July 20/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, so that they might not look with their eyes, and understand with their heart and turn and I would heal them
John 12/37-43: "Although he had performed so many signs in their presence, they did not believe in him. This was to fulfil the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah: ‘Lord, who has believed our message, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?’ And so they could not believe, because Isaiah also said, ‘He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, so that they might not look with their eyes, and understand with their heart and turn and I would heal them.’ Isaiah said this because he saw his glory and spoke about him. Nevertheless many, even of the authorities, believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they did not confess it, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved human glory more than the glory that comes from God."

Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on July 19-20/18
Lebanon's Leadership Vacuum Has Banks Battling for Deposits/Donna Abu Nasr and Arif Sharif/Bloomberg/July 19/18
AMCD (the American Mideast Coalition for Democracy) Calls on Secretary Pompeo to Condemn Arrest of Christian Activists in Lebanon/July 19/18
Read The Full Jewish Nation State Law/Jerusalem Post/July 19/18
Quneitra falls to Syrian army. Damascus: 1974 accord permits Syrian air flights over Israel’s Golan border/DEBKAfile/July 19/2018
Israel Passes Controversial Jewish Nation-state Bill After Stormy Debate/Jonathan Lis and Noa Landau/Haaretz/July 19/18
Opinion/Trump's Mayhem Allows Putin's Russia to Take Over the Middle East, One Country at a Time/Chuck Freilich/Haaretz/July 19/18
Designating the Muslim Brotherhood as a Terrorist Entity/Tom Quiggin/Gatestone Institute/July 19/2018
Why Iran Supports Palestinian Terror Groups/Khaled Abu Toameh/Gatestone Institute/July 19/2018
The $1bn Lead Strangling Qatar/Salman Al-dossary/Asharq Al Awsat/July 19/18
Israel Better Be Prepared If Iran Gets Back to Nuke/Ilan Jonas/Bloomberg/July 19/18
What is Putin blackmailing Trump with/Mamdouh AlMuhaini/Al Arabiya/July 19/18
Human awareness, self-consciousness and its impact on ‘fiqh’/Hassan Al Mustafa/Al Arabiya/July 19/18
Houthis’ absurdity and their blind ideology/Abdullah bin Bijad Al-Otaibi/Al Arabiya/July 19/18
Blockchain can solve third world problems but who will bell the cat/Ehtesham Shahid/Al Arabiya/July 19/18
Muqtada al-Sadr and me: Chicago on the Tigris/Michael Flanagan/Al Arabiya/July 19/18

Titles For The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on July 19-20/18
Syrian Refugees Leave Arsal, Beirut through Hezbollah Mediation
Salameh Meets Aoun: Financial Situation Stable, Deposits Growing by 5%
Report: Hariri Affirms ‘Strong’ Ties with Aoun
Berri Tasks Committee with Draft Law to Legalize Growing Marijuana
Geagea Urges Aoun to Stop 'Bassil's Nonstop Clashes with Everyone'
Report: Hariri-Bassil Meeting Didn’t ‘Reap Positive Results’
Raad Hails Berri's 'Political Role' after al-Sayyed's Remarks
Maronite Patriarch Says All-Inclusive Government Would Be Parliament Miniature
Lebanon’s Mountains in a Sorry State
Contested Power Barge Docks off Jiyyeh Coast
Lebanon's Leadership Vacuum Has Banks Battling for Deposits
AMCD (the American Mideast Coalition for Democracy) Calls on Secretary Pompeo to Condemn Arrest of Christian Activists in Lebanon
Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on July 19-20/18
Read The Full Jewish Nation State Law
Quneitra falls to Syrian army. Damascus: 1974 accord permits Syrian air flights over Israel’s Golan border
Under Russian supervision, deal brokered on Syria’s Quneitra
Evacuations from besieged pro-regime towns complete in Syria
Israel adopts symbolic but divisive Jewish nation-state law
Hamas to Stop Launching Paper Kites to Avoid War with Israel
Israeli air strike kills Hamas militant in Gaza
EIB Warns Risks of Financial Cooperation with Iran
Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives in UAE on three-day state visit
Supporting protesters, Iraq’s Sadr calls for postponing government formation
Saudi air defense intercepts, destroys Houthi ballistic missile targeting Jazan
Trump says he holds Putin personally responsible for election meddling
Haley Calls Human Rights Council U.N.'s 'Greatest Failure'
Russia, China Urge Delay as U.S. Seeks to Cut Off Oil to N. Korea
The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on July 19-20/18
Syrian Refugees Leave Arsal, Beirut through Hezbollah Mediation
Beirut - Paula Astih/Asharq Al Awsat/July 19/18 /The return of Syrian refugees to their homeland is subject to political bickering, as some political forces support coordination with the Syrian regime for this purpose, while others totally reject any communication with Syria and consider that the file should be managed by the United Nations. Meanwhile, Hezbollah and the Free Patriotic Movement continue their work to ensure the return of small groups of refugees, in preparation for the return of large batches after the formation of the government and the agreement on a national plan to overcome the refugee crisis. Sources revealed that Hezbollah, which started about five days ago to fill out forms for those wishing to return to Syria, was preparing for to return the first batch soon. The sources told Asharq Al-Awsa: “We can talk about a good movement, and most of those who register their names are displaced people living in the capital Beirut, and they will soon leave via Masnaa.”Meanwhile, around 1,200 displaced people living in the town of Arsal in the eastern border of Lebanon will leave on Monday to their villages and towns in the western Qalamoun. Mayor Bassel Al-Hujairi told Asharq Al-Awsat that those were part of the 3,000 who have already registered. About a thousand refugees have left in the last two weeks in two batches. The return process is made in coordination between Syria and Lebanon through the Lebanese General Security. While Hezbollah is coordinating with the regime in Syria to secure the return requirements, the Free Patriotic Movement’s action in this field is confined to registering the names of the Syrian refugees who wish to return and submit them to the Lebanese General Security. FPM President and Foreign Minister in the caretaker government Gebran Bassil announced on July 12 the establishment of a central committee for the return of displaced Syrians to their countries.Adviser to the Minister for Foreign Affairs for the Displaced Dr. Ola Boutros said that the main objective of this committee was to create a link between the displaced and the Lebanese State with the absence of a unified governmental policy, especially after recent university studies showed that 96% of the displaced Syrians in Lebanon wanted to return to their homeland.

Salameh Meets Aoun: Financial Situation Stable, Deposits Growing by 5%
Naharnet/July 19/18/Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh reassured Thursday that the financial situation in the country is “stable,” dismissing rumors about the Lebanese pound. “The numbers show that the growth rate for this year is estimated at 2% and that the financial situation is stable. Anything else being said is not based on correct numerical data,” Salameh announced after talks with President Michel Aoun in Baabda. “Deposits in Lebanese banks are growing annually by 5% according to the current pattern. As for the ongoing changes as a result of the rise in the global interest rates in the region, Lebanon's situation is also stable,” Salameh added.

Report: Hariri Affirms ‘Strong’ Ties with Aoun
Naharnet/July 19/18/In light of reports that relations have took a “strained” turn between President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, the latter refuted the claims and assured that his ties with the President are "strong," al-Mustaqbal newspaper reported on Thursday. Hariri said “my relation with the President is not subject to questioning. It is strong and based on solid fundamentals that fall in the interest of the country. “Those betting on sabotaging ties between me and the President are delusional because they do not realize that national interest if in our common language,” added Hariri. On claims relating to the jurisdiction of the President and Prime Minister regarding the Cabinet formation, Hariri said the "powers of each are clearly stipulated in the Constitution."“The President is entrusted with protecting the Constitution. Mutual trust prevails above everything,” added Hariri.Media reports claimed lately that relations between the two officials have been shaken over the delay in Cabinet formation, and the ministerial shares of the Free Patriotic Movement and President (founder of the FPM).

Berri Tasks Committee with Draft Law to Legalize Growing Marijuana
Naharnet/July 19/18/Speaker Nabih Berri has tasked on Thursday a committee of experts to prepare a draft law aiming at legalizing medicinal marijuana, the National News Agency reported on Wednesday. On Wednesday, Berri announced during a meeting with the U.S. ambassador Elizabeth Richard that the Lebanese parliament will soon review a legislation to legalize growing the plant. With public debt at 150% of GDP, the third highest rate in the world, Lebanon charged consulting firm McKinsey & Company with setting out a vision to revitalize growth. McKinsey's proposal, submitted this month to President Michel Aoun, included a recommendation to legalize and regularize the production and sale of marijuana.

Geagea Urges Aoun to Stop 'Bassil's Nonstop Clashes with Everyone'

Naharnet/July 19/18/Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea has called on President Michel Aoun to put an end to what he called “Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil's nonstop clashes with everyone.”“There is a very deplorable situation... Whenever we and other parties exert efforts to pacify the situations, Bassil decides to talk and blow up the situation,” Geagea said in an interview with Kuwait's al-Rai newspaper to be published Friday. “Everything Bassil is trying to do is to withhold a ministerial seat from us. Is this how the LF should be rewarded? This is very shameful,” Geagea added. “According to Bassil's inaccurate numbers about our representation, we represent 31% of the Christian vote which grants us a share of five ministerial seats... What is he arguing about?” the LF leader went on to say. Emphasizing that the government formation process is the responsibility of the prime minister-designate and the president, Geagea accused Bassil of seeking to “usurp the president's role.” “We are keen on the Maarab Agreement and if Bassil wants to disavow it then he is free. We highly respect and appreciate the president and our biggest wish is the success of this presidential tenure, but Bassil's actions are undermining this presidential tenure and I'm saying this very regrettably,” Geagea added.

Report: Hariri-Bassil Meeting Didn’t ‘Reap Positive Results’
Naharnet/July 19/18/A meeting between Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri and Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil on the sidelines of a parliament meeting early this week, “did not led to an agreement” on the facilitation of the Cabinet formation, the pan-Arab al-Hayat daily reported on Thursday. Sources who followed up on the “closed-meeting between the two men” held on the sideline of a parliament session in a bid to facilitate the stalemates and expedite the Cabinet lineup did not lead to positive results.“The two men only agreed to meet again,” said the sources who spoke on condition of anonymity. “The results were not positive, particularly that the Strong Lebanon bloc (of Bassil) was quick to announce that Bassil is not responsible for the stalemate,” added the sources. 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.

Raad Hails Berri's 'Political Role' after al-Sayyed's Remarks
Naharnet/July 19/18/The head of Hizbullah's parliamentary bloc has hailed the “political role” of Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, amid a war of words between the speaker's AMAL Movement and controversial MP Jamil al-Sayyed. Al-Sayyed, a former chief of Lebanon's General Security agency, was elected as a representative for the Baalbek-Hermel region after running on an electoral list formed by both Hizbullah and AMAL. “This rotten regional, power-hungry and partisan fanaticism is a ploy to stir discord and everyone must confront it,” MP Mohammed Raad says in a video distributed heavily on social networking websites. “This issue will not go unnoticed,” he stresses. Raad adds: “The martyrs have united us and turned us into a respected force. We pride ourselves in our wise and courageous leadership and we pride ourselves in the political role that Speaker Nabih Berri is performing. It consolidates the unity of our people and we will not allow anyone to stir discord or to poison the relations, whether intentionally or unintentionally.” “No one, near or far, will be able to fragment this path or to create gaps from which the enemies can penetrate... Small incidents cannot drag us anywhere, seeing as we are seeking to protect our country against the threats and to preserve its sovereignty,” Raad went on to say. Al-Sayyed swiftly announced that the video “dates back to a few months ago and has been used out of its context.”“You can clearly hear the voice of the person who fabricated it saying 'Shiites of the state,'” the MP added. In another tweet, al-Sayyed appeared to backpedal on his announcement that the video is old. “Hizbullah's media officer has confirmed to me that MP Raad's statement has been used out of its context and that it was not addressed against Maj. Gen. al-Sayyed... The phrase 'it dates back to a few months ago' was announced by mistake,” al-Sayyed added. A war of words has escalated between al-Sayyed and the AMAL Movement in recent days. Al-Sayyed accused some AMAL officials of accepting bribes and said the Movement's MPs have not sought to improve the developmental situation in the impoverished Baalbek-Hermel region contrary to what they did in the South. His remarks drew a violent response from the AMAL Movement, which issued an official statement accusing al-Sayyed of “launching accusations and fabricating stories to create a status for himself.”“We will not be dragged into the sedition that he wants to stir in the (Shiite) arena,” AMAL added.

