July 22/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven
Matthew 05/43-48: "‘You have heard that it was said, "You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy."But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on July 21-22/18
First killing people in the name of the land... then killing the land/Dr. Jack Tohme/Annahar/July 21/18
Analysis/With Syria Still Roiling, War With Israel Is the Last Thing Hezbollah Needs/Zvi Bar'el/Haaretz/July 21/18
Turkey: American Pastor Brunson in Prison; ISIS Terrorists Roam Free/Uzay Bulut/Gatestone Institute/July 21, 2018
Reimplementing Iran Sanctions: Where, How, and How Much/Daniel L. Glaser, Suzanne Maloney, and Katherine Bauer/The Washington Institute/July 21/18
The Muslim Brotherhood controversy in the West/Abdullah bin Bijad Al-Otaibi/Al Arabiya/July 21/18
Rebellion of a rich country’s poor/Hazem al-Amin/Al Arabiya/July 21/18
Iraq and its imminent destiny/Amal Abdulaziz Al–Hazani/Al Arabiya/July 21/18
Sururists and the rumor-mongers/Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran/Al Arabiya/July 21/18
Houthi disarmament prerequisite for ending war in Yemen/Mohammed Al Shaikh/Al Arabiya/July 21/18
How Russia wangled Israel into phony Gaza “ceasefire,” and acceptance of Iranian/Hizballah in the north/Debka File/July 21/18
Iran’s vicious and rapidly growing dominance/Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/July 21/18
Iran’s ‘fantasy’ of support from Putin/Camelia Entekhabifard/Arab News/July 21/18
Exclusive: German Intelligence Contradicts Merkel On Iran's Nuclear Drive/Jerusalem Post/July 21/18
Titles For The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on July 21-22/18
Lebanon’s PM-Designate: Consensus is the Only Solution
Hariri Hails Moscow’s Plan Proposal for Refugees' Return
In Madrid, Hariri Says Govt. Formation Nearing, Consensus is 'Only Solution'
Lebanon Condemns Israeli ‘Jewish Nation-State Decision’
Report: Refugees Return File ‘On the Horns of a Dilemma’
Israel Tries to Kidnap Lebanese Shepherd in Kfarshouba
Bassil ascends highest cross in Batroun
Former President Amine Gemayel Says Top Officials Must Exercise Powers, Cut Loose From Conditions to Form Government
First killing people in the name of the land... then killing the land
With Syria Still Roiling, War With Israel Is the Last Thing Hezbollah Needs

Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on July 21-22/18
Russia Imposes Implementation of ‘Separation Agreement’ in Golan
Kurdish militants kill 11 Iran Guards at Iraqi border post
Rebels Reach North Syria after South Evacuations
Air raids on last ISIS pocket in south Syria kill 26 civilians
Iraq protests death toll reaches 11 amid ongoing popular unrest
Kremlin says Russian, French leaders discuss humanitarian aid to Syria
Khamenei rejects talks with US, praises Rouhani threat to close Hormuz Strait
Sisi: Sudan’s Security Part of Egypt’s Security
Egyptian, UN efforts help broker ceasefire agreement in Gaza
Gaza Truce Holds after Israeli Strikes over Soldier Death
Hamas Considers Kushner, Greenblatt and Friedman Israeli Spokesmen
Gaza Truce Largely Holds, Balloons Not Included in Deal
Houthis Plead with Putin to Stop Liberation of Hodeidah
Gunmen Kill Two Policemen in Russia's Troubled Dagestan
The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on July 21-22/18
Lebanon’s PM-Designate: Consensus is the Only Solution
Beirut - Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 21 July, 2018/Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri has reiterated that the new government will be formed soon, stressing the importance of respecting consensus among different factions. “A government cannot be formed on the basis of majority and minority. We tried this in the past and we did not succeed. This is why consensus is the only solution in the country,” said Hariri during his visit to Spain. “My role as Prime Minister-designate is to bring all parties together in spite of political disputes, which we have to put aside and focus on improving the country and developing various sectors,” he told Lebanese students at the IE Business School in Madrid. “In the past, we were able to put our differences aside, succeeding in making several achievements that serve the interest of Lebanon and the citizens.”But first he called for “combating corruption effectively.”About the displaced Syrians in Lebanon, he said: “The presence of one and a half million displaced person is very strenuous for our country. But their presence is not the only cause of our suffering today. If we had invested years ago in transport, technology, health and education we would have spared the country a lot of what it is enduring.”During his visit, Hariri met with Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez . Discussions focused on the latest developments in Lebanon and the region, and bilateral relations.

Hariri Hails Moscow’s Plan Proposal for Refugees' Return
Naharnet/July 21/18/Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri asked his adviser for Russian affairs, George Shaaban, to communicate with Russian officials to find out the details about a proposal announced by Moscow regarding the return of Syrian refugees from Lebanon and Jordan, Hariri’s media office said on Saturday. To this end, Shaaban met with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov. Talks focused on the details announced by Head of the Russian National Defense Management Center Colonel General Mikhail Mizintsev, “on organizing the return of displaced persons to the places where they lived before the war."Shaaban stressed that Hariri welcomes all efforts exerted by Moscow “leading to a joint plan for the return of refugees, mainly from Lebanon and Jordan. And, the formation of a joint working group, according to the Russian declaration.”He stressed that Hariri is “counting on this step, which would help solve the refugees’ crisis in Lebanon and put an end to their humanitarian suffering, and serious social and economic repercussions on the host countries.”

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

Naharnet/July 21/18/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."

Lebanon Condemns Israeli ‘Jewish Nation-State Decision’

Naharnet/July 21/18/Lebanon condemned the latest Israeli law defining Israel as a “nation state of Jewish people,” as the law provoked fears it could lead to blatant discrimination against Arab citizens. President Michel Aoun condemned the Israeli move and warned against the threat of “resettlement. “ He said the move is “a new Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people and their right to self-determination, an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital, and the restoration of all its territory. “It is a flagrant violation of the UN resolutions that affirmed the right of return for the Palestinians, foremost of which is Resolution 194,” said Aoun. For his part, Speaker Nabih 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.”
Lebanon’s Foreign Ministry warned of the repercussions and stressed “on the sacred right of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and neighboring countries to return to their homeland. “The Israeli decision carries serious dimensions that require the Lebanese to adopt a unified position transcending all political differences. Israel may be planning for aggressive decisions against the Palestinian people that may reach to the expulsion of Palestinians who hold Israeli citizenship and are non-Jews. The resolution also closes the door for Palestinian refugees to return to the city of Jerusalem,” the Free Patriotic Movement said.
Hizbullah party described it as a “racist decision” warning of the consequences, but at the same time said “the Palestinian people are capable of transforming it into a victory.” "We are saddened by the weakness of the Arab and Islamic position and by the preoccupation of some Arabs with absurd wars against the free people of this country, while they are competing for the victory of the enemy and for achieving its interests," said a Hizbullah statement. Al-Mustaqbal Movement considered the Knesset's decision as "dangerous" and adding to the “Israeli enemy's long record of reviving the concepts of racism, isolationism and extremism.” The Movement called on the United Nations to “fulfill its historic responsibilities to realize the right to the Palestinian cause and put an end to Israeli aggression.”Israel's parliament on Thursday adopted the law defining the country as the nation state of the Jewish people. Arab lawmakers and Palestinians called the law "racist" and said it legalised "apartheid" following a tumultuous debate in parliament. Others said it neglects to specify equality and Israel's democratic character, implying that the country's Jewish nature comes first.
The European Union expressed concern and called for the rights of minorities to be respected. 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.

Report: Refugees Return File ‘On the Horns of a Dilemma’
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 21/18/Lebanese parties are divided over the controversial file of refugees and whether a coordination with the Syrian government is best for the country to facilitate their return, media reports said Saturday. March 8 alliance camp believes “direct dialogue” between the Lebanese and Syrian governments is the only means to address the issue, al-Joumhouria daily reported. Meanwhile, March 14 alliance sources told the newspaper that “al-Mustaqbal Movement, the Progressive Socialist Party and Lebanese Forces support the immediate return of the displaced on conditionally it is a safe one.”The sources argue that Syrian President “Bashar (Assad) has not changed, so normalization of relations with the Syrian regime is unacceptable. We can not agree to grant him any legitimacy or political and official coverage by the Lebanese state under the blackmail pressure he is practicing through the displaced file.”Lebanon hosts around 1 million registered Syrians — who account for roughly a quarter of the tiny country's population — and officials have said that Lebanon can no longer afford the strain on its fragile economy. More and more are returning however as the regime reasserts its control over larger parts of the country. Early in July, Damascus has approved the return of 450 Syrian refugees from Lebanon from a list of 3,000 requesting to do so, Lebanon's state news agency NNA had said. Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah announced that his party has created a mechanism to help Syrian refugees return home, “in coordination with Lebanese authorities and Damascus.”Nasrallah said the group was setting up centres with phone numbers and social media accounts where refugees could sign up to return home. Later in July, 294 Syrian refugees headed home from the Lebanese border town of Arsal. Earlier this year, around 500 refugees also left southern Lebanon for Syria in a return organised by Beirut and Damascus. Several thousand have independently left in recent years. More than 350,000 people have been killed and over half the country's population displaced since Syria's war started with the brutal repression of anti-government protests in 2011.

