July 17/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
Love One Other As I have Loved You
John 13/31-35: "When he had gone out, Jesus said, ‘Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, "Where I am going, you cannot come."I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’"

Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on July 16-17/18
St.Charbel & the ISIS Like Christians/Elias Bejjani/July 16/18
They are all alienated from the Virtues Saint Charbel represented and Personified/Elias Bejjani/July 15/18
HRW urges Lebanon to investigate alleged torture of actor/AFP/16 July/18
Trump: summit with Putin off to a 'very, very good start'/Associated Press/July 16/18
Trump: summit with Putin off to a 'very, very good start'/Associated Press/July 16/18
Netanyahu’s secret consent to hand Golan crossing to Syria led to Trump-Putin deal on Israel’s border security/DEBKAfile/July 16/18
How the Mossad Broke Into an Iranian Facility and Stole Half a Ton of Nuclear Files/Haaretz/July 15/18
Possibilities of a Russian Policy Change on Syria after Putin-Trump Summit/Dennis Ross/Asharq Al Awsat/July 16/18
The Chinese Shift From Iran to the Gulf/Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat/July 16/18
How Will Helsinki Summit End/Leonid Bershidsky/Bloomberg/July 16/18
Helsinki’s Cup/Ghassan Charbel/Asharq Al Awsat/July 16/18
Mass Migration: "The Fatal Solvent of the EU"/Giulio Meotti/Gatestone Institute/July 16/18
Iranian hands behind Iraq’s protests/Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg/Arab News/July 16/18

Titles For The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on July 16-17/18
St.Charbel & the ISIS Like Christians
They are all alienated from the Virtues Saint Charbel represented and Personified
Iranian envoy talks nuclear deal with Aoun, Berri
Rouhani Envoy Meets Lebanese Leaders, Urges 'Political Consensus' Govt.
Aoun Receives Final Report of EU Election Observation Mission
Lebanon: LF, PSP Accuse FPM of Hampering Government’s Formation
HRW urges Lebanon to investigate alleged torture of actor
Hariri: Govt. within 1 or 2 Weeks, No Dispute with Bassil
Turkish Power Vessel Banned from Entering Jiye Plant
Hajjar: Energy Ministers Since 2002 Failed to Solve Electricity Crisis
Report: Parliament to Elect Members of its Committees
Al-Sayyed, Zoaiter Spat over 'Shiites of State, Resistance'

Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on July 16-17/18
Trump: summit with Putin off to a 'very, very good start'
Putin and Trump discuss Syria, election meddling and 'shared interests' at Helsinki summit
Putin: Trump 'paid particular attention' to Israel's security at summit
Netanyahu’s secret consent to hand Golan crossing to Syria led to Trump-Putin deal on Israel’s border security
How the Mossad Broke Into an Iranian Facility and Stole Half a Ton of Nuclear Files
Observatory: Strikes Blamed on Israel Kill 9 Pro-regime Fighters in Aleppo
22 People, Including 9 Iranians, Killed by Alleged Israeli Strike Near Aleppo - Reports
Strikes Blamed on Israel Killed 9 Pro-Regime Fighters in Syria
Iran Answers Trump: He Will Be the One Calling Us to Make a Deal
Report: US Rejects European Call for Iran Sanctions Waiver
Iranians Face First Wave of Sanctions in Fear
Khamenei Calls for Economic Roadmap to Face Sanctions
Iran Discusses Countering Money Laundering
New Details Emerge on Unprecedented 'Israeli Strike' on Syria-Iraq Border
Exclusive - Houthis in Yemen Force Inmates to Perform Iranian Chants
Turkey Denies YPG’s Complete Withdrawal from Syria’s Manbij
Turkish Woman, Held by Israel on 'Terror' Charges, Returns Home
Turkey Stops Registering Syrian Refugees
More Victims in Iraq Demonstrations
Gaza Truce Hinges of Fire Kites, Balloons

The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on July 15-16/18
St.Charbel & the ISIS Like Christians
Elias Bejjani/July 16/18
St. Charbel did not assign anyone to defend him against any body because Christianity is love, forgiveness, tolerance and not insults, barbarism and racism. Christianity has nothing to do with ISIS like Christians who are totally alienated from its core and essence.
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?

Iranian envoy talks nuclear deal with Aoun, Berri
The Daily Star/July 16/18/BEIRUT: A high-level Iranian envoy discussed Iran’s position on the nuclear deal and the country’s efforts to reach a political agreement to the Syrian crisis, in separate meetings Monday with President Michel Aoun and Speaker Nabih Berri. Hossein Jaberi Ansari, senior assistant to the Iranian foreign minister, was conveying a message from Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, a statement from Aoun’s office reported. Ansari spoke of the latest developments related to the United States’ unilateral withdrawal from the agreement earlier this year and the implications of that decision. Aoun expressed his regret at the U.S. withdrawal from the agreement, which he said “Lebanon considered a cornerstone of stability in the region that contributes to making it a zone free of weapons of mass destruction.” He welcomed the sustained commitment of other nations to the deal. The president said that the U.S. withdrawal “has negative repercussions on security and stability in the region.” Aoun went on to praise the “efforts exerted by Iran to help end the Syrian crisis,” and said this would facilitate the return of Syrian refugees to their country. Iran is one of the major forces on the ground in the conflict, which is now in its eighth year. Government estimates put the number of Syrian refugees residing in Lebanon at around 1.5 million, while just fewer than 1 million are registered with the UNHCR. After his meetings with Aoun and Berri, Jaberi met with caretaker Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, after which Ansari said that the Syrian crisis could not be considered definitively resolved until Syrian refugees returned to their homeland. "It is a priority for us to resolve the file of the displaced Syrians and ensure their safe return to their country," Jaberi said.
Rouhani Envoy Meets Lebanese Leaders, Urges 'Political Consensus' Govt.
Naharnet/July 16/18/Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's special envoy Hossein Jaber Ansari on Monday met with a number of Lebanese leaders and called for the formation of a “political consensus” government. At the Baabda Palace, Ansari handed President Michel Aoun a letter from Rouhani about Iran's stance on the nuclear agreement with world powers, the National News Agency said. Ansari later held talks in Ain el-Tineh with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri. “We hope brotherly Lebanon will witness further stability, unity and rapprochement, and we hope, after the successful parliamentary elections, that a new Lebanese government will be formed through political consensus among the various parties,” the Iranian official said after the meeting. Speaking after talks later in the day with caretaker Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil, Ansari said “a political solution to the Syrian crisis would not only benefit Syria but also the entire region.”

Aoun Receives Final Report of EU Election Observation Mission

Naharnet/July 16/18/President Michel Aoun received the final report of the European Union's Election Observation Mission (EOM) in Lebanon that observed the May parliamentary elections, the National News Agency reported on Monday. During his meeting with the Chief Observer, Elena Valenciano, at Baabda Palace, Aoun hailed the EOM’s work, saying: “We appreciate the EOM efforts and we will follow up on its recommendations with the new government," he said. For her part, Valenciano said: “The mission's assessment of the elections process is very positive.”Lebanon staged its general based on a new proportional representation system on May 6, 2018.
Lebanon: LF, PSP Accuse FPM of Hampering Government’s Formation
Beirut - Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 16 July, 2018/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi said on Sunday that the continuous delay in the cabinet formation would have negative repercussions at the political, economic, social and security levels. Such delay would lead to the loss of the international community’s attention and interest in assisting Lebanon, namely in its financial assistance decided upon during the CEDRE Conference last April, according to Rahi. Meanwhile, Democratic Gathering nloc MP Bilal Abdallah said that the inability to form a government was due to the failure in implementing the Taif Accord. “As long as there are attempts to impose new norms in the political life, the formation of the government will be hampered,” he said in radio remarks. Abdallah accused the Free Patriotic Movement of using the current tenure to impose its rules, saying: “All current practices represent a violation of the Taif Accord.”“The PSP is not against the presidential powers, but against surpassing those powers,” he added. He stressed that the obstacle to the government’s formation was the FPM’s insistence on having veto power. “The formation of the government should be discussed by the prime minister-designate and not by the foreign minister,” he noted. Lebanese Forces MP Wehbe Qatisha also accused the FPM of delaying the cabinet formation. The LF “does not disrupt the path of forming a government, but those who want to seize the ministerial quotas are hampering its formation,” he said in press remarks. “The head of FPM, Minister Jebran Bassil, should only talk about his share and leave the other ministries to those concerned,” he added.
HRW urges Lebanon to investigate alleged torture of actor
AFP/Beirut Monday, 16 July 2018
Lebanon must investigate the account of a prominent actor who says he was forcibly disappeared and tortured by state security forces last year, Human Rights Watch said on Monday. Ziad Itani was arrested in November and held for several months, accused of “collaborating” with Israel, which is formally still at war with Lebanon. He was released in March after it appeared that a top Lebanese security official had framed him, but the time he spent in detention haunted him, he told HRW. The actor and writer said he was held for nearly a week in what appeared to be an informal jail, where men in civilian clothes punched and kicked him, forced him into stress positions and threatened to sexually assault him. “There was no doctor who saw me, my body was all blue and I was spitting blood,” he told the rights group. “I couldn’t speak properly.”Itani says he was then handed over to military police and held in solitary confinement for nearly two months, during which he was not able to meet privately with his lawyer or family. “Itani’s allegations of torture and disappearance demand a thorough investigation into his treatment in detention and why he was arrested in the first place,” said Lama Fakih, HRW’s deputy Middle East director. “If Itani was indeed framed, then this was a massive miscarriage of justice, and authorities should guarantee that this can never happen again.”
Torture accusations
According to rights groups, Lebanese authorities have used torture to extract confessions from detainees. Itani himself told HRW that his physical abuse began when he refused to sign a written confession that he was collaborating with Israel. Over the next week, his captors chained him, hung him from his wrists, broke one of his teeth, and threatened to “insert a rod into his anus if he didn’t sign,” he said. He finally agreed to sign the confession. That same month, Lebanon passed a new law to criminalize torture, investigate such allegations and compensate victims.
“Torture is not only illegal but also ineffective, because it can lead to false confessions,” Fakih said. “This case presents a clear litmus test for whether Lebanon’s new torture law will help end impunity for torture or remain on paper only.”May, Lebanon charged high-ranking officer Suzanne Hajj with “fabricating” the case against Itani. A source close to the case said Hajj had been seeking revenge after Itani shed light on her liking a controversial post on Twitter last year, after which she was demoted. Itani has shot to prominence in recent years for his series of comedy plays on Beirut and previously worked as a journalist with Lebanon’s Al-Mayadeen channel and various regional newspapers.

Hariri: Govt. within 1 or 2 Weeks, No Dispute with Bassil
Naharnet/July 16/18/Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri announced Monday that the new government will be formed within “one or two weeks,” as he denied the presence of any dispute with Free Patriotic Movement chief MP Jebran Bassil. “God willing, the government will be formed within one or two weeks,” Hariri said in a chat with reporters. “Communication is still ongoing with everyone and nothing prevents me from meeting Minister Jebran Bassil. We are not at odds,” Hariri added. “Through calm communication, we are working on creating a positive atmosphere, and last week we managed to pacify the political rhetoric between the Lebanese Forces and the FPM and this atmosphere will lead to positive results,” the PM-designate went on to say, reassuring that “the atmosphere is now better than last week.” And noting that he will meet President Michel Aoun soon, Hariri emphasized that the new government will be a “national accord Cabinet in which everyone will be represented.”He added: “I am the prime minister-designate and I am the one who forms the government in consensus with the president.”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.

Turkish Power Vessel Banned from Entering Jiye Plant

Naharnet/July 16/18/A Turkish power generating vessel was “banned” on Monday from entering the coastal area of Jiye power plant to be connected to it “despite completing all the technical preparations for its entrance,” the National News Agency reported. NNA added that the ship had arrived at the boundaries of the plant when it was notified to sail back “under the pretext that it had no official license.” The vessel was towed away by a specialized vessel. The vessel was supposed to supply Lebanon, under a deal with government, with 200 additional megawatts that will be free of charge in the first three months. For the past few years, Lebanon has been relying on two other Turkish power ships to cover some of its power generation deficit – the Fatmagül Sultan and the Orhan Bey.

Hajjar: Energy Ministers Since 2002 Failed to Solve Electricity Crisis

Naharnet/July 16/18/All ministers who have led Lebanon’s energy ministry since the year 2002 have failed to find a solution for the problematic sector of electricity, al-Mustaqbal MP Mohammed Hajjar said on Monday. “The entire energy ministers since 2002 until today have not been able to fix the electricity crisis,” he told LBCI station in an interview, noting that corruption is the main reason delaying any possible progress in the file. Pointing out to the extent of public funds’ squandering and corruption in the State’s institutions, he said: “Some political parties have the mafias of generators and fuel (businesses) covered.” Hajjar’s remarks came as Lebanon welcomed Sunday a Turkish power generating ship off the Lebanese coastal town of Jiye. Under a deal with the government, the ship will supply Lebanon with 200 additional megawatts that will be free of charge in the first three months. Hajjar said the ship was received in Lebanon “on condition that the Jiye thermal power production plant be dismantled in order to protect the area from pollution.” But later on Monday, it was reported that the ship was banned from docking in Jiye. No further details were reported. Lebanon has been plagued with power outages since the 1975 civil war. Efforts to find a solution for its long time crisis have all failed in light of disagreements among political parties over the means to tackle the problem.

Report: Parliament to Elect Members of its Committees

Naharnet/July 16/18/The Parliament Bureau will hold its first meeting since the May parliamentary elections in Ain el-Tineh to discuss the council’s activity in the next stage, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Monday. The Parliament is expected to convene on Tuesday to elect members of its various parliamentary committees, said the newspaper. Lebanese Forces MP George Adwan will reportedly be elected as head of the administrative and justice committee, said the daily.Adwan’s elections “comes as a moral compensation for the LF’s withdrawal from the Parliament Bureau which was led by former MP Antoine Zahra,” according to the daily. AMAL Movement MP, Yassin Jaber, will reportedly head the foreign affairs committee. Meanwhile, the finance and budget committee will remain with an MP of the Free Patriotic Movement. The public works and defense parliamentary committees will be led by al-Mustaqbal Movement. Meanwhile, the media and communications committee will be led by Hizbullah MP. Quoting unnamed sources, the daily said that the session may not take long because the draft was earlier agreed by consensus between all the parliamentary blocs. The representation of blocs at the committees is proportional to their representation at parliament. On holding the session before the formation of the Cabinet, political sources said: “the delay in the Cabinet formation led to scheduling the session.”Heads of parliamentary committees should have been elected soon after the parliamentary elections.

Al-Sayyed, Zoaiter Spat over 'Shiites of State, Resistance'

Naharnet/July 16/18/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.

The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on July 16-17/18
Trump: summit with Putin off to a 'very, very good start'
Associated Press/July 16/18
HELSINKI: President Donald Trump and Russia's Vladimir Putin opened their long-awaited summit Monday with a wink and slouch, respectively, then talked one on one behind closed doors for two-plus hours before the American leader declared their meeting was off to a "very, very good start for everybody."
Neither leader revealed what was discussed. But in advance of the talks, Trump listed a series of topics that did not include Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
"We have not been getting along well for the last number of years," Trump said after arriving at the Presidential Palace in Finland's capital, where the leaders are meeting. "But I think we will end up having an extraordinary relationship. ... I really think the world wants to see us get along."
Putin, for his part, said he and Trump have maintained regular contact through phone calls and meetings at international events but "the time has come to have a thorough discussion on various international problems and sensitive issues." He added: "There are quite a few of them for us to pay attention to."
Their opening one-on-one session had been scheduled to run 90 minutes. The Russians said it lasted two hours and 10 minutes. The White House wouldn't immediately confirm the timing.
The summit, which is being closely watched around the world, was not the first time Trump and Putin have held talks. They met on the sidelines of world leader meetings in Germany and Vietnam last year. But Monday's session was condemned in advance by members of Congress from both parties after the U.S. indictment last week of 12 Russian military intelligence officers accused of hacking Democrats in the 2016 election to help Trump's presidential campaign.
Trump said last week that he would raise the meddling issue again with Putin, but questions have been swirling about whether Trump will sharply and publicly rebuke his Russian counterpart for the interference that prompted a special investigation probe that Trump has repeatedly labeled a "witch hunt."
Addressing reporters before the one-on-one meeting, Putin struck a casual pose during Trump's remarks, slouching in his chair with his legs wide and eyes low. He nodded along to some of Trump's remarks before they were translated, showcasing his fluency in English. Trump leaned forward in his chair, his hands tented in front of him and frequently glanced over at the Russian president. At one point, he shot Putin a wink. After Trump concluded his remarks, American reporters shouted several questions about whether he would bring up election meddling during his discussions with Putin.
Trump did not respond; Putin appeared to smirk.
With that, the leaders gave a quick handshake and their private meeting in the opulent Gothic Hall was under way. Just the two of them, each with a translator. They continued the discussion with an expanded group of aides and over lunch in the Hall of Mirrors, once the emperor's throne room. They'll conclude the summit by taking questions at a joint news conference. Out on the streets, the summit attracted a grab-bag of protesters, with abortion-rights activists wearing artificially bulging bellies and Trump masks, anti-fascist protesters bearing signs with expletive-laden insults, and free traders, anti-war Ukrainians and gay rights supporters making their voices heard. The summit began just hours after Trump blamed the United States — and not Russian election meddling or its annexation of Crimea — for a low-point in U.S.-Russia relations. The drama was playing out against a backdrop of fraying Western alliances, a new peak in the Russia investigation and fears that Moscow's aggression may go unchallenged.
"Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse," Trump tweeted Monday morning, blaming "many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!" The Russian foreign ministry responded by liking Trump's tweet and then replying: "We agree."
The summit started late because Putin arrived in Helsinki about a half hour behind schedule in another display of the Russian's leader famous lack of punctuality. Trump seemed to return the favor by waiting until Putin had arrived at the palace before leaving his hotel. Putin has been late for past meetings with the pope and British queen, among many others.
Several dozen Trump supporters, many waving American flags and sporting "Make America Great Again" caps, cheered Trump near his waterfront hotel in Helsinki. Two held up a handwritten banner that read "God Bless D & M Trump."
Trump and his aides have repeatedly tried to lower expectations about what the summit will achieve. He told CBS News that he didn't "expect anything" from Putin, while his national security adviser said the U.S. wasn't looking for any "concrete deliverables." Trump told reporters during a breakfast Monday with Finland's president that he thought the summit would go "fine."
Observers have raised concerns about the fact that the leaders met alone during their first meeting, but for a pair of interpreters, meaning there will be no corroborating witnesses to accurately represent what was said during the conversation. Trump said he and Putin would discuss a range of issues, from trade to the military, along with missiles and China. Not mentioned: Election meddling or Syria. The Russian Foreign Ministry rejected last week's indictment as part of a "shameful comedy" they claim has been staged to prevent the normalization of Russia-U.S. ties.
In tweets Monday, Trump continued to undermine the investigation and blamed his predecessor, Barack Obama, for failing to stop Russia's efforts to sway the 2016 election in Trump's favor. He claimed Obama "was informed by the FBI about Russian Meddling, he said it couldn't happen, was no big deal, & did NOTHING about it."
The Obama administration did, in fact, take action, including confronting Putin in person as well as expelling nearly three dozen Russian diplomats the U.S. said were actually intelligence operatives and imposing new sanctions.
While Trump was eager for a made-for-TV moment that will dominate headlines like his sit-down with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un last month, Putin hopes the meeting, mere hours after he presided over the World Cup finals, will help him forge good personal ties with Trump and focus on areas where Moscow and Washington may be able to find common ground, such as Syria.
Putin will likely not be shooting for official recognition of Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea or the easing of crippling U.S. sanctions, aware that the U.S. Congress would never allow such action. But he would welcome a symbolic end to Western protests over Crimea and Moscow's attempts to destabilize elections and traditional Western alliances and norms. On Syria, a possible deal could see Moscow helping mediate the withdrawal of Iranian forces and their Hezbollah proxies from the areas alongside Syria's border with Israel — a diplomatic coup that would reflect Russia's carefully cultivated ties with both Israel and Iran.
Putin and Trump discuss Syria, election meddling and 'shared interests' at Helsinki summit
Arab News/July 16/18
HELSINKI: Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Monday that he and US President Donald Trump have agreed to continue detailed discussions on arms control issues. Putin said Russia and the US should discuss a possible extension of the 2010 New START nuclear arms reduction treaty and the implementation of the 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty. Putin added that other issues that Russia would like to discuss in the arms control sphere are the US missile defense plans and the weaponization of space. He spoke at their joint news conference wrapping up the Helsinki summit. Trump said the US and Russia must find ways to "cooperate in pursuit of shared interests."Trump said a productive dialogue between the US and Russia is good for both countries and "is good for the world." Speaking after the summit with Putin, Trump says they discussed disagreements between their countries "at length."Trump adds that relations between the US and Russia have never been worse. He adds that he thinks that "changed as of about four hours ago." He says he's sure that he and Putin will meet again often in the future. Putin says the "so-called Russian interference" in the US 2016 presidential election was brought up by Trump during their summit. Putin said: "I had to repeat that the Russian state never interfered, and does not plan to interfere in internal American electoral process."In general, he said, the talks with Trump took place in an "open and businesslike atmosphere" and he characterized them as "successful and useful."Trump and Putin arrived on Monday at Helsinki’s presidential palace for a long-awaited summit, hours after Trump blamed the United States, and not Russian election meddling or its annexation of Crimea, for a low-point in US-Russia relations. The drama was playing out against a backdrop of fraying Western alliances, a new peak in the Russia investigation and fears that Moscow’s aggression may go unchallenged. “Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse,” Trump tweeted on Monday morning, blaming “many years of US foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!“ The summit, which was being closely watched by rattled world capitals, was condemned in advance by members of Congress from both parties after the US indictment last week of 12 Russian military intelligence officers accused of hacking Democrats in the 2016 election to help Trump’s presidential campaign. Undeterred, the American president was set to go face to face with Putin, the authoritarian leader for whom he has expressed admiration. Trump was greeted at the palace by Finland’s president. The summit was starting later than scheduled because Putin arrived in Helsinki about a half hour late in another display of the Russian’s leader famous lack of punctuality. Trump seemed to return the favor by waiting until Putin had arrived at the palace before leaving his hotel. Putin has been late for past meetings with the pope and British Queen, among many others.

Putin: Trump 'paid particular attention' to Israel's security at summit
Jerusalem Post/July 16/18
The leaders of the two countries said Russia and the United States are working together to ensure Israel's security. Russia and the United States are working together to ensure Israel's security with regards to the advancement of the Syrian regime against rebels near the Golan Heights, US President Donald Trump said to reporters after a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday. Trump "paid particular attention" to Israel's security during the summit, the Russian leader said at a joint press conference after the summit Monday. Russian cooperation with Israel is a "great thing" Trump said. "As far as Syria is concerned the task of establishing peace and reconciliation in this country could be the first showcase example of successful joint work," the US leader said. Putin also said Washington knows the Kremlin's position on the Iran nuclear deal, from which Trump withdrew last year. "We can do something to help people of Syria head in some form of shelter... both of us would be very interested in doing that," Trump said. "We also discussed at length the crisis in Syria. Cooperation between our countries has the potential to save hundreds of thousands of lives." Putin said he agrees with Trump that the two countries's armies are working successfully in Syria. "As far as Syria is concerned the task of establishing peace and reconciliation in this country could be the first showcase example of successful joint work," Putin said. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "welcomed the deep commitment" of the US, his office said in a statement released after the summit. Netanyahu "greatly appreciates the security coordination between Israel and Russia and expressed the clear position President Putin on the need to maintain the separation agreements between Israel and Syria in 1974," the statement also read.Reuters contributed to this report.
Netanyahu’s secret consent to hand Golan crossing to Syria led to Trump-Putin deal on Israel’s border security
DEBKAfile/July 16/18
DEBKAfile Exclusive: Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin joined in their support for Israel’s security at their Helsinki summit on Monday, July 16, after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told them both that he had withdrawn his objections to the Syrian army reinstating its line of outposts in the Quenitra district, including control of the Ein Zivan-Quneitra border crossing. This is the only transit point between Israel and Syria. Our sources reveal that Putin insisted on the Syrian army assuming control of this crossing, in the same way as he stipulated the handover to Syria of the Nassib crossing to Jordan.
Monday morning, the Syrian army captured the strategic Tel Al Harrah hills from rebel hands. That line of hilltop positions is the key to controlling the Quneitra district. Our military sources note that only 20 percent of the Syrian army consists of Syrian troops; the other 80 percent are Hizballah and other Shiite militias loyal to Iran. Today’s Syrian and allied victory therefore brings these hostile forces to within 3-4 km from Israel’s Golan border.

How the Mossad Broke Into an Iranian Facility and Stole Half a Ton of Nuclear Files
الهآررتس: كيف تمكنت الموساد من سرقة وثائق إيران النووية
Haaretz/July 15/18
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.
Observatory: Strikes Blamed on Israel Kill 9 Pro-regime Fighters in Aleppo
Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 16 July, 2018/At least nine pro-regime fighters died in a suspected Israeli missile strike overnight in the northern Syrian province of Aleppo, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Monday. "The Israeli missiles targeted an Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) center, near the Neirab military airport," said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman. He said those killed included at least six Syrians, but could not specify the nationalities of the remaining fighters. The position is a logistics hub used to provide equipment and food to pro-regime forces fighting at nearby fronts, but it did not store weapons, Abdel Rahman said. Late Sunday, state news agency SANA said Israeli missiles had hit near a strategic air base, but said there were no casualties. It said the strikes were an attempt by Israel to support rebels in southern Syria, where regime forces have been waging an offensive. An Israeli military spokesman declined to comment on the report.The attack is the third suspected Israeli strike on Syria this month alone.

22 People, Including 9 Iranians, Killed by Alleged Israeli Strike Near Aleppo - Reports
Jack Khoury/Haaretz/July 16/2018/The attack targeted warehouses near Aleppo where weapons belonging to Iranian militias as well as to the Syrian army were stored, war monitor says. Israel struck a military position near an airport on the outskirts of Aleppo Sunday night. According to Syrian opposition source, 22 people were killed including nine Iranian nationals. Earlier, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said nine Syrian soldiers were killed.  Six of those killed in the attack held Syrian citizenship. There is no information regarding the other 3 soldiers killed, the war monitor reported. According to the report, the attack targeted a site near the Al-Nayrab airfield, causing damage. The report said there were no casualties. "The Zionist enemy... targets one of our military sites north of Nairab airport, causing only material damage," said Syrian state news agency SANA, quoting a military source. The war monitor said the attack targeted warehouses where weapons belonging to the Syrian army as well as to Iranian militias were kept.
Alleged Israeli strikes in Syria/
It said the strikes were an attempt by Israel to support rebels in southern Syria, where Syrian government forces have been waging an offensive. An Israeli military spokesman declined to comment on the report. The Israeli military said Friday it shot down a drone approaching from Syria. This was the second time in a week that a drone had entered Israel from Syria; on Wednesday, the military shot down over Lake Kinneret 10 kilometers (6 miles) into Israel. In response to Wednesday's drone incursion, the air force attacked three military positions in Syria that night, the Israel Defense Forces said. Reuters contributed to this report

Strikes Blamed on Israel Killed 9 Pro-Regime Fighters in Syria
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 16/18/At least nine pro-regime fighters died in a suspected Israeli missile strike overnight in northern Syria, a monitor said Monday. Syrian state media had accused Israel of bombing a military position in Aleppo province late Sunday, in what would be a rare Israeli strike so far north in the war-ravaged country. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, said the base was being used by the Syrian regime's arch-ally Iran. "The Israeli missiles targeted an Iranian Revolutionary Guard centre, near the Neirab military airport," said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman. He said those killed included at least six Syrians, but could not specify the nationalities of the remaining fighters. The position is a logistics hub used to provide equipment and food to pro-regime forces fighting at nearby fronts, but it did not store weapons, Abdel Rahman said.
Tehran has dispatched military forces to bolster Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's efforts to crush a seven-year uprising against his rule. Assad has said the forces are advisors but denied the presence of Iranian fighters on Syrian territory. Late Sunday, state news agency SANA said Israeli missiles had hit near a strategic air base, but said there were no casualties. "The Zionist enemy... targeted with its missiles one of our military positions north of the Neirab military airport, but the damage was only material," it said, citing a military source. The Israeli military declined to comment on the reports.
The attack is the third suspected Israeli strike on Syria this month alone. Damascus accused its arch-enemy of striking a military position in central Syria on July 8 and Israel said it had hit three military posts in the country a few days later. Suspected Israeli strikes usually hit army positions near Damascus and in the central provinces of Homs and Hama, but have rarely struck as far north as Aleppo. Israel has repeatedly warned it will not tolerate an entrenched presence of its archfoe Iran in neighbouring Syria. In May, it carried out an unprecedented wave of strikes against what it said were dozens of Iranian military targets in Syria. Israel has been on high alert in recent weeks as Assad's forces fight to retake parts of southern Syria bordering the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights. After taking a majority of the key province of Daraa, government troops are waging an offensive on the adjacent province of Quneitra which remains mostly in rebel hands. They began heavily bombing the area early on Sunday morning and air strikes continued there on Monday, according to the Observatory.
Iran Answers Trump: He Will Be the One Calling Us to Make a Deal
The Associated Press/July 16/2018 /Trump said last week that because of the sanctions, Iran is bound to call him some day asking to strike an agreement. Iran says if President Donald Trump wants to negotiate after pulling the United States out of the international deal meant to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons, he'll have to make the call. Monday's remarks by Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi came after Trump last week said that with the U.S. increasing sanctions on Iran, "at a certain point they're going to call me and say 'let's make a deal,' and we'll make a deal." Ghasemi says, however, "maybe someday he will call Tehran and ask for negotiations — this is more likely." If Trump calls, it's not clear whether anyone will answer, with Iran's top leadership rejecting talks with the U.S.Other nations in the deal are negotiating with Iran to try and make it work without Washington.

Report: US Rejects European Call for Iran Sanctions Waiver
Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 16 July, 2018/The US will not budge on its decision to impose fresh sanctions on corporations operating in Iran, despite a European request for exemption, the Financial Times reported Monday. "International companies active in Iran face the threat of US sanctions within weeks after Washington rebuffed a high-level European plea to exempt crucial industries to help keep a landmark nuclear deal with Tehran alive," the paper reported. France, Britain, Germany and the European Union had on June 6 sent US President Donald Trump's administration a joint official request for their companies to be exempt from the fresh US sanctions on Iran. The plea had come as European leaders scrambled to save the hard-fought deal signed between Iran and world powers in 2015 under which Tehran agreed to limit its nuclear capacities in exchange for relief from crippling economic sanctions. Trump announced he was abandoning the deal in May -- paving the way for new sanctions on Tehran and punitive measures for those who trade with it. In a formal letter, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin refused to grant the European powers the waiver they had asked for, the Financial Times reported Monday, citing diplomats. French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire had already said the United States would not grant Europe its request. "I wrote in the springtime to Steve Mnuchin ... to ask him for an exemption for European companies legally working in Iran," Le Maire said according to an interview with French newspaper Le Figaro that was published Friday.

Iranians Face First Wave of Sanctions in Fear

London- Asharq Al Awsat/Monday, 16 July, 2018/Iranian officials have grown more outspoken by the day on the approach in which their country will adopt towards upcoming US economic sanctions that are expected to serve a tragic blow to the cleric-led nation’s economy.
“It is a storm coming our way, it will rattle our lives, and it would be useless to deny it,” Iranian Health Minister Hassan Ghazizadeh said on Saturday. Known for his unsupportive attitude towards the reformist President Hassan Rouhani’s administration, Ghazizadeh said: “ two choices lay ahead; either to deny the status quo and say that everything is set in peace until the storm hits and shatters everything, or accept that the storm is definitely coming.”Ghazizadeh went on to stress the importance of acknowledging the incoming crisis and brace for impact. He criticized government and official bodies for still insisting on brushing off the threat of economic sanctions, and still holding onto the Iran nuclear deal with European Partners and Russia. Rouhani’s government goes out of its way to reassure the Iranian public that the sanctions will not adversely affect the economy, and will not be able to dissuade the Iranian people. Other than redundant slogans on resilience which Iranian citizens grew accustomed to, Rouhani’s government released an economic report spread by official news agencies showing that income for Iranian families outweighed expenditures for the first time in two decades. As far as paperwork is concerned, Rouhani’s government is making all the necessary figures to prove matters are running smoothly—however, the Iranian market is using a less upbeat tone and experiences deep anxiety. The Iranian economy is not in good shape, economic experts say. With gold rates on the rise, experts predicted increasingly soaring rates coinciding with the first batch of sanctions implemented. The basket of US-imposed sanctions targets gold trade with Iran, along with many other vital markets for the Iran economy. On Sunday, gold posted a significant rise, touching an added 6 percent in one trading session. Not to mention the Iranian Rial staggeringly falling below the dollar, recording a shocking 8,400 Iranian Rials against the dollar. The dollar went up 300 Iranian Rials in a single session.
More so, the stock market, which hit record highs last month, lost 4 percent of its overall value in two sessions, amid complete pessimism among experts. In terms of food staples, poultry is being offered at a record high, reaching 9,200 Iranian Rials per kilo. This displays an 80 percent increase compared to 2017, which also affected other staples such as milk and grain. Although Rouhani’s government says inflation is still below 10 percent, independent experts led by American economist Steve Hanke assert that inflation in Iran stands at 132 percent. Experts expect the biggest rate hikes on gold, dollar and household goods after the first wave of sanctions hit the country. Price hikes will coincide with a matched collapse in value of the Iranian currency and its national stock exchange. Facing a blistering summer- with water and electricity cuts- the average Iranian stumbles daily over added costs of living and inflated price tags on basic goods.

Khamenei Calls for Economic Roadmap to Face Sanctions
London - Adil Al-Salmi/ Asharq Al Awsat/Monday, 16 July, 2018/Iranian Supreme leader Ali Khamenei has asked the government to draft a roadmap to overcome the likely return of US economic sanctions in the next 10 days. Khamenei called on Sunday for a surprise meeting with President Hassan Rouhani and his cabinet to discuss the latest economic turmoil following the rapid fall of Iran's currency and a public outcry over price gouging. Iranian media outlets said the Supreme leader asked the cabinet to prepare a “stable economic roadmap” to solve the country’s economic problems by relying on the policies of the “Resistance Economy.”Khamenei called on strengthening the private sector and dealing firmly with lawbreakers, adding that the administration should oversee financial transactions to prevent smuggling and money laundering. “I strongly believe that if the government takes the necessary measures, it will be able to overcome problems and defeat the US conspiracy,” Khamenei said, according to his website. Tackling the country’s foreign issues, the supreme leader said European states are obligated to provide necessary guarantees with regard to the JCPOA. However, he added that Iran’s economy must not be tied to this issue. Khamenei also supported Rouhani’s comments delivered during his last visit to Switzerland from where he threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz. The supreme leader lauded the “powerful” positions delivered by the Iranian president saying, “Appearing powerful in the face of foreigners, especially Americans is necessary and this step must be taken on time, clearly and firmly.”He also underlined the necessity of bolstering Iran's diplomatic ties with other eastern and western countries, excluding the US. During the meeting, Rouhani pledged for the government to implement Khamenei’s recommendations, and again accused Iran’s “enemies” of causing popular concern over the future and of exaggerating expectations.

Iran Discusses Countering Money Laundering
London- Asharq Al Awsat/Sunday, 15 July, 2018/Iran's Guardian Council, tasked with vetting legislation, rejected legal reforms proposed by the parliament to bring Iran into line with global money laundering norms, the state news agency IRNA reported.The Council ruled that, according to Iran’s constitution, such legal amendments should be proposed by the judiciary and not parliament, IRNA added. If parliament insists on its proposal, the issue can be decided by the Expediency Council which can rule in disputes between parliament and the Guardian Council.
Iran has been trying to implement standards set by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a global group of government anti-money-laundering (AML) and counter financing of terrorism regimes (CFT), in the hope it will be removed from a blacklist that makes some foreign investors reluctant to deal with it, according to Reuters. In June, FATF said Iran had until October to complete the reforms or face consequences that could further deter investors from the country, which is already facing a likely return of US sanctions. Hardliners in parliament have opposed passing legislation towards compliance with FATF standards, arguing it could hamper Iranian financial support for allies such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said in June parliament should pass legislation to combat money laundering according to its own criteria. This makes it less likely that parliament would use FATF criteria.

New Details Emerge on Unprecedented 'Israeli Strike' on Syria-Iraq Border
Haaretz/July 16, 2018/According to the Wall Street Journal, Israel stuck a villa housing Shi'ite militias, Iranian forces in attempt to disrupt Iran's land corridor to Mediterranean
Israel is ramping up its strikes in Syria in an attempt to disrupt the Iranian land corridor used to transfer weapons through Iraq to Syria and Lebanon, security analysts told the Wall Street Journal Sunday. Israel was allegedly behind an unprecedented strike last June on a town in the Syria-Iraq border. The Wall Street Journal report cites a U.S. security source as saying that the strike targeted a villa in al-Harra, southeast of the town of al-Bukamal, which housed members of an Iraqi Shi'ite militia as well as of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Israel's goal, according to the report, was to prevent the transfer of weapons to Syria  The strike killed more than 20 fighters from Kata’ib Hezbollah, an Iraqi Shi'ite militia believed to transport weapons for Iran through Iraq into Syria, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The Journal reported that Sheikh Abu Talib al-Saeedi, a member of Kata’ib Hezbollah’s political office, said the fighters were on Iraqi territory when they were targeted in the June strike. Iraq said the forces hit weren’t operating under its command. The Kata’ib Hezbollah militia officially answers to the Iraqi government but is in fact loyal to Iran. CNN had previously reported that the strike was unlike those normally carried out by Israel, as those attributed to Israel tend to occur in Syria's western region, around Damascus and Homs, and mostly targeting Iran's infrastructure and military presence in Syria, while the June attack took place in Syria's east and targeted pro-Assad forces, not Iranian ones. The security official told the Wall Street Journal that the aim of Israel’s attack hundreds of kilometers from its borders was to signal that it won’t tolerate Iranian attempts to establish a land bridge running from Iran through Iraq and Syria to Lebanon. Israel is concerned that Iran's territorial control will allow it to transfer military hardware and personnel by road from Iran to Israel’s border. Most of the attempts to smuggle in weapons systems are done by air. However, the airstrike on the weapons convoy in eastern Syria shows that the Iranians are also often trying to make use of the ground corridor they established after the Americans rid the area of Islamic State forces. An Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps official told the Wall Street Journal that creating a land corridor through Iraq and Syria is a key goal for Iran to bolster its defense against regional enemies.
Exclusive - Houthis in Yemen Force Inmates to Perform Iranian Chants
Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 16 July, 2018/Iran-allied Houthi militias in Yemen sent several of its hardline clerics to the West coast and Hodeidah provinces, hoping that religious fatwas issued by them will aid in recruiting more Yemenis to fight among coup ranks. After suffering a shortfall in the number of fighters on battlefronts, the Houthi political wing ordered the full recruitment of all supporters and their dispatch to frontlines. In the meantime, militias responded to Brigadier Tariq Saleh’s call to unite Yemenis against the Iran-backed coup with more brutality in areas under their control. Houthis issued more death sentences against opponents, intensified campaigns of detention and kidnapping in Sanaa, Hodeidah and Dhamar, aiming to provoke fear among citizens should they decide to heed Saleh’s call, switch sides and join pro-government forces. Resorting to sectarian discourse, Houthis urged the issuing of fatwas calling for fighting on the West coast. In sermons given at mosques in Hodeidah and its subordinate districts, clerics underscored to the masses the need to rally up behind the militias and confront government forces.
Houthi endowments and guidance agent Salih al-Khulani called for preachers in mosques and imams in the Zaydiyah district north of Hodeidah to push people to fight among coup ranks, glorifying the idea of death in service of the group and exploiting Islamic creed, local sources told Asharq Al-Awsat. According to sources, Houthi chief Abdul Malek al-Houthi sent one of his close relatives and prominent clerics Abdul Majid al-Houthi to one of Hodeidah’s largest districts, Bajil. He tasked him with spreading fatwas calling for Houthi-styled “jihad” and glorifying death in battle. “Those who do not respond to the call have an invalid Islam-- all his good deeds are unaccepted by God,” sources said the cleric preached at a Hodeidah mosque. He went on to warn against divine punishment that would befall those who do not heed the call to support Houthi war efforts whether in blood or funds. Meanwhile, in the town of Hajjah, Houthi militias punished inmates held at the city’s central prison. Prisoners, against their will, were forced to attend a ceremony organized by Houthi militiamen celebrating the anniversary of the advent of Iranian influence to Yemen. At the ceremony militiamen forced prisoners to perform the “Khomeini cry,” which was introduced to ultra-hardline Houthi communities in Yemen 16 years ago. Houthis brought hundreds of prisoners to the prison’s yard, where they forced inmates to chant the “Khomeini cry” amid reports of efforts to recruit convicts and dispatch them to frontlines, Hajjah security sources told Asharq Al-Awsat. On Saturday, a court in Houthi-run Sanaa issued four death sentences against citizens, accusing them of supporting the pro-government forces and institutions, such as the Yemeni army, the Popular Resistance and the Arab Coalition. The court accused the four of espionage and providing intelligence, which helped in the targeting of Houthi sites, camps and weapons caches in Sanaa.

Turkey Denies YPG’s Complete Withdrawal from Syria’s Manbij
Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 16 July, 2018/The Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) has not completely withdrawn from Syria’s Manbij, said the Turkish Foreign Ministry on Monday, as the leaders of Turkey and the United States discussed their roadmap on the northern town.
Ankara and Washington reached a deal last month over the town after months of disagreement. Under the deal, the YPG would withdraw from Manbij and Turkish and US forces would maintain security and stability around the town. On Sunday, the armed group controlling Manbij said the last YPG fighters had left after completing their mission of military training of local forces. The Manbij Military Council has repeatedly said their were no YPG fighters there, only some YPG military advisers. Ankara, however, said those reports are "exaggerated".
The foreign ministry stated the YPG is still pulling out of areas where Turkish and US forces have been conducting separate patrols. “Withdrawal from the checkpoints on the patrol route is ongoing. Joint patrol preparations are continuing. Therefore, at this stage, reports that PYD/YPG have completely withdrawn from Manbij do not reflect the truth,” a source at the foreign ministry said. The PYD is the political arm of the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, which is backed by the United States in the fight against ISIS. That support has infuriated Ankara, which sees the YPG as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The PKK, considered a terrorist group by the United States, the European Union and Turkey, has waged a three-decade insurgency in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and US President Donald Trump later held a phone call to discuss the importance of implementing the Manbij deal, the Turkish presidency said in a statement. During Monday's phone call, the two leaders said the implementation of the Manbij roadmap would “significantly contribute” to the solution of Syria problem, the statement said. It added that Erdogan and Trump also repeated their determination to further improve bilateral ties in all areas.
Turkish Woman, Held by Israel on 'Terror' Charges, Returns Home
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 16/18/A Turkish woman, held for over a month by Israel on charges of passing hundreds of dollars to a "terrorist" organization, returned home to Turkey on Monday after her release. Ebru Ozkan, 27, arrived overnight on a scheduled flight from Tel Aviv, the state-run Anadolu news agency said. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has already called Ozkan to pass on his best wishes after her return, said his spokesman Ibrahim Kalin, describing her incarceration as "unfounded." Israel's Shin Bet internal security service said "she was released under conditions and then it was decided to order her to immediately leave Israel," without giving further details. Ozkan was detained at Israel's Ben Gurion airport on June 11 as she was leaving the country to return to Turkey. Shin Bet said Ozkan was arrested "on suspicion of posing a threat to national security and for having links to a terrorist organization," passing on hundreds of dollars and phone chargers. The name of the group Ozkan was alleged to have links to was not given, but Israeli media reported the money was destined for the Islamist group Hamas. The case against Ozkan added to tensions that have spiked between Turkey and Israel in recent weeks. Ankara ordered out the Jewish state's ambassador in May over the killing of protestors along the border with the Gaza Strip. Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Friday said his officials were in contact with the Israelis over Ozkan's case and called for an end to its "pitiless persecutions."
Israeli media in recent weeks has reported that authorities are increasingly concerned Turkey is attempting to increase its influence in the holy city of Jerusalem through charitable organizations working there.

Turkey Stops Registering Syrian Refugees
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 16/18/Turkish authorities have stopped registering "all but a handful" of newly-arrived Syrian refugees, depriving them of essential services and putting them at risk of deportation, Human Rights Watch said on Monday. Turkey is hosting some 3.5 million refugees from the Syrian civil war and its generosity since the conflict broke out in 2011 has won international praise. But there have been growing social tensions over their continued presence. A Turkish official contacted by AFP said in response to the HRW report that "we have always welcomed Syrians and we still welcome them", adding "people who are in Turkey have access to all the services they need."HRW said that the suspension of registration -- a key step for newly-arrived refugees -- "is leading to unlawful deportations, coerced returns to Syria, and the denial of health care and education."It described the suspension of registration as "Turkey's latest effort to deny new asylum seekers protection", adding that Turkey's border with Syria was now effectively "sealed-off."The registration suspension applied to nine provinces on or near the Syrian border and Istanbul, it added. HRW noted that since late August 2015 "only registered Syrians who obtain a special travel permit have been allowed to travel within Turkey."Its associate refugee program director Gerry Simpson said that the EU, which was keen to limit the refugee flow to Europe, was "turning a blind eye to Turkey's latest steps to block and discourage people fleeing Syria."Turkey meanwhile has been assisting refugees return to areas in northern Syria where the Turkish army and allied Syrian rebels ousted Islamist extremists and Kurdish militias in military operations. "We never deport to Syria", added the Turkish official. "Some Syrians are choosing to go back to areas liberated by Turkey."

More Victims in Iraq Demonstrations
Baghdad - Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 16 July, 2018/At least two protesters were killed in clashes with Iraqi security forces in the town of Samawa on Sunday, a police official said, amid growing unrest in southern cities over poor public services and widespread corruption.
“Hundreds of people tried to storm a courthouse. Shots were fired towards us. It was not clear who was shooting. We had no choice but to open fire,” the police official told Reuters. In the city of Basra, demonstrators tried to storm the governor’s headquarters but were dispersed by police who fired tear gas at them, AFP reported. Police also fired tear gas at stone-throwing demonstrators who tried to push their way into the Zubeir oil field south of the city. More so, police sources said 40 people were wounded, three of them with live bullets.Local officials said the protests did  not affect oil production in Basra, where oil exports account for more than 95 percent of Iraq's national revenues. Any disruption to production would seriously damage the faltering economy and lead global crude prices to rise. Near Dhi Qar province, 15 demonstrators and 25 policemen were also injured, deputy health director Abdel Hussein al-Jabri said. The clashes, including hand-to-hand combat, erupted when the demonstrators gathered outside the governor’s office and pelted security forces with stones. In Muthana province bordering Basra, hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside the governor’s headquarters and some torched parts of the building, a police source said. Protesters in Muthana also set fire to the offices of the Iranian-backed Badr organization in the province’s largest city of Samawa. On Saturday, protesters had set alight Badr’s headquarters in Basra, prompting authorities to impose an overnight curfew across the whole province. As protests continued, Prime Minister Haider al- Abadi met with security and intelligence chiefs in the capital Baghdad on Sunday, warning them to be on alert “because terrorists want to exploit any event or dispute.”“Iraqis do not accept chaos, assaults on the security forces, state and private property, and those who do this are vandals who exploit the demands of citizens to cause harm,” he said. The prime minister also ordered security services not to use live fire against the unarmed protesters. The unrest first erupted on July 8 when security forces opened fire, killing one person, as youths demonstrated in Basra demanding jobs, and accusing the government of failing to provide basic services, including electricity.The protests — which have spread north to Baghdad — come as Iraq struggles to rebuild after three-year war against ISIS terrorists, which has ravaged their country’s infrastructure.
On Saturday evening, Abadi announced investment worth $3 billion for Basra province, as well as pledging additional spending on housing, schools and services. Mounting anger places Abadi, who is seeking reelection, in a difficult position. Protesters criticized Abadi’s ruling Dawa Party for having dominated the Iraqi political landscape since the 2003 US invasion. Ziad Fadil, 38, an unemployed man, said the Dawa party had ruled Iraq for 15 years and its leaders could not deliver. “Since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003 so far, the only real thing Shiite politicians say is their lies,” said Osama Abbas, 25, an unemployed university graduate. “We are still drinking dirty water, and forgetting what air conditioning means during the summer,” he added. Despite Abadi’s orders to reopen the Najaf airport, stormed by protesters on Friday, airlines suspended flights to the city. Royal Jordanian Airlines said in a statement it had suspended four flights a week to Najaf because of the security situation. Flydubai followed suit, while Iranian state television reported that Iranian flights scheduled for the city would be diverted to Baghdad.

Gaza Truce Hinges of Fire Kites, Balloons
Ramallah - Kifah Ziboun/Asharq Al Awsat/Sunday, 15 July, 2018/Egypt succeeded in brokering yet another truce between the Palestinian factions and Israel in the Gaza Strip, however, it seemed fragile with the controversy over whether it should include the issue of flaming kites and balloons. Calm prevailed in Gaza and its surroundings on Sunday a day after the most serious escalation since the summer war of 2014. Israel, the Hamas and Jihad groups had announced a ceasefire in Gaza, but Tel Aviv has kept its threat that the situation on the ground will determine whether it will hold. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that for Israel, the truce includes the cessation of incendiary kite and balloons. "I heard it being said that Israel has agreed to a ceasefire that would allow the continuation of terrorism by incendiary kites and balloons; this is incorrect. We are not prepared to accept any attacks against us and we will respond appropriately,” he told a cabinet meeting. “We hit Hamas in a significant way and hard. Our policy is clear: Whoever hurts us, we will hit them with great strength. This is what we did yesterday. The military dealt Hamas the harshest blow since Operation Protective Edge. I hope that they got the message; if not, they will get it later,” he warned. Netanyahu's remarks came hours after the ceasefire came into effect, the second such truce sponsored by Egypt in as many months. Hamas and the Jihad, however, denied that the agreement included the cessation of the flaming kites. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh vowed on Sunday that armed factions in Gaza would retaliate against any further Israeli airstrikes in the Strip. He made his remarks during the funeral of the two teenagers, Amir al-Namara and Loay Khei, who were killed during an Israeli strike on Saturday. He asserted that the weekly marches at the Gaza border will continue until “we have reached all of our goals, first and foremost: lifting the siege on Gaza.” “As for getting the resistance to restore calm on the front while planes are killing people… it is unacceptable for this enemy to impose rules of engagement,” Haniyeh said. Israel decided to tighten the blockade on Gaza as a kind of punishment, closing the Kerem Shalom crossing and reducing fishing areas before declaring that the flaming kites were included in ceasefire. Meanwhile, Jihad leader Ahmed al-Mudallal clearly stated that the ceasefire does not include the marches and the incendiary kites. Sources familiar with the talks told Asharq Al-Awsat that the kites issue was not discussed with Egypt as evidence with the ongoing launch of the incendiary attacks. At least two groups launched kites towards Israel on Sunday. Israeli aircraft responded by opening warning shots at one of the groups, violating the ceasefire agreement and wounding two people in northern Gaza. On Saturday, Israel launched a series of attacks against Gaza, targeting Palestinian military positions, killing two and injuring 18 people. Palestinian factions responded with dozens of rocket attacks against Israeli towns and settlements, wounding three Israelis. Attacks from both sides continued throughout Saturday despite strong Egyptian efforts to salvage the ceasefire, before eventually striking a truce. United Nations envoy for the peace process Nikolay Mladenov also intervened to ensure the ceasefire came into force after long and complex talks with both sides.
The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on July 16-17/18
Possibilities of a Russian Policy Change on Syria after Putin-Trump Summit
Dennis Ross/Asharq Al Awsat/July 16/18
President Donald Trump will meet with Russia’s Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on Monday. From the outset of his administration the president has indicated his desire for good relations with Russia, constantly saying and tweeting that they would be a good thing for America. Ironically, his senior officials, from the Secretary of State to the Director of National Intelligence, have portrayed Russia as an adversary; they have not pulled their punches about Russian meddling in our election–and the elections in Europe–and have emphasized the threat this poses to our national security. Not surprisingly, they have supported the sanctions Congress mandated on Russia for its meddling. The gap between the president’s desire for good relations and the actual policies of his administration is striking: the administration has preserved sanctions adopted over Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and it has provided lethal equipment to Ukraine to counter-act Russia proxies and hybrid forces there. So what should we expect in the summit? No doubt the president will want to declare that he has forged a good personal relationship with Putin. For his part, Putin sees what Trump wants and is likely to use that as leverage to press for the end of sanctions.
He will not want to look weak or desperate—in truth, he is neither—so Putin will say that Russia is strong and can live with the western sanctions, but any real improvement in relations will depend on the lifting of all sanctions against Russia. Trump, who has already said that we should recognize Crimea as part of Russia and permit Russia’s return to a restored G-8, is unquestionably sympathetic toward such a posture. True, he will face push-back from Democrats and a limited number of Republicans, but Trump has repeatedly shown little concern about such opposition to him, especially because his political base simply accepts what he regards as important. Still, the politics won’t make it easy to simply lift sanctions voted by the Republican-dominated Congress—and Trump should use that as leverage with Putin, essentially saying I want to do this but I will need something to be able to persuade Congress. The issue, therefore, is what does Trump want or feel he needs from Putin, and is Putin in any mood to give it. For some time, there has been talk of a grand bargain with Russia. We end the sanctions over Crimea and recognize Russian interests in Ukraine, and in return, Russia acts to contain or limit Iran and its Shiite militia proxies in Syria. Any such Russian action to prevent the expansion and spread of Iranian and Shiite militia presence would blunt Iran’s growing leverage in the region. It would signal that Iranian expansionism had come to an end. That is an important, even essential aim.
However, leaving aside the morality of such a bargain or trade-off, it is simply not going to happen. From Putin’s standpoint, he already has Crimea, and believes that the EU, with the new governments in Italy and Austria, will lift the sanctions relatively soon anyway. As for Ukraine, he treats it much like other frozen conflicts in Georgia and Moldova—conflicts that allow him to maintain the ability to ratchet up or down pressures on the leaderships in each of these countries. He keeps Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova under constant stress, with the ability to make their circumstances far more difficult for each of them. Moreover, he seems to have adopted a variant of former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev’s formula; for Brezhnev, once a country came into the Soviet sphere of control, there would be no reversibility tolerated. Putin, too, seems to believe that once he has incorporated a country or part of a country into Russia’s sphere of influence that cannot be reversed.
In other words, he will not pay for something he already has. Paradoxically, we do have leverage in Syria because Putin wants our roughly 2,000 forces primarily in northeastern Syria to leave. Unfortunately, every time President Trump speaks of getting out of Syria, he reduces our leverage on Putin to act differently in Syria. Until now, the Russians hint at a clash of interests with the Iranians but never do anything to reflect such a posture. On the contrary, they continue to give the Iranians freedom of action in Syria. (It is true that they also give the Israelis freedom of action against the Iranians in Syria, but that may simply be Putin’s way of creating a lever on both.)
In the summit, Trump could tell Putin he would like to have an understanding with the Russians on Syria. But doubts it is possible because the Russians have not felt bound by any of the understandings we have struck with them on Syria until now, including the one embodied in their joint statement last November at the ASEAN conference—a joint statement that called for a ceasefire in southwest Syria and an expansion of the de-escalation zones. With the Russian bombing now having created 270,000 refugees in this area (and along the Jordanian and Israeli borders), the president could say we feel the need to stay in Syria, back the Israelis as they hit Iranian and their proxy militias, and work out a set of understandings with Turkey to secure the area of northeastern Syria. Not an ideal outcome the president could say but one that is likely to blunt Iran’s expansion, which we see as a threat to the region.
Putin might well respond by saying he does not control the Iranians and is simply helping the Assad regime take back its territory. The president’s response should be: fair enough, but then we feel obliged to keep our forces where they are so that with the Israelis and Turkey we can prevent Iran from building a land-bridge through Syria. Yes, that will increase the risk of a broader Israeli-Iranian conflict that could put Russia in the middle, but that is a Russian choice so long as it won’t act to contain the Iranians and simply backs Assad’s reassertion of control.
Such an exchange would probably give Putin an incentive to act differently in Syria and toward Iran. It might even give him an incentive to say to the president let’s work together implement UNSCR 2254—the resolution that called for a cessation of hostilities, unimpeded delivery of humanitarian materials, drafting of a new constitution in six months and a political transition process of 18 months. In truth, the Russians allowed the Syrians and Iranians to prevent its implementation.
Putin’s behavior in Syria will not change unless he believes either the price for Russia will go up for being there or there is something else of value to be gained. Right now, the American posture offers neither prospect. The upcoming summit presents a possibility to change that. Time will tell whether it does.

The Chinese Shift From Iran to the Gulf
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat/July 16/18
enthusiastic tweets have lost their way after relying on fake information. Fake news, as usual, is made up and circulated by certain groups to direct or deviate social media discussions. One tweet said: “The Chinese are coming with their money and forces, and to hell with Trump and Putin.” It’s true, the Chinese are coming to the region and they will add an economic and political value to it; however, Trump and Putin are staying within the necessities of regional balance.
China is not like the US and Russia; it hasn't been known for an offensive foreign policy, and it does not want to be part of wars. China also avoids the policy of axes in our region. Despite this, it’s still a major country whose interests in the region are increasing, primarily in terms of oil. The region is its artery and it’s worried about being under the control of regional or international powers or the chaos of hostile non-state actors.
Although China does not take a certain stance, it does not mean it doesn’t have a role. It has a major presence as an economic power and it seeks to protect its interests without weapons, like in Pakistan and Afghanistan. China’s policy is also pragmatic; during the US dispute with Iran, Beijing did not support Washington, did not give up on the nuclear deal and refused to boycott Iran but at the same time it decided to give up on Iran as a major source for its oil purchases and to head towards Saudi Arabia as an alternative. This will be a painful blow to Tehran.
News that China will invest $0.5 trillion in two Kuwaiti islands is just lies spread on social media networks. This amount is not only irrational for those who understand the language of numbers, but China has actually only allocated $20 billion to invest in more than five countries in the region.
The second lie is that China intends to protect its interests but the truth is that it rejects to get involved militarily and only sends fishing and cargo ships. The $0.5 trillion is an amount allocated by Beijing inside the country. What’s more important for us is that China is heading towards us in steady steps to enhance cooperation thus improving opportunities and diversifies our options.
The strategic rapprochement is not a coincidence but the results on which politicians have worked with China. The Saudi King's visit to China last year was a significant step in which “comprehensive cooperation” agreements were signed. And now, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s will make his first visit to the UAE after his re-election, and the UAE has warmly welcomed the upcoming visit. Before that, Beijing warmly welcomed Kuwait’s Emir when he visited it last week.
Economy is the Gulf’s power and the road to China’s heart and mind. It’s a partnership without other commitments. We are not concerned much with how the Iranians look at this rapprochement. China is now heading towards Saudi Arabia and the Gulf and giving up on Iran’s oil which was its first source. This angers Tehran and forces it to read developments with a different logic as it’s now economically suffocated, militarily defeated in the region and politically abandoned.
Iran cannot expect everyone to bow down to it, while it’s practicing the policy of bullying and destruction. This supports Trump’s statements, which now make sense, mocking the Iranian command’s defiance and saying it would make concessions. We can thus view China as an important partner after replacing Iran’s oil with the Gulf's. Growing business dealings with China is consistent with the country’s significant and international Belt and Road Initiative.

How Will Helsinki Summit End?
Leonid Bershidsky/Bloomberg/July 16/18
When President Donald Trump meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin on July 16, some Americans will watch with apprehension: What if they hatch a plan that’ll harm US interests? What if Trump is meeting with his handler rather than his counterpart?
They shouldn’t worry. There’s little doubt that Putin can handle Trump, but not as an intelligence asset, as some conspiracy theorists suggest. Even if, as many believe, Putin “has something on Trump,” he has nothing to gain by releasing the kompromat, except an even more hostile US administration, with or without Trump at its head.
Still, Putin will come prepared, with a clear picture of the interests he might share with the US president, even if neither leader may be in a position to achieve anything concrete.
The most obvious common ground is Syria. Trump wants to pull out US troops as soon as possible, but without ceding territory to Iranian units or Lebanon-based, pro-Iranian Hezbollah. Putin wants the Americans out so his client, President Bashar al-Assad, can take control of more territory, particularly the oil-rich areas he needs to generate revenue for rebuilding the country.
But Putin is unwilling (and probably unable) to push out the Iranians.
Putin could back the idea of limiting Iranian influence in Syria in exchange for US concessions on Ukraine, such as the recognition of Crimea as part of Russia, which Trump has hinted he could consider. Putin is probably aware, however, that Trump can’t formally recognize the land grab without congressional approval. Nor does Putin expect any US concessions on eastern Ukraine, another reason for European and American sanctions on Russian companies and individuals. Trump’s envoy for eastern Ukraine, Kurt Volker, said recently he believed that Russia had dug in for the long haul.
So, instead of seeking a meaningful deal on Syria, Putin may instead promise Trump an agreement he doesn’t intend to fulfill, a tactic the Russian leader has used a number of times in Syria-related talks with the US and in Ukraine-related negotiations with France and Germany. Trump likes to announce deals; Putin could have something for him on Syria, perhaps a new edition of de-escalation zones free from Iranian forces.
Another area of common interest is undermining the European Union, primarily Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government in Germany. For Trump, it’s a matter of winning a trade war and bringing what he sees as a group of free riders to heel. For Putin, it’s a matter of ending sanctions: Merkel is one of the few remaining staunch advocates for the restrictions in Europe; the more right-wing governments in Italy, Austria and Hungary would like to lift them and resume business as usual with Russia.
Yet Putin and Trump are unlikely to reach a consensus on weakening Merkel. The Russian leader is keen to build the Nord Stream 2 pipeline to Germany to reduce natural gas supplies through Ukraine. Trump doesn’t care about the Ukrainians, but he opposes Nord Stream 2 because it will compete with liquefied natural gas supplies from the US. For Putin, the pipeline isn’t a bargaining chip, but a vital part of his energy strategy.
Although Putin and Trump share a contempt for Europe, they don’t need to agree on a common action plan. Both can continue backing far-right political forces within the EU without doing any kind of deal: Their uncoordinated efforts are doing as much damage as any joint ones would.
Putin is interested in promoting the disintegration of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which Trump has repeatedly derided. But the US president’s visit to NATO headquarters in Brussels this week showed that he doesn’t intend to blow up the alliance. Despite making some loud demands for member states to increase their military spending, he signed a declaration reaffirming the allies’ commitment to mutual defense -- and to containing Russia. Trump likely understands there are no domestic victories for him in ending or even weakening NATO.
Putin’s greatest priority may be to remove the sanctions that prevent Russian capital from circulating freely. The economic system he has built requires access to external markets, and the Kremlin hasn’t been shy about buying influence in the West. Strong evidence exists that Trump’s real estate business has already benefited from that source of cash.
Putin understands, however, that Trump can’t be seen trying to roll back Russia sanctions and that Congress would probably prevent him from doing so. All the Russian leader can hope for is an informal moratorium on new measures, including sanctions against the European companies that fund Nord Stream 2.
Trump and Putin share some interests and goals, but it will be hard to formalize them or even to package them into informal bargains that both parties would hold up. The most that can come from the meeting is a nebulous agreement on limiting Iran’s influence in Syria that Russia won’t enforce, in exchange for a vague, non-public promise of no harsh new sanctions that Trump won’t have to keep.

Helsinki’s Cup
Ghassan Charbel/Asharq Al Awsat/July 16/18
Winning the Helsinki Cup is harder than winning the World Cup. Here, maneuverability is not enough. No quick passes. Nor corner strikes. There is a heavy weight on the summit table: your military weight, the strength of your economy, your technological progress, your alliances, and your ability to move and employ your papers.
Winning the World Cup depends largely on the ability of the team to provide an integrated performance of its members, despite the importance of its stars and their goals. The duel here is between two men; one can say that it is between two big boxers. The Russian president is stronger than the institutions of his country, which he established to suit his project. The US president came from outside the dictionary that gave birth to his predecessors, so the institutions try to adjust to his surprises and adapt to them.
There’s no exaggeration when saying that Helsinki hosts today a meeting between two strong men. Vladimir Putin changed the position of Russia as it emerged from the Soviet rubble. He also changed its image and led a process of revenge against a wide range of forces which he accuses of seeking to humiliate and enclose his country.
In his attempt to play the deep soul, he sought to awaken the greatness of Russia, which had deteriorated under Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin. His program is “Russia First”. On the other side, Donald Trump moves to restore America’s greatness by raising the slogan of “America First.”
Two very different men, who have drunk from contradictory springs… Putin came from the KGB. His real mentor was Yuri Andropov, former head of the apparatus and leader of the Soviet Union as well. He came from the world of secrets, intrigues and mysterious blows that leave no mark. He carries a deep wound as he considers that the fall of the Soviet Union was the greatest geo-strategic disaster of the twentieth century. Trump came from the business world, real estate opportunities and reality TV. He also accuses his predecessors, especially Barack Obama, of wasting America’s greatness and rights in dealing with its adversaries as well as its allies.
It is clear that Putin considers the summit to be a win after his strikes in Crimea, Ukraine and Syria, as well as the mysterious strikes on British soil.
He sees it as a success that undermines US and European sanctions on his country. He already excelled in completing his papers ahead of the meeting. He managed to twist the equation on the Syrian territory and removed the fate of Bashar al-Assad from any discussion. One can say that he put the world and the people of the region in front of an explicit choice: either Russia’s Syria or Iran’s Syria. Iran’s Syria is rejected at both the regional and international levels. It is in fact the perfect recipe for lengthy wars. He played brilliantly and tricked his traditional rivals and new partners. The “de-escalation zones” looked ridiculous.
That is why Recep Tayyip Erdogan feels that Putin has deceived him with these games just like he misled Obama on the night of the Syrian chemical arrest. He topped his papers with a successful organization of the World Cup, which reminded him that Western anger over his regime did not necessarily mean that Russia was threatened with isolation.
Timing is quite appropriate. Europe is burdened with the tragedies of immigrants, and Brexit has reflected the fragility of the European and Atlantic house.
Before Helsinki, Trump made major and difficult decisions. He left the nuclear agreement with Iran despite international and European pleas. He shook hands with the North Korean dictator. He has speculated that tough sanctions would prompt Iran to come again in search of a deal that will end this time not only its nuclear ambitions but also its ballistic program and destabilization policy.
On his way, Trump broke the norms and protocols in dealing with the G-20 and the European Union. He harshly attacked Atlantic leaders for their reluctance to raise their military spending. The protocol was also among his victims when he met with the Queen of England, who has traditionally given utmost attention to detail.
There is no justification for exaggerating and believing that today will determine the fate of maps and their peoples. We are not in the world of the American and Soviet camps. It is not enough for the two men to agree so that everyone keeps silence and obeys. A strong man is absent. It is the Chinese president, who takes seriously the decisions of Trump and the signals of a commercial war. Mao’s heir is America’s real rival in the next stage. Russia’s position on Syrian soil does not negate the fact that Putin has not made a quantum leap in modernizing his country’s economy.
In spite of the above, the Helsinki Summit remains very important. It is difficult to predict a change in the fate of Crimea after the section was returned to its origins. One can look forward to reducing the escalation in Ukraine and seeking solutions. Putin is unlikely to acknowledge the intervention in the US presidential elections, even if his partner at the summit raised it. The same is true for the double-agent targeting in Britain.
The tendency to avoid an open arms race between the two countries can be expected. Putin knows that the Soviet Union collapsed due to the costs of the arms race and economic failure.
In Helsinki, the results of Putin’s brilliant paper will emerge. Since his military intervention in Syria in September 2015, he has not neglected Israel’s security for a moment. One can say that he allowed or overlooked the repeated Israeli strikes against the Iranian militias on Syrian soil. He established permanent consultation relations with Netanyahu, which helped shift the focus of the Syrian file from the fate of a regime to the fate of the Iranian military presence in the country.
European diplomats believe that Trump is not interested either, and may hear from Putin that the gradual weakening of Iranian influence in Syria is necessarily through the rehabilitation of the Assad regime and the expansion of power at the expense of the militias. The Europeans fear that Trump will make concessions without receiving assurances about curbing the Iranian influence in Syria and the region.
When I arrived in Helsinki in the afternoon, the city was occupied with the Franco-Croatian war. How beautiful is this war, which do not tear down maps nor send waves of refugees. But the World Cup is over. That is why the world will be preoccupied today and in the coming days with the question of who will win the Helsinki Cup. Is it “the noisy Trump” or “the terrible Putin”?

Mass Migration: "The Fatal Solvent of the EU"
Giulio Meotti/Gatestone Institute/July 16/18
Today, 510 million Europeans live in the European Union with 1.3 billion Africans facing them. If the Africans follow the example of other parts of the developing world, such as the Mexicans in the US, "in thirty years... Europe will have between 150 and 200 million Afro-Europeans, compared with 9 million today". Smith calls this scenario "Eurafrique".
The controversial quota system for migrants has already failed. The European Court of Human Rights condemned Hungary for detaining migrants. European governments cannot stop, deport, arrest or repatriate the migrants. What do the authorities in Brussels suggest? Bring everyone to Europe?
French Jews have fallen victim to a form of ethnic cleansing, according to a manifesto signed by, among others, former French President Nicholas Sarkozy and former French Prime Minister Manuel Valls.
"Far from leading to fusion, Europe's migration crisis is leading to fission", Stanford's historian Niall Ferguson recently wrote. "Increasingly, I believe that the issue of migration will be seen by future historians as the fatal solvent of the EU". Week after week, Mr. Ferguson's prediction seems to be turning into a reality.
Not only does Europe continue to fragment as anti-immigration sentiment gathers political strength, but, as a result of the migrant crisis, the EU's border-free internal zone, Europe's most cherished prize after the Second World War, is now defined as "at risk" by the Italian government, among other governments, such and Austria.
Immigration is also redefining the intra-EU contract.
The Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, the so called "Visegrad Group", recently called for EU border defense. "We have to have a Europe capable of defending us", Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said as well, after he was invited to join the Visegrad meeting.
This year, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (second from left) was invited to join the leaders of the four "Visegrad Group" countries (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia) at their June 21 summit meeting. High on the agenda were the issues of mass-migration and border protection. (Image source: Austrian Federal Chancellor's Office)
The new Italian populist government, after Italy saw more than 700,000 migrants arrive on its shores in the past five years, also embraced a hard-line policy. Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini recently closed Italy's ports to migrant vessels. In Germany, after the German chancellor clashed on immigration with her interior minister, Horst Seehofer, migrant policy could also lead to the "end of Merkel's tenure".
"Italy's new populist government signals a major challenge to the European status quo, but not in the way most observers initially expected", the author Walter Russell Mead recently commented in The Wall Street Journal. "The governing coalition has put the challenge to its euro policy on hold. Instead it is turning to a subject on which the European establishment is more vulnerable: migration".
The entire European political consensus is fracturing under the seismic impact of the migrant wave. Migration to Europe has become a political issue "as toxic as ever", the New York Times just noted about the current debate inside the European Union. The EU's current trouble seems to come from a deafness among the policy elites, who refuse to take into account the problems for their citizens that have followed unvetted mass immigration.
Mass migration in the last years has simply created major troubles for Europe's internal stability. First, there has been a security challenge. According to a new report by the Heritage Foundation:
"Almost 1,000 people have been injured or killed in terrorist attacks featuring asylum seekers or refugees since 2014. Over the past four years, 16 percent of Islamist plots in Europe featured asylum seekers or refugees. ISIS has direct connections to the majority of plots, with Germany targeted most often, and Syrians more frequently involved than any other nationality. Nearly three-quarters of plotters carry out, or have their plans thwarted, within two years of arrival in Europe.
"Since January 2014, 44 refugees or asylum seekers have been involved in 32 Islamist terror plots in Europe. These plots led to 814 injuries and 182 deaths."
There is also a severe challenge to ethnic and religious coexistence posed by immigration. French Jews have fallen victim to a form of ethnic cleansing, according to a manifesto signed by, among others, former French President Nicholas Sarkozy and former French Prime Minister Manuel Valls. "Ten per cent of the Jewish citizens of the Paris region have recently been forced to move because they were no longer secure in certain council estates" the manifesto said. "This is a quiet ethnic cleansing".
The threat Europe is facing if it refuses to close and control the borders is examined by Stephen Smith, an expert on Africa and admired by French President Emmanuel Macron, in his new book, The Rush to Europe: Young Africa on the Way to the Old Continent. Today, he notes, 510 million Europeans live in the European Union with 1.3 billion Africans facing them. "In thirty-five years, 450 million Europeans will face some 2.5 billion Africans, five times as many", Smith predicts. If the Africans follow the example of other parts of the developing world, such as the Mexicans in the US, "in thirty years", according to Smith, "Europe will have between 150 and 200 million Afro-Europeans, compared with 9 million today". Smith called this scenario "Eurafrique". Europe's largest migration wave since World War II has also become an increasingly urgent problem as Europe's indigenous populations continue to age and diminish in number. The controversial quota system for migrants has already failed. The European governments also cannot really deport migrants. In 2012, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) condemned the Italian government and ordered it to pay thousands of euros to two dozen immigrants it deported to Libya. Italian authorities had intercepted the migrants in the Mediterranean Sea when they were trying to get to the Italian island of Lampedusa from Libya. Three years later, the European Court again condemned the Italian government for deporting migrants. The European Court of Human Rights also condemned Spain in its judgment to expel of a group of 75-80 migrants from the Melilla enclave. The ECHR then condemned Hungary for detaining migrants. Europe cannot stop, deport, arrest and repatriate the migrants. What do the authorities in Brussels suggest? Bring everyone to Europe?
Andrew Michta, dean of the College of International and Security Studies at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, recently wrote that, under this mass migration, European democracies risk their own "decomposition". We will not only see the "fission" of the already fragile European Union, but that of the Western civilization as well.
*Giulio Meotti, Cultural Editor for Il Foglio, is an Italian journalist and author.
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Iranian hands behind Iraq’s protests
Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg/Arab News/July 16/18
Over the last few days, Iraq’s southern provinces have witnessed widespread protests, with some turning violent. Protesters voiced legitimate demands, but also attacked vital public facilities, such as Najaf International Airport, leading to the suspension of its operations. Offices of political parties were also attacked in what appeared to be a continuation of the political violence taking place elsewhere in Iraq following the May 12 parliamentary elections. There are two key actors that have an interest in destabilizing Iraq: Daesh and Iran. They feed on each other’s presence and maintain a distant marriage of convenience as they seek to maintain their influence in Iraq. In last week’s column, I discussed Daesh’s attempts at regrouping in Iraq and elsewhere. The post-election uncertainty has delayed stabilization, feeding popular discontent. More than $30 billion was promised by allies at the international reconstruction conference held in Kuwait in February, but only a limited amount has been delivered due to that uncertainty.
Today, I will address Iran’s direct destabilizing role in Iraq and its interest in stoking the current chaos. Keeping Iraq under its control would be Tehran’s first option but, if that does not happen, the second best option would be to keep it ungovernable.
Iran’s interests are multifold. Keeping Iraq under its control would be Tehran’s first option but, if that does not happen, the second best option would be to keep it ungovernable. An independent Iraq would gravitate toward its Arab neighbors and the West, while a chaotic Iraq would keep it dependent on Iran and its proxies.The most immediate concern for Iran is how to deal with US sanctions. Iraq could help blunt the sanctions’ bite by providing a surreptitious loophole in sanction implementation that Iran could use. As happened in the past, a chaotic Iraq would make it easier to smuggle in banned material and send out exports, including oil.
In addition, a pro-Iranian government could help Tehran deal with its restive western provinces, which have been a main center for anti-regime disturbances. Iraq’s elections on May 12 did not give any political party a majority to form a new government, but they did produce some hopeful indications that Iraqis wanted a new, independent direction for their country, free of corruption and divisive politics. Voters gave the lead to groups and politicians who advocated such a direction. The biggest number of parliamentary seats (54) went to a coalition headed by the cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr, who is fiercely opposed to Iran and outside meddling in general. A pro-Iranian coalition came in second (47 seats), while incumbent Prime Minister Haider Abadi came in third with 42 seats for his coalition. The remainder of the 329 seats were divided among many smaller political, tribal, ethnic and religious lists and individual candidates.
Any future government will have to govern through a coalition, but analysts quickly concluded that the results meant Iran would lose its favored political position in Iraq. That was Tehran’s conclusion as well, it appears. As the election results started coming out and Iran feared it might lose some of its influence in Baghdad, it dispatched officials to try and influence the choice of prime minister and the shape of the future government.
Iran’s moves, combined with recent violence directed against anti-Iranian groups — including the offices of a member of Al-Sadr’s bloc in Baghdad — have complicated the formation of the new government. The longer that impasse continues, the greater the chances that Iran will succeed in derailing the process or producing an unfavorable outcome for Iraq. Dispatching Gen. Qassem Soleimani to Iraq to shore up Iranian support is a bad sign. He is no ordinary political adviser, but the head of the Quds Force, the most notorious wing of Iran’s military that has spread chaos and mayhem throughout the region.
A key demand of the protesters is the restoration of electricity in southern provinces. That electricity used to be supplied by Iran, but was cut off last week. Iran claims it did so because bills had not been paid, but the timing is curious.
Last Friday, Iraq’s electricity ministry said the portion of the national power supplied by Iran had been cut off and that the decision would exacerbate the yearly shortages experienced in the hot summer months. The ministry said the Iranian move had “directly and negatively affected the number of hours” of available electricity in the southern cities of Basra, Nasiriyah and Amara.
In addition to Soleimani’s meddling in the process of forming a coalition government, pro-Iranian militias have also stepped up to the plate in an attempt to poison the atmosphere. The Kata’ib Sayyid Al-Shuhada militia, one of the most notorious groups operating under the Popular Mobilization Forces banner, declared its support for the Houthis in Yemen. The group has been fighting in Iraq and in Syria and has adopted a violent sectarian approach. Abu Walaa Al-Walai, the group’s leader, said in a widely circulated video that he and his militia were ready to fight alongside the Houthis.
At the same time, protesters in the southern provinces have anti-Kuwait and anti-Saudi sentiments, threatening to attack Kuwait first and Saudi Arabia second. Kuwait has already announced that it is taking precautions to protect its borders after protesters attacked border facilities on the Iraqi side. Kuwaiti analysts are also sounding the alarm lest the conflict in southern Iraq spill over the border or, worse, lead to a repeat of previous Iraqi attacks against Kuwait, most recently in 1990.
It is important to take the threats against Kuwait seriously to avoid a repeat of previous mistakes. In 1990, Kuwaiti authorities and others underestimated the danger signs coming from Iraq, leading to disastrous miscalculations, a war costing thousands of lives, and the reshaping of the regional political landscape.
Iraq has a clear choice: Either to become an independent, stable and prosperous nation at peace with its neighbors and free of terrorism and sectarian violence; or to remain at the service of Iranian regional ambitions. Iraq has a long and glorious history and should not be reduced to serving as a pawn for Iran in its confrontation with the US.
* Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg is the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) assistant secretary-general for political affairs and negotiation, and a columnist for Arab News. The views expressed in this piece are personal and do not necessarily represent those of the GCC. Email: Twitter: @abuhamad1