Maronite Patriarch Says All-Inclusive Government Would Be Parliament Miniature 19th July 2018/Maronite Patriarch Bechara Al-Rahi on Thursday renewed his call for the formation of a government as soon as possible, voicing regret over the ongoing procrastination. “Having a government that includes the representatives of parliamentary blocs does not mean creating an executive authority, but rather forming one that is a miniature of the Parliament,” Al-Rahi said during a visit to the Economic and Social Council. The Patriarch blasted corruption that is plaguing the state institutions, criticizing the squandering of Lebanon's resources. “How can we accept mismanagement, the failure to safeguard our environment’s purity, and the blatant neglect towards what boosts tourism and protects public health?” he asked.
Lebanon's Coastal Waters: Safe to Swim? 19th July 2018/Lebanon’s waters are mostly safe for swimming, as per the findings of a study that was conducted by the National Council of Scientific Research.According to the Secretary-General of the Council Mouin Hamzeh, the study found that 16 out of 25 examined sea spaces can be used by swimmers, while 4 zones were rated as "acceptable" and 5 others as "very bad". The beaches that were labeled as the best for swimmers are those located in Naqoura and Tyre. Other sea spots examined in Anfeh, Tripoli, Al-Heri, Byblos, Batroun, Okeibeh and Fidar can also be used by swimmers.
The highly contaminated sea spots are those in Antelias, Beirut's Manara and Ramleh Bayda, and Tripoli's public beach.

Lebanon’s Mountains in a Sorry State

The Daily Star/Thursday 19th July 2018/In the Babylonian epic of Gilgamesh, the protagonist, a Sumerian king, journeys to Mount Lebanon, deforests its famed cedar trees and beheads the demigod Humbaba – guardian of the sacred land. “In the story, it is said the forest began to cry after Gilgamesh killed Humbaba,” President of Lebanon Eco Movement Paul Abi Rached said. “The trees from Mount Lebanon all the way to Mount Hermon began to tremble.”
Five thousand years later, the mountains of Lebanon are again under threat – but this time by industry and technologies of the modern world.

Contested Power Barge Docks off Jiyyeh Coast 19th July 2018/The Turkish power-generating barge, which stirred controversy upon its arrival to Lebanon earlier this week, officially docked off the Jiyyeh power plant on Wednesday. The called Esra Sultan barge, which was deployed to Lebanon as part of the Energy Ministry's plan to increase power supply, was prevented from entering the premises of the Jiyyeh plant on Monday. The vessel is expected to produce around 230 megawatts for a "free" period of three months. The Turkish company Karadeniz has been operating two power barges, Fatmagul Sultan and Orhan Bey, off the Lebanese coast since 2013. Shortly after its arrival in Beirut on Sunday, the municipal council and the residents of Jiyyeh issued a statement voicing utter rejection of having another vessel docked off their coast, calling on officials to spare Jiyyeh the "deadly pollution".
Lebanon's Leadership Vacuum Has Banks Battling for Deposits
Donna Abu Nasr and Arif Sharif/Bloomberg/July 19/18,
Lebanon’s banks are paying the highest interest rates on deposits in almost nine years as lenders seek to shore up their capital to cope with political uncertainty and the high borrowing needs of the government. The weighted average rate on customer deposits in Lebanese pounds climbed to 6.71 percent at the end of May, the highest since December 2009, according to the most recent central bank data. Average rates on dollar deposits rose to 4.11 percent, a level not seen since February 2008. Similar interest rates in Jordan were at 4.38 percent at the end of May. Non-residents contributed 24 percent of the overall deposits of Lebanon’s banks at the end of May, the central bank data show. With at least three times as many Lebanese living abroad than at home, Lebanon has been sustained by remittances, mainly from the Gulf and Africa, which banks use to buy government debt. Deposit rates will only begin to decline once Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri forms a new government and starts taking steps to rein in the fiscal deficit, according to Jassem Ajaka, professor of economy at the Lebanese University. The budget shortfall may climb to 10.6 percent of gross domestic product this year, the most since at least 2015, according to the International Monetary Fund.
His resignation in November -- rescinded a month later -- led to an outflow of capital and roiled markets in the Arab world’s most indebted country. Hariri has struggle to pull together a cabinet since the Iran-backed Hezbollah group emerged in a stronger position in May’s parliamentary elections, leaving the fiscal-consolidation plans in flux. Lebanon will likely see its debt reach 180 percent of gross domestic product in five years from 150 percent in 2017, according to the IMF. That’s on par with Greece, which underwent the world’s biggest debt restructuring.
‘Stimulate Growth’
The rise in rates paid on deposits is due to “the continuing high borrowing needs of the government and the need to stimulate growth,” said Nassib Ghobril, the chief economist at Beirut-based Byblos Bank SAL. “There is lack of credible political will to reduce the fiscal deficit through reforms so far.”
Bank deposits are expected to grow by 5 percent this year, Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh, told Lebanon’s Annahar newspaper July 11. An offer by Bank Audi to pay 15 percent interest on deposits converted from U.S. dollars to Lebanese pounds supported the local currency and he encouraged other banks to take steps that will benefit the pound. Reserves, which fell to about $41.5 billion from more than $43 billion at the end of October, stand at about $44 billion, the newspaper reported.The formation of a government is crucial to win international aid and boost an economy that’s been hit by the outbreak of the seven-year conflict in neighboring Syria. Trade routes to the Gulf have closed and the influx of 1.5 million refugees has strained Lebanon’s fragile infrastructure.

AMCD (the American Mideast Coalition for Democracy) Calls on Secretary Pompeo to Condemn Arrest of Christian Activists in Lebanon
التحالف الأميركي الشرق أوسطي للديموقراطية يناشد وزير الخارية الأميركي ادانة اعتقال السلطات اللبنانية لناشطين مسيحيين
Thursday, July 19th 2018,
The arrest of Christian activists in or from Lebanon is a targeted political move to intimidate and deter Lebanese Christian activists.
WASHINGTON, DC, USA, July 19, 2018 / -- Today the American Mideast Coalition for Democracy wrote to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urging him to condemn the arrest and interrogation of Maronite Christian activists in Lebanon and to address the matter directly with Lebanon’s Foreign Minister, Gebran Bassil, who will be attending the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom event being held in Washington DC next week and hosted by Secretary Pompeo.
Last year (May 20, 2017), the Philos Project held a conference in New York City composed of Syriac Maronite Christians who are working to revive the ancient Aramaic language, culture, and Aramean identity. Aramaic was the common language spoken by Jesus in the First Century.
This conference, opened by Maronite bishop Gregory Mansour, included many community delegates from the US, Canada, Europe and the Middle East. It was attended by three Maronite Christian citizens of Israel, one Maronite priest and two brothers who have a program teaching Aramaic for the Maronite communities in Israel.
One of the attendees from Sweden, Roni Doumit, visited Lebanon a couple months ago. At that time, the Lebanese authorities questioned him about contacts with any citizens from what they call the “enemy state” (Israel). The authorities took the information and let him go. Last week he went back to Lebanon and was arrested and has been jailed. The formal allegation is “facilitating the connection with citizens of the enemy state.”
Another Lebanese architect, Amine Iskandar, was also called in for questioning last week. The authorities took his cell phone and asked him to come back to meet with them on July 18, 2018. After his initial questioning, he was asked to return again on July, 23. He is not sure what will happen and what kind of allegation will throw at him.
“Lebanese law forbids Lebanese citizens from visiting Israel or being in contact with Israeli authorities. It does not specifically forbid citizens from attending international conferences which happen to be attended by citizens from Israel,” explained AMCD Secretary, Rebecca Bynum. “Mr. Doumit, a joint Swedish-Lebanese citizen, and Mr. Amine Iskandar, a Lebanese citizen, belong to the Maronite community and were attending a conference organized by the Maronite community. It was chaired by a Maronite Bishop who is under the authority of the Maronite Patriarch in Lebanon, who himself has visited Jerusalem in 2014.”
“Besides,” added AMCD President, John Hajjar, “a world Maronite Conference in Rome has included dozens of Maronites living in Israel, who mingled with Maronites from Lebanon openly. Among the Maronites who attended that conference, there are many politicians who live in Lebanon. No one has questioned them for the past 18 years.”
“Even more,” he continued, “the New York Conference was attended by a number of Lebanese citizens, including an adviser to President Aoun of Lebanon, who himself met with the three Israeli citizens at the conference. And he was not questioned in Beirut. And last but not least, members of the Druze community of Israel often meet with Druze leaders from Lebanon either in Lebanon or Jordan or other parts in the Middle East, and Lebanese authorities do not bother them.”
We further observe that former Knesset member and Israeli citizen, Azmi Bishara, frequently travels to Lebanon for meetings including with officials. He was never questioned.
This and more, is evidence that the arrest of Christian activists in or from Lebanon, at the hands of the Lebanese security agencies, is a targeted political move to intimidate and deter Lebanese Christian activists who are working on reviving their language, the language of Jesus Christ, and defending the historical and cultural identity of the Lebanese Christian community. The two persons arrested, or about to be charged, have nothing to do with Lebanese-Israeli relations and are -as evidence would show- dedicating their lives to Christianity.
It is hoped that the Lebanese Foreign Minister Bassil will be confronted on this issue and asked how it is he can attend an event to advance religious freedom when his government is arresting Christians for the “crime” of meeting with other Maronite Christians from Israel? Why is it that only the Christians of Lebanon are being oppressed in this way?
AMCD implores Secretary Pompeo to demand the immediate release of Mr. Doumit and that Lebanese authorities cease their interrogation of Mr. Iskandar. AMCD further hopes that Secretary Pompeo will demand the full implementation of the UN Human Rights Declaration regarding the freedom of speech and freedom of assembly - even threatening to withhold US aid until this is achieved.
Furthermore, AMCD contacted members of congress and the appropriations committee in charge of funding for foreign aid to make sure funding will be reconsidered if this situation is not resolved immediately.
The Maronite Patriarch was also informed of the situation, as were other Lebanese politicians.
*Rebecca Bynum
The American Mideast Coalition for Democracy
615 775 6801

The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published
on July 19-20/18
Read The Full Jewish Nation State Law
Jerusalem Post/July 19/18
The controversial law passed a final vote in the Knesset overnight Wednesday.
The following is the complete text of the Jewish Nation-State Law, which passed a final vote in the Knesset overnight Wednesday, with links to The Jerusalem Post reporting on the discussions about its various elements.
Basic Law: Israel - The nation state of the Jewish people
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1. The State of Israel
a) Israel is the historical homeland of the Jewish people in which the state of Israel was established.
b) The state of Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people, in which it actualizes its natural, religious, and historical right for self-determination.
c) The actualization of the right of national self-determination in the state of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.
2. National symbols of the State of Israel
a) The name of the state is Israel.
b) The flag of the state is white, two blue stripes near the edges, and a blue Star of David in the center.
c) The symbol of the state is the Menorah with seven branches, olive leaves on each side, and the word Israel at the bottom.
d) The national anthem of the state is "Hatikvah"
e) [Further] details concerning the issue of state symbols will be determined by law.
3. [The] unified and complete [city of] Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.
4. The Language of the State of Israel
a) Hebrew is the language of the state.
b) The Arabic language has a special status in the state; the regulation of the Arab language in state institutions or when facing them will be regulated by law.
c) This clause does not change the statues given to the Arabic language before the basic law was created.
5. The state will be open to Jewish immigration and to the gathering of the exiled.
6. The Diaspora
a) The state will labor to ensure the safety of sons of the Jewish people and its citizens who are in trouble and captivity due to their Jewishness or their citizenship.
b) The state will act to preserve the cultural, historical and religious legacy of the Jewish people among the Jewish diaspora.
7. The state views Jewish settlement as a national value and will labor to encourage and promote its establishment and development.
8. The Hebrew calendar is the official calendar of the state and alongside it the secular calendar will serve as an official calendar. The usage of the Hebrew calendar and of the secular calendar will be determined by law.
9. National Holidays
a) Independence Day is the official holiday of the state.
b) The Memorial Day for those who fell in the wars of Israel and the Memorial Day for the Holocaust and heroism are official memorial days of the state.
10. Saturday and the Jewish Holidays are the official days of rest in the state. Those who are not Jewish have the right to honor their days of rest and their holidays. Details concerning these matters will be determined by law.
11. This Basic Law may not be altered except by a Basic Law that gained the approval of the majority of the Knesset members.

Quneitra falls to Syrian army. Damascus: 1974 accord permits Syrian air flights over Israel’s Golan border
DEBKAfile/July 19/2018
Syrian rebel resistance to the Syrian Army advance on Quneitra opposite the Israeli Golan crumbled on Thursday, July 19, in the absence of Israeli military support. The terms of surrender that rebel leaders signed with Syrian army officers obliged them to hand over all their strongholds, including the town of Quneitra. The Syrian army was able to return to the positions held before the 2011 uprising without a shot. Rebels refusing to sign were to be sent with their families north to Idlib province.
Israeli officials and military leaders were dismayed by a message received from Damascus claiming that the 1974 Separation of Forces Accord, which both governments resuscitated this week, allowed Syrian aircraft, including assault helicopters and UAVs, to fly over the buffer zones of the Golan up to the Israel border. Damascus relayed a copy of the accord to Moscow with a warning that any Israeli attempt to shoot down a Syrian overflight would be a breach of the 1974 accord, and its endorsement on July 16 at Helsinki by Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. DEBKAfile revealed on July 17 that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had partnered the Helsinki deal for the restoration of southern Syria to the Syrian army under Russian oversight.
Israeli officers were handed the Syrian message on Thursday by the UNDOF commander, Maj Gen. Francis Vib-Sanziri of Ghana, who is henceforth responsible for monitoring implementation of the Helsinki deal.
According to DEBKAfile’s military sources, this Syrian message for the first time forbids the Israeli air force and anti-air missile batteries shooting down Syrian aerial vehicles entering the air space over the buffer zones. On July 13, Israel shot down a Syrian drone entering the buffer zone. This is no longer permissible. Israel is even precluded from discovering if the intruder belongs to Iran or Hizballah, leaving both these hostile entities free to fly at will over Israel’s Golan border. Furthermore, Assad may have those flight painted with Syrian air force markings, just as he supplies Syrian military uniforms to disguise Hizballah and pro-Iranian Shiite militiamen.
Our sources reveal that it took the Assad regime no more than four days to renege on Syria’s role in the Helsinki accord. For regaining Quneitra, the Syrian army, led by disguised Hizballah and Shiite troops, was obliged to evacuate the Beit Jinn pocket opposite the IDF’s Hermon outpost. On Monday, July 16, the Syrians pretended to pull back, while actually leaving several hundred troops behind – disguised this time as civilians and farmers.
Under Russian supervision, deal brokered on Syria’s Quneitra
Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnglishThursday, 19 July 2018/Under a Russian sponsorship, a deal has been reached on the fate of al-Quneitra province, excluding areas under the control of Tahria al-Sham front ( previously known as al-Nusra Front.) The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that an understanding has been reached to evacuate all armed militants and civilians opposing the deal to the northern part of Syria. This is in addition to other terms relating to the handing over of heavy and medium ranged weapons, deployment of Russian military police in positions that were held by the Syrian army prior to 2011 in al-Quneitra province, resolving the situation of defected civilians from military service and the return of displaced and refugees back to their villages and towns in the province. The deal would mark a major victory for President Bashar al-Assad, restoring his control over the frontier with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Earlier on Thursday, the evacuation of thousands of people from two pro-Syrian government villages in the northwest got underway. The villages of al-Fa’wa and Kufriya in Idlib province have been besieged for years by armed militants fighting the regime of Bashar al-Assad. Full story (With Agencies)

Evacuations from besieged pro-regime towns complete in Syria
AFP, BeirutThursday, 19 July 2018/The last remaining residents on Thursday departed two pro-regime towns in northwestern Syria long besieged by rebels and a former al-Qaeda affiliate, a monitor said. Al-Fa’wa and Kufriya, in Idlib province, “were entirely empty of residents” after some 6,900 civilians and pro-regime fighters left under an evacuation deal, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Buses had begun evacuating fighters and civilians early Thursday morning under a deal between regime backer Russia and rebel ally Turkey to allow thousands to leave after three years of encirclement. An AFP reporter in neighboring Aleppo province later saw dozens of buses crossing from rebel territory into regime-held areas. The Shiite-majority towns have been besieged for three years by rebels and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a jihadist alliance led by Syria’s former al-Qaeda affiliate. Under the evacuation deal, all residents were to be taken to government-held territory in exchange for prisoner releases from regime jails. “As the buses entered regime-held areas, the regime started releasing detainees, as per the deal,” Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said. An HTS source said the group’s fighters had entered the towns after the evacuation was complete.
Under seige
Al-Fa’wa and Kufriya were the last remaining areas under siege in Syria, where government forces have also repeatedly used crippling blockades during the last seven years of war. Starting on Wednesday morning, a series of barricades on the road leading into the towns were removed to let dozens of buses in, AFP's correspondent there said. Just after midnight, buses drove out of al-Fa’wa and Kufriya and into a staging ground in the nearby Suwaghiya area. Armed HTS fighters stood on the roadside as the convoy of evacuees inched past, with pro-government militiamen and regular civilians sitting solemnly on board and staring ahead. Surrounded and bombed by hostile factions, the towns had been a rallying cry for the government and its ally Iran, as well as a playing card in rebel hands. They had come under siege in 2015 as rebels and militants overran the surrounding province of Idlib, cutting off access to food and medicine. Those forces allowed the United Nations and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent to deliver aid to the towns in exchange for operations with two government-besieged towns near Damascus. The four towns also saw coordinated evacuation deals. In April 2017, thousands were bussed out of al-Fa’wa and Kufriya in exchange for parallel evacuations from the towns of Zabadani and Madaya.

Israel adopts symbolic but divisive Jewish nation-state law

Reuters, Jerusalem Thursday, 19 July 2018/Israel passed a law on Thursday to declare that only Jews have the right of self-determination in the country, something members of the Arab minority called racist and verging on apartheid.
The “nation-state” law, backed by the right-wing government, passed by a vote of 62-55 and two abstentions in the 120-member parliament after months of political argument. Some Arab lawmakers shouted and ripped up papers after the vote. “This is a defining moment in the annals of Zionism and the history of the state of Israel,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Knesset after the vote. Largely symbolic, the law was enacted just after the 70th anniversary of the birth of the state of Israel. It stipulates that “Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people and they have an exclusive right to national self-determination in it”. The bill also strips Arabic of its designation as an official language alongside Hebrew, downgrading it to a “special status” that enables its continued use within Israeli institutions. Israel’s Arabs number some 1.8 million, about 20 percent of the 9 million population.
Early drafts of the legislation went further in what critics at home and abroad saw as discrimination towards Israel’s Arabs, who have long said they are treated as second-class citizens. Clauses that were dropped in last-minute political wrangling - and after objections by Israel’s president and attorney-general - would have enshrined in law the establishment of Jewish-only communities, and instructed courts to rule according to Jewish ritual law when there were no relevant legal precedents.
Vaguely-worded version
Instead, a more vaguely-worded version was approved, which says: “The state views the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment.”Even after the changes, critics said the new law will deepen a sense of alienation within the Arab minority. “I announce with shock and sorrow the death of democracy,” Ahmed Tibi, an Arab lawmaker, told reporters. Netanyahu has defended the law. “We will keep ensuring civil rights in Israel’s democracy but the majority also has rights and the majority decides,” he said last week. “An absolute majority wants to ensure our state’s Jewish character for generations to come.” Israel’s Arab population is comprised mainly of descendants of the Palestinians who remained on their land during the conflict between Arabs and Jews that culminated in the war of 1948 surrounding the creation of the modern state of Israel. Hundreds of thousands were forced to leave their homes or fled. Those who remained have full equal rights under the law but say they face constant discrimination, citing inferior services and unfair allocations for education, health and housing. In Ma’alot-Tarshiha, a municipality in northern Israel which was created by linking the Jewish town of Ma’alot and the Arab town of Tarshiha, there was anger among Arab residents. “I think this is racist legislation by a radical right-wing government that is creating radical laws, and is planting the seeds to create an apartheid state,” said physician Bassam Bisharah, 71. “The purpose of this law is discrimination. They want to get rid of the Arabs totally,” said Yousef Faraj, 53, from the nearby Druze village of Yanuh. “The Israelis want to destroy all the religions of the Arabs.”Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, called the law a bid to advance “ethnic superiority by promoting racist policies”.
Hamas to Stop Launching Paper Kites to Avoid War with Israel
Ramallah - Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 19 July, 2018/Hamas is trying to stop the firing of paper kites and balloons from the Gaza Strip towards nearby Israeli towns in order to spare the sector a possible war and further Israeli pressure. However, according to various reports, the decision would be difficult to implement as it would be seen as a response to an Israeli demand and against the will of the demonstrators near the border. Palestinian and Israeli reports confirmed news published by Asharq Al-Awsat about a Hamas decision to gradually stop the launching of kites. However, a group of Palestinians, who have been launching incendiary kites and balloons toward Israel, denied the reports saying that they did not receive any orders from any Palestinian side to stop their activities. Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth said that amid pressure from Egypt and fear of an Israeli military campaign in the Gaza Strip, Hamas ordered its fighters on the ground to stop firing kites and balloons. Israel gave Hamas few days to stop the incendiary kites. At the same time, maneuvers simulating the occupation of the Gaza Strip were launched and the Israeli siege was tightened, within plan to increase pressure on Hamas. Channel 10 said that the Israeli political authorities had directed the military leadership to prepare for a large-scale military campaign in the Gaza Strip if the firing of incendiary balloons at the Israeli territory did not stop. Reports said that Friday might be the deadline set by Israel for stopping the launching of balloons, or it would initiate a large-scale military campaign. The channel added that Israel has sent many messages to Hamas, through the Egyptian intelligence, and Hamas responded also through the same apparatus. The reports said that Hamas wanted in return the continued opening of the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt, as well as easing the humanitarian situation in the sector.

Israeli air strike kills Hamas militant in Gaza
Reuters, GazaThursday, 19 July 2018/An Israeli air strike in the Gaza Strip killed a member of the Islamist militant Hamas group on Thursday and wounded two others, Hamas sources and medical officials said.The Israeli military confirmed in a statement that it had carried out an air strike. It said it targeted Hamas militants who were about to launch balloons rigged with flammable material over the border into Israel. Fires caused by incendiary helium balloons and kites launched by Palestinians in Gaza over the border into Israel have ravaged tracts of farmland there in recent months. Israel has vowed to stop the attacks, even at the risk of wider conflict.

EIB Warns Risks of Financial Cooperation with Iran

London – Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 19 July, 2018/The European Investment Bank’s (EIB) global operations would be put at risk if it were to invest in Iran, its president said on Wednesday, casting doubt on the EU’s ability to deliver on its pledge to save a nuclear deal with Tehran that Washington has abandoned. Reuters reported EIB President Werner Hoyer as saying that while he supported EU efforts to keep alive the 2015 deal which curbed Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, Iran is a place “where we cannot play an active role.”The European Union has agreed to add Iran to the list of countries with which the Luxembourg-based EIB does business from August, a spokesman for the EU executive said the change “does not force the EIB to begin lending.” The EIB will only do business there if it receives approval from its board of governors, which are the finance ministers of the EU’s 28 member states, and on the basis of finding suitable projects to invest in. Central bank transfers to Iran to pay for oil imports and avoid U.S. sanctions, a measure proposed by the European Commission in May, are still under discussion, diplomats said. Meanwhile, only a few businesses have taken advantage of euro-denominated financing set up by European countries to trade with Iran. Three European countries (Germany, France and Britain) want to open a financial channel that keeps the accounts in Iran’s central bank of Iran going, the Wall Street Journal reported. However, European sources conditioned the establishment of such a channel with Iran approving on joining the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering Control (FATF). “There is no European bank which is presently able to do business in and with Iran,” Hoyer told reporters. “We have to take note of the fact that we would risk the business model of the bank if we were active in Iran.”The EIB currently steers clear of engaging in jurisdictions listed as high-risk under the FATF, a global group of government anti-money-laundering agencies. That includes Iran.
Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives in UAE on three-day state visit
Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnglishThursday, 19 July 2018/President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China arrived here on Thursday for a three-day state visit to the UAE accompanied by First Lady Peng Liyuan, according to WAM. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, and Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, received the distinguished guest and his accompanying delegation at the Presidential Flight in Abu Dhabi.

Supporting protesters, Iraq’s Sadr calls for postponing government formation
Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnglishThursday, 19 July 2018/Iraqi Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr, whose bloc had a massive win in the parliamentary elections last May, called on all concerned politicians to stop all efforts to form a new government, until the demands by protesters for better services, especially in the southern provinces, are met. In his first comments on the protests sweeping south Iraq, al-Sadr tweetted on Thursday saying: “All political blocs which won in the current elections should suspend all political discussions to form alliances and other, until the protesters’ legitimate demands are met.” The central Iraqi current government of Haidar al-Abadi seeks to contain the protests which erupted on July 8 in southern Iraq with eight killed, while 60 others were injured, according to Iraqi health officials who said that the protests were marred by riots. On the other hand, though the Iraqi government believes that the people’s demands are legitimate, it nevertheless considered the protests as being orchestrated.

Saudi air defense intercepts, destroys Houthi ballistic missile targeting Jazan
Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnglishThursday, 19 July 2018/Saudi air defense intercepted and destroyed a ballistic missile launched from Yemen on Thursday by Houthi militias targeting Saudi port city of Jazan south west of the kingdom. On Wednesday the Saudi air defense also intercepted and destroyed a missile launched by Houthi militias inside Yemen targeting the border town of Najran. In both incidents no casualties have been reported.
Trump says he holds Putin personally responsible for election meddling
Reuters, Washington/Thursday, 19 July 2018/President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he holds Russian President Vladimir Putin personally responsible for Russia’s meddling in the 2016 US presidential election. “Just like I consider myself to be responsible for things that happen in this country. So certainly as the leader of a country you would have to hold him responsible, yes,” Trump told CBS News in an interview.

Trump Urges Erdogan to Free U.S. Pastor Held in Turkey

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 19/18/U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday urged Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Twitter to free an American pastor held in Turkey. "A total disgrace that Turkey will not release a respected U.S. Pastor, Andrew Brunson, from prison. He has been held hostage far too long. "@RT_Erdogan should do something to free this wonderful Christian husband & father. He has done nothing wrong, and his family needs him!" Trump tweeted. Just hours earlier a Turkish court ordered an American pastor held for almost two years on terror charges to remain in prison, defying growing pressure from the US authorities for his release. The case of Andrew Brunson, who ran a Protestant church in the Aegean city of Izmir and was first detained in October 2016, has become a major sticking point in improving relations between Ankara and Washington. This is the third time his release has been refused -- the court had in both previous hearings on April 16 and May 7 denied requests by the defence for Brunson to be set free. The judge said the next hearing would be on October 12.

Haley Calls Human Rights Council U.N.'s 'Greatest Failure'
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 19/18/U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley on Wednesday described the Human Rights Council as the "greatest failure" of the United Nations as she defended the US decision to quit the U.N. body. Haley told the Heritage Foundation think tank in Washington that the Geneva-based body had "provided cover, not condemnation, for the world's most inhumane regimes.""Judged by how far it has fallen short of its promise, the Human Rights Council is the United Nations' greatest failure," she said. The ambassador announced last month that the United States was quitting the council, accusing it of bias against Israel and condemning the "hypocrisy" of its members including China, Egypt, Venezuela and Cuba. The human rights council has been "not a place of conscience, but a place of politics," Haley said, adding that it had focussed its attention "unfairly and relentlessly on Israel." U.S. criticism stems from the fact that Israel is the only country that has a dedicated agenda item at council meetings, which means that Israel's treatment of Palestinians has regularly come under scrutiny. Haley took aim at the council for failing to speak out in support of anti-government protests in Iran, to condemn the violence in Venezuela and over the election of the Democratic Republic of Congo to the council after its security forces faced allegations of atrocities in the Kasai region. Despite the U.S. exit, "fixing the institutional flaws" of the council remains "one of our biggest priorities" at the United Nations, Haley said. The withdrawal followed strong UN criticism of President Donald Trump's policy to separate migrant children from their families at the U.S.-Mexico border. Haley again took a swipe at rights groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch for failing to back the US bid to reform the council through a resolution at the General Assembly. The non-governmental organizations had instead urged the U.S. administration to seek reforms in Geneva by pushing for more competition in elections for seats at the council.
The United States refused to join the body when it was created in 2006 but joined in 2009 when Barack Obama was in the White House.
Russia, China Urge Delay as U.S. Seeks to Cut Off Oil to N. Korea
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 19/18/Russia and China on Thursday put a six-month hold on a request from the United States to the U.N. Security Council to halt all deliveries of refined oil products to North Korea, diplomats said. The United States, seeking to maintain pressure on the North to dismantle its nuclear program, asked a U.N. sanctions committee last week to ban further fuel shipments after accusing Pyongyang of using illegal imports to exceed a cap on permissible deliveries. A U.N. sanctions resolution adopted last year set ceilings for North Korea of four million barrels of crude oil per year and 500,000 barrels of refined oil products. A cut-off of oil and fuel would have to be enforced primarily by China, which supplies most of North Korea's energy needs, but also by Russia, which delivers some oil to Pyongyang. Russia and China told the council that they needed more time to consider the U.S. request and to review Washington's allegations of sanctions-busting by North Korea. The move came ahead of a meeting on Friday between U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Security Council in New York on Washington's drive to persuade North Korea to scrap its nuclear and missile programs. Diplomats expect Pompeo to push for strict enforcement of U.N. sanctions on North Korea during the meeting, which will also be attended by South Korea's Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha and Japan's U.N. Ambassador Koro Bessho. The United States last week sent a report to the sanctions committee that said North Korea had secured at least 759,793 barrels of oil products through ship-to-ship transfers at sea, according to the document, which was seen by AFP. North Korean tankers reportedly obtains clandestine oil cargo in international waters from ships that often switch off their satellite tracking systems to prevent any monitoring of their activities. "Russia is closely examining this request and is seeking additional information on every single case of 'illegal' transfer of petroleum to the DPRK," or North Korea, claimed by the U.S., said the Russian mission in an email to council members seen by AFP. "We also request the U.S. side to provide additional factual information to facilitate all states to study and make judgment," said the Chinese mission in its response to the council.
No easing of sanctions
The council last year adopted three rafts of sanctions targeting North Korea's economy in response to Pyongyang's sixth nuclear test and a series of ballistic missile launches. Those sanctions banned North Korea's exports of raw commodities while severely restricting supplies of oil -- vital for the country's military. After President Donald Trump held an unprecedented summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore, China proposed that the council signal a possible easing of sanctions to welcome the diplomatic thaw. The United States, however, blocked that statement, which would have expressed the council's "willingness to adjust the measures" targeting North Korea, diplomats said. At the Singapore summit, Kim agreed to work toward denuclearization of the peninsula, but the accord was short on details. More than a month later, no concrete progress has been reported. After Pompeo traveled to Pyongyang this month for talks to seek progress, North Korea complained that the United States was making "gangster-like" demands for rapid denuclearization. Pompeo will likely seek to enlist support from the top U.N. body when he reports on Friday on the administration's achievements so far with North Korea, and on what lies ahead.
The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on July 19-20/18
Israel Passes Controversial Jewish Nation-state Bill After Stormy Debate
Jonathan Lis and Noa Landau/Haaretz/July 19/18
62 lawmakers vote in favor of the bill after a stormy debate ■ Arab lawmakers tossed out after they tear bill in protest, call it 'apartheid law'
The Knesset passed early Thursday a controversial bill that officially defines Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people and asserts that "the realization of the right to national self-determination in Israel is unique to the Jewish people," with 62 lawmakers voting in favor of the legislation and 55 opposing it.
Two lawmakers, Benny Begin (Likud) and Orly Levy-Abekasis (independent) abstained.
The nation-stae law also includes clauses stating that a "united Jerusalem" is the capital of Israel and that Hebrew is the country's official language. Another says that "the state sees the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment and consolidation."It passed after a long and stormy debate that began in the afternoon, with lawmakers voting on hundreds of clauses presented by the opposition that objected to differents parts of the bill. Immediately after the law passed, Arab lawmakers tore copies in protest, and were subsequently removed from the Knesset plenum hall. Lawmaker Ayman Odeh, chairman of the Joint List, released a statement saying that Israel "declared it does not want us here" and that it had "passed a law of Jewish supremacy and told us that we will always be second-class citiziens." Speaking moments after the bill passed into law, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: "This is a defining moment – long live the State of Israel." Netanyahu further said that "122 years after Herzl made his vision known, with this law we determined the founding principle of our existence. Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people, and respects the rights of all of its citizens."The prime minister also said that "in the Middle East, only Israel respects [rights]. This is our country, the Jewish state. In recent years there have been those who have tried to undermine that and question the principles of our existence. Today we made it into law: This is the country, the language, the anthem and flag."As they left the Knesset plenum, Arab MKs from the Joint List party confronted Netanyahu. MK Ahmad Tibi and MK Ayeda Touma-Souliman yelled at Netanyahu: "You passed an apartheid law, a racist law." MK Tibi lashed at Netanyahu: "Why are you afraid of the Arabic language?" The premier retorted by saying: "How dare you talk this way about the only democracy in the Middle East?"
Opposition head Isaac Herzog also spoke up at the plenum, saying that "it's a little sad to me that the last speech I make will be against this kind of backdrop. The question is whether the law will harm or benefit Israel. History will determine. I really hope that we won't find the fine balance between a Jewish and democratic state to be hurt."The sponsor of the bill, MK Avi Dichter, said during debates that took place prior to the vote that "unlike the disinformation and fake news that were tossed around [regarding the bill], this basic law doesn't hurt the culture of minorities living in Israel, doesn't hurt their sabbaticals and holidays and certainly doesn't hurt the Arabic language, which remains a mother tongue for 1.5 million of Israel's citizens."The draft bill the Knesset voted on is fundamentally different form the version the coalition had sought to advance in the past decade. Its main clauses were moderated following pressure within the coalition ranks and beyond. Initially, the bill was intended to significantly limit the discretion of Supreme Court justices’ decisions, requiring them to set the state’s Jewish character above its democratic character in rulings where the two clashed. This clause was removed from the bill already in May. The most controversial clause, which appeared to pave the way for the creation of communities segregated by nationality or religion, was removed from the legislation earlier this week. The nation-state law establishes as a basic law, or quasi-constitutional law, a set of values, some of which already appear in existing laws. The law stipulates that Israel is the Jewish nation’s historic homeland and that this nation has the singular right to national self-determination in it. The law anchors the flag, menorah, "Hatikva" anthem, Hebrew calendar, Independence Day and Jewish holidays as national symbols.
The law states that the “whole and united” Jerusalem is the state’s capital, which appears today in Basic Law: Jerusalem. The nation-state law further grants the status of an official language only to Hebrew. Another controversial clause stipulates that the state will invest resources in preserving Israel’s affiliation to world Jewry, but not in Israel. This wording was demanded by the ultra-Orthodox parties to prevent the state from linking up with the Reform and Conservative communities in Israel.
Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, released in response: "The nation-state law is a colonial law with features of apartheid, which is prohibited by international law because it contradicts the international treaty that bans apartheid crimes. It creates various avenues for segregation in land and housing and incentives based on the principle of 'advancing Jewish settlement' both in civil life and in obtaining citizenship based on the law of return and in language and in cultural rights in the name of self-definition."
As part of the protest against the law, Peace Now activists waved a black flag in the Knesset balcony during the debate, until security guards made them leave the room. Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh also raised a black flag during the debate against the legislation.
“As [the 1956 massacre] in Kafr Qassem was a blatantly illegal order, with a black flag over it, so is a black flag hoisted over this evil law,” he said. J Street's president and founder, Jeremy Ben-Ami, harshly criticized the nation-state bill and Netanyahu's government: "It was born in sin, its only purpose is to send a message to the Arab community, the LGBT community and other minorities in Israel, that they are not and never will be equal citizens. Two months ago we celebrated the 70th anniversary of the Israeli Declaration of Independence, where it was written that the State of Israel 'will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or gender.' Today Netanyahu's government is trying to ignore those words and the values that they represent."
On Monday, Netanyahu said the bill was “very important to guarantee the foundations of our existence, which is Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people” – though critics say he is mainly keen to drum up support before the next Knesset election, due by November next year.

