July 21/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil
Letter to the Ephesians 04/25-32: "So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbours, for we are members of one another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil. Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labour and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy. Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.

Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on July 20-21/18
Climate Change Is Killing the Cedars of Lebanon/The New York Times/July 18/18
Lebanon’s Sectarian Statelets/Eyad Abu Shakra/Asharq Al Awsat/July 20/18
Israel's Contentious Nation-state Law: Everything You Need to Know/Jonathan Lis/Haaretz/July 19/18
Donald Trump And The Carl Schmitt Spectrum/Amir Taheri/Asharq Al Awsat/July 20/18
Turkey: Exposing Crimes of ISIS is Terrorism/Uzay Bulut/Gatestone Institute/July 20/18
Syria’s encrypted messages to Jordan/Shehab Al-Makahleh/Al Arabiya/July 20/18
‘Resurrection’ of Safar al-Hawali/Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/July 20/18
Punish ignorant people who promote sectarianism/Mohammed Al Shaikh/Al Arabiya/July 20/18
Titles For The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on July 20-21/18
Lebanon Central Bank Governor: Monetary Conditions Stable
Hariri: Government to Be Formed Soon
MP Michel Moussa to Asharq Al-Awsat: We Need a Cabinet Capable of Salvaging Lebanon
Hasbani: Sustainable Development Helps Ease Conflicts in the Region
Report: No Breakthrough in Cabinet Formation Efforts
In Madrid, Hariri Says Govt. Formation Nearing, Consensus is 'Only Solution'
Report: Hizbullah Prepares to Repatriate Syrian Refugees
Berri Slams Israel's 'Jewish Nation-State' Law as 'Attack on Humanity'
Six Hizbullah Fighters Evacuated from Syrian Besieged Towns Return to Lebanon
Airport Police Arrest Man with 100,000 Counterfeit Euros
Climate Change Is Killing the Cedars of Lebanon
Lebanon’s Sectarian Statelets

Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on July 20-21/18
Mossad Says It Helped Foil an Iranian Terror Attack in France
Syria Rebels Begin Leaving Zone near Golan
Moscow Ends Opposition’s Presence in Southern Syria
Egyptian, Sudanese Leaders Discuss Regional Threats
Griffiths in Washington to Promote Yemeni Settlement Plan
Turkey Arrests Widow of ISIS Commander
Russia ‘Open’ to Possible Putin Visit to Washington
Doubts over South Korean Claim of Discovery of Sunken Russian ‘Treasure’ Ship
Arab League Condemns Israel’s Approval of National Law
Sadr: Protesters’ Demands Should Come Before Cabinet Formation
Russian Envoy: Moscow Open to Putin Visit to Washington
Several Injured in Northern Germany Bus Assault
The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on July 20-21/18
Lebanon Central Bank Governor: Monetary Conditions Stable
Beirut - Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 20 July, 2018/Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh denied on Thursday reports about financial instability, saying monetary conditions in Lebanon were stable. In comments made after meeting with President Michel Aoun at Baabda Palace, Salameh said that the country could expect two percent growth this year. Deposits in Lebanese banks are growing at a rate of five percent per year, according to current trends, he said. As interest rates rose in the region, the situation in Lebanon remained stable, Salameh added. Prior to making the comments, the Central Bank Governor briefed Aoun on the economic situation in the country. He said the Central Bank is keen on preserving the rights of depositors in Lebanese banks.

Hariri: Government to Be Formed Soon
Kataeb.orgظFriday 20th July 2018/Prime Minister-Designate Saad Hariri on Friday said that the government will be formed soon, noting that it is not possible to put it together based on a majority-minority formula. “We have already tried that in the past and it did not work. Therefore, consensus is the only solution in the country," the National News Agency quoted Hariri as saying on the sidelines of his visit to Madrid. "My role as a PM-designate is to gather all parties despite current political conflicts,” he said.

MP Michel Moussa to Asharq Al-Awsat: We Need a Cabinet Capable of Salvaging Lebanon

Beirut - Youssef Diab/Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 20 July, 2018/MP Michel Moussa, a member of Speaker Nabih Berri’s parliamentary bloc, told Asharq Al-Awsat on Thursday that the delay in Lebanon’s government formation is the result of bickering on shares and ministerial portfolios. “Lebanon is going through a very difficult phase. We will be unable to face the upcoming challenges without the presence of a government capable of steering the country clear of collapse,” Moussa warned. He said Berri might invite political parties for a consultations session to remove obstacles hindering the cabinet formation process. “The Lebanese economy would not survive in the absence of a government, which has a task to launch investment projects and create opportunities to increase growth and limit fiscal deficit in the state treasury,” he said. The deputy expressed regret that some “internal” obstacles were hindering the mission of PM-designate Saad Hariri. A number of Lebanese parties link the delay in government formation to “external” factors, including the military developments in southern Syria or the battle of Yemen’s Hodeidah. “Lebanon is always influenced by external factors, but the Lebanese should be aware about the importance of overcoming such factors to agree on a new government,” Moussa said. In light of reports about the possibility that President Michel Aoun would task another premier to form the cabinet, Moussa said: “I don’t believe that matters are heading towards constitutional conflicts because all parties already know what repercussions they would have on the country.”He said Berri is ready to intervene at any time to help remove obstacles hindering the government line-up. “The Speaker plans to invite political leaders to a dialogue session at the Parliament to discuss disputes and overcome obstacles to the cabinet formation,” he said.

Hasbani: Sustainable Development Helps Ease Conflicts in the Region
New York – Ali Barda/Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 20 July, 2018/Lebanon’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Health Ghassan Hasbani called for the dissemination of Saudi Vision 2030 to the rest of the Arab countries to improve access to the 17 UN sustainable development goals by 2030, as a means to mitigate conflicts in the region. He also urged further measures to diversify Arab economies, including the use of renewable energy sources. Hasbani delivered the ESCWA speech at the United Nations High Level Political Forum on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of 2030 in New York, where he presented the decisions of the Arab Forum for Sustainable Development 2018 hosted by Beirut and organized by ESCWA, in cooperation with the League of Arab States and United Nations organizations In the Arab region. Hasbani told Asharq Al-Awsat that he presented to the delegations in New York the results of the ESCWA Forum held in Beirut. He pointed out that the most important recommendations included what he described as the transformation and diversification of the Arab economies for sustainable development and social and economic stability. “Expanding the use of sustainable energy and alternative energy has been the subject of considerable debate, because it is a key objective of the United Nations development agenda by 2030,” he said. He also emphasized that the participation of the youth and women in economic development achieved the sustainability of the sector. “Capacities vary in the Arab world according to the development paths and strategic plans adopted by each country,” he said, adding that the biggest challenge was the need for greater cooperation among Arab countries to bring these capacities closer and develop sustainable development goals. As for promising results in the Arab world, Hasbani said: “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has shown a great ability to collect information and develop an advanced database compared to other countries in the Arab world. The UAE also has extensive statistical and administrative information,” noting that the field was open for development and improvement. He stressed the presence of important databases in Lebanon, but distributed among ministries and government institutions, and not located in one center.The UN 17 objectives of sustainable development include combating poverty and hunger, developing health, securing affordable clean energy and new jobs, ensuring equality in society, building cities and sustainable communities, promoting the responsible use of resources, caring for the climate and nature sustainability, providing peace and justice, and strengthening partnerships at the local and global levels.
Report: No Breakthrough in Cabinet Formation Efforts
Naharnet/July 20/18/All endeavors exerted so far to lineup a new Cabinet in Lebanon have failed to break the stalemate hampering the formation, media reporters said on Friday. Efforts are “paused” for now awaiting for the return of Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri from his one-day visit to Spain, and the return of Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil from Washington, observers told al-Joumhouria daily. Meanwhile, Center House sources of Hariri stressed that contacts to facilitate the formation process “have not stopped with Hariri’s travel,” assuring that the team is in a quest to solve the obstacles. On the political bickering between the Lebanese Forces and Free Patriotic Movement over Cabinet shares, the sources said “Hariri insists on lining up a national unity Cabinet, he won’t engage in any political conflict.” Hariri arrived Thursday in the Spanish capital Madrid on a one-day work visit. He will meet with his Spanish counterpart Pedro Sanchez and will also sponsor a graduation ceremony for the IE Business School in Madrid where he will deliver a speech, his office said in a statement. The Premier will then head to London on a private visit. Hariri was tasked with forming a new government on May 24. His mission is facing several hurdles, especially political wrangling over the Christian and Druze shares.

In Madrid, Hariri Says Govt. Formation Nearing, Consensus is 'Only Solution'

Naharnet/July 20/18/Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri reassured Friday that the new Cabinet will be formed soon, as he stressed “the importance of consensus” in the country. “A government cannot be formed on the basis of majority and minority; we tried this in the past and we didn't succeed. Accordingly, consensus is the only solution in the country,” Hariri added during a meeting with Lebanese students at the IE Business School in Madrid. “My role as a premier-designate is to bring together the various parties despite all the present political disputes, which we must put aside and focus our work on advancing the country and developing its various sectors,” Hariri added. Earlier in the day, Hariri held talks with his Spanish counterpart Pedro Sánchezon the developments in Lebanon and the region and the bilateral relations between the two countries. After a bilateral meeting between Hariri and Sánchez, an expanded meeting was held in the presence of caretaker Culture Minister Ghattas Khoury, Spanish Culture MinisterJosé Guirao, Lebanon’s Ambassador to Spain Hala Keyrouz, Spain’s Ambassador to Lebanon José María Ferré de la Peña and members of the two delegations. Hariri wrote in the book of honor the following statement: “I look forward to developing our bilateral relations with this beautiful country which has always helped Lebanon. We must work together for the benefit of our two peoples. The Lebanese people and I also thank Spain for its soldiers who are part of UNIFIL and who contribute to securing peace in Lebanon."

