July 09/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
See, I am laying in Zion a stone that will make people stumble, a rock that will make them fall, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame
Letter to the Romans 09/26-33: "‘And in the very place where it was said to them, "You are not my people", there they shall be called children of the living God.’And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel, ‘Though the number of the children of Israel were like the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved; for the Lord will execute his sentence on the earth quickly and decisively.’ And as Isaiah predicted, ‘If the Lord of hosts had not left survivors to us, we would have fared like Sodom and been made like Gomorrah.’ What then are we to say? Gentiles, who did not strive for righteousness, have attained it, that is, righteousness through faith; but Israel, who did strive for the righteousness that is based on the law, did not succeed in fulfilling that law. Why not? Because they did not strive for it on the basis of faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling-stone,as it is written, ‘See, I am laying in Zion a stone that will make people stumble, a rock that will make them fall, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.’"

Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on July 08-09/18
Russia has given Israel what the US could not/Ali Al-Amin/Al Arabiya/July 08/18
Fidaa Itani and Lebanon’s battle for free speech/The Arab Weekly/July 08/2018
Syria: Airstrike Hits T4 Airbase Housing Iranian Forces/Haaretz/July 08/2018
Russian navy missile drill in Med set for dates of NATO summit, Putin’s talks with Trump, Netanyahu/DEBKAfile/July 08/18
Everything You Need to Know About the West Bank Bedouin Village at the Eye of a Diplomatic Storm/Yotam Berger/Haaretz/July 08/18
How Qatar Is Warming Ties With Both Trump and Iran - at the Same Time/Reuters and Haaretz/July 08/18
Iran’s Redundant Threats against Hormuz Strait/Salman Al-dossary/Asharq Al Awsat/July 08/18
International Community Ignores Genocide of Christians in Nigeria/Raymond Ibrahim/Gatestone Institute/July 08/18
Analysis Next Stop for Assad: The Golan Heights/Zvi Bar'el/Haaretz/July 08/18
How can those who plant mines in Yemen be equated with those who remove them/Hamdan Alaly/Al Arabiya/July 08/18
Who will reveal the fate of Iraq’s public funds/Adnan Hussein/Al Arabiya/July 08/18
Iranian people’s disaffection with the regime peaking/Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/July 08/18

Titles For The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on July 08-09/18
Lebanon Bets on Reopening Naseeb Crossing to Activate Exports to Arab States
Rahi partakes in Middle East peace prayers in Italy
Report: A ‘Technocrat Government’ Could Solve Formation Crisis
Report: Maarab Agreement's ‘Failure, Topples’ Government Formation
Report: 'Three Conclusions Drawn' from Leaked Maarab Agreement
Ibrahim Lauds Hizbullah Refugee Role as New Batch Leaves for Syria
Lebanese Woman Jailed in Egypt after Making Harassment Claim
Raad, Khalil partake in Kansou's memorial ceremony in Doueir, call for national unity government and reviving official relations with Syria
Clash in Mohamara results in one injury, burning of refugee tents
Okais to Radio Lebanon: We refuse accelerating cabinet formation at our expense
Roger Feghali wins 41st Lebanon Rally
Lebanese child kidnapped in Syria freed
Russia has given Israel what the US could not
Fidaa Itani and Lebanon’s battle for free speech

Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on July 08-09/18
Syria: Airstrike Hits T4 Airbase Housing Iranian Forces
Tens of Thousands Return Home after South Syria Ceasefire Deal
Syria Regime Pounds South, Rebel Evacuations Postponed
US coalition commander: Iran influences Syria’s security negatively
Iranian official: We will stay in Syria despite Russia’s objections
Iran Threatens to Retaliate after Dutch Expel Two Diplomats
'Qaeda' Lost Control over 50% of its Southern Yemen Land Grabs
Russian navy missile drill in Med set for dates of NATO summit, Putin’s talks with Trump, Netanyahu
Pompeo Brushes off N.Korea 'Gangster' Tag, Says Sanctions to Stay
Kuwait Jails Lawmakers, Activists for Storming Parliament
At least ten killed, 73 injured in Turkey train derailment
Turkey sacks more than 18,500 state employees in new decree

The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on July 08-09/18
Lebanon Bets on Reopening Naseeb Crossing to Activate Exports to Arab States
Beirut - Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 8 July, 2018/Lebanon bets on the reopening of the Naseeb border crossing with Jordan to reactivate its economic sector through energizing its exports activities to Gulf and Arab countries by transforming goods by land and therefore decrease their cost. This week, Syrian forces captured the Naseeb border, after rebels announced they had reached an agreement with Russian mediators to end the violence in the southern province of Daraa and surrender the crossing. The rebels seized control of the crossing in 2015, disrupting a trade route between Syria and Jordan, Lebanon and Gulf countries. Before 2015, around 250 trucks left daily from Lebanon to Jordan by crossing the Naseeb border. Since rebels controlled the crossing, Lebanon sent half of its usual daily cargo to Jordan by sea as a temporary means to export its agriculture and industrial goods. “We are waiting for opposition fighters to withdraw from the crossing and its surrounding so we can reactivate an old agreement signed with Damascus and Amman allowing Lebanese trucks cross through Syria and Jordan towards Gulf countries,” head of the Truck Owners' Union Shafiq al-Qassis told Asharq Al-Awsat on Saturday. “We only received information that the reopening of the crossing would not take a long time. When measures in this regard are completed, Lebanese trucks will directly move by land towards Jordan,” al-Qassis said.The head of the Trucks Owners’ Union said Lebanon considers the Naseeb crossing as “vital,” asserting that it helps the shipment of Lebanese industrial and agricultural products. “The transportation of Lebanese good by land allows them to compete in the Arab markets,” he said. According to several statistics, the level of Lebanese exports to Gulf markets decreased by half since the Naseeb crossing was closed by rebels in 2015.

Rahi partakes in Middle East peace prayers in Italy

Sun 08 Jul 2018/Pope Francis: Enough exploitation of the Middle East
NNA - Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Beshara Boutros al-Rahi participated alongside various heads of Eastern Churches in the ecumenical prayer for peace and cessation of wars and violence in the Middle East, led by Pope Francis in the Italian city of Bari. Prayers were raised in several languages on the city's waterfront, chosen by Pope Francis for its geographical location overlooking the Middle East. Patriarchs prayed to the Lord Almighty "to show His mercy and deliver His salvation in true peace to the peoples of the Middle East who are suffering from war, oppression and tyranny." Prayers were raised as well for "Christians in the Middle East to be strong and lively communities, with their contributions to their societies and the entire Church being well-recognized." The Pope focused in his prayers on the pressing need to end all exploitation of the Middle East. "Our day begins with prayer, so that the divine light eliminates the darkness of the world. In light of Saint Nicolas, we lit the single torch, the symbol of the one church...for when you raise your hands to heaven in prayer, and when you reach out to your brethrens without searching for personal interests, the fire of the Holy Spirit is inflamed and the spirit of unity and peace shines," said Pope Francis. In a visit to the "Cathedral of St. Nicholas", the Pope prayed with the heads of the Eastern churches on the tomb of the Saint coming from the East.
A two-and-a-half hour retreat was then held at the Basilica of St. Nicolas, during which the participating Patriarchs presented the situation in the Middle East and the various possible solutions. In a word by Patriarch al-Rahi during the meeting, he stressed the need to ensure a dignified return of refugees to their homeland, and that the political crisis in Syria must be separated from this return. The "Bari Encounter" was organized by the Council of Eastern Churches, headed by Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, in cooperation with the Pontifical Council of Christian Unity headed by Cardinal Kurt Koch. Thousands of believers participated in the celebration of a permanent peace in the Middle East and unity among Christians in the spirit of the Eastern Churches.

Report: A ‘Technocrat Government’ Could Solve Formation Crisis
Naharnet/July 08/18/Forming a technocrat government might bring a solution for the crisis delaying the formation of the new Cabinet, al-Hayat daily reported Sunday. “A solution for the crisis could be the formation of a government of technocrats named by the political parties,” a political source following on the lineup process told the daily. Meanwhile, a ministerial source told the newspaper that solving the current crisis requires “a solution, perhaps a return to small slimline governments, which was adopted decades ago and was very productive.”Several obstacles face the formation of the government including a conflict between the two Christian parties, the Lebanese Forces and Free Patriotic Movement, over ministerial shares and the LF’s demand to get the Depuy PM position, which the FPM categorically rejects. Another obstacles delaying the formation is the Druze share and the Sunni opposition representation. Latest talks between Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri and President Michel Aoun reportedly agreed on forming a 30-seat Cabinet.

Report: Maarab Agreement's ‘Failure, Topples’ Government Formation
Naharnet/July 08/18/The outbreak of dispute between the Free Patriotic Movement and the Lebanese Forces after the “fall” of the Maarab Agreement “eliminated all hope on the possibility of forming the country’s government anytime soon,” Kuwait’s As-Siyasah newspaper reported on Sunday.The report published by the daily came after the LF leaked the highly confidential Maarab Agreement between the two parties to the media. In remarks to the daily, senior LF sources accused FPM chief Jebran Bassil of “being responsible for the collapse of the media truce that was agreed upon between the Christian parties, and of dragging Lebanon to a civil war if President Michel Aoun, whom we have full confidence in, does not intervene,” they said. They stressed “there is no solution to the crisis that Bassil has created,” and that President Aoun “should put his hand on the file in full. The escalation came from the side supposed to be the closest to the President, but the FPM chief has violated the stance of Aoun by targeting the appeasement he called for.” Continuing to lash out at Bassil, the LF source added: “Through his spractices, Bassil wants to say he is the one who forms the government, but things can not go this way. Bassil is only a political team, he is not entitled to put himself in the position of President or determine the size of other political parties.” “The actions of the president's son-in-law (Bassil) are a great insult to the tenure (of Aoun),” he added, stressing “Aoun is not covering whatsoever for the actions of his son-in-law. Bassil is trying to picture the Presidency as a formality which affirms that the Foreign Minister has his own agenda to implement at the expense of the country and Christians.”The LF leaked the highly confidential agreement to the media in recent days amid bickering with the FPM over the share that each of them should get in the new government.

Report: 'Three Conclusions Drawn' from Leaked Maarab Agreement

Naharnet/July 08/18/Bringing the “confidential” Maarab agreement between the Lebanese Forces and Free Patriotic Movement to the media spotlight means one of the parties has failed to respect the agreement terms. A source following up closely on the LF-FPM relations, told Saudi al-Hayat daily on condition of anonymity on Sunday that “leaking” the agreement leads to three conclusions:
First, the LF’s position as per ministerial representation in the government “is based on a clear written agreement on the distribution of ministerial shares,” he said.
Secondly, according to the source, FPM chief Jebran Bassil “does not abide by his pledges” since the election of President Michel Aoun as president and his “coup” against the agreement. “While the LF remained keen on reconciliation and on supporting the tenure of the President,” he said.
Thirdly, Bassil has “double standard positions in dealing with his allies. He has signed the Maarab Agreement while remains committed to other understandings with other parties with conflicting content, including the Mar Mikhael agreement with Hizbullah in 2006,” he concluded.
Relations have been strained between the two parties over ministerial shares in the new Cabinet that Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri was tasked with forming since May.
The LF leaked the highly confidential agreement to the media in recent days amid bickering with the FPM over the share that each of them should get in the new government.

Ibrahim Lauds Hizbullah Refugee Role as New Batch Leaves for Syria

Naharnet/July 08/18/General Security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim has welcomed Hizbullah's announcement that it has started accepting applications from Syrian refugees seeking to return to their war-battered country, as a new batch of refugees left the border town of Arsal for Syria. In remarks to al-Akhbar newspaper published Saturday, Ibrahim said that Hizbullah's move “will eventually contribute to General Security's efforts to settle the situations of those seeking to return,” hoping the announcement will “receive the needed response from the refugees.” “The step aids our work on the file which we are coordinating with the U.N. refugee agency and Syrian authorities,” Ibrahim added, stressing that any return will only be “voluntary and safe.”The National News Agency meanwhile reported that a new batch of refugees had started leaving the town of Arsal through the Wadi Hmayyed checkpoint towards the border town's outskirts. “448 people registered on the lists of the Lebanese General Security are expected to leave for the towns of Flita, Ras al-Maara and Hawsh Arab in the Syrian Qalamoun region,” NNA said, adding that “the Lebanese Red Cross and medical and emergency crews are carrying out logistic measures and necessary medical assistance through medics and a field hospital present at the site, amid security protection from the Lebanese Army.”

Lebanese Woman Jailed in Egypt after Making Harassment Claim
Associated Press/Naharnet/July 08/18/A Lebanese woman was jailed for eight years in Egypt on Saturday for "harming" its people, a judicial source said, after she claimed in a video to have been sexually assaulted. Tourist Mona al-Mazbouh was arrested in late May at Cairo airport as she was preparing to leave Egypt. Mazbouh had published a video on Facebook, which was widely shared, saying that she had been the victim of sexual harassment in the streets and accusing Egyptians of thievery and scams. The allegations drew a strong reaction online, with some Egyptians calling for Mazbouh's arrest and lodging a complaint against her. Despite releasing a second video insisting she had not meant to insult the country as a whole, Mazbouh was found guilty by a Cairo court of "harming the Egyptian people". Initially she was sentenced to 11 years in prison, but that was amended within hours to eight years, the judicial source said. A lawyer for Mazbouh lodged an appeal against the verdict and a hearing will be held on July 29, an official in the prosecutor's office said.

Raad, Khalil partake in Kansou's memorial ceremony in Doueir, call for national unity government and reviving official relations with Syria
Sun 08 Jul 2018/NNA - Caretaker Finance Minister, Ali Hasan Khalil, and "Loyalty to the Resistance" Bloc Head, MP Mohamad Raad, called Sunday for forming a government of national unity and for reviving the Lebanese-Syrian official relations. Partaking in the week's memorial of the late State Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Kansou, organized by the Syrian National Social Party in the southern town of Doueir earlier today, both MP's touched on latest hour issues, namely the cabinet formation and the stalled relations with Syria. "Today, we are called upon to regulate our relations as Lebanese with our Syrian brethrens on the foundations that secure the interests of both countries and confirm the centrality of the Syrian State and the unity of Syrian territories in the face of all plots," said Khalil. "We must be aware, as Lebanese officials, of the need to deal rationally with the issue of opening a serious dialogue between the Lebanese and Syrian States," he added. Over the government formation, Khalil said, "We call for the immediate launch of a genuine dialogue and workshop among those involved in this formation, in order to reach a government of national unity based on the political results of the recent parliamentary elections...and one that is capable of addressing the challenges facing our country at the economic, social and financial levels." In turn, MP Raad hoped that "the new government would see the light soon, with the adoption of unified and specific criteria, so that the majority of political forces would find their wide representation and presence within the cabinet and participate in carrying the responsibility of managing the country and addressing all pending dossiers." "Perhaps the time is now convenient for restoring freedom to the official Lebanese relations with Syria, as stipulated in the National Reconciliation Accord," Raad added.

Clash in Mohamara results in one injury, burning of refugee tents
Sun 08 Jul 2018/NNA - A dispute between young Syrians and Lebanese in the town of Mohamara developed into a clash involving the use of hands and sticks, resulting in the injury of one Lebanese and the burning of a number of tents in a Syrian refugee camp in the area, NNA correspondent in Akkar reported on Sunday. Mayor of Mohamara, Abdul-Men'em Othman, immediately contacted the security forces who rushed to the scene and began their efforts to restore calm to the town, while the Civil Defense units worked to put out the fire.

Okais to Radio Lebanon: We refuse accelerating cabinet formation at our expense
Sun 08 July 2018/NNA - Member of the "Strong Republic" Parliamentary Bloc, MP George Okais, voiced rejection Sunday against speeding-up the cabinet formation at the account of the Lebanese Forces. . Speaking in an interview to Radio Lebanon, Okais indicated that his Party has offered many compromises in the past to facilitate matters in the country, and to ensure progress at the economic and social levels. "From the very start, we have sought a quick cabinet formation and practically, the mandate team itself ought to be more in a hurry to form the government...We do not want to accelerate the formation of the government at our expense," said Okais. He added that all sides in the country have to sense the seriousness of the situation and offer concessions, since the LF Party will not accept to be the only one making compromises. Over the Meh'rab Agreement, Okais considered that said Understanding has reflected positively on the general atmosphere in the country. "This is what makes us take our time in adopting any escalatory move, for we feel the burden of going back to the pre-Meh'rab Agreement stage," he indicated.

Roger Feghali wins 41st Lebanon Rally

Sun 08 Jul 2018/NNA - Roger Feghali has reaped victory in the 41st International Lebanese Rally for the 14th time, NNA correspondent reported on Sunday.

Lebanese child kidnapped in Syria freed

Sun 08 Jul 2018/NNA - Lebanese national, Mustafa Hajj Diab who was kidnapped in Syria early last month has been released, National News Agency reported on Sunday. Diab was kidnapped while traveling with his mother and brother to Idlib to visit his grandparents.

Russia has given Israel what the US could not
Ali Al-Amin/Al Arabiya/July 08/18
The upcoming US-Russia summit on July 12 in Helsinki is an important step towards shaping relations between the two countries regarding the Russia-Ukraine crisis and regarding US-Russia relations following accusations that Russia interfered in the US elections.
Among other issues up for discussion would be the Syrian crisis, which is undergoing important developments, particularly amidst the Syrian regime, its Russian allies and Iranian militias’ offensive to regain control of the opposition’s areas of influence in southern Syria.
This new development can be tackled in the context of the Israeli-Russian understanding that continues to establish foundations for Israeli security on the Golan border and that guarantees that Iran and its militias stay 40 km away from these borders.
Meanwhile, Israel has accepted the deployment of the Syrian army under the terms of disengagement following the 1973 war, which oblige Syrian forces to deploy according to conditions that specify the number of forces and the kind of weapons they use.
This time, Russia provided the guarantees which pushed Israel to allow launching the military campaign against the Syrian opposition. Meanwhile, Washington lifted the cover off the armed opposition in these areas when it told them in a message that it would not intervene in their defense if any attack from the Syrian regime and its allies took place.
Israeli security guides agenda
This Syrian path paves ways to understand the nature of the American position as it evolves during the summit between US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The US-Russian umbrella in Syria is not just in place; it is in fact the only constant in the Syrian equation today. The strategic ceiling regarding developments in the battle in southern Syria confirms that Israeli security is the standard when devising the equation in this region.
To this day, Russia has been successful in convincing Iran and its militias to adhere to the requirements of Israeli security, which has led Tel Aviv to convince Washington of the importance of redrawing the military equation in southern Syria, despite the Iranian role which both Israel and Russia have ensured it will stick to the rules of the Israeli-inked game.
It is difficult to understand the US position in southern Syria and its decision to lift the cover off the Syrian opposition forces that it has always supported
We can’t understand the reason for the US position in southern Syria and why it has lifted the cover off the armed opposition forces that it has always supported, unless we go through the intriguing offer made by Russia on behalf of Tehran displaying Iran’s commitment to Israeli conditions which opposition forces could not accept or did not want to comply to.
Many believe that this intriguing offer didn’t just promise commitment to the military and security conditions imposed by Israel on the Syrian army but have also promised not to breach the requirements of annexing Golan to the Hebrew state with Russian guarantees.
US leaves Syrian rebels in the lurch
Another point which confirms the fact that the Syrian regime and its allies have given guarantees to Israel is the magnitude of the US cover to the ongoing military operation against the opposition and the Israeli satisfaction towards this operation although it goes against the agreement of the de-escalation zones in southern Syria and which was approved by the American and Russian presidents and which Israel and Jordan contributed to solidifying.
Developments in southern Syria thus serve Israeli interests while the Syrians pay the price by ending the Syrian revolution that erupted from Daraa. This is in addition to the Syrians’ displacement due to Russian aerial bombardment of cities and towns. The number of the displaced now stands at over 200,000. Jordan has refused to receive them because it cannot host any more refugees, but the most important point is that Israel which gave the green light to launch this military operation, has issued subsequent statements on how it was helping the displaced Syrians who sought shelter close to the border of the Golan. It has also confirmed that its hospitals were giving medical assistance to those civilians injured by the bombings in more than one area in the south. Israeli media has started talking confidently on how the refugees have changed their mind about Israel after the help it provided to them.
In the strategic endgame, and amid the insistence on breaking the will for political change in Syria by providing all the military conditions to eliminate the opposition factions particularly on the Jordanian and Israeli borders and securing the conditions of the regime forces’ control over southern areas, one can expect a less hostile attitude towards Israel. The regime has enough experience to prevent any military action against Israel from Syrian territory, and the Syrian society in these areas now finds in Israel a less hostile enemy when its aggression is compared with the aggression of the regime and its Russian and Iranian allies.
Gift of Axis of Resistance to Israel
Israel wouldn’t have been able to attain this precious gift from the so-called Axis of the Resistance if it hadn’t been for the bloody regime and its genocidal behavior toward the Syrian people and its displacement of hundreds of thousands. Iran and its militias’ involvement via a sectarian approach has also made the Syrian people feel that their number one enemy is not Israel which occupies Golan but the party that’s taking their lives and properties.
In Helsinki, the US and Russian presidents will be present and so will Israel since it has played an active role in promoting Russian measures in Syria. The Russian president, who is aware that in just a few years he has provided to Israel what Washington hasn’t provided in decades in terms of strategic protection and safe channels towards the Syrian people, along with the ability to adapt the Iranian policy in the Lebanese and Syrian fields in order to ensure Israeli security for years to come, is expecting in return an Israeli reward from Washington’s vaults. The Russian-Israeli relationship has not witnessed cooperation to the extent seen in recent years. No Israeli official has expressed any concern over the Russian role in Syria and all factors point to the fact that Russia has become a highly respected state by the Israeli government.
This respect and relationship are now in competition with the close relationship of Tel Aviv and Washington. Putin expects that his friend, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plays a vital role in softening the position of Trump on issues related to ending or decreasing sanctions against Russia, as well as softening the US intervention in the vital Russian sphere.

Fidaa Itani and Lebanon’s battle for free speech
 Makram Rabah/The Arab Weekly/July 08/18
 For Itani, the prospects of free speech and civil liberties in Lebanon are worse than during the days of the Syrian occupation.
 Journalist Fidaa Itani was sentenced in absentia to four months in prison and fined 10 million Lebanese pounds ($6,550) because of a Facebook post criticising Lebanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Gebran Bassil.
 Itani had called out Bassil over his alleged racist policies towards Lebanon’s Syrian refugees. Bassil’s response was draconian and marked a further darkening of the skies over Lebanon.
 That Itani was the subject of official ire is hardly new. The journalist’s investigative reports have uncovered numerous possible cases of corruption in Lebanon and implicated Bassil and other members of the ruling establishment. Itani was detained and questioned in July 2017 after he accused Lebanese Army intelligence of torturing and killing refugees under interrogation.
 Bassil, the son-in-law of Lebanese President Michel Aoun leads the Free Patriotic Movement, which supports Hezbollah in its mission to return Lebanon’s 1.5 million, predominantly Sunni, refugees to the supposed security of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
 Bassil has encountered much opposition in this mission. He ordered a freeze on the renewal of residency permits for the staff of the UN refugee agency, accusing it of intimidating refugees from returning by asking them about compulsory military service, security conditions and whether they have a place to live. The United Nations strongly denied the allegation.
 Speaking to The Arab Weekly from London, where he is a political refugee, Itani said this crackdown on free speech was the government’s attempt to distract attention from the administration’s failure and corruption.
 Itani said the administration began an offensive against two main groups, including “the international community, which it blackmails for funds to maintain its feeble economy, like [it] did at the recent Cedre conference, while at the same time accusing them of being responsible for Lebanon’s difficult state of affairs.”
 The other group is made up of “normal people, particularly secular individuals who do not subscribe to any of the struggling sects; these voices of opposition (journalists and activists) to the status quo are swiftly suppressed and their trials expedited to ultimately silence them,” he said.
 Itani said the prospect of free speech and civil liberties in Lebanon are worse than during the days of the Syrian occupation. “The recent indictment issued against me includes charges of defaming President Aoun,” Itani said.
 However, Itani said, anyone participating in the elite’s sectarian rivalries “can go as far as to promote violence against others, as long as they are demanding a bigger piece of the pie.” Conversely, “anyone who, like myself, is exposing corruption and defending the Syrian refugees is treated as a sinner,” he added.
 This violation of the freedom of the press is not restricted to Itani but has become a norm under Aoun, a former general at pains to present himself as a patriarchal figure, exempt from any kind of criticism. However, reports issued by the Samir Kassir Foundation, a group that monitors violations of freedom of the press, stated that, since his election in November 2017, Aoun has allowed more than 20 documented cases against civil society figures to proceed, including the detention and trial of journalists and political activists.
 One of the casualties of the government’s unflinching line on silencing public criticism is journalist Michel Kanbour, the publisher of the news website Lebanon Debate. He was sentenced to six months in jail and fined 10 million Lebanese pounds in a defamation lawsuit filed by Customs Department Director-General Badri Daher. The jail sentence was suspended.
 Kanbour said Itani’s indictment speaks to the heart of the freedom of the press and marks a clear departure from Lebanon’s legacy of liberalism.
 “Nothing justifies sending a journalist to jail regardless of what position they take, as it sends a clear message to both journalists and activists that anyone who dares cross the red line of exposing corruption or objects to any aspect to bad governance will end up in jail like Itani and myself,” he said.
 Above all, Kanbour warned, such autocratic measures introduced a dangerous element to Lebanon’s political culture, “which is self-censorship which drives people to think twice before daring to write or act.”
 Itani is not merely a Lebanese journalist who dared to stand up to a degenerate political class that takes its citizens for granted, he is a vivid reminder that the Lebanese can no longer take the moral high ground and claim that their so-called nation is a true democracy.
 *Makram Rabah is a lecturer at the American University of Beirut, Department of History. He is the author of A Campus at War: Student Politics at the American University of Beirut, 1967-1975.
The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on July 08-09/18
Syria: Airstrike Hits T4 Airbase Housing Iranian Forces
Haaretz/July 08/2018/
Reports say Syrian air defense systems fired at planes, coming in from Jordan, and heading towards the T4 airbase used by Iran.
Reports in Syria say an airstrike hit the site of a known Iranian airbase in Syria's Homs region.According to the official Syrian news agency SANA, Syrian air defense systems were fired as warplanes, purportedly coming into the country from Jordan, approached the T4 base near Tiyas. The planes, which reports said were flying low to avoid detection, passed through the al-Tanaf area where U.S. forces have a base. Syrian military air defences thwarted the act of "aggression", state media said. The origin and nature of the attack was not immediately clear. An army officer in the southern Syrian desert said the air defence system shot down missiles coming from south of the Tanaf region towards the Homs air base. The T4 airbase, also known as the Tiyas Military Airbase, has been reported to have been used by Iranian forces. This April, a senior Israeli official confirmed to the New York Times that Israel had hit the base. “It was the first time we attacked live Iranian targets — both facilities and people,” said the Israeli military official. The official said that the armed Iranian drone that entered Israeli airspace a few days prior "opened a new period," and that “this is the first time we saw Iran do something against Israel — not by proxy." During the attack, Israel killed seven Iranian Revolutionary Guards' Quds force members, including Colonel Mehdi Dehghan, who led the drone unit operating out of T4, east of Homs. Two weeks ago, two Israeli missiles struck a target near Damascus International Airport, Syrian state-run media said overnight on Monday, adding that no casualties or damage were reported. The target was an arms depot belonging to the Lebanese Shi'ite movement Hezbollah, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. According to the Lebanon-based Al-Mayadeen TV, a source said Syrian air defense systems had intercepted two missiles in addition to the ones fired at the airport.
Tens of Thousands Return Home after South Syria Ceasefire Deal
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 08/18/Tens of thousands have returned to their homes in southern Syria since a ceasefire deal between regime ally Russia and rebels to end more than two weeks of deadly bombardment, a monitor said Sunday. The deal was largely holding despite air strikes on two areas that killed four civilians, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said, as rebel evacuations under the deal were postponed. President's Bashar al-Assad regime is determined to retake control of the key southern province of Daraa bordering Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, seven years after protests there sparked Syria's civil war. Since June 19, a deadly regime bombardment campaign on the province had caused more than 320,000 people to flee their homes, according to the United Nations, many to the sealed border with Jordan. On Friday, rebels and the regime announced a ceasefire deal, providing for opposition fighters to hand over their heavy weapons and paving the way for a regime takeover of the province. More than 60,000 people have since hit the road from the Jordanian frontier, heading back to their homes in the east or west of the province, the Britain-based Observatory said.
- Evacuations postponed -On Sunday, the returns were continuing, the Observatory said, even as regime warplanes pounded two areas of the province. Three civilians were killed in air strikes on Um al-Mayazeen, just five kilometres (three miles) north of the Jordanian border, said the Britain-based monitor. "Regime forces launched an assault on the village," Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said, two days after they retook control of the key border crossing of Nassib to its south. Earlier, rebel fire on a regime convoy travelling near Um al-Mayazeen on the highway from the border had killed several soldiers, Abdel Rahman said, without providing a toll. A regime air strike on the rebel-held half of the provincial capital of Daraa also killed one civilian, he said. On Friday, regime forces retook control of Nassib, near which thousands of families had set up makeshift tents for shelter. Under the ceasefire deal, regime forces were to deploy along the frontier with Jordan, while rebels were to hand over their heavy weapons.
Opposition fighters were also given the option of being bused out to rebel-held areas in northern Syria. But a rebel official said the evacuation of opposition fighters and their families planned for Sunday was temporarily put on hold. "A hundred buses were supposed to arrive but (the operation) has been postponed to a later date, in around two days," the official said. "There was an exchange of fire between both sides and the first (wave) has been postponed." - Sealed border -An Islamic State jihadist group affiliate, which holds a small pocket in the southwest of Daraa, is excluded from the ceasefire deal. The regime bombardment campaign on rebel-held areas in Daraa since June 19 had killed more than 160 civilians, the Observatory says. Before the deal was announced, the advance by Russia-backed regime forces had doubled their control of territory in the province to more than 60 percent.
Since Russia intervened on Assad's side in Syria's conflict in 2015, the Damascus regime has notched up a series of victories against rebels and jihadists in the country. Regime forces, who secured the capital Damascus earlier this year, now control more than 60 percent of the country, according to the Observatory. The deal between rebels and Russia announced for Daraa is the latest in a string of such accords to see Damascus regain control of rebel-held areas. These often come after blistering military offensives or crippling sieges, which effectively force the rebels into the so-called "reconciliation" deals. Syria's war has killed 350,000 people and displaced millions of others since it started with the brutal repression of anti-Assad protests in 2011. Many Syrians have sought refuge from the war in neighbouring countries, including Jordan, which says it has taken in around 1.3 million Syrian refugees. Amman last month said its frontier, which has been closed since 2016, would remain so to any more Syrians fleeing the conflict.

Syria Regime Pounds South, Rebel Evacuations Postponed
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 08/18/Regime forces bombarded southern Syria on Sunday, as the evacuation of rebel fighters under a ceasefire deal for the region was postponed, a monitor and an opposition official said. Opposition fighters in the southern province of Daraa announced a ceasefire deal late Friday with regime ally Russia to end more than two weeks of deadly regime bombardment. Under that deal, rebels who wished to do so were to leave areas in the strategic southern province to be retaken by President Bashar al-Assad's regime. But on Sunday morning, regime air strikes killed four civilians, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Syrian warplanes pounded Um al-Mayazeen just five kilometres (three miles) north of the Jordanian border, killing three civilians, said the Britain-based monitor. "Regime forces launched an assault on the village," Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said, two days after they retook control of the key border crossing of Nassib to the south. Earlier, rebel fire on a regime convoy on the highway near Um al-Mayazeen had killed several soldiers, Abdel Rahman said, without providing a toll. A regime air strike on the rebel-held half of the provincial capital of Daraa also killed one civilian, he said. A rebel official said the evacuation of opposition fighters and their families to rebel-held areas in northern Syria was temporarily put on hold. "A hundred buses were supposed to arrive but (the operation) has been postponed to a later date, in around two days," the official said. "There was an exchange of fire between both sides and the first (wave) has been postponed."The regime bombardment campaign on rebel-held areas in Daraa since June 19 had killed more than 160 civilians and displaced tens of thousands of people. Many had fled the violence south towards the closed border with Jordan, setting up makeshift tents for shelter in the arid fields along the frontier. After the deal announcement on Friday, thousands headed home towards their towns and villages, according to the Observatory. Since Russia intervened by Assad's side in Syria's conflict in 2015, the Damascus regime has notched up a series of victories against rebels and jihadists in the country. Regime forces, who secured the capital Damascus earlier this year, now control more than 60 percent of the country, the Observatory says. Syria's war has killed 350,000 people and displaced millions since it started with the brutal repression of anti-Assad protests in 2011.
US coalition commander: Iran influences Syria’s security negatively
Staff Writer, Al Arabiya English/Sunday, 8 July 2018/The commander of special operations for the US-led coalition, James Jarrard, told Al Arabiya English that international forces will remain in Syria until a political process has been recognized in the country to establish peace and security. Iran’s ongoing activities in the country are not helpingin normalizing the situation in the war-torn country, he said. Jarrard warned about the role played by Iran , saying that it is not helping create stability and are supporting activities that create violence. Jarrard also hinted at parties seeking to disrupt the alliance’s relationship with Syria’s Democratic Forces (SDF). Speaking to Al Arabiya reporter Huda al-Saleh, he said: “The SDF are very close to liberating all of the terrain in north-east Syria. The world owes them gratitude for that accomplishment.”With 77 organizations, “this is the greatest coalition that has been formed in the history of the world to defeat the evils of ISIS, but we have a small number of those countries helping here in northern Syria, and so any assistance from these countries will be helpful,” he said. Jarrard added that the US-led coalition will provide internal security force training so that the ISIS will never return to this part of the country. “There is no confrontation with the Russians but there is deconfliction to make sure the forces are working separately but together for the goal of defeating ISIS,”he said. With regards to the disputes between the United States and NATO allies, Jarrard said there is no reason for disagreements as the countries work towards the same goals. He added that he believes that the way forward between Turkey and the US in north-east Syria is in political discussion.
Iranian official: We will stay in Syria despite Russia’s objections
Saleh Hameed, Al Arabiya English/Sunday, 8 July 2018/Iran on Sunday said it will keep its military forces in Syria despite appeals from its ally Russia to withdraw its Revolutionary Guard Corps and other militias. Special Assistant to Iran’s deputy foreign minister, Hussein Amir Abdullahian, said that the presence of Iran’s “military advisors” in Syria will continue to “combat terrorism” despite the lack of reasonable grounds for its army to stay following ISIS’s defeat. During his meeting with Salah al-Zawawi, the Palestinian ambassador in Tehran, Sunday, Abdullahian said his country would “continue its firm support of the resistance,” a term Iran has used to describe its militias in the region. A number of Revolutionary Guard officers were killed in Syria in the past few days, including explosives expert Mohamed Ibrahim Rashidi, 32, who was killed by a landmine on a road to Syria’s Deir Ezzor province. Two weeks ago, Iran lost another Revolutionary Guard commander, Shahrukh Daypur, who was responsible for Iran’s forces in Aleppo, as well as its suburbs and neighboring northern provinces. His death raised questions about the presence of Iranian forces, especially in light of growing disputes between Russia and Iran. Following Russia’s announcement pushing for a withdrawal, Iranian forces have become targets of the US-led coalition and Israel’s air force. In recent weeks, Iranian forces were subjected to several raids in different areas, where more than a dozen of its militia members were killed as Iranian media continued to be silent. “Leave Syria… Focus on us”Demonstrators in Iran continued to protest against the regime’s policies that have resulted in deteriorating living conditions and the currency’s collapse as a result of the country spending money to support terrorism and militias in the region. Protestors loudly chanted: “Leave Syria… Focus on us.” Iran continues to deploy its revolutionary guard members to Syria, and funds the Assad regime with $6 billion a year, as well as provide aid, such as oil and credit loans of $5.6 billion, as it faces an economic crisis at home that has lead to rising prices and living costs.

Iran Threatens to Retaliate after Dutch Expel Two Diplomats
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 08/18/Iran protested on Sunday against the Netherlands' expulsion of two of its diplomats and threatened to retaliate for the "unfriendly and destructive move". A spokesman for the Dutch intelligence service AIVD told AFP on Friday that two employees of Iran's embassy had been expelled on June 7, without providing further details. The Dutch ambassador to Tehran was subsequently summoned to express Tehran's "severe protest" at the move, Iran's foreign ministry said in an online statement. "As earlier announced to the ambassador of the Netherlands, the Islamic Republic reserves the right to retaliate," foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi said in the statement. The expulsion was "illogical and illegitimate" and Qassemi called on "Dutch officials to refrain from levelling baseless and absurd accusations". Qassemi also called on the Dutch government to explain "its move to shelter the criminal and terrorist members" of Iranian opposition group, the People's Mujahedeen. Tehran banned the People's Mujahedeen in 1981 and the European Union put the group on a terror blacklist between 2002 and 2009. The two Iranian diplomats were expelled long before arrests announced on Monday by French, Belgian and German authorities of six people -- including an Iranian diplomat based in Vienna -- on suspicion of involvement in an alleged plot to attack a Mujahedeen rally in a Paris suburb on June 30. Tehran has said the alleged plot was a "false flag ploy" to harm Iran and that two people arrested in Belgium were members of the Mujahedeen.

'Qaeda' Lost Control over 50% of its Southern Yemen Land Grabs
The Washington Post/July 08/18/Mohammed Salim al-Buhar, left, commander of the Shabwani Elite Forces, walks outside a grocery in liberated Azzan. via Washington Post
South Yemen, Sudarsan Raghavan
The land mines had been planted. As hundreds of U.S.-backed forces approached in pickup trucks mounted with machine guns, the al-Qaeda militants watched and waited in their redoubt, tucked into the jagged mountains of southern Yemen. The first explosion shattered one vehicle, but the convoy pushed forward. Then came a second blast. Within minutes, five trucks were destroyed and the militants began firing with heavy weapons from their perches, recalled five witnesses to the May 10 ambush. “There were many traps,” said Raoof Salim Ahmed, 28, a fighter who was shot by an al-Qaeda sniper in the thigh and testicles, and spoke from a hospital bed. “They weren’t afraid. If they were, they wouldn’t have fought so ferociously.”Over the past year, the shadow war between al-Qaeda and local Yemeni fighters has intensified, largely out of sight and out of the headlines. While much attention has been paid to a separate Yemeni civil war pitting northern rebels against the internationally recognized government, the battle being waged by U.S.-backed Yemeni forces against al-Qaeda militants has escalated.
In the first year of President Trump’s term, the United States conducted far more airstrikes against al-Qaeda militants in Yemen than it had in previous years. While the pace so far this year has slowed significantly, it remains well above the rate of President Barack Obama’s administration. U.S. Special Forces are on the ground here advising the anti-al-Qaeda fighters and calling in American airstrikes, a role that has grown as the air campaign has escalated. Pentagon officials have said this effort is successfully rolling back al-Qaeda’s franchise in Yemen, considered to be the militant group’s most lethal affiliate.
But while the militants have been expelled from some of their strongholds, Yemeni forces acknowledge that their recent gains against al-Qaeda are precarious. Yemeni fighters combating the group in the hinterlands of Shabwa and Abyan provinces say al-Qaeda has weathered this pounding and remains a fierce opponent. In recent months, militants have pressed their campaign of hit-and-run attacks and strategic retreats, and have carried out a wave of bombings and assassinations, targeting government officials, security forces and others.
The intense clashes that lasted two days in the eastern Al Khabr mountains of Abyan province in May pitted some 500 local fighters against three dozen militants, witnesses said.
For nearly a decade, U.S. intelligence officials have considered al-Qaeda’s Yemen branch, known as al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula or AQAP, as the most dangerous of all its affiliates. In 2009, AQAP tried to bomb an airliner headed to Detroit and send parcel bombs via cargo planes to Chicago the following year. AQAP also took credit for the 2015 assault on the Paris office of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo that killed 11 people. In 2011, AQAP took advantage of the political chaos that followed the Arab Spring populist revolt that eventually ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Within months, AQAP seized large swaths of southern Yemen. A U.S.-backed Yemeni government offensive in the middle of 2012 drove the militants from many towns. But three years later, the civil war erupted, drawing in a U.S.-backed Sunni regional coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates that is trying to restore the government and weaken the influence of Iran, which is supporting the Shiite rebels. AQAP exploited the vacuum created by the civil war to seize territory, weapons and money. Al-Qaeda militants retook control over Jaar and Abyan’s provincial capital, Zinjibar, and swept into Mukalla, Yemen’s fifth-largest city and a major port. Meanwhile, over the past four years, the rival Islamic State has spawned its own modest affiliate in Yemen with at most a few hundred members, mostly al-Qaeda defectors. Against this backdrop, the Trump administration has given the U.S. military more latitude to launch air and ground attacks without White House approval. The week after Trump’s inauguration, a U.S. Navy SEAL was killed in a botched raid north of Abyan that was anticipated by al-Qaeda. Last year, the U.S. military carried out 131 airstrikes, more than six times the tally in 2016, according to the Pentagon’s data. The vast majority targeted AQAP, although 13 of the airstrikes were against the nascent ISIS affiliate. So far this year, there have been at least 30 airstrikes, all but one targeting AQAP.
Russian navy missile drill in Med set for dates of NATO summit, Putin’s talks with Trump, Netanyahu
DEBKAfile/July 08/18
The Russian navy has announced cruise missile-firing drills off the Syrian coast starting on July 11 and 12. The area between the Syrian coast and Cyprus will be off-limits to air and shipping traffic on those dates and on July 18,19, 25 and 26, according to a Notice to Airmen issued by the Russian Black Sea Fleet. The drills of Kalibr-NK cruise missiles will be conducted by around 10 warships of the Russian Navy’s Mediterranean Sea task force.
DEBKAfile’s military sources report that the Russians have timed their drill to coincide with the two-day NATO summit in Brussels this week. Syria’s skies and shores will be closed to traffic in those days, which also fall four days before the July 16 Helsinki summit between Presidents Donald Trump and Putin, which will certainly cover the Syrian crisis. This closure will remove any outside obstacle for impeding the Russian-backed Syrian government takeover of Quneitra opposite Israel’s Golan border, after they wind up their ongoing operation for gaining control of the Daraa province and the Syrian-Jordanian border.
Israeli warplanes will also find it hard to operate over Syria during the second half of July, starting from the 11th when Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu sits down with President Putin in Moscow. Putin is planning to counter Israel’s complaints with a demand for Netanyahu’s acceptance of the forcible Russian-Syrian takeover of the Quneitra region on its border from rebel control, an arrangement the Russians hope to model on the still unfinished Daraa formula.
The ground for an Israeli concession on this point was laid on Saturday, when Israeli military sources tried deprecating the presence of Iranian and Hizballah troops fighting with the Syrian army in southwestern Syria by claiming there were just a few scattered among Syrian soldiers, not organized combat units. DEBKAfile challenges this claim. According to our military sources, Hizballah’s elite commando Radwan Force as well as pro-Iranian Shiite militias are fighting in Daraa under the command of Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers. It is not clear which high-placed Israeli sources are putting out this false narrative which could have the effect of weakening Netanyahu’s negotiating position at his meeting with Putin.
The Americans appeared to be in conciliatory mode ahead of the Trump-Putin summit: The US Navy command ordered the USS Harry Truman aircraft carrier and strike force to sail out of the Mediterranean to the Atlantic, after conducting a joint exercise with the French Navy’s air force. French Rafale M Fighters landed on the Truman’s decks for joint drills with US F/A-18/F Super Hornets. As of Sunday, July 8, not a single US warship is to be seen between Syria and Cyprus. US jets can only now reach Syrian air space from Iraq or the Gulf.