Opinion/Trump's Mayhem Allows Putin's Russia to Take Over the Middle East, One Country at a Time
فوضى سياسات ترامب تسمح لروسيا بوتين السيطرة على الشرق الأوسط ، دولة تلو الأخرى
Chuck Freilich/Haaretz/July 19/18
Obama thought Syria would be Russia’s Vietnam: in fact, the Mideast has become Putin’s playground. Thanks to diplomacy, arms sales and nuclear reactors - and Trump’s policy chaos - Russia is back, big time.
In recent years Russia has staged a comeback in the Mideast, big time, to the extent that it may replace the United States as the leading foreign power in the region.
Russia’s success results from a combination of both deft diplomacy and weapons and nuclear reactor sales to states throughout the region, from Iran to Morocco. The weakness of American regional policy under the Obama administration, followed by the total chaos under Trump, have further contributed to Russia’s success. Russian policy has been sophisticated, but has also benefited from the void left by the U.S.President Vladimir Putin’s fundamental strategic objective is to restore Russian global leadership, or to put it somewhat less delicately, to stick it to the U.S. wherever possible.
His primary problem is that Russia does not have that much to offer: it cannot compete with the U.S. and Western countries on an economic level, or usually a diplomatic one, and all it does have to offer is weapons, nuclear technology and energy.
The Middle East is one of the primary regions in the world in which Russia can pursue its ambitions today. Most global weapons sales are with Middle Eastern states and a race is underway among them to procure nuclear power reactors. Moscow’s willingness to sell them weapons and reactors, and to maintain close relations with rogue regimes such as those in Damascus and Teheran, provide it with a degree of influence that it does not have in much of the rest of the world. In Syria, with a minimal deployment of two fighter squadrons, Russia succeeded in turning the tide in the civil war, stabilized the Assad regime and defended it from accusations that it had repeatedly used chemical weapons, despite the clear proof that it has done so.
Russia allowed Iran and its affiliated militias to do the bleeding on the ground in Syria, while it hardly paid any price at all for intervening. In so doing, it has put paid to Obama’s fears of intervention, lest the U.S. become mired in the Syrian quagmire, and his prophecy that Syria would become the Russian Vietnam.
The fact that Russia is the only player in Syria today that maintains relations with all of the sides involved, has turned it into the leading actor there and the only one that just may be able to bring about a diplomatic resolution of the domestic crisis and prevent a direct conflict between Iran and Israel.
Russia has also succeeding in ensuring that its presence in Syria, in the Hamimim airbase and Latakia naval base, will be for the long-term. Advanced S300 and S400 air defense systems - manned so far solely by Russian personnel - have been deployed in Syria to defend these bases, which provide Russia with the ability to project power throughout the Middle East. In Egypt, after four decades in which Cairo has been aligned entirely with the U.S., Putin succeeded in using the regime’s anger towards Washington that followed Mubarak’s ouster and American sanctions on arms sales to deepen relations. Military ties have been renewed, including the sale of approximately 50 MIG 29 fighters and a similar number of attack helicopters, S300 missiles and joint military exercises.
The two countries are now cooperating in Libya, including the deployment of a small Russian military force in western Egypt. Last year a deal was concluded for the provision of four Russian nuclear power reactors to Egypt. Saudi Arabia, which has long lived under an American security umbrella, is now afraid to continue placing all of its “strategic eggs” in the American basket and has also improved ties with Russia. The first visit ever of a Saudi king in Russia took place last year, and the crown prince has also visited since then. A deal for the sale of S400 and antitank missiles has been signed, as well as a nuclear cooperation agreement, in preparation for Russian participation in a Saudi tender for the first two out of 16 planned nuclear power reactors.  Saudi Arabia and Russia, which jointly account for some 20% of the world’s oil production, have also begun investing in joint energy projects and, more importantly, to coordinate moves in order to bring about a cut in the global supply of oil and a price hike. For decades, Russia has maintained a strategic relationship with Iran. A Security Council resolution prevents resumption of arms sales to Iran until 2020, but talks are underway regarding the sale of fighter aircraft, tanks and artillery and Russia has already supplied Iran with S300 missiles. The American withdrawal from the nuclear agreement and its resumption of sanctions, make Iran even more dependent on Moscow. Both strategic and economic cooperation between the two, including a possible free-trade zone, is expanding further. Turkey may still go ahead with the purchase of S400 missiles, over the protestations of its NATO allies and despite the threat the deal poses to the future of the alliance. Morocco, Bahrain and Qatar are also interested in the S400. Russia has concluded large arms sales with the UAE and a nuclear cooperation agreement with Tunisia. Russia is now interested in naval bases in Libya.
Lebanon, too, has become a focus of Russian interest, in the attempt to reduce American influence in that country. Russia has offered Lebanon a large arms sale at zero interest and expressed interest in air and naval bases. Russian firms have also competed for oil and gas exploration tenders in Lebanese territorial waters. Russian weapons have reached Hezbollah, apparently through Syria and/or Iran, without Moscow making a major effort to prevent this. At the same time that it has deepened ties with Arab states, Russia has also succeeded in establishing a strong relationship with Israel and creating growing Israeli dependence on it. Iran’s entrenchment in Syria and the prospects of a direct Israeli-Iranian conflict, with Hezbollah as well, depend to a large extent today on Moscow. As the only power that has strategic relations with Iran, the crisis over its nuclear program, following the American withdrawal from the nuclear agreement, may provide Russia with a unique role in the efforts to bring the sides back to the table and to reach a "better" deal. It is not for nothing that Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made urgent visits to Moscow every few months.The U.S. is Israel’s strategic ally, but it has adopted a diminished role on issues of vital importance for Israel’s national security, making Israel increasingly dependent on Moscow. There have been conflicting reports so far regarding Moscow’s willingness to take Israel’s security concerns into account. President Trump has sought to disrupt long-established strategic realities everywhere. In the Middle East, he has succeeded in causing not just disruption but mayhem, clearing the way for Russia and Iran to supplant and dominate. Chuck Freilich, a senior fellow at Harvard’s Belfer Center and former Israeli deputy national security adviser, is the author of Israeli National Security: A New Strategy for an Era of Change (Oxford University Press, 2018)

Designating the Muslim Brotherhood as a Terrorist Entity
تصنيف جماعة الإخوان المسلمين ككيان إرهابي

Tom Quiggin/Gatestone Institute/July 19/2018
It can be said that Hamas has more than mere "ties" to the Muslim Brotherhood. In fact, its own documents point out that the Muslim Brotherhood has been intrinsically tied to Hamas and the entire Palestinian situation since as early as 1948.
Rather than "helping our enemies attract more recruits," targeting the Muslim Brotherhood would weaken those organizations.
The greater point about the Muslim Brotherhood is that in its quest for domination, it is either violent or not yet violent. For this reason it should be designated as a terrorist entity.
The Congressional Subcommittee on National Security held a hearing on July 11 in Washington, DC "[t]o examine the threat of Muslim Brotherhood to the United States and its interests and how to effectively counter it."
According to the background information provided by the Subcommittee,
"The Muslim Brotherhood is a radical Islamist organization that has generated a network of affiliates in over 70 countries. The Brotherhood has been designated as a terrorist organization by multiple countries including Eygpt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. The United States has designated multiple Muslim Brotherhood affiliates as terrorist organizations, including Hamas."
Among those testifying before the Subcommitte were: Zuhdi Jasser, president and founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy; Hillel Fradkin, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute; Jonathan Schanzer, senior vice president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies; and the Honorable Daniel Benjamin, Norman E. McCulloch Jr. director from the John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding at Dartmouth University.
Perhaps the most startling testimony was that of Benjamin, who served as Ambassador-at-Large and Coordinator for Counterterrorism at the U.S. State Department under former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In his remarks to the Subcommittee, Ambassador Benjamin, whose stated position was that the Muslim Brotherhood should not be designated by the State Department as a foreign terrorist organization, advanced the belief that while Hamas has ties to the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, it would be a mistake at this point to say that the group is an affiliate of the organization.
This statement was inaccurate, to say the least. The original Hamas Covenant of 1988 openly declares that the organization is one of the wings of the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine. It also states that its foundational roots go back to 1939, to the "emergence of the martyr Izz al-Din al Kissam and his brethren the fighters, who were members of Muslim Brotherhood," and reveals that its founding history includes the "struggle of the Palestinians and Muslim Brotherhood in the 1948 war" and the "Jihad operations of the Muslim Brotherhood in 1968 and after." As such, it can be said that Hamas has more than mere "ties" to the Muslim Brotherhood. In fact, its own documents point out that the Muslim Brotherhood has been intrinsically tied to Hamas and the entire Palestinian situation since as early as 1948.
Although the provenance of the Muslim Brotherhood was officially removed from the charter during an apparent attempt to soften it for public consumption in 2017, the revised Hamas Charter nevertheless still calls for "the liberation of all of historical Palestine", said armed resistance was a means to achieve that goal, and did not recognize Israel's right to exist... and backs an armed struggle."
Ambassador Benjamin's additional claim was equally inaccurate and worrisome. He asserted that Hamas has "a history of foreign relations – including with Iran – that no other Brotherhood group would sanction," apparently suggesting that the Muslim Brotherhood would not tolerate Hamas being in close communication with Iran. In fact, the Muslim Brotherhood itself has had multiple interactions with Iran, specifically with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). Nor have these interactions been simply perfunctory or diplomatic. Their purpose is and has been to establish close cooperation between Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood whenever the group is in a position of power.
In December 2012, for instance, Essam al- Haddad, the foreign affairs adviser to then-Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi -- a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood -- met in Cairo with the head of Iran's Quds Force, General Qassem Soleimani. According to a Times of London report on the meeting, the Muslim Brotherhood was looking to set up an alternative security and intelligence apparatus to serve its interests, much in the way that the IRGC was established to cater to the ayatollahs. The report also quoted one Muslim Brotherhood official as saying, "The meeting was intended to send a message to America, which is putting pressure on the Egyptian Government, that we should be allowed to have other alliances with anyone we please."
The Muslim Brotherhood's cooperation with Iran in Egypt is neither new nor a departure from its behavior elsewhere, such as in Sudan and other countries. As a 2013 Huffington Post piece described,
"When President Al-Bashir and Hassan Al-Turabi rose to power in the 1989 coup that established an Islamist state in Sudan, one of the new regime's first diplomatic initiatives was to forge an alliance with Iran, whose own Islamic revolution a decade earlier inspired Sudan's Islamists (despite the Sunni-Shia division). Five months after the coup, Bashir paid a visit to Iran and the two states' intelligence agencies signed cooperative agreements."
Al-Bashir was head of the Sudanese Islamic Movement, which was seen as the Muslim Brotherhood's Sudanese operation. His political affiliations, as listed by the Sudanese Tribune, were with the Muslim Brotherhood, the National Islamic Front and the National Congress Party.
In other words, the Muslim Brotherhood is quite capable of working with Iran and the IRGC, and thus, Hamas's interactions with Iran do not reveal anything other than a well-established pattern.
In his testimony, Ambassador Benjamin also stated that the "Egyptian Brotherhood has foresworn violence since the 1970s, and there is no compelling evidence that it has reversed course on that issue." On this point, he was partially correct. The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood did make a seemingly serious attempt to move away from violence in the 1970s. However, to say that "there is no compelling evidence that it has reversed course" is a stretch.
In his 2012 election speech, President Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, said: "The Koran is our constitution, the Prophet is our leader, jihad is our path and death in the name of Allah is our goal."
More recently, in January 2015, the Muslim Brotherhood posted a communiqué on its Arabic-language website, stating:
"Everyone must realize that we are on the verge of a new stage, which will require the power hidden within us, in order to use it to bring back the ideas of jihad. We must prepare ourselves, our wives, our sons, our daughters, and those who follow in our path for a lengthy, uncompromising jihad, in which we seek [to gain] the status of martyrs."
Ambassador Benjamin told the Subcommittee, "Unwise actions to target Muslim Brotherhood groups will only deepen the animus against America, and we should not be doing anything that helps our enemies attract more recruits."
The 2016-17 UK House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee report on the Muslim Brotherhood appears to contradict this. According to the report, "Parts of the Muslim Brotherhood have a highly ambiguous relationship with violent extremism. Both as an ideology and as a network it has been a rite of passage for some individuals and groups who have gone on to engage in violence and terrorism." The report also states that "membership of, association with, or influence by the Muslim Brotherhood should be considered as a possible indicator of extremism."
In other words, the Muslim Brotherhood is a conveyor belt that moves individuals along a path to violence and terrorism, and any association with it should be considered indicative of extremism. Thus, rather than "helping our enemies attract more recruits," targeting the Muslim Brotherhood would weaken those organizations which make up the conveyor-belt system.
The government of the United Arab Emirates concurs, with the UAE Muslim Brotherhood topping its list of officially designated terrorist organizations. Included in this list are several Muslim Brotherhood front groups, such as Islamic Relief Worldwide, CAIR USA and the Muslim American Society. Dr. Al Ketbi, chairwoman of Emirates Policy Centre, said of these groups that they "also include proxy terror actors and front organisations that give others the funding, training, and weapons to carry out terrorist acts."
Simply put, the UAE believes that targeting the Muslim Brotherhood's proxies and front organizations will weaken its efforts to raise funds and recruit new members.
The argument is about whether the Muslim Brotherhood is a violent organization or purely political. But, as the UK House of Commons report states: "Both as an ideology and as a network (the Muslim Brotherhood) has been at rite of passage for some individuals and groups who have gone on to engage in violence and terrorism."
Considerable evidence exists for this. The leader of ISIS was a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood. Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri of al Qaeda were both former Muslim Brotherhood members.
Hassan al Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, made the role of the organization clear: "It is the nature of Islam to dominate, not to be dominated, to impose its law on all nations and to extend its power to the entire planet." Domination, of course, implies coercion, and coercion implies the use of violence.
The greater point about the Muslim Brotherhood is that in its quest for domination, it is either violent or not yet violent. For this reason it should be designated as a terrorist entity.
Tom Quiggin is a former military intelligence officer, a former intelligence contractor for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and a court appointed expert on jihadist terrorism in both the Federal and criminal courts of Canada. He is the author of SUBMISSION: The Danger of Political Islam to Canada – With a Warning to America, written with co-authors Tahir Gora, Saied Shoaaib, Jonathon Cotler, and Rick Gill with a foreword by Raheel Raza. He is also the primary contributor to the QUIGGIN REPORT podcast.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Why Iran Supports Palestinian Terror Groups
Khaled Abu Toameh/Gatestone Institute/July 19/2018
The Iranian general did not offer to build the Palestinians a hospital or a school. Nor did he offer to provide financial aid to create projects that would give jobs to unemployed Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. His message to the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip: Iran will give you as much money and weapons as you need as long as you are committed to the jihad (holy war) against Israel and the "big Satan," the US.
The same Hamas that is telling UN representatives that it wants to improve the living conditions of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip is the one that is reaching out its hand to Iran to receive funds and weapons.
Now, someone needs to step in and stop Iran from setting foot in the Gaza Strip and using the Palestinians as cannon fodder in Tehran's campaign against the US and Israel. How might someone do that? It is not so complicated. Any international aid to the Gaza Strip must be conditioned on ending Iran's destructive effort to recruit Palestinians groups as its soldiers. It is that simple.
While the United Nations, Israel and the US are proposing plans to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinians in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, Iran is pledging to continue its financial and military aid to Palestinian terror groups.
Iran's meddling in the internal affairs of the Palestinians is not new. The Iranians have long been providing Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror groups with money and weapons. Were it not for Iran's support, the two groups, which do not recognize Israel's right to exist, would not have been able to remain in power in the coastal enclave.
Iran's support for the Palestinian terror groups has a twofold goal: first, to undermine the Palestinian Authority, which is headed by Mahmoud Abbas, and which Tehran sees as a pawn in the hands of the US and Israel; and second, to advance Iran's goal of destroying Israel.
Just this week, we received yet another reminder of Iran's true goal. The leader of Iran's "Islamic Revolution," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said that the Palestinians will win over their enemies and will "see the day when the fake Zionist regime" vanishes. He said that US President Donald Trump's "evil policy" is doomed to failure.
So, Iran does not care about the harsh conditions of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Instead, its leaders are hoping that the Palestinians will live to see the day Israel is eliminated. This is also why Iran continues to support any Palestinian group that seeks to destroy Israel.
On the same day that Khamenei made his statement in Tehran, one of his senior generals, Gholamhossein Gheybparvar addressed a conference held in the Gaza Strip and Tehran simultaneously. Gheybparavar is a senior officer in Iran's Revolutionary Guards and commander of its Basij forces -- the "Mobilization Resistance Force." This force's main mission is to suppress protests against the regime in Tehran.
Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards General Gholamhossein Gheybparvar. In his speech via video conference, the Iranian general told representatives of Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other terror groups that he was "proud" of their "resistance" against Israel. He said that the conference, which was being held under the title, "Wet Gunpowder/Resistance Is Not Terrorism," was an expression of Arab and Islamic unity against the enemies of the Arabs and Muslims. The Iranian general said that Iran and the "axis of resistance" were not afraid of Trump's "threats."
The Palestinian terror groups said after the conference that they were encouraged by the Iranian general's pledge to support them in their fight against Israel and the US.
Khader Habib, a senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad official in the Gaza Strip, said that the Iranian-Palestinian conference was both "symbolic and significant." The conference, he said, served as a reminder that Iran continues to support the Palestinian "resistance" and would deter Israel from attacking the Gaza Strip in response to terror attacks on its citizens. The speech by the Iranian general, he added, was aimed at sending a message to the many countries to support the Palestinian "resistance" groups in the Gaza Strip. "Israel is a potential threat to the Arabs and Muslims," Habib said.
Buoyed by the Iranian backing, several speakers at the conference called for the formation of a "unified Arab-Islamic front" against Israel and the US. They also stressed that the terror attacks against Israel would continue and praised Iran for its full support for the Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip.
By promising to continue helping the Palestinian terror groups, Iran is offering the two million residents of the Gaza Strip more bloodshed and violence. The Iranian general did not offer to build the Palestinians a hospital or a school. Nor did he offer to provide financial aid to create projects that would give jobs to unemployed Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. His message to the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip: Iran will give you as much money and weapons as you need, as long as you are committed to the jihad (holy war) against Israel and the "big Satan," the US.
The Iranian message to the Palestinian terror groups came at a time when several international parties are trying to resolve the "humanitarian and economic" crisis in the Gaza Strip. These efforts are spearheaded by the UN's Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, who in recent weeks has been on a mission to prevent another war in the Gaza Strip.
These efforts are unlikely to succeed, however, as long as Iran continues its support of the Palestinian terror groups. Iran apparently wants to retain control over its Palestinian proxies to prevent any peace and stability between Arabs and Israel. Iran is not helping the terror groups out of love for the Palestinians, but in order to advance its goal of eliminating the "fake Zionist regime."
If anyone is worried about the Iranian meddling in the internal affairs of the Palestinians, it is Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his ruling Fatah faction. "We don't want to become a pawn in the hands of Iran," said Ra'fat Elayan, a senior Fatah official. "Iran is using Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad as a maneuvering card against Israel and the US, and this will have a negative impact on the just Palestinian cause. We have repeatedly warned the two groups of the Iranian intervention in Palestinian affairs."
Meanwhile, it appears that Hamas wants to have it both ways. On the one hand, Hamas wants the international community to step in and help the people of the Gaza Strip. On the other hand, Hamas wants Iran to continue funding its terrorism. The same Hamas that is telling UN representatives that it wants to improve the living conditions of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip is the one that is reaching out its hand to Iran to receive funds and weapons.
We can take a tip from Abbas's and Fatah's anxiety: If they are worried about Iran's ongoing efforts to infiltrate the Palestinian arena, the US and the rest of the world need to find ways to stop Iran from using the Palestinians as a weapon in its battle to extend its control over more and more countries in the Middle East and carry out its deadly schemes. Iran has brought nothing but disaster to Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon and Syria. Now, someone needs to step in and stop Iran from setting foot in the Gaza Strip and using the Palestinians as cannon fodder in Tehran's campaign against the US and Israel. How might someone do that? It is not so complicated. Any international aid to the Gaza Strip must be conditioned on ending Iran's destructive effort to recruit Palestinians groups as its soldiers. It is that simple.
**Khaled Abu Toameh, an award-winning journalist, is based in Jerusalem.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

The $1bn Lead Strangling Qatar

Salman Al-dossary/Asharq Al Awsat/July 19/18
A recently published BBC report revealed earth-shattering details on an astronomical ransom of $1.15 billion that Qatar paid to terror groups, later dubbed ‘scandal of the century’. Nevertheless, the news wasn’t as much of a breakthrough as the details presented by the report-- the story was already covered by world-renown newspapers such as Financial Times, The New York Times and The Washington Post. Evidence-based details, documented in both text and voice recordings, explain how far-gone terror support has spread into the Qatari state, exploiting the peninsula’s civilian and military institutions. The ransom paid by Qatar, which rewarded terror parties a staggering sum of money, virtually funds terrorism for the coming decade. It is worth mentioning that Qatari intelligence service participated in the making of the deal. However, it goes without saying that it is both natural and understandable for state intelligence agencies to face cases involving high-level abductions and negotiations with criminals. But it is inconceivable and deplorable for Qatar's foreign minister - the country's top diplomat – to go into negotiations with terrorist groups.
More so, the national civilian carrier, Qatar Airways, transporting the ransom is in its own right an abuse of public and state institutions. Report details made another shocking revelation which professes Former Emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa personally financing Hezbollah, a blacklisted terror group, with $50 million. For Qatar, no lines are drawn to separate and uphold independent credibility among the country’s intelligence agencies, the ministry of foreign affairs, charities, civil aviation and the ruler. It seems that regardless of how unlawful or terror-linked the job need be done is, all Qatari state institutions, both civilian and military, are exploited and employed to serve skewed interests. All the more illuminating, the report places the deal struck with terror groups about a month and a half before Qatar’s neighbors Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt announced cutting off ties with Doha in June 2017.
Such a discovery clears out the motives behind the severing of diplomatic ties as ultimately driven by Qatar’s stifling connection to terrorism. All four countries have tolerated, resisted and sought to change Qatar’s detrimental behavior yet with no avail. Openly and persistently financing terror groups, in the same light of the region being embroiled in a fight against terrorism, delivers a clear message on Qatar’s unyielding desire to pursue subversive behavior so long it still enjoys the perks and support that comes along with being an Arab Gulf State. Given that Doha involved state institutions in financing and supporting terrorism, other countries have rightfully lost confidence in any Qatari institution, even if it takes on a civilian demeanor. The very same civilian airliner used to host and help millions of passengers travel across the region, and land in neighboring countries’ airports, is being used for terror funding purposes. Placing confidence in a system that miss a single chance on exploiting any resource lain at its feet, even civilian, to carry out personal agendas is simply outrageous. “Qatar has never supported terrorism and tolerated those who finance it,” said Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani in an interview with Fox News. The very same statesman that regurgitated such a refined statement over and over again emerges as the one who participated, planed, engineered, supervised and coordinated a record deal which saw the transfer of $1bn and $150,000 in kickbacks in full to terror groups.
He did not simply tell lies and practice the art of deceit before on a world stage, but also reflected the nature of Qatari authorities. Betting on an inflated belief in its political veracity, Qatar puppeteered itself into an inescapable noose.

Israel Better Be Prepared If Iran Gets Back to Nuke
من مصلحة إسرائيل أن تكون على استعداد في حال عادت إيران إلى النووي

Ilan Jonas/Bloomberg/July 19/18
In September 2012, standing at the podium before the United Nations General Assembly, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel made one of the forum’s more memorable appearances while holding up a placard showing a cartoon-like bomb.
“At this late hour, there is only one way to peacefully prevent Iran from getting atomic bombs — that’s by placing a clear red line on Iran’s nuclear program,” Netanyahu said. Then he drew a red line on the diagram just under the words “Final Stage.” It’s an image we should bear in mind as the fate of the Iran nuclear deal hangs in the balance. Netanyahu’s UN speech was the peak of his public diplomacy efforts to mobilize the international community to take action against Tehran’s nuclear program. The implicit threat was as clear as the red line he drew: If the world would not act, then Israel would have no choice but to carry out a military strike. With the signing of the interim nuclear deal between the global powers and Iran the following year, Netanyahu’s threat never materialized. Fast forward to today. With the possible collapse of the nuclear deal in the next few months — the result of President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from it — we may well see renewed threats by both Israel and the U.S. to use force against Iran. This is especially true if Tehran decides to resume its production and accumulation of enriched uranium in similar quantities and purity levels to what it produced prior to the deal.
An Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities remains a remote possibility. The Europeans may yet prove successful in saving the deal. Even if they don’t, the Iranians are unlikely to try and “break out” to the bomb; and even if they do, they are still more than a year away from producing enough fissile material for a single weapon. But there can be no doubt that Israel is better positioned today to carry out an effective strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities, and to face the certain repercussions, than it was six years ago.
This fact should be weighed in the balance as the international community — and Iran — contemplate their response to the U.S. withdrawal from the pact.
In the early years of this decade, when the military option was being seriously considered by the Israeli government, many doubted its ability to carry out an effective strike that would cause significant damage to the Iranian nuclear program.
Unlike with the Syrian and Iraqi nuclear programs, where a single strike on a single facility was enough to eliminate both countries’ nuclear potential, the Iranian program is comprised of dozens of sites spread across the country — one bigger than France, Germany and Spain combined and located 1,000 miles away from Israel. Moreover, certain key Iranian facilities are not only protected by advanced air defense systems but are also heavily fortified. For this reason, military analysts assessed that an effective attack would require repeated waves of air strikes, possibly lasting over several days, thus requiring Israeli warplanes to travel back and forth thousands of miles in order to refuel and re-arm. That would be a challenging operation even for a superpower.
What’s more, such strikes would have set off fierce retaliation from Hezbollah, Iran’s proxy in Lebanon, including the firing of thousands of rockets and missiles with a range covering all of Israel. At the time, Israel didn’t have effective defense systems that could address this extensive missile threat. Iron Dome, which is designed to intercept rockets with a range of up to 60 miles, only entered its operational stage in 2011. Development of the David’s Sling defense system, which is designed to intercept missiles with a range of nearly 200 miles — needed for the missiles in Hezbollah’s arsenal that threaten Tel Aviv and various strategic installations and national infrastructure — was then only in its infancy.
Finally, the aftermath of any Israeli strike would have included not only in a long war with Hezbollah but also in strong diplomatic condemnations. Israel would have needed an American diplomatic umbrella to address various hostile initiatives in the U.N. Security Council, as well as urgent military assistance to be able to withstand a prolonged conflict with Hezbollah. It is far from certain that the Barack Obama administration would have provided such protection.
Today, things are very different: Israel is better positioned in every way to carry out such a strike and to deal with its aftermath.
Operationally, the warming of relations between Israel and some countries of the region over the past few years opens a whole range of possibilities to the Israeli Air Force.
Militarily, Israel has made a giant leap forward in recent years in terms of its ability to deliver more bombs, more accurately and to more targets in a given time period. On top of that, last December Israel declared its fleet of U.S.-made F-35 stealth fighters operational. The fleet is still small, just 12 warplanes, but Israel plans to have two full squadrons operational by 2024.
It is true that the Iranians have strengthened their defensive capabilities as well, receiving S-300 batteries from Russia that have been deployed around their most strategic facilities. However, Israel believes that it could overcome those defenses even without the use of its new F-35s, let alone with them.
In addition, the Trump administration — unlike the Obama White House — is likely to agree to provide Israel with “bunker-buster” bombs that would be essential to destroying key elements of the Iranian nuclear program, specifically the Fordow enrichment facility, which is buried in a mountain tens of meters underground. Israel is also better positioned today to address the aftermath of such an attack. First, it’s certain that the Trump administration would provide full protection in the Security Council, while also delivering as much materiel as necessary to sustain a long Israeli military campaign.
Second, while Israel could face significant damage as a result of heavy barrages of Hezbollah’s ever-increasing supply of missiles, the proven capabilities and wide deployment of Iron Dome batteries, along with the David’s Sling system being operational, make Israel’s preparedness significantly higher than it was a few years ago. None of this is to imply that just because Israel is now better positioned to carry out a strike on Iran means that it will inevitably do so. The chances remain low for now. There are many domestic constraints as well as international factors that could prevent Israel from eventually launching such a strike, or even make it redundant (such as international pressure forcing Iran toward restraint).
However, Israel’s enhanced capabilities do allow Netanyahu to take a more aggressive approach toward Tehran, knowing that if push comes to shove, the prospects of a strike succeeding will be significantly higher than it was when he held up that cartoon bomb at the UN.

What is Putin blackmailing Trump with?

Mamdouh AlMuhaini/Al Arabiya/July 19/18
Despite his fiery and controversial statements, American President Donald Trump knows how to stand on the edge of the abyss. This was true until three days ago when his foot slipped in the press conference with Russian President Putin.
For the first time since he’s become president, he quickly retreated and attributed the reason to not expressing himself right. He noted that he did not intend to underestimate the importance of the results, which the American intelligence revealed about the Russians’ meddling in the last presidential elections.
It’s a feigned excuse but the stubborn Trump did not tolerate the heat of the enemy and friendly fire, especially by his Republican friends. It is thus smart to quickly retreat and deprive his rivals of the massive hostile momentum which would be employed to weaken his popularity and depict him as weak, traitor and complicit. Trump admitted the meddling happened and stated that before without any enthusiasm. However, he rejects two important accusations, which the Democrats stir up. The first thing he rejects is the notion that the meddling impacted the final results, i.e. the system was thus not manipulated and he did not attain fake votes.
This is true and there isn’t any single evidence stating otherwise. The reason he repeatedly rejects this is because any acknowledgement by him means delegitimizing him as president, underestimating the importance of his victory and increasing the continuous calls to impeach him. What’s new in Trump’s case is that there is clear and frank hostility by influential figures who worked in the American intelligence or the FBI until recently and whom Trump fired
Collusion theory
The second charge he rejects is that there was collusion between him and the Russians. This accusation has been echoed since he arrived in the White House and it hasn’t been proven until now and will mostly probably never be.  All talk that Putin and the Russian intelligence have dangerous documents, which they used to blackmail Trump and make him act smoothly with Russia or act with Putin like a teenage girl in love are mere conspiracy scenarios that are good for thrillers and spy movies as none of this has been proven. An earlier report said Trump slept with prostitutes in Russia where he was organizing a beauty pageant but it turned out to be entirely fabricated.
However why does Trump appear to have this appeasing behavior with Russian President Putin? It is most probably for purely political and economic reasons. Years ago, President Barack Obama rebuked Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential nominee running against him in the elections, when he said Russia was America’s number one foe. At the time, Democrats were the ones who called the most for dialogue and rapprochement with Russia. It’s most likely that Hillary Clinton would do the same as Trump in terms of extending bridges with Russia and cooperating as much as possible to resolve problems from North Korea until Syria. This is what most former presidents did as they opened diplomatic channels with Moscow since the days of Roosevelt. Even during the peak of the Cuban missiles’ crisis, mutual letters were still exchanged between Kennedy and Khrushchev.
All the smart Democrats’ attack on Trump following his lapse would be praise if Trump belonged to their party. In the end, it’s a rough violent political partisan fight but within the limits of the acceptable.
Clear and frank hostility
What’s new in Trump’s case is that there is clear and frank hostility by influential figures who worked in the American intelligence or the FBI until recently and whom Trump fired, like James Comey who published an entire book about Trump after he was fired and described him as morally unfit to be president. During recent crisis, he posted a tweet frankly calling on people to stand by Democrats. In a text message, Peter Strzok, one of the high-ranking officials investigating Russian inference in the elections: “We’ll stop a Trump presidency”, in reply to his terrified mistress. In another text, he mocked Trump’s supporters saying they smelled bad. Former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency John Brennan does not stop attacking Trump and calling for his impeachment. Following the Helsinki meeting, he has even accused Trump of high treason. There are a number of prominent disgruntled figures who make Trump be suspicious of these secret apparatus and make him believe they are tracking him. Add to that the media’s stance toward him and the picture will be clearer: A president who is underestimated and whom no one thought will win is confronting strong and influential figures in the deep-rooted institutions in Washington who frankly admit they hate him and seek to get rid of him. It is certain that this will create bitter enmity between the two sides. When he committed a mistake next to Putin, they did not hesitate and pulled out their knives but this time they will only wound him and not kill him as they hope.

Human awareness, self-consciousness and its impact on ‘fiqh’
Hassan Al Mustafa/Al Arabiya/July 19/18
In 2004, King Abdulaziz Library held a seminar under the name Islam and the Dialogue between Civilizations, which drew the participation of 120 cultural and religious figures from various countries and diverse political and intellectual streams. I had the opportunity to attend the seminar, which held many discussions and included several advanced ideas for its time. I participated in several discussions and one of my interventions focused on the fiqh (jurisprudential) position of the status of the “non-Muslim,” and the dilemma of being open to him/her and on the Islamic movements’ dual rhetoric in this regards.
I discussed how many scholars consider non-Muslims as “impure” beings, either physical or spiritual. I deemed that this fiqh position poses a real problem in our relations with others whom we look at as “inferior” whereas we are the “pure” and they are the “impure.”
My intervention provoked a response from Sheikh Abdullah bin Bayah, who refuted the notion of physical “impurity” of any human being. He strongly defended his point of view, which was quite progressive compared to many of the traditional peers and scholars.
This story can be read within the context of the contemporary understanding of texts, consequently, this understanding changes the way we look at non-Muslims, alters the way we deal with texts, and transforms them from being the erstwhile repositories of infinite permanence or having undisputed and abiding determinants into historical references related to circumstances and specific to their time of issuance. To consider texts as only one of the many sources of knowledge and fatwas, and not the only basis and the only cornerstone, results in interpretations that are completely different than past interpretations that date back to centuries ago when texts were treated by many scholars as holy and rigid and when only a few dared to question and challenge them. Man’s self-consciousness currently makes the duty of scholars even more difficult because they have to reflect upon the doctrinal system via a different mechanism and a new mindset to establish a modern code
Human rights charter
Nowadays, human being is treated with outmost respect. They are dealt with in accordance with the provisions of the human rights charter. The modern state has regulated laws to organize the public space to preserve human rights, freedom and individuality and to prevent clashes.
This centralization, which was formed in the mind and in the social, philosophical and even political reality of men, makes the contemporary modernist jurists adopt a different mentality.
Thus, they see provisions such as slavery, which were accepted in previous times as no longer acceptable as was discussed by Dr. Tawfiq Alsaif in his article entitled “The constant and the variable, once again,” published in Asharq Al-Awsat daily.
Man’s self-consciousness currently makes the duty of scholars even more difficult because they have to reflect upon the doctrinal system via a different mechanism and a new mindset to establish a modern code of provisions that provide solutions to the fiqh and legal problems faced by Muslims today – solutions which old texts do not provide despite their significance.

Houthis’ absurdity and their blind ideology
Abdullah bin Bijad Al-Otaibi/Al Arabiya/July 19/18
When a gang runs a country, the difference between the meaning of a state and the meaning of a gang becomes apparent, and this is precisely what Yemen has witnessed since the Houthi militia‘s coup against both the state and the Yemeni people.
The Houthi militia is a gang that is driven by its extremist ideology, myopic vision and petty interests, as it offers its services to the terrorist and sectarian Iranian project in the region. In addition, it does not mind distributing roles to other fundamentalist groups and parties within and outside Yemen.
These parties include those that follow the Turkish fundamentalist project allied with the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood, which is supported by Qatar.
Receding Iranian influence
A lot of indicators affirm that the Iranian regime and its imperialist expansionist project are receding, but it is not finished yet. It is expected to head towards failure in a number of affairs, whereas the strength of the moderate Arab axis led by Saudi Arabia and its allies appear to be increasing not only in Yemen but in the whole region, including Syria, Iraq, Lebanon etc. Iranian influence is also receding in the Horn of Africa, Southeastern and Central Asian countries, South America as well as other regions. Iran’s relation with terrorism, in terms of creation, export and support, has become known at the international level and can no longer be hidden or subverted. Iran has contradicted itself by declaring it has nothing to do with Houthis and then speaking on their behalf for a compromise in Yemen. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has repeatedly talked about the Iranian project, and the necessity for Iran to be focused on its domestic situation. Otherwise, it will be forced to do so and will have to give up on all dreams of expansion and imposing influence.
This is exactly what it is happening today. In fact, the Iranian regime is facing the whole world, led by the United States under President Trump. An international coalition is being formed in order to counter the Iranian regime’s terrorist and destructive policies around the world. The Houthis in Yemen are but a small gang that will cease to exist along with many groups, organizations and militias that are affiliated with Iran. The Houthis’ absurdity has been quite apparent in the battle of Hodeidah as they are incapable of resuming the tough military confrontation against the Yemeni army and the resistance, supported by Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the Arab alliance, and at the same time they are trying to distract the UN envoy with secondary issues that are not linked to the core crisis in Yemen or the reality of what is happening on the ground in Hodeidah.
This absurdity may allow Houthis to gain more time, but this is mere postponement of the decisive outcome as is evident by all indicators.
Houthis using human shields
Another example of Houthi absurdity is the use of civilians as shields in order to obstruct military advancement in Hodeidah and other areas. The use of such techniques is proper to gangs and does not pertain to the meaning of the state at all. It reflects the morality of an oppressive occupier and not the morals of the Yemeni citizens. The Houthis have learnt this technique from Iran which backs it as it has long used armed militias and terrorist organizations in order to target civilians and innocent people by killing them in the most heinous of ways through assassinations and bombings as was the case in Iraq, Lebanon and Syria. The Houthi militia is thus Iran’s tool in Yemen. “Defeat is an orphan,” and meanwhile the Houthis and its supporters in Iran, Qatar and other countries are confused as at one point Iran said that it has nothing to do with the Houthis, and denied supplying them with ballistic missiles, trainers, military commanders among others, and at another, it offers reconciliation in Yemen on behalf of the Houthis and acts as the latter’s spokesperson. This confusion is all due to defeat. Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir said last week that Iran’s isolation will grow and pressures on it will increase, while US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on US’ allies to exert more pressure on Iran. This comes in line with the position of these two countries and their allies to force Iran to abandon its expansionist ambitions, destructive influence and its support of chaos and terrorism.
Meanwhile, protests and demonstrations are increasing in Iran, and the Iranian opposition abroad is gaining more strength and influence. This can only mean one thing, the decline of Iranian tide in the region.
Persecution and torture
The Houthis’ absurdity is also discernible in how they deal with Yemeni people in prisons and detention centers and in their methods of torture exhorted on Yemeni citizens of which many examples have been disclosed in recent years, the latest being published by Al i.e. the photos showing the torture of Yemeni citizen Mounir Mohammed Qayed al-Sharqi in a Houthi prison. These photographs and videos are the best evidence documenting Houthi crimes against Yemeni people. The international coalition is still granting permits to vessels entering the port of Hodeidah, ensuring the flow of goods, humanitarian aid and fuel – in response to the Yemeni people’s urgent needs and as part of the Operation Restoring Hope led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE in support of the Yemeni people – despite the Houthis’ politicization of humanitarian aid to put pressure on the tribes and cities opposed to the hijacking of the Yemeni state and despite all the misguided Western human rights organizations which are trying to condemn the legitimate Yemeni government and the Arab coalition while failing to notice the extent and magnitude of Houthi violations at all levels.
Last Thursday, Asharq Al-Awsat published the speech of Tariq Saleh during the graduation of a new brigade joining his forces. Saleh openly spoke about the Houthis’ absurdity and their ideological claims of their divine right to rule Yemen and thus cloning Iran’s guardianship of the jurist regime.
He also confirmed what everybody knows that the situation in Hodeidah or rather all of Yemen is just a matter of time. He bluntly stated: “Yemen is the origin of Arab people and belongs to its Arab nation. It has never belonged to Persia or the Sublime Porte in Istanbul. Yemen is Arabic and will remain Arabic. We belong to Yemen and not a gang.”Caution in being decisive in Yemen is mainly due to protecting the Yemeni people and their lives, preserving their capabilities and exposing the Houthis’ absurdity and practices to refute all the claims they make along with their supporters in the region and the world and to ensure their inability to undermine the Yemeni state and the Arab coalition. Khomeini assumed power in Tehran thanks to the drafts he issued on the doctrine of Wilayat al-Faqih that violated Shiite jurisprudential strictures. Another example of the Houthis’ absurdity is their belief that Hussein Al-Houthi’s statements and writings would make them rulers of Yemen forever. Ideology makes one blind and deaf.

Blockchain can solve third world problems but who will bell the cat?
Ehtesham Shahid/Al Arabiya/July 19/18
“Is blockchain made of gold”? My wife’s rather amusing question during a random research turned out to be more than just comic intervention.
It raised a pertinent point though. Wouldn’t it be good if we dealt with blockchain like gold, which is traditional, time-tested and a commodity with proven value?
Blockchain is nothing of that sort though. It is not a commodity but an online database that anyone anywhere with an internet connection can use. Unlike traditional databases, owned by banks and governments, a blockchain doesn’t belong to anyone.It creates a system through which two people who don’t know each other can trade, without intermediary. In other words, it’s a network that has the potential to make middlemen redundant, banks and financial institutions irrelevant and can directly connect goods and services to consumers and markets.
In an ideal world, effective implementation of blockchain can make financial ecosystem more inclusive, enhance efficiency of health records storage, take land registration documentation to another level and enhance security in digital transactions. In other words, it is here to stay.
Using such a technology has numerous benefits but for us to move from proof of concept to scale, someone quickly needs to bell the cat
A new era?
Yelena Kensborn, an entrepreneur who believes in blockchain, calls it the “start of a new era, where items, thoughts and services can move freely and independently of each other”. Yelena has in her sights a world where everything is connected and one that seeks balance.
“We will have a more transparent society and this transparency will enable us to trust each other and the computers on a completely new level. And when this trust is established, we can do a lot and achieve great things,” she insists.
Peter Johnson, who is developing blockchain to apply to humanitarian crises, also looks at the big picture.“The money is transferred directly, with no bank or other financial intermediary taking a processing fee, and the information about the transaction is unchangeable. If everyone used such a service, there would be no need for banks or credit card companies anymore,” says Johnson.
Shahin Colombowala, Germany-based Principal Consultant at Digital, Infosys, puts things in perspective.“Basically it is taking bookkeeping and making it in a global distributed system that is tamper proof,” she says, clarifying that blockchain imitates transactions with physical objects in the real world. “So, if I gave you my 100 dollar note, I wouldn’t have it anymore and you would have it. I cannot copy the note. I cannot give you the note and say it is still in my wallet,” she makes it simple for me to understand.
Simple inferences
Here is what I deduce from all these explanations. Blockchain can address many third world challenges such as poverty, unemployment, healthcare and corruption. I am making a case for its implementation in third world countries simply because that is where it is needed the most.
Imagine the two billion poor people around the world, with no access to banking system, ending up on the highway – via their mobile phones of course – and reaping the benefits of a blockchain set-up, which connects them to their employer or consumer of their goods and services.
The same applies to small businesses that struggle to get finances through banking channels and constantly need new markets to expand and thrive. The biggest hurdle to poor and marginalized around the world is corruption where welfare funds meant for the needy routinely end up in the pockets of a few.
A transparent method that tracks allocation of funds, including foreign aid, throughout the disbursal phase will only make things easier. Already, GPS-added transparency in land registration is doing wonders in some poor countries.
Humanitarian community
A glimpse of the possibility it offers unfolded in Jordan where 10,000 refugees in a camp housing displaced Syrians were able to pay for their food by way of entitlements recorded on a blockchain-based computing platform. The World Food Program’s “Building Blocks” route revealed other benefits too. Through blockchain, the UN body aims to cut payment costs, better protect beneficiary data, control financial risks, and respond more rapidly in the wake of emergencies. All that is easier said than done though. Attempts to make blockchain mainstream has returned a mixed bag in third world countries so far. Responses have ranged from ignorance to disbelief, even utterly dismissive. The question of what happens to cyber criminals who are attracted to cryptocurrencies also remain unanswered and we are all aware of the controversies surrounding bitcoin. Using such a technology has numerous benefits but for us to move from proof of concept to scale, someone quickly needs to bell the cat. The response is sure to be different in different parts of the world. Until that happens, my little surplus cash would occasionally go toward gold chain for my wife.

Muqtada al-Sadr and me: Chicago on the Tigris

Michael Flanagan/Al Arabiya/July 19/18
When I requested that the State Department give me the post of Senior Rule of Law Advisor for Maysan Province during the reconstruction of Iraq, a wag there quipped that my being a politician originally from Chicago now living in Washington made me a natural expert in both financial corruption and vote fraud – you know, the perfect candidate.
Last week, I allowed my enthusiasm for burgeoning Iraqi Nationalism expressed by Muqtada al-Sadr to override my usual cynicism. A mistake I will not allow again.Al-Sadr has used and abused everyone supporting his stated dreams for Iraq just to gain power and has betrayed what could have been a huge success for Iraqis and for himself. He has all-but-discarded the members of his coalition and embraced the second largest vote bloc – the assortment of Iranian parties voting blocs and parties running under the banner Al-Fateh – and is seeking to form a pro-Iranian government. This is an express refutation of his platform while running. Al-Sadr says that he is doing this to avoid a civil war. This is quite convenient for him as the only party threatening civil war is the Sadrists. Just where exactly are we and how did we get here? If Sadr actually joins with the Iranian parties, his own coalition will likely desert him for the “old actors” as they are called and the State of Law Party and other associated parties will benefit from their defection
Dubious fire
It is a story that would make any Chicago pol giggle with admiration. First, the voter registration verification machines were destroyed. This act was accomplished by a very dubious fire just before the election having the impact of allowing everyone to cast an electronic ballot (or three if they liked!). Additionally, some of the actual physical ballot boxes in Sadr City were burned as well. Not since Emperor Nero has fire been so similarly “helpful.”
The Sadr City electronic votes were so many that they almost reached the level of their previous election totals far surpassing the turnout totals for any other bloc in an otherwise very low-turnout election. The destruction of the verification machines and select ballot boxes also allowed for almost limitless fraudulent ballots from outside of Iraq including highly suspect ballots ostensibly from Peshmerga fighters. For example, one polling place in Lebanon, supposedly received over two thousand votes!
The national commission empowered to make the actual count (the IHEC) is also under fire for suspected corruption and has been attacked publicly to such an extent that they have been removed from making the count and being replaced with a panel of judges to oversee the count. With all of these rampant “irregularities” happening, the losers in the election successfully brought a bill to parliament, which will: 1) invalidate the electronic count entirely and requiring a paper ballot count to be made; and 2) make the paper ballot count to become the official count. There are several challenges to this act made by Sadr, both of the major Kurd parties and the Iraqi President among others. The decision will be handed down on Thursday of this week. Clearly, the Sadrists have never heard the political axiom: “Pigs get fat but hogs get slaughtered.” That is, small thieves will often get away with their crimes and grow fat but huge thieves will get caught and bad things will result. The Sadrist overreach here is so gross and careless that they are surely going to be caught and punished. If that were not enough, Sadr’s coalition partners make up 36 of the 54 seats his winning coalition.
Iranian parties
If Sadr actually joins with the Iranian parties, his own coalition will likely desert him for the “old actors” as they are called and the State of Law Party (al-Abadi, al-Mailiki) and other associated parties will benefit from their defection. This will leave Sadr with nothing near a majority of seats in Parliament and almost no chance to form a government. Sensing this eventual reality, current PM al-Abadi has called for all-party talks by all parties to form a government. It is certain that whatever that government is it will not have a majority in Parliament but be a consensual, grand coalition.
Al-Sadr had a chance to be a great man. Instead he has chosen to be a meaningless and ridiculous pawn of secret, foreign forces. He has sold-out Iraqi Nationalism and has proven to be a thief and vote fraud. He should be prosecuted – not just for the vote fraud he and his followers have certainly committed but for betraying the love and trust of the Iraqi people. Iraqis voted for him and his coalition in droves because he promised honest leaders, an end to corruption, Iraqi Nationalism and complete freedom from foreign interests. Having procured his “victory” based on fraud, he can never deliver on these things. I am fairly certain that he never wanted to.