Report: Hizbullah Prepares to Repatriate Syrian Refugees

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 20/18/More than 1,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon’s border towns of al-Qaa and Arsal will be repatriated to Syria under a “Hizbullah mechanism to help refugees return home, in coordination with Lebanese authorities and Damascus,” media reports said on Friday. General Security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim announced on Thursday during the inauguration of a new General Security premises in Baalbek, that “a new batch of displaced Syrians will be returning home in the next days.”Hizbullah official responsible for the refugees file, MP Nawwar al-Saheli, told al-Joumhouria daily: “A good number of applicants have signed in to return in nine reception centers established by Hizbullah in the South, Bekaa and Beirut. “Many other Syrian refugees residing in the North and other Lebanese regions are inquiring about the mechanism for return,” added al-Saheli. Early in July, Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah announced that the party was creating a mechanism to help Syrian refugees return home, in coordination with Lebanese authorities and Damascus. The group has set up reception centers with phone numbers and social media accounts where refugees could sign up to return home. “The displaced are from various Syrian regions and from various political orientations,” added Saheli, indirectly referring to media reports alleging that only pro-regime refugees were permitted to return home. He said the return is taking place in “coordination with Lebanon’s General Security and the competent authorities in Syria.”“As soon as the logistical procedures are complete, the first batch will move to Syria through Hizbullah within a couple of weeks,” he added. On accusations that Hizbullah is taking over the State’s role in that regard, he said: “We have uselessly waited for a long time. When the State restores its actual role, then we will be at its service.”

Berri Slams Israel's 'Jewish Nation-State' Law as 'Attack on Humanity'
Naharnet/July 20/18/Speaker Nabih Berri on Friday condemned the Israeli parliament's adoption of a law defining Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.In a statement, Berri described the move as “another chapter of the ongoing aggression against Palestine and its people and their legitimate right to return and establish an independent state with holy Jerusalem as its capital.”“It also represents an aggression against Arab dignity and the entire humanity,” the Speaker added. “In my name and in the name of the Lebanese parliament, we announce our condemnation of this hostile measure,” Berri went on to say. The legislation, adopted after a tumultuous Knesset session, makes Hebrew Israel's national language and defines the establishment of Jewish communities as being in the national interest.
Arabic, previously considered an official language, was granted only special status.Arab citizens account for some 17.5 percent of Israel's more than eight million population. They have long complained of discrimination.

Six Hizbullah Fighters Evacuated from Syrian Besieged Towns Return to Lebanon
Naharnet/July 20/18/Six Hizbullah fighters have reportedly returned to Lebanon on Friday from the besieged Syrian towns of al-Fuaa and Kafraya as part of an evacuation deal between Damascus’s s ally Russia and Turkey, LBCI quoted a Hizbullah source on Friday.
The evacuation of nearly 7,000 people besieged for years in two pro-regime towns of Fuaa and Kafraya follows a series of similar deals to remove residents and fighters from contested zones. Fuaa and Kafraya were the last areas under blockade in Syria and rare examples of pro-government towns surrounded by rebel forces. Hizbullah media officer, Mohammed Afif, has reportedly said: “The fighters have returned to Lebanon from the Syrian towns of Fuaa and Kefraya. They have been besieged for three years,” said the source. “Their liberation comes as part of an evacuation deal with al-Nusra Front and other factions,” he said. Most previous "reconciliation" deals have involved towns under crippling siege by government forces, with rebel fighters and civilians evacuated to the northwestern province of Idlib, the last rebel stronghold.

Airport Police Arrest Man with 100,000 Counterfeit Euros
Naharnet/July 20/18/Airport police busted a man at the Rafik Hariri International Airport with counterfeit cash in his possession, the Internal Security Forces reported on Friday. The man, a Lebanese identified by his initials as F. Kh., was arrested on Wednesday said the ISF with 100,000 euros in counterfeit money notes. Ten packs of fake money were wrapped in carbon paper and stashed at the bottom of a double based suitcase, they added. Investigation was opened into the incident.
Climate Change Is Killing the Cedars of Lebanon
The New York Times/July 18/18
Anne Barnard, the New York Times Beirut bureau chief for the past six years, and Josh Haner, a Times photographer, went to Lebanon's cedar forests to see how the trees are today.
Barouk Cedar Forest, Lebanon — Walking among the cedars on a mountain slope in Lebanon feels like visiting the territory of primeval beings. Some of the oldest trees have been here for more than 1,000 years, spreading their uniquely horizontal branches like outstretched arms and sending their roots deep into the craggy limestone. They flourish on the moisture and cool temperatures that make this ecosystem unusual in the Middle East, with mountaintops that snare the clouds floating in from the Mediterranean Sea and gleam with winter snow.
But now, after centuries of human depredation, the cedars of Lebanon face perhaps their most dangerous threat: Climate change could wipe out most of the country’s remaining cedar forests by the end of the century.
As temperatures rise, the cedars’ ecological comfort zone is moving up the mountains to higher altitudes, chasing the cold winters they need to reproduce. But here in the Barouk forest, part of the Shouf Biosphere Reserve, south of Beirut, there isn’t much farther up to go. If the climate warms at the rates expected because of the continued rise of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere, some scholars say that by 2100 cedars will be able to thrive only at the northern tip of the country, where the mountains are higher.
In the north, though, there are different problems. Lebanon’s densest cedar forest, the Tannourine Cedars Forest Nature Reserve, has lost more than 7 percent of its trees to insect infestations unknown before 1997. They are directly tied to a warming, drying climate.
A Tannourine forest cedar that died from an insect infestation. Josh Haner/The New York Times
Throughout history, the cedars of Lebanon have been prized for buildings and boats, chopped down for temples in ancient Egypt, Jerusalem and beyond. So while climate change did not start the assault on the cedars, it could be the death blow.
Many thousands of square kilometers of forest once spread across most of Lebanon’s highlands. Only 17 square kilometers of cedars remain, in scattered groves.
The country’s most famous cedar patch, sometimes called the Cedars of God, has been fenced off for preservation since 1876.
Unesco added the Cedars of God to its list of world heritage sites twenty years ago.
The forest is isolated, and its ability to expand is limited.
Now Unesco says it is one of the sites most vulnerable to climate change.
Some believe that patch was where the resurrected Jesus revealed himself to his followers, said Antoine Jibrael Tawk, an author of books on the cedars.
The Lebanon cedar, a distinct species known scientifically as Cedrus libani, grows mainly here and in Turkey. The trees germinate in late winter because they need a freeze, preferably with snow. This year, winter was mild. Omar Abu Ali, the ecotourism coordinator for the Shouf Biosphere Reserve, Lebanon’s largest protected area, pointed to evidence on the ground in the Barouk forest.
It was early April, and cedar seedlings were beginning to pop up from the soil. Normally the seedlings don’t come up until early May. Earlier, they risk dying in cold snaps and are more vulnerable to insects. “This is early germination,” Mr. Abu Ali said. “They can die.”
Cedar seedlings in Barouk forest.
A dead cedar, right, next to a healthy one in the Tannourine forest.
A generation ago, it typically rained or snowed 105 days a year in the mountains. High up, snow stayed on the ground for three to four months. This past winter, there were just 40 days of rain and a only month of snow cover.
“Climate change is a fact here,” said Nizar Hani, the Shouf Biosphere’s director. “There is less rain, higher temperatures, and more extreme temperatures,” both hot and cold, he said.
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“The cedar forest is migrating to higher altitudes,” he said. And it is unclear, he added, which of the species that usually live alongside the cedars will survive higher up, further changing the ecosystem.
A 2010 study suggested that if the climate warms at expected rates, no more cedars will thrive in the Shouf, because the mountains there are not high enough. While some Lebanese specialists view that prediction as overly dire, they agree the cedars face an emergency.
Cedars planted about 90 years ago shade a yard southeast of Beirut.
“We are in a race,” said Dr. Hani. “There is no time to lose.”
In the Tannourine reserve, north of Beirut, this year’s poor snowfall has forest managers bracing for a tough season with Cephalcia tannourinensis, an insect commonly known as the cedar web-spinning sawfly that feeds on the trees’ young needles. The insect was unknown to scientists until 1998, when Nabil Nemer, a Lebanese entomologist identified it as the cause of the mysterious blight that hit Tannourine the year before, killing swaths of the forest
Called to investigate, Dr. Nemer discovered that the culprit was the sawfly, which buries itself in the ground in the winter. It had never been noticed before because its life cycle initially did not interfere with the cedars. But with earlier snowmelt, the insects emerged earlier, laying their eggs in time for larvae to eat new cedar shoots.
“We can see a direct climate change effect,” Dr. Nemer said. From 2006 to 2018 alone, he said, the insects killed 7.5 percent of the Tannourine forest’s trees, disproportionately young ones.
The discovery of the sawfly spurred the creation of the Tannourine reserve. To protect the trees, scientists are using new methods to fight the insect with fungi that exist naturally in the forest and can kill the larvae.
The insects are just the latest threat to the cedar, which, like Lebanon itself, has faced one challenge after another: tough terrain, invasion, plunder, conflict.
The cedars are able to survive in a challenging environment.
Their roots can drink from springs inside the porous rock.
That survival is precisely what makes them a compelling symbol for Lebanon.
Through five millenniums of recorded history, a parade of civilizations has praised the cedars of Lebanon — and then chopped them down. Lebanon has been deforested by Mesopotamians, Phoenicians and ancient Egyptians; by the Greek and Roman empires; by crusaders, colonizers and modern Middle East turmoil. Yet the trees are so symbolic of the country that a cedar stands at the center of the Lebanese flag.
It offers majesty, for a tiny, vulnerable country. Rootedness, for generations scattered by famine and conflict. Ancient history, for a state carved out by colonial powers.
Invaders have long targeted Lebanon for its water supply, its ports and the valuable cedars, which they carted away for their palaces, temples, and ships. For centuries, the steep, rocky mountains attracted minority sects fleeing from hostile neighbors; their goats and wood stoves consumed more cedars. The conflicts of fractious warlords wreak environmental havoc to this day.
In the 1960s and 1970s, Lebanon had a national Green Plan that replanted many cedars. Then came the 15-year civil war. The plan was forgotten. Some warlords protected the cedars, in their way; in the Shouf mountains, Druze militants laid land mines around forests.
Four years ago, Lebanon’s Agriculture Ministry began a new plan to plant 40 million trees, including some cedars. Separately, the Environment Ministry supervises the management of protected cedar areas. Yet even today, political divisions and the war’s legacy make the government too weak and fragmented to build functional national systems for electricity, water delivery, sewage or trash removal, let alone a muscular, enforceable master plan to protect the cedars, ecologists say.
Still, many Lebanese see in the tree a reflection of their land’s uniqueness and its ability to survive the storms of history.
“It is a very strong tree, strong enough to be able to live in very hard conditions,” said Dr. Hani, the Shouf Biosphere director. “It’s very unique, noble, different from any other kind of tree.”
Political posters in Beirut.
Everywhere in Lebanon, the cedar tree can be found on banners, tattoos, storefronts, souvenirs, political posters. It is often a stylized cartoon, like the bright-green stencil on the country’s cheerful flag, a child’s vision of the ideal tree. The trees’ scent surfaces in cedar honey and cedar olive-oil soap. Middle East Airlines paints the tree on its aircrafts’ tails and on their turned-up wingtips, as if to make sure passengers cannot miss the symbol.
Liliane Keirouz, an artist who designs with wood legally harvested from the Cedars of God forest.
Cedar trees pictured on coins at the Bank of Lebanon currency museum in Beirut.
Accounts of the cedar go back to one of humanity’s first remembered stories, the epic of Gilgamesh. In the tale, Gilgamesh kills Humbaba, the guardian of the cedar forest, and carries away the trees to build palaces and fortresses. Faisal Abu-Izzeddin, whose book “Memories of a Cedar” chronicles centuries of deforestation, calls Humbaba’s defeat the first of many victories of consumer over conservationist.
The cedars are mentioned repeatedly in the Bible. In the Song of Solomon, they represent the beauty of the beloved: “His countenance is as Lebanon, excellent as the cedars.”
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Some Lebanese even invoke the trees in an oath: ‘I swear upon the cedars.’
In order to protect the cedars from total destruction, various Lebanese conservation groups are trying to diversify their locations and expand their populations. The main goal of replanting, they say, is to make the cedar forests larger and more resilient to whatever future environmental pressures they face.
The ideal altitude for cedars has historically been between 1,400 and 1,800 meters. But some trees can survive higher or lower, depending on water, shade, soil and wind. Experimenting, conservationists have found seedlings can survive in some places up to 2,100 meters.
In Arz, the Cedars of God reserve has just 2,100 trees. Dr. Youssef Tawk, a medical doctor and conservationist, and his colleagues are trying to regenerate a larger forest. It’s a challenge because the reserve itself is isolated. Most of the ideal areas to plant are private, or designated for other uses by the municipal government.
But since 1998, Dr. Tawk’s group has planted 100,000 trees in a patchwork of disconnected lands around the old reserve.
Rows of replanted cedar trees on a mountain above the Cedars of God.
“It was a lot of trial and error,” Dr. Tawk said. “Where we could, and where the municipality allowed, we planted.”
Cedars grow slowly, bearing no cones until they are 40 or 50 years old. When they are young by cedar standards, they look much like other conifers, pointy, like Christmas trees. But after about a century, they morph into their distinctive shape. The trunk thickens, the branches spread parallel to the ground, the cones perch atop them like resting birds.
Approaching cedar forests, often the first trees you see are young. They look deceptively ordinary.
Then you come around a bend. The experience can be almost disorienting, because the mature cedars are so unlike how you expect a tree to look. Some stand alone like statues. Others grow in clusters, the horizontal lines of branches crosshatching the verticals of trunks, steep slopes and cliffs, creating dizzying effects.
Come closer and you feel something else.
You are next to a being that has seen civilizations come and go.
Now, it is watching you.
Written by Anne Barnard. Photographs and drone video by Josh Haner. Additional research and reporting by Nada Homsi in Lebanon.

Lebanon’s Sectarian Statelets
Eyad Abu Shakra/Asharq Al Awsat/July 20/18
Let’s forget, for a while, about the weird boasts of “strength”, and excessive claims of “patriotism", and try to see things as they really are.
Few observers believe that the political situation in Lebanon is healthy. Fewer still are those who think that Lebanon is somehow immune enough to the threats of an alarming regional situation. Indeed, even less are those who believe that the current situation may - one way or another - secure stability, although the general impression is that we now have “a victor and a vanquished” formula achieved by international sponsorship, or at least blessings.
The truth that many Lebanese refuse to admit is that their country’s crisis is too severe to treat with political maneuvers or presidential press conferences. Lately, what has happened at the Christian (namely, the Maronite) level, including releasing what was supposed to be the confidential text of ‘The Maraab Understanding’ between the Aounist ‘Free Patriotic Movement’ (FPM) and ‘the Lebanese Forces’, has confirmed that the two largest Christian blocs no longer trust each other, and that all temporary ‘deals’ have reached a dead end.
As for the Sunni sect, the last few days have uncovered the depth of the financial crisis threatening the very existence of Al-Makassed Philanthropic Islamic Association of Beirut (founded in 1878). This added to further Sunni fragmentation, and attempts by some to demean and downgrade the Prime Minister’s post, i.e., the highest political office reserved to Lebanon’s Sunnis, which compelled three ex-premiers to meet with Prime Minister Designate Saad Hariri and express solidarity with him.
Facing the embattled Christians and Sunnis, who comprise with the Shiites the three largest sectarian blocs, and share with them the three top political offices (The Presidency, the Speakership and the Premiership), the Shiite community looks fine.
In fact, Lebanon’s Shiites have been well-served by their political blocs made up of Hezbollah and AMAL Movement (headed by Speaker Nabih Berri), but more so by Iran’s expansionist regional plan. This is becoming clear today as the Syrian debacle approaches the ‘finale,’ which all those who confronted the uprising of the people and their national unity, have worked for.
US former President Barack Obama’s whole-hearted commitment to align Washington with Iran against the former’s traditional allies was an extremely important and strategic choice; especially, that Obama ruled for two full terms marked by clear cut ideological beliefs. Eight years of tacit American support for Tehran’s regime, intentional disinterest in curbing its transgressions, ambitions and territorial expansion achieved by traditional weapons – before completing its nuclear program – are not an insignificant matter.
On the other hand, no one should ever make light of Russia’s ambitions under a leadership that remembers well the heritage of the USSR, and takes great pride in its military and security might, and hankers to its influence over almost half the globe before the end of the Cold War. As far as the Middle East is concerned, Vladimir Putin’s Russia also viewed and exploited Iran as a bridge that would bring it back to the region, and as a tactical ally which it could use to blackmail, harass and hurt Washington as much as possible.
To this end, Moscow played a major role in building Iran’s nuclear capabilities, and turned a blind eye to its ever growing influence in Iraq and Lebanon; indeed, Moscow regarded Iran’s expansionism quite beneficial to its strategy of blackmailing Washington so that it accepts its return to the Middle East as a ‘partner’, just the way it was during the days of the USSR.
Hence, thanks to a combination of Obama’s apologetic convictions about normalizing relations with Tehran, and Putin’s stubborn ambition to return to the Middle East as Washington’s full partner, the full picture of what we have seen and heard since 2011 has emerged.
It was natural for this external pressure to bear fruit on the region’s entities, specifically, those of ‘The Fertile Crescent’ (Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine), allowing Iran to push forward its expansionist project to include the Gulf and Yemen.
Eventually, the only thing missing was the catalyst, which soon emerged in the shape of ISIS and the powers that backed, sponsored and colluded with it. Atrocities committed by ISIS suddenly became the only show in town, and confronting it became the ready-made excuse not only to ignore Iran’s project and normalizing relations with a ‘nuclear Iran’, but also accepting the ‘legitimacy’ of its sectarian militias that have undermined the sovereignty of UN member states. Today, as many Western governments openly defend a nuclear agreement (The JCPOA) that has left Iran a freehand in the Middle East, several Western powers are virtually dealing with Iranian-backed militias in Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen, and negotiating with them as constituent elements of the legitimate government.
In Lebanon, “Hezbollah,” which is the only party carrying arms outside state control, has been able to impose its candidate as president and push through its favorite electoral law under which the latest parliamentary elections took place. Furthermore, it is now the real authority that is handling the file of displaced Syrians and refugees although it has contributed to their plight through its intervention in Syria in support of the regime.
More so, some Lebanese observers accuse “Hezbollah” of sponsoring a well-orchestrated campaign to weaken the position of Hariri and his backers within the Sunni community. They also believe that the escalation of Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil against the ‘Lebanese Forces’ within the Christian community and Walid Jumblat’s Progressive Socialist party within the Druze community, is orchestrated by “Hezbollah.”
Given this situation, it is interesting that President Michel Aoun, who had promised after assuming office to be a ‘father to all Lebanese’, seems unable to set a limit between the presidency and the political stances of the FPM that is led by Bassil, his son-in-law. The latest in a series of setbacks has been the failure of all attempts to secure an inter-Christian entente, and pushing the ‘Lebanese Force’ leadership to divulge the confidential clauses of ‘The Maraab Understanding’ following another bout of Bassil’s attacks on it.
Moreover, the aura of ‘The Strong President’ which Aoun insists on promoting, followed by the adoption of the word ‘strong’ in the names of the FPM’s electoral lists, have not yet been interpreted on the ground through the Lebanese state’s ability to impose its authority, sovereignty, cohesion and unity of decision-making; They only manifested themselves in bullying refugees, the displaced and UN relief agencies.
This, unfortunately, confirms Lebanon as nothing but a country made up of ‘sectarian statelets’, most of which are vanquished with only one emerging – so far – as victorious!