Israel Tries to Kidnap Lebanese Shepherd in Kfarshouba
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 21/18/An Israeli force attempted to kidnap a Lebanese shepherd on Thursday morning after crossing the line of withdrawal into Lebanon’s territories but failed in its endeavor, a statement released by the Lebanese Army-Orientation Directorate said. The troops trespassed 25 meters into disputed Lebanese territories in the outskirts of the border town of Kfarshouba. They tried to kidnap, but failed, the shepherd whose name was not identified, added the statement. Lebanese Army troops took the needed security measures in the area. Meanwhile the issue of the breach is being pursued with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon.

Bassil ascends highest cross in Batroun
Annahar Staff/ July 20/18 /BEIRUT: In a video posted on his personal Instagram account, Caretaker Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil was seen climbing the highest cross in Chtoura, Batroun.

Former President Amine Gemayel Says Top Officials Must Exercise Powers, Cut Loose From Conditions to Form Government Saturday 21st July 2018/Former President Amine Gemayel called on both the president and the prime minister-designate to restore their prerogatives and cut loose from the conditions being imposed by local factions, deeming this as the only way to get out of the government formation stalemate.“It is as if the government is a slice of cheese waiting to be eaten. When consensus is not reached between parties, the president and PM-designate must form a government that takes into consideration specific ministerial appointment criteria," Gemayel told Al-Akhbar newspaper. “It is fine even if this leads to the formation of a de-facto government should no agreement is reached on a national unity government. What is needed now is to pull the country out of this bottleneck and vacuum,” he said. Gemayel said that no one wants to admit the close connection between external axes and internal matters, adding that there has always been an intermingling between strategic foreign interests and domestic issues. “Despite its small size, Lebanon remains a major focus point in the region, getting affected by regional conflicts and the axes game which is likely to witness more developments and fluctuations in the next few months. There is someone who always wants to set his foothold in this country,” Gemayel explained. “Moreover, there are internal factors that are based on two elements: to seize the majority of the Cabinet seats so as to control the vote when needed, and to get hold of the obstructive third to overthrow the government since it would not be possible to do so arbitraly." Gemayel criticized President Michel Aoun for being biased in the government formation process, saying that the latter is not playing a neutral role as he is supposed to. “President Aoun is not being neutral. This is clear as he is not distinguishing between his ministerial share and the one allocated to the Free Patriotic Movement. I would have preferred that he rises above political bickering and detaches himself from all parties."
"The president’s share should be non-partisan and not part of any party’s quota," he concluded.

First killing people in the name of the land... then killing the land
Dr. Jack Tohme/Annahar/July 21/18
After nearly every visit to Lebanon, I have had that longing to write, draw or sculpt an impression of that trip.
BEIRUT: I just concluded yet another trip to Lebanon from my adopted country America.
It is probably my 100th New York-Beirut (or back) flight in four decades of refuge, exile or immigration, you can take your pick from one or more of these three words (describing what catapulted our war generations overseas for centuries). In my hands, on this flight, I have a great heartwarming gift, a just acquired and personally signed book of a famous Lebanese sociologist (almost as Lebanese American as I am).
One of the chapters made me want to plagiarize, with a strange sense of pleasure, if only to help spread the beauty of that book around to more of my compatriots (of a different generation, and who, like me, may not have had the opportunity to read and enjoy and admire this writing that was first published almost 30 years ago).
After nearly every visit to Lebanon, I have had that longing to write, draw or sculpt an impression of that trip. And one of my sons but especially my daughter often urged me to do so even lending a hand or a pad. There is a description in that book I am alluding to above that is written in such magical language that it seemed to beat the best painting or sculpture that one could try to produce in months or years of work.
The more complex choice of leaving Lebanon
Lebanon-Israel maritime dispute: Hundreds of billions of reasons to negotiate
Lebanon to examine legalizing cannabis for medicinal purposes
It conjured or awakened images imprinted in my eyes and in my mind. In addition, that chapter sparked and delivered to my heart a powerful and inspiring message. I seemed to quickly expand on that timeless message myself and felt the urge to deliver from it an outcry.
In that chapter Dr. Samir Khalaf invoked images of Lebanon’s colorful, lively and diverse scenes that seem to with every trip appear inexorably juxtaposed against a different set, the American set.
So as I juggled the keys in the pocket of my jacket looking forward to unlocking my suburban American home in a couple of hours, that I left behind 25 days ago, he managed to so correctly make me envision “the ordered, flat, antiseptic milestones of America: the manicured lawns and parks, shopping malls and mega-highways”, a contrast that is stark and clear from the Lebanese scenes of “ancient Roman monuments of Baalbek, Byblos, Tyre, Sidon, Anjar; Phoenician mosaics and amphitheaters, Crusaders’ castles; Ottoman souks and bazaars; feudal estates; fortresses, caverns, tombs and quaint villages with their picturesque red-tiled roofs huddled in deep gorges, on hilltops or coastal towns hugging the Mediterranean shore...”.
My heart smiled broadly as it “saw” those images better and faster than any of my 500 photos tucked in my smartphone could depict. I imagined large posters of these images on the wall, one of America the beautiful and one of Lebanon the beautiful.
Then I looked sideways and I imagined more posters, perhaps a third one as our writer goes on to describe, was of “the compelling view of Sannin, with the highest snow-capped peaks and ridges of Mount Lebanon standing out in splendor against the blue skies. It is incidentally this same view that captivated generations of Orientalist painters and engravers like Roberts, Taylor, Bartlett, Wilson, Van de Velde, Harper and Woodward; and inspired native poets and writers. It is also this view that is etched vividly in the memory of emigrants and speaks to their longing for the old country.” The eyes were joyfully dazed with the accuracy.
Our sociologist then went on to send a message of hope to his compatriots that they seem to have partially heeded so far: “Now that many of these young and old compatriots” with the war ending, “are in fact visiting parts of their country previously inaccessible to them, they have a chance to renounce all the alien and borrowed ideologies they embraced to sustain their belligerency. They could at least begin by disarming themselves of the instruments of collective violence.”
Disarming means no second civil war. That seems to have completely sunk into the Lebanese. I had often wondered if any nation had ever experienced two civil wars in rapid succession? Happily, I couldn’t think of any.
But sadly all other devastating civil wars seem to have been followed by successful nation-building. Not us. Our naturally optimistic sociologist was worried and somewhat prophetic as he went on to say that “Lebanon has long been plagued by disharmony between the beauty of its natural endowments and its boisterous political culture. An awakened sense of geography, sustained by an ethos for preserving and enriching the edifying features of their habitat, could be life-enhancing, enriching and a means of bringing tranquility and vitality.”
“Geography can be an antidote to fear. Stripped of their bigotry and intolerance, territorial entities could become the bases for the articulation of new cultural identities. With visionary leadership and enlightened spatial planning, communities can be resocialized to perceive differences as symbols not of distrust, fear and exclusion but of diversity and enrichment. Herein lies the hope, the only hope, for transforming the geography of fear, which has beleaguered Lebanon for so long, into a new political culture of tolerance.”
Have we heeded some of that golden advice? Has failure here become worse than the war itself? I see a fourth poster added to the three above (American suburbia, quaint Lebanese mountain villages and coastal towns and majestic Sannin head butting the blue skies). That fourth poster is now depicting the environmental disaster befalling Lebanon in the past few years.
This new poster stood in stark contrast as the saddest of the four, showing our dirty beach waters and the huge and omnipresent garbage dumps... and the poster now nearly wreaks of that smell at the Beirut airport when you disembark from the taxi to unload your suitcases onto the baggage carts. And it nearly chokes you with the dust and exhaust fumes of the traffic-choked street ways in Jounieh and Khalde.
All of a sudden, in that 1991 piece Dr. Khalaf seemed to me to be writing in a prescient fashion of how “ecological and environmental concerns are becoming generational issues. It is the eco-smart children who are most incensed by the damage done to their environment, it is, after all, their future abode that is being violated. For the disinherited children of Lebanon, almost half the victimized society, such concerns could well serve as the rallying call for their active reintegration and involvement in pacifying and healing their damaged environment.”
It is perhaps time that something needs to happen that is very “out of the box” in an attempt to fix this disaster. Before my plane read I had actually mentioned the environmental concerns to my airport taxi driver and his comment resonates now so well in my head. This man was about my age, and like me, was around during most of the hostilities of the 70s and 80s and he said that in many ways this current deplorable state of affairs is worse in 2018 than then.
He made it clear that two vital conditions for survival are now lacking, money ... and more: hope. He said there is definitely less money in people’s hands ... and less hope for a solution in their hearts. Think about that statement for a moment: in war, you know it will stop one day, and war financing is plentiful.
Today there is less money and a strong feeling of hopelessness, and that may explain the accelerating emigration despite no war, and all these tables in Beirut restaurants filled with Lebanese women only, an observation many have recently made, as their husbands and sons are working in faraway lands. The taxi driver may be right. And our sociologist is certainly absolutely accurate. Thus the republishing of his piece a couple of generations later.
So what to do? The government seems totally useless at least on societal issues: garbage, healthcare, electricity, internet, ease of doing business, tourism, traffic, education etc.
Perhaps it is time for a two-tier government: let the politicians divide among them, and keep the sovereignty portfolios. And let the services portfolios become a hybrid of technocrats and civic-minded leaders from the great well of local talent ...and the expatriates.
Some of that talent that is being exported daily to build companies and institutions in faraway lands can be redirected internally, utilizing the same skills that they have shown to be capable of, perhaps only as you strip politics from hard patriotic work. A national debate on such thoughts and other ideas are now becoming absolutely necessary. Yes, conventional wisdom will say that is nearly politically impossible, but what wisdom can one find in our current situation going unchecked? Something needs to be done to slow arrival of the train wreck awaiting us, as we strive at keeping hope alive and start planning for the hard work for our children’s and grandchildren’s future.
**Dr. Jack Tohme is an endocrinologist in the New York area and is affiliated with Columbia University and the Valley Hospital in New Jersey. He left Lebanon in the 1980s after having studied medicine and practiced in Beirut at the American University of Beirut Faculty of Medicine. He has now been in practice in the U.S. for more than 33 years. Dr. Tohme is also a board member of the American Task Force For Lebanon.
Analysis/With Syria Still Roiling, War With Israel Is the Last Thing Hezbollah Needs
في الهآررتس كتب رفي هاريل: لأن الحرب في سوريا لا تزال قائمة وموحلة وغير محسومة فإن أخر ما يحتاجه حزب الله هو الحرب مع إسرائيل

Zvi Bar'el/Haaretz/July 21/18
Absurdly, the fate of over a million Syrian refugees in Lebanon depends on coalition talks in Beirut; in the meantime, Hezbollah must carefully maneuver among political rivals to ensure its existence.
More than a million Syrian refugees in Lebanon are waiting impatiently to return home. Tens of thousands of them could already go back, and a few thousand have actually done so, but all the rest are stuck in their host country because of political power games in Beirut.
The refugees’ travails don’t much interest Lebanon’s caretaker government, which, two and a half months after the elections, still hasn’t managed to form a permanent government. Important now is who will blink first.
The fate of most of the refugees depends on whether the Lebanese government will hold direct talks with the Assad regime in Syria over their return, as both Hezbollah and President Michel Aoun want, or whether their return will be the United Nations’ responsibility with no direct contact between Lebanon and the Assad regime, as Prime Minister Saad Hariri and his supporters want.
The first option would imply Lebanese recognition of Syrian President Bashar Assad, thereby breaching the Arab states' boycott when they ousted Syria from the Arab League. Hariri’s position, in contrast, is that Lebanon shouldn’t grant diplomatic legitimacy to Assad until the Syrian civil war has ended and a new government acceptable to all sides is formed.
The vehement positions adopted by the rival Lebanese factions have given Lebanon, which for decades was a Syrian protectorate, an important diplomatic role. Other countries are also taking sides. Saudi Arabia and the United States support Hariri’s position, while Qatar and Iran are pushing for the refugees to be returned through direct negotiations with Assad.
Syria has said it’s willing to take the refugees back anytime. The large swaths of territory over which the regime has reasserted control would enable many of the refugees to return. The absurdity is that they’re now trapped in the thicket of Lebanese politics, which includes a dispute over how many ministers each party should have, and which portfolios.
Hezbollah and Foreign Minister Gibran Bassil – who heads the Free Patriotic Movement, a Christian party founded by Aoun – decided not to wait for a political decision. They moved quickly to open registration offices for refugees wanting to return to Syria. Aoun is also holding direct talks with Syria via the head of Lebanon’s intelligence agency, while Foreign Ministry people have gone out to survey towns and villages where unregistered refugees are staying to start preparations for their return.
Ostensibly, there's no technical barrier to the refugees’ return except the border crossings controlled by the Lebanese government, which has the power to decide whether to let them through. Moreover, all the Lebanese parties have an interest in offloading the refugees, who have been an enormous financial and administrative burden on Lebanon.
By contrast, Jordan, which is in a similar situation, announced immediately after the Syrian army retook most of southern Syria and the border crossing with Jordan that it wants all Syrian refugees living on its side of the border to go back.
Nor is it only the refugees who have become hostages to the political fight. Lebanese merchants and farmers, who could already start exporting their wares to the Arab world through Syria and Jordan, are also being tied down by the political dispute.
Christian and Sunni infighting
To pressure the Lebanese government, Damascus decided to permit only Syrian farmers and merchants, not Lebanese ones, to export via Jordan. If Lebanon wants to arm-wrestle with Assad, it will discover that he, too, has power to impose the “right” decision on Beirut.
Aside from its pro-Syrian stance on the refugee issue, Hezbollah is trying to portray itself as a neutral party in the dispute over the government lineup. For now, it can afford to watch from the sidelines because this time the main disputes are internal in both the Christian and Sunni camps, and it’s those disputes that are thwarting Harari’s efforts to form a cabinet.
The political math dictated by the election results guarantees Hezbollah at least three ministers. One of them will be in charge of one of the social service portfolios, probably health, which will let this minister control a sizable budget. Even more importantly, some of the money promised by donor states will naturally go through him.
This poses a problem, since donor states are liable to freeze their donations if the money goes through Hezbollah ministers. But the government can get around this by rerouting the donations.
The more important goal, from Hezbollah’s standpoint, is to form a bloc that controls one-third of the cabinet seats plus one. Thus if the cabinet is made up of 30 ministers, Hezbollah will want to be part of a bloc that controls at least 11 of those seats.
Such a bloc has a name in Lebanese politics. It’s called a “preventive” or “neutralizing” bloc, because under the Lebanese constitution, any major decision like approving the budget or declaring war requires approval by two-thirds of the cabinet. Thus in a cabinet of 30 ministers, it’s enough for 11 to vote no, block a decision and stymie the government’s ability to govern.
For the moment, Hezbollah can rely on the Christian Free Patriotic Movement, which is likely to have seven ministers, plus the three ministers Aoun is allowed to appoint as president. Thus together with Hezbollah’s guaranteed three ministers, the bloc is assured enough power to dictate policy.
But Hezbollah could find itself in a situation in which the Free Patriotic Movement and the president’s ministers team up; they would then need just one more minister to form their own preventive bloc – which, in certain circumstances, could block legislation or policies that Hezbollah favors. Therefore, despite Hezbollah’s alliance with the Free Patriotic Movement, it aims to reduce the Christian party’s power in the cabinet.
The other party vying for the “Christian seats” in the cabinet is the Lebanese Forces, led by Samir Geagea, which is demanding the same number of ministers as the Free Patriotic Movement. Geagea’s demand is based on an agreement he signed with the Free Patriotic Movement more than two years ago in an effort to prevent a rift in the Christian camp.
Under this agreement, not only would ministerial portfolios be divided equally between the two major Christian parties, so would top positions like diplomatic posts and the leadership of state-owned companies. But now that the time has come to implement the deal, leaders of the Free Patriotic Movement are saying they deserve more.
Nasrallah actually prefers Hariri
Hezbollah has feigned indifference to this dispute. “What emerged from the election results should be implemented,” said Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah. “People must be flexible and not withdraw into tactical, sectarian thinking that will undermine the necessary national equilibrium.”
Suddenly, Nasrallah is posing as loyal to the national equilibrium, devoid of sectarian or organizational interests. He’s pure as the driven snow and doesn’t sully himself in the political mud.
But Nasrallah is no political innocent. Far from it. He’s simultaneously conducting talks with his political rivals, including Hariri, who was forced to resign as prime minister by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman precisely because of his cooperation with Hezbollah.
Saudi Arabia had hoped to thereby dismantle the Lebanese government and embroil the country in chaos that would force it to run into Riyadh’s arms and divest itself of Iranian influence. But this plan failed. Lebanese protests and international intervention, especially by France, freed Hariri from house arrest in Saudi Arabia and allowed him to remain prime minister.
Now Hariri knows he’ll need Nasrallah’s support if he wants to finish forming a government anytime soon. The question is what price he’ll have to pay Hezbollah in return.
Still, the dependency isn’t all on one side, because Nasrallah actually prefers Hariri to the other prime ministerial candidates. That’s because he understands that Hariri’s stature, in both the West and the Middle East, plays an important role in securing legitimacy and international support for Lebanon.
But while Hezbollah knows how to maneuver in the Lebanese arena so as to preserve its power, the Syrian theater is putting the organization in a state of uncertainty. During the first four years of the civil war, Iran was Syria’s ally and Hezbollah served as a vital auxiliary force in Assad’s war against the rebels. But Russia’s intervention in the war in late 2015 reshuffled the deck.
Hezbollah’s desire to establish an anti-Israel front in the southwest of the Golan Heights was thwarted by Israel with the help of Russian pressure. Its entrenchment in the Qalamoun Mountains in western Syria, and along the Syrian-Lebanese border, is being shaken by Russian displays of force, politicians’ demands that it return its troops from Syria and Yemen, and demands by the bereaved families of the organization’s slain fighters, hundreds of whom have been killed in Syria. All these factors are forcing Hezbollah to start withdrawing its troops.
Nasrallah, who realizes how much pressure Russia is putting on Iran to withdraw its forces from the border and even from Syria altogether, has no way of knowing what kind of Syria will arise after the war. Granted, Assad will still be president, but will Syria resume serving as Grand Central Station for arms and ammunition shipments to Lebanon? Or are Russian President Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Assad cooking up some diplomatic surprise that would greatly restrict Hezbollah’s activities and/or its arms pipeline?
These are loose ends in the political and diplomatic tangle, and they obligate Hezbollah to act with redoubled caution in order to guarantee its existence. It must maneuver among its political rivals, see to it that the government roster serves its interests, and make sure it remains an Iranian strategic asset. A war against Israel wouldn’t help it do any of this.

The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published
on July 21-22/18
Russia Imposes Implementation of ‘Separation Agreement’ in Golan
London - Ibrahim Hamidi/Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 21 July, 2018/Details of an agreement reached between Damascus and opposition factions in the countryside of Quneitra revealed that the Russian police and regime forces would deploy in the strategic al-Hara hill to reactivate the Separation of Forces Agreement signed in 1974 between Syria and Israel. Fighters and civilians began on Friday leaving Quneitra province in the Golan Heights to Idlib in northwestern Syria in line with the deal. A copy of the deal, which has 13 clauses and was received on Friday by Asharq Al-Awsat, shows that “the army's Brigades 90 and 61 as well as the Russian police will return to the ceasefire line and the demilitarized zone, according to the 1974 agreement.” The deal stipulates that the Russian police will enter the UN posts to monitor the withdrawal of fighters opposing the agreement. According to some reports, this agreement is the culmination of previous understandings reached between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart Donald Trump to reactivate the Separation of Forces Agreement under Moscow’s patronage. The text of the deal stipulated the establishment of a tripartite buffer zone, 80 kilometers along the border, and the exit of government forces after the defeat of ISIS. The three leaders also agreed that Russia would control the Hara hill, with an altitude reaching 1,200 kilometers to look over the south and monitor the implementation of the deal.
In previous negotiations, Moscow sought to control the hill and to participate in the Separation of Forces Agreement. However Washington had opposed such demands. Opposition fighters signed 11 clauses of the surrender agreement, including a pledge not to verbally attack political or military officials (in reference to “Hezbollah” and Iranian militias) and to report on any issue affecting security. Syrian troops had recently recovered Daraa and the Nassib border crossing on the Jordanian border, which is a gateway for trade between Amman and Damascus. At a news conference in Helsinki last Monday, Trump and Putin said they would agree to work together to help ensure Israel's security.
Kurdish militants kill 11 Iran Guards at Iraqi border post
Reuters, Dubai/Saturday, 21 July 2018/Militants killed 11 Iranian Revolutionary Guards in an attack on a post on the Iraqi border on Saturday, Iran's semi-official Tasnim news agency reported, the latest deadly clash in an area where armed opposition Kurdish groups are active.
The agency quoted a Revolutionary Guards statement as saying that several of the attacking "terrorists" were also killed in the fighting in which a munitions depot was blown up. Strikes in Kurdistan: Tip of the iceberg or Iranian economic collapse? Provincial security official Hosein Khosheqbal told state television that 11 members of the Guards' voluntary Basij forces were killed in the overnight violence in the Marivan area, which he blamed on the Kurdish armed opposition group PJAK. "The latest news is that the Basij and Guards forces are in hot pursuit of the attackers," Khosheqbal said. The Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK) -- an outlawed group that seeks self-governance for Iran's Kurds and has links to Turkey's militant Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) -- operates in the border area, along with other armed Kurdish groups based in northern Iraq. Earlier this month, the Revolutionary Guards said they had killed three militants in a security operation near the border with Iraq, and nine militants were reported killed by the Guards last month further north on the border. Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi said on Tuesday that security forces in southwest Iran arrested four suspected Islamic State operatives who were planning attacks.
Rebels Reach North Syria after South Evacuations
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 21/18/Hundreds of rebels and their families evacuated from southern Syria after a deal was struck with the regime arrived Saturday in the country's northwest, an AFP correspondent said. The evacuations from Quneitra province, which borders the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights, came after a Russia-brokered agreement was reached earlier this week to see rebels hand over the territory to the Syrian regime. Around 50 buses transporting fighters and their families reached the Morek transit route in the north of Hama province, which links regime and rebel-held territories, an AFP correspondent at the scene said. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said the first convoy to reach Morek transported around 2,800 people. They were to be transferred to other buses run by local NGOs, before travelling further north to temporary camps in rebel-held areas in Idlib and Aleppo provinces, the Britain-based monitor said. "More than half of the evacuees are women and children," said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman. "A second wave of departures is expected from Quneitra," he added. Near the parked buses in Morek, a woman and five children waited by a cluster of small suitcases, the eldest among them carrying bottles of water and a blanket. Men with light weapons slung on their backs shared a bite to eat and some water as they stood around waiting. Several wearing scarves wrapped around their faces. The evacuations follow a deadly regime offensive on Quneitra, a thin, crescent-shaped province that lies along the buffer zone with the Israel-occupied Golan to the west.  The rebel surrender negotiated by Russia, a vital regime ally, also saw fighters hand over heavy and medium weapons and return government institutions to the area. Syrian forces launched their southern offensive on June 19, targeting the province of Daraa before turning their attention to neighbouring Quneitra. With a mix of military power and negotiated surrenders, President Bashar al-Assad's troops this month captured more than 90 percent of Daraa, where protests against him first erupted in 2011. Regime forces backed by Russia have continued their campaign in Daraa, aiming to retake areas still controlled by the Islamic State group. On Friday 11 children were among 26 civilians killed in air strikes which hit several towns in the area, the Observatory said. Regime bombardment on the IS-held area continued on Saturday, with clashes between both sides killing 13 regime fighters including eight in a car bombing, it said. Syria's conflict has killed more than 350,000 people and displaced millions since it began in 2011 with a brutal government crackdown on protesters.

Air raids on last ISIS pocket in south Syria kill 26 civilians
AFP, Beirut/Saturday, 21 July 2018/Twenty-six civilians were killed in air strikes Friday on areas controlled by ISIS in southern Syria’s Daraa province, a war monitor said. Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said 11 children were among those killed in day-long strikes by regime and allied Russian aircraft on the last ISIS-held pocket in Daraa. The Observatory said that hundreds of air raids and barrel bombs struck several towns controlled by a local IS branch known as Jaish Khaled bin Walid. The bombing caused severe damage to infrastructure, and “whole neighborhoods were destroyed”, the monitor said. The Syrian regime and its allies are currently looking to retake full control of Daraa on the border with Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights after forcing rebel groups to sue for peace following a bloody offensive. Syria’s conflict has killed more than 350,000 people since it began in 2011 with a brutal government crackdown on protesters.

Iraq protests death toll reaches 11 amid ongoing popular unrest
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Saturday, 21 July 2018/Local media outlets in Iraq reported that death toll has now reached to more than 11 people since the outbreak of demonstrations in Basra and other southern cities with the last two casualties falling after demonstrations in the provinces of Najaf and Diwaniyah. Hundreds of Iraqis in Baghdad and the central and southern provinces of Iraq have staged protests against poor basic services more than 15 years after Saddam Hussein's regime was replaced and pro-Iranian Shiite parties took power in Iraq.
Al Arabiya News Channel’s correspondent in Iraq reported that protests returned to central Baghdad with protesters gathering near the Liberation Square off the al-Jumariyah Bridge on Saturday. Some protesters tried to break into party offices in the predominantly Shiite southern cities, but the guards of the headquarters opened fire with live ammunition, killing several of the demonstrators. Alaa al-Mayali, one of the protesters from the province of Najaf, said that the guards of the Badr branch close to Iran opened fire on the demonstrators, killing one of them of was throwing stones. Eyewitnesses in Basra said that the demonstrations on Friday night took another turn in the province, after the intervention of the rapid reaction forces opened fire on protesters in the Garmat Ali area, which led to the outbreak of armed clashes in the areas of the parties in the province.

Kremlin says Russian, French leaders discuss humanitarian aid to Syria
Reuters, Moscow/Saturday, 21 July 2018/The Kremlin said Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed joint humanitarian efforts in Syria, particular in the eastern Ghouta province, during a phone call with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron on Saturday.On Friday, France sent 50 tons of medical aid to government-controlled eastern Ghouta in Syria after Russia agreed to facilitate its delivery, raising hopes for future aid efforts.

Khamenei rejects talks with US, praises Rouhani threat to close Hormuz Strait
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Saturday, 21 July 2018/Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei rejected on Saturday the idea of new negotiations with the United States, praising the latest comments by Iranian president Hassan Rouhani in which he threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz if new oil sanctions are imposed against Tehran. According to Iranian news agency IRNA, Khamenei considered - during a meeting with Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif and a number of ambassadors and diplomats - that there is “no benefit of negotiating with America.”“We cannot trust the American statements or even their signings” Khamenei said, adding that “the Iranian president’s statement that if our oil is not exported then the oil of any state in the region will not be exported, is a very important stance and clarifies the regime policy and strategy.” The Supreme Leader’s stern statements comes at a time when Iranian oil shipments are starting to stop gradually as oil vessel operators started to finish their trade deals with Iran before the American sanctions go into effect in early November. Also and despite Rouhani’s threat along with other military leaders to close the Strait of Hormuz, other Iranian opposing voices against this threat were heard in the Islamic republic, whereas recently Iranian former Iranian Revolutionary Guards naval commander Maj. Gen. Hossein Alaei, criticized these threats saying: “Not well thought out,” adding that “Iran is unable to close the Strait of Hormuz, but America is capable to reopen it.” Read more
The US Navy issued a statement saying that it stands ready to ensure freedom of commerce.

Sisi: Sudan’s Security Part of Egypt’s Security
Cairo - Sawsan Abu Husain and Waleed Abdul RahmanAsharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 21 July, 2018/Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ended on Friday his two-day visit to Khartoum during which he discussed with his Sudanese counterpart Omar al-Bashir bilateral ties.
A joint statement issued following the summit held at the presidential palace in Khartoum said on Friday that “Sisi and Bashir expressed their full support for consolidating the principles of integration between the two countries.”The statement stressed that both presidents agreed on activating bilateral relations and to follow-up on the implementation of the signed agreements and memorandum of understandings. The two leaders also expressed their great interest in the security of the Red Sea and the need to continuously coordinate the protection of their interests and the prevention of any foreign interference. Sisi's spokesman Ambassador Bassam Radi said the Egyptian President welcomed the results of his talks with Bashir, praising the spirit of constructive cooperation between the two countries and the keenness of the two leaderships to strengthen bilateral relations and consolidate historic ties. “During his meeting with Sudanese leaders, political parties, intellectuals and media figures, Sisi stressed Egypt’s keenness on the stability of Sudan, asserting that Sudan’s security is part of Egypt’s national security,” the Ambassador said. On Friday morning, the Egyptian President and Sudanese Prime Minister Bakri Hassan Saleh discussed the latest developments in bilateral relations. The trip was the first since the Egyptian President started his second term last June. “The successive visits of the Egyptian and Sudanese officials between the two countries assert how the Egyptian and Sudanese leaderships are keen to push bilateral relations forward,” Sisi said before returning to Cairo on Friday evening.
Egyptian, UN efforts help broker ceasefire agreement in Gaza
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Saturday, 21 July 2018/Hours after violence flared between Israel and Hamas for the second time in a week, reports that a ceasefire has been restored by Egyptian and UN efforts surfaced. Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza and Israel agreed to a ceasefire early Saturday, after five people including an Israeli soldier were killed Friday. “With Egyptian and UN efforts, we reached (an agreement) to return to the previous state of calm between the (Israeli) occupation and the Palestinian factions,” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said in a statement. It was the second such ceasefire agreement between the parties in a week and came amid growing fears of a new war. On Friday an Israeli soldier was shot dead by Palestinian fire along the border, the first killing of a soldier in and around Gaza since a 2014 war between Hamas and the Jewish state. Three Hamas militants were killed as Israel retaliated with airstrikes on dozens of targets. A fourth Palestinian man was killed after being shot during a protest on the Gaza-Israel border. Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since 2008. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held emergency discussions with cabinet colleagues and military chiefs about the escalation, which follows four months of Palestinian border protests.After dark on Friday, the Israeli military said that Gaza militants had launched three rockets into Israel, of which two were intercepted by its Iron Dome defense system. Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman issued a statement after holding a phone conversation with Nickolay Mladenov, the United Nations’ envoy to the region. “If Hamas continues with rocket launches, the results will be far more severe than they can imagine. Responsibility for the destruction and for human life will be on Hamas,” a statement quoted Lieberman as saying. Mladenov said on Twitter that “Everyone in Gaza needs to step back from the brink. Not next week. Not tomorrow. Right NOW! Those who want to provoke Palestinians and Israelis into another war must not succeed.”Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who holds little sway over Hamas, called for international intervention to prevent an escalation of the violence, his office said. (With AFP)
Gaza Truce Holds after Israeli Strikes over Soldier Death
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 21/18/A ceasefire announced by Hamas largely held Saturday after a wave of deadly strikes across the Palestinian enclave sparked by the death of an Israeli soldier shot near the border. Israel did not confirm the deal announced by Gaza's Islamist rulers Hamas, which went into effect around midnight Friday. Since then there have been no reports of Israeli air strikes on the blockaded enclave or of mortar fire from Gaza toward Israel. "With Egyptian and UN efforts, we reached (an agreement) to return to the previous state of calm between the (Israeli) occupation and the Palestinian factions," Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said in a statement. He gave no details of the deal. Israel's army and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office declined to confirm a truce was reached. "All we can say is that there have been no incidents or Israeli attacks in the Gaza Strip since the last wave of airstrikes on Friday night," a military spokeswoman told AFP. On Friday, three Hamas militants were killed as air raids sent fireballs exploding into the sky over Gaza, while Israel said rockets had been fired back at its territory. A fourth Palestinian was shot dead in protests near the border. The United Nations urged all sides to step "back from the brink" after months of increasing tensions. The soldier, shot dead along the border in southern Gaza, was the first to be killed in and around the Palestinian enclave since a 2014 war between Israel and Hamas. Friday's flare-up is the latest as demonstrations and clashes on the frontier since March have seen at least 149 Palestinians killed. The Israeli army said they struck 60 Hamas sites including weapon manufacturing sites, a drone warehouse and a military operations room. The ceasefire is the second since in a week. Last weekend saw the most severe exchange of fire between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza since the 2014 war.
Hamas Considers Kushner, Greenblatt and Friedman Israeli Spokesmen
Gaza - Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 21 July, 2018/Three senior US officials have slammed “Hamas” and held it fully responsible for the misery of the Palestinian people, especially in the Gaza Strip, which has been ruled by the movement since 2007. Jared Kushner, senior adviser to President Donald Trump, Jason Greenblatt, special US representative for international negotiations, and David Friedman, US ambassador to Israel, penned a Washington Post piece, “Help is at hand for Palestinians. It’s all up to Hamas.” In their article, the three officials pledged to help Palestinians, especially in Gaza, saying that unless “Hamas” recognizes Israel, abides by previous agreements and renounces violence “there is no good option."They added that “one reality was painfully clear: The nightmare of Hamas’ leadership is continuing and needlessly prolonging the suffering of the Palestinian people in Gaza."“The Palestinians of Gaza are stuck in a vicious cycle where corrupt and hateful leadership has provoked conflicts leading to reduced opportunities and the poverty and hopelessness that follow,” the article read. They pointed out that there was no good option in which direct aid to the Palestinians could be provided. “International donors are conflicted,” they said, over means of providing support, having supported the infrastructure that was largely destroyed by the "Hamas aggression," as they described it. The three urged "Hamas" to follow most countries in the Middle East in acknowledging that the existence of Israel is a permanent reality and argued that the group is fighting its war at the expense of the Palestinian people. “Peace will provide opportunity to break this stalemate, and peace will be achieved only by embracing reality and dismissing a flawed ideology,” they noted. Life for Palestinians, the trio argued, could swiftly and significantly improve if “Hamas” allowed it. “There are engaged, interested parties with resources who are ready to get to work. Yet without real change accompanied by reliable security, progress is impossible,” they stressed. “If Hamas demonstrates clear, peaceful intentions — not just by word but, more importantly, by deed — then all manner of new opportunities becomes possible.” For his part, "Hamas" spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri reacted to the article on his Twitter account, accusing Greenblatt and Kushner of acting as a mouthpiece for Israel's "occupation."“Greenblatt and Kushner have adopted the Israeli position. Its continued attacks on the Hamas organization reflects the arrogance of the US administration, which has turned its officials into spokesmen for the Israeli occupation only,” he said.

Gaza Truce Largely Holds, Balloons Not Included in Deal
Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 21 July, 2018/A ceasefire announced by Hamas largely held Saturday after a wave of deadly air strikes across the Gaza Strip sparked by the death of an Israeli soldier shot along the volatile border. Israel did not confirm the deal announced by Gaza's rulers, which went into effect around midnight Friday reducing fears of a wider conflict. Israel's government and army rarely acknowledge ceasefires with Hamas, but a military spokeswoman said civilian life should return to normal in areas next to Gaza. The Israeli army also said a tank struck a Hamas observation point east of Gaza City on Saturday morning, saying it was retaliation for an attempted border infiltration in northern Gaza.  There were no reports of injuries in that strike and there was no major Israeli bombing campaign overnight or mortar fire from Gaza toward Israel. "With Egyptian and UN efforts, we reached (an agreement) to return to the previous state of calm between the (Israeli) occupation and the Palestinian factions," Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said in a statement early Saturday. A senior Hamas official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP the deal involved "the cessation of all forms of military escalation" including Israeli air strikes and Hamas mortars and rockets. The source said that balloons and kites attached with incendiary devices, which Palestinians have been floating over the border for months to spark fires inside Israel, were not included in the agreement. Israeli politicians have been calling for a fierce response to the kites and balloons, which have caused damage amounting to millions of shekels (hundreds of thousands of dollars). Israel's army and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office declined to confirm a truce was reached. "All we can say is that there have been no incidents or Israeli attacks in the Gaza Strip since the last wave of airstrikes on Friday night," a military spokeswoman told AFP. On Friday, three Hamas militants were killed as air raids sent fireballs exploding into the sky over Gaza, while Israel said rockets had been fired back at its territory. A fourth Palestinian was shot dead in protests near the border. The United Nations urged all sides to step "back from the brink" of war after months of increasing tensions.The soldier, shot dead along the border in southern Gaza, was the first to be killed in and around the Palestinian enclave since a 2014 war between Israel and Hamas.

Houthis Plead with Putin to Stop Liberation of Hodeidah
Sanaa - Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 21 July, 2018/Houthi militias have begged Russian President Vladimir Putin for support against Yemeni government forces and the Saudi-led coalition which are tightening the noose on the insurgents and their Iranian-backed plan in Yemen. In a letter sent to Putin, head of Yemen’s Supreme Political Council Mahdi al-Mashat warned that the coalition has been aiming to take control of all strategic maritime areas to put them under US influence and lay hands on international trade, official sources said on Thursday. According to the group, this letter aims at strengthening bilateral relations with friendly countries. Observers, however, viewed it as an attempt to legitimize the militia. Mashat presented himself in the letter as a speaker on behalf of the Yemeni government and people. He urged the Russian president to intervene to stop the battle of the West Coast, led by the legitimate government and Saudi-led coalition forces to liberate Hodeidah and its port and the Yemeni coast on the Red Sea. The legitimate forces have been trying to control sea ports from where Houthis receive weapons sent by Iran and military and technical support from the Lebanese “Hezbollah.” The letter claimed that the war waged by the legitimate government with the support of the Saudi-led coalition to end the coup is unjustified and violates UN charters, international laws and Yemen’s sovereignty, and threatens the world and the region, according to the Houthi version of Saba news agency. Ironically, the group used terms such as UN charters, international laws, and Yemeni sovereignty while in fact it violates everything mentioned in the letter. The group also claimed that the liberation of Hodeidah and the West Coast would transform the Red Sea into an American “lake” and would give Washington control of trade routes and power lines in Bab al-Mandab Strait and the Yemeni islands. Mashat claimed in his letter that the group looks forward for a Russian role that would stop the legitimate government’s and the coalition’s liberation operations, and would support a comprehensive political settlement that would meet the expectations of the Houthis in ruling Yemen and keeping its weapons in service to Iran.

Gunmen Kill Two Policemen in Russia's Troubled Dagestan
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 21/18/Unknown gunmen have shot dead two policemen in Russia's volatile Caucasus in the latest attack against local authorities, police said on Saturday. Assailants driving a Lada shot at a car carrying three traffic police outside the Dagestani town of Kizilyurt late Friday and fled, a police spokesman told AFP. "Two people died," he said, adding that a third policeman received no injuries. The spokesman said it was not immediately clear who was behind the attack, adding an operation was under way to catch the gunmen. Dagestan lies east of Chechnya where Russian authorities battled separatists in two brutal wars, first in 1994-1996 and then in 1999-2000. After the defeat of Chechen insurgents, Russian authorities have been locked in a simmering conflict with Islamist militants from across the North Caucasus that has killed scores of civilians and police. Islamist militants from Dagestan are known to have travelled to join the Islamic State group in Syria. In 2015, the group declared it had established a "franchise" in the North Caucasus.
The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on July 21-22/18
Turkey: American Pastor Brunson in Prison; ISIS Terrorists Roam Free
Uzay Bulut/Gatestone Institute/July 21, 2018
"Incredibly, the indictment now admits that Turkey considers 'Christianization' to be an act of terrorism" – The American Center for Law and Justice
Meanwhile, there are ISIS sleeper cell houses in seventy cities across Turkey, according to a 2015 "confidential" note by a Turkish chief of police.
Turkey's arbitrary arrests of Brunson, Erdem and many other innocent individuals expose Erdogan's regime as a brutal dictatorship that invades its neighbors, does not tolerate diversity, and that targets Christians and peaceful dissidents who oppose jihad – actions that run counter to the US State Department's minimum requirements for membership in NATO.
A Turkish court has decided to continue holding American Pastor Andrew Brunson in prison, to await a fourth hearing on October 12. Brunson, who has been in jail in Turkey since October 7, 2016, is accused of "membership in an armed terrorist organization." His first court hearing took place on April 16 this year, after 18 months in detention.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) condemned the charges and is calling for Brunson's immediate release. In a statement released on July 18, USCIRF Vice Chair Kristina Arriaga excoriated the Turkish government, which she accused of "continu[ing] to make a mockery of justice in its treatment of Pastor Brunson."
Denouncing Brunson's case as a "miscarriage of justice," Arriaga added, "Turkish authorities still have not provided one good reason for depriving Pastor Brunson of his liberties. The Trump Administration and the Congress should continue to apply pressure, including using targeted sanctions against officials connected to this case, until Pastor Brunson is released."
Brunson was charged with terrorism (including "Christianization") and espionage, which carry a sentence of up to 35 years' imprisonment. According to the lengthy indictment, the pastor is linked to the movement of Fethullah Gülen -- an Islamic cleric who has lived in self-exile in the United States for three decades – and whom the Turkish government accuses of plotting the failed coup against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in July 2016.
The American Center for Law and Justice, which has been advocating Brunson's release, began circulating a petition a few months ago that states, in part:
"The 62-page indictment, wholly lacking merit, provides no evidence regarding criminal action by Pastor Andrew, which comes as no surprise... Incredibly, the indictment now admits that Turkey considers 'Christianization' to be an act of terrorism... Now, more than ever, we need to remind Turkey that the eyes of the world are watching this case closely and the world is demanding Pastor Andrew's release."
Erdogan is apparently using Brunson's detention as a bargaining chip to seek the extradition of his ally-turned-foe, Gülen, in exchange for the pastor's freedom.
Brunson, who for more than 20 years served the Izmir Diriliş (Resurrection) Church, a small evangelical Presbyterian congregation, is now demonized by the pro-government Turkish media as a "terrorist supporter" and a "spy" hostile to Turkey.
American Pastor Andrew Brunson, held in a Turkish prison on baseless charges of "terrorism" and "espionage."
The practice of targeting and arresting peaceful individuals or dissident citizens for political reasons is nothing new in Erdogan's Turkey; since the failed coup, it has increased. Take the case of Eren Erdem, for example, an author, journalist and former MP of the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), and now in jail on doubtful charges of "aiding terrorists." Many say that his real "crime" was to expose how members and supporters of Islamic State (ISIS) have been operating freely in Turkey – a charge that raises the issue of how actual jihadist terrorists are treated by Ankara.
In a parliamentary speech in 2016, Erdem gave examples of ISIS members who were released after being arrested:
"Yunus Durmaz [an ISIS official] said to the police that they [his cell along with another sleeper cell] carried out the Suruc massacre in Antep but he was released.... Yunus Emre Alagoz [Ankara suicide bomber] was arrested in 2011 and then released. All the people in the Adiyaman ISIS cell were arrested and then released. These men have killed around 300 to 400 of our people.
"This man [showing the photo of ISIS official, Halis Bayancuk] is mentioned in three investigations. He is accused of sending militants from Turkey to al Qaeda in Afghanistan. In another investigation he is confirmed to have sent militants from Turkey to the ISIS headquarters in Raqqa in Syria. Weapons, ammunition and a car filled with explosives were found during a police raid on his house. And this person is still free. But journalists, academics and students are put behind bars the moment they make a statement... Is there anyone here who could name this type of a regime?"
In November 2015, Erdem submitted a parliamentary question to Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Berat Albayrak about "foreign press reports" according to which documents were found in the computer of an ISIS official in charge of oil smuggling, indicating that Turkey "transfers 40 million dollars every month to ISIS."
"How much money does Turkey transfer to ISIS in oil smuggling?" Erdem asked. "Has our government ever attempted to stop money transferring to ISIS?"
In August 2016, the minister issued a strong denial. "The allegations that Turkey is buying oil from is a dirty propaganda war."
In December, 2015, Erdem submitted another parliamentary question to then-Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. The text read, in part:
"The press covered that the South Korean police and intelligence service (NIS) opened investigation two weeks ago against the South Korean firm DaeKwang, which produces pepper spray for Turkey, for supplying explosive materials for ISIS and that its Turkish partner companies, Meydan and Mercan, are also mentioned in the investigation. It is alleged that DaeKwang delivered DK-3M hand grenades to the Mercan and Meydan companies to be transferred to ISIS."
Among the questions Erdem asked was whether Turkey had "opened an investigation into the Mercan and Meydan companies, and if it was true that [they] operated as intermediaries in the transfer of ammunition to ISIS." The government has yet to provide a response.
The government has also not responded to any of the many additional questions Erdem continued to submit – on issues such as the activities of an ISIS-affiliated association in Istanbul; the 2016 ISIS bombing attacks and sleeper cells in Gaziantep; the government's imposing publication bans about terrorist attacks across the country; and allegations concerning the Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters selling Turkish armored vehicles to ISIS.
At the same time, an American pastor who has lived and worked in Turkey for 23 years without a mishap, and a former MP who has dedicated his career to exposing ISIS activities, are behind bars on totally false charges of "terrorism." Meanwhile, there are ISIS sleeper cell houses seventy cities across Turkey, according to a 2015 "confidential" note by a Turkish chief of police.
Turkey became a NATO member in 1952. "NATO enlargement has furthered the U.S. goal of a Europe whole, free, and at peace," according to the U.S. Department of State. However, Turkey's actions appear to make the region a more unstable, un-free and violent place.
Turkey's arbitrary arrests of Brunson, Erdem and many other innocent individuals expose Erdogan's regime as a brutal dictatorship that invades its neighbors, does not tolerate diversity, and targets Christians and peaceful dissidents who oppose jihad – actions that run counter to the US State Department's minimum requirements for membership in NATO.
*Uzay Bulut, a journalist from Turkey, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Gatestone Institute. She is currently based in Washington D.C.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Reimplementing Iran Sanctions: Where, How, and How Much?
من موقع معهد واشنطن: اعادة فرض العقوبات على إيران أين وكيف وكم

Daniel L. Glaser, Suzanne Maloney, and Katherine Bauer/The Washington Institute/July 21/18
Read or watch a conversation with former Treasury and State Department officials on how the Trump administration should go about renewing financial pressure on Iran's oil industry and other sectors.
On July 17, Daniel Glaser, Suzanne Maloney, and Katherine Bauer addressed a Policy Forum at The Washington Institute. Glaser is a principal with the Financial Integrity Network and former assistant Treasury secretary for terrorist financing and financial crimes. Maloney, a senior fellow at Brookings, directed the 2004 Council on Foreign Relations Task Force on U.S. policy toward Iran. Bauer is the Institute’s Blumenstein-Katz Family Fellow and a former Treasury official. The following is a rapporteur’s summary of their remarks.
The previous administration brought together a global coalition to put financial pressure on the Iranian economy. That coalition does not exist anymore. Yet one cannot underestimate America’s ability to put intense pressure on the Iranian financial system and economy in the current environment.
Even after the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was implemented, Tehran did not feel it was getting the degree of sanctions relief it had anticipated, and U.S. pressure never truly went away. For this reason, Iran’s economy still suffers from significant weakness today. International businesses and financial institutions have had their exit plans ready ever since the JCPOA was reached, since sanctions snapback was built into the agreement. This made it easier for them to react swiftly and pull out of the Iranian market once President Trump announced his decision to withdraw from the JCPOA in May.
Some have argued that selective enforcement of reimposed U.S. sanctions may prevent Washington from continuing or escalating its pressure, but this argument is seriously flawed. The fact of the matter is, when foreign firms are forced to choose between business with Iran and access to the U.S. financial system, they are going to choose the latter.
To be sure, some small- and medium-size companies without significant exposure to the U.S. financial system may still decide to do business with Iran. Indeed, this was an issue during the sanctions regime under the Bush and Obama administrations. But these smaller entities are not going to have a significant impact on the Iranian economy, which requires more than piecemeal involvement in the global economy if it is to improve over the long term.
Some point to China as the key to blunting the force of U.S. sanctions. Although there is a market for Chinese business in Iran, it is not a panacea for the country’s economic problems. The Chinese market does not replace everything the West can offer, and larger Chinese firms remain exposed to U.S. sanctions.
It is important to keep in mind that sanctions are a tool used to support a policy and a broader strategy, and the administration’s end goal in reimposing them on Iran remains unclear. Does it seek to bring the Iranians back to the negotiating table or compel them to acquiesce to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s twelve demands? Or does the administration have an unstated goal of facilitating the Iranian regime’s collapse?
There are two schools of thought on the implications of reimposing sanctions. First, some believe that Iran is in a better position than it was when U.S. sanctions were originally imposed. At the time, the Islamic Republic had reached the disastrous climax of the Ahmadinejad presidency, and political elites were still feeling the ripple effects of massive unrest spurred by his illegitimate reelection two years earlier. By mid-2011, the entire political establishment had turned on him.
Moreover, unlike in 2011, there is no European Union embargo on Iranian oil today. In fact, there is an incentive to keep financial channels open to Iran, and some countries have shown much greater tolerance toward smuggling and other sanctions evasion schemes. In other words, Washington will not find the same level of international cooperation on enforcement that occurred from 2011 to 2013—a potentially troubling prospect given that the Iranian government is now more experienced in handling the bite of economic sanctions.
Iran has also benefited from changes in the energy sector and the regional geopolitical situation. Greater uncertainty surrounds oil markets today, especially given the reduction of exports from Venezuela. On the regional front, Iran has gained more influence in Iraq, successfully propped up Bashar al-Assad in Syria, established a greater presence along Israel’s borders, and drawn its Gulf rivals into war with the Houthis in Yemen.
The second school of thought on reimposing sanctions is that they are coming at a time when Iran is much weaker economically. The country’s currency was already in steep collapse before President Trump withdrew from the JCPOA, while global trade and letters of credit in U.S. dollars are even higher than in 2011. And although Russian and Chinese firms may try to take advantage of the vacuum left by European companies departing Iran, a lot of these firms are far more globalized than they were even just a few years ago, and therefore more susceptible to pressure. In terms of energy markets, even with Venezuela offline, Saudi Arabia and Russia are eager to supplement their exports to fill the gap.
Internally, Iran is experiencing much deeper levels of public cynicism than it was in 2011. Iranians are undergoing a crisis in rising expectations and, simultaneously, a crisis in the regime’s legitimacy. At a time of high unemployment and a youth demographic bulge, the government has been unwilling and unable to pursue reforms that would allow it to capitalize on the opening provided by the JCPOA. Meanwhile, it has mishandled various recent crises in a very public way. The regime has long grounded its power in its ability to govern competently and deliver on promises of goods and services for the Iranian people, but years of setbacks have put the Islamic Republic in a slow-motion metastasis. Although regime collapse is unlikely, the current government will not be able to manage these simultaneous crises.
As key dates related to the reimposition of certain sanctions approach, the Trump administration retains considerable discretion on decisions related to waivers, licenses, targeting, and how vigorously to enforce secondary sanctions. These sanctions need not be implemented as they were previously—rather, they should target current vulnerabilities in the Iranian economy. Below are five suggestions on how the administration can proceed.
First, it should ensure that Iran’s oil export revenues are locked up, depriving Tehran of a key source of hard currency while assuring its customers of adequate supplies and preventing global oil prices from rising. This restriction on the movement of Iran’s oil revenues will go into effect at the same time as reductions are being implemented among importers of Iranian oil. U.S. officials should engage with financial officials in these countries to ensure that banks have legal cover to withhold Iranian revenues.
Second, the administration should continue to pursue joint action with international partners on Iran’s malign behavior outside the nuclear realm, even where such action would be politically difficult. Many in Europe remain concerned about Iran’s ballistic missile development and weapons proliferation, especially its supply of rockets to Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria, and to the Houthis in Yemen.
Third, the United States should develop country-level sanctions implementation plans in regional hotspots where Iran and its proxies are active, identifying roles for regional partners such as the Gulf states. For example, although sanctions alone are unlikely to drive Tehran out of Syria, they can draw attention to Iranian involvement there, raise the costs of continuing it, and disrupt it to a certain degree.
Fourth, U.S. officials should continue calling out Iran’s deceptive financial activity. Countering the development of workarounds will require cooperating with partners in the official and private sectors, listening to the implementation challenges they face and working to minimize them even when waivers or licenses are required.
Fifth, short of full implementation of Iran’s Financial Action Task Force “action plan” (including appropriate criminalization of terrorist financing), the United States should press for reimposition of FATF countermeasures on Iran. The Iranian government sought to reengage that organization after finalizing the JCPOA, but it has been unable to adopt legislation acceding to international counterterrorism treaties. According to detractors in Iran, such treaties run counter to the country’s constitution because some of the terrorist groups targeted by them are merely engaging in a legally permissible effort to end “foreign occupation, colonialism, and racism.”
In short, the United States cannot effectively impose these sanctions unilaterally, so it needs to prioritize them within its broader bilateral relationships, which may involve concessions on other issues. Policymakers should also be mindful of the sustained attention and resources required to make these sanctions work.
This summary was prepared by Erika Naegeli.

The Muslim Brotherhood controversy in the West
Abdullah bin Bijad Al-Otaibi/Al Arabiya/July 21/18
In some Western countries, especially in the US and Britain, there is controversy over classifying the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. This debate should be followed up on and there must be work to develop it and to provide important information about it to everyone who participates in decision-making in the US and Britain. The world should know that the war against terrorism will not end unless the Muslim Brotherhood is declared a terrorist organization. In fact, the Muslim Brotherhood is the main source of terrorism, the mother of all terror groups and organizations. It is the origin of all the branches of the modern terrorism that falsely associate themselves with Islam. If the Muslim Brotherhood is not classified as a terrorist organization, it will continue to produce more terrorism. As the famous Arab proverb says: “The people of Mecca are the ones who know best the territory of Mecca.” The most important Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt, have classified the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization
Different stances
According to Al Arabiya, the debate over classifying the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization was reopened in the US earlier this month and as usual there was a split between the Republicans and Democrats over the matter. The Republicans tend to move towards classifying the organization as terrorist, while the Democrats tend to move in an opposite direction. It reflects the difference between the reasoning of President Trump and his predecessor Barack Obama. Trump pursues “America First” policy while Obama sought to ally with all the opponents of the US, including the Muslim Brotherhood.
A similar controversy is raging in Britain. The issue of the Muslim Brotherhood is crucial for any state that is keen on combating terrorism and eliminating extremism. All files dealing with fighting terrorism, Al-Qaeda or ISIS would not be able to succeed unless the Muslim Brotherhood is classified a terrorist organization and unless the parent organization and all its branches around the world are eliminated. Those who defend the terrorist group in both countries cling to weak excuses that do not deny the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood established religious violence and terrorism and historically practiced this across regions. Their argument is based on two claims. The first one is that the organization abandoned terrorism in the 1970s, while the second is that it is supported by some regional countries like Turkey and Qatar which may require strong policies to take on these two countries.
A terrorist organization
The first line of argument is an explicit admission that the Muslim Brotherhood established modern terrorism and it claims that it has stopped doing so but without any evidence to support it. In fact, all evidence proves that it never abandoned terrorism, ever since the days of the old “secret organization,” to Sayyid Qutb’s group in the 1960s, his protégés in the 1970s, the Arab Afghans in the 1980s and up until Al Qaeda and ISIS, the Hamas Movement in Palestine, the Hasm Movement in Egypt and many more.
As for the second argument pertaining to countries that support terrorism, the West should take a serious stance to force these countries to reject terrorism, its groups and branches, keep away from it, renounce it and cut all ties with it. If this is not done, Western countries and the world will not be able to live peacefully. As the famous Arab proverb says: “The people of Mecca are the ones who know best the territory of Mecca.” The most important Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt, have classified the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization.
Afterwards, they made decisions and adopted laws and policies against this group and its allies, and the most important decision was boycotting Qatar and dealing with extreme caution with branches of the Muslim Brotherhood in Yemen. This is in addition to implementing strict laws against followers of the group in their own countries as well as adopting other important measures that reveal a clear vision and awareness towards this group. Although it is difficult to influence the public opinion in the West, it does not mean one should give up and not work hard as it rather means one must seriously work and establish effective policies and influential institutions in all possible ways to ensure the right results and best outcomes. Finally, it is good to clarify the extent and seriousness of the threat posed by the Muslim Brotherhood to the public opinion and decision makers in Western countries that are currently engaged in the controversy about it as well in other countries that have not yet engaged in this debate.

Rebellion of a rich country’s poor
Hazem al-Amin/Al Arabiya/July 21/18
The war on terror has ended in Iraq and levers of power now rest in the hands of Shiite parties with varying degrees of links with Iran. Who is responsible for this failure? Who is the corrupt? Which party is depriving Iraqi people of their national wealth? The country of Tigris and Euphrates is thirsty!
The country with the third largest oil reserves in the world is staggering without electricity. The country claiming “victory over ISIS” is controlled by militias of the Popular Mobilization Forces which are no less sectarian than ISIS! The country of free elections is experiencing the biggest electoral fraud!
Today, the deteriorating situation has been worsened by a new element. The protests have revealed a bitter truth. The Najaf Airport which protesters stormed and closed is managed by the militias of five parties including the ruling Dawa party. In this sense, the news from Iraq is more surprising than news emanating from some of the “banana republics” in Central America. It is too early to say whether what is happening in Iraq is a revolution or even an uprising. It is a declaration by the Iraqis, mainly Shiites, that they’re annoyed by the Shiite authority in the country. So far there seems to be no political channels for dealing with these protests
Popular protests in Iraq, Iran
There is failure on so many levels, and it is now borrowing expertise from outside the borders and it’s more persistent than ever in wiping out the limits of sovereignty. This failure authorizes Tehran to manage Iraq’s regional location, subjects Iraq to the possibility of sanctions and their repercussions and has made Iraq turn its back on Turkey and punish the Kurds on a sectarian basis. Iraq is also fighting in Syria and marginalizing Arab Sunnis while its new “elite” is reaching out to Beirut to invest in the Shiite economy. All of this is happening at a time when the Iraqi “Shiite” citizen is feeling thirsty and hungry under the hot July sun. But this July uprising in Iraqi cities comes at a time when some Iranian cities are also witnessing protests. This must be taken into consideration since the two uprisings are happening at the same time and are targeting two inter-related authorities that seem co-dependent on each other.
We must also note the differences between the two regimes as when it comes to the Iraