are ready to come to the negotiation table. However, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps members and their associates are already whispering of a betrayal conducted by government members during the original nuclear talks and in the agreement.
Rouhani is currently facing two crises — one internal and one external. The domestic one is related to public anger and the citizens’ demands and frustrations over his failed attempts to improve their economic hardship, which could easily soon turn the nation against the regime.
The external crisis is related to Iran’s foreign interferences and its commitments toward Hezbollah members in Lebanon as well as Hamas, and its support of Bashar Assad and his army in Syria.
Outsiders see Rouhani as powerless when it comes to regional policy, and some Western powers believe he does not control the IRGC. But it seems the current US administration sees the hard-liners and the so-called moderates as two sides of the same coin and so treats them equally. For Trump, all of the regime’s members represent the system, regardless of their political affiliation. He wants to talk to them and he’s clear about his requirements — the rest is up to them.
If Rouhani and his team are counting on the US midterm elections, which will be held on Nov. 6, and Trump’s current domestic crisis to work in their favor, then they are wrong. Trump will re-impose the oil sanctions two days ahead of the elections and they will affect Rouhani’s government before the results of the votes are known.
Spending time with the Chinese and Russians is a new trend for the Iranian regime’s members, as they are counting on their support when the sanctions come into effect. From giving a big chunk of the Caspian Sea to Russia and its neighbors to allowing Chinese fishing boats to trawl the floor of the Arabian Gulf and Gulf of Oman, the clerics have been handing out gifts to their supporters, but news of these concessions have given the people even more reason to hate the regime and their foreign supporters.
Rouhani and Zarif are going to New York not just to address the UN General Assembly, but are looking to seize their last chance to see if they can change Trump’s mind about the oil sanctions. Astonishingly, the US last week refused an offer from Russia that would have seen a rollback of Iranian troops in Syria in return for a waiver of the oil sanctions — despite Israeli calls for an immediate withdrawal. Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton said the White House had rejected the Russian proposal.
President Trump is not a backchannel person: He wants direct talks with Iran.
*Camelia Entekhabifard is an Iranian-American journalist, political commentator and author of “Camelia: Save Yourself By Telling the Truth” (Seven Stories Press, 2008). Twitter: @CameliaFard

Time to focus on water management in Arab world as source of growth and stability
Anders Jagerskog/Al Arabiya/August 28/18
In Gaza, the drinking water tastes like seawater. Years of neglect and poor management, due in large part to recurring conflicts, has led to the steady depletion of Gaza’s natural aquifer. The empty aquifer has been invaded by seawater and, alarming for public health, untreated sewage.
A series of droughts that struck Syria from 2006 onwards destroyed the livelihoods of millions of Syrians who relied on agriculture. The United Nations (UN) estimated that between 2008 and 2011, the drought affected 1.3 million people, with 800 000 people “severely affected.” People were forced from their land, poverty levels rose, and part of the population was plunged into deep food insecurity.
A vicious cycle
Neither one of these severe water crises are the cause of the instability that grips both Gaza and Syria. Conflict in Gaza has made a bad situation even worse; preventing the management of a vital natural resource that has led to an environmental disaster. Policies to soften some of the impacts of the drought in Syria could have kept people on their land and kept them from falling into poverty. While neither of these crises are direct causes of conflict, they fuel the frustrations that drive instability.
Water scarcity and instability feed of each other. Water crises strain the ability of individuals and societies to maintain their livelihoods and political stability. Fragile situations – characterized by weak and ineffective institutions, histories of conflict, unsustainable livelihood systems and decaying or damaged infrastructure – act as a multiplier of challenges to sustainable water management. The compounding nature of water and fragility gives rise to a vicious cycle, as pictured below, with each reinforcing the other in a dangerous spiral.
The region’s policy-makers, practitioners, and researcher must focus attention on water’s role as a risk factor in fragile systems, and adopt the policies that convert the management and allocation of water resources into a force that binds societies together.
The good news is that this vicious cycle be broken. It will not be quick, or easy, but actions to preserve and better manage the region’s depleting natural water resources will also contribute to building the foundations for stability. The region’s policy-makers, practitioners, and researcher must focus attention on water’s role as a risk factor in fragile systems, and adopt the policies that convert the management and allocation of water resources into a force that binds societies together. The region’s growing population and rapid urbanization has placed ever greater demand on water, while climate damage is making water scarcity ever more severe. There is no time to waste.
Building Resilience
Water security in the region requires going beyond increasing immediate water supplies to a focus on ensuring sustainable resource management, and efficient and affordable service delivery. Such a balanced approach fortifies the ability to withstand shocks and protracted crisis, such as drought, conflict, or a refugee influx, while also addressing immediate needs such as food security.
A recently completed water-treatment plant in norther Gaza, financed by the World Bank, will address the threat to public health from untreated sewage. The treated water will be used to replenish Gaza’s aquifer, and create a water resource for agriculture.
Water management interventions should revolve around increasing incomes, building resilient food systems and strengthening access through markets so that people can obtain safe and nutritious food even if a crisis prevents them from growing enough food by themselves.
In Jordan, the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has supported improving the rural livelihoods of communities that were experiencing environmental and water scarcity problems, through a project aimed at ensuring that small-scale producers, communities, and displaced populations have increased access to agriculture-based livelihoods and employment opportunities. The project has helped to weave the social fabric back together and create a positive relationship between local people and refugees.
A common cause
As water and agriculture problems are all essentially local, community consultation, participation and ownership are vital, as is working with whatever local government may exist on the ground. In addition, investing in innovative policies and practices will be extremely beneficial. Research, technology development and transfer can provide further improvements to water efficiency and crop productivity in the region. Given the scale and commonality of the challenges of many countries in the region and the transboundary nature of important issues like climate change and shared water resources, collective action and partnerships are essential. Both of which contribute to both local and regional stability.
These links between water management, fragility and conflict are all discussed in the recently launched joint UN’s FAO and World Bank report “Water Management in Fragile Systems”, which discusses how investments in water can be conducive to stability by addressing short-term livelihood needs and long-term sustainability challenges.
**Anders Jagerskog is Senior Water Resources Management Specialist at the World Bank and Pasquale Steduto is the Water Scarcity Regional Initiative Delivery Manager and Regional Programmes Coordinator at FAO Regional Office for the Near East and North Africa.

US Sanctions Should Pressure Iran to Stop Supporting Terrorism

Fox News/Author: Ted Budd/August 28/18
The Trump administration deserves credit for withdrawing from the disastrous Iran nuclear deal. A lot of pundits didn’t think President Trump was serious when he threatened to pull out of the agreement, but he showed otherwise. Now that the president has decided to impose “snapback” sanctions on Iran, we can now focus our economic power on the destabilizing behavior of the Iranian government.
It is clear that Iran is promoting the expansion of military and terrorist activities across the Middle East. As the Trump administration rightfully begins to implement sanctions against Iran to combat this expansion, we have to examine the actions of the Iranian government on several fronts.
Iran’s continued support of the Hezbollah terrorist organization with both financial and political assistance, as well as weapons and tactical training, deserves close examination. Western diplomats and Lebanese analysts estimate that Iranian financial support for Hezbollah averages around $100 million each year, sometimes reaching amounts closer to a quarter of a billion dollars.
Hezbollah has also received Iranian-supplied weaponry, including 11,500 missiles that have already been placed in Lebanon. Along with the supplied weapons, over 3,000 Hezbollah militants have undergone Iranian training. They have learned about guerilla warfare tactics, operation of unmanned drones and marine warfare.
Additionally, through Iran’s support and through their own illicit financing and criminal networks, Hezbollah has become a dominant force and a direct source instability in the Middle East.
Hezbollah has been fighting in defense of Syrian President Bashar Assad. It has provided material support for designated terrorist organizations like Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. It has engaged in training and command operations for militia groups in Iraq. It has provided ballistic missiles and leadership to the Houthi insurgency in Yemen. In addition, there are reports of an increasing Hezbollah presence in North Africa.
All of these activities pose a direct threat to U.S. security interests, contribute to the prolonging of conflicts across the Middle East, and pose threats to our key allies in the region.
Finally, we should pay attention to Qatar’s continued support of state-sponsored terrorism efforts. Our efforts to limit Iran’s support for terrorism require cooperation. Qatar’s ongoing support and funding for terrorist groups has been well- documented.
It’s of increasing concern that Iranian banks are moving their foreign exchange operations to the Qatar National Bank. We know Iran’s access to foreign currencies is an essential part of the government’s funding and support for terrorism.
Further, Iran has recently voiced its support for the Qatari government, strengthening our concerns with the activities of both governments.
As our Treasury Department continues to bring back sanctions against Iran, the department should pay attention to these issues and keep a close watch over the actions of both the Qatari and Iranian governments, as well as Hezbollah’s illicit activities around the world.
Iran, Qatar and Hezbollah are responsible for the increase in terrorist-based activities across the Middle East, and we must impose harsh sanctions that directly limit the Iranian regime's access to finance. The sanctions against Iran will affect all major industries, thereby preventing the leadership from funding destabilizing activities in the Middle East and wider world.