The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published
on July 20-21/18
Mossad Says It Helped Foil an Iranian Terror Attack in France
Chaim Levinson/Haaretz/July 19/18/The Mossad gave Germany, France and Belgium crucial intelligence information about the planned attack, which led to arrests of a cell headed by an Iranian diplomat. The Mossad said to have thwarted an Iranian plot to attack a gathering of Iranian dissidents in a Paris suburb in June. On Thursday, Israel lifted censorship on the publication of the operation. The Mossad gave Germany, France and Belgium crucial intelligence information about the attack, which led to arrests of a cell headed by an Iranian diplomat. The opposition rally was due to include a speech by U.S. President Donald Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. According to news reports, Mossad agents tracked down suspects in several countries. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu alluded to the operation in a speech he gave in July: "I call on the leaders of Europe: Stop funding the very regime that is sponsoring terrorism against you and against so many others. Stop appeasing Iran." The reason for the censorship is unknown and it's not clear why the Israel's intelligence agency changed its position Thursday evening to lift the censorship to publish the report.

Syria Rebels Begin Leaving Zone near Golan
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 20/18/Hardline rebels and civilians began leaving a southwestern sliver of Syria near the Israeli-annexed Golan on Friday under a surrender deal, state media, as the evacuations turned deadly with a car accident. The transfers come under a deal agreed this week between Russia and Syrian rebels in Quneitra province that will restore state control over the sensitive zone. Rebels will hand over territory they control in Quneitra and the neighboring buffer zone with the Golan Heights. The deal also provides for the evacuation to northern Syria of any rebels and jihadist fighters who refuse to live under government control. On Friday afternoon, buses began taking civilians and armed fighters out of opposition-held territory through the town of Jaba, state television said. It said they would be taken north to Idlib which is under jihadist and rebel control. The channel earlier reported more than 50 buses were prepared to ferry people north. Vehicles had been arriving in Syria's south since Thursday, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. "As the convoy of buses was gathering, one of the drivers lost control and four people, including two women, were run over and killed," said the Britain-based monitor. Fighters then fired their weapons, wounding a bus driver. Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said it was still unclear exactly how many people would ultimately be evacuated. Among them were members of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), an alliance led by al-Qaida's onetime Syria affiliate which refused to sign up to the deal. Quneitra is a thin, crescent-shaped province wedged between the buffer to the west and Daraa province to its east. One month ago, Syria's regime launched an operation to retake rebel areas in Daraa and Quneitra, using military force and surrender deals brokered by its Russian ally. Fighting forced several hundred thousand people to flee, and as many as 140,000 remain displaced in Quneitra, according to the United Nations. The U.N.'s humanitarian coordination office (OCHA) warned they are inaccessible to aid organizations based around an hour away in Damascus because of a lack of approvals. Both Israel and Jordan, which shares a border with Syria, have kept their borders closed to the displaced. Israel seized 1,200 square kilometers (460 square miles) of the Golan during the Six-Day War of 1967, then annexed it in 1981 in a move never recognized internationally. Some 510 square kilometers of the Golan remain on Syria's side of the ceasefire line, with a U.N. peacekeeping force overseeing a buffer zone stretching some 70 kilometers from Lebanon in the north to Jordan in the south. Under the terms of the deal, a rebel source told AFP, Syrian and Russian forces are to enter the buffer zone.
Moscow Ends Opposition’s Presence in Southern Syria
Beirut - Paula Astih/Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 20 July, 2018/Opposition rebels agreed Thursday to surrender their strategic area of control in Quneitra to Syrian regime forces, ending their presence in the two provinces of Quneitra and Daraa following their withdrawal to Idlib. Rami Abdel Rahman, the director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told Asharq Al-Awsat that clauses of the deal stipulate that opposition factions hand over their heavy and medium arms allowing the Syrian civil police to enter areas controlled by factions in the demilitarized zone. “Thanks to this deal, the regime would control most areas in southern Syria, except some pockets controlled by ISIS and members of Jabhat al-Nusra,” Abdel Rahman said. A rebel, who took part in the delegation mediating the deal, said Russian military police would accompany the Syrian army brigades into a demilitarized zone that has been in place on the Golan Heights since 1974. However, the rebel said the date for implementing the deal was not set yet. Quneitra borders Jordan, Lebanon and the Israeli-occupied side of the Golan Heights. Meanwhile, officials from the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) held a series of meetings with Israeli and Syrian officers to arrange the return of Syrian forces to Golan, based on the 1974 Separation of Forces Agreement and to establish a committee to monitor the issue of detainees. Separately, General Joseph Votel, commander of the US Central Command, said he had not received any new guidance about the war in Syria since the conflict was discussed in a closed-door meeting between US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. “For us right now, it’s kind of steady as she goes. We have received no further direction than we’ve currently been operating under,” Votel said at a Pentagon news briefing, speaking via video link from his offices in Tampa, Florida. Trump on Thursday said he looked forward to a second meeting with Putin.

Egyptian, Sudanese Leaders Discuss Regional Threats

Khartoum, Cairo/Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 20 July, 2018/Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi held talks in Khartoum on Thursday with his Sudanese counterpart Omar al-Bashir. Discussions at the presidential palace in Khartoum focused on improving bilateral ties, various joint political and economic issues and regional developments, said official Sudanese sources.Egypt’s ambassador to Sudan said that the talks focused on Red Sea security and regional threats, as well as peace in South Sudan and the crisis in Libya. Bashir revealed that he had agreed with Sisi on an agreement to remove all obstacles hindering trade and travel between their countries. “Nothing is standing in the way of developing ties between us,” he told a joint press conference with Sisi. “We have wasted years on several issues, but we are forging ahead with our relations and their improvement.” For his part, the Egyptian leader said that his visit to Sudan is part of Cairo and Khartoum’s policy to achieve complete coordination between them and support each country’s strategic interests in all fields. “The bond between our people is rare and we share a joint fate,” he added. He noted in this regard the development of the work of joint committees and their overcoming of obstacles. This culminated in the establishment of energy projects between Egypt and Sudan. Moreover, Sisi expressed his gratitude to Sudan for its role in preserving and bolstering regional and international security and peace, adding that the Egyptian government was ready to support Bashir’s South Sudan peace initiative. Sisi had arrived on a two-day official visit to Khartoum on Thursday, the first since his reelection as president for a second term in March and the fifth since becoming president. Bashir had paid a visit to Cairo on March 19. The Egyptian delegation included the ministers of foreign affairs, defense and water resources, irrigation and agriculture.

Griffiths in Washington to Promote Yemeni Settlement Plan
Washington - Moaz Al-Omari/Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 20 July, 2018/UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths is in Washington seeking solutions and international support for his mission to end the Yemeni crisis and implement UN Resolution 2216. Reliable diplomatic sources informed Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that Griffiths is expected to meet with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and several Congressmen. The sources said Griffiths has been engaged in the past few months in a shuttle diplomacy that took him to Sanaa, Muscat, Jeddah, New York and lastly Washington in an attempt to spare Hodeidah a new military battle between the government forces supported by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen and the Iran-backed Houthi insurgents. An agreement between the UN envoy and militias faces huge challenges due to the intransigence of Houthis, said the sources. However, Griffiths is receiving international support in his attempt to call for the implementation of Resolution 2216. Griffiths held talks with UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation Reem Bint Ibrahim Al Hashemy, and UAE Ambassador to the US Yousef Al Otaiba in order to intensify efforts for a political solution in Hodeidah in particular and Yemen in general. According to “Defense News,” US administration officials have in recent months stressed that the Arab Coalition is committed to avoid harming civilians in Yemen.

Turkey Arrests Widow of ISIS Commander
Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 20 July, 2018/Turkish authorities have arrested the widow of Abu Omar al-Shishani, a top ISIS commander killed in Iraq in 2016, Turkey's official news agency said. Anadolu news agency reported late Thursday four people were formally arrested in Istanbul for alleged links to ISIS following their detention in a counter-terror operation earlier in July. Among them was Seda D., married to the infamous red-bearded Georgian national known by his nom de guerre "Omar the Chechen" in Arabic. The private DHA news agency reported the woman had used a fake passport. The report said she has two sons. Shishani —born Tarkhan Batirashvili— was the "minister of war" for ISIS and appeared on many videos. The US military said he was killed in Iraq in July 2016 during an airstrike.

Russia ‘Open’ to Possible Putin Visit to Washington
Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 20 July, 2018/Russia is “open” to the possibility of President Vladimir Putin making a visit to Washington after US President Donald Trump made the surprise invitation on Thursday. With confusion still swirling around what the two men discussed behind closed doors in Helsinki earlier this week, Russian Ambassador to the US Anatoly Antonov said Friday it is important to "deal with the results" of their first summit before jumping too fast into a new one. He said he had not seen Trump's invitation himself, but that "Russia was always open to such proposals. We are ready for discussions on this subject."The Kremlin has the final say, but has not responded yet to Trump’s proposal. Antonov gave a few more details of what Trump and Putin talked about in Helsinki, but insisted that diplomatic discussions should remain discreet in order to be effective. He called Monday's summit in Helsinki a "key event" in international politics and laughed off suggestions that the two men made any "secret deals."Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced Thursday that Trump asked National Security Adviser John Bolton to invite Putin, and "those discussions are already underway." Trump earlier had tweeted that he looked forward to "our second meeting" as he defended his performance in Helsinki where the two leaders conferred on a range of issues including terrorism, Israeli security, nuclear proliferation and North Korea. "There are many answers, some easy and some hard, to these problems ... but they can ALL be solved!" Trump tweeted. The announcement came as the White House sought to clean up days of confounding post-summit Trump statements on Russian interference in the 2016 election. Trump's public doubting of Russia's responsibility in a joint news conference with Putin on Monday provoked withering criticism from Republicans as well as Democrats and forced the president to make a rare public admission of error. Then on Thursday, the White House said Trump "disagrees" with Putin's offer to allow US questioning of 12 Russians who have been indicted for election interference in exchange for Russian interviews with the former US ambassador to Russia and other Americans the Kremlin accuses of unspecified crimes. Trump initially had described the idea as an "incredible offer."The White House backtrack came just before the Senate voted overwhelmingly against the proposal. It was Congress' first formal rebuke of Trump's actions from the summit and its aftermath. In an interview with CNBC broadcast Friday, Trump defended his efforts to build a relationship with Putin, saying they got along well but their conversations were "not always conciliatory." Trump said he and Putin had a friendly rapport. "Look, the fact is we got along well,"added, while suggesting, however, that they did not agree on everything. "So I had a meeting that lasted for more than two hours. It wasn’t always conciliatory in that meeting," Trump said, without elaborating. "We discussed lots of great things for both countries, frankly."

Doubts over South Korean Claim of Discovery of Sunken Russian ‘Treasure’ Ship
Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 20 July, 2018/Doubts have been cast over a South Korean company’s claim to have discovered a sunken Russian warship that was carrying $130 billion in gold “treasure” off the Korean coast. The Seoul-based Shinil Group said Tuesday its divers discovered what a wreck it identified as the 6,200-ton Dmitrii Donskoi, which went down during the 1904-1905 Russo-Japanese war off an eastern Korean island. The company speculated about 200 tons of gold bars and coins that are worth 150 trillion won ($132 billion) would still likely be aboard the ship. It would provide evidence next week to support its claim. It was the “only entity in the world” to have discovered the ship, it said in a statement. The release was accompanied by photos and video of a wreck, including a section that appeared to show the ship’s name. “We believe there are gold boxes, and it’s historically proven,” company spokesman Park Sung-jin told Reuters. “The boxes were very tightly lashed, indicating there are really precious stuff inside.”The announcement though was disputed by the government-run Korea Institute of Ocean Science and Technology (KIOST), which told South Korean media that it discovered the wreck in 2003. The institute did not respond to a request for comment, but its website showed photos dated from 2007 of what it said was the wreck, along with maps of its general location. Other companies have made similar claims, but none has taken actual steps toward raising the wreck. One of them, Dong-Ah Construction, was accused of spreading false rumors to bump up its stock prices and later went bankrupt. Park said Shinil Group’s intention was to donate 10 percent of the treasure to South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s job creation efforts, as well as to inter-Korean development projects with North Korea. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it had not discussed the issue with Moscow. Russian scholars have said in the past that Russia was unlikely to put so much gold on a single ship and that it must have been much safer to move it by train. They also have said some gold coins could have been aboard the ship to pay the salaries of Russian navy officers. Some experts also said it's unlikely that the Donskoi, a thickly armored warship with more than 12 artillery pieces, 500 sailors and presumably 1,600 tons of coal, would have had room for 200 tons of gold, which would be double the current gold reserves at South Korea's central bank. Even if the ship is hoisted and treasures are found, their ownership could be disputed. A South Korean Financial Ministry official responsible for the issue said that Russia may be able to claim ownership. Park disputed that, saying 80 percent of the potential treasures would belong to the company while the rest would go to a South Korean government coffer. He cited related South Korean law and an international court ruling on a similar case.

Arab League Condemns Israel’s Approval of National Law
Cairo - Sawsan Abu Hussein/Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 20 July, 2018/The General Secretariat of the Arab League condemned the Israeli Knesset’s ratification of the racist “national law”, asserting that its adoption and all laws that the occupation authorities were trying to enforce were invalid and rejected. “All the bills Israel is trying to forcibly enforce are null and will not give any legitimacy to the Israeli occupation,” the Arab League said in a statement. According to the statement, the adoption of the law was an addition to Israel’s denial of the rights of the Palestinian people to live in their historic land and an extension of the colonial abuses and racist practices, foremost of which is the abolition of the other by imposing decisions on the ground by force. The Arab League added that the Knesset’s approval of the so-called national law, which considers Israel as the state of the Jewish people and Hebrew as its official language, and which encourages settlement, was a new step to annex the West Bank and to impose the practices of apartheid and ethnic cleansing. Israel’s parliament approved early Thursday a controversial law that defines the country as the nation-state of the Jewish people and downgrades the Arabic language status. The legislation, adopted by 62 votes to 55, makes Hebrew the country's national language and defines the establishment of Jewish communities as being in the national interest. The Arab League underlined the need for the international community to fulfill its responsibilities towards the Palestinian people, by exerting pressure on Israel, lifting its immunity and obliging it to implement the resolutions of international legitimacy. The League also called for holding Israel accountable for its systematic violations of international law and resolutions.

Sadr: Protesters’ Demands Should Come Before Cabinet Formation
Baghdad - Hamza Mustafa/Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 20 July, 2018/Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr called on all winning lists of Iraq’s May 12 parliamentary elections to suspend government formation talks “until the demands made by protesters are met.”Sadr’s comments came while he discussed the protests in a meeting with the head of the UN’s mission in Iraq (UNAMI), Jan Kubis, in Najaf on Thursday. The cleric said a serious committee should be formed to work with the government in coordination with protesters in order to fulfill their demands. Sadr also urged the United Nations to bolster its efforts to support Iraq and its stability, according to a statement from his office. Protests in Iraq began last July in the city of Basra and later spread to other Iraqi provinces, demanding better access to water, electricity, and jobs. Sadr said protesters should show self-restraint and not attack public properties amid concerns about outbursts of violence. On Wednesday, Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi chaired the first meeting of a crisis cell formed to respond to issues raised by the demonstrators. Shiite cleric Fadel Al-Qurayshi told Asharq Al-Awsat on Thursday that the Shiite religious leadership “backs protesters, on condition that they remain peaceful, don't damage public properties and don't confront security forces, who are protecting them.”Meanwhile, activists called for a million-man demonstration in the capital Baghdad on Friday to demand better services from the government. The march will kick off from Tahrir Square and head towards the Green Zone, where protesters plan to stage a sit-in. The Baghdad Operations Command divided the capital into six zones and deployed a significant amount of military and security forces to secure the area. Friday’s planned protest is reminiscent to demonstrations that saw thousands of protesters entering the heavily fortified Green Zone and occupying the Iraqi parliament building in 2016.

Russian Envoy: Moscow Open to Putin Visit to Washington

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 20/18/Moscow is ready to discuss a possible visit by President Vladimir Putin to Washington after a surprise invitation from President Donald Trump, Russia's ambassador to the U.S. said Friday. With confusion still swirling around what the two men discussed behind closed doors in Helsinki earlier this week, Ambassador Anatoly Antonov said it's important to "deal with the results" of their first summit before jumping too fast into a new one. He said he hadn't seen Trump's invitation himself, but that "Russia was always open to such proposals. We are ready for discussions on this subject."The Kremlin has the final say, but hasn't responded yet to the proposal Trump made Thursday. Antonov gave a few more details of what Trump and Putin talked about in Helsinki, but insisted that diplomatic discussions should remain discreet in order to be effective. He notably acknowledged that the two men discussed a possible referendum in eastern Ukraine. "This issue was discussed," he said, adding without elaborating that Putin made "concrete proposals" to Trump on solutions for the Ukraine conflict. Trump tweeted that the two men discussed Ukraine but has not mentioned a referendum or revealed specifics of the Ukraine discussions. The U.S. and Russia have been on opposing sides of the conflict in Ukraine, unleashed after a popular uprising against a pro-Russian president and Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014. Ukraine and European powers are unlikely to support a referendum in the Donbass region, where pro-Russian separatists hold sway. The Russian ambassador to Washington also denounced "anti-Russian anger" in the United States and reiterated denials of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election — interrupting a questioner to say "We didn't interfere!"He also reiterated denials of Russian involvement in the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in Britain. Antonov called Monday's summit in Helsinki a "key event" in international politics and laughed off suggestions that the two men made any "secret deals." Antonov gave details of their discussions on arms control, but said the U.S. has been reluctant to back Russia's proposals so far. He said the summit notably made progress on U.S.-Russian cooperation on Syria's future. Meanwhile, Antonov also pushed for the release of a gun rights activist accused of being a covert agent in the U.S., calling her arrest a "farce."
U.S. federal prosecutors accused Maria Butina this week of being a covert Russian agent and working to infiltrate U.S. political organizations, including the National Rifle Association, before and after Donald Trump's election as president. Butina, 29, denies wrongdoing, and the Russian Foreign Ministry started an online campaign for her release.

Several Injured in Northern Germany Bus Assault
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 20/18/Several people were injured in an assault by a man wielding a knife on a bus in northern Germany, police and witnesses said Friday. The packed bus was heading in the direction of Travemuende, a popular beach close to the city of Luebeck, when a man pulled a weapon on passengers, local media Luebecker Nachrichten reported, quoting an unnamed witness. The bus driver immediately stopped the vehicle, allowing passengers to escape, the daily said on its website. "The passengers jumped out of the bus and were screaming. It was terrible. Then the injured were brought out. The perpetrator had a kitchen knife," a witness who lives close to the scene, Lothar H., told the daily. A police car which happened to be close by was able to get to the scene quickly, allowing officers to detain the perpetrator, added the report. Police quoted by national news agency DPA said there were no fatalities, and did not give a motive for the assault. According to Luebecker Nachrichten, the attacker is an Iranian man in his mid-30s. While neither the motive nor full identity of the perpetrator have been established, Germany has been on high alert after several deadly Islamist extremist attacks.
Jihadist attack risk
Germany had long warned of the threat of more violence after several attacks claimed by the Islamic State jihadist group, the bloodiest of which was a truck rampage through a Berlin Christmas market in December 2016 that left 12 people dead. The attacker, Tunisian asylum seeker Anis Amri, hijacked a truck and murdered its Polish driver before killing another 11 people and wounding dozens more by plowing the heavy vehicle through the festive market in central Berlin. He was shot dead by Italian police in Milan four days later while on the run. Germany has since been targeted again in attacks with radical Islamist motives. In July 2017, a 26-year-old Palestinian asylum seeker wielding a knife stormed into a supermarket in the northern port city of Hamburg, killing one person and wounding six others before being detained by passers-by.
German prosecutors said the man likely had a "radical Islamist" motive. The IS also claimed responsibility for a number of attacks in 2016, including the murder of a teenager in Hamburg, a suicide bombing in the southern city of Ansbach that wounded 15, and an ax attack on a train in Bavaria that left five injured. In June 2018, German police said they foiled what would have been the first biological attack with the arrest of a Tunisian suspected jihadist in possession of the deal poison ricin and bomb-making material. Germany remains a target for jihadist groups, in particular because of its involvement in the coalition fighting IS in Iraq and Syria, and its deployment in Afghanistan since 2001. Germany's security services estimate there are around 11,000 Islamic radicals in Germany, some 980 who are deemed particularly dangerous and capable of using violence. A hundred and fifty of these potentially dangerous individuals have been detained for various offenses. Chancellor Angela Merkel has allowed in more than one million asylum seekers since 2015 -- a decision that has driven the rise of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which charges that the influx spells a heightened security risk.

The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on July 20-21/18
Israel's Contentious Nation-state Law: Everything You Need to Know
كل ما يجب معرفته عن قانون يهودية دولة إسرائيل المثير للنزاع

Jonathan Lis/Haaretz/July 19/18
The law is significantly softer than the original legislation and is mostly symbolic
Why was the nation-state law necessary?
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sought to have the bill passed to enshrine the concept that “Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people” as a basic law, meaning one that has quasi-constitutional status. The prime minister has also demanded that the Palestinian Authority acknowledge this aspect of Israel’s character as a condition for a future peace agreement with it. The new law, which was passed by the Knesset early Thursday morning, is also designed to alter the application of the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty in court rulings, and permit judges to give priority to Israel’s Jewish character in their rulings. The government coalition tried to get a more sweeping version of the nation-state bill passed, which would have brought about more significant change.
Before the text of the bill was softened, the bill would have conferred prime standing to the country’s Jewish national values and subordinate its democratic values to them. In addition, the original version included a provision that would have permitted the creation of Jewish-only communities, but that was significantly modulated. In May, another controversial provision, which would have had courts refer to traditional Jewish religious law, halakha, on matters that existing law does not address, was dropped
In the end, the law that was passed enshrines a collection of declarations regarding the country’s commitment to its citizens and to Jews in the Diaspora, regarding the status of Israeli Arabs and with regard to state symbols. The words “democracy and “equality” do not appear at all in the law.
How have we managed up to now without the law?
The nation-state law is mainly a symbolic measure designed to enshrine national values in a basic law. Most of its provisions were already on the law books and have been restated in the new law from existing legislation. The appearance of the Israeli flag, the national anthem “Hatikva” and the state symbol were already the subject of a law from 1949. The provision declaring Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was incorporated in full from the Basic Law on Jerusalem, the Capital of Israel. And the section on reference by the courts to Jewish religious law, which was ultimately dropped, already appears in the law on the foundations of the legal system.
How will the law affect the lives of Israelis?
There is nothing in the nation-state law that was passed that involves provisions subject to practical application, so its impact will now be up to the Israeli government and the policies that it adopts in the spirit of the law. The new legislation could provide support for a series of controversial government decisions.
For example, because, at the demand of the ultra-Orthodox parties, the nation-state law calls for the state to maintain the ties with Jews in the Diaspora but does not mention a similar commitment within Israel, so the government could evade carrying out plans for the pluralist Jewish prayer area at the Western Wall.
Another possibility is that the new law could spur revival of the campaign to boost the Jewish population of the Negev and Galilee by establishing communities with a Jewish character, based on the nation-state law’s provision that the state “views the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will work to encourage and advance its establishment and consolidation.”
Could the law bar Arab Israelis from living in Jewish locales?
No. The version that would have permitted the establishment of Jewish-only communities was deleted from the final legislation. Deputy Attorney General Raz Nizri said this week that the final version would not prevent Arabs from buying homes or living in communities planned for Jews, but he noted that the final bill does have a provision that would make it possible to provide incentives for constructing communities with a clearly Jewish character.
“It will not be possible to create a city and designate it as a ‘Jewish city,’” Nizri said, “but if public buildings are constructed, they will be for synagogues and not mosques. That doesn’t mean that an Israeli Arab will be barred from buying a home in the new city.”
In practice, how will the status of the Arabic language be affected?
As a practical matter, the nation-state law provides that there will be no change whatsoever in the existing status of Arabic. Therefore the obligation to post signs that include Arabic will remain and government documents will continue to be issued in Arabic. The law provides that Hebrew is the “state language” and confers a lower “special status” on Arabic, and also states that regulations on its use in state institutions will be provided for in subsequent legislation.
Knesset members from the predominantly Arab Joint List faction said the final version of the law harms their efforts to boost the status of Arabic and to advance legislation that would require that television broadcasts and movies be subtitled in Arabic.
How will the provision of the nation-state law declaring Jerusalem as Israel’s capital affect the city?
The clause states that the “whole and united Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.” In practice, this won’t change the status of the city or its neighborhoods or how the Education Ministry or Jerusalem municipality relate to Arab neighborhoods.
Could the law do harm to Israel’s international standing?
The international community and Diaspora Jews applied heavy pressure on Israel not to pass the original version of the bill, saying that it would harm minorities as well as ties with American Jewry and Jewish communities in other countries. Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit considered the possible harm to Israel’s standing and the final version was considerably toned down at his request.

Donald Trump And The Carl Schmitt Spectrum
Amir Taheri/Asharq Al Awsat/July 20/18
Has Donald Trump been reading Carl Schmitt in secret? The thought came to mind the other day when the US president was concluding his two-day “working visit” to the United Kingdom with a series of impromptu statements before flying to Scotland to play golf. It was by using the term “foe” to describe Russia, China and even the European Union that Trump reminded me of Schmitt.
“We have many foes,” Trump asserted while implicitly casting himself as the embodiment of a total state that represents the people, the ordinary folk, the joe down the block, as opposed to the sneering ad self-serving elite.
Schmitt was born in 1888 in a German Catholic family and trained as a jurist, ending as one of the most original political thinkers of the last century. His aim was to extend the Hobbesian theory of the state as a necessary evil without which no civilized society could be developed let alone maintained. At the time Schmitt was refining his theories, first expressed in a slim book “Leviathan”, the Weimar Republic in Germany was in its death throes as the very concept of statehood was torn to pieces by radical groups on both the left and the right.
Schmitt believed that because politics was an arena in which the choice was between “friend” and “enemy”, a strong state was required to protect all, and enable rival ideas and groups to compete for power in the context of a social contract based on the law. Schmitt thought that the Nazi Party which had won the general election in 1933 might prevent the dissolution of the German state and provide the framework in which “friend” and “enemy” could be identified.
That assumption led him to enlist in a party that proved to be miles away from his deep-held beliefs. Less than three years later, Schmitt was expelled from the party and became a “non-person” until the end of the war.
It was from the 1960s onwards that Schmitt started to make an at first timid comeback on the academic and political scenes. Interestingly, he attracted interest from both left and right. The French philosopher Raymond Aaron, the patron saint of the liberal right in Western Europe, put Schmitt on a pedestal for his laser-like penetration of the deepest mysteries of political power. On the left, the Marxist philosopher Slavoj Zizek has built some of his key theories around his reading, or some might say mis-reading, of Schmitt.
Schmitt’s thoughts could be used in a variety of context, to criticize political correctness, to discredit weak, neither-here-nor-there, coalition governments, a globalization that effaces the personality of every nation by creating a “great everywhere” in which all cities and countries resemble each other, and a constant search for victims rather than heroes that encourages everyone to find and cash on any real or imagined grievance fomented by what Trump calls "fake news".
In 2012 during a visit to China I was surprised to learn that Schmitt had become something of a best-seller in the People’s Republic. Among his readers and admirers, I was told, was the new party chief and head of state Xi Jinping.
I am not sure that trump has actually read any of Schmitt’s books although some of them are available in English thanks to expert translations and introductions by my old friend professor George Schwab.
Trump’s use of Schmittian shibboleths may have been inspired by some members of his entourage. Whatever the case, it is important to know how those concepts and similar concepts based on them are used. Depicting a rainbow of political positions, Schmitt puts what he calls the “foe” or “hostis” in Latin at one extreme of the political spectrum.
In its boldest form the “foe” is the force that wishes not only to defeat you in a contest or even a war but strives to destroy you. Because of its epistemological roots in Catholic theological lexicon, the “foe” is a concept better suited to religious conflict than political confrontation. Thus to describe Russia, China and the European Union as “foes” is clearly trans-Schmittian.
At another level, especially in democratic societies, the choice may be between “friend” and “enemy”. Here, the enemy does not want to wipe you out or even to force you to submit to all his wishes. He wants to deny you a bigger share of power which he wants to keep for himself.
Seen in that light the United States today has neither “foe” nor an “enemy”, at the level of a state, although in the latter case some like the Islamic Republic in Iran, the wayward leftist clique in Venezuela, and, at least until recently, the weird set-up in North Korea, do speak of “the American enemy.” The reason they can’t qualify as “enemy”, even less as “foe”, is that they do not have the wherewithal for playing in the same league as the US.
If we wish to use the Schmittian method we could say that the US has a number of “adversaries”, one rung below “enemy” and two rungs below “foe.” Before the Helsinki summit I would have put Russia in that category, at least because of its behavior in eastern and central Europe and the Middle East. Now, however, a possibility exists that Russia might be transformed into a “rival”, or as Trump puts it a “competitor”, three rungs below “foe” and one below “adversary”.
China is certainly a competitor, at least in economic domains and more recently, with Xi Jinping’s claim that China is also offering an alternative to the Jeffersonian model promoted by the US. In a sense the Chinese model of “strong state” is closer to Schmitt’s ideal than America’s outwardly chaotic democracy.
The case of the European Union is more difficult to gauge as most of the 28 members are also allies of the United States, some could even be described as “friends” in the side of the Schmittian spectrum opposite the slot given to “foe”. While some EU members act as “rivals” or “competitors” one of them is willing, or at least capable, of behaving as an “adversary” let alone a “foe.”
The task of diplomacy and political leadership is to go through the Schmittian spectrum, turning foe into enemy, enemy into adversary, adversary into rival and rival into ally and ally into friend. May be, just may be, in his unorthodox way Trump is trying to do just that. So, let’s give him a chance. What do you say?

Turkey: Exposing Crimes of ISIS is Terrorism
Uzay Bulut/Gatestone Institute/July 20/18
In an Orwellian nightmare, Eren Erdem, a former MP, journalist and the author of 9 books, who has courageously dedicated his career to exposing and condemning terrorist organizations, is now being accused of "aiding terrorists". The real terrorists he has condemned, however, remain free.
Erdem is paying the price for telling the truth in Turkey. He has risked his life to stop ISIS and help save lives. Now is the time for human rights activists and the media to defend him.
"Where are the police forces? I identified 10.000 addresses [of ISIS members] in these documents of investigations conducted by prosecutors and judges.... Why are these men not in jail?" — Eren Erdem.
"If the commission we proposed were established, we would crush all of the ISIS cells across in Turkey in a few months. There would be no cell left. Because we know the addresses of these cells. We learn them from the police... We also learn from the investigations by police that ISIS members get organized in Istanbul through a magazine called 'The Islamic World'. But there has been no police operation against them. This is not neglect. This is cooperation [with ISIS]." — Eren Erdem.
How does Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan fight his political opponents, including those who have been working hard to expose the atrocities of the Islamic state terror group, ISIS? By throwing them into jail for allegedly "supporting terrorism."
Since the 2016 botched coup attempt in Turkey, Erdogan has been waging a massive crackdown on his opponents and critics, including politicians, political activists, journalists and members of the Turkish security forces and army.
The latest victim of this crackdown is Eren Erdem, a former deputy of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), who is known for his activities to expose the crimes of ISIS and other terrorist groups.
Erdem was recently detained on charges of "aiding a terrorist organization" and is also being investigated for "insulting the Turkish state." He faces a prison sentence of 9 to 22 years on charges of "knowingly and willingly aiding an armed terrorist organization as a non-member", "revealing the identity of an anonymous witness" and "violating the confidentiality of the investigation."
The author of nine books, Erdem worked as a journalist before being elected as a CHP member of parliament for Istanbul in 2015. He appears to be the bravest MP who has exposed ISIS activities across Turkey during his tenure and has often urged the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government to stop these activities and bring the perpetrators to account.
Erdem meticulously cited evidence from criminal cases, indictments and investigations by state authorities as well as news reports in his statements and parliamentary motions. On December 10, 2015, for example, Erdem made a speech in Turkey's parliament about ISIS activities in Turkey. These included ISIS's transfer of the ingredients of sarin gas through Turkey to Syria "with which thousands of children were murdered in the Middle East". Referring to the investigation and indictment by the Adana office of a public prosecutor, he said:
"Some people in Turkey have contacted the members of the ISIS terrorist organization and transferred the raw material of sarin gas, which is a chemical weapon, to Syria. The prosecutor started an investigation on this. The suspects who carried out the transfer were arrested and jailed. Upon the order of the prosecutor, the telephones of all suspects were wiretapped, the details of which are in this indictment... But within a week, the case was closed, the suspects were released and allowed to leave Turkey to cross the border to Syria."
Because of the statements he made in parliament, Erdem became the target of a smear campaign, particularly after he spoke to the international press. In December 2015, for example, he told RT: "Chemical weapon materials were brought to Turkey and put together in ISIS camps in Syria, which was known as the Iraqi Al-Qaeda at that time."
Erdogan, condemning Erdem for the RT interview, said that Erdem "has sunk in the pit of treason" and called on the CHP to dismiss him: "Shame on his party, me and my nation for letting him stay in his party." A investigation into treason was then launched against Erdem.
Erdem then stated that after the publication of the interview, he received death threats over social media, with his home address posted by pro-government Twitter users presumably to enable an attack on his house: "I just shared the contents of the indictment with the people... I provided them with a document... [The government] is carrying out a lynching campaign against me. Because they are disturbed by me. I have exposed their filths and exploitation of religion in my books... I have received more than a thousand death threats. My email address is filed with death threats... If something happens to me, the pro-government media and AKP deputies are responsible."
Undeterred by the pressure and threats, Erdem has continued exposing and speaking about the activities of jihadist terror groups in the region. During a speech at Turkey's parliament in June 2016, for instance, Erdem once again criticized the government for turning a blind eye to ISIS activities: "ISIS has sleeper cells in Turkey. These cell houses are monitored [by state authorities]... The information gained from technical surveillance on these cells has confirmed that ISIS is organized in Turkey."
The. primary suspect of ISIS's terror attack in Ankara, Erdem said, who goes by acronym I.B. [Ibrahim Bali] "sent 1,800 terrorists to ISIS, all of whom were monitored through technical surveillance but not a single police or military operation was carried out on them... Where are the police forces? I identified 10.000 addresses [of ISIS members] in these documents of investigations conducted by prosecutors and judges.... Why are these men not in jail?"
Erdem also commented on the Turkish language online magazine published by ISIS, Konstantiniyye: "ISIS sends these magazines to bookstores and its cell houses. The government knows this. But no police or military operation has been carried out on anywhere including the printing house of this magazine."
Erdem then showed a photo of the "database" interface ISIS created of its injured and treated members and said that many ISIS terrorists received medical treatment in Turkey. He also called on the parliament to open a commission to investigate ISIS activities in Turkey, but the call was rejected by the votes of the ruling AKP party. A day later, at a press conference at Turkey's parliament, Erdem said:
"If the commission we proposed were established, we would crush all of the ISIS cells across in Turkey in a few months. There would be no cell left. Because we know the addresses of these cells. We learn them from the police... We also learn from the investigation by police that ISIS members get organized in Istanbul through a magazine called 'the Islamic World'. But there has been no police operation against them. This is not neglect. This is cooperation [with ISIS]."
Erdem also said that he received threats and curses on social media after he proposed establishing a commission for investigating ISIS. He added that he was provided with security guards by the governor as a precaution to death threats.
Eren Erdem at a June 2016 press conference. (Image source: Eren Erdem video screenshot)
In May 2018, an Islamist association demanded prosecutors to issue an arrest warrant against Erdem. He responded that he was "being exposed to yet another lynching campaign". He then received a ban on going abroad as he was about to leave Turkey for Germany with his family on May 21. He was stopped at the Istanbul airport by authorities and his passport was seized.
When Erdem's party, the CHP, failed to nominate him as MP candidate for June 24 elections, he lost his parliamentary seat and his immunity. On June 26, he was arrested in Istanbul.
The terror organization to which Erdem's indictment refers is the FETÖ (Fethullahist Terrorist Organization), named after Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen. It is an organization that Erdogan and other members of the Turkish government accuse of staging a 2016 attempted coup, and often use as an excuse to arrest its critics.
A lawsuit was filed against Erdem due to his works at newspaper Karşı, where Erdem was the editor-in-chief. The accusation that he is a "FETÖ supporter" is particularly baseless given that in 2016, he published a book entitled "Nurjuvazi" that criticized Gülen and his movement.
In the meantime, a former CHP deputy announced on July 3 that CHP MPs who wanted to visit Erdem in prison were not given permission by authorities. "This," he wrote on Twitter, "is isolation against Erdem."
Another investigation was recently opened against him that is looking into his criticism against the Free Syrian Army (FSA) for allegedly violating Article 301 of the penal code, which prescribes prison terms for "denigration of Turkey, the Turkish nation, or Turkish government institutions."
In an Orwellian nightmare, a former deputy and a journalist who has so courageously dedicated his career to exposing and condemning terrorist organizations, is now being accused of "aiding terrorists". The real terrorists he has condemned, however, remain free.
Erdem is paying the price for telling the truth in Turkey. He has risked his life to stop ISIS and help save lives. Now is the time for human rights activists and the media to defend him.
*Uzay Bulut, a journalist from Turkey, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Gatestone Institute. She is currently based in Washington D.C.
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Syria’s encrypted messages to Jordan
Shehab Al-Makahleh/Al Arabiya/July 20/18
Regional geopolitical requirements, along with internal political and security concerns, have been the main pillars of Jordanian policy vis-à-vis the Syrian crisis. The management of security concerns associated with the growing terrorism on its northern border had become the main objective of Jordan’s foreign policy. Thus, many Jordanians are upbeat that bilateral relations will be back to normalcy in light of new realities in Syria in the field in pursuance of the tone of the Syrian officials towards Jordan. Since the outbreak of the conflict in 2011, Jordanian diplomacy has been characterized by much mistrust and caution regarding the Syrian conflict unlike other neighbors of Syria. Thus, Jordan has been deeply concerned by instability and violence spreading to its territory. Naturally, it has been Amman’s priority to adapt to the crisis on its northern border, not the issue of the survival or demise of the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as Jordan has consistently sought a political agreement to end the conflict.
Fresh start
Jordanian politicians and people believe that it is the time to let bygones be bygones and to start afresh as Jordan and Syria should have close ties at all levels regardless of pressure Jordan is undergoing from regional and international powers. When Jordan kept its embassy open in Damascus that was a positive signal to the Syrian regime that the kingdom keeps the minimum level of communication, which has been a wise and prudent policy at that time due to regional and international pressure. There is no doubt that Jordan’s concern about the growing extremism on its northern border has been a severe blow for the armed opposition factions at a time the kingdom maintained close contact with the Kremlin even before Russia launched its air campaign end of September 2015. This has helped Jordan pursue political realism through its rapprochement with Moscow, which led to the demise and decline of armed opposition forces. As Moscow plays the role of “decision maker” in Syria, things seem to be heading towards restoring the regime control over crossings points between Jordan and Syria not only Naseeb-Jaber but also Ramtha-Dera’a with Russian help.
Terms to open borders
After the liberation of Naseeb crossing, Jordanian politicians close to the Syrian government had been informed by Damascus that the border point will not be opened before a comprehensive strategic understanding with Jordan is reached, not only for economic purposes but also for strategic and security considerations. This entails that Syrian and Jordanian officials would be paying mutual visits in the coming era, a gesture to start or restore official relations. Despite Jordan’s official statements that Amman’s relations with Damascus are ongoing at military and diplomatic levels with the Syrian side, the Syrian regime’s intention in the aftermath of recovering Nasseb crossing to have full relations with Jordan reflect otherwise. This entails the exchange of ambassadors first before any talk about economic, security and political ties.
In May 2018, Amman received many positive messages from Damascus to re-establish contacts related to border arrangements between the two countries. Such Syrian messages have been decrypted by Jordan, some of which demonstrated the Syrian government’s willingness to overcome the old political differences to start economic activities in the reconstruction process of Syria with the Jordanian private sector.
This explains the visit of the chairman of Jordanian Chambers of Industry to Syria last May, accompanied by a number of businessmen. Some of these messages have also included assurances that the Syrian government understands Jordan’s atmospherics and pressure exerted on the country since 2011. However, communications through Jordanian security and military channels have been active, and political and diplomatic channels remained open. Before March 2011, Jordan and Syria have largely formulated their economic and political affairs based on a sprouting sequence of strategic partnerships.
A breakthrough? When Jordan’s King Abdullah II said in an interview with Jordan News Agency, Petra, that he is “deeply concerned” about the situation in southern Syria and that his country’s border with Syria would only reopen “when the right security conditions materialize on the ground,” this is the condition that Jordan has for the Syrian government. And with the recovery of the borders with Jordan, this condition is met and Jordan is looking forward to reopening the crossing point to jump-start trade activities. However, this is not what Syria wants at present.
In spite of all differences that marred Jordanian-Syrian ties for eight years, bilateral relations are moving in an increasingly positive direction. The coming months may prove to be pivotal ones in their relations, bringing temperature to their pre-2011 era. Since August 2017, al-Assad has been sending positive messages to Jordan.
The remarks of the Syrian president and his interviews with foreign TV channels reveal that Damascus does not attach great importance to the opening of the border with Jordan soon, but attaches importance to a comprehensive security, political, military and economic deal that will help reach a kind of rapprochement and a détente between both governments. It is a full package deal or nothing. Damascus has been sending messages to Jordan through Germany which is deemed an honest broker and a source of confidence for the Syrian government. These messages focused on the readiness of the Syrian regime to trade the Iranian presence on the Jordanian border with disarming the opposition and the Free Syrian Army factions. The Naseeb crossing is one of the Middle East’s busiest trade routes as it connects Europe to the Middle East. Before the closure of borders, Jordan’s customs handled $1.5 billion-worth of goods a year. Now that amount is zero. Before the Syrian uprising in 2011, more than 5,000 trucks used to cross the border each month.

‘Resurrection’ of Safar al-Hawali
Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/July 20/18
Dr. Safar al-Hawali’s name is back in the spotlight following the “campaign” which accompanied the “huge” book attributed to him – Muslims and western civilization – which is over 3,000 pages. What’s strange is that Hawali has suffered a stroke in 2005 and it has affected him just like it would affect anyone who suffers from such a hardship. So how could he be so lengthy in addressing Arab transformations in general and specifically Saudi transformations and put them under the Sahawist x-ray of political Islam groups’ laboratories with their Sururist-Qutbist version?
Anyway, according to the few parts reviewed, this type of thinking and analysis harmonizes with Safar al-Hawali’s own intellectual and political history. It’s very possible that he resorted to the help of a team of assistant researchers, especially given his experience of writing via a team like the case was with explaining the book A Muslim theologian’s response to Christianity by Ibn Taymiyyah. Back then, i.e. before he got sick, he carried out his work through a research center and a group of researchers. There’s nothing new in al-Hawali’s large volumes but a modern recollection of what he wrote, lectured and preached at his mosque in Jeddah or residence in Mecca and a recollection of his famous lectures at Umm al-Hamam Mosque in Riyadh during the peak of war which the country fought against Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990.
Safar al-Hawli represented the theoretical spearhead of the Saudi Sururist Movement, and was a close student of Muhammad Qutb, the brother of Sayyid Qutb. He tried to localize Sayyid Qutb’s theories in the local Salafist environment by explaining the book Al-Aqidah al-Tahawiyyah and via other attempts.
Political Islam
I remember that during Sadam’s invasion of Kuwait, protests erupted. Some of these protests erupted on an Arabist “nationalist” basis and some on a leftist basis but most of them – and this is what’s important – erupted on the basis of political Islam. Symbols of the so-called Sahwa in Saudi Arabia were the leaders of the scene. Figures like Dr. Safar al-Hawali and others warned and intimidated of the international alliance and of its real intentions. Circumstances were critical and sensitive.  What we recall well – and plenty of it can be found on the internet – is Hawali’s approach to the crisis as he chose to address a huge political event via religion and the sacred so he chose some texts from a massive heritage collection to project it on this specific event, i.e. Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait, and made it an introduction to the end of time and the talk of the end of time epics. Back then, Hawali based his analysis on talking about al-Rum (the Orthodox). According to him, al-Rum are the entire of Europe and America and perhaps Australia and New Zealand, regardless of the specific historical meaning of the word, “the Byzantines.” Nothing of what Sheikh Safar and all Sahawist movements warned of happened. Their failure at making expectations did not even make them review themselves and their approach for one second! They rather moved on and got preoccupied with other events using the same analytical mechanism and approaches. It’s like nothing happened! Today, Qatar’s channels, the Brotherhood’s global platforms and their friends from the left have been added to Safar’s audience.
History is repeating itself.

Punish ignorant people who promote sectarianism
Mohammed Al Shaikh/Al Arabiya/July 20/18
It is said that once a Sunni Palestinian and a Shiite Iraqi were debating in London over Husayn ibn Ali and Muawiyah and who was better among the two. The heated debate escalated into a fight so the police intervened, arrested both and referred them to the judiciary. The British judge obviously asked them who Husayn and Muawiyah are and where they live. He was shocked to know that the scuffle was over a historical dispute going back 14 centuries so he sent both to a psychiatric institution. I am not sure how true this story is, but it exemplifies the effect of history on the mentality of most Muslims – a mentality which often produces bloodshed. I have no doubt that this conveys sheer ignorance and backwardness. There are also lecturers or who are recently dubbed as preachers who have made a lot of money by milking these issues, both among the Sunni and the Shiite. They tend to insult whoever objects to these trivialities and superstitions. I definitely believe that inciting sectarian arguments is like a virus which if it attacks national unity, it leads to strife, unrest and destroys security and stability. We have a clear example of this happening in Iraq due to the sectarian conflict among its national components. However, this situation would never stabilize unless sectarian fanaticism is renounced. If nostalgia and engaging in arguments about the past stir up sedition, then logically and out of Islamic perspective such issues should not be discussed. The evidence is in the Quran: “That is a nation which has passed on. It will have [the consequence of] what it earned, and you will have what you have earned. And you will not be asked about what they used to do.” Raking up sectarian issues despite Quranic prohibition is because some people benefit from it.
Preachers have made a lot of money by milking sectarian issues, both among the Sunni and the Shiite
Stoking instability
In addition to preachers, there are foreign parties that try to stoke instability and crisis in the community. Without realizing, the members of this community become slaves of the foreign party and serve its interests. Their stupidity is thus exploited to achieve foreign parties’ mean goals. On top are proponents of Vilayat-e Faqih republic. We never witnessed such disputes before Khomeini took power in Iran, though there were traces of these problems in some heritage books. Once Khomeini’s revolution succeeded, he raised contentious doctrines and stoked rivalry, which ensued in widespread hatred. He hired agents to revive the disputes of the past. Although the clerics of Iran claim that they support the unity of the Islamic nation, and that they transcend sectarian differences but their policies in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Bahrain invalidate their claims especially that they have found the means to achieve their goals in these countries.
I do not hold the Persian clerics as being solely responsible for this problem. There are many Sunni and other preachers as well as some naive and ignorant people in the community who help them achieve their goals and promote sectarian divisions without knowing it.
Thus, I call for the enactment of strict and deterrent policies to stop these ignorant people and purify our nation and more importantly our educational curricula from everything that may break up the national bond.