July 16/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
The Miracle Of Reviving Lazarus From the Grave
John 11/01-16: "Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, ‘Lord, he whom you love is ill.’But when Jesus heard it, he said, ‘This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, ‘Let us go to Judea again.’The disciples said to him, ‘Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?’Jesus answered, ‘Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.’After saying this, he told them, ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.’The disciples said to him, ‘Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.’Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead. For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.’Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow-disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him."

Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on July 15-16/18
They are all alienated from the Virtues Saint Charbel represented and Personified/Elias Bejjani/July 15/18
German Intel Report: Iran Seeks To Shatter States' Stability With WMD/Jerusalem Post/July 15/18
How the Mossad Broke Into an Iranian Facility and Stole Half a Ton of Nuclear Files/Haaretz/July 15/18
Story of a Foiled Islamist Terrorist Attack/Majid Rafizadeh/Gatestone Institute/July 15/18
France: A Second Jihad in the Bataclan/Guy Millière/Gatestone Institute/July 15/18
What the Best World Cup Teams Say About Immigration/Leonid Bershidsky/Bloomberg/July 15/18
What Trump’s Trade War Is Really About/Christopher Balding/Bloomberg/July 15/18
New Weapons Against Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria/Faye Flam/Bloomberg/July 15/18
The outcome of the Helsinki summit will prove if critics of Trump and Putin are right or wrong/Raghida Dergham/The National/July 15/18
Threats to Strait of Hormuz demonstrate Iran’s desperation/Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/July 15/18
Syrians left to choose between extremist options/Hazem Saghieh/Al Arabiya/July 15/18
Chaos at the Iraqi borders/Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/July 15/18

Titles For The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on July 15-16/18
They are all alienated from the Virtues Saint Charbel represented and Personified
Bassil Promises Revival of Beirut-Damascus Political Relations
Speculation on Hariri-Bassil Meeting as 'Marada Obstacle' Surfaces
Rahi celebrates Mass of Saint Charbel in presence of Geagea: We pray for Lebanon
Rahi: Clinging to quotas, restricting them to certain blocs does not justify cabinet delay at expense of public good
Rahi Slams 'Clinging to Shares, Exclusion' in Govt. Formation Talks
Geagea and al-Rahi Discuss Cabinet Formation Process
Al-Sayyed, Zoaiter Spat over 'Shiites of State, Resistance'
Third Power Barge Arrives in Lebanon to Help Long-Ailing Sector
Jaberi Ansari to deliver Rouhani's message to Lebanese president
Sitin by Seven Party at Riad Solh Square demanding new cabinet, emergency economic plan
Bukhari from Wadi Khaled: Lebanon lies in the conscience of the Saudi Kingdom
Politics – Berri to head Parliament Council Bureau meeting on Monday
Hawat describes relationship with Berri as excellent, says he will take on administration development dossier
Hasbani heads Lebanon's delegation to UN political forum

Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on July 15-16/18
German Intel Report: Iran Seeks To Shatter States' Stability With WMD
How the Mossad Broke Into an Iranian Facility and Stole Half a Ton of Nuclear Files
Netanyahu, Trump discuss Syria, Iran ahead of Helsinki summit
G7 Foreign Ministers statement on MH17
Syrian Opposition Hands Over Heavy Arms in Daraa
Syria Rebels Begin Evacuating 'Cradle' of Uprising in Daraa
After No End of Drama, Trump and Putin Take to Summit Stage
Key Israeli Documents Extent Of Iranian Nuke Plan Revealed By Netanyahu
Gaza Truce Mostly Holds after Heavy Israel Strikes, Hamas Rocket Fire
Iraq: Protests Expand, Security Forces on High Alert
Trump, Putin Draw in Helsinki New Course of US-Russian Relations
Eritrea's Afwerki Ends 20 Years of Adversity on Historic Ethiopia Visit
Afghan Civilian Deaths Hit Record As Suicide Attacks Surge
Thousands Rally in Morocco for Jailed Rif Opponents
France become World Cup champions after defeating Croatia 4-2
Pride and tears for Croatians after World Cup final loss
The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on July 15-16/18
They are all alienated from the Virtues Saint Charbel represented and Personified/هم في غربة عن كل ما يمثله مار شربل
Elias Bejjani/July 15/18
Are our religious and civil Lebanese leaders who are today celebrating Saint Charbel's Day actually practising in their own private lives and in their dealings with others certain virtues that the Saint adored and devoted his life for such as love, tolerance, honesty, humility, asceticism and transparency?
هم في غربة عن كل ما يمثله مار شربل
الياس بجاني/15 تموز/18
هل قادتنا الدينيين والزمنيين الذين يحتفلون اليوم بعيد مار شربل يمارسون في حياتهم الخاصة وفي تعاطيهم مع الغير أي من صفاته كالمحبة والتسامح والصدق والتواضع والزهد والشفافية!!

Bassil Promises Revival of Beirut-Damascus Political Relations
Beirut- Asharq Al Awsat/Asharq Al Awsat/Sunday, 15 July, 2018/The head of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) and foreign minister in the caretaker government, Gebran Bassil, said that the political life between Beirut and Damascus would be revived, stirring an internal debate over the dangers of communicating with the Syrian regime. The Strong Lebanon parliamentary bloc, headed by Bassil, considers that a rapprochement with Syria would have a positive outcome, especially with regards to facilitating the return of Syrian refugees to their homeland and activating the land route for the export of Lebanese products across Syrian territory into the Arab world. On the other hand, those who oppose such normalization of relations stress that Bassil’s remarks were a “personal demand” and that the decision belonged solely to the Lebanese government.
“The government will be formed with well-known and defined landmarks, without any changes,” Bassil said on Saturday. “All roads between Lebanon and Syria, Syria and Iraq, and Syria and Jordan will open, and Lebanon will resume its breathing through these terrestrial arteries,” he added, noting that political life between “Syria and Lebanon will be restored.”
The Future Movement, the Lebanese Forces and the Progressive Socialist Party are among those who strongly oppose the restoration of ties with Damascus, and consider it as a “normalization of relations with the Syrian regime.”The Lebanese government, which turned into a caretaker government in August, disagreed over the relationship with Damascus and the visit of Lebanese ministers to Damascus at the invitation of Syria to participate in the opening of the Damascus International Fair. Minister of State for the Displaced Affairs Mouin al-Merhebi told Asharq Al-Awsat that relations with the Syrian regime were a “matter to be decided solely by the new government, and not by Minister Bassil.”In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, Merhebi stressed that Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri “refuses categorically to open any channel of communication with the Syrian regime beyond the minimum necessary for security coordination or border control and other common matters that are handled by a staff of a certain level and not at the level of ministers or governments.”Democratic Gathering MP Akram Chehayeb told Asharq Al-Awsat that Bassil’s remarks were only “personal desires”, and “affect a large segment of the Lebanese people, who have not forgotten the actions perpetrated by the Syrian regime in Lebanon."

Speculation on Hariri-Bassil Meeting as 'Marada Obstacle' Surfaces
Naharnet/July 15/18/Any progress in the Cabinet formation process is hinging on the outcome of the expected meeting between Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri and Free Patriotic Movement chief MP Jebran Bassil, informed sources told al-Hayat daily. Noting that an “agreement” has been reached between Hariri and each of Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea and Progressive Socialist Party chief Walid Jumblat on the Christian and Druze representation in the government, sources following up on Hariri's efforts said “the problem is now revolving around what Bassil wants and what Hariri might suggest.”The sources confirmed to al-Hayat that “Bassil wants 10 or 11 ministers for the FPM and the president, with seven or six going to the FPM and four to the president.”“He wants most of the key portfolios for those named by his camp,” the sources added. In remarks to Kuwait's al-Jarida newspaper, political sources meanwhile ruled out a Hariri-Bassil meeting in the next two days. “Communication between the two men was completely severed a few days ago, which indicates the presence of conflicting viewpoints between Hariri and the President over the powers of each of them regarding the formation process,” the sources said. The sources added that in addition to the Christian and Druze obstacles, a new obstacle related to Marada Movement's representation has emerged. “Caretaker Public Works and Transport Minister Youssef Fenianos has told Hariri during a meeting that Marada chief Suleiman Franjieh rejects settling for only one portfolio for his movement and that he is insisting on another portfolio that could go to a Sunni or Christian figure,” the sources said. The candidates for this second portfolio are MP Jihad al-Samad and MP Farid al-Khazen, the sources added.
Rahi celebrates Mass of Saint Charbel in presence of Geagea: We pray for Lebanon
Sun 15 Jul 2018/NNA - Maronite Patriarch, Cardinal Bechara Boutros al-Rahi, raised prayers on Saturday evening to Saint Charbel to protect the nation during these difficult circumstances, and to preserve the State of Institutions and accelerate the formation of the new government.
Presiding over a Mass celebration marking "Saint Charbel Day" in the village of Bekaa-Kafra yesterday evening, in the presence of Lebanese Forces Party Chief Samir Geagea, the Patriarch said in his homily that any delay in the cabinet formation will have political, economic, social and security implications on the situation in Lebanon. At the end of Mass, the Patriarch discussed in a closed meeting with the LF Chief the government formation process.
Rahi: Clinging to quotas, restricting them to certain blocs does not justify cabinet delay at expense of public good
Sun 15 Jul 2018/NNA - Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Bechara Butros al-Rahi criticized Sunday the continuous delay in the cabinet formation, deeming that "clinging to quotas and restricting them to certain blocs while excluding other parties does not justify this delay at the expense of public good." "Everyone at home and abroad is waiting for the decision to form the government, because each day of delay has significant repercussions and serious losses in all economic sectors, in the work of State institutions and departments, and in the public's confidence in officials," warned al-Rahi. He added that nothing justifies the cabinet delay at the expense of citizens' lively interests, noting that this contradicts with the general constitutional standards and with the Lebanese Constitution's spirit and content. Additionally, the Patriarch warned that such delay would lead to the loss of the international community's attention and interest in assisting Lebanon, namely in its financial aids decided upon during the "CEDRE Conference" last April.  The Patriarch's words came in his homily during Sunday Mass organized by the Lebanese Maronite Order at its Monastery in Byblos this morning, marking the Day of Saint Charbel.

Rahi Slams 'Clinging to Shares, Exclusion' in Govt. Formation Talks
Naharnet/July 15/18/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi on Sunday criticized parties insisting on certain shares in the new government and attempts to “exclude” certain parties. “Clinging to shares or limiting them to certain blocs while excluding other parties and competent individuals from the non-partisan civil society do not justify delaying the government at the expense of public welfare,” al-Rahi warned in his Saint Charbel Day sermon. “Everyone inside and outside the country are awaiting the formation of the government, because every day of delay carries major repercussions and grave losses to the economy and all its sectors,” the patriarch cautioned. Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri was tasked with forming the new government on May 24. Several obstacles are hindering his mission, especially political wrangling over the Christian and Druze shares.

Geagea and al-Rahi Discuss Cabinet Formation Process

Naharnet/July 15/18/Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea held a closed-door meeting with Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi on the sidelines of a mass marking St. Charbel Day in the town of Bqaa Kafra, the LF said. The talks “tackled the Cabinet formation issue,” the LF said in a statement. During his sermon, al-Rahi called for “forming the new government that the people are awaiting,” warning that “any delay in its formation has its political, economic, social and security repercussions.”Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri was tasked with forming the new government on May 24. Several obstacles are hindering his mission, especially political wrangling over the Christian and Druze shares.

Al-Sayyed, Zoaiter Spat over 'Shiites of State, Resistance'
Naharnet/July 15/18/Caretaker Agriculture Minister Ghazi Zoaiter of the AMAL Movement hit back Sunday at remarks by MP Jamil al-Sayyed, the controversial ex-General Security chief who was elected a lawmaker for the Baalbek-Hermel region after allying with Hizbullah in the May parliamentary polls. “Those whom you claimed are the Shiites of the state are the Shiites of the resistance and are the Lebanese of all sects. We did not perform our duty when we refrained from responding to you several times... Unfortunately, it turned out that the 'son of the state' wants those who are like him to stand by him and we are not like him,” Zoaiter tweeted. Al-Sayyed had tweeted that the Shiite divide is “not between the Bekaa and the South” but rather between “the Shiites of the state, led by Speaker (Nabih) Berri, and the Shiites of the resistance, led by (Hizbullah chief) Sayyed (Hassan Nasrallah).”“The Shiites of the resistance performed their duty fully, in the South and against terrorism in the Bekaa! The Shiites of the state gave a lot to the South, but the Bekaa was not given what it deserves! Today the Bekaa is a ticking time bomb, so do not lose it,” al-Sayyed warned.

Third Power Barge Arrives in Lebanon to Help Long-Ailing Sector Sunday 15th July 2018/A third power-generating vessel arrived in Lebanon to help the country deal with its electricity deficit. According to the National News Agency, an additional power barge operated by the Turkish company Karadeniz will drop its anchor off the Jiyeh power plant. Shortly after the arrival of the barge, the municipal council and the residents of Jiyeh issued a statement voicing utter rejection of having the vessel off their area's coast, calling on officials to spare Jiyeh the "deadly pollution". "We won't tolerate new sources of pollution in our area," the statement read. The company had told the Daily Star newspaper in a written statement that the new barge would provide an additional 200 megawatts of power “for the two months that have the highest electricity demand in Lebanon.”Caretaker Energy Minister Cesar Abi Khalil recently claimed that the new barge would be providing its services for free after the government had extended the Karadeniz contract for three years. The company has been operating two power-generating vessels off the Lebanese coast since 2013.

Jaberi Ansari to deliver Rouhani's message to Lebanese president
TEHRAN, Jul. 15 (MNA) – A senior assistant to the Iranian foreign minister will travel to Lebanese capital city of Beirut on Monday to deliver the message of President Rouhani to Lebanese President Aoun. Hossein Jaberi Ansari, the senior assistant to the Iranian foreign minister, who is now in Damascus meeting with Syrian officials, is slated to pay a visit to Lebanon on Monday. In Beirut, he is expected to meet with senior Lebanese officials and deliver the special message of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to Lebanese President Michel Aoun. An Iranian diplomat residing in Beirut told Iranian state news agency IRNA that the visit of Jaberi Ansari is in line with the recent tour of Iranian officials and diplomats to different countries with the aim to expound on Iran’s policies and stances after the unilateral withdrawal of US from the nuclear agreement of July 14, 2015.

Sitin by Seven Party at Riad Solh Square demanding new cabinet, emergency economic plan

Sun 15 Jul 2018/NNA - Seven Party staged a sit-in Sunday afternoon at Riad El-Solh Square facing the Government Serail in Central Beirut, in protest against the deteriorating situation at various levels, with the country being on the verge of economic collapse. Protesters demanded a quick cabinet formation and an emergency rescue plan to save the country's economy and cater to citizens' dire needs. Participants began to gather in the Martyrs' Square in Central Beirut and then headed to Riad El-Solh, marching through the city's downtown streets and carrying banners demanding the immediate formation of a new government and combating corruption.

Bukhari from Wadi Khaled: Lebanon lies in the conscience of the Saudi Kingdom
Sun 15 Jul 2018/NNA - Saudi Charge d'Affaires in Lebanon, Walid Al-Bukhari, said Sunday that the Saudi Kingdom holds Lebanon in its conscience, stressing continuous support to the Lebanese nation and its people. Al-Bukhari's words came during his visit this morning to the area of Wadi Khaled in the Province of Akkar, at the invitation of Future Bloc Member MP Mohamad Sleiman who welcomed him at his residence in the town of al-Haisha, in the presence of former Deputy Jamal Ismail, heads of municipalities and tribal dignitaries from the region. "I am grateful to MP Sleiman for this visit to Wadi Khaled...We harbor all the love for its people and neighborhood, for their authenticity and their Arabism...You are an extension of a long history, and I am here today among you feeling like I headed from home to home," said Al-Bukhari. "Akkar and its people, as well as Tripoli and all of Lebanon, are present in the conscience of the Kingdom and its people," he assured. The encounter included a brunch held by MP Sleiman in honor of Al-Bukhari and the region's dignitaries, following which Al-Bukhari met with Wadi Khaled's mayors and mukhtars.

Politics – Berri to head Parliament Council Bureau meeting on Monday
Sun 15 Jul 2018/NNA - Speaker of the House, Nabih Berri, will preside over a meeting by the Parliament Council's Bureau at 11:30 am on Monday. He will also chair another meeting by the “Development and Liberation” Parliamentary Bloc at 2:00 pm on Monday.

Hawat describes relationship with Berri as excellent, says he will take on administration development dossier
Sun 15 Jul 2018/NNA - Member of the "Republic Parliamentary Bloc", MP Ziad Hawat, disclosed Sunday that "the relationship with House Speaker Nabih Berri is excellent and mutual communication is continuously ongoing, especially during this period involving the government formation."
In an interview with Radio "Voice of Lebanon" this morning, Hawat highlighted the need for the upcoming government to include in its ministerial statement "basic national principles", stressing that "there are a lot of responsibilities that must begin immediately.""Our goal is not quotas and popularity, but rather what we aim for is to combat corruption, and the Prime Minister-designate understands the need for our Bloc to be represented within the government and not put under a veto with regards to sovereign portfolios," Hawat underlined. Over the Parliamentary Committees session scheduled for next Tuesday, Hawat indicated that he will be responsible for the administration development dossier [e-government], noting that "this will free the Lebanese citizen from many burdens and will enable him to carry out his transactions more quickly."

Hasbani heads Lebanon's delegation to UN political forum
Sun 15 Jul 2018/NNA - Caretaker Deputy Prime Minister, Public Health Minister Ghassan Hasbani departed to New York Sunday on head of an official Lebanese delegation, where he will be presenting the first report on the status of Lebanon concerning the goals of sustainable development for 2030 before the high-level political forum at the United Nations. On the first day, Hasbani will present the report of the ESCWA region in his capacity as Chairman of the Sustainable Development Forum for the region. This denotes the first step towards promoting the concepts of development in Lebanon and the region, by focusing on the sustainability and integration of the objectives and the governmental bodies associated with them. It is to note that Hasbani had chaired several committees and workshops comprising ministries, civil society and economic bodies to cooperate in the preparation of Lebanon's first report.

The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on July 15-16/18
German Intel Report: Iran Seeks To Shatter States' Stability With WMD
Jerusalem Post/July 15/18
جيروزاليم بوست: تقرير إنتل ألماني: إيران تسعى إلى تحطيم استقرار الدول بأسلحة الدمار الشامل
Iran and North Korea aim to circumvent embargoes
The German intelligence agency of the state of Hesse published a new document on countering the spread of weapons of mass destruction, singling out the Islamic Republic of Iran as one of two states seeking to obtain the ultimate form of powerful weapons.
The Jerusalem Post reviewed the late June document that states: “Weapons of mass destruction are a continued instrument of power politics that also, in regional and international crises situations, can shatter the entire stability of state structures. States like Iran and North Korea attempt, in the context of proliferation, to acquire and spread such weapons by, for example, disguising the transportation ways through third countries.”
The report said that the goal of the intelligence agencies of Iran and North Korea is “to circumvent control mechanisms in countries that are not especially subject to embargo restrictions.”
According to the Hesse report, proliferation is defined as “the production and spreading of weapons of mass destruction” and “the acquisition of compatible missile carrying systems and technology by states for which these weapons were not previously available.”
The intelligence agency explained that the “goal of counter-intelligence is to prevent” countries like Iran and North Korea, who seek weapons of mass destruction.
The report listed some types of illegal proliferation technology that countries want for the production of weapons of mass destruction. The examples include “equipment for the enrichment of uranium, nuclear reactors in connection with reprocessing plants, bioreactors, drying installation facilities, and the production process for precursor chemical products.”
As a general rule, the intelligence agency noted, countries do not obtain completed weapons of mass destruction, rather secure “individual components, equipment, technologies and their products.”
German regional domestic intelligence agencies like the Hesse organization are the rough equivalent of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency).
The state of Hesse has not yet published its intelligence report covering the year of 2017. Germany’s 16 states each publish intelligence reports covering threats to the constitutional, democratic system. The federal government publishes a nation-wide report that covers more broad terms, such as threats like radical Islam, weapons proliferation and right-wing and left-wing extremism.
The 2017 national report ignored the North Rhine-Westphalia intelligence report that said Iran sought to obtain illicit technology that could be used for military nuclear and ballistic missile programs. In North Rhine-Westphalia, Iran’s regime made “32 procurement attempts... that definitely or with high likelihood were undertaken for the benefit of proliferation programs,” the state’s intelligence agency wrote last year.
German state reports frequently list more concrete data on Iran’s illicit nuclear, missile and espionage activities in the federal republic than the national intelligence report.
Take the examples of the southern German states of Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria: The Post reported in early June that the intelligence agency of Baden-Württemberg wrote in its report: “Iran continued to undertake, as did Pakistan and Syria, efforts to obtain goods and know-how to be used for the development of weapons of mass destruction and to optimize corresponding missile-delivery systems.”
Bavaria’s intelligence agency noted in its April report: “Iran, North Korea, Syria and Pakistan are making efforts to expand their conventional weapons arsenal through the production of weapons of mass destruction.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Heiko Maas are both energetic supporters of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal that aims to curb Tehran’s drive to become an atomic weapons power.
Neither Merkel nor Maas has commented on the state intelligence agency reports that documented Iran’s illegal proliferation activities in 2017 in Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria.

How the Mossad Broke Into an Iranian Facility and Stole Half a Ton of Nuclear Files
Haaretz/July 15/18
الهآررتس: كيف تمكنت الموساد من سرقة وثائق إيران النووية
Using blowtorches in the dead of night: The operatives had six hours and 29 minutes to break into the warehouse, obtain the files and flee, reports the New York Times
An operation by the Mossad earlier this year to steal files relating to Iran's nuclear program was conducted on January 31, according to a report by the New York Times. Mossad operatives broke into a warehouse in an industrial area in Tehran and, according to the report, had six hours and 29 minutes to finish the job before the morning shift arrived at 7 A.M. During this limited time, they disabled the alarms, broke through two doors, burned open dozens of safes and fled the city with the documents.
The agents were carrying blowtorches that burned at some 2,000 degrees Celsius to cut through the safes, according to the Times,. The report suggests that Israel may have had help on the inside, since it says that the Mossad agents knew exactly which safes to break into – leaving many of the others untouched. At the end of the night, the agents fled with half a ton of secret materials, including 50,000 pages and 163 compact discs containing files, videos and plans.
The Iranians began storing the files at the warehouse after signing a landmark 2015 accord on its nuclear program with the United States, European powers, Russia and China. The deal gave the UN nuclear watchdog access to suspected nuclear sites in Iran.
Israel claims that after signing the agreement, the Iranian regime collected files from across the country about the nuclear program, storing them at the warehouse. The warehouse wasn't guarded around the clock so as to not arouse suspicion.
The report was based on briefings Israel gave Western media outlets last week and included details from the stolem documents, which were presented in April by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a prime time address.
The reoprt further stated that Israeli officials said Tehran received help for its nuclear program from Pakistan and from other foreign experts.
Another report, from the Washington Post, says that Iran was on the verge of acquiring "key bombmaking technologies" when the program, code-named Project Amad, was halted some 15 years ago.
Netanyahu, Trump discuss Syria, Iran ahead of Helsinki summit
Reuters, Jerusalem/Sunday, 15 July 2018/Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that he discussed Syria and Iran with US President Donald Trump ahead of the latter’s meeting in Helsinki with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Moscow is the big-power ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose advances against rebel areas close to the Israeli frontier worry the Netanyahu government. The Russians are also regular interlocutors with Iran, an adversary of Israel and the United States that has forces fighting alongside Assad in Syria. In remarks to the Israeli cabinet, Netanyahu said that in a phone conversation on Saturday he and Trump discussed “security and diplomatic issues arising from regional developments, chiefmost among them, of course, Syria and Iran”. Netanyahu said he thanked Trump for his tough stance against Iran. The US president, Netanyahu said, “reiterated with sharp clarity his commitment to the security of Israel and his willingness to help Israel in various realms”. Trump meets Putin in the Finnish capital on Monday. Last week, Netanyahu flew out to Moscow for talks with Putin that focused on Israel’s demand that Iranian forces leave Syria.
G7 Foreign Ministers statement on MH17
July 15/18/The G7 foreign ministers today issued the following statement in advance of the anniversary of the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17:
“We, the G7 foreign ministers, of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, and the High Representative of the European Union, are united in our condemnation, in the strongest possible terms, of the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, a civilian aircraft flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on July 17, 2014.
“MH17 was carrying 298 crew and passengers, nationals of Australia, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Malaysia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the Philippines, Romania, South Africa, Vietnam, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
“We fully support the work of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT), an independent criminal investigation led by the Netherlands, Australia, Belgium, Malaysia and Ukraine. The JIT’s findings on Russia’s role in the downing of MH17 are compelling, significant and deeply disturbing. The G7 recalls that UN Security Council Resolution 2166 demands that all states cooperate fully with efforts to establish accountability. We are united in our support of Australia and the Netherlands as they call on Russia to account for its role in this incident and to cooperate fully with the process to establish the truth and achieve justice for the victims of MH17 and their next of kin.
“In a rules-based international order, those responsible for unacceptable actions, such as the firing or launching of the BUK missile of Russian origin, which intercepted and downed a civilian aircraft, must be held accountable. To this end, we call on Russia to immediately engage with Australia and the Netherlands in good faith to explain and to address all relevant questions regarding any potential breaches of international law.
“We express once again our deepest condolences to the families of the victims of MH17. We stand together against the impunity of those who engage in aggressive actions that threaten the rules-based international order, anywhere, anytime, and under any circumstances.”

Syrian Opposition Hands Over Heavy Arms in Daraa
Beirut, London/Asharq Al Awsat/Sunday, 15 July, 2018/Opposition factions and fighters in southern Daraa began surrendering and handing their heavy weapons to regime forces, under a deal brokered by Russia, at a time when reports stated that regime forces were taking strategic hills in Daraa countryside.Regime forces hoisted the Syrian flag over neighborhoods that had been under the opposition’s control dominated for years in the southern city of Daraa, signaling the army’s full restoration of the city. According to Reuters, hundreds of Syrian rebel fighters and their families were preparing to leave Daraa city in southwest Syria on Sunday, to be taken on buses to opposition-held areas in the north. A rebel official, Abu Shaima, said at least 500 fighters were boarding around 15 buses and that he will be one of those leaving. The fighters are leaving the Daraa al-Balad neighborhood of Deraa city which had been under rebel control for years until a surrender deal last week. Under the deal, rebels would hand over weapons and fighters who do not wish to live under state rule would be transferred out. State-owned news agency Sana reported that armed groups, positioned in Daraa al-Balad, began to hand over their heavy and medium-sized weapons to the Syrian army. “The process will continue until handing over all heavy and medium-sized weapons by the armed groups,” added SANA. On June 19, Syrian Army, backed by Russian forces, began bombarding rebel areas in Daraa and the neighboring province of Quneitra. The forces advanced quickly against opposition factions most of which operate under Jordanian-US influence. Following military pressure, Russia made a deal with opposition factions in the province to cease fire on July 06. The agreement indicates that factions have to hand over their heavy weapons, the gradual entry of state institutions into their areas of control and the evacuation of fighters against the deal in Idlib to north Syria. Authorities removed on Saturday all the barricades that were set up by terrorist organizations on the international highway that connects the Old Customs and the Jordanian borders in Daraa, SANA reported. Daraa city was the scene of the first major peaceful protests against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's authoritarian rule in March 2011 which spiraled into a war now estimated to have killed half a million people. Regime forces now hold more than 85 percent of Daraa province. Some western areas of the province remain under opposition control, and the deal excludes a southwestern patch held by an ISIS affiliate “Khalid Ibn Walid Army”, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Meanwhile, Free Syrian Army (FSA) began opening the road leading to Sajna neighborhood, in Daraa, in preparation for the withdrawal of the regime forces from it. General coordinator of Crisis Cell in Daraa Adnana Msalma said that the bulldozers began openning the road and removing the barricades from the old customs point towards the bridge of Sajnah.

Syria Rebels Begin Evacuating 'Cradle' of Uprising in Daraa
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 15/18/Syrian rebels and their relatives began evacuating the southern city of Daraa on Sunday under a deal to bring the "cradle" of the country's uprising back under government control. The highly symbolic transfers came as Russian-backed government forces advanced in the neighboring province of Quneitra, with air strikes pounding rebel positions perilously close to the Israeli-occupied Golan heights. After securing Damascus in May, President Bashar al-Assad turned his attention to rebels in the strategically vital south, where protests against his rule first erupted seven years ago. Nearly three weeks of bombardment saw beleaguered rebels agree with Russia earlier this month to hand over Daraa province, before reaching a similar deal for its capital this week. In recent days, rebels have handed over heavy-duty arms and other equipment to government forces who entered the city's rebel-held southern districts for the first time in years to plant the national flag. On Sunday, rebels and civilians who did not want to live under regime control were granted safe passage to opposition-held Idlib in Syria's northwest. Hundreds of fighters and some of their relatives, carrying suitcases packed with clothes, boarded around 15 buses in Daraa city, AFP's correspondent there said. The vehicles, parked on a main thoroughfare connecting the city's government-held north with its rebel-held south, were searched by Russian forces before setting off just after midday for Idlib. Syrian state television also said the transfers had begun, broadcasting images of white buses they said were carrying the fighters, their blue curtains drawn, surrounded by military forces.
More heavy arms surrendered
State news agency SANA said rebels were surrendering more heavy and medium weaponry in Daraa on Sunday. That would pave the way for the entire city to come under government control in accordance with the handover deal. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said an estimated 1,400 people were to be evacuated on Sunday, including rebels from the city and broader province. "Buses began moving from the gathering point towards the edge of the city to be searched," said the head of the Britain-based group, Rami Abdel Rahman. The so-called "reconciliation" deal for Daraa city is the latest in a string of such agreements the regime has used to retake large parts of the country. They usually follow ferocious military campaigns and sometimes stifling sieges that effectively force rebels to surrender. Their terms also typically include the mass transfer of thousands of rebels and civilians to opposition-held Idlib, in what rights groups and activists say may amount to forced displacement. Moscow has brokered many of these deals. It had reportedly insisted to southern rebels such transfers were not on the table for them, but seems to have ultimately relented.
Strikes on Quneitra
The regime fully regaining its rule over Daraa city will be a hugely symbolic blow to the opposition. In 2011, teenagers were arrested for scrawling anti-Assad slogans on the walls of a school in the city, sparking mass protests against the government. A brutal crackdown saw the movement develop into a full-fledged conflict that has since killed more than 350,000 people and displaced half the country's pre-war population. Assad has regained much of the territory he initially lost to opposition groups, now comfortably holding more than 60 percent of Syria. In the south, he holds 80 of Daraa province but parts of its western countryside and most of the adjacent province of Quneitra still escape his control. On Sunday, regime forces battered Quneitra province with hundreds of missiles and seized the town of Masshara, according to the Observatory. The clashes had left 18 regime forces and 13 rebels and allied jihadists dead, the monitor said. Four air strikes also hit an opposition position in Quneitra that lies within four kilometers (less than three miles) from the sensitive buffer zone with the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights. The Observatory said they were the first strikes in the area in over a year, when Russia, the U.S., and Jordan agreed a ceasefire deal for parts of the south. Around 160,000 people who were displaced by the regime's offensive on Daraa are still trapped in Quneitra, near the border with the Golan. Israel has been on high alert in recent weeks amid the spike in hostilities in the south. The Israeli army said on Friday it had fired a missile and "very probably" destroyed a drone flying over the demilitarized zone between Israel and Syria, after intercepting another drone on Wednesday.

After No End of Drama, Trump and Putin Take to Summit Stage
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 15/18/Before coming to Europe, U.S. President Donald Trump raised eyebrows by predicting that Monday's historic Helsinki summit with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin would be the "easiest" stage of his tour. The rest of his trip, to Brussels and Britain, has indeed crackled with controversy so far. But new indictments from an investigation into alleged Russian interference in U.S. politics have dropped with embarrassing timing, focusing attention again on whether the Trump campaign may have benefited from Putin's covert help to win the White House.
And it is far from the only charged issue to loom over the two leaders' first full-blown encounter. British accusations that Russia unleashed a deadly nerve agent in an English city, the fears of NATO allies that Trump is not serious about defending the Western alliance, and Putin's support for the Syrian regime after years of civil war also form part of the crowded backdrop. Putin will head to the Finnish capital on a diplomatic high after presiding over Sunday's World Cup final in Moscow, basking in the glow of a trouble-free tournament that burnished Russia's credentials. Ahead of the leaders' first one-on-one summit, the Kremlin said it considers Trump a "negotiating partner.""The state of bilateral relations is very bad," Kremlin adviser Yuri Ushakov said on Friday. "We have to start to set them right."Trump meanwhile teed up the summit with a quiet weekend of golf at one of his courses in Scotland, a calm end to his stormy visit to Britain, where he shocked his hosts by attacking Prime Minister Theresa May's strategy for Brexit. The visit heaped more trouble on the transatlantic alliance after Trump ripped into NATO leaders in Brussels for not spending enough on defense, and rebuked Germany for building an energy pipeline from Russia which he said would leave Europe's biggest economy beholden to Moscow. Trump was dogged by protests during his four days in Britain, and more are scheduled in Finland. But this time Trump will share the opprobrium with Putin, with the biggest rally -- dubbed "Helsinki Calling!" -- on Sunday to focus on issues that demonstrators say both presidents neglect: human rights, democracy, freedom of expression, inequality and the fate of refugees.
'Mano a mano'
All eyes Insight into their relationship will be on offer when Trump and Putin hold a joint news conference on Monday afternoon after their meeting in the Gothic Hall of the Finnish presidential palace. The talks are set to begin with only their interpreters in the room, before opening up to their delegations over a working lunch. Allies are nervously waiting to see if Trump sidles up to the canny Russian leader in the same way he has embraced other autocrats such as China's Xi Jinping, and even North Korea's Kim Jong Un. "Putin has proven himself to be incredibly savvy at reading personalities and characters," said Alina Polyakova, a foreign policy fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, noting that Putin was trained as a KGB spy. "He will praise Trump and try to bond with him in sort of a mano-a-mano way. Trump will be responsive to that tack," she said. On Friday, Trump said: "I'm not going in with high expectations, but we may come out with very surprising things."He also insisted that he had been "far tougher" with Russia than has been recognized by the "dishonest" media, and would "absolutely" bring up the question of election meddling.
Don't 'wing it on your own
Shortly after, news broke of the indictments of 12 Russian military intelligence agents for hacking Democrats during the 2016 elections. Democratic leaders quickly called for Trump to cancel the summit in light of the indictments. After that suggestion was rebuffed by the White House, the Democrats said Trump should at least ensure his national security team is alongside him with Putin at all times, "not wing it on your own." Some in Washington -- along with U.S. allies -- are worried about what Trump might bargain away after he used a stormy G7 summit in Canada to ponder whether it was time to readmit Russia to the club and move past sanctions imposed over Moscow's seizure of the Crimea region from Ukraine. Putin has less reason to cheer from Trump's imposition of trade tariffs on countries including Russia, and from his decision to abandon a nuclear pact with Iran. Trump also says he intends to pressure Putin over the rapid growth and modernization of Russia's nuclear arsenal. But for Putin, merely getting Trump to sit across the table counts as "an informal recognition of Russia as a great power", political analyst Alexei Malashenko said.

Key Israeli Documents Extent Of Iranian Nuke Plan Revealed By Netanyahu
Jerusalem Post/July 15/18/New wild details have emerged about how the Mossad stole some of Iran’s most sacred nuclear secrets from under its nose in the heart of Tehran. From Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s April 30 press conference and leaks soon after, it was known that there was a new treasure trove of evidence that Iran had been pursuing a nuclear weapons program until and after 2003 while lying to the world about it. But recently, Israeli government officials provided to the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post, copies of some of those newly revealed documents proving Iran’s nuclear weapons efforts. Maybe more significantly, new details were revealed about how the Mossad scored the secret documents. Apparently around two dozen Mossad agents were involved and they were given exactly 6 hours and 29 minutes to get in and out of the Shirobad facility in Tehran. Intelligence had clearly scoped out the facility well enough to know where the alarm was and how to fake out the alarm so that Iranians monitoring it would think nothing was wrong. The Mossad agents also knew when the morning guard rounds would come by and when they would discover the break-in. The Mossad break in began around 10:30 p.m. on January 31. They broke through two doors, cut through dozens of giant safes and got out of the city with a half-ton of secret materials. They used special torches burning at least at 3,600 degrees. The agents knew this was hot enough to slice through the 32 Iranian-made safes.Also, there were focused. Leaving many safes untouched, they first went after the safes containing the black binders, which had the most vital designs. They left at 5:00 a.m. to give them a head-start on the Iranian crew that discovered the break-in only at 7:00 a.m. – too late to catch anyone.
Gaza Truce Mostly Holds after Heavy Israel Strikes, Hamas Rocket Fire
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 15/18/A ceasefire announced by Hamas largely held Sunday after the most severe exchange of fire between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip since a 2014 war, easing fears of a wider conflict for now. Hamas, the Islamist movement that runs the blockaded Gaza Strip, said late Saturday a ceasefire had been reached with the help of Egypt and others, though Israel declined to comment. The United Nations' Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov was in Gaza and "working with all concerned parties to de-escalate the situation," a U.N. official said on condition of anonymity. Despite a few lower-level exchanges of fire overnight, relative calm returned to the Gaza Strip. In one incident on Sunday, an Israeli aircraft fired at what it said was militants launching balloons carrying firebombs over the Gaza border fence. It was not yet clear if there were casualties. Saturday saw dozens of Israeli air strikes, killing two Palestinians, while some 200 rockets and mortars were fired from the enclave at Israel. Four Israelis were wounded when a rocket hit a house in the city of Sderot near the Gaza Strip, authorities said. The two Palestinians killed were aged 15 and 16, caught in an Israeli strike on a building in the west of Gaza City, the enclave's health ministry said. Twenty-five people were wounded across Gaza, the ministry said. Hamas said it fired at Israel in defense in response to air strikes, which came after a soldier was wounded by a grenade along the Gaza border. Fawzi Barhoum, Hamas spokesman, said "the protection and the defense of our people is a national duty and a strategic choice."Israel blamed Hamas for the escalation, pointing to months of protests and clashes along the border that its military argues the Islamist movement is seeking to use as cover for attacks. There have also been hundreds of fires at Israeli farms caused by kites and balloons carrying firebombs from Gaza, leading to political pressure on the government and military to take action against Hamas.
Hardest blow
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Hamas had been hit with "the hardest blow" since a 2014 war and that "we will increase the strength of our attacks as necessary."At the start of a cabinet meeting on Sunday, he denied what he said were reports that "Israel has agreed to a ceasefire that would allow the continuation of terrorism by incendiary kites and balloons." "This is incorrect," he said. "We are not prepared to accept any attacks against us and we will respond appropriately."Thick plumes of smoke had risen over parts of the Gaza Strip on Saturday as Israel hit dozens of targets it said belonged to militants, including a high-rise building allegedly used by Hamas as a training facility with a tunnel underneath. The army said the strikes targeted Hamas military facilities, including a battalion headquarters, training facilities and weapons storage areas. In Israel, air raid sirens on Saturday sent people rushing to shelters in areas surrounding the Gaza Strip as rockets and mortars were fired from the Palestinian enclave at nearby communities. Israel said its air defenses intercepted around 30 of the some 200 rockets and mortars fired. Tensions have been building between Hamas and Israel for months over mass protests and clashes along the border fence. The two sides have already fought three wars since 2008. The protests have called for Palestinian refugees to return to their former homes now inside Israel. Since the protests and clashes broke out along the border on March 30, at least 141 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire. The majority of those killed were involved in protests and clashes but others were seeking to breach or damage the border fence. No Israelis have been killed. The arson balloons and kites from Gaza have caused 750 fires and burned 2,600 hectares, leading to hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage, according to Israel's fire service. On July 9, Israel closed its only goods crossing with the Gaza Strip in response to the fires. Hamas called the move a "crime against humanity," with Gaza already suffering from deep poverty and worsening humanitarian conditions.
Border protests
Border protests peaked on May 14, when the United States moved its Israel embassy to the disputed city of Jerusalem, but have continued at a lower level since then. On Friday, Israeli troops shot and killed two Palestinians, including a teenager, and wounded hundreds of others in border clashes. An Israeli soldier was also moderately wounded when a grenade was thrown at him from the northern Gaza Strip, the military said. Israel says its use of live fire is necessary to defend its borders and stop infiltrations. Palestinians and rights groups say unarmed protesters are being shot while posing no real threat.

Iraq: Protests Expand, Security Forces on High Alert
Baghdad- Hamza Mustafa/Asharq Al Awsat/Sunday, 15 July, 2018/Iraqi police fired in the air as hundreds of protesters tried to storm the main provincial government building in Basra on Sunday, wounding four people in the seventh day of unrest that has swept southern cities over poor services, police sources said. "Some of the protesters tried to storm the building. We prevented them by using water cannons and tear gas," said one of the police sources. An activist told AP that thousands of protesters gathered on Sunday outside the local government building and closed the roads leading to major oil fields north and west of Basra. There were also similar protests on Saturday in Baghdad. Earlier, Iraqi Prime Minister, commander-in-chief of Iraq’s armed forces, Haider al-Abadi, had issued a nationwide order placing security forces on high alert in the southern provinces in response to week-long protests against lack of government services and corruption in the southern governorates.Reinforcement troops from both the Counter-Terrorism Service and the Army’s Ninth Division have already been dispatched to Basra to help protect the province’s oil fields, security sources said. Abadi’s directive aims to control the ongoing protests, which on Friday spread from Basra, where residents had blocked access to the nearby commodities port of Umm Qasr, to the cities of Amara, Nasiriya and Najaf. Demonstrations continue in Basra for the seventh day in a row to protest unemployment and lack of services. Tensions increased after a demonstrator was killed last Sunday. The death toll from the demonstrations rose to 3 on Friday night, after two demonstrators died after sustaining injury from gunshot wounds in the provincial capital Amarah. Spokesman for the Maysan health authorities, Ahmad al-Kanani, said it was not clear who killed them but added there had been "indiscriminate gunfire" in the city. Media reports indicated that several protests were held outside the headquarters of various political parties in Maysan, including Abadi's Dawa Party, and some were set on fire. On Friday Abadi flew to Basra to try to restore calm, where he immediately met with head of military operations, tribal sheiks, and local officials.
After visiting Basra, the prime minister chaired a security cabinet meeting in Baghdad, his office said in a statement accusing "infiltrators" of feeding on "peaceful protests to attack public and private property". "Our forces will take all the necessary measures to counter those people," the statement asserted. But Abadi’s visit didn’t bring stability to the city as demonstrations spread to Dhi Qar and Najaf. On Friday, angry protesters stormed into Najaf International Airport, and other protesters tried to burn the offices of some parties in the city, before the situation calmed down. A small protest also took place after midnight in the northern Baghdad district of al-Shula amid a heavy deployment of security forces. Rumors circulated the social media calling for massive demonstrations to take place on Saturday in Baghdad. Some urged demonstrators to head for the fortified Green Zone, an area where the country's key institutions and embassies are located. Iraqi politicians face growing unrest as they try to form a coalition government after a May 12 parliamentary election tainted by allegations of fraud. Abadi is heading a fragile caretaker government, in place until the new government is formed. A political bloc led by cleric Moqtada al-Sadr won a majority in the poll on an anti-corruption platform which had appeal across Iraq’s electorate.

Trump, Putin Draw in Helsinki New Course of US-Russian Relations
London- Camille Taweel/Asharq Al Awsat/Sunday, 15 July, 2018/Finland’s capital, Helsinki, will be the focus of world attention on Monday when it will host the summit of Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. Finnish President Soli Neneisto will receive his guests in the 19th-century presidential palace overlooking the market square.Later, they will hold a private bilateral meeting and will be joined afterward by members of their respective delegations before holding a joint press conference in the afternoon. The private bilateral meeting and the "chemistry" in which it appears may play a role in determining the success or failure of the summit, but the failure or success will also be linked to the ability of the two leaders to bridge the gap in their views. This requires bargaining and making concessions as it usually happens in the buying and selling markets. The market square, which is located few meters away from the presidential palace, where they have met twice before but on the sidelines of meetings, might remind the two leaders that buying and selling require swaps and concessions in which the seller and buyer get what they want. The Finnish presidential palace has hosted a Russian-US summit before. In 1990, it brought together US President George Bush and former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. When that summit was held back then, Gorbachev's Soviet Union was weak and its republics were disintegrating, but Russia is now in a different situation in which Putin is trying to revive his country's glory and restore it to the same position as before. However, regardless of the divergence or rapprochement that will emerge at the Helsinki summit between Putin and Trump, the bet is that the summit will redraw a new course of US-Russian relations, focusing on areas where cooperation is possible.
On the summit’s eve, the Elysee Palace announced that President Emmanuel Macron, who will attend the final of the World Cup between his national team and the Croatian team, will hold a political summit with President Putin in Moscow.
Both parties, according to the Elysee, will discuss the file of the Syrian crisis, which is believed to be also a pivotal subject in the Trump – Putin summit on Monday. In regards to the Syrian file, the Russian president is said to attend Helsinki summit in a strong position since his military intervention has managed to completely reverse the balance of power. With the direct Russian cover (and with the support of a mix of Iranian-controlled militias), the regime's forces managed to recover most of the country's main areas.

Eritrea's Afwerki Ends 20 Years of Adversity on Historic Ethiopia Visit
Cairo- Khalid Mahmoud/Asharq Al Awsat/Sunday, 15 July, 2018/Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki pledged to resolve his country’s dispute with Ethiopia on Saturday in a historic visit to Addis Ababa aimed at cementing peace less than a week after the nations declared an end to two decades of conflict. Isaias arrived in the Ethiopian capital just five days after Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed visited Eritrea as part of a dizzying peace process aimed at ending years of violence and animosity between the neighbors who were once part of the same nation. Abiy and Isaias shared laughs and hugs at an official lunch on Saturday as the Ethiopian leader said his counterpart was “beloved, respected and missed by the Ethiopian people.”“We are no longer people of two countries. We are one,” Isaias told political and cultural figures gathered in a palace built during Ethiopia’s imperial days. “We’ll go forward together.”Isaias started his three-day visit at Addis Ababa’s airport, where he and Abiy strode down a red carpet as a brass band played and traditional dancers cheered. The leaders then drove into the city on a road lined with thousands of people dressed in white shawls and waving palm fronds as Ethiopian and Eritrean flags flew side-by-side from lampposts.There were also banners and pictures of the two leaders who on Monday signed a declaration declaring an official end to the war. “Welcome home President Isaias!!” Abiy’s chief of staff Fitsum Arega wrote on Twitter as the Eritrean leader arrived. Later in the day, the two leaders flew to the southern city of Hawassa where Isaias toured an industrial park that’s key to Ethiopia’s economy. Eritrea was once part of Ethiopia and comprised its entire coastline on the Red Sea until it voted for independence in 1993 after decades of bloody conflict. The move left Ethiopia landlocked, and the deterioration of relations after the outbreak of the war in 1998 forced Addis Ababa to channel its foreign trade through Djibouti. The two countries showed little sign of rapprochement since the signing of the Algiers peace agreement in 2000 after a conflict which left 80,000 people dead before settling into a bitter cold war. Analysts say the surprisingly rapid burying of the hatchet was possible only because of Abiy’s ascension to the post of prime minister in April. As part of a whirlwind set of reforms, Abiy announced last month that Ethiopia would abide by a 2002 UN-backed ruling and hand back disputed border territory to Eritrea, including the flashpoint town of Badme. However Ethiopia has not announced the pull-out of troops from the area. Abiy then paid a historic visit to Eritrea, where the two leaders announced the re-establishment of diplomatic and trade ties that could mean big benefits for both nations, and the wider Horn of Africa region, plagued by conflict and poverty. The emotional reunion between the two countries has allowed residents to speak to each other by telephone for the first time in two decades as communication lines were re-opened.
Direct flights are due to start next week. “Can one find appropriate words to describe the intensity of popular emotions that has gripped both countries; the depth and significance of the promising changes underway in the region!” Eritrean Information Minister Yemane Gebremeskel said on Twitter after Isaias arrived. Ethiopia’s state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate said Isaias would also re-open the Eritrean embassy during his three-day stay.
A state dinner in his honor will be held on Sunday.
– Catalyst for change –
Eritrea and Ethiopia are both among Africa’s poorest nations. However, Ethiopia has seen double-digit growth in recent years and is seeking wider options for importing goods and exporting from its nascent manufacturing industry by eyeing ports in Somalia and Eritrea. Meanwhile Eritrea, one of the world’s most isolated nations, has pursued policies that have hamstrung the economy by scaring off investors, including an indefinite military conscription program the UN has likened to slavery. Amnesty International said Saturday that the newfound peace should be a catalyst for change in Eritrea, where thousands of people, including rights activists and opposition politicians are “languishing in detention simply for expressing their views.”“The end of hostilities with Ethiopia is a joyous moment for Eritreans, but it must be followed by tangible reforms that make a real difference in the daily lives of the people and put an end to decades of repression in the country,” said Seif Magango, AI’s deputy director for the region. In a statement he said Eritrea was the biggest jailer of journalists on the continent, and that its last independent media house was shut down 17 years ago. Amnesty also called for an end to forced military conscription, seen as a key driver of the departure of hundreds of thousands of Eritreans from their country.

Afghan Civilian Deaths Hit Record As Suicide Attacks Surge

Kabul/Asharq Al Awsat/Sunday, 15 July, 2018/The number of civilians killed in Afghanistan in the first half of this year has increased by 1 percent, compared to the same period last year, according to a report released Sunday by the United Nations. Deaths rose 1 percent to 1,692, although injuries dropped 5 percent to 3,430 in the January-June period, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said in its latest civilian casualty report. Overall civilian casualties were down 3 percent from the first six months of 2017. UNAMA started a systematic documentation of civilian casualties in 2009. The UN mission renewed its call on parties to the conflict to increase efforts to protect the civilian population and work toward reaching a peaceful settlement. Sunday's report and others like it reflect the grim reality of Afghanistan today. Since the US and NATO forces formally concluded their combat mission at the end of 2014, a resurgent Taliban have stepped up their attacks across the country and an ISIS affiliate has also emerged to launch horrific high-profile attacks that have claimed the lives of scores of civilians. The UN report also cited a lull in June, when the Taliban accepted a three-day cease-fire over the Eid al-Fitr holiday that caps the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. The insurgents later rejected a subsequent call by President Ashraf Ghani to extend it. Ghani has repeatedly extended calls to the Taliban for peace talks but they have rejected them outright. Speaking at a press conference Sunday in Kabul, Ghani said the NATO summit last week in Brussels fully backed his government's efforts and peace initiatives. "The brief cease-fire demonstrated that the fighting can be stopped and that Afghan civilians no longer need to bear the brunt of the war," the report quoted Tadamichi Yamamoto, the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Afghanistan. "We urge parties to seize all opportunities to find a peaceful settlement - this is the best way that they can protect all civilians," added Yamamoto, who is also head of UNAMA. According to the report, 157 women were among those killed and 387 were wounded in the January-June period, the report said. The mission also recorded a total of 1,355 child casualties, with 363 deaths and 992 children wounded in the first six months of the year. "UNAMA continued to document the toxic consequences of this conflict, with Afghan boys and girls killed, maimed, sexually assaulted, abused, recruited and used by parties to the conflict," said Danielle Bell, mission's human rights chief. The violence, she added, "continued to erode the rights of children to education, health-care, freedom of movement and other fundamental rights, as well as family life, playing outdoors and simply enjoying a childhood free of the brutal effects of war." The use of improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, remained the leading cause of civilian casualties, according to the report. The combined use of suicide and non-suicide bombings caused nearly half of all civilian casualties. The report attributed just over a half — or 52 percent — of civilian casualties from suicide and complex attacks in the first half of the year to the ISIS terrorist group, mainly in the capital of Kabul and the eastern Nangarhar province, where it has gained a foothold. On Thursday, at least 10 civilians were killed in Nangarhar's Khogyani district after the army launched an operation against insurgents there, said Ajmal Omar, a member of the provincial council. The dead were mostly shopkeepers caught in the cross-fire. The Taliban were responsible for 40 percent while the remainder were attributed to unidentified anti-government elements, the report said.
Thousands Rally in Morocco for Jailed Rif Opponents
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 15/18/Thousands of people demonstrated in Morocco's capital Rabat on Sunday against the jailing of leaders and activists of a northern protest movement. "The people boycott the justice system!" and "free the detainees!", yelled the protesters, AFP reporters said. The demonstrators also chanted against militarization of the Rif, the northern region rocked by the Al-Hirak al-Shaabi (Popular Movement) protests in 2016 and 2017. Under the watchful eyes of the police, people marched towards parliament brandishing pictures of the movement's leaders and activists. A Moroccan court on June 26 sentenced 53 Hirak members to prison terms ranging from one year to 20 years. Protest leader Nasser Zefzafi and three others were handed each 20-year jail terms for "plotting to undermine the security of the state." Islamist group Al Adl Wal Ihsane -- tolerated but unrecognized by the government -- was one of several groups to take part in Sunday's protest. The group mobilized between 6,000 and 8,000 people, local authorities said. Those sentenced in June include journalist Hamid el Mahdaoui who has given a three-year jail term for "failing to denounce an attempt to harm internal state security" in his coverage. The activists are appealing the sentences and Amnesty International has called for the verdicts to be overturned. The 2016 protests began when fisherman Mouhcine Fikri was crushed to death in a rubbish truck, while he was apparently trying to retrieve swordfish seized by authorities as it was caught out of season. Subsequent unrest in the Rif region, where the marginalized Berber ethnic group is the majority, focused on social issues as demonstrators demanded jobs and development.
France become World Cup champions after defeating Croatia 4-2
Reuters/Sunday, 15 July 2018/France has clinched its second World Cup title with a 4-2 win over Croatia in a dramatic final in Moscow featuring a series of firsts and a pitch invasion orchestrated by Russian protest group Pussy Riot. France led 2-1 at halftime courtesy of the first own-goal and the first video-reviewed penalty in a World Cup final. The own-goal off the top of Mario Mandzukic's head was the 12th of the tournament. That's double the previous World Cup record of six. Croatia rallied to equalize on a terrific left-foot strike by Ivan Perisic, but France took the lead right back when Perisic handled the ball in the area. Argentine referee Nestor Pitana initially didn't call the handball but awarded the spot kick after a video review. Antoine Griezmann converted the penalty to put France back in front. Four pitch invaders disrupted the game in the 52nd minute for about a minute before being dragged away by security and police. Punk rock group Pussy Riot quickly claimed responsibility for the pitch invasion via social media, saying it was a protest aimed at ending illegal arrests of protesters and to allow political competition in Russia. Play resumed and France quickly took a 4-1 lead with goals from Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe in the 59th and 65th minutes before Mario Mandzukic pulled one back for the Croatians in the 69th. Croatia was playing in its first World Cup final. For France, it was a first World Cup crown since winning on home soil in 1998.

Pride and tears for Croatians after World Cup final loss
Reuters, Zaghreb/Sunday, 15 July 2018/After watching their football team lose 4-2 to France in the World Cup final in Moscow on Sunday, some Croatians wept with sadness while others felt pride that their tiny nation had gone so far in the tournament. When the final whistle blew fans who had gathered in Ban Jelacic square in the capital Zagreb to watch the match on a big screen hugged each other in commiseration. One young woman used a red-and-white Croatian flag to wipe tears from her eyes as a female friend, also crying, put her arm around her. Others continued waving Croatian flags and scarves through the disappointment after watching their country play in the World Cup final for the first time. Croatia's Lovre Kalinic is embraced by President of Croatia Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic as the players receive their medals from FIFA president Gianni Infantino, President of Russia Vladimir Putin and President of France Emmanuel Macron during the presentations. (Reuters) “The French proved better in decisive moments although we practically let them score the first two goals too easily. Still, it is a great achievement to play in the final and we can only be proud of what our football team has done in the World Cup,” 59-year old Darko Ilakovac said. Croatia, with a population of only 4.2 million people, were not among the favourites at the start of the tournament. Their progress to the final gripped the imagination of the Balkan nation and members of the Croatian diaspora living in countries from Germany to Australia. “For a nation of four million people it’s a miracle to come to the World Cup final,” said Aleksander Ceferin, the head of European football’s governing body UEFA. Croatia will stage on Monday a welcoming party for the football team in Zagreb. Thousands of Croat fans are expected to come to the main Zagreb square in the early afternoon when the players are due to arrive. Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic appealed to employers to let staff leave work early to join the celebration. Train tickets will be 50 percent cheaper for those wishing to travel to Zagreb from other Croatian cities for the occasion.

The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on July 15-16/18
Story of a Foiled Islamist Terrorist Attack
Majid Rafizadeh/Gatestone Institute/July 15/18
You [Europeans] are supporting a terrorist regime that is determined to terrorize your countries.
You are supporting a regime that does not hesitate to commit some of the worst human rights abuses inside its own country, and abroad.
Where is your sense of decency and respect for human rights that you boast about so often?
Tens of thousands of Iranians, and non-Iranian human rights defenders from all across the world, recently gathered at a Free Iran rally in Paris, France, to further peace and extend human rights to every person. European, American, and Middle Eastern leaders, as well as many other influential people participated, including former Canadian foreign minister John Baird and other international leaders.
Suddenly, according to Reuters, an Iranian diplomat, along with six other individuals, was arrested in Europe over a plot to commit a terrorist attack at that rally.
First of all, please imagine the plot these men had in mind for their terrorist attack; it parallels so many other attacks that have occurred. If those men had been successful in this attack, many more people, including international leaders, could have been injured or killed.
Secondly, the Islamist state of Iran apparently orchestrated the attack with the intent to kill. Should this not this plan, even though it was aborted, be considered an act of terrorism and war against other nations and governments? Should this planned attack not urge European leaders to stop their policies of appeasement policies toward the Islamic Republic of Iran?
Third, if you have been following how this news item has been unfolding on various media outlets, you have reason to be concerned. Many waited far too long after initial reports by organizations such as Reuters, Euronews and the Guardian, to begin their own reports about the planned attack. This is information that should have been made available immediately. At the very least, it might have to generate the outrage needed to stop such terrorist attacks from continuing in the future, rather than having many media outlets seen as protecting the world's largest exporter of terrorism, Iran, from possible criticism. More importantly, this failed act of terrorism should lead governments around the world to be more careful about what is truly going on inside Iranian embassies and consulates in their countries. The Islamist state of Iran has shown that it uses ​its embassies in foreign countries as spy and terrorist cells. Recently, Kuwait expelled 15 Iranian diplomats after they were convicted of a running a terror cell there.
This again highlights the tendency of so many apologists for Iran's leaders -- not its people -- to be somehow soft on the Iranian regime. Why is it, when the Iran is listed as the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism? Why is it, when the ruling mullahs are ranked top in the world when it comes carrying out more than half the executions the world over, including those of children? Why would anyone want to shield or appease a government guilty of crimes against humanity?
This is not the first time that Iran has committed a terrorist attack against other nations. In 1994, it carried out the bombing of a Jewish community center in Argentina, which is still under investigation.
Examples of Americans killed by Iran's leadership include the suicide bombing in Lebanon that killed 241 American servicemen (220 Marines, 18 sailors, and three soldiers); the Khobar Towers bombing, the bombing of the USS Cole with the direct support and involvement of Hezbollah, Al Qaeda and Iran, as well as participation in the 9/11 attacks on the US mainland in 2001.
Intriguingly, still under investigation, an Iranian MP recently leaked that the Obama administration had granted American citizenship to 2,500 Iranian citizens "to please" the Iranian regime. Who, if any, are these people who were granted citizenship -- the regime's spies and agents who are now going to live among us for decades? Why should the U.S. "please" any regime that is built on the slogan of "Death to America"? Why would a US president commit such an act -- if he did -- to satisfy the demands of an Islamist and terrorist regime?
These are questions that every Westerner should be ready to ask his politicians.
President Donald Trump is correct that the U.S. should stand against the aggressive and destructive behavior of the Iranian regime, or any other. To those that would seek to appease the Iranian regime, I put myself forward as a prime example of why this must not continue to happen.
If Iran's terrorist attack had been successful, countless people would have been killed. My message to those who continue to appease the Islamist state of Iran – such as many Europeans, (here, here and here) -- is that you are supporting a terrorist regime that is determined to terrorize your countries. You are supporting a regime that does not hesitate to commit some of the worst human rights abuses inside its own country and abroad. Where is your sense of decency and respect for human rights that you boast about so often?
**Dr. Majid Rafizadeh, is a business strategic and advisor, Harvard-educated scholar, political scientist, board member of Harvard International Review, and president of the International American Council on the Middle East. He has authored several books on Islam and US Foreign Policy. He can be reached at Dr.Rafizadeh@Post.Harvard.Edu
© 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.

France: A Second Jihad in the Bataclan?
Guy Millière/Gatestone Institute/July 15/18
Organizations representing the families of the Bataclan victims said that an Islamic rap concert praising jihad, in a place where people were murdered and tortured by jihadists, would be an insult to the memory of the victims, and asked that the concerts be canceled.
"France is at war, and leaves the enemy in peace". — Ivan Rioufol, journalist, in Le Figaro.
Macron and the French government speak and act as if the enemy has won and as if they want to gain some time and enjoy the moment before the final surrender.
"The French Suicide" ("Le suicide français") is a book published by the author Éric Zemmour in October 2014. Just one year later, on November 13, 2015 in Paris, a horror took place at the Bataclan Theater, when three terrorists fired into the crowd during a concert, murdered 130 people, and injured 413. Some of the victims had been tortured.
The French population reacted as usual: shock and horror quickly gave way to resignation and submission. Flowers, candles and teddy bears were placed at the scene of the attacks. The government promised to act, but did almost nothing. A ceremony was organized that ended with a song that said, "When All You Have is Love".
A parliamentary commission of inquiry drafted a report. Military forces, deployed in the streets before the attacks, were reinforced. A climate of resignation and submission reigned.
Pictured: Policemen outside of the Bataclan Theater in Paris, France on November 16, 2015, three days after the murderous terrorist attack. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
When the Bataclan Theater reopened a year later, the musician Sting sang a song called Inshallah ("If it be your will, it shall come to pass"). Commemorative plaques bearing the word "murders" -- not terrorism, and of course not jihad -- were laid to honor the victims so that passers-by would learn that people were killed, but not by whom. For the second anniversary of the attacks, political leaders from left and right released balloons and smiled as they rose in the sky.
The attacks of November 13, 2015 had seemed to be relegated to an almost forgotten past, when two recent events put them back on the map.
Lawyers for the victims of the attacks carefully read the report of the commission of inquiry (released to the public on July 5, 2016), and discovered a few shocking facts. It turned out that soldiers in charge of anti-terrorism operations had been standing nearby on the night of the attack. Also, when the police officers who arrived at the scene as the attack began discovered that they had no adequate weapons with which to confront the terrorists, they asked the soldiers for help. The soldiers contacted the Military Governor of Paris, General Bruno Le Ray, who replied that France was "not at war", and that it was "unthinkable to put soldiers in danger to save lives". Therefore, while dozens of innocent people were being murdered, the soldiers, a few dozen meters away, did not respond. Meanwhile, the police waited for reinforcements, which took more than three hours to arrive.
The lawyers for the victims were horrified. They spoke of non-assistance to persons in danger and decided to sue the army and the police. The complaint was officially filed on June 8, 2018.
Shortly after that, posters announcing two events at the Bataclan were posted in Paris.
These events -- Islamic rap concerts -- are scheduled to take place this October, close to the third anniversary of the attacks. The artist who will perform them is called Médine, after Medina, the city from which the Prophet of Islam began to conduct his jihad. Médine's lyrics are filled with hatred towards non-Muslims, France and the West. One of his best-known songs, in fact, is called "Jihad". Apparently to make sure that his message clear, Médine has released pictures showing him wearing a T-shirt on which the "J" in the word jihad is replaced by a vertical sword. In other photos, Médine can be seen making a "quenelle", a hand gesture similar to a chest-level of the Nazi salute and made famous by Dieudonné, a comedian convicted for anti-Semitism.
Organizations representing the families of the Bataclan victims said that an Islamic rap concert praising jihad, in a place where people were murdered and tortured by jihadists, would be an insult to the memory of the victims, and asked that the concerts be canceled.
The lawsuit filed by the lawyers is unlikely to succeed. The government has already said that the army and the police have "done their duty."
The concerts will most likely not be canceled. French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said that "freedom of speech" has to be respected and accused the complaining organizations of playing the game of the "extreme right." Muslim organizations spoke of "Islamophobia."
Laurent Wauquiez, president of the conservative Les Républicains party, said that "the role of the police and the army is to watch over the safety of people and not wait passively while people get killed." He also said that if the concerts were held, it would be a "sacrilege" and the second death of the victims of the attacks. Other conservative politicians shared his opinion. They were immediately accused of "racism".
Most mainstream French media outlets remained silent. Those who broke the silence accused the lawyers of needlessly wanting to reopen old wounds. Virtually no journalist spoke of booking Médine's concerts at the Bataclan: those who did, such as Edouard Philippe, invoked "freedom of speech".
Evidently, then, France is a country where the police and the army can refuse to protect people, and where generals can order dereliction of duty without being sanctioned. France is also evidently a country where praising jihad in a place where jihadists massacred people is acceptable.
Although there has been no major attack in France since July 14, 2016, when a Muslim terrorist murdered 86 people by ramming a truck into a crowd in Nice, other, smaller, Islamic attacks have taken place. A priest was beheaded in Normandy while he was saying mass. Two elderly Jewish women were tortured and murdered in their Paris apartments. Two young women were hacked to death with a machete in front of the Marseille train station. Three customers of a supermarket and a gendarmerie officer were slaughtered near Carcassonne. And on May 12, 2018, a young man was stabbed to death near the Place de l'Opera in Paris.
No one even reacted.
French President Emmanuel Macron, a few weeks after he was elected, while sharing an iftar dinner during Ramadan with the leaders of the French Muslim community, said that "attacks" were the results of "perverse lies" that have nothing to do with Islam. He also said that in France, Islam must have "the place it deserves". He is working on that. A big event called "Assises de l'Islam de France" ("The Foundation of the Islam of France") is scheduled for this fall.
In the coming months, 450 people defined as "radicalized" and dangerous will be released from prison: they all will have completed their sentences. France is a country where people who commit first-degree murder rarely spend more than 15 years in prison. The government claims that everyone released will be monitored. During the last decade, however, most of those who murdered in the name of jihad were supposedly monitored.
President Macron, noting that a growing minority of the French are anxious about the future, and that people throughout Europe vote more and more for parties eager to defend Western civilization, spoke of a "rising leprosy".
"France is at war, and leaves the enemy in peace", wrote the journalist Ivan Rioufol recently in the daily Le Figaro. Macron and the French government, however, do not seem to think that France is at war. They speak and act as if the enemy has won and as if they want to gain some time and enjoy the moment before the final surrender.
On July 3, in Nantes, a young thug named Aboubakar Fofana, while trying to escape arrest, injured a police officer, and in the process was shot by another police officer. Three nights of chaos followed. Dozens of cars and shops were burned. The policeman who shot Aboubakar Fofana is charged with manslaughter and could be sentenced to prison -- simply for trying to enforce the law. He was, it was ruled, in the wrong. Whenever a police officer in France wants to enforce the law and a violent incident happens, the policeman is punished. Two other cases of the same kind:
In October 2005, policemen tried to arrest two young men, Zyed Benna and Bouna Traoré. The young men escaped and tried to hide in an electricity substation, where they were electrocuted by accident. Ten days of riots followed, which caused up to €200 million in damage. Two policemen were accused of "failure to help" and "deliberately endangering the lives of others". They were fired and indicted. They were declared innocent ten years later.
In February 2017, a young man called Theo Luhaka attacked policemen, and was arrested. He was hurt and accused policemen to have "raped" him. A policeman was fired and was indicted by a judge. Riots occurred all over the country. François Hollande who was then President came to visit Theo at the hospital. One year later, the policeman was declared innocent, the policeman still receive death threats. The police officers and soldiers who did nothing for hours during the November 13, 2015 terrorist attack may just not have wanted to risk being punished.
*Dr. Guy Millière, a professor at the University of Paris, is the author of 27 books on France and Europe.
© 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.

What the Best World Cup Teams Say About Immigration
Leonid Bershidsky/Bloomberg/July 15/18
Three of the four national teams in the World Cup semifinals — France, Belgium and England — are, one might think, icons of European diversity. Immigrants and sons of immigrants are overrepresented on these squads compared with the demographics of these countries as a whole. But one could also see this diversity as a sign that integration isn’t working too well in much of Europe.
France’s starting lineup in Tuesday’s semifinal against Belgium contained five players born overseas or to immigrant parents: Cameroonian-born Samuel Umtiti; N’Golo Kante, whose parents came from Mali; son of Guinean parents Paul Pogba; Kylian Mbappe, whose father is Cameroonian and mother Algerian; and Blaise Matuidi, son of an Angolan father and a Congolese mother. That’s 45 percent of the starting 11. Non-European Union immigrants and their children make up only 13.5 percent of France’s population, according to Eurostat.
Belgium’s starting 11 also had five players of immigrant background: Nacer Chadli, who started out playing for the Moroccan national team before he switched to Belgium; Marouane Fellaini, whose parents are also Moroccan; Vincent Kompany and Romelu Lukaku, whose fathers are Congolese; and Mousa Dembele, whose father is from Mali. Belgium’s population of first- and second-generation non-EU immigrants is 12 percent.
England, too, has a greater proportion of players with non-European immigrant backgrounds — mostly Caribbean, as in the cases of Kyle Walker, Ashley Young, Raheem Sterling and Jesse Lingard; Dele Alli’s father is Nigerian — than the U.K. has such residents. Their share is 14 percent of the overall U.K. population. England head coach Gareth Southgate is not quite right when he says his team “represents modern England.” Neither he nor the French and Belgian coaches, who have voiced similar sentiments, are wrong to be proud of the diversity, however. The national teams and the powerful player selection systems in the three countries pick the best players regardless or their origin, religion or skin color. Soccer has to be meritocratic because it’s competition in its purest form, not constrained by national borders to the same degree as American sports. In soccer, the son of a banker and a lawyer (that’s the background of French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris) is on an equal footing with someone like Lukaku, whose family couldn’t pay its electricity bills for weeks at a time and whose mother had to water down his milk to make it last longer. Or like Sterling, whose mother cleaned hotel rooms to put herself through school.
For immigrants without fast-twitch muscles and great footwork, however, there is no level playing field. Employment rates are noticeably lower among first-generation immigrants than for the population as a whole, and they don’t improve much for the second generation.
The odds are stacked against kids with the same background as the world-class soccer players in a number of important ways. Statistics show a higher percentage of second-generation immigrants than native-born people go to college in France and the U.K. (though not in Belgium) — but, according to a 2017 report from the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, an overwhelming majority of young people with low educational attainment in all three countries are second-generation, non-EU immigrants. The report says:
Educational aspirations are generally high among migrant families. However, while educational aspirations may support educational upward mobility, by itself they are not sufficient, particularly when support structures and knowledge on how to attain these goals is lacking.
As a result, in Belgium, people with non-EU-born parents are 13.2 percent less likely than the native-born to get a better job than their parents; in France, the likelihood is 8 percent lower, and in the U.K., 4 percent lower. People are stuck in low-paid occupations — and in low-income areas full of other people with migration backgrounds. This creates a vicious circle for millions of people, even if it gives the extremely talented few the impulse to fight harder.
“Let me tell you something — every game I ever played was a final,” Lukaku told The Players’ Tribune.
When I played in the park, it was a final. When I played during break in kindergarten, it was a final. I’m dead-ass serious. I used to try to tear the cover off the ball every time I shot it. Full power. We weren’t hitting R1, bro. No finesse shot. I didn’t have the new “FIFA”. I didn’t have a Playstation. I wasn’t playing around. I was trying to kill you. In a column for The Times, Patrick Vieira, the former French international, echoes the violence of that self-description as he recalls his childhood in a poor Paris suburb — the kind of place from which most of the current French team’s second-generation immigrants hail from. “When I trained and played,” he wrote, “it was with a knife in my teeth. By that I mean I had a hunger to succeed. I loved the game but I also had a drive from my mother. To so many people in those estates, there are no jobs, no help. You see that determination in a lot of footballers from those concrete pitches.”Sports — in particular, soccer with its well-developed, lavishly funded selection systems and powerful clubs — can be a straight path out of poverty. Several of the French and Belgian players’ fathers are former small-time soccer pros, and they gave their sons good advice, providing some of the networking benefits that immigrants, whether first- or second-generation, lack in Europe. The soccer meritocracy can’t give every ghetto kid an upward path, though. All it can do is make sure the ones who play every game like their last make it onto big club rosters and national teams.
There’s a lesson in this for the rest of society. Soccer’s support networks for talented kids can and should be replicated in other areas of endeavor. Some of the boys and girls growing up in no-hope areas today could be the Mbappes and Lukakus of tech, finance or the arts. The national teams, multicolored as they are, exist to remind governments, businesses and educational institutions that they just need to look harder.

What Trump’s Trade War Is Really About
Christopher Balding/Bloomberg/July 15/18
As the trade war between the US and China escalates, with President Donald Trump imposing tariffs on $34 billion of Chinese imports, both sides are trying to portray themselves as victims of an unconstrained unilateralist rival. They're both wrong: This dispute is about something much bigger.
For many years, American foreign policy adopted a fairly strong pro-China stance. The US was a major proponent of China's accession to the World Trade Organization and took no direct policy actions in response to its long-running manipulation of the yuan. It advocated for China's development and tried to integrate it into the broader international system, despite China's abuses in areas such as intellectual property. All along, America's goal was to avoid conflict, get China to reform and open its economy, and assimilate it into a system built around open markets and liberal values. The problem was that China never really accepted this system.
As Princeton professor Aaron Friedberg recently described the conflict:
America's post-Cold War strategy for dealing with China was rooted in prevailing liberal ideas about the linkages between trade, economic growth and democracy, and a faith in the presumed universality and irresistible power of the human desire for freedom. The strategy pursued by China’s leaders, on the other hand, was, and still is, motivated first and foremost by their commitment to preserving the Chinese Communist Party’s monopoly on domestic political power. A rapidly growing China that respected liberal norms and rules would've been widely welcomed. Europe, the US and Japan have all engaged in long-running disputes with each other, but they also share an understanding of what the rules are and an ultimate vision of more open markets. China doesn't share that vision; in fact, it sometimes expresses contempt for it. This is the fundamental issue dividing the two countries.
Had Trump's administration entered into negotiations on these grounds, it would've had significant leverage. Almost no other country shares China's vision on these issues, and America's many allies likely would've been willing to act as a united front if the US were pursuing coherent goals.
Unfortunately, Trump seems to have lost the plot in this regard, focusing instead on issues such as the bilateral trade deficit and manufacturing jobs. His administration has also taken to referring to China as a "strategic competitor," thereby playing right into China's rhetoric. Faced with this more aggressive approach, China now says it will not negotiate with a "gun to its head" and state media argues that Washington is trying to prevent China's rise. That charge isn't true, but Trump's approach has given it more credibility.
The good news is that both sides seem to be engaging in some introspection. Trump has given ZTE Corp. — which was rocked by US penalties after violating sanctions — at least a temporary reprieve and China's state media has been reflecting on the wisdom of closed markets. Despite the public bellicosity, both seem to realize they're on a dangerous path. Even so, a resolution isn't obvious. If the dispute was simply over product subsidies or market access, a path forward could be reached. This is a much more fundamental conflict about values.

New Weapons Against Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria
Faye Flam/Bloomberg/July 15/18
It’s frustrating enough when progress in medicine plods along slowly, but downright alarming when it starts to backslide. Bacterial infections were considered essentially conquered in the 20th century, and now resistant strains are projected to kill more people than cancer by 2050.
While some people dispute the projected death rate, it’s agreed that bacteria are evolving resistance to antibiotics faster than the drug pipeline can produce new ones.
But in the battle between mankind and microbes, our side has a few new tactics. Some scientists are finding new, more precise strategies for adding to our antibiotic arsenal. Others are finding ways to slow down the relentless evolution of resistant bacteria. One lab, with new results published last week, is combining those tactics. Bacteria have been evolving for more than 3 billion years, so they have pretty good arsenals of their own. They can evolve with ferocious speed using tricks to increase their genetic diversity, and some can communicate and cooperate. Evolutionary biologists who work on the resistance problem say it will take more to hold them back than simply avoiding unnecessary or inappropriate prescriptions.
In an opinion piece published last December in the journal PLOS Biology, evolutionary biologist Sam Brown of Georgia Tech University advocated a hard push to find alternative ways to treat the most common bacterial ailments – urinary tract and bronchial infections and strep throat. Scientists are already scrambling to come up with alternative ways to treat the sorts of life-threatening infections people get in hospitals, he said, but a better long-term strategy for saving lives would be to focus on preventing the evolution of resistant bacteria in the first place, and most of that evolution happens because of those much more common conditions and treatments.
Others have begun to question the longstanding tradition of asking patients to take the whole bottle, often using the drugs for days after they feel better. As several evolutionary biologists have pointed out, if a few resistant bugs remain after the patient feels better, then taking more of the same drug won’t wipe them out. As this piece in the medical website STAT News points out, the current medical wisdom isn’t based on testing but became accepted before resistance had become recognized as a threat.
It might turn out that letting the immune system wipe out any stragglers would better prevent the breeding of resistant strains. If another new study is right, then continuing antibiotics after recovery may dampen the effectiveness of the immune system, thus giving any resistant strains that do crop up the chance to flourish.
In that study, MIT medical engineer James Collins and colleagues used the basic antibiotic ciprofloxacin on lab mice, and made a detailed analysis of how the drug affected the metabolism of the mouse cells. What the researchers found was that the drug affected many activities of the mouse cells in counterproductive ways – favoring the spread of the bacteria. “It’s a relationship that’s been largely overlooked,” said Collins. In building up our antibiotic arsenal, he said, it would help for prescribers and patients to know, for example, that antibiotics can inhibit the immune system.
The ability to keep the immune system in high gear might come out of the sort of precision work being done at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory. There, biologist Nassos Typas and colleagues pitted a few strains of multi-drug-resistant bacteria against 3,000 combinations – antibiotics paired with each other, or with other drugs or food additives.
The findings, published July 4 in the journal Nature, included a few surprisingly powerful combinations, including an outdated antibiotic called spectinomycin – developed to treat gonorrhea – combined with the food additive vanillin. The vanillin, which is what gives vanilla its flavor, worked very narrowly, enhancing just one antibiotic’s effect on one strain of E. coli.
Most of the 500 combinations that showed some mutually enhancing effect worked narrowly, said Typas. Many of the drugs that boosted the antibiotic effectiveness against one strain detracted from it against others. That’s potentially a good thing, he said, because it could help target the disease-causing bacteria while avoiding collateral damage to our friendly bacteria – what’s become known as the microbiome. The billions of bacteria that make up your microbiome help you digest food and perform other tasks, and studies show that antibiotics can disrupt them for at least a year. But worse still, once the organisms of the microbiome become antibiotic resistant, they can pass that on to future infections. Unlike animals, bacteria have a very efficient way of building their genetic diversity – a process called horizontal gene transfer. There are a number of ways it happens. Sometimes, in an encounter that looks a bit like sex, different bacterial cells connect to each other, but instead of each one combining genes in a new offspring, bacteria can just swap genetic material directly. They don’t have to be from the same species to do this.
So you don’t have to fail to kill an earlier infection in order to breed antibiotic-resistant bacteria in your body. A successful course of antibiotics will also build up genes that confer resistance in your microbiome. And the microbiome can transfer these genes to dangerous, disease-causing bacteria.
That’s why Typas said he was so encouraged that some of those combinations had a powerful killing effect on one strain of bacteria but very little effect against others. That would add to mankind’s arsenal without giving away anything to the microbes.

The outcome of the Helsinki summit will prove if critics of Trump and Putin are right or wrong
Raghida Dergham/The National/July 15/18
Trump will seek to contain Iran, while Putin will demand concessions on Syria. Will it work?, asks Raghida Dergham
The features of the putative accord between US President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin are the subject of much speculation and analysis ahead of their summit on Monday. Some predict that there will be a deal which would involve compelling Iran to rein in its incursions in the region and return to its borders intact, based on a US-Russian agreement, where the US would get a change of Iranian behaviour blessed by Russia for oil-related reasons. Others believe the patient and coolheaded Mr Putin would "devour" the arbitrary, short-tempered Mr Trump, with the US president handing over Syria’s reins after securing Israel’s interests, including rubber-stamping the de facto annexation of the occupied Golan Heights and preventing Iran from achieving its objectives up to forcing it to gradually withdraw from Syria – if the Russians deliver their end of the bargain.
The Trump administration itself is divided on these issues. One camp has fundamental suspicions about Russian intentions and fears the shrewdness of its strongman. The other camp sees wisdom in letting Mr Putin lead the Syrian caravan and shoulder the burden and face the pitfalls alone. One common trait between the two men is that they tolerate the other’s presence in Syria and feel they need each other to execute a face-saving exit from that conflict after securing their interests and guaranteeing Israel’s interests in the Golan.
Both also seem to agree on the need to contain Iran’s regional expansion, but differ on the method of achieving this. Mr Putin will probably try to persuade Mr Trump that hastiness regarding the expulsion of Iran from Syria – or pressuring Russia immediately to sever its alliance with Iran – is not the right policy. Mr Putin is likely to explain the nuances of strategy and tactic, and ask Mr Trump to understand Russia’s need for its tactical alliance with Iran until its strategic position is consolidated. Yet this is exactly what worries the camp that distrusts Mr Putin, because it fears he could end up enlisting the fickle US president in Russia’s grand strategy.
But Mr Trump’s crude and undiplomatic methods have taken the world by surprise, not least because it seems to be achieving results, whether with North Korea or with the European allies in Nato. The transatlantic partners seem to have kowtowed to his demands for increased defence spending and partially agreed to Mr Trump’s demands with regard to Iran, after European firms diverged from their governments and fell behind his campaign. In other words, it would be premature to declare Mr Putin the winner of the Helsinki match, even if it ends up giving him Syria’s reins with the US president repeated his intention to withdraw from the troubled nation.
The US president had sparred with his allies, especially the German chancellor Angela Merkel then with the British prime minister Theresa May, ahead of the summit. Mr Trump showed Ms Merkel – a strong advocate of the Iran nuclear deal – no quarter, and accused her of being "captive" to Russia. The backdrop was the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project that would bring Russian gas to Germany. Ms Merkel defends it as a purely economic venture while Mr Trump considers it a political project that would bring billions to Russia’s coffers.
In the UK, Mr Trump left Mrs May reeling, criticising her Brexit plan and praising Boris Johnson, the outgoing foreign secretary who resigned in protest at the plan, as a potentially “great prime minister”. Mr Trump has since walked back from his comments in his own odd way, saying: “[Mrs May] is a very smart, very tough, very capable person, and I would much rather have her as my friend than my enemy.”
Of Mr Putin, he had earlier said: “He’s not my enemy…he’s a competitor,” adding: “Hopefully, someday, maybe, he’ll be a friend.”
The equation of friend-or-enemy, as Mr Trump sees it, seems to be about money rather than strategy. With Mr Putin, the US president will find a man who understands his language, because the Russian leader himself espouses the same, especially with regard to oil and gas, behind the veneer of bombastic threats.
Interestingly, oil came up prominently this week in Moscow, days before the Helskinki summit, in talks between Mr Putin and Ali Akbar Velayati, the Iranian supreme leader’s senior adviser for international affairs.
Mr Velayati told Iranian state TV: “Our leader (Khamenei) values improving ties with Russia as a strategic partner”, adding that Iran and Russia will continue to cooperate in Syria. Interestingly, Mr Velayati said that Mr Putin in the meeting “reiterated that Russia rejects America’s decision to impose sanctions on Iran…[and] said Russia will stand by Iran and will defend Tehran’s rights”. Mr Putin, according to Mr Velayati, also said that Russia “is prepared to continue its oil investment in Iran at the level of $50 billion”.
This comes as Mr Trump declared an oil war on Iran, threatening sanctions against firms that deal with Tehran, forcing energy companies to draft plans to exit the Iranian market. But Mr Velayati said Russia’s putative investment was “an important amount that can compensate for those companies that have left Iran”. In his remarks, quoted by Reuters, he revealed that a Russian major oil companies has signed a $4 billion deal with Iran while “two…major Russian oil companies, Rosneft and Gazprom, have started talks with Iran’s Oil Ministry to sign contracts worth up to $10 billion”.
On Syria, Mr Velayati said Mr Putin “underlined the importance of political and defense cooperations between Iran and Russia in Syria”, after recalling that the two countries had played a crucial role in turning the tide of war in favor of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Another visitor to Moscow this week, Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu, seemed to praise Mr Assad, saying: “We haven't had a problem with the Assad regime, for 40 years not a single bullet was fired on the Golan Heights”. Mr Netanyahu suggested Israel did not object to Mr Assad regaining control of Syria. But the Israeli leader stressed the importance of Iranian forces fully withdrawing from Syria, yet his tone was not belligerent. Rather, he seemed to be willing to bargain on a gradual basis, with his current top priority being securing a Golan empty of Iranian elements and proxies, and the full annexation of the Golan Heights, in return for agreeing to the survival of the Assad regime.
One informed intelligence source said the joint decision of the US and Russia is for “Iran to return to Iran”, with the current stage set to pave the way for gradually achieving that goal. The source cited the “Russian pressure on Iran and its role in Syria”, because, ultimately, as the source said, the Russians will not allow another party to dictate things in Syria.
According to the source, another factor is oil and gas, because Russia “would never accept a pipeline that would carry Iranian oil to the Mediterranean and compete with it in Europe,” and would therefore not allow Iranian expansion through Iraq and Syria to the Mediterranean.
One aspect of the problem lies in the leaks coming out of Washington claiming that US policy is incoherent. For this reason, we hear one day that Mr Trump intends to withdraw from Syria, only to hear the next day that he has changed his mind. We hear about radical differences in his administration, with reports suggesting his new national security advisor John Bolton has started to experience his boss’s penchant for monopolising decision-making, in a way that undermines Mr Bolton’s platform on Iran and Russia, namely: fully and decisively block Iran’s schemes in Syria by dictating this to Mr Putin, in return for a new chapter in the US-Russian relations.
If it is true that Mr Trump is bringing Mr Putin the offer of US withdrawal from Syria in return for gradual Iranian withdrawal, this could potentially mean the US president has decided on a truce with Iran, rather than full subjugation. In other words, Mr Putin’s logic would have won over Mr Trump, at the expense of Mr Bolton and likeminded hawks.
The test lies in the “gaps that foes can exploit during execution”, according to one strategic source. And Helsinki will test the performances of both Mr Trump and Mr Putin and their ability to silence those who accuse them of collusion, and prove wrong those who fear Mr Putin’s shrewdness and Mr Trump’s naivety, as profoundly naive themselves.

Threats to Strait of Hormuz demonstrate Iran’s desperation
الدكتور مجيد رفيع زاده: تهديدات إيران بإغلاق مضيق هيرمز تبين يأسها

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/July 15/18
The Iranian authorities are escalating their confrontational rhetoric. Iran’s state-controlled Persian news outlets have been putting great emphasis on the nation’s strategic advantage and superiority over the Gulf passageway, the Strait of Hormuz.
In terms of their strategic influence, Iranian leaders are also ratcheting up their threats to block the Strait of Hormuz. Mohammad Ali Jafari, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commander, was recently quoted by the semi-official Tasnim News Agency as saying: “We will make the enemy understand that either everyone can use the Strait of Hormuz or no one.”
Although some scholars, policy analysts and politicians argue that these threats are hollow, the issue should be taken seriously. The Iranian regime is not a rational state actor, but a revolutionary one. The threats are precarious not only for the Middle East but also for the rest of the world, due to the fact that roughly one-third of global oil exports pass through the Strait of Hormuz.
Closing one of the world’s most important naval passageways would drastically disrupt the global oil market. Most likely, oil and gas prices would skyrocket to unprecedented levels, which would impact the costs of other commodities around the world. Subsequently, this would create a substantial crisis in the global financial system and negatively impact people across the world.
More importantly, closing the Strait of Hormuz would be significantly damaging to the national security interests of several countries in the region — including the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait — because of the direct impact it would have on their economic sector.
This is not the first time that the Iranian leaders have made such dangerous threats. In fact, since the establishment of the Islamic Republic in 1979, the regime has frequently threatened to block or cause serious damage to the shipment of oil through the Strait of Hormuz.
Threatening to block one of the world’s most critical passages has been a core pillar of Iran’s foreign policy. Almost four decades of the Islamic Republic reveals that the theocratic establishment has historically threatened to choke off the Strait of Hormuz when it could not achieve or further advance its revolutionary, ideological and political objectives through other means, including hard power and interventions in the domestic affairs of other nations. For example, Iran’s threats to close the strait escalated dramatically during the Iran-Iraq War due to the fact Tehran was incapable of defeating or conquering Iraq through its military, including the use of its air force, the national army and the IRGC.
Iran regime must be stopped from endangering the world economy and stability of the region by its frequent threats to close the Strait of Hormuz.
In addition, when the Iranian regime is seeking to obtain concessions from global powers or trying to force them to change their policies in favor of Iran, Tehran again resorts to such threats. For instance, during the Barack Obama presidency, and specifically during the negotiations to sign the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, IRGC leaders strongly threatened to shut off the strait. The Obama administration and European powers then made significant economic and political concessions to Tehran as part of the nuclear deal.
In other words, from the Iranian regime’s perspective, threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz is a powerful tool that can be used to force other nations into submitting to its demands, as well as altering their policies in order to appease the Islamic Republic. Furthermore, it is worth noting that, whenever Iranian leaders use harsh rhetoric with respect to the Strait of Hormuz, oil prices go up for a short period as a result of fears generated by the crisis. This has helped the regime to gain more revenues from its oil exports. For instance, when Iran threatened to close Strait of Hormuz in 2016, crude oil prices went up more than 3 percent.
More importantly, the Iranian regime is currently desperate because President Donald Trump pulled out of the nuclear deal and ordered the re-imposition of US sanctions against Tehran. Iranian leaders are fretting over the primary and secondary sanctions. The deadline is approaching, as some of the major sanctions will be re-imposed on Aug. 6. In addition, the regime is critically concerned because the Trump administration is pressuring the international community to abandon Iran’s oil exports, and it is working with other regional powers, including Saudi Arabia, to contain Tehran economically.
In fact, Iranian leaders are perturbed and unsettled to such an extent that the so-called moderate politicians are using confrontational rhetoric similar to the harsh language used by the hard-liners, such as the IRGC leaders. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has recently threatened that, if other countries do not buy oil from Iran, no other countries in the Gulf will be allowed to ship oil through the strait.
The Iranian regime must be stopped from endangering the world economy and stability of the region by its frequent threats to close the Strait of Hormuz.
*Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh

Syrians left to choose between extremist options
Hazem Saghieh/Al Arabiya/July 15/18
Inhabitants of the Daraa province, especially those who escaped death by fleeing towards the Syrian-Israeli border, vividly summarize the tragedy of the Syrian people.
Before escaping death, they had freed their spirits from a murderous regime. They were the first to revolt against the latter following the infamous tragedy that befell their children. If they were to cross the border into Israel, which is not possible, they would have been deemed agents of the Zionist enemy. Returning to their homes and villages means submitting to the murderous regime they rebelled against in the first place – the regime which has become even more vengeful after receiving international support with Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu accepting it as “the best” for them and for Syria.
This plight resembles Dante’s Inferno, but it’s a hell that is neither followed by anything purifying nor a paradise. This situation summarizes the available options for the Syrians who want nothing other than to live as free, safe and respected citizens. Now, however, they can either surrender to governance that humiliates them, persecutes them and impoverishes them or they can flee to countries where they will be chased away by racists or deemed as foreign agents and traitors. There is also the option of these people resorting to lying and manipulation in order to survive thus gaining the satisfaction of the regime along with benefits and privileges and perhaps even a government position.
This plight resembles Dante’s Inferno, but it is a hell followed neither by anything purifying nor by a paradise.
In other words, the choice is between surrendering or giving up on principles. It’s to either to submit to the regime or turning against oneself!
After all this, they talk about ISIS and extremism. Extremism is of course a product of many complicated factors. Living in the Syrian slaughterhouse remains the most important reason for extremism, especially when desperation fills the hearts of those who wish to escape after having attempted to destroy it. In addition to international support, there are those who fight tooth and nail to restore the slaughterhouse, changing the frozen blood on the walls into concrete. This is what has come to be known as the “Syrian reconstruction project,” which appears a mouthwatering proposition for many.
In its penultimate issue, the British magazine Economist called Syrians “the new Palestinians.” According to the magazine, they will be the demons of the region - desmons whom injustice and discrimination will push them to violence, weapons and chaos, like what happened to the Palestinians before them. What is certain today is that Daraa which was the cradle of the revolution will not be the final chapter of griefs. In its saga of vendetta, the Assad regime is going to bring down Idlib, which awaits its turn. The victims of Daraa, Idlib and other Syrian areas also have their own records in which they write down the names of their killers. Those who have died many times are destined to kill many.

Chaos at the Iraqi borders

Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/July 15/18
An unusual summer at southern Iraq, hot weather as if in hell, few hours of electricity a day after Iran had cut it off, and a large state without a government, except that the Iraqi summer season is ripe for problems, and it has a history in igniting chaos, invasion and revolutions.
The distance between the cities of Najaf and Basra is far, more than 400 kilometers, and yet the chaos has reached the two cities. Basra specifically is suffering more than the rest of the Iraqi cities. Seems there is an intention to escalate in the south to weaken the central government and threaten the region. Iraq as a whole, not only Basra, is struggling to get out of the impact of two turbulent phases. Saddam’s rule which was a period of wars and crises for 25 years. Then there is the invasion stage and what came after it, where the country became a chaos. Then we saw it trying to recover slowly with Haider al-Abadi rule.
Basra’s chaos was the normal result for the weak central government. The government in Baghdad is weak and cannot play its role, as there are many partners in authority; militias, authorities and parties and with the US-Iranian conflict which became obvious to everyone. There is no doubt that Iran is the biggest challenge for Iraq to be independent and successful. The regime in Tehran considers Iraq as a natural geographical, sectarian extension for it.
Weakening Baghdad
During the past few years, it succeeded in creating entities that had weakened Baghdad with a parallel authority, like the popular mobilization units, unfair bilateral agreements, using oil revenues to finance its operations, seeking to have full control by imposing a government that belongs to it. Tehran did not succeed completely but it managed to hinder the authority in Baghdad, until it became incapable of providing enough electricity, to get the militias that imposes control over cities out, to provide jobs and even incapable to stop the intervention of Iran and its militias in the southern Iraq affairs.
Iraq, along with Kuwait and Iran, is the northern Gulf, a potentially permanent area of tension as a result of the three forces sharing its land and water borders, in addition to a large US military presence on land and sea, within a complex military balance in this sensitive region
It became more complicated since the end of the elections, as there is a crisis because of the vacuum in authority, which has doubled the suffering. The government almost became disabled waiting for a Prime Minister to be named and who would join the coalition amid a party dispute that may exacerbate the period of the power vacuum, and extends the country’s crises. This is what is happening in the internal affairs.
Iraq, along with Kuwait and Iran, is the northern Gulf, a potentially permanent area of tension as a result of the three forces sharing its land and water borders, in addition to a large US military presence on land and sea, within a complex military balance in this sensitive region
Opening several fronts
Iran wants to do the same as it did in Lebanon and Yemen, opening several fronts to weaken its adversaries and provoke the international community. The militias in south Iraq are prepared by the Revolutionary Guards to be like Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the Houthi in Yemen; an advanced battalion fighting on behalf of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
We see signs of a crisis that would fill the Gulf region with chaos and ignite battles inside Iraq and with its neighbors. Later, we would hear Tehran saying that it is ready to mediate to stop the fighting, if its conditions are accepted in return. Due to increasing US pressure, the Iranian authorities are trying to make everyone pay and fail Trump’s administration plan to economically and politically straighten Iran to force it to sign a nuclear agreement with better conditions that the previous one.
South Iraq might be the new field for the Iranian regime, after it had lost a lot in the Syrian war due to the Israeli attacks against its forces and militias, and the Russian position which has changed against it.