July 14/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother
Mark 03/31-35//04/01-09: "Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, ‘Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.’And he replied, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’And looking at those who sat around him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.’ Again he began to teach beside the lake. Such a very large crowd gathered around him that he got into a boat on the lake and sat there, while the whole crowd was beside the lake on the land. He began to teach them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: ‘Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up quickly, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched; and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.’And he said, ‘Let anyone with ears to hear listen!’"
Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on July 13-14/18
Hezbollah's Nasrallah Is Right: Israelis No Longer Want to Fight/Ofri Ilany/Haaretz/July 13/18
Analysis: Iran Role in Syria Key Item at Trump-Putin Summit/Associated Press/Naharnet/July 13/18/
Better relations with Russia are a worthy goal. But at what price/David Ignatius/The Washington Post/July 13/18
Pompeo prioritises ‘Iran threats’ in meeting with Saudi FM Al Jubeir/Joyce Karam/The National/July 13/18
Analysis/If Moscow's 'Deal of the Century' for Iran Works, Both Damascus and Jerusalem Will Smile/Zvi Bar'el/Haaretz/July 13/18
Analysis/Can Israel Really Trust Russia to Remove Iranian Forces From Syria/Amos Harel/Haaretz/July 13/18
Let's Establish Bigger Enterprises/Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat/
July 13/18
Is Turkey Becoming Uninvestable/Marcus Ashworth/Bloomberg View
/July 13/18
Why Khamenei Can’t Do a Kim Jong-Un/Amir Taheri/Asharq Al Awsat
/July 13/18
The SCOTUS Confirmation Process Has Gotten Out of Hand/Alan M. Dershowitz/Gatestone Institute/July 13/18
The Relentless Radicalization of Sweden/Judith Bergman/Gatestone Institute/July 13/18
New US-Israeli “Project Iran” is headed by IDF’s Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon/DEBKAfile/July 13/ 2018
Macedonia: What’s in a name/Dr. Mohamed A. Ramady/Al Arabiya/July 13/18
Impaired judgement and its fatal consequences/Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya
/July 13/18

Titles For The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on July 13-14/18
Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rai,tries to save Maarab from brink
LF-FPM Meeting Paves Way for Reconciliation Based on New Foundations
Hariri: Lebanon Sets 'Roadmap' to Raise Growth Rates, Diversify Resources
Maronite Bishop Calls for All-Inclusive Christian Agreement
Lebanon to Be Featured on Vatican's Pilgrimage List
Hariri to meet Aoun after latest Cabinet lineup set: reports
Saudi Envoy to UN Says Kingdom Will Confront Hezbollah ‘Everywhere’
IMF Wants to See Lebanon Form New Government, Start Reforms
UNRWA’ Workers Protest Cuts, Fears on Delay of Academic Year
Shakira Visits Her Grandmother's Village in Lebanon
Guterres Appoints Del Col of Italy as Head of Mission and Force Commander of UNIFIL
Kuwaiti Speaker Assures Aoun ‘No Travel Ban to Lebanon’, Later Meets Berri
Choucair Quotes Berri, ‘Cabinet Will Soon Be Formed’
Hizbullah Official: Govt. Delay May be Part of Saudi Scheme
Hariri: Sectarianism is the Worst Curse in Our Political System
Yemen Rebel Chief Praises Hizbullah, Iran
Report: Druze Obstacle 'Fabricated' to Undermine PSP's Success in Elections
Hezbollah's Nasrallah Is Right: Israelis No Longer Want to Fight
Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on July 13-14/18
Argentina Asks Russia to Arrest Iran’s Velayati over 1994 Blast
Analysis: Iran Role in Syria Key Item at Trump-Putin Summit
Trump Says He Has Been 'Tougher on Russia than Anybody'
Iran Has No Intention to Leave Syria, Top Official Says
Putin Receives Khamenei Message As Velayati Defends Russian-Iranian 'Strategic Relationship'
Airstrike kills 54 in Syria, US-led coalition hints at responsibility
Russia Hands Over ‘Birthplace’ of Syria Uprising to Regime Control
Long-jailed Iran former deputy PM dies aged 86
Moscow Denies Death of Dozens of Soldiers in Syria
Israel summons EU envoy in row over controversial bill
Israel Fires Missile at Drone from Syria, 2nd Time This Week
Israeli Patriot missile targets a drone near Golan Heights
Palestinian teen killed by Israeli fire on Gaza border: ministry
ISIS claims responsibility in Pakistan poll rally attack as toll rises to 70
Trump blasts UK PM May’s Brexit plan, says it puts trade deal in doubt
Najaf Province HQ and airport
Egypt Sentences 13 to Death for Prison Escape
New Round of Intra-Palestinian Talks to be Launched in Cairo
UK police confirm source of Novichok poisoning
Ousted Pakistani PM Sharif arrested after flying home to face jail

The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on July 13-14/18
Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rai,tries to save Maarab from brink
Joseph Haboush/The Daily Star on July 13/18
BEIRUT: In June 2015, Samir Geagea met with Michel Aoun at the latter’s residence in an attempt to unite the Christian community, members of which had fought and killed each other for years. Geagea, the leader of the Lebanese Forces, then announced his backing of Aoun for the presidency in January 2016, from Geagea’s Maarab residence. The latter was elected president in October of that year. Fast-forward to 2018, when the so-called “Maarab Understanding” has been declared dead by the spokesperson for the LF. Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai stepped in this week, calling for unity and summoning the engineers behind the agreement after politicians from both sides engaged in a hostile war of words via social media in recent months. The LF’s caretaker Information Minister Melhem Riachi and FPM MP Ibrahim Kanaan both said after meeting Rai that the agreement was essential and would not collapse. In a letter to be delivered to Aoun, Geagea and the FPM’s current leader Gebran Bassil, Rai stressed the importance of the “historic” reconciliation between the two sides. He called for the leaders and their parties to not turn political disagreements into something bigger. Rai called for an immediate halt to media chatter from both sides, “which increases [tensions] at various political and media levels, including social networks.”
The leader of the Maronite Church requested committees be formed to ensure a lasting relationship. However, he added these committees should be separate from personal interests and all political parties should be included “without exception.” Lebanon’s Christian community has arguably the biggest variety in political parties. Two of the main players are the Marada Movement and the Kataeb Party. These groups felt sidelined in the Maarab Understanding and saw it as an attempt by the LF and FPM to hold a monopoly over the Christian community, similar to that of the Shiite duo of Hezbollah and the Amal Movement. This would, in turn, give the parties control of governmental, administrative and judicial posts reserved for the Christian sect in the country. “Historically, there has never been a duo or exclusivity of shares in the Christian community in Lebanon,” Kataeb MP Elias Hankash told The Daily Star.
He cited Kataeb’s rejection of such an agreement from the beginning because of its lack of a solid basis. “We were not convinced that you could have a solid agreement with Hezbollah and at the same time have another agreement against [the] principles [of the agreement with Hezbollah].” As for Rai’s calls for an all-inclusive reconciliation, Hankash said Kataeb has no problem. “We are with the Patriarch, but as long as talks are based on a solid approach and not just ‘seasonal,’” he said. He criticized the Maarab Understanding as “shallow, [covering] which party gets an [administrative post] here or there.”
The Kataeb Party was criticized by a large part of their longtime ally party, the LF, for refusing the agreement. “We knew from the beginning and it’s not a surprise to see this now,” Hankash said. Meanwhile, Marada MP Tony Frangieh termed the agreement one that is “destroying the country, rather than saving it.” But he also said the Marada was not surprised that it was made. “We have dealt with [the LF and FPM] in the government and seen how they deal with us and others,” he told The Daily Star. The young MP and son of Marada leader Sleiman Frangieh said he regrets the way the agreement was reached, saying it was the “wrong way” to deal with the entire Lebanese community, not just the Christians. “If you’re from one sect and not in one of the two parties, you don’t belong? This is not right,” he said. Frangieh welcomed Rai’s calls for dialogue. “We will not refuse anything under the patronage of the Patriarch, but we don’t want to go and sit [to meet] without knowing what’s going to be discussed.” He said trust would likely not be rebuilt with either the FPM or LF, but “dialogue is much better than nothing.”
Frangieh said that understandings such as the one between the LF and Marada can be productive. “We are historically political rivals, but we wanted to get over the Civil War and stop the fighting in the streets and universities between supporters,” he said, in reference to dialogue committees between the two parties that date back to 2008. “We never wanted an alliance with the LF; we talk to each other, but there is no coordination on any political level between us.”With the Maarab Understanding’s failure to give exclusivity to the LF or FPM, the Kataeb and Marada will not remain silent over their displeasure with the attempt to sideline them. In May’s parliamentary elections, Frangieh gained the second highest number of votes in the Bsharri-Zgharta-Batroun-Koura electoral district, receiving 800 fewer votes than Bassil. Kataeb leader and MP Sami Gemayel won the most votes in Metn.

LF-FPM Meeting Paves Way for Reconciliation Based on New Foundations
Beirut- Caroline Akoum/Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 13 July, 2018/A meeting between the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) and the Lebanese Forces (LF), under the auspices of Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rai, has stressed the need to consolidate the “Christian reconciliation” and to start a new phase as the two parties have acknowledged the failure of the Maarab agreement. Information Minister in the caretaker government Melhem Riachi, representing the LF, and FPM MP Ibrahim Kanaan met at the Patriarch’s summer seat in the Diman and received a message from Rai to each of President Michel Aoun and the heads of the FPM and LF, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil and Samir Geagea respectively. Sources close to the matter described the atmosphere as “excellent” in terms of reconciliation, but “inconclusive” with regards to the political relationship and the Christian knot between the two parties in forming the government. “Reconciliation is not negotiable for all parties…but the political agreement will be discussed on the basis of the conviction of the two sides and in line with Rai’s message, which requested a mechanism for communication through a joint committee and stressed the importance of speeding up the formation of the government and facilitating the task of Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri,” the sources told Asharq Al-Awsat. In this context, the sources noted that Riashi told the Patriarch that during a meeting held on Wednesday between Hariri and Geagea, the latter expressed his willingness to compromise in his government demand within the minimum share that reflects the LF parliamentary size. However, the sources said the current situation did not forecast an imminent formation of the government, in light of the continuing differences and unsettled nodes, the most important of which are the shares of the Christian and Druze blocs. As for the Maarab agreement, the failure of which was acknowledged by the two sides, the sources said: “It is clear that the political relationship between the two parties needs to be reviewed after all that happened.”Rai’s message to the concerned leaders underlined the necessity to strengthen the historical reconciliation between the two parties and the need of “not turning any political differences between them into a dispute.”He also called for “speeding up the formation of the government in accordance with constitutional standards, because the delay would seriously affect the work of public and private institutions and the situation at the economic, social and political levels.”

Hariri: Lebanon Sets 'Roadmap' to Raise Growth Rates, Diversify Resources

Beirut/Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 13 July, 2018/Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri said that Lebanon “has prepared a clear roadmap to raise growth rates, diversify its resources and ensure its sustainability.”Hariri inaugurated on Thursday the 26th session of the Arab Economic Forum, attended by some 500 leading figures from 20 countries, including finance ministers and governors of central banks and corporate leaders and investors from the Arab world, Europe and Africa. The forum is organized by the Economy and Business Group in partnership with the Central Bank of Lebanon (BDL), the Ministry of Economy and Trade, the Association of Banks in Lebanon and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), in cooperation with Lebanese and Arab economic entities. “We are all aware of the difficulties facing the region and the crises confronting many Arab countries due to the absence of security and political stability, the repercussions of wars and conflicts on our economic and social conditions, the results of the displacement of millions of Syrian brothers to neighboring countries, the decrease of tourism and the negative effects of all this on the growth rates and the ability to attract investments,” Hariri said. He noted that the region needed around 27 million new employment opportunities in the next five years. “The first challenge for the Arab countries lies in raising growth rates. The second challenge is to make it a sustainable growth that includes all sectors of society, especially women and youth. This means unleashing an indispensable vitality in the economic cycle of our Arab countries,” the prime minister-designate said. As for the third challenge, he emphasized the diversification of growth resources, which did not apply to oil producing countries only but also to countries like Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and other Arab countries.“The success in diversifying the sources of growth requires us to change our working methods as governments and public institutions. It also requires the development of our legislations and administrative and legal procedures to fit the needs of modern economy and the necessities of growth. All this while maintaining macroeconomic stability because we all know that any financial and monetary destabilization in our countries will have great economic and social repercussions,” according to Hariri. He noted in this regard that the Lebanese government has prepared a clear road map to raise growth rates, diversify the country’s sources and ensure its sustainability, adding that the plan was presented at the CEDRE Conference.

Maronite Bishop Calls for All-Inclusive Christian Agreement 13th July 2018/Maronite Bishop of Jbeil, Michel Aoun, stressed the need for Christians to agree on fundamental issues, saying that it is unacceptable that they remain at odds amid the critical phase that Lebanon is going through. “What we are asking do not only apply on Christians, but also on our Muslim brothers because the nation is in an unsound situation which is affecting all the Lebanese,” Aoun told the Kataeb website. The Maronite bishop criticized the ongoing bickering over the government formation, adding that everyone must seek Lebanon’s interest, and not their own. "The right person must be in the right place,” he said. Aoun called for an all-inclusive alliance between Christian parties, saying that the LF-FPM agreement must expand to include the Kataeb, Marada and National Liberal Party. "Any agreement that is beneficial for the nation is regarded as a positive action," he affirmed.

Lebanon to Be Featured on Vatican's Pilgrimage List 13th July 2018/Lebanon will be included as an official Roman Catholic Church pilgrimage destination next year, 12 years after the Middle Eastern country had last featured on the list. According to the National News Agency, the Lebanese Chargé d'Affaires Khalil Karam informed the Foreign Ministry that Lebanon will be mentioned in the 2019 list issued by the Holy See.

Hariri to meet Aoun after latest Cabinet lineup set: reports

The Daily Star/July 13/18/BEIRUT: Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri is expected to visit President Michel Aoun Friday to present the latest draft proposal on Cabinet formation, according to local media reports.However, a Baabda Palace source told The Daily Star that a meeting had not yet been scheduled as of 3 p.m. This comes after political sources told The Daily Star Thursday that Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Joumblatt had been granted his wish to name all three ministers allocated to the Druze sect in a 30-member Cabinet, eliminating a major obstacle to government formation. This effectively blocks Joumblatt’s archrival MP Talal Arslan from securing a post. Meanwhile, local news daily Al-Joumhouria published a draft of the new Cabinet lineup, according to partisan share. The report, citing anonymous sources, says 10 ministerial portfolios will be reserved for the Free Patriotic Movement, its allies and the presidency; six ministerial posts are set for Hariri’s Future Movement; and four ministries will go to the Lebanese Forces - including either the Public Works Ministry, Justice Ministry or Education Ministry. This would mean a redistribution of the Health Ministry to Hezbollah and the Telecommunications Ministry to Future, while the Energy Ministry would remain with the FPM. Marada Movement leader Sleiman Frangieh would be allocated one ministry, according to the report, which said Jumblatt would choose two of his ministers, while Aoun and Hariri would pick the third out of three names that Joumblatt proposes. It is widely accepted that Hezbollah and the Amal Movement will hold all six ministries set aside for the Shiite sect in a 30-member Cabinet.

Saudi Envoy to UN Says Kingdom Will Confront Hezbollah ‘Everywhere’

Al Arabiya/Friday 13th July 2018/Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United Nations Abdullah al-Mouallimi told Al Arabiya on Wednesday that Saudi Arabia will confront the militias of the Lebanese Hezbollah party everywhere, and expose its practices to the international community.
Mouallimi also accused Hezbollah of seeking to shake the stability of the Arab world. Mouallimi also stressed that Saudi Arabia seeks to liberate Hodeidah peacefully, citing the temporary halt of military operations to make room for diplomatic efforts by Griffiths to push the Houthis to withdraw peacefully. “Up until now, it does not seem that Griffiths can achieve enough breakthroughs in the (Houthis) ranks. I think (the Houthis) are stalling and using the international mediator to prolong talks. This is something that cannot be accepted indefinitely,” Moallimi added. Yemen’s Foreign Minister Khalid al-Yamani had sent a strong message earlier to his Lebanese counterpart Gebran Bassil, calling on the Lebanese government to curb pro-Iranian militias behavior, referring to Hezbollah’s growing support of the Houthi militias.

IMF Wants to See Lebanon Form New Government, Start Reforms
Reuters/ Friday 13th July 2018/The International Monetary Fund hopes Lebanon will soon form a new government, following elections two months ago, and set about urgent structural and fiscal reforms to tame its deficit and boost growth, its Middle East head told Reuters on Thursday. "We are looking forward to seeing a new government," said Jihad Azour, the IMF's Director of the Middle East and Central Asia. "We consider that confidence and stability are to be achieved by accelerating the reforms, by pursuing fiscal adjustment and by reforming the key structures that are currently impeding the Lebanese economy from growing and increasing the burden on public finance," he said in an interview. Lebanon has been suffering weak growth since 2011, hit by regional turmoil. The IMF has estimated growth rates of 1-1.5 percent in 2017 and 2018, saying traditional drivers of the economy - construction and real estate - remain subdued. The IMF has also called for "an immediate and substantial" fiscal adjustment to improve the sustainability of public debt, which stood at more than 150 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) at the end of 2017. Leaders from across the divided political establishment have said they recognize the urgency of the situation and the need to start reforms, but a new unity government has yet to be agreed following parliamentary elections in early May. In April international donors meeting in Paris pledged more than $11 billion of investment for Lebanon, but they want to see reform first. At that meeting Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri promised to reduce the budget deficit as a percentage of GDP by 5 percent over five years.

UNRWA’ Workers Protest Cuts, Fears on Delay of Academic Year
Gaza - Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 13 July, 2018/The Workers' Union of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) called for staging a protest on Thursday in front of the organization’s headquarters in Gaza. The protests were held to reject the cuts initiated by UNRWA in Gaza, West Bank, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. Members of the Parent’s Council were among the participants in the demonstrations. They waved banners calling on the UNRWA administration to shoulder its responsibilities towards the refugees. Secretary of the Workers’ Union Yusuf Hamdouna warned UNRWA’s administration against the continued cuts, pointing out that any step in this regard would lead to escalating measures. He told protesters that the union will organize an open sit-in inside the headquarters of the UN agency next week, in which 956 employees will participate, to protest any cuts in services.
He said that these employees currently work on the emergency program, and their contracts will end gradually. On the other hand, director of operations at UNRWA stressed that in case the fiscal deficit in the budget continues, the academic year will not start. He explained that the postponement of the date means the placement of 22,000 teachers on compulsory leave, and therefore, nearly 500,000 Palestinian students will not receive education in the UN organization’s five areas of operation. "This is the beginning of sit-ins and protests that will be witnessed in the coming period," he said. He also called on the presidency of UNRWA to commit to backing down from three decisions taken recently in order to stop the protests that are scheduled to be held. For his part, head of the executive bureau of popular committees in Gaza Khaled al-Sarraj said that UNRWA's actions against the refugees will only be met with further escalation, accusing the agency of coordinating with the occupation forces to exert more pressure on Palestinian refugees.
Shakira Visits Her Grandmother's Village in Lebanon
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 13/18/Colombian pop star Shakira on Friday visited the village in Lebanon where her paternal grandmother was born. "Hello Tannourine, thank you, I am happy to be here!", the 41-year-old singer said in Arabic during a visit under high security to the village of Tannourine in north Lebanon. Accompanied by local officials, Shakira visited a nature reserve that grows cedar trees -- Lebanon's national emblem -- and planted two saplings. To mark the occasion, a small patch of the reserve was named "Shakira Mubarak" -- after one of the singer's family names, Tannourine's mayor Bahaa Harb said. On Friday evening, she will kick off the Cedars International Festival in Lebanon, a concert set to attract 13,000 people. This is Shakira's third visit to the country. Her first visit came in 2003 and she returned in 2011 for a concert. The artist is in Lebanon with her two sons.

Guterres Appoints Del Col of Italy as Head of Mission and Force Commander of UNIFIL
Naharnet/July 13/18/United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres on Friday announced the appointment of Major General Stefano Del Col of Italy as Head of Mission and Force Commander of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). Major General Del Col succeeds Major General Michael Beary of Ireland, who will complete his assignment on 7 August 2018. The Secretary-General is grateful to Major General Beary for his exemplary service and leadership of UNIFIL over the past two years, a press release said. Major General Del Col has had a long and distinguished career in the Italian Army. As a Staff Officer in the Italian Army, he served as Special Projects Section Chief, as NATO Force Planning Section Chief and as Italian Army Liaison Officer to the British Army. From 2009 to 2011, he served as Defence Strategy and Operations Policy Branch Chief at the Defence Staff Headquarters in Rome. Since 2015, Major General Del Col has been the Senior Deputy Chief of the Cabinet Office of the Minister of Defence. He has extensive international operational experience, including in Kosovo, Lebanon and Libya. He served with UNIFIL in 2008 as Battalion Commander and in 2014-2015 as Commander of Sector West and Italian Contingent Commander. Born in 1961, Major General Del Col holds a Bachelor’s degree in Strategic Sciences and a Bachelor’s degree (with distinction) in International Relations and Diplomatic Sciences from the University of Trieste. He also holds a Master’s degree in Strategic Sciences from the University of Turin and a Master’s degree in International Military Studies from the University of Milan.

Kuwaiti Speaker Assures Aoun ‘No Travel Ban to Lebanon’, Later Meets Berri

Naharnet/July 13/18/Kuwait's National Assembly Speaker Marzouq al-Ghanim affirmed on Friday during talks with President Michel Aoun there is no travel advisory against Lebanon, the National News Agency reported. “There is no travel ban on Kuwaiti nationals to visit Lebanon,” said Ghanim during talks with Aoun at the Presidential Palace in Baabda. In November, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab States, and Bahrain issued advisories against travel to Lebanon amid a Lebanese-Saudi crisis sparked by Prime Minister Saad Hariri's controversial resignation from Riyadh which he has since rescinded. Several Lebanon travel warnings have been issued by the Gulf states in recent years amid political tensions and security fears. But in May, Hariri announced that Gulf states may soon lift the travel bans they had imposed on Lebanon in recent years. For his part, Aoun hailed Kuwait’s role and said “Emir of Kuwait's interest in Lebanon reflects in the permanent support in Arab, regional and international forums.” On the crisis of refugees, he said “the Lebanese always wonder about the international community’s lack of response regarding the return of Syrian refugees to safe areas in Syria.”Later during the day, Speaker Nabih Berri received Ghanim in Ain el-Tineh. Discussions have reportedly touched on the general developments. For his part, Ghanim stressed his country’s continued support for Lebanon “we will never let Lebanon stand alone. Kuwaiti nationals will never forget Lebanon’s honorable stance during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.”

Choucair Quotes Berri, ‘Cabinet Will Soon Be Formed

Naharnet/July 13/18/Speaker Nabih Berri sent positive signals on Friday on the controversial formation of the Cabinet during talks with Mohammed Choucair, Chairman of the Federation of Chambers of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture in Lebanon. After meeting the Speaker in Ain el-Tineh, Choucair quoted Berri as saying that the government will be “born soon,” pointing out to some practical steps facilitating its formation. Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri was tasked with forming the government on May 24. His task has been delayed since because of wrangling between political parties over Cabinet shares and portfolios. Differences have ranged between the Lebanese Forces and Free Patriotic Movement over the number of seats allocated for each in addition to the post of deputy prime minister. And, the so-called Druze obstacle and the representation of the Sunni opposition in the government.

Hizbullah Official: Govt. Delay May be Part of Saudi Scheme
Naharnet/July 13/18/A senior Hizbullah official suggested Friday that the delay in the government formation process could be “part of a Saudi scheme.” “The ongoing delay in the government formation process in Lebanon may be part of a Saudi scheme to evade the results of the parliamentary elections and blow up the size and shares of some of their tools in the government,” Sheikh Ali Daamoush, the deputy head of Hizbullah's Executive Council, said. He noted that such a scheme would be aimed at “advancing their policies against the resistance and its allies in Lebanon.”“The Lebanese must realize that this scheme is not in Lebanon's interest and that it is an attempt to undermine political stability,” Daamoush warned, adding that it is in everyone's interest to “preserve stability.” Urging Lebanese to “seek Lebanon's interest and not to be subordinates to foreign forces,” the Hizbullah official called for expediting the Cabinet formation process and warned that “any delay will contribute to aggravating the economic and financial situation which has reached difficult and dangerous levels.”

Hariri: Sectarianism is the Worst Curse in Our Political System
Naharnet/July 13/18/Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri said that any citizen has the right to be surprised by the lack of agreement on forming the government, at a time when everyone is aware of the negative impact of the delay, Hariri's press office said on Friday. “Everyone is wondering when will the government be formed and when will the workshop start to save the country? When will the state respect the promises of political, administrative and economic reform? And when will the graduates celebrate employment opportunities and not just receiving the certificate of graduation from university?” said Hariri. Hariri’s remarks came during his sponsorship of the graduation of AUST University students at the Seaside. He said: “It is not strange for AUST University to be called the university of hawks in Lebanon. This university has risen 30 years ago and has been able to take a leading position in the front lines of universities as a result of the efforts of its founders, teachers and graduates.Today we celebrate the graduation of a new class of hawks, and we see the joy in the eyes of young men and women, in the eyes of Dean Hiam Sakr and all the professors, and above all in the eyes of the families who have been waiting for this moment for years. July is usually the month of graduates from all Lebanese universities and schools. The class of today is similar to the rest of the classes that include thousands of graduates from different disciplines. I read on their faces questions addressed to the decision makers in Lebanon. When will the government be formed and when will the workshop start to save the country? When will the state respect the promises of political, administrative and economic reform? And when will the graduates celebrate the existence of employment opportunities and not just receiving the certificate of graduation from university? I want to tell you frankly that these questions are legitimate.
They have existed for fifty years, and you and your families are asking them. But now there can no longer be excuses, and it is no longer possible for young people to cover any failure or accept any justification. Yes, these questions are legitimate, because any citizen has the right to be surprised by the lack of agreement on forming the government, at a time when everyone is aware of the negative impact of the delay. These questions are legitimate, because everyone has the right to take his certificate and know where he is headed, in which country he will work, and the responsibility of the state in securing jobs. Everyone has the right to know why the rights of the communities should prevail over the rights of the state and why the quota policy should prevail over the norms and the constitution. This is why I do not see today’s celebration as an occasion to give advice to graduates. I do not want to play this role and I do not want to give you a list of promises that we are used to hear at graduation ceremonies. But I would like to honestly tell you that if you are looking for ways to break the sectarian chains in Lebanon, it is my job to look with you, because all the experiences in the country have shown that sectarianism is the worst curse in our political system.
My wish is to be one of you, to think like you, work with you and stand before you. My wish is to dream of the Lebanon you dream of, the Lebanon where you want to work and live and that you want to consider the most beautiful country in the Levant.
I always say that my confidence in the country, after my belief in God, is unshakable. With you, Lebanon has to progress and succeed in passing from the state of sects to the state of institutions. Congratulations for your graduation and to all the parents with whom we share the joy of celebration. In conclusion, I would like to tell you that the father of Martyr Prime Minister Rafic Hariri was a farmer who had nothing. He worked in the land and educated his children. Each one of you is capable of doing the same. Rafic Hariri studied and worked, and founded the Hariri Foundation because he wanted to see in each person who needed help another Rafic Hariri. Each one of you will hopefully be Rafic Hariri. I thank you and I thank Mrs. Hiam for giving me the chance to be with you and I wish the graduates, the administration and faculty success. I will always serve this country and its interest”.
At the end of the ceremony, the President of the University presented Premier Hariri with a shield, and the fashion design students presented him with a cloak specially designed for him.

Yemen Rebel Chief Praises Hizbullah, Iran
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/July 13/18/Yemen's rebel chief on Friday praised Iran and its ally Hizbullah, singling out the Lebanese group's leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah for his "solidarity."But Abdulmalik al-Huthi, whose fighters are battling Yemen's Saudi-backed government, again denied accusations of receiving smuggled weapons from Iran. In a speech broadcast on the rebels' Al Masirah TV, Huthi praised "the glory and dignity of Iran" and thanked Nasrallah for "solidarity with the people of Yemen from his position of greatness."While Iran acknowledges support for the Huthis' cause, it denies arming the rebels. Saudi Arabia has also accused Hizbullah of sending its fighters into Yemen. The party has denied the accusations. "The U.S., Saudi Arabia and the UAE know that talk of rockets entering Yemen from Iran through the Hodeida port are completely false," Huthi said via video link from an undisclosed location. Yemen's government, backed by the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and their regional allies, is battling the Huthis for control of the impoverished country. The conflict is now centered on the Red Sea city of Hodeida, home to the country's most valuable port and controlled by the Huthis. The United Nations, which recognizes the government of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, is pushing for a truce between rival parties to avoid further civilian suffering in a country teetering on the brink of famine. Huthi, who does not appear in public, said he had agreed to grant the U.N. "supporting logistical and technical role" in Hodeida, accusing the Saudi-led coalition of rejecting the offer.

Report: Druze Obstacle 'Fabricated' to Undermine PSP's Success in Elections
Naharnet/July 13/18/Amid the escalating war of words between the Progressive Socialist Party and Free Patriotic Movement, the PSP stressed on Friday that a so-called “Druze obstacle” was “fabricated” by some in order to eliminate the “sweeping victory” of the party in the general elections, al-Joumhouria daily reported. “The Druze obstacle was fabricated by political parties who planned to minimize the (parliamentary) elections’ results and eliminate the sweeping victory of the party,” PSP sources told the daily on condition of anonymity. The sources added: “Those who believe that a Cabinet share should be allocated to figures they believe are a national asset should give them of their own share,” not of the share of other parties. “The PSP Druze representation is strictly limited to three seats, no more, no less,” they concluded, amid insistence of Druze Lebanese Democratic Party chief MP Talal Arslan to get one of the seats.Arslan, of the Strong Lebanon parliamentary bloc which also includes the FPM, and several figures of the Free Patriotic Movement on Thursday launched scorching verbal attacks on PSP leader Walid Jumblat over shares in the Cabinet.

Hezbollah's Nasrallah Is Right: Israelis No Longer Want to Fight
نقلاً عن الهآررتس: نصرالله محق فإن إسرائيل لم تعد تريد أن تحارب

Ofri Ilany/Haaretz/July 13/18
Hezbollah chief Nasrallah says Israelis prefer to watch cooking shows than to go into battle. Researchers tend to agree – and see it as an advantage
On Israel’s 70th birthday, Germany’s parliament held a session marking the event. In his speech, the leader of the far-right Alternative for Germany party, like the heads of the other parties, committed to an alliance with Israel. But the AfD chief, Alexander Gauland, noted yet another factor that makes Israel an inspiration for the Germans: the Israelis’ readiness to die for their country.
Gauland also surprised his listeners by asserting that if Israel came under an existential threat, Germans should fight and even die for the Jewish state. “I am not certain whether the meaning of this sacrifice is actually understood in contemporary Germany,” he said, because “after two world wars Germany has become a post-heroic country, lying within its secure borders.”
Israel, in contrast, is battling for its existence every day. For Gauland – who has said his country should take pride in the deeds of the German army during World War II – Israel is a model heroic nation that, unlike Germany, hasn’t abandoned the old values of heroism. Similar views are espoused by leaders of fascist groups in Germany and elsewhere.
The AfD leader’s remarks might stir disgust, or perhaps an ironic smile, at the least. But they raise an important question: Is Israel truly a society of heroic fighters? Is it still fundamentally different than Europe? Some people will dispute this and argue that Gauland isn’t fully informed. Indeed, last month none other than Israel’s great enemy, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, cast doubt on Israelis’ heroism and strength.
“The only thing that interests the Israelis is cooking competitions on television,” he snorted. To him, that impression reinforces his famous saying that Israel is “weaker than a spider’s web.” As Nasrallah sees it, Israelis have become hedonistic and vulnerable, maybe even effeminate.
You don’t have to be Hezbollah chief to grasp that contemporary Israel is a post-heroic society. Similar opinions are voiced in Israel, too, notably in the discourse about army-society relations. Just last month, the ombudsman of the Israel Defense Forces, Maj. Gen. (res.) Yitzhak Brik, warned about disciplinary problems in the army stemming from the use of smartphones. Instead of talking to their soldiers directly, officers prefer to send them text messages, and this, Brik believes, erodes the command ethos and esprit de corps.
Not long ago, the mass-circulation newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported another symptom of decadence in the military: Drug use has become widespread in the IDF, among commanding officers as well, and including massive dealing in cannabis via the app Telegram. In addition, there have been allegations about the pampering of draftees, who complain to their parents about every perceived problem, from bland food to uncomfortable mattresses. With the backing of the worried parents, they treat the army as a service provider and act the part of grumpy clients.
War and PR heroes
Local sociologists too have identified a “post-heroic condition” in Israeli society. In its first decades, Israel was a markedly heroic society, spurred by an ethos of heroism in war. From the 1940s through the ‘60s, it revered war heroes such as Meir Har-Zion and Moshe Dayan. Accordingly, for years now the post-Zionist academic critique has targeted the new Zionist who, with body and soul, fulfills the vision of the “muscular Jew” articulated by the Zionist movement’s forefathers.
But many Israelis today grew up in a completely different cultural atmosphere. In the 21st century, this may be far from a peace-loving country, but it has long since espoused an ethos of valor. Israel is increasingly integrating into the post-heroic social climate that has characterized developing countries since World War II.
The latest issue of the journal Israel Affairs was devoted to “Israel’s post-heroic condition” and its expression in the media, public discourse, military strategy and various segments of society. The assumption of the researchers – none of whom can be suspected of harboring post-Zionist sentiments – is that Israel has been functioning post-heroically for decades now.
That hypothesis was first put forward by security affairs Prof. Avi Kober in 2013. He traced the phenomenon to two factors. First, the Israeli army hasn’t been engaged in a war of survival since 1973 and hasn’t waged conventional warfare against a foreign army since 1982. Israel only gets involved in low-intensity confrontations – a situation that has implications for its strategic culture. Second, the combat that does take place is increasingly based on sophisticated technology that no longer requires old-style heroes. For years the IDF has been striving to reduce its number of casualties in the knowledge that society’s tolerance for them is at an all-time low.
That point is well formulated in an article by political scientist Eitan Shamir of Bar-Ilan University. In his view, the changes in the Middle East, especially in Israel, have led defense chiefs to adopt American military concepts of post-heroic combat.
One element of that approach, which the U.S. military adopted beginning in the ‘90s, involves an effort to reduce the number of casualties and to rely heavily on precision weapons and precise intelligence. In other words, the discarding of the ethos of heroism is, in part at least, a conscious choice by the military. The IDF today is based more on drones and other unmanned aircraft than on fearless troops. Heroes are needed mainly for PR purposes by the IDF Spokesman’s Office in its messages to Israeli society.
Israel has also transformed the post-heroic condition into a public-diplomacy advantage. A 1950s-style macho militaristic country wouldn’t be very popular today. But the anxious, sensitive Israeli soldier who watches “Master Chef” on television and exchanges WhatsApp messages with his mother is capturing American – and sometimes also European – hearts.
At a time when Israeli snipers and drones are facing off against barefoot people on the brink of famine, heroic soldiers are less necessary. On the contrary: People who overrate heroism might mistakenly identify with Palestinians storming the Gaza border fence.
The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on July 13-14/18
Argentina Asks Russia to Arrest Iran’s Velayati over 1994 Blast
Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 13 July, 2018/Argentina has asked Russia to arrest former Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati for extradition in connection with the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center in Buenos Aires, the foreign ministry said Thursday. Velayati is in Russia as a special advisor to Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and will travel to China on Friday, so the same request has also been made to Chinese authorities, the foreign ministry said in a statement. Argentina is awaiting a response from Russia to the request, which was made "within the framework of the extradition treaty between the two countries," the statement said. Velayati was foreign minister when a bomb destroyed the headquarters of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) on July 18, 1994 leaving 85 dead and 300 people wounded.
He is charged with "committing the crime of homicide, classified as doubly aggravated for having been committed with racial or religious hatred and a suitable method to cause widespread danger," according to the judge responsible for the case. Lebanon's “Hezbollah” is accused of carrying out the bombing of the Jewish center and an attack on Israel's embassy in Buenos Aires two years earlier at Iran's request.
Analysis: Iran Role in Syria Key Item at Trump-Putin Summit
Associated Press/Naharnet/July 13/18/
When President Donald Trump meets Russia's Vladimir Putin on Monday, the Syrian conflict will be one of the most immediately pressing issues on a wide-ranging agenda. As fighting wanes after seven years of war, the U.S. has made curtailing Iran's influence in post-war Syria a strategic objective — one strongly backed by Israel. And U.S. and Russian officials have signaled that a broad framework for such a deal is likely to be the main outcome of the summit. Any agreement is likely to be general in nature, and discussions are likely to be centered more on limiting Iran's presence rather than ending it, analysts say.
A full withdrawal of Iranian-backed forces from Syria is a virtual non-starter. After years of ruinous civil war, Iran and its proxy militias, including the Lebanese Hezbollah, have built up a formidable presence stretching from the Iraqi border through central Syria to Lebanon. President Bashar Assad, with military and political assistance from Iran and Russia, has recaptured 60 percent of the country, putting an end to any serious talk of regime change. And, amid a declining U.S. role, Russia has emerged as an uncontested power broker in the country. Still, both Russia and the U.S. have an interest in working together in Syria and beyond, and while Russia and Iran have been on the same side of the war, their interests do not always converge. Here's a look at potential outcomes from Monday's meeting:
With Assad's removal from power no longer an actively sought objective, the focus has shifted to Iran's influence in Syria. Tehran is now believed to command up to 80,000 fighters in Syria — members of Shiite militias and paramilitary forces loyal to Iran. In an interview with CBS news this month, U.S. national security adviser John Bolton said Iran, not Assad, was the "strategic issue." Israel, for its part, has repeatedly warned it will not allow Iran or its Shiite proxies to establish a permanent presence in postwar Syria. After two weeks of intensive military operations, Assad's forces now control the southern city of Daraa, where the revolution against Assad started, and the surrounding countryside. They are ready to move west to the frontier near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, triggering concerns of a showdown between Israel and Iranian-backed forces nearby.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Putin in Moscow on Wednesday for talks focusing on Iran's presence in Syria. "Our opinion is known that Iran needs to leave Syria," Netanyahu said after that meeting.
So what might a potential deal look like?
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov last week said it would be "absolutely unrealistic" to expect Iran to fully withdraw from Syria. That signals Russian acceptance that at least some of those forces should pull back. Comments by some U.S. officials have also indicated what might be an emerging compromise. "There are possibilities for doing a larger negotiation on helping to get Iranian forces out of Syria and back into Iran, which would be a significant step forward," Bolton told CBS. One possibility is that Putin and Trump could reach a deal that would envisage the deployment of Syrian government forces along the frontier with the Israeli-held side of the Golan Heights and the withdrawal of Iranian forces and Hezbollah from the area. For that to happen, Israel would want guarantees that Assad honor a decades-old agreement that sets out a demilitarized zone along the frontier and limits the forces each side can deploy within 15 miles (25 kilometers). Ayham Kamel, an analyst with Eurasia Group, said Moscow may ask for acceptance of Assad and an eventual withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria, as Trump has suggested he would like to happen by the end of the year.
"A public deal that accepts Assad in return for limiting Iranian influence implicitly if not explicitly gives him some legitimacy," Kamel said.
Russia has called for Iranian troop withdrawal from a post-war Syria but cannot guarantee Iranian compliance. Moscow, however, may have enough leverage to persuade Tehran to stay away from the frontier with Israel and reduce the number of bases, missile factories and advisers it maintains in the country. Iran, following the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal, is facing stiff sanctions and cannot afford to lose Russia's support, nor will it be able to provide Assad with the same level of support. "While Assad needs the Iranians and the Russians, an Iran that is constrained by sanctions is much less useful to him over the long run. And as the civil war is winding down, Russian economic and political support becomes a little bit more important," Kamel said.'
Trump Says He Has Been 'Tougher on Russia than Anybody'
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/July 13/18/U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday said he had been "tougher on Russia than anybody," ahead of a summit with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Monday. "We have been far tougher on Russia than anybody... We have been extremely tough on Russia," he said at a joint press conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May. He recalled that 60 intelligence officers were expelled from the Russian embassy in Washington in response to a nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy in Britain. Russia has denied any involvement in the attack. "We have been very strong on Russia," Trump told reporters at the British premier's Chequers country residence, after talks with May. Trump's campaign and transition team have been accused of colluding with Russian agents in an effort to influence the 2016 U.S. election against Hillary Clinton. The U.S. president is due to meet Putin in Helsinki for talks in which he hopes to establish a good personal relationship with his Russian counterpart. US-Russian relations have suffered from years of disagreement over the Syrian conflict, Russia's annexation of Crimea and its involvement in eastern Ukraine. "I'm not going in with high expectations but we may come out with very surprising things," Trump said. The president said he wanted to develop a relationship with Putin, which he said would be "good for Russia, good for everybody." Trump claimed he would be going into the meeting with Putin with NATO better financed, more united and resolute. The U.S. president said he would be discussing Syria, the Middle East, Ukraine and nuclear proliferation. "That would be a tremendous achievement if we could do something on nuclear proliferation," he said. Trump said he did not think Russia would have invaded Crimea if he had been in the White House at the time. Referring to an ongoing investigation into ties between his election campaign and Russia, he decried a "rigged witch-hunt" that was hurting the United States and its relationship with Russia. May said the most important thing was that Trump would be going into the meeting with Putin with the 29-strong NATO military alliance united behind him. "We agree that it is important to engage Russia from a position of strength and unity and that we should continue to deter and counter all efforts to undermine our democracies," she said. Trump also slammed the Nord Stream II pipeline that is set to bring gas from Russia to Germany, calling it a "horrible mistake" that would give Moscow power over Berlin. "It's a horrific thing being done where you're feeding billions and billions of dollars from Germany... into the coffers of Russia when we're trying to do something so that we have peace in the world."

Iran Has No Intention to Leave Syria, Top Official Says
Associated Press/Naharnet/July 13/18/Iran has no intention of leaving Syria regardless of U.S. and Israeli pressure, a senior envoy to Iran's leader said Friday, reaffirming a tough stance on the issue expected to top the agenda of the upcoming U.S.-Russian summit.
The statement from Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior adviser to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, came in the wake of his meeting in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin. A day earlier, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Putin that Israel wants Iran to leave Syria. The high-level talks precede Monday's summit in Helsinki between Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump, who are set to discuss the Iranian presence in Syria. Both the U.S. and Israel want Iran to pull out of Syria, while Russia has warned it would be unrealistic to expect Iran to fully withdraw from the country.A possible deal could see Syrian troops replacing Iranian forces and Hizbullah fighters in the areas near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Velayati reaffirmed Iran's firm intention to maintain its presence in Syria, but skirted a question about a possible pullback from the border, saying only that Tehran won't bow to U.S. and Israeli coercion. "We coordinate the Iranian presence in Syria with Russia and Syria," Velayati said during a meeting at Moscow's Valdai Club discussion platform. "We will be present there the way we consider necessary. Sometimes we will play our role in Syria open-handed, sometimes we will do it with our hands hidden."While Velayati maintained a combative tone, his careful response reflected the intense diplomatic maneuvering ahead of the Helsinki summit. He expressed skepticism about the outcome of the meeting, repeating tough criticism of the U.S. and saying he didn't expect Trump to make any positive contribution to stabilizing the Middle East. Velayati argued that Iran along with Russia helped stem fighting in Syria and prevented the country from falling to the Islamic State group and other militants, scoffing at the U.S. demands to leave. "We have come there without the Americans' permission and we won't heed their demands to leave," he said. Velayati also strongly warned Russia against listening to the U.S. arguments about the Iranian presence in Syria."I told the Russian officials: Now the Americans are telling you that the Iranians must leave Syria and tomorrow they will ask you what you are doing in Syria," he said. "They are trying to split our alliance."

Putin Receives Khamenei Message As Velayati Defends Russian-Iranian 'Strategic Relationship'
Moscow- Raed Jabr/Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 13 July, 2018/Russian President Vladimir Putin held talks with top Iranian Supreme Leader Advisor Ali Akbar Velayati, who in turn delivered an oral message from Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and a written letter from President Hassan Rouhani. A two-hour meeting between the two discussed the future of Iranian-Russian relations, especially the future of oil cooperation as US Economic sanctions close in on Iran. At the end of the talks, both sides announced consensus to develop bilateral relations and enhance cooperation in various fields. Russian President Dmitry Peskov's Spokesman said Putin's talks with my country focused “first and foremost” on bilateral relations and mechanisms for boosting cooperation. The two discussed the regional situation, including Syria, as well as commitment to Iran's nuclear agreement. Russia’s Kremlin did not give further details on the outcome of the talks, but the Iranian embassy in Moscow announced that Velayati had held a series of meetings after talking to Putin, along with a number of Russian officials in different sectors. It is worth noting that the focus was mainly on Iranian oil exports in light of the increasing pressure from Washington. Velayati held long-term discussions with the Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak. “Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has long regarded relations with Russia as strategic,” Iranian state news agencies quoted Velayati as saying after meeting with Putin. He said Tehran's current policy with Moscow remained “under Khamenei's leadership.”More so, both Putin and his counterpart expressed satisfaction with bilateral cooperation between the two countries. On US sanctions, Velayati quoted Putin as rejecting US sanctions. The embargo, which is not approved by the Security Council, does not sit well with Putin, and Russia will not follow US suit with concerns to sanctioning Iran’s economy, Velayati added. The Iranian advisor went on to criticize US President Donald Trump, saying that “the world is under the influence of a person's actions which are in contrast with international laws,” stressing the importance of strengthening Iranian-Russian cooperation under current circumstances. Velayati also referred to the details of his talks with Putin on the Syrian crisis, denying the existence of differences in regional cooperation between the two countries. He also praised Russia's support for Iran at the international level, especially in the United Nations, adding that bilateral relations in the defense, political, economic and nuclear fields indicate a long-term cooperation program between the two countries. Velayati expressed his hope that his visit to Moscow and his talks with the Russian president and officials would be a turning point for strategic relations between the two countries and that Putin would soon visit Tehran. Velayati represents a wide circle of conservative politicians in Iran who prefer to deepen relations with Russia and China instead of having close ties with European countries, unlike the years-long orientation of Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s foreign policy work.

Airstrike kills 54 in Syria, US-led coalition hints at responsibility
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Friday, 13 July 2018/The US-led coalition fighting ISIS has announced that the “allied forces” launched an airstrike on Thursday in Syria’s eastern province of Deir Ezzor, which led to the death of dozens of people, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said. The Syrian monitor reported that 54 persons, among them ISIS militants, and 28 civilians have been killed in the air strike. Replying to Reuters request regarding this report, the spokesman for the US-led coalition Colonel Sean Rayan said: “probably the coalition or allied forces have launched strikes on the surrounding of al-Soussa and al-Baghouz Fawqani yesterday”. He added that a report about civilian casualties have been prepared to be looked into by a “follow up unit on civilian casualties in order to assess the situation” adding “we do not have any further details right now.” Al-Soussa lies to the east of the Euphrates River, in a pocket of territory still held by the extremists. Iraqi warplanes have recently carried out strikes against ISIS in eastern Syria, while coalition aircraft have been supporting Kurdish-led fighters battling the extremists. State news agency SANA reported the strike late Thursday, saying more than 30 civilians were killed and accusing the US-led coalition of carrying it out. ISIS fighters swept across Syria and Iraq in 2014, declaring a cross-border “caliphate” in areas they controlled. They have since lost most of that territory to various offensives, but still retain pockets of land in Syria including in the country’s vast Badiya desert and in Deir Ezzor. ISIS fighters have faced two separate offensives in Deir Ezzor on either side of the Euphrates River that cuts through the province. Russia-backed regime forces have pushed back the militants on the western side of the Euphrates, while the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces alliance has battled them to its east. Last month, an ISIS incursion into the town of Albu Kamal on the west of the Euphrates left dozens of pro-regime fighters dead. Attacks spiked after the extremists were evacuated from their last bastion outside Damascus in May, many heading to the Badiya desert, the Observatory said. ISIS also has a presence in the northwestern province of Idlib, as well as in the southwestern province of Daraa where it has been battling opposition fighters in recent days. The government and rebels last week announced a ceasefire agreement as the regime moves to retake control of the whole of the province, but ISIS is excluded from that deal. The extremists hold a corner of territory in Daraa on the border with Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Overnight Wednesday-Thursday, they seized the nearby village of Heet from rebels who had agreed to hand over their heavy weapons to the regime after deadly clashes. (with AFP)

Russia Hands Over ‘Birthplace’ of Syria Uprising to Regime Control
Beirut, London/Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 13 July, 2018/Syrian regime forces on Thursday entered opposition-held parts in the southern city of Daraa, dubbed the “birthplace” for the anti-regime revolution given that Syrian protests first broke out there in the spring of 2011.
Eyewitnesses said regime vehicles accompanied by Russian military police entered Daraa to raise a national flag near the post office, the only remaining government building in rebel-controlled part of the city. It is worth noting that Syrian rebels have taken control over the city since 2011. For seven years since then, the war has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and displaced more than half of the country's population. Thursday reports said an agreement had been reached between the regime and the armed opposition factions under the condition that the latter turns in weapons in their possession. Opposition fighters count on the Russian military police to prevent any regime retaliations or vengeful violence. The arrangement also sees that the regime keeps from opposition area, especially after many complaints of looting and arrests in other towns in the province of Daraa emerged post regime regain of control. The regime currently controls about 80 percent of the Daraa governorate, and factions hold control over about 15 percent. Meanwhile, terror group ISIS took control over a village where opposition factions undertook negotiations with regime forces in southern Syria. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human rights, at least 30 fighters were killed in fierce clashes pitting Syrian rebels and ISIS terrorists. A rebel official told Reuters negotiations were proceeding smoothly, with the Russians so far abiding by the terms of a deal that includes weapons handovers, evacuation of rebels opposed to the deal and return of state sovereignty. "Everyone is committed to the agreements," said rebel official Abu Jihad, adding rebels had already begun since late Wednesday handing over their heavy weapons. A convoy of Russian military police was expected to enter the devastated area later on Thursday, in the first such deployment inside the enclave where they were expected to set up observation posts and perform security checks. Rebels are pinning hopes on the Russian military police to prevent the army from taking revenge and entering certain areas after complaints of widespread looting and some arrests in other towns in Daraa province they have gained control over."There is a guarantee by the Russians that the army will not enter Daraa al Balad," said Abu Bayan, a leader of a rebel faction in the city, referring to the name of the area.
Long-jailed Iran former deputy PM dies aged 86
AFP, Tehran/Friday, 13 July 2018/A former Iranian deputy prime minister who spent years in jail on charges of spying for the US died Thursday at the age of 86, state media reported. Abbas Amir-Entezam, regarded as a liberal, had spent decades in jail after being found guilty of espionage and treason shortly after the 1979 Islamic revolution. Amir-Entezam, who was in poor health following his years in prison, died following a “cardiac arrest”, according to state news agency IRNA. The Fars news agency said he had been at home at the time and could not be resuscitated. It was not clear how long he had been out of prison and under what conditions he had been allowed to return home. Amir-Entezam was widely considered by human rights groups to be Iran’s longest-serving political prisoner. He was a deputy prime minister and government spokesman in the provisional government headed by Mehdi Bazargan after the revolution that overthrew Iran’s Shah. But he opposed moves to turn the state into an Islamic republic. The government sent him to Sweden as an ambassador, but he was later recalled, arrested and sentenced to life in prison in 1981 for spying for the United States -- a charge he always denied. After serving a 17-year sentence, he was arrested again in 1998 after making critical statements about the former head of the Evin prison near Tehran. After a brief period of liberty, he was detained again in the early 2000s and sent back to prison after calling for a referendum on the country’s political system. In 2017, he gave an interview to the Tarikh Online (“History Online”) site. He was unable to hold back his tears as he recalled being prevented from seeing his family for the first “six or seven years” of his detention. He said his jailers had forbidden him from wearing shoes, even confiscating those he had made himself. A number of human rights organizations expressed their support for Amir-Entezam, and in 1997 he was awarded the Austrian Bruno Kreisky prize for human rights.

Moscow Denies Death of Dozens of Soldiers in Syria
Moscow – Raed Jabr/Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 13 July, 2018/Russia’s Defense Ministry denied news that dozens of Russian military personnel have been killed in Daraa by a suicide attack on a Russian convoy. A statement issued by the ministry said Wednesday that its forces operating in Syria have not been subjected to any attack in the recent period, “neither in the southern region nor in any other region.” It stressed that the news circulated by the media about deaths in the ranks of the Russian military in Daraa province was “baseless.”“ISIS terrorists intentionally spread false reports about the death of Russian servicemen in Syria,” the Ministry of Defense said. “All Russian servicemen are alive, healthy, and fulfilling their duties according to plan,” said the Defense Ministry, calling the media report about the death of the Russians “another fake” news story. Moscow earlier denied reports of casualties among the Russian military personnel, and it later confirmed that they had been attacked and suffered casualties. Earlier this year, Moscow denied reports that the Hameimim base had been attacked with marlin aircraft, but it admitted weeks later that the attack killed at least two people and destroyed a number of Russian planes on the runway. On the other hand, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Russia would reconsider supplying the Syrian regime with S-300 missile defense systems if it receives an official request in this regard. "The decision to provide this type of weapon to any foreign army is made at an official request, which is not yet answered and therefore, it is too early to talk about it now," Shoygu said in an interview with the Italian newspaper El Giornale. According to the minister, Russia refused several years ago to supply Syria with S-300 missiles defense system at the request of Israel and a number of Western countries. He added that “in light of the recent US-British-French aggression against Syria, Moscow is ready to review its position”.

Israel summons EU envoy in row over controversial bill
AFP, Jerusalem/Friday, 13 July 2018/Israel summoned the EU ambassador on Thursday over allegations of interference in the passage of a controversial law, which could pave the way for Jewish-only communities. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the foreign ministry to “reprimand” EU envoy Emanuele Giaufret, warning “additional steps” were planned. The summons is tied to the so-called nation-state law, which Netanyahu wants to pass by the end of the month. The proposed legislation would allow the state to “authorize a community composed of people having the same faith and nationality to maintain the exclusive character of that community.”That was seen as allowing towns to exclude Arab citizens, who account for some 17.5 percent of Israel’s population, or even other Jewish communities. Concerns expressed. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, whose role is mainly symbolic, expressed concerns about the bill in a rare intervention in the country’s politics. Attorney general Avichai Mandelblit has also raised opposition to the text, which if passed could become part of the country’s basic laws that serve as a de facto constitution. According to Israel media, European diplomats have told lawmakers in the country that the law is discriminatory and against democratic principles. Netanyahu’s office accused the European Union of “interfering with Israeli legislation”. “Apparently they do not understand that Israel is a sovereign state,” his office said.

Israel Fires Missile at Drone from Syria, 2nd Time This Week
Associated Press/Naharnet/July 13/18/Israel fired a Patriot missile at an unmanned aircraft that approached the country's border from Syria for the second time this week, the military said Friday. The defense system was fired at a Syrian drone "flying over the demilitarized zone," adding that it was "most likely intercepted," the military said. It said the military will "operate against attempts to violate the 1974 Separation of Forces Agreement, threats to Israeli sovereignty and any attempt to harm Israeli civilians."Israeli leaders have recently reiterated that they expect Syrian President Bashar Assad and his Iranian-backed allies to honor the agreement which sets out a demilitarized zone along the frontier and limits the number of forces each side can deploy within 25 kilometers (15 miles) of the zone. On Wednesday, a drone traveled about 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) inside Israeli territory before it was shot down. That incident came as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Moscow for talks with Vladimir Putin about Syria and Iran. Russia has been a key ally of the Syrian government in its civil war. Israel's main concern is keeping archenemy Iran, an Assad ally, as far away from its border as possible — along with its ally Lebanon's Hizbullah.The Israeli military targeted Syrian military positions Thursday in response. Last month, Israel fired a missile at a drone that approached its airspace near the Syrian frontier, and in February it shot down what it said was an Iranian drone that entered its airspace. It bombed Iranian targets in Syria in response.
Israeli Patriot missile targets a drone near Golan Heights
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Friday, 13 July 2018/Israel launched a Patriot interceptor missile on Friday at a drone spotted approaching from Syria near Israeli-occupied Golan Heights close to the Lake of Tiberias (Bohayrat Tabaraya). Tel Aviv has warned Damascus of any kind of approaches towards the Golan Heights, occupied by Israel in 1967. In June 24, the Israeli army said its air forces launched a missile towards a drone which was near its northern border coming from Syria and forced it to retreat back. While in February Israel said an Iranian made drone was spotted approaching which led to escalation between the two countries and consequently leading to the the Syrian side to shoot down an Israeli F-16 fighter jet. Israel has repeatedly warned of Iran’s growing military presence in nearby Syria which it considers as a threat to its security. The Israeli army has launched multiple air strikes against Iranian and pro-Iranian targets in Syria, while an American official said that the Israeli army has carried out an attack targeting the site of an Iraqi armed group in eastern Syria on June 17. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Russia on Wednesday that Israel would not seek to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad but that Moscow, his key ally, should encourage Iranian forces to quit Syria, a senior Israeli official said. Israel has been on high alert as Syrian government forces advance on rebels in the vicinity of the occupied Golan Heights. Israel worries Assad could let his Iranian allies entrench near its lines or that Syrian forces may defy a 1974 Golan demilitarization. Earlier this week, state media said air defense systems struck an Israeli warplane and shot down Israeli missiles targeting the T4 air base in Homs province. Israel neither confirmed nor denied carrying out that strike.

Palestinian teen killed by Israeli fire on Gaza border: ministry

AFP, Gaza City, Palestinian Territories/Friday, 13 July 2018/A Palestinian teenager was shot dead Friday by Israeli soldiers during clashes near the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel, the territory's health ministry said. The 15-year-old was killed east of Gaza City, while 25 other Palestinians were wounded as protests along the frontier spilled over into clashes, ministry spokesman Ashraf Al-Qodra said.

ISIS claims responsibility in Pakistan poll rally attack as toll rises to 70
Reuters, AFP, Quetta /Friday, 13 July 2018/A suicide bomber killed 70 people at an election rally in southwestern Pakistan in the second election-related attack on Friday, officials said, amid growing tensions over ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif's return ahead of the July 25 vote. ISIS claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing at an election rally in southwestern Pakistan, the group’s AMAQ news agency said on Friday. The group provided no further detail or evidence for its claim.The bombing was the biggest attack in Pakistan in over a year and is the third incident of election-related violence this week. Baluchistan caretaker Health Minister Faiz Kakar told Reuters that the death toll had risen to 70 people, with over 120 wounded. Police had earlier said that more than 1000 people were in attendance at the rally. Earlier, Agha Umar Bungalzai, provincial home minister, told AFP that the explosion in Mastung town, near the provincial capital of Quetta, killed Siraj Raisani, who was running for a provincial seat with Balochistan Awami Party (BAP). “Mir Siraj Raisani succumbed to wounds while he was being shifted to Quetta,” he added. Raisani was younger brother of former provincial chief minister Mir Aslam Raisani. The explosion comes hours after four people were killed and 39 injured when a bomb hidden inside a motorcycle detonated near a Pakistani politician's convoy in the country's northwest near the Afghan border. The earlier blast, near the town of Bannu, was targeting the convoy of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) candidate Akram Khan Durrani, who survived the attack, police said. Days earlier a bomb claimed by the Pakistani Taliban targeted a rally by the Awami National Party (ANP) in the city of Peshawar on Tuesday. Hospital officials said Friday that the toll in that attack had risen to 22.
Trump blasts UK PM May’s Brexit plan, says it puts trade deal in doubt
Reuters, England /Friday, 13 July 2018/US President Donald Trump said a free trade deal with Britain might be impossible if it went ahead with Prime Minister Theresa May’s proposals for post-Brexit ties with the European Union, in damaging remarks that could widen domestic criticism of her plans. In an interview with Britain’s Sun newspaper published late on Thursday, Trump said May’s plans for a business-friendly Brexit would leave it too close to the EU to allow a new trans-Atlantic trade deal to be struck. Just hours earlier at a lavish dinner to mark Trump’s first visit to Britain as president, May made a direct pitch for a deal with Washington. She praised the friendship between the two allies, glossing over Trump’s previous remarks that Britain was a “hot spot” in turmoil over Brexit. Referring to May’s Brexit proposals, Trump told the Sun, Britain’s top-selling newspaper, “If they do a deal like that, we would be dealing with the European Union instead of dealing with the UK, so it will probably kill the deal.”Trump chastised May for ignoring his advice on Brexit and not making a credible threat to walk away from talks. “I would have done it much differently,” he told the Sun, which urged its readers to back Brexit before a referendum in June 2016. “I actually told Theresa May how to do it, but she didn’t listen to me.”His comments came at the end of a tumultuous few days for May, during which two senior ministers resigned in protest at her plans for trade with the EU after Britain leaves the bloc next March. Trump said that one of them, former foreign secretary Boris Johnson, “would be a great Prime Minister.” Trump has frequently angered British politicians. Late last year May criticized him for retweeting a message by a member of a British far-right group and the speaker of Britain’s parliament has said Trump would not be welcome to address it. May’s critics have said, however, that she reins in criticism of Trump due to the strong desire of many in her Conservative Party to reach a trade deal with the United States after Brexit. May’s “business-friendly” Brexit plan would keep Britain in a free trade zone for goods with the EU but mean it had to accept some EU rules. It was agreed by her cabinet only last Friday after two years of wrangling since Britons voted to leave the bloc in the referendum. Some Brexit supporters have cast May’s Brexit plan as a betrayal, including lawmakers in her own deeply divided party who have warned of a leadership challenge.
Najaf Province HQ and airport
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Friday, 13 July 2018/In a latest development surrounding the protests in Iraq, angry protesters stormed Najaf province HQ and airport on Friday. Al-Hadath news channel reporter said that no clashes between protesters and local police were registered and that the security personnel allowed them to enter the province HQ and airport to demonstrate peacefully. Also, in the Iraqi city of Nasiriyah, protests continued against the government performance, while gunfire was heard, while protesters in the capital Baghdad called on the government to improve services. On Thursday, three demonstrations outside major oilfields in the southern oil hub of Basra involved dozens of residents demanding jobs and better public services. Two protesters were wounded, police and hospital sources said, without elaborating after the incident near an entrance to the giant West Qurna 2 oilfield, run by Lukoil.
Local workers said around 10 protesters managed to briefly enter a crude separation facility before police pushed them back. An angry crowd set fire to a caravan used by police, said two policemen at the scene. Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi arrived in the province of Basra straight from Brussels in an attempt to contain the five-day protests against poverty, unemployment and corruption. The Iraqi government announced the allocation of 10,000 jobs for the people of Basra, while the Iraqi council of ministers formed a delegation headed by the minister of oil, in order to search for urgent solutions to the problems in Basra, where he ordered the appointment of 250 residents north of Basra to join the problem solving process. The unrest did not impact production at West Qurna 2 or the other two fields, West Qurna 1 and Rumaila, two oil officials said. Iraq’s oil ministry later issued a statement saying that production at West Qurna 2 was proceeding normally and that security forces were in control of the situation near the oilfields. Oil exports from Basra account for more than 95 percent of OPEC producer Iraq’s state revenues. Any potential disruptions to production could severely impact the economy. The demonstrations escalated after police opened fire last week to disperse dozens of protesters near the giant southern West Qurna-2 oilfield, killing one person and wounding three.
Sensitive time
Tensions over basic services come at a sensitive time when Iraqi political blocs are attempting to form a coalition government after a May 12 parliamentary election tainted by allegations of fraud. Easing hardship will not be easy. Iraq needs tens of billions of dollars to rebuild after its war with Islamic State. “We want jobs, we want to drink clean water, and electricity. We want to be treated like human beings and not animals,” said Husam Abdul Ameer, 25, an unemployed college graduate from Basra. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has ordered a ministerial committee to look into the protesters’ demands. About 70 people gathered near a joint entrance leading to the key oilfields of Rumaila, operated by BP, and West Qurna 1, run by Exxon Mobil, said police officers in charge of protecting the oilfields perimeters. Some called on foreign companies to create jobs. “Why should young men from Basra beg for jobs while oil companies are hiring foreign workers,” protest organizer Falih al-Darraji told Reuters. “That’s unfair and should stop, otherwise we will not only demonstrate near the oilfield but will break in.” Some local officials said the complaints were justified. “Protesters have fair demands and they are peaceful so far. If the government does not respond quickly, we fear things will get out of control in Basra,” said Faris Shaddad, the head of energy panel of Basra provincial council. Other protesters gathered at a main road to the east of Basra leading to a border crossing with Iran, preventing trucks from moving, custom officials said.
(With Reuters)

Egypt Sentences 13 to Death for Prison Escape
Cairo- Walid Abdul Rahman/Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 13 July, 2018/An Egyptian court sentenced on Thursday 13 defendants to death over their convictions of murder and jailbreak from Al-Mostakbal Prison at Ismailia -- four of the defendants belong to Sinai-based Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis. Ismailia Criminal Court ordered execution of the 13 defendants, including six in custody and seven fugitives, for killing a police officer and a civilian during a jailbreak attempt in 2016 in Egypt's Suez Canal city of Ismailia. Back then, the Ministry of Interior revealed in a statement that the security services in Al-Mostakbal Prison notified the relevant parties that a number of prisoners attempted to escape. Ismailia Criminal Court referred the file of the 13 defendants to the Mufti of Egypt. The defendants (the first till the ninth) were charged with killing three officers and a citizen. The public prosecution faced the defendants with charges of using force for the sake of intimidating the officers and policemen working in the deportation administration in Mostakbal city, disrupting public security and escaping the prison. The public prosecution investigations affirmed that the defendants arrested a police guard, detained him in their cell and tortured him in order to escape. Meanwhile, the Appeal Court (the highest judiciary authority in the country) upheld the sentence of the criminal court of nine years imprisonment in the case of the nine accused men and five years imprisonment in the case of one accused. Terrorism has prevailed in Egypt since the military ousted the Muslim Brotherhood in July 2013. The public prosecution accused the detained with provoking violent acts that undermine public interest, killing of innocent civilians and belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood that is considered a terrorist organization in Egypt.

New Round of Intra-Palestinian Talks to be Launched in Cairo
Cairo - Waleed Abdul Rahman/Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 13 July, 2018/The intra-Palestinian reconciliation accord has made some progress as a new round of talks is expected to be launched in Cairo soon under Egyptian sponsorship, according to an informed Egyptian source. The source told Asharq Al-Awsat that all members of the Hamas delegation arrived on Thursday and meetings will begin soon, however, the issues intended to be discussed are still not determined. Talks are expected to touch on the reconciliation between the Palestinian factions, political developments of the Palestinian cause, the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, as well as the bilateral relationship between Egypt and Palestine at the political and security level, according to Egyptian sources. Egyptian officials responsible for the Palestinian file in the Egyptian intelligence service invited a top delegation from the Hamas political bureau to Egypt. The delegation, which reached Cairo on Wednesday evening arriving from the Gaza Strip and from outside the Palestinian territories, was led by Saleh al-Arouri, deputy head of Hamas political bureau, along with Mousa Abu Marzuq, Hussam Badran and Izzat al-Rishq, in addition to Khalil Hayya and Rohi Mushtaha who arrived from the enclave. The sources noted that the meetings will discuss the opening of the Rafah crossing until Eid al-Adha, the situation in the Gaza Strip and serious health and environmental conditions. They also stressed the need to end the crisis of the crossing, while exerting all possible efforts to end the suffering of citizens and improve humanitarian and economic conditions. There are indications that an agreement with Egypt to establish a number of economic projects to support the Gaza Strip is possible, according to the sources. “Back then, Egypt sent aid to the Strip and allowed the transfer of injured citizens to Egyptian hospitals, in addition to the opening of the Rafah crossing for the transfer of food aid and basic needs for the residents of the Strip, after Israel closed Kerem Shalom crossing,” indicated the sources. The visit of the Hamas delegation to Cairo, coincided with a trip made by the Fatah delegation led by Azzam al-Ahmad. "It seems that many obstacles have been removed in order to complete the reconciliation agreement, adding to that the remarkable development of Egyptian relations with Hamas on the humanitarian and political situation in the Gaza Strip. Egypt is assuming more responsibilities towards the Strip in cooperation with Hamas," several observers indicate. Fatah official Emad Omar told Asharq Al-Awsat that the meetings have to do with reconciliation; but so far, “no one knows what will come out of the talks and what issues are included on the agenda.” He asserted it will all be clear in the coming days.
UK police confirm source of Novichok poisoning
The Associated Press, London /Friday, 13 July 2018/British detectives investigating the poisoning of two people by the nerve agent Novichok in southwestern England said Friday that a small bottle found in the home of one of the victims tested positive for the deadly substance. Dawn Sturgess, 44, and Charlie Rowley, 45, were sickened on June 30 in a town not far from Salisbury, where British authorities say a Russian ex-spy and his daughter were poisoned with Novichok in March. Sturgess died in a hospital on Sunday. Her partner, Charlie Rowley, initially was in critical condition, but has regained consciousness. The Metropolitan Police said the small bottle was found during searches of Rowley’s house Wednesday and scientists confirmed the substance in the bottle was Novichok. Police have interviewed Rowley in recent days since he recovered consciousness. Police are still looking into where the bottle came from and how it came to be in Rowley’s house. Further tests will be carried out to establish whether it is from the same batch that was used to poison Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in March. Assistant Police Commissioner Neil Basu said no more details would be provided about the bottle. More than 100 police officers had been searching for the source of Rowley and Sturgess’ exposure in the towns of Amesbury, where they lived, and Salisbury, where the Skripals were poisoned. Basu said cordons would remain in place in some locations to protect the public despite the apparent breakthrough in the case. “This is clearly a significant and positive development. However, we cannot guarantee that there isn’t any more of the substance left,” Basu said. “This is to allow thorough searches to continue as a precautionary measure for public safety and to assist the investigation team.” Britain’s Foreign Office said Friday that the UK has asked the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to collect sample for analysis at its labs. The organization has the power to assign blame for chemical weapons use. The Novichok saga began in March when Sergei and Yulia Skripal mysteriously fell ill on a park bench in Salisbury. They were found to have been poisoned with Novichok, a lethal nerve agent produced in the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Prime Minister Theresa May blamed the Russian government for the attack, which the Kremlin has vehemently denied. The Skripals survived and have been released from a hospital, but are in a secret protected location. The case led the United States and other countries to expel a large number of Russian diplomats. Public health officials say the risk to the public is low, but advised people not to pick up any strange items.
Ousted Pakistani PM Sharif arrested after flying home to face jail
Reuters, Lahore/Friday, 13 July 2018/Ousted Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam were arrested on Friday after flying back to the country to face lengthy prison sentences, in a high-stakes gamble to galvanize their beleaguered party ahead of a July 25 election. Uniformed men escorted the Sharifs, who were sentenced in absentia on corruption charges last week, from their airplane after it touched down in the central city of Lahore at around 8:45 p.m. (1645 GMT), a Reuters reporter on board said.
A spokesman for Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party confirmed they were arrested soon afterwards. Local Geo TV said Sharif and his daughter were taken to another waiting aircraft to be flown out of Lahore, where more than 10,000 Sharif supporters were gathered to greet him. The flight carrying the Sharifs landed in the central city of Lahore just before 9 p.m. (1600 GMT) as security forces were stationed around the city to prevent mass demonstrations by their political supporters. The Sharifs’ return could shake up an election race increasingly marred by accusations Pakistan’s powerful military is working behind the scenes to skew the contest in favour of ex-cricket hero Imran Khan, who describes Sharif as a “criminal” who deserves no support.

The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published
on July 13-14/18
Better relations with Russia are a worthy goal. But at what price?
ديفيد إغناطيوس من الواشنطن بوست:علاقات أميركية روسية أفضل هو أمر جيد ولكن مقابل أي ثمن

David Ignatius/The Washington Post/July 13/18
As the Helsinki summit approaches, President Trump appears to be on the verge of acquiescing to parts of the belligerent strategy and behavior that Moscow has been pursuing for decades.
The summit will be a culmination of Trump’s often-proclaimed eagerness for better relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin. “He’s not my enemy. And hopefully someday maybe he’ll be a friend,” Trump said Thursday during a news conference in Brussels. Critics ask: At what cost, and for what reason?
Trump obviously relishes this latest installment in the reality-television series that is his presidency. The danger is that the summit will implicitly condone Putin’s brutal tactics in Ukraine, Syria, the European Union and the United States — and foster further discord within the NATO alliance, a Russian goal for nearly 70 years. Trump should consider the possibility that “Helsinki” could someday become a symbolic name for appeasement, like Munich in 1938 or Yalta in 1945.
Russia’s new diplomatic ascendancy is a Kremlin dream fulfilled. When I was in Moscow last summer, Sergey Karaganov, the head of Russia’s Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, bluntly proclaimed Russia’s hope to dissolve the “liberal international order” symbolized by NATO and the other institutions that long sustained American power. “That order we did not like, and we are doing away with it,” he said.
“Putin is about to get absolution,” fears Tom Donilon, who was a national security adviser for President Barack Obama. In Trump’s enthusiasm for reconciliation with Russia, he seems unaware that he may be seen as ratifying a long string of malign Russian goals and actions, including:
● Uncoupling the United States from its allies in Europe. Trump’s recent sideswipes at a “captive” Germany and an “unfair” NATO deepened European worries that, in a showdown with Russia, the United States wouldn’t risk nuclear war to defend its allies. Once the credibility of this U.S. commitment is gone, NATO’s ability to deter Russia becomes hollow. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas lamented last month that under Trump, “the Atlantic has become wider.”
● Sowing political division in America and Europe, thereby undermining democracies. U.S. intelligence agencies warned that Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election was “the most recent expression of Moscow’s long-standing desire to undermine the U.S.-led liberal democratic order.” The Senate Intelligence Committee last week endorsed the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia tried to help Trump, who continues to deride the Russia investigation as a “witch hunt.” For Kremlin covert-action planners, Trump is the gift that keeps on giving.
● Dominating the political future of Syria and gaining new leverage across the Middle East. With Trump’s acquiescence, Russia’s successful military intervention to rescue Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has made the Kremlin the new indispensable power in the region — simultaneously maintaining close relations with Israel, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan. One little-noted sign of Russia’s new influence is its partnership with Saudi Arabia in shaping global oil production and prices, through what analysts call “OPEC Plus.”
● Annexing Crimea and destabilizing Ukraine. Trump has all but capitulated U.S. opposition to Russia’s seizure of Crimea in 2014, arguing that it occurred on Obama’s watch and isn’t his problem. “What will happen with Crimea from this point on? That, I can’t tell you,” he said Thursday. As president, Trump hasn’t uttered a peep about the July 2014 shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine, killing 298 people. The Dutch government, after lengthy investigation, said this past May that the evidence showed Russia was responsible.
● Hacking into U.S. nuclear power plants and other energy facilities in what was described as a “multistage intrusion campaign” in a March 15 report by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. This cyberassault is one example of a pervasive, global Russian campaign to harass and subvert U.S. interests. Another is the Kremlin’s covert supply of weapons to Taliban fighters that are killing U.S. troops in Afghanistan. “We know that the Russians are involved,” declared Gen. John Nicholson, the U.S. commander in Kabul, in March.
● Poisoning an ex-Russian spy living in Britain, using a deadly nerve agent called Novichok. This reckless and sloppy attack nearly killed Sergei Skripal and his daughter in March , and residue appears to have killed a passerby this month. Russia denies any involvement, despite evidence gathered by Scotland Yard. It’s brazen behavior, even by Kremlin standards.
Improving relations with Russia is a worthy goal — so long as it doesn’t undermine security or reward bad behavior. Putin is a bully who is emboldened by his every success. You could say he and Trump were made for each other.

Pompeo prioritises ‘Iran threats’ in meeting with Saudi FM Al Jubeir
Meeting came ahead of a major Iran speech from the US secretary of state which he will deliver next week
Joyce Karam/The National/July 13/18
US secretary of state Mike Pompeo on Thursday made Iran his primary issue both in tweets criticising Tehran and in meetings he held in Brussels with Saudi foreign minister Adel Al Jubeir , Iraqi PM Haider Al Abadi, and members of the anti-ISIS coalition.
Mr Pompeo's meetings were on the margins of the NATO Summit in Brussels and were primarily with Middle East and European counterparts. In his meeting with Mr Jubeir, the US chief diplomat committed to “further deepening US-Saudi cooperation” and paid special emphasis to “address the full array of threats posed by Iran.”
In that context, and according to the US read-out of the meeting Mr Pompeo conveyed to Mr Jubeir president Donald Trump’s “desire to see the Gulf dispute [Qatar crisis] eased and eventually resolved.”
That goal of having “our Gulf partners … work together to promote regional security and stability, and stand against Iran’s destabilising activities.”
Four regional countries including Saudi Arabia have been boycotting Qatar since June of 2017 over accusations of supporting radical organisations, meddling in the internal affairs of other countries, and breaching the Riyadh agreement of 2013. Despite a request from the Quartet countries to Doha to downgrade its ties with Tehran, Qatar has moved closer to Iran in the last year, with increased business and diplomatic exchanges between the two.
Washington has been pushing in the last few months for a compromise to end the dispute in hopes of hosting the Gulf states at a Camp David summit this September. These efforts have stalled, however, given the growing differences between the parties.
On Yemen, Mr Pompeo and Mr Jubeir “agreed on the importance of all sides supporting the UN-led political process, facilitating critical humanitarian and commercial access, and working toward a comprehensive agreement to end the conflict.”
Iran was also on the agenda of Mr Pompeo’s meetings with EU high representative for foreign and security policy Federica Mogherini and with the anti-ISIS coalition.
Addressing the Europeans especially in the light of the latest attack plot by Iran that was foiled in Paris, Mr Pompeo tweeted:
“We ask our allies & partners to join our economic pressure campaign against #Iran’s regime. We must cut off all funding the regime uses to fund terrorism & proxy wars. There’s no telling when Iran may try to foment terrorism, violence & instability in one of our countries next.”
We ask our allies & partners to join our economic pressure campaign against #Iran’s regime. We must cut off all funding the regime uses to fund terrorism & proxy wars. There’s no telling when Iran may try to foment terrorism, violence & instability in one of our countries next.
He accused Iran of sending “weapons across the Middle East, in blatant violation of UN Security Council resolutions... It’s our responsibility to stop it.”
On Syria, Mr Pompeo said that the US along with the UK, France, Germany, Saudi Arabia and Jordan is reaffirming “support for the Syrian political process and our goals of removing Iran’s influence, defeating #ISIS, deterring chemical weapons use.”
In his meeting with Mr Abadi, he praised Baghdad’s counterterrorism efforts. He also commended “the robust cooperation occurring between the International Coalition and the Iraqi Security Forces, including the Peshmerga, in the continued battle against ISIS...and the military operations underway to protect Iraq’s borders and sovereignty.”
Following the contested elections in Iraq last May, Mr Pompeo noted “recent efforts to ensure the integrity of the parliamentary elections and encouraged the Prime Minister and all of Iraq’s leaders to work expeditiously towards a centrist government that expresses the will of all Iraqi people.”
The secretary of state will deliver remarks on Iran next Sunday at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California. The speech called “Supporting Iranian Voices” will be delivered after meeting members of the Iranian-American community in the United States. This would be Mr Pompeo’s second major speech on Iran since taking office in April.

Analysis/If Moscow's 'Deal of the Century' for Iran Works, Both Damascus and Jerusalem Will Smile
زفي بارل من الهآررتس: في حال نجح اتفاق العصر المتعلق بإيران فإن دمشق والقدس سوف يبتسمان

Zvi Bar'el/Haaretz/July 13/18
Reports from Russia after Putin’s meeting with Netanyahu show that Russia indeed plans to act to withdraw the Iranian forces in exchange for an Israeli promise not to hurt Assad or his regime.
Ali Akbar Velayati, a former Iranian foreign minister, holds a special status. He’s Ali Khamenei’s secret envoy every time the supreme leader needs a particularly loyal person, one who is discrete, intelligent, conservative and who understands him. This week Khamenei sent Velayati to Moscow during Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit, officially to talk to Russian President Vladimir Putin about “regional problems and the cooperation between Russia and Iran.”
Velayati, 73, who has served as foreign minister for more than 16 years under conservative and less conservative presidents, knows most of the world’s leaders well. With some of them he has proved he can be counted on when things get dicey. Like his involvement in Irangate in the 1980s. He is also suspected of planning, with Khamenei and others, the bombing of the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires in 1994.
Velayati is extremely close to the cliques running Iran’s economy and the Revolutionary Guards. A pediatrician by profession, he specialized in the field at Johns Hopkins University and made a fortune off franchises to set up private hospitals in Iran. His name is on the board of directors of Iranian government institutions and companies that are knowledge- and capital-intensive.
In other, less sensitive circumstances, Foreign Minister Jawad Zarif would have been tasked with the mission to Moscow. But Zarif, who skillfully negotiated the nuclear agreement, doesn’t set strategy or dictate policy. He’s also President Hassan Rohani’s man and belongs to the reform camp. Now that Iran is facing fundamental decisions about its future, Velayati’s has been put into action.
He discussed two fundamental issues with the Russian leadership: the withdrawal of Iran’s forces from Syria, or at least much further from the Israeli border, and Trump’s sanctions on Iran. The two are connected. If Trump calls the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict the “deal of the century,” then the agreement on Iran’s status is the most important “regional deal.”
The American sanctions are already having a dramatic effect on the Iranian economy. European companies have reduced or suspended their activity in Iran, container and shipping companies like the Danish conglomerate Maersk, which was joined this week by the giant French CMA CGM, the third largest in the world, are cutting off ties with Iran. India, South Korea and Japan said they’d reduce gas purchases from Iran, and European Union states, despairing of saving the nuclear agreement, haven’t succeeded in forging a united policy against the American sanctions.
In fact, even if they produce a plan that guarantees the large companies’ money, it won’t suffice to allay the companies’ fears of the American sanctions. Losing the oil markets in early November is Iran’s largest problem and if it thought its leaving the market would jack up oil prices, it found itself facing an unsentimental coalition in which Saudi Arabia and Russia are acting together. The first undertook to increase its oil production to compensate for the 2.5 million daily barrels Iran produces today, and Russia, which already signed oil deals with Saudi Arabia, said it would increase its amounts.
Velayati found himself in the embarrassing position of begging the Russian president for his country, while his host himself is preparing to ask Trump, at their summit in three days’ time, to lift the sanctions that were imposed on Russia following the war with Ukraine and the occupation of Crimea.
In these meetings, there are no free lunches. It’s not clear if Trump will agree to lift the sanctions on Russia, as Saudi Arabia, Israel and the United Arab Emirates are encouraging him to do, as the New Yorker reported. But if he does, he will demand that Russia push to withdraw the Iranian forces from Syria or at least move them beyond the 80-kilometer line from the Israeli border. The reports from Russia after Putin’s meeting with Netanyahu show that Russia indeed plans to act to withdraw the Iranian forces in exchange for an Israeli promise not to hurt Assad or his regime.
But publishing the Israeli agreement to the Russian condition isn’t a big deal. Despite the threats of some Israeli ministers to harm the Syrian regime, Israel is interested in Assad’s survival, in his full control of Syria and in resuming the 1974 separation agreements his father Hafez Assad signed. Israel objects to the entrance of Syrian forces to the Syrian Golan Heights to take over the remaining militias there, but will agree to Russian policing forces in the area until circumstances enable UN observers to return to the region.
Such an Israeli undertaking, which doesn’t cost Israel anything, may give Putin political ammunition when he persuades Iran to withdraw, but Israel is demanding more. According to Western diplomatic sources, Israel wants Russia to draft a strategic plan for after the war, which will prevent Syria from becoming a transit country for weapons between Iran and Hezbollah. Israel’s real payment to Russia is expected to come from Washington, which will have to legitimize the international reconciliation with Russia and perhaps revoke some of the sanctions.
Iran has few cards to counteract this scenario. It can announce its withdrawal from the nuclear agreement and resume enriching uranium, risking a rupture with Russia, its important ally China and even face a military offensive. Another possibility is to agree to withdraw from the Israeli border and even remove some forces from Syria. But such a move will leave Iran with the American sanctions intact and in a deepening economic crisis.
The third option is that Iran agree to remove its forces from the border and at the same time negotiate another agreement dealing with its ballistic missile plan, which won’t necessarily replace the nuclear agreement. This plan may gain Russian and European support and could satisfy Trump’s demands and portray him as a diplomatic hero who didn’t bow to Iran but forced it to back down.
But satisfying Trump and Netanyahu’s demands is far from being Iran’s intention. The internal power balance will determine Iran’s moves. Its internal struggle is described in the West simplistically as conservatives against reformists, with Khamenei, Mohammad Ali Jafari, head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards, Qasem Soleimani, head of the Quds Force, on one side, with Rohani and most of his ministers on the other.
But the power struggles within each camp don’t necessarily correspond to Iran’s national interests. In view of massive pressure from the conservative faction, Rohani will be forced to replace a few ministers and appoint a Revolutionary Guards man as cabinet minister. This could undermine his ability to protect the nuclear agreement and increase the Guards’ influence.
A reconciliation between Russia and the United States, which would lead to a coordinated policy between them, could determine Iran’s future moves. When senior Washington officials announce they are not seeking to topple Iran’s regime, and when Russia protects Assad, Iran’s ally, whose regime can ensure Iran’s continued influence, even without military presence on the ground, there’s a better chance for the diplomatic moves to yield results that are desirable for Iran, the West and Israel.

Analysis/Can Israel Really Trust Russia to Remove Iranian Forces From Syria?
عاموس هاريل من الهآررتس: هل باستطاعة إسرائيل أن تثق بروسيا لجهة اخراج القوات الإيراني من سوريا؟

Amos Harel/Haaretz/July 13/18
Fate of Iran's presence in Syria rests with Trump-Putin meeting ■ Israeli official to EU counterparts: Iran nuke deal is dead, and you insist on giving it Advil
U.S. News and World Report this week ranked Israel as the world’s eighth most powerful nation. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made sure to mention this to Likud lawmakers at a party meeting. He also pointed out, rightly, that all the countries ranked ahead of Israel have much larger populations.
But strong as it may be, Israel is still just another player on the international playing field – and the Middle East is far from the most important region on the world map at the moment. Strategic developments depend on relations between the world powers that Israel trailed in the rankings: The trade war declared by the Trump administration on China, and U.S. relations with Russia, which will be put to an important test at the Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki on Monday.
The critical arena in Netanyahu’s mind remains, as always, the fight against Iran. This battle expanded in the past year from efforts to halt Tehran’s nuclear project to a direct clash with Iranian forces in Syria, with the aim of reducing their presence and influence there.
But even with regard to Iran and Syria, Israel must take broader processes into account. Russia is currently pressing for the completion of the de-escalation plan in Syria. Netanyahu may have influenced its design during his meeting with Putin in Moscow on Wednesday. But what comes next depends on what happens when Putin exerts his nearly magical – perhaps blackmail is part of it? – influence on President Donald Trump.
Putin appears to be seeking a wider deal that, in addition to Syria, would include new understandings in Eastern Europe.
One point being raised by the Russians is their expectation that the West lift the sanctions it imposed following Russian involvement in the fighting in eastern Ukraine in 2014.
The Russian plan in Syria is clear: President Bashar Assad will get full control of most parts of the country, including the Syrian Golan Heights to which his forces will soon return, and Israel will pledge not to interfere. In return, Moscow promises to block Iranian forces and Shi’ite militias’ proximity from the Golan Heights border: Various distances – 40, 60, even 80 kilometers (25, 37 and 50 miles, respectively) – have been mentioned. Netanyahu believes the Russians will keep their word. In a briefing with Israeli journalists in Moscow on Wednesday, he spoke of the process as if it were already underway.
The Israel Defense Forces has also been sounding cautiously optimistic. Distancing the Iranians from the border is seen as being a Russian interest – the war is about to end and Iran has exhausted the benefit it can bring to the Kremlin. Putin is not looking for partners with whom to share the dividends of success. Assad would also probably like to wriggle a little freer of the Iranian embrace.
This forecast minimizes the potential difficulties. Even in an international climate where keeping one’s word is far from the norm, Moscow stands out for its cynicism, and Putin and his spokespeople have been lying for years without batting an eyelid.
Israel won’t be able to easily rely on Russian insistence that the understandings are being upheld. Their enforcement will be especially complicated in the densely populated Damascus region – which is within the range Israel wants the Iranians to be kept out of. Already, there are signs that members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Shi’ite militia fighters are shedding their uniforms to mix in with Syrian Army units in the battles taking place in the south.
Above all, even after the series of blows inflicted upon it in Syria, Iran has not relented in its drive for military entrenchment there. Per several of the attacks that have been attributed to Israel by foreign media in the past month – first at Abu Kamal in eastern Syria and then at the T4 airbase near the central Syrian city of Homs – Iran is once again trying to deploy advanced weapons systems in Syria, and Israel is again seemingly taking measures against this.
Most of the attempts to smuggle in weapons systems is done by air. However, the airstrike on the weapons convoy in eastern Syria shows that the Iranians are also often trying to make use of the ground corridor they established after the Americans rid the area of Islamic State forces. If the Russians don’t keep their word, the airstrikes will likely continue.
It’s interesting that since the exchange of blows on February 10 (in which an Iranian drone penetrated Israeli territory and an Israeli F-16 was shot down), no more condemnations have been heard from Moscow. Only a tiny fraction of the measures taken by Israel is made known to the Israeli public and the foreign media. One could cautiously venture that the amount of munitions dropped by the air force in unpublicized missions over the past several years is not far from the amount of munitions it used in Gaza in the summer war of 2014.
For the most part, this effort has proceeded without mishaps or complications. And this is the source of the Israeli satisfaction with the operative results: The Iranian penetration into Syria is limited and Hezbollah has so far not been able to achieve its objective of significantly improving the precision of its rockets in Lebanon.
In the longer term, as Netanyahu told Putin at their meeting, Israel still wants to see all the Iranian advisers and Shi’ite fighters entirely removed from Syria – since even weapons systems deployed 100 or 200 kilometers from Israel’s border with Syria endanger Israel’s security.
Israel is not making a similar claim against Hezbollah’s weapons arsenal – some of which is stored in southern Lebanon, in violation of UN Resolution 1701 – because it understands that this would be an impossible demand. But in fact, almost 12 years to the day after the outbreak of the Second Lebanon War, the top security risk is found in Lebanon, not Syria, where the Iranians are in a clearly inferior position from a security standpoint.
Iran is also engaged in a holding action on its other front. Right now, things appear to be going badly for its nuclear program. A senior Israeli official who recently met with visiting European Union representatives told them that European efforts to keep the nuclear accord with Iran alive following the Americans’ withdrawal from it in May are doomed.
“There’s a corpse in the room, the Vienna agreement, and you want to give it Advil and persist in believing it will come back to life,” the Israeli said. The visitors pointed out that the European partners to the agreement – Great Britain, France and Germany – have all decided to stick to its framework. Their host argued that the market will dictate the outcome and the major corporations are already voting with their feet and fleeing Iran, for fear of being subjected to U.S. sanctions.
Israeli defense officials are reacting positively to the 12-point paper issued by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, outlining the administration’s policy against Iran. The shift in American strategy is also reflected in the understandings in Washington regarding Syria. In previous years, the Obama administration and then the Trump administration concentrated their efforts in Syria and Iraq on fighting ISIS and various Al-Qaida affiliates. This effort enabled the Assad regime and the Russians to free up forces and aircraft to attack the less extreme rebel groups, and later to step into part of the vacuum left behind when ISIS fled Syria. Now the Americans are attempting to take a more balanced approach and to increase coordination with Israel.
Pompeo, who visited the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday, spoke in a television interview of his main objective: forming a regional coalition to counter Tehran. He accused Iran of using its embassies in Europe as terrorism bases, and said an Iranian attempt to plant a bomb at a convention of regime opponents in Paris had been foiled.
The U.S. secretary of state singled out Gen. Qassem Soleimani of the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds force. The general is causing trouble in Syria and Iraq, and he and his organization must be made to pay a higher price for it, said Pompeo.
Asked about the possibility that the U.S. and Israeli efforts will ultimately help to bring about regime change in Iran, Israeli defense officials were wary of making any such predictions.
The protests in Iran in recent months are perceived as authentic and of significant magnitude. The complaint that the country is investing money it does not have abroad at the expense of its own citizens ($12 to 14 billion alone to aid the Assad regime over the last seven years) is increasingly gaining public sympathy in Iran. But intelligence officials stress there is no real way to predict the outcome of a popular rebellion, and note that the Iranian authorities already showed great skill (and brutality) in suppressing the failed Green Movement of 2009.
Israeli politicians appear less skeptical. Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman have been making direct appeals to the Iranian people in recent weeks via social media, denouncing the Iranian regime. And Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, speaking at a conference of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs this week, asserted that “the economic pressure on Iran could lead the regime to collapse within a year.

Let's Establish Bigger Enterprises
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat/July 13/18
Successful countries are enterprise countries, such as Samsung in South Korea, Mercedes in Germany, Nestle in Switzerland and Unilever in the Netherlands. The US is now full of brands that took over the world, more so than the armies of any empire throughout history did.
My topic is on a controversial affair. Is it better for us to build small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) or large ones? Relatively, our markets are large and our consumption is huge. Despite that, our market has stayed under the mercy of small-sized enterprises that are incapable of advancing.
Why do we want to build giant companies? It’s because large companies are more capable of organizing the market and of researching and developing. They carry out training and work according to plans for years, and they can build strategic local and international partnerships that can lower costs for consumers.
They can invest, build trademarks and strengthen the sense of belonging. The government can monitor them and control their logbooks. Through these companies, the government can accurately collect information in the market’s favor and enrich millions of shareholders.
These companies are more capable of automatization and robotization, and they’re easier to obligate to hire women and people with special needs and to localize jobs. They are the state’s best support on the domestic level and its best arm on the foreign level, while the open market usually assumes the task of reforming or getting rid of failed companies.
If SABIC hadn’t been established, the country would have continued to be an importer of iron, fertilizers and plastic. If there hadn’t been Almarai food company, the government would have had to hire thousands of health inspectors to monitor thousands of small cow farms. Almarai produces dairy and yields profits for 70,000 shareholders.
The Jarir Library succeeded in the most difficult investment: books and school supplies. Even when counting cement companies and banks, our market is still one that’s dominated by small shops at a time where there can be stores like Panda with 400 branches and 30,000 employees.
The market would be much better with similar enterprises if companies and shops expand, even if via the franchise system, and if the retail market that’s fragmented due to regulations is shrunk and the million small shops and companies are left fighting until the most worthy remains standing.
Therefore, I think what’s best for a country like Saudi Arabia is to stimulate and push towards establishing giant companies in all sectors while making use of the techniques of modern management and new successful ideas. Vision 2030 is built on change, making the free market the hub while giving up on rentier economy.
In terms of why I prefer the concept of a state with large enterprises despite advice to strengthen the market of small and medium-sized enterprises, is because the latter do not suit countries like Saudi Arabia. There are highly populated states with limited investment capabilities and the best for them is to secure the largest number of jobs with the least costs. Egypt and Pakistan are two examples. We must note that the number of institutions in proportion to the population is larger in Saudi Arabia than in Egypt!
In terms of why I prefer the concept of a state with large enterprises despite advice to strengthen the market of small and medium-sized enterprises, is because the latter do not suit countries like Saudi Arabia. There are highly populated states with limited investment capabilities and the best for them is to secure the largest number of jobs with the least costs. Egypt and Pakistan are two examples. We must note that the number of institutions in proportion to the population is larger in Saudi Arabia than in Egypt!
Saudi Arabia suffers from the large number of foreign laborers, the spread of cover-up businesses, lack of training and scarcity of information in the retail market as well as in other sectors like services.
Thousands of Saudi technicians will not find jobs in dozens of jobs like electricity, plumbing and others and which they were trained on unless large companies rise at the expense of workshops, small shops and small contractors in order to control the market thus modernize it, organize it and guarantee insurance, training and funding in favor of consumers and affiliates.
The role of the state is important here in terms of founding the company and listing it in the market if investors loiter. Large enterprises do not cancel small ones but the latter are rather former’s tributaries, and they develop the market and organize it instead of keeping the current chaos.
This is regarding the market. As for the state, there’s no doubt that giant companies are its best option. And as Charles Wilson said about his company in the 1950s: “What is good for our country is good for General Motors, and vice versa.” Of course this does not underestimate the possible challenges due to amending legislations and rules, and the losses of those who live off the old economic system as well as the difficulty of getting local and foreign leaderships to handle the management of these aspired for entities.

Is Turkey Becoming Uninvestable?
Marcus Ashworth/Bloomberg View/July 13/18
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan unfortunately is a man of his word. He promised to take greater control of monetary policy during the election campaign, and he has wasted no time in doing so. He has snipped the last threads in Turkey’s safety net — and he has made his nation all but uninvestable.
Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek and Finance Minister Naci Agbal have both departed. They were the kinds of officials global investors like to see — committed to sound financial management and standard economic principles. They did a lot to soothe investors’ nervousness as Erdogan tightened his grip on the country. There seems to be no one left to fulfill that role.
The president said Monday that his son-in-law, Berat Albayrak, will run a new combined ministry of treasury and finance. This crushes any hopes that sense and responsibility will reign in fiscal matters. Erdogan has also given himself the power to name the central bank governor, and thus the ability to entrench his unorthodox view that higher interest rates cause faster inflation.
Tuesday’s painful market reaction is probably only the start. The lira weakened versus the dollar, 10-year yields soared to over 17 percent, credit default swaps widened, and stocks fell, with a 3.7 percent drop in the banking industry leading the declines. It is hard to see the credit rating companies not taking a dim view of the new political realities and cutting Turkey’s ratings deeper into junk.
The cost of insuring against Turkey's default rose and stocks fell as Erdogan tightened his grip.
For investors, the best course is almost certainly to stay away. There is nothing to pin down the value of the currency. Nor is it a prime target to short. It would cost an incredibly steep 17.75 percent — at least — to borrow lira in order to buy it back later at a cheaper price. This is a game for only the extremely brave.
Turkish 10-year yields are far higher than those of comparable emerging-market peers.
Is this a currency crisis? That depends on how you define it. There’s very little liquidity and a new normal of 5 lira per dollar looks to be on its way. That kind of fundamental shift in a thin market certainly smells like a crisis, especially given that now it seems only an official intervention can calm investors’ fears.
Turkey's 10-year yield has moved to a record high on Erdogan's government appointments.
It’s hard to see that this will be forthcoming. The normal events that investors could look toward for reassurance look hopeless. Any budget announcement will most likely involve Albayrak turning on the fiscal taps to boost spending in electorally-sensitive areas, such as the major cities, where the ruling AK Party has less support. The next central bank meeting, on July 24, is an opportunity to tame price gains by raising rates. It is difficult to see Erdogan approving any increase, and demanding a cut can’t be ruled out. Inflation soared to 15.4 percent in June, and government policies, plus a weaker currency, look primed to push this higher.
Inflation has spiralled as the Turkish central bank acted too late in raising rates.
The president could yet decide to turn things around. He’d allowed 500 basis points of interest-rate increases since late April — this suggests he’s not immune to the implications of a sliding lira when Turkey’s massive current account deficit leaves it so reliant on dollar funding. But given his ridiculous views on monetary policy, and that he’s shown his true colors, that looks unlikely.
The weakest link is the banking system. Lenders have been gorging on cheap short-term financing in dollars and euros, and as I’ve written, this has been largely immune to rising rates. Most of the creditors are Western European banks, and any sign that they’re seriously backing away will raise questions about the stability of Turkish financial institutions. Such a shift in sentiment would surely impact big Turkish corporate borrowers, many of which have large redemptions coming due over the next year or so — mostly in dollars.
The fate of Turkey is entirely in Erdogan’s hands. And that’s what’s worrying investors.

Why Khamenei Can’t Do a Kim Jong-Un?

Amir Taheri/Asharq Al Awsat/July 13/18
The other day in Tehran, the arrival at the International Airport of a US-registered passenger plane triggered an avalanche of rumors that, for brief moment, buried the anxieties that grip Iranians with regard to the looming confrontation with the Trump administration in Washington. The wildest, and most popular, rumor was that the “American plane” had brought a special emissary from Washington to invite the “Supreme Guide” Ali Khamenei to a summit with President Donald Trump with a view to “doing a North Korea”.
The rumor wasn’t all that fanciful.
The history of relations between the US and the mullahs is full of cloak-and-dagger episodes.
President Jimmy Carter wrote flattering letters to Khomeini, the man who created the Islamic Republic. In response Khomeini sent Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan to reassure Carter and persuade him to resume the supply of arms to Iran. President Ronald Reagan sent his former National Security Adviser Robert MacFarlane to Tehran to discuss a deal with the ayatollah. And Khamenei visited the occupied US Embassy in Tehran to discuss the purchase of American arms with US diplomats held hostage.
Under Reagan, with help from Israel, the US smuggled arms to Iran to stop Saddam Hussein’s army.
Over the years, successive Islamic presidents, including Hashemi Rafsanjani and Muhammad Khatami maintained sub-rosa dialogues with the “Great Satan”. Right from the start President Hassan Rouhani was identified as head of “The New York Boys”, a coterie of US-educated functionaries working for a “grand bargain” with Washington.
President Barack Obama turned out to be the most pro-mullah leader the US had seen. He went out of his way to even smuggle cash to Tehran but ended up vilified and humiliated.
While such under-the-counter deals helped reduce tension, the fundamental problem that the Khomeinist regime is genetically incapable of normal relations with anyone, let alone the American “Great Satan”, remained. The Khomeinist regime is programmed in its DNA to be anti-American, anti-West, anti-Semitic, anti-Arab, anti-Turk, anti-Russian, and more importantly perhaps, anti-Iranian. Today, the Islamic Republic does not have many friends.
All it has is lackeys and mercenaries, like the “Hezbollah” in Lebanon and the Assad clique in Syria, and small groups on the margin of the Iraqi Shiite community.
The problem is that old shenanigans no longer work and, thus, Khamenei cannot do a Kim Jong-un even if he wanted to.
The reason is that the “Supreme Guide” is getting less and less “supreme”. Signs that he is being cut down to size by events, including nationwide protests, have multiplied. He still makes speeches, summons civilian and military officials, and issues orders. But, increasingly, people hear him but don’t listen.
A few months back he threatened that if the US tears up the “nuclear deal”, he would “burn it.”
However, when Trump threw the “deal” into the ashcan, the “Supreme Guide” swallowed his pride and urged Rouhani to find some way of saving something from the ghostly “deal.”
When the Trump administration demanded that Tehran freeze its missiles project, Khamenei was livid. He summoned his generals to “produce more and more missiles, and more powerful ones”.
Last month, however, Muhammad-Ali Aziz-Jaafari, the general who commands the Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), publicly declared that Iran had frozen its missile project at a maximum range of 2,000 kilometers. Even then he had to stress that 2,000 kilometers was the length of Iran’s own territory, from the border with Turkey to the Gulf of Oman.
Not a pip from the “Supreme Guide”.
Khamenei’s order to reopen the Arak plutonium plant, and install new centrifuges and enrich uranium to a higher degree has also been buried under a ton of lip-service. The government doesn’t have enough money to pay its employees let alone spending on white elephants to please the Ayatollah.
In the past months, Khamenei has issued two fatwas forbidding women from riding bicycles in public places, notably city streets. However, the Islamic Police (NAJA) has officially declared that it has no intention of enforcing that ban against some 2.8 Iranian women who ride bicycles to work and school. In one isolated incident, in Yazd, vigilantes attacked a group of women cyclists but had to retreat when they themselves were set upon by an angry crowd.
Khamenei’s order to “Islamize” human sciences and burn books written by the Infidel on philosophy, politics, sociology, economics and other disciplines has also been ignored. Iranian students still have to read not only Aristotle and Adam Smith but also August Comte and Karl Popper.
The pan-Islamic conference that Khamenei had convened to create “Islamic social sciences” ended in chaos as it was boycotted by almost all reputable academics.
Khamenei has spent time and energy telling Iranians how to write poetry, make movies, and even have successful marriages.
Khamenei has even somewhat retreated on his promise to wipe Israel off the map in 25 years’ time. Now he says he wants a referendum for a one-state solution.
A comical episode revealed the decline in Khamenei’s prestige. Having sacked his Chief of Staff Gen. Hassan Firuzabadi, Khamenei wanted to regain control of a luxury villa the general had occupied for 23 years, and issued two fatwas ordering instant evacuation. The general ignored the fatwas and stayed put until Khamenei had to send his own armed bodyguard to seize control of the villa.
A longer list could be established of cases in which Khamenei’s orders have been ignored because there is no realistic way to carry them out.
Khamenei’s power is declining not because he is challenged by anyone inside the establishment but as knocks on his door. Even if he wanted to do a Kim Jong-un, he can’t. He has no organized political party and, heading for his 80th birthday, is unable to attract young Shiites who are thinking of their future.
I don’t know whether that is good or bad news. The Islamic republic was a wayward ship from day one but at least had a captain. Today, it is not clear who is in charge, which means the Islamic Republic is in a worse state than Kim Jong-un’s People’s democratic republic of Korea.

The SCOTUS Confirmation Process Has Gotten Out of Hand
Alan M. Dershowitz/Gatestone Institute/July 13/18
Justice Kavanaugh is extraordinarily well qualified by his educational and academic background and judicial history. He should be given a hearing and asked probing questions about his judicial philosophy and his approach to constitutional construction and precedent. Senators should approach this process with an open mind. Before I finally make up my own mind, I will be listening carefully to his answers.
The framers of our constitution would be turning over in their graves if they could see what happened to their words "with the advice and consent of the senate."
Now senators neither advise nor consent to Supreme Court nominations. They politicize, delay, demonize, obscure, fabricate and discredit what should be a non-partisan process of assuring that the most qualified lawyers serve on our highest court. Instead we have come to expect votes that are cast largely along party lines.It was not always what it has now become. Even in the recent past, highly qualified but controversial nominees -- such as Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsberg -- were confirmed with hardly any dissents. No more.
Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Some Democrats showed their disdain for the process by opposing President Trump's pick even before it was made.
There is enough blame to go around. Republicans point to the Bork rejection (which resulted in the Kennedy nomination) and the Clarence Thomas "high-tech lynching." Democrats point to the Republican refusal even to consider former President Barack Obama's nomination of the highly qualified and centrist Merrick Garland. They also point to the fact that President Trump has "outsourced the selection process to the Federalist Society."
Whoever is to blame, the real victims are the American people who have been denied the constitutional protection of a legitimate confirmation process.
Focusing on the current confirmation battle over Brett Kavanaugh, some Democrats showed their disdain for the process by carrying signs opposing President Trump's nominee even before the nomination was made. They left the name blank and filled it in only after the President nominated Judge Kavanaugh.Others have taken the view that they would never confirm any nominee whose name was on the list provided by the Federalist Society.
A story from the past is worth recalling. When the great Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes retired, President Herbert Hoover asked his Attorney General to supply him a list of ten names to fill the seat of this great justice. The list contained nine Republican names, but at the bottom was the name of one Democrat -- a great New York judge named Benjamin Cardozo. When Hoover saw the list, he reportedly said to his Attorney General, "It's a great list but you have it upside down. Cardozo's name should be on the top because he is the most distinguished sitting judge in the US." The Attorney General reportedly responded that Cardozo was a Democrat, a Jew (there was already one Jew on the Supreme Court, Louis Brandeis) and a New Yorker and his appointment would not serve the political interest of the president or his party. But Hoover nominated Cardozo who served with distinction on the High Court.
Today such a nomination would be unthinkable. Generally, presidents still look for high quality nominees, but among the many who are so qualified, they demand a nominee who will toe their ideological line, be acceptable to their base and generally promote the interests of their party. That is not what the Framers contemplated. The Supreme Court is supposed to be above politics. It is supposed to serve as a check and balance against the two political branches of government. It is supposed to be non-partisan. The votes of justices are not supposed to be based on ideological or partisan considerations. The Framers would be livid at the 5-4 party line vote in Bush v. Gore. They would have been equally livid if there were a 5-4 partisan vote in favor of a Democratic president. Partisan votes are supposed to take place in Congress, not in the chambers of our Highest Court.
It may be too late to restore the integrity of the confirmation process. We are in the age of tit-for-tat political reprisals. The Democrats say that the Republicans stole the Merrick Garland nomination, so the Democrats want to try to steal the Kavanaugh nomination. They will almost certainly fail, but not before they have further tarnished the confirmation process.
It will take a statesman rather than a politician in the Oval Office to change this dynamic. A great president will someday nominate the most distinguished lawyer in the country, without regard to party ideology or other political considerations. All presidents claim that they are doing this. Former President George H. W. Bush told the American public that Clarence Thomas was the most qualified person in American to serve on the High Court. No one, probably not even Clarence Thomas, believed that. But he, too, was confirmed, largely along party line votes.
Justice Kavanaugh is extraordinarily well qualified by his educational and academic background and judicial history. He should be given a hearing and asked probing questions about his judicial philosophy and his approach to constitutional construction and precedent. Senators should approach this process with an open mind. Before I finally make up my own mind, I will be listening carefully to his answers.
*Alan M. Dershowitz is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law Emeritus at Harvard Law School and author of The Case Against Impeaching Trump, Skyhorse Publishing, July 2018.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

The Relentless Radicalization of Sweden
Judith Bergman/Gatestone Institute/July 13/18
Swedish police report that Muslim children have told their classmates they will cut their throats, while showing them beheadings on their mobile phones, according to the new study of Salafism in Sweden by the Swedish Defence University.
"Many women live worse [lives] here than they would have in their former countries" — Swedish care worker.
The inability -- willful blindness is probably a more apt description -- to see that jihadist terrorism does not emerge from a vacuum, but is nurtured in particular environments, is hardly an exclusively Swedish situation. The insistence of so many European and other Western authorities on describing terrorist attacks as instances of "mental illness" illustrate it perfectly.
A new study[1] of Salafism in Sweden, conducted by the Swedish Defence University, paints a bleak picture of the ongoing radicalization of Muslims in Sweden.
The Salaf are the "pious ancestors" during the first three generations of the followers of Mohammed; its ideology has come to be associated over the last few decades with al-Qaeda and ISIS, as well as with local al-Qaeda affiliates. According to the study, Salafists, who believe in Islam as Mohammed's early followers practiced it, tend to reject Western society in favor of a "pure" Islam: "Not all Salafists are jihadists, but all jihadists are Salafists". [2]
Although the study does not give an estimate of how many Salafists are in Sweden, it does describe how Salafist milieus there have evolved and grown stronger, especially during the past decade, and lists several examples of the influence they wield in different Swedish cities and localities.
The Swedish Defence University has published a new study that paints a bleak picture of the ongoing radicalization of Muslims in Sweden. (I99pema/Wikimedia Commons)
"Salafists", the authors of the study conclude, "...advocate gender segregation, demand that women veil themselves to limit 'sexual temptation', restrict women's role in the public sphere and strongly oppose listening to music and some sports activities"[3].
According to the study, many Salafists also tell Muslims not to have Swedish friends, and refer to them as "kufr", the Arabic term for a non-Muslim or "disbeliever". One Salafist preacher, Anas Khalifa, said:
"Does that mean that if you meet a Christian or Jew you should beat him or threaten him? No. There is no war between you and Christians and Jews in your school, for example. You hate him for Allah's sake. You hate that he does not believe in Allah. But you want from your heart that he will love Allah. So you have to work with them, talk with them, because you want Allah to guide them". [4]
The Salafists, apparently, have divided Sweden geographically between them. According to the study:
"It is interesting that the Salafist preachers, on which the study focuses, appear to be more in cooperation with each other, rather than rivals. Instead, these preachers seem to divide their da'wa (mission) into different geographical areas..."[5].
The study's findings from different cities where Salafists are active include:
In Borås, some children will not drink the water at the school or paint with watercolors there, because they say the water is "Christian". The police report that Muslim children have told their classmates they will cut their throats, while showing them beheadings on their mobile phones. There are examples of "adolescents arriving at mosques at the end of a school day to 'wash' themselves after having interacted with [non-Muslim] society". Care workers [health care, child care, etc.] in the city have testified to how men exercise control over women, checking on them even in waiting rooms[6]. One care worker said:
"I realized that there is a network that controls the women so they won't be left alone with the care workers. They are not given a chance to tell anyone about their situation. Many women live worse [lives] here than they would have in their former countries".
This kind of control of women appears to be taking place in practically all the Swedish cities mentioned in the study.
In Västerås, religious influence is mixed with crime. "It could be a bunch of guys coming into the grocery store. If the woman at the cashier is not veiled, they take what they want without paying, they call the cashier 'Swedish whore' and spit on her," said a police officer in the study. Other examples include Syrians and Kurds who run stores and restaurants in the area and are questioned by young Muslims about their religion. If the answer is not Islam, they are harassed. In other cases, boys as young as 10-12 years have approached older women in the area, asking them whether they are Muslim, telling them "this is our area".[7]
In Gothenburg, according to the study[8], Salafists told Muslims not to vote in the most recent elections because it is "haram" (forbidden). "They said that on the day of judgment you will be responsible for the actions of all stupid politicians if you vote. They stood at polling stations... At one polling station they waved an IS [Islamic State] flag", a local official told the authors of the study. According to one imam in the city, Gothenburg has been the capital of Wahhabism (a Saudi version of Salafism) in Europe since the 1990s.[9]
Out of the 300 Swedish Muslims who joined ISIS in Syria and Iraq, almost one third came from Gothenburg.[10] (In relation to their total population, more people have traveled from Sweden to join jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq than from most European countries -- only Belgium and Austria have a higher proportion[11]). Somali-Canadian preacher Said Regeah, speaking at the Salafist Bellevue Mosque in Gothenburg, has "raised the importance of people being born 'pure' and that only Muslims are pure. All are born as Muslims, but it is the parents who shape them to become 'Jews, Christians, or Zoroastrians'".[12]
The study also reports that non-Muslim business owners have experienced having their facilities vandalized with Islamic State graffiti and that Christian priests have received threats of decapitation[13]. One man, Samir, said, "If you do not follow Islam, people ostracize you. There are parents here who put veils on their three-year-olds. It is unreal. We are not in Iraq".[14]
Another man, Anwar, was denied service in a Muslim restaurant because he is not religious. He points out that society is letting secular Muslims down: "I don't need a Bible or a Koran in my life. The only book I need is... the [Swedish] law. But if society isn't even on your side, what can you do?"[15]
In the Stockholm area, the study estimates that there are currently up to 150 Salafist jihadists[16]. Salafists are especially concentrated in the Järva area, a "no go zone". Sometimes the jihadist and the criminal elements overlap, and these Muslims terrorize other people who live in the area. One woman said that Salafists and Islamists have come to dominate businesses, basement mosques, and cultural associations during the past ten years, and that "Swedes have no idea how much influence political Islam has in the suburb". She described how even children are gender segregated and that religious leaders tell women not to tell the authorities if their husband abuses them. "Swedish laws are not applied in the suburbs".[17]
The study concludes with a critique of Swedish authorities for their apparent inability to link individual radical Muslims to the "environments that form their ideas and in certain cases have facilitated the will to join more radical and violent groups". The study mentions the following as an example:
"When the then-National Coordinator Against Violent Extremism said that the question of why so many people chose to travel to IS from Sweden was 'a million dollar question', it is an illustration of the overall inability of Swedish authorities (with the exception of police and security police) to see that this problem has not emerged from a vacuum".[18]
This inability -- or possibly willful blindness -- to see that jihadist terrorism does not emerge from a vacuum, but is nurtured in particular environments is hardly an exclusively Swedish situation. The insistence of so many European and other Western authorities to describe terrorist attacks as instances of "mental illness" illustrate it perfectly.
The authors of the study also mention that schools and other local authorities do not know how to deal with the challenges created by the Salafists. The study mentions, for example, that a Muslim schoolgirl wanted to take off her headscarf to play hairdresser with the other children, but the Swedish personnel did not allow it out of respect for her parents' wishes. In an example from a Swedish preschool, a little girl did not want to wear her headscarf but the Swedish personnel forced it on her, "even though it felt wrong", because it was the parents' wish. Swedish school personnel have also described that they do not know how to act when children want to eat and drink during Ramadan, but the parents have instructed that they must fast.[19]
The study is an important first step in Sweden finally acknowledging that there is a problem, but unless the relevant Swedish authorities -- including the Swedish government and the political leaders, who refuse to acknowledge reality in Sweden -- read and internalize it, the study will have been done in vain.
*Judith Bergman is a columnist, lawyer and political analyst.
[1] "Between Salafism and Salafist Jihadism - Impact and Challenges for Swedish Society", published on June 28. The study was commissioned by the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency.
[2] Between Salafism and Salafist Jihadism - Impact and Challenges for Swedish Society, p 14.
[3] Ibid., p 24
[4] Ibid., p 132
[5] Ibid., p 223
[6] Borås is described on pp162ff of the study.
[7] Västerås is described on pp 168ff.
[8] Ibid., p 186
[9] Ibid., p 182
[10] Ibid., p 103
[11] Ibid., p 107
[12] Ibid., p 131
[13] Ibid., p 186
[14] Ibid., p 187
[15] Ibid., p 187
[16] Ibid., p 210
[17] Ibid., p 213
[18] Ibid., p 109
[19] Ibid., p 194
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New US-Israeli “Project Iran” is headed by IDF’s Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon
موقع دبكي الإسرائيلي: مشروع إيران-إسرائيل سيرأسه الجنرال الإسرائيلي نتزان ألون

DEBKAfile/July 13/ 2018
Project Iran” was set up during Israel’s Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gady Eisenkott’s talks with top US brass in Washington on June 29 for coordinated US-Israeli military operations against Iran.
IDF Operations Chief Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon was named to head it. He was with the chief of staff when he sat down with Gen. Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the US Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. Joseph Votel, head of CENTCOM in Washington. At 53, Alon accepted the post although he was ready to retire from the service after an impressive career spanning 34 years. It included valuable experience as commander of special operations forces and oversight of the integration of special undercover units in the intelligence corps for action behind enemy lines. He led several combat divisions before being promoted to OC Central Command. In 2015, he took over the General Staff’s Operations Branch. Eisenkott persuaded him to stay on as the first holder of a job just created of Director of the “Iran Project” – the IDF codename for a newly-established US-Israeli task force for executing potential decisions to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities, ballistic missiles and/or military bases in the Middle East.
DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources report that Eisenkott lost no time in filling this job when he saw US-Russian relations sinking into impasse over the Iranian issue, and Iranian, Hizballah and Shiite forces spearheading the Syrian operation as it blasted its way through southern Syria toward the Israeli and Jordanian borders. The outbreak of full-fledged war with Iran was looming larger day by day.
On the wider front, Gen. Qassem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s Middle East warfronts, informed President Hassan Rouhani on July 4 that he stood ready to implement Rouhani’s threat to disrupt Gulf oil exports once the US ban on Iranian oil sales goes into effect on Nov. 4. Since President Donald Trump is unlikely to back down, the specter of Iranian hostile acts was growing larger, including the blockage of the Strait of Hormuz to Arab oil exports – or even attacks on their oil fields and terminals.
To meet the multiple Iranian threats, four US-Israeli command groups were secretly established and are revealed here:
The Nuclear Command Group: This covers the key nuclear targets in Iran: weaponry, plutonium reactors, uranium enrichment plants and centrifuge production sites.
The Ballistic Command Group: This deals with Iran’s ballistic missile stocks and launch sites, both surface and underground silos, as well as missile production plants and institutes for missile research and development.
The Anti-Subversion Command Group: Combined under this heading are overt and covert operations against Iranian military and intelligence centers across the Middle East, especially in Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, as well as responsibility for cyber warfare.
The Economic Command Group covers US sanctions against Iran. Israel’s contribution to this joint command is intelligence on Iran’s sanctions-busting stratagems at home and internationally.
Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon will direct the four command groups. He was chosen for his record and his proven talents as an original, strategic thinker, capable of seeking solutions outside the box and applying unconventional methods to tasks and challenges.
The chief of staff, contrary to his dovish image and reputation as a deal-maker, has almost unnoticed put together a hawkish high command comprising a group of officers who are ready to operate in places beyond Israel’s horizons. Among them are the incoming Air Force chief Maj. Gen. Amikam Nurkin, head of the Depth Command Maj. Gen. Muni Katz, OC Central Command Maj. Gen. Nadav Padan and new Military Intelligence (AMAN) Director Maj. Gen. Tamir Hayman. Nitzan Alon has just joined this elite roster.

Macedonia: What’s in a name?
Dr. Mohamed A. Ramady/Al Arabiya/July 13/18
Countries often fight over borders and territorial ambitions, but few have threatened each other over a country’s chosen name. This is the unusual situation between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia who are at loggerheads on who can use the name Macedonia, or were, until a seemingly sensible compromise had been reached between the two countries premiers but could still be unravelled by nationalists in both countries crying out betrayal. It has taken more than 25 years of fruitless discussions, divided the two nations, delayed Macedonia’s entry to the EU and NATO and has been a cause for protests. In a bold move, Greece and Macedonia, or at least their prime ministers Tsipras of Greece and Zaev of the Republic of Macedonia, have declared peace. The United Nations had to mediate showing that the world body is not a toothless entity after all despite its detractors, and finally the two Balkan neighbours announced that they had agreed to end the row over what to call the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
The tiny state will henceforth be known neither by its acronym, FYROM, nor simply as Macedonia, but as the Republic of North Macedonia – a geographical qualifier that ends any fear in Athens of territorial ambition against the neighbouring Greek province of the same name.
To placate his hardliner nationalist citizens, the Greek Premier also noted that this simple name change will also apply to Macedonia’s international and bilateral relations and domestically – in short , that the newly named country will not harbour future territorial ambitions on the Greek Macedonia. The new name thus made a clear distinction between Greek Macedonia and the country’s northern neighbour, so why are some still objecting? The reasons run deep and involve not just territorial aspirations but intangible rights.
For Tsipras and Zaev it has taken political courage to get this far but both have faced intense nationalist backlash and calls of high treason
At loggerheads
The two neighbours have been at loggerheads ever since the former republic seceded from Yugoslavia and declared independence as the Republic of Macedonia. Fuelling fury in Athens, the new Slavic nation had laid claim to ancient Greek figures, not least the warrior king Alexander the Great. For the Greeks, this added insult to injury, in a country that is proud of its long cultural and Hellenic civilisation and the Greek Premier Tsipras had to convince his compatriots that the deal preserved the Greek Macedonian ethnic and cultural identity.
Both its language and people would continue to be known as Macedonian. To ensure public buy in and close the festering chapter, the agreement would be put to a popular vote in a Greek referendum later this year. The apparent agreement has been greeted with relief by those that wished to ensure that the European countries presented a united front against perceived Russian aggression.NATO’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, was among the first to welcome what he described as a historic agreement and urged both sides to finalise it, and hopefully setting the newly named country on its path to full NATO membership.
Both Greece and the new Macedonia had been eager to conclude a deal to also gain the blessing of important countries like Germany and presented the solution in an EU summit in late June. For both Tsipras and Zaev it has taken political courage to get this far but both premiers have faced intense nationalist backlash and calls of high treason, with Greece’s main opposition leader denouncing the deal, arguing that it amounted to Athens accepting the existence of a Macedonian language and nation. Whatever obstructions it faces from both sides, the common sense solution is a shining example of how a peaceful resolution can take place to resolve long running disputes and to put behind one of the most bizarre diplomatic standoffs between countries.If only such boldness and level headedness amongst political leaders can be brought to bear to resolve other territorial disputes amongst nations, whether in Kashmir, Palestine, or Ukraine. Alexander the Great must be smiling in his grave.

Impaired judgement and its fatal consequences
Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/July 13/18
Substances that impair judgement have existed since the early days. People who deal with these substances and use them have also existed since early times. What’s new however is the availability of public platforms and outlets which they can now use to convey their revelation moments and precious ideas to people via a click of a button. Only when the drug effect washes off, they realize the hole they’ve fallen into. At this point, it’s just too late! The problem though is when this mad man develops an ego due to people’s reaction to him, even if they’re interacting for humor purposes or because they think he’s silly. In this case, he would increase the dose and diversify the madness until he reaches the point of no return.
This is not limited to those who record videos on social media networks. There is another dangerous and provoking phenomenon, which is the actual and materialistic recklessness via the so-called street terrorism. Sensible people have suffered a lot from these reckless people who madly and barbarically drive their cars inflicting death or harm on themselves and others. In some cases, it turns out that the driver was under the effect of drugs or under the effect of teenage recklessness.Regarding the last phenomenon, i.e. the terrorism of traffic and streets, which is present in all Arab countries, it may have been good to penalize those who drive cars under the influence of substances that impair judgment
The terrorism link
Regarding the last phenomenon, i.e. the terrorism of traffic and streets, which is present in all Arab countries, it may have been good to penalize those who drive cars under the influence of substances that impair judgment, be it cannabis or alcohol or others. It’s true that all these substances are legally prohibited in perhaps all nations but this prohibition has not affected their existence or prevented people from taking them and using them.
If the driver learns that there will be a penalty if he drives under the effect of drugs or alcohol, he may be deterred. A severe punishment can thus at least decrease this hideous and dangerous phenomenon.
Acting under the influence of these substances thus poses serious threats especially if one takes things from making statements via social media networks to driving. All this has fatal consequences that harm the society. The mind is a blessing. It’s one’s own decision if he wants to lose this blessing. However, those who want others to lose their minds or endanger them in the streets along with themselves must be deterred. He who seeks death might as well seek it on his own and not make others perish with him.