Pompeo Brushes off N.Korea 'Gangster' Tag, Says Sanctions to Stay
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 08/18/US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday shrugged off North Korean accusations of "gangster-like" behaviour and said sanctions on Pyongyang would only be lifted with "final" denuclearisation. Speaking in Tokyo after two days of intense discussions in Pyongyang, Pompeo insisted the talks were making progress and were being conducted in "good faith." In stark contrast, Pyongyang's take was overwhelmingly negative, with the North warning that the future of the peace process was being jeopardised by overbearing US demands for its unilateral nuclear disarmament. Speaking privately, US officials suggested the harshly-worded North Korean reaction was a negotiating tactic. But after two days of theatrical amity in Pyongyang it illustrated the gulf that remains between the two sides. In Tokyo, Pompeo briefed his Japanese and South Korean counterparts on the talks, and sought to reassure them that the dialogue with North Korea would continue. His trip to Pyongyang had been aimed at fleshing out denuclearisation commitments made during last month's historic summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. North Korea has long trumpeted a denuclearisation goal, but one that it sees as a lengthy process of undefined multilateral disarmament on the entire Korean peninsula, rather than a unilateral dismantlement of its nuclear arsenal. Speaking in Tokyo, Pompeo said his efforts to push the North on disarmament had the backing of the entire international community."If those requests were gangster-like, the world is a gangster, because there was a unanimous decision at the UN Security Council about what needs to be achieved," he said. While insisting again that the talks were moving forwards, he stressed that nothing had happened to merit a relaxation of the tough sanctions imposed on the North over its nuclear missile programme.
"Sanctions will remain in place until final, fully verified denuclearisation as agreed to by Chairman Kim (Jong Un) occurs," Pompeo said, adding that the US would seek to smooth the path by providing security guarantees requested by Pyongyang. - 'No-one walked away' -In practical terms, Pompeo mentioned only that officials from both sides would meet on July 12 to discuss the repatriation of the remains of some US soldiers killed during the 1950-1953 Korean War. North Korea's angry reaction to the talks with Pompeo came in a Foreign Ministry statement that berated the Secretary over his "unilateral and gangster-like" demands and for offering no constructive steps on the US side. "It seems the US misunderstood our goodwill and patience," the statement said. Pyongyang noted that it had already destroyed a nuclear test site -- a concession that Trump has publicly hailed as a victory for peace -- and lamented that Pompeo had proved unwilling to match this with US concessions. It dismissed Trump's unilateral order to suspend joint US and South Korean war games as a cosmetic and "highly reversible" measure and criticised US negotiators who "never mentioned" the subject of bringing the 1953 Korean War to a formal end with a peace treaty. "We thought that the US side would come with a constructive proposal... But this expectation and hope of ours was so naive as to be gullible," the statement said. Professor Yang Moo-Jin at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul said Pyongyang's criticism was aimed at driving a wedge between Trump and his top officials. "The North is trying to get an upper hand in further negotiations," Yang said. And Pompeo was adamant that those further negotiations would go ahead. "We talked about what the North Koreans are continuing to do and how it's the case that we can get our arms around achieving what Chairman Kim and President Trump both agreed to," he said. "No-one walked away from that."And he said some progress had been made towards agreeing "the modalities" of North Korea's destruction of a missile facility. Pompeo, who has now made three visits to Pyongyang, began the outreach when he was still Trump's CIA director and remained the pointman on negotiations after the process became public and he became secretary of state.

Kuwait Jails Lawmakers, Activists for Storming Parliament
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 08/18/Kuwait's top court on Sunday sentenced two serving opposition lawmakers and six former legislators to 42 months in jail after convicting them of storming parliament and assaulting police in 2011. The Supreme Court sentenced five opposition activists to the same term for the same offences, according to the ruling seen by AFP. The nighttime storming of parliament in November 2011 came after a protest against then prime minister Sheikh Nasser Mohammed al-Sabah over corruption allegations. The premier -- from the ruling Al-Sabah family -- resigned later that month. Another former lawmaker and two other activists were sentenced to two-year terms and 17 activists were acquitted. Some of those convicted were done so in absentia. The court found 34 other activists guilty of storming parliament but decided not to punish them, without immediately explaining why. Former lawmaker Mussallam al-Barrak -- and serving Islamist parliamentarians Waleed al-Tabtabai and Jamaan al-Harbash -- were among those handed the 42-month jail term in one of the most publicised court cases in Kuwait's history. Barrak was released from prison in April 2017 after serving a two-year sentence for insulting Kuwait's Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah. The convicted parliamentarians and former lawmakers cannot run for public office again. The oil-rich Gulf state's parliament has been dissolved seven times since 2006 due to frequent feuds between the government and opposition. The Supreme Court's ruling is final.
At least ten killed, 73 injured in Turkey train derailment
AFP, IstanbulSunday, 8 July 2018/Ten people were killed and 73 injured on Sunday when a train packed with weekend passengers derailed in northwest Turkey, sate-run TRT Haber television said, quoting the health ministry. The train, with 360 people on board, was travelling from Kapikule on the Bulgarian border to Istanbul when six of its carriages derailed in the Tekirdag region. Over 100 ambulances have been sent to the scene, TRT Haber said, quoting Health Ministry Undersecretary Eyup Gumus. The Turkish army said in a statement that it had sent helicopters to the scene. Television pictures showed several train carriages laying on their sides, and shocked injured being taken away on stretchers. “There are a large number of injured and we have fatalities,” Tekirdag governor Mehmet Ceylan told the NTV channel. “The accident happened because of adverse weather conditions,” he added. Reports said the surrounding area was muddy due to recent rains. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been informed over the accident and expressed his condolences over those who lost their lives, state-run Anadolu news agency said. Turkish authorities under Erdogan have over the last years sought to modernize Turkey’s once ramshackle rail network, building several high speed inter-city lines. The train involved in the accident appeared to be one of the slower passenger trains travelling on a single track railway.

Turkey sacks more than 18,500 state employees in new decree
AFP, AnkaraSunday, 8 July 2018/Turkish authorities ordered the dismissal of more than 18,500 state employees including police officers, soldiers and academics, in a decree published on Sunday. The Official Gazette said 18,632 people had been sacked including 8,998 police officers in the emergency decree over suspected links to terror organizations and groups that "act against national security".Some 3,077 army soldiers were also dismissed as well as 1,949 air force personnel and 1,126 from the naval forces. Another 1,052 civil servants from the justice ministry and linked institutions have been fired as well as 649 from the gendarmerie and 192 from the coast guard. Authorities also sacked 199 academics, according to the new decree, while 148 state employees from the military and ministries were reinstated. Turkey has been under a state of emergency since the July 2016 attempted overthrow of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkish media dubbed the decree as the "last" with officials indicating the state of emergency could end as early as Monday. The emergency has been renewed seven times and the latest period is officially due to end on July 19.Over 110,000 public sector employees have been removed previously from their jobs via emergency decrees since July 2016 while tens of thousands more have been suspended in a crackdown criticized by Ankara's Western allies. Turkey accuses US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen of orchestrating the attempted coup. The majority of those fired under the emergency are accused of links to Gulen. The government refers to the movement as the "Fethullah Terrorist Organization". Gulen strongly denies any coup links and insists his movement is a peaceful organization. Sunday's decree shut down 12 associations across the country as well as three newspapers and a television channel. Human rights defenders including Amnesty International have lambasted the purges as arbitrary but Turkey says they are necessary to remove the Gulen movement's infiltration of state bodies.Earlier this year, the government said more than 77,000 people had been arrested over alleged links to Gulen.

The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on July 08-09/18

Everything You Need to Know About the West Bank Bedouin Village at the Eye of a Diplomatic Storm
كل ما عليك معرفته عن قرية خان الأحمر التي تسعى اسرائيل لإفراغها من سكانها وتسبب عاصفة سياسية

Yotam Berger/Haaretz/July 08/18
Who lives in Khan al-Ahmar, why is the West Bank village slated for demolition considered 'illegal' and what does the High Court say about it?
Who lives in Khan al-Ahmar?
This Bedouin village is close to Route 1 in the area of Kfar Adumim. It is home to a few dozen families from the Jahalin tribe, which was expelled from its home in the Negev to the West Bank in the 1950s. Aerial photographs and testimony by villagers show that the residents wandered within the Jerusalem-Jericho region before gradually establishing permanent residence in Khan al-Ahmar, apparently in or around the 1970s. Khan al-Ahmar is just one of a number of villages that are home to the Jahalin.
Which buildings are slated for demolition?
Most of the village’s structures are tin shacks, tents or permanent tents that are used to shelter the residents and their livestock. Khan al-Ahmar is also home to the Tire School, a more durable structure, established with European support.
What is the village’s zoning status?
Khan al-Ahmar is not legal according to Israeli planning law. Members of the Jahalin tribe have been living in the area since before the Six-Day War. Its permanent buildings were erected without the required permits from the Civil Administration and without an urban master plan. They were built on land that is defined as state land.
Can the buildings be legalized retroactively?
The state can grant legal status retroactively to unlawful construction on state land, but is not doing so in Khan al-Ahmar. The state has legalized settlement outposts in the Mateh Binyamin Regional Council, whose jurisdiction includes the Ma’aleh Adumim settlement — the community that petitioned the High Court to demolish Khan al-Ahmar. Among the outposts it legalized are Rahelim and Harsha, even though the access road to Harsha was constructed on privately owned Palestinian land. Steps have also been taken to legalize the Adei Ad outpost. Mateh Binyamin includes some 30 unauthorized Israeli outposts. Admittedly, in regard to Khan al-Ahmar there is a certain difficulty in granting legal status to a community built from tents and tin shacks, adjacent to a highway and lacking any organized infrastructure.
The village’s proximity to a settlement and a highway are among the reasons cited for not legalizing it. But there are also arguments, grounded in international law, according to which it is illegal for an occupying force to displace a local population. These arguments are generally not accepted in Israeli law.
Where does the state want to resettle the Khan al-Ahmar Bedouin?
Authorities plan to move residents to Al Jabel, a village in the Azariya area, situated between the Abu Dis garbage dump and a chop shop for stolen vehicles. Bedouin from other Jahalin communities are already living there, but there is a long-running feud between the two groups. The residents of Khan al-Ahmar, who already live under dire conditions, claim that the permanent site designated for them would leave them significantly worse off. Each family is supposed to receive an area of around 300 square meters in the permanent site.
What were the previous High Court rulings?
Demolition orders were issued for the structures used to shelter the residents and their flocks as well as the school. There have been a number of legal proceedings. Residents of nearby settlements, in particular Kfar Adumim, have sought to have the demolition orders carried out, while the Bedouin have fought the orders. The state informed the High Court that it intended to evacuate all residents of Khan al-Ahmar by June. In the end, the court ruled that the state is authorized to carry out the demolition orders without setting a date. In previous evacuations of Israeli outposts built on private Palestinian land, the High Court explicitly ruled that the state must carry out the demolition by a particular date.
What was the latest High Court ruling?
On Thursday the Palestinians petitioned the court, arguing that the legalization proposals they submitted to the Civil Administration were not examined. The High Court issued a temporary restraining order freezing the demolition and ordered the state to respond to the Palestinians’ claims by Wednesday. After the state submits its response, the High Court can decide to reject the petition and allow the state to resume the demolition process. Alternatively, the court can conduct deliberations that could delay or prevent the demolitions.

Explained/How Qatar Is Warming Ties With Both Trump and Iran - at the Same Time
تقرير عن طرق اقامة قطر علاقات حميمة مع ترامب وإيران في نفس الوقت

Reuters and Haaretz/July 08/18
Several Qatari lobbyists said the aggressive strategy, which has cost the small OPEC member tens of millions of dollars, has been about reaching people close to Trump as well as lobbying on Capitol Hill
There was much fanfare as a few dozen people, including members of Congress and U.S. administration officials, gathered last week for dinner in a posh Washington neighborhood in honor of Qatar's foreign minister. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin sat next to the minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani.
"You have been a great friend to the United States," Mnuchin told Thani, praising Qatar for its cooperation on counter-terrorism financing efforts. The scene was a stark contrast from just a year ago. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt severed ties with Qatar in June 2017, accusing it of fomenting regional unrest, supporting terrorism and getting too close to Iran, all of which Doha denies. At the time, a dinner with Qatari officials at a Washington steakhouse to garner support from members of Congress was a muted affair, without anyone with influence in the Trump administration at the event, according to a person who attended. U.S. President Donald Trump followed the boycott with tweets suggesting Qatar funded terrorism, even though other U.S. officials emphasized it was an ally.
"When the blockade happened they (Qatar) had no presence on the Hill," said Joey Allaham, a former adviser to Qatar who was paid $1.45 million, including costs, for his advocacy work. A year later the boycott remains in force, as the rivals have failed to resolve their dispute. But Qatar has managed to persuade certain lawmakers and influential Americans that it is a U.S. ally in the fight against terrorism and victim of an unfair boycott, interviews with advisers on both sides show. Several Qatari lobbyists said the aggressive strategy, which has cost the small OPEC member tens of millions of dollars, has been about reaching people close to Trump as well as lobbying on Capitol Hill. The country has also hired some people seen as close to Trump, pledged billions of dollars in U.S. investments or business and sponsored Doha visits, according to its advisers and public filings.
Simmering tensions
Qatar's boycott followed long simmering tensions in the region, with countries such as Saudi and the UAE angry about the tiny but rich Gulf nation’s outsized role in regional affairs, sponsoring factions in revolts and civil wars and brokering peace deals across the Middle East. The United States, closely allied to countries on both sides, has found itself in the middle and tried unsuccessfully to mediate. Qatar hosts the Middle East headquarters for U.S. air forces. An administration official said the United States fears the rift could  allow Iran to enhance its position in the Gulf if Tehran supported the Qataris.
Trump wants "the dispute eased and eventually resolved, as it only benefits Iran," a U.S. State Department spokeswoman said. Indeed, since the boycott Iran and Qatar ties have improved. Tehran opened its airspace to Qatar Airways when Saudis and others closed theirs, while Qatar restored full diplomatic relations with Iran. This boycott violates the "right of an independent country like Qatar to choose its allies," said an Iranian official, who previously served as ambassador to the UAE. Iran's foreign ministry declined to comment. Yousef Al Otaiba, the UAE ambassador to the United States, said: "Rather than hoping for Washington to enforce a solution to the crisis, Qatar should establish a dialogue directly with the UAE and its neighbors."
The Saudi embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment.
Lobbying battle
Rich from large natural gas reserves, Qatar has lavished at least $24 million on lobbying in Washington since the start of 2017. That compares with a total of $8.5 million Qatar paid in 2015 and 2016 for lobbying, Justice Department filings show. It has hired people close to Trump. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, for example, said he worked for the Qataris on an investigation and visited Doha just weeks before becoming Trump's personal lawyer in April. Giuliani declined to give details, telling Reuters that he has not spoken to Trump about his Qatar work. Qatar's opponents have a formidable offensive of their own. The UAE and Saudi Arabia shelled out about $25 million each over the same period and had allies such as Elliott Broidy, a Republican fundraiser also close to Trump.
In May last year, Broidy bankrolled a conference about Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group that Egypt and other Doha rivals have accused of terrorism, according to Mark Dubowitz, head of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a think-tank that organized the conference.
It was at this conference that Ed Royce, chairman of the powerful House Foreign Affairs Committee, disclosed plans for a bill naming Qatar a sponsor of terrorism. Royce introduced the bill two days after the conference. Royce's office did not respond to a request for comment.
Qatar "swarmed the Hill" to oppose the bill, including appealing to House Speaker Paul Ryan's office, two lobbyists said. The bill has stalled in Congress.
Ryan's office referred questions on the bill to Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who did not respond to a request for comment. "Understandably, the Qataris called in all their lobbyists and favors to try to derail the bill, though the final chapter on these issues has yet to be written," said Broidy, who has sued Qatar for allegedly hacking his emails. Qatar denies his allegations. When asked by Reuters what, if any, his role was regarding the bill, Broidy said, "I wish the bill was my idea but the reality is it wasn't and I never had anything to do it."
Unlikely allies
Qatar has also reached out to unlikely allies. In January, Qatar's lobbyists flew Morton Klein, head of the Zionist Organization of America, first class on Qatar Airways and put him up at the five-star Sheraton Grand Doha Resort for meetings with the country's leaders.
That included a two-hour, one-on-one palace meeting with Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani. Klein said Qatari officials promised to kill an Al Jazeera documentary critical of Israel supporters in the United States, eliminate anti-Semitic books from a Doha book fair, and work to release kidnapped Israelis.
Klein remains critical of Qatar but said in an interview last week that he is encouraged by some steps taken to address his concerns. He said the documentary has not aired and he continues to work with officials on other issues. Last fall, Trump met Sheikh Tamim on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. A Qatari lobbyist said Doha's message to the United States was they would spend more money on the American base in the country and buy aircraft from Boeing Co .
Within a week of the meeting, state-owned Qatar Airways said it would buy six Boeing aircraft, valued at $2.16 billion. Boeing declined to comment. Sheikh Tamim met Trump again this April at the White House. "It took time and resources to replace the blockading states' lies with the truth, including inviting delegations to visit Qatar and investigate the blockade for themselves," said Jassim al-Thani, spokesman for the Qatar embassy in Washington.

Iran’s Redundant Threats against Hormuz Strait
Salman Al-dossary/Asharq Al Awsat/July 08/18
Countless are the times post-1979 when Iran threatened to close the globally vital Hormuz Strait. It is the Tehran regime officials’ go to whenever a crisis occurs, which take place often. Over the course of four decades of successive threats, Tehran did not carry through with its promise once, even during the eight-year war against Iraq and that was dubbed the tanker war. In that time the US Navy attacked Iranian ships, destroying two Iranian warships.
In return, Iran vowed it would close the strait, but did not dare do so.
Today, the same threat is being reiterated by the ultra-hardline Iranian Revolutionary Guard, which launched its latest threat yet against the Strait of Hormuz, saying that the waterway is “either for everyone or no one.”Iranian President Hassan Rouhani also on Tuesday hinted his country's ability to block freights leaving neighboring countries should the global community heed US demands to refrain from buying Iranian oil. Right after, the US said that its partners provide security for the region. Playing down Rouhani’s hints on blocking Hormuz, Iran’s head of the parliamentary national security and foreign policy committee said that the president’s statements did not mean that oil could not be exported if Iran faces inhibitions on its own oil market share. Iran's trend of making unrealized loud threats, that soon are rolled back, shows that Tehran is completely aware of consequences that may result from its decision to cut off transport and freight going through this highly strategic spot. Reality is that Iran is actually capable of closing the strait, but it goes without saying that it is impossible for it to bear the consequences of undertaking such action. Tehran knows this well and cannot afford the risk of implementing its threats--not only because closing off the strait, through which 30 percent of the world’s oil supply passes, but also because such action represents suicide for Iran. A global energy crisis caused by shutting down Hormuz Strait activity will see the pricing on oil shoot up as high as $400 a barrel.
Taking down such a vital route is a declaration of war not only against oil-exporting countries (oil tankers daily transport about 17 million barrels of oil from Iran, Qatar, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Iraq) using the strait, but also against the major importers.
It is worth mentioning that it isn’t only the US, Iran’s arch foe, which imports oil, but also China and Europe.  About 80 percent of oil export passing through the strait heads over to China, Japan, India, South Korea and Singapore. China, one of Tehran’s most important economic allies, sent a strong message advising Iran to reserve from making threats on closing the strait, and call for it to devote itself into becoming a good neighbor, and learn means to coexist peacefully. The closure of the strait is the most serious threat posed to the region and is a declaration of war against all countries which import oil from the Gulf, said Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Chen Xiaodong. Had Tehran been realistically capable of controlling the strategic strait, it would have done so since the first day after its 1979 revolution. But instead, it has only been making verbal threats, that don’t echo in reality, to relieve pressures it faces from sanctions and international policy. Today, Iran is sending a message to remaining partners in the nuclear agreement after the US exit, in order to help itself escape a disastrous political and economic crisis. Gulf states rest assured that Iran cannot close down the strait, because it is simply a declaration of war against the world, and the Iranian regime is unable to do so and is unlikely to push for giving world countries an opportunity to unite against it.

International Community Ignores Genocide of Christians in Nigeria
Raymond Ibrahim/Gatestone Institute/July 08/18
This brings the death toll of Christians to more than 6,000 since the start of 2018.
"The Islamists of northern Nigeria seem determined to turn Nigeria into an Islamic Sultanate and replace Liberal Democracy with Sharia as the National Ideology. The object of course, is to supplant the Constitution with Sharia as the source of legislation." — National Christian Elders Forum, a wing of the Christian Association of Nigeria. The Nigerian government and the international community, however, have from the start done little to address the situation. This lack of participation is not surprising: they cannot even acknowledge its roots, namely, the intolerant ideology of jihad.
In what the Christian Association of Nigeria is calling a "pure genocide," 238 more Christians were killed and churches desecrated by Muslims last week in the west African nation. This brings the death toll of Christians to more than 6,000 since the start of 2018.
According to a joint statement by the Christian Association, an umbrella group of various Christian denominations, "There is no doubt that the sole purpose of these attacks is aimed at ethnic cleansing, land grabbing and forceful ejection of the Christian natives from their ancestral land and heritage."
The statement condemned the recent attacks, "where over 200 persons were brutally killed and our churches destroyed without any intervention from security agencies in spite of several distress calls made to them."
The statement adds that the majority of those 6,000 Christians massacred this year were "mostly children, women and the aged... What is happening in ... Nigeria is pure genocide and must be stopped immediately."
The details of the murder of these thousands, though seldom reported, are often grisly; many were either hacked to death or beheaded with machetes; others were burned alive (including inside locked churches or homes); and women are often sexually assaulted or raped before being slaughtered.
Both the Nigerian government and the U.S. government have long sought to present this protracted jihad as territorial clashes between the haves (apparently always Christians) and haves-not (apparently always Muslims).
In 2012, for instance, President Bill Clinton said that "inequality" and "poverty" are "what's fueling all this stuff" (the "stuff" being a reference to the ongoing Muslim slaughter of Christians in Nigeria). Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Johnnie Carson, said after an Easter Day bombing in 2012 of a Nigerian church left 39 worshippers dead, "I want to take this opportunity to stress one key point and that is that religion is not driving extremist violence". The Obama administration reportedly agreed to spend $600 million in a USAID initiative launched to ascertain the "true causes" of unrest and violence in Nigeria -- which naturally lay in the socio-economic, supposedly never the religious, realm.
In its recent statement, however, the Christian Association of Nigeria denied these claims. After saying that those responsible for slaughtering Christians are always allowed to "go scot free" by the Nigerian government—which further portrays the attacks as "farmers/herdsmen clashes"—it inquired:
"How can it be a clash when one group [Muslims] is persistently attacking, killing, maiming, [and] destroying, and the other group [Christians] is persistently being killed, maimed and their places of worship destroyed? How can it be a clash when the herdsmen are hunting farmers in their own villages/communities and farmers are running for their lives?" On May 2, the National Christian Elders Forum -- a wing of the Christian Association, the members of which average the age of 75 and come from Nigeria's six geopolitical zones -- met with the British High Commission in an effort to receive support. (Days before the meeting, around 30 Muslim herdsmen had stormed a church during early morning Mass and murdered nearly 20 parishioners and two clergymen.) The group's executive summary of issues included:
It is clear to the Christian Elders that JIHAD has been launched in Nigeria by the Islamists of northern Nigeria led by the Fulani ethnic group [the "herdsmen"]. This Jihad is based on the Doctrine of Hate taught in Mosques and Islamic Madrasas in northern Nigeria as well as the supremacist ideology of the Fulani. Using both conventional (violent) Jihad, and stealth (civilization) Jihad, the Islamists of northern Nigeria seem determined to turn Nigeria into an Islamic Sultanate and replace Liberal Democracy with Sharia as the National Ideology. The object of course, is to supplant the Constitution with Sharia as the source of legislation.
The current 1999 Constitution is plagued with dual conflicting ideology of Democracy and Sharia. There are certain values which are non-negotiable in a pluralistic society and it seems the advocates of the Caliphate do not respect this. A dual-ideology-driven Nigeria cannot be the Nigeria of our dream. We want a Nigeria, where citizens are treated equally before the law at all levels.... Bearing in mind that Christians constitute over 50% of the Nigerian population, the goal of the Islamists is bound to create serious conflicts which if not checked is capable of escalating into another civil war. Already, the Islamists are murdering Christians with impunity and destroying vulnerable Christian places of worship and communities at an alarming and inhuman rate.
That 6,000 Christians, "mostly children, women and the aged," have been butchered in just the first six months of this year is a reminder of how violence only escalates when left unchecked. That is the story of the Muslim persecution of Christians in Nigeria.
It took three times as long (a year-and-a-half, between December 2013 to July 2015), for example, for the same Muslim herdsmen to slaughter a total of 1,484 Christians (532 men, 507 women, and 445 children), critically wound 2,388 Christians (1,069 men, 817 women, and 502 children), and burn or destroy 171 churches. The Nigerian government and the international community, however, have from the start done little to address the situation. This lack of participation is not surprising: they cannot even acknowledge its roots, namely, the intolerant ideology of jihad. As a result, the death toll of Christians has only risen -- and will likely continue to grow exponentially -- until such time that this reality is not only acknowledged but addressed. The governor of Nigeria's Anambra State, Willie Obiano (center), visits a wounded survivor of a deadly attack on St. Philip Catholic Church in Ozubulu, August 11, 2017. (Image source: Channels TV video screenshot)
**Raymond Ibrahim is the author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam's New War on Christians (published by Regnery with Gatestone Institute, April 2013).
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Analysis Next Stop for Assad: The Golan Heights
زفي برال من الهآررتس: محطة الأسد الثانية ستكون مرتفعات الجولان

Zvi Bar'el/Haaretz/July 08/18
Israel is preparing for the next stage, in which Assad forces will deploy in positions they held before the war, determined by the disengagement lines agreed upon by Israel and Syria in 1974
Russian police units, which accompanied Russian forces moving towards the Naseeb border crossing between Jordan and Syria, have set up their positions there and in some parts of the town of Daraa, the capital of the southern region of the same name. Rebel militias have begun handing over their heavy equipment to the Syrian army and if there are no new developments Assad can claim that eastern Daraa is in his hands.
Amman is starting to examine the possibility of repatriating hundreds of thousands of refugees who fled to Jordan during the war and Israel is preparing for the next stage, in which Assad forces will deploy in positions they held before the war, determined by the disengagement lines agreed upon by Israel and Syria in 1974. Between these two stages a local battle still awaits Syria in the western areas of Daraa and along its border with Jordan up to the Yarmouk River basin, where the Nusra Front forces, as well as some ISIS units, are positioned. This campaign may take many days, postponing the complete takeover of the south by Assad.
According to reports coming from Syria, Russia only partly kept its commitment to Jordan and Israel, by which Iranian and Hezbollah forces would not take part in the fighting in Daraa. Hezbollah fighters and several Iranian officers were spotted in combat areas, but overall the combat and deployment of forces in the area consisted of only Syrian and Russian forces. In the meantime, the cease-fire agreement has not kicked in yet in western Daraa. It hinges on a reply by local militias, which should arrive within the next day.
Israel is considered the party that gave the green light for the entry of Assad forces into southern Syria, following negotiations held between the commander of Russia’s policing forces, a representative of the Russian administration, Jordanian and Israeli officials. These were based on a Russian commitment to remove Iranian forces from the area, to an initial distance of 40 kilometers from the Jordanian border. Further negotiations regarding the depth of Iranian deployment in the Golan Heights will be held at a meeting between Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday, six days before the Putin-Trump summit meeting, which will deal among other issues with the nuclear accord and the situation in Syria. Israel insists that Syrian forces not cross the agreed-upon disengagement lines, but without doing so, Syria will not be able to dislodge militia units situated in the Syrian Golan area. Israel, Syria and Russia will need to find a creative solution which will prevent the entry of Syrian forces while removing the militias. One possibility is that Israel instruct the militias to leave the Golan Heights in exchange for a Syrian-Russian commitment not to harm them. Another option is that Israel agree to mixed Russian-Syrian policing units setting up a safe transit corridor for the militias and thousands of refugees who’ve recently arrived in the Golan after fleeing the fighting in Daraa.
The cease-fire agreement lays out the deployment of the Assad regime’s forces in southern Syria, completing Assad’s resumption of control over most of Syria. This agreement joins other similar ones reached in other parts of Syria, such as the negotiations between the regime and Kurdish forces and agreements made with the Druze minority in southern Syria. Military control of these areas still leaves key issues that need to be resolved before Russia can continue with the diplomatic moves it is planning, which include the establishment of a new Syrian government and the implementation of a revised constitution, formulated by Russia together with the regime, as well as the holding of elections.
In Russia’s hands
Thus, in addition to the issue of deployment of forces in the Golan, Russia will have to persuade Turkey to withdraw its forces from northern Syria, which it invaded as part of its campaign against Kurdish units and its effort to prevent Kurdish territorial contiguity in Syria. Russia will also try to create a formula for the evacuation of American troops, some of whom are in northern Syria, others in the border triangle between Jordan, Syria and Iraq, along with the evacuation of Iranian troops. This now seems to be unlikely, since Iran does not intend, at least according to its declarations, to withdraw all its forces from Syria. Tehran received support for this stance from Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, who said this week that it was unrealistic to demand a complete withdrawal of Iranian forces from Syria. This contrasts with earlier statements, including some by Putin, according to which all foreign forces would leave Syria.
One of the questions now being posed is whether Putin can tie an Iranian withdrawal from Syria to the nuclear accords. In other words, will Trump agree to soften his positions regarding this agreement in exchange for an Iranian retreat from Syria? This could pose a serious dilemma for Israel in which it has to decide which is the more concrete threat: a valid nuclear agreement, which Iran is abiding by meticulously but one which raises doubts about what happens once that accord expires, or the continued presence of Iranian forces on Syrian soil. For now this is a theoretical question but in just over a week Israel may be facing a new Russian-American honeymoon, which will force it to find an alternative strategy.

How can those who plant mines in Yemen be equated with those who remove them?
Hamdan Alaly/Al Arabiya/July 08/18
Yemen has a long history with mines. During the North-South conflict in the 1970s, armed groups situated in the central regions planted hundreds of thousands of mines they got from Libyan leader Muaamar Kaddafi as support for the National Front. Over the decades, some of these mines have been removed while a vast majority remains unearthed to this day, according to government statements. When the Houthi rebellion began in 2004 in the Saada governorate, mines were one of the most important weapons the Houthis relied on during their wars against the state. The Houthis have had a penchant for obtaining and manufacturing mines of various types and sizes. In fact, the militia set up a mines’ factory in the city of Saada, which was targeted by Arab coalition forces in May 2015. A few weeks ago, I visited Midi city in the province of Hajjah, which was recently fully emancipated from Houthi control. We had only one way to reach the city and we couldn’t take different routes. Mines were heavily planted in every corner within and around the city, except for areas that the engineering teams had cleared of mines. Those who visit the city and adjoining areas where the Houthis were must move in a restricted, narrow and known path in order to remain safe from the mines the Houths left behind and which has made those who resided there refrain from returning to their homes.
Mines planted by Houthis have claimed 639 lives and injured 704 others in Yemen between July 2014 and March 2018.
Hamdan Alaly
Some of the inhabitants of the city said that “many people have been killed by these mines. Even though war has ended in these areas, landmines still surround them and suffocate (their movement). There are no exceptions as (the Houthis) planted mines on roads, in heavily populated neighborhoods, farms, beaches and even inside houses.” The Houthis produced all kinds of mines, ranging from large mines that target tanks and big vehicles to small-sized ones that target individuals and which are internationally-prohibited.
Midi is not the only city riddled by the bane of Houthi mines. The Houthis have planted internationally banned mines everywhere they passed, such as in cities of Taiz, Marib, Al Bayda, Sanaa, Hodeidah, Saada, Aden, Lahij, Dhale and the rest of Hajjah. All of these areas are filled with mines. Mines are the friends of Houthi fighters wherever they set foot and Abdulmalik al-Houthi’s gift to the children and women of Yemen!
According to the latest report by the Yemeni Coalition for Monitoring Human Rights Violations, mines claimed the lives of 639 Yemenis and injured 704 people between July 2014 and March 2018. By the way, only the Houthi militias have planted mines in Yemen since the first war in 2004.
Statistics reveal that Yemen, which signed the Ottawa treaty that forbids the use of anti-personnel mines in 1997, has been booby-trapped by more than half a million mines planted by the Houthi militia in the past few years. Director of Yemen’s Executive Mine Action Center Brigadier General Amin al-Ogaili said: “Yemen has been affected by the largest mine-laying action since the end of the World War II, and today it is the foremost country in the Middle East and North Africa region that has been affected by the disasters of these widespread mines.”
Mines are the Houthis’ gift to the people. On the other hand, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is making great efforts to confront this disaster which threatens the Yemenis’ future and present, and it’s doing so via the MASAM project that was launched by King Salman Center for Relief and Humanitarian Aid and that aims to remove all forms and shapes of mines that were planted by the militias in Yemeni territories, especially in the governorates of Marib, Aden, Sanaa and Taiz. This project will be implemented with Saudi human resources and international expertise. This abundant Saudi generosity makes me, as a Yemeni, wonder whether those who plant mines and those who remove them can be deemed equal by the world.

Who will reveal the fate of Iraq’s public funds?
Adnan Hussein/Al Arabiya/July 08/18
Oil prices are rising, and they may keep going up at least until the end of the year. This means that Iraq’s budget, which was facing major deficit and which was going to be covered via foreign debts, may be able to overcome the earlier shortfall and come into surplus.
This year’s budget was based on the estimate that the price of oil will not exceed more than $46 per barrel, while the price currently stands at about $70. As US sanctions against Iran and which focus on boycotting Iran’s oil exports intensify and as the Libyan civil war continues to affect the production and export of oil, prices are expected to rise further. Moreover the level of our oil exports is also rising every month.
This is of course good news when it comes to overcoming this year’s budget deficit or even possibly making a significant surplus, in addition to the prospect of setting up a non-deficit budget for the next year. The rule is that the unspent amount should be returned to the Treasury, but we never come to know how much was not spent and how much was returned to the Treasury. What is more important though is how the Iraqi government (the current and future one) will handle this huge increase in oil revenues. It is logical that the government would inject this money into major projects that could help in getting rid of oil dependency. This government, as well as previous governments, failed to properly and correctly invest in the country’s resources.The last two governments squandered hundreds of billions of dollars on failed projects. This is in addition to increased administrative and financial corruption that greatly affected oil revenues for years thus contributing to the failure of economic projects and in further corruption and lack of transparency in governmental work, particularly in terms of expenditure. The clearest example is that the constitution stated that when the government submits its draft budget, it must submit an account’s statement for the previous year’s budget. However, no government committed to this. The issue is that the Parliament, which is supposed to represent the people, never fulfilled its duty in this regard and did not address the issue and handle it. The reason is clear and well-known; it is because most MPs were only concerned with their parties and their privileges. It is for this reason that the Iraqi public opinion stood firmly against renewing the term of the last parliament.
In addition, it is known that the governorates and the state institutions usually do not spend all of their financial allocations. The rule is that the unspent amount should be returned to the Treasury, but we never come to know how much was not spent and how much was returned to the Treasury and how much was squandered due to the huge administrative and financial corruption. Like previous governments, Haider al-Abadi’s government did not have an honorable record on the level of economy and services. It will thus do good if it concludes its term by revealing the fate of the people’s money.

Iranian people’s disaffection with the regime peaking
الدكتور مجيد رفيع زاده: استياء الشعب الإيراني من نظام الملالوي هو في ذروته
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/July 08/18
The Iranian people’s frustration and the protests against the clerical establishment have taken on a new and distinct character.
When the widespread uprising erupted in 2009, people mainly asked the government to count their votes. They did not chant for regime change, but demanded fair and free elections. The regime did not adequately address people’s concerns.
The vast protests in late 2017 and early 2018 reached a new level. People, particularly farmers and workers, began publicly criticizing both the moderates and hard-liners, and many Iranians demanded that the ruling clerics step down from power.
The most recent protests, which took place over the last two weeks, shared several commonalities with the demonstrations that erupted at the beginning of the year, specifically when it came to people’s economic, political, social and economic grievances, and their disenchantment with the mullahs. Chants such as “strike, strike,” “we are all together,” “let go of Syria, think about us,” “close your stalls,” and “No Gaza, No Lebanon, my life for Iran” were heard on the streets of Tehran and across several other cities and towns.
But it is worth noting that the latest protests also brought a new character to the unrest, which can be perceived as a threat to the Iranian regime.
First of all, the middle class is joining the lower socio-economic class of Iranian society. In the latest protests, many of the protesters and merchants were considered to be from the middle class. As a result, although some policy analysts and scholars may argue that only Iran’s labor class has grievances against the political system, it is evident that it is not only the poor that are suffering and are fed up with the clerical establishment.
It is also important to point out that the social and economic classes are extremely important in uprisings due to their power in directing unrest. Many historians, political scientists and social theorists agree with the notion that one of the major prerequisites for a fundamental social or political change (such as a revolution or major reform) is the rise of the middle class against the ruling political establishment.
In other words, when the middle class is economically and socially blocked from progress by the state’s apparatuses — due to political repression and the state’s controlled, monopolized and stagnant economy — vital and potentially fatal challenges will sooner or later arise against the ruling political and religious establishment, no matter how powerful the regime is.
The second significant issue is that the latest protests are concentrated in the capital, Tehran. These were the second large protests in Tehran following the 2009 Green Movement, which saw Ayatollah Ali Khamenei side with the hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad against the people’s complaints that the election was rigged at the expense of moderate candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi. Iranian leaders fear any protests in Tehran due to the fact that, historically, any fundamental change in Iran occurred when people from the capital rose up against the regime.
Iran's leaders ought to be extremely wary that the people’s disaffection with the authorities has reached perilous levels.
Third, the recent protests in the Grand Bazaar are critical because it is home to conservative and religious people, who have been the critical support and social base for the clerical establishment since 1979.
Fourth, the United States and many countries in the region, which have been negatively impacted by the Iranian regime’s aggressive and militaristic policies, are politically and economically putting pressure on Tehran, as well as sympathizing with the Iranian people’s grievances and cause.
Furthermore, many dissidents in exile are joining hands and urging the international community to hold the Iranian regime accountable and responsible for human rights violations and the suppression of basic freedoms — the freedoms of speech, assembly and the press, and cracking down on its own citizens.
For example, Maryam Rajavi, the leader of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, saluted the brave protesters for their uprising against high prices, corruption and the looting of Iran's assets by the mullahs’ regime, and called on all shopkeepers, tradesmen and merchants throughout the country to support and join the protesters. “The currency crisis and unprecedented high prices, which has imposed a burdensome pressure on the overwhelming majority of the people of Iran, is the outcome of the policies of the ruling religious fascism,” she said. “From the beginning, they have wasted the assets of the Iranian people, either by spending on domestic repression, nuclear projects, export of terrorism and fundamentalism and warfare in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon and other countries in the region, or have been looted by the regime’s corrupt leaders.”
In conclusion, the Iranian leaders ought to be extremely wary that the people’s disaffection and disenchantment with the authorities have reached perilous levels. The unrest is taking on a new character with the inclusion of various socio-economic classes, including the middle and labor classes. People from cities and towns, as well as the capital, are fed up with the system. All these signs point to the potential that the hold on power of Iran’s ruling clerics is at a dangerous crossroads if the leaders don’t adequately and immediately address the people’s demands and grievances.
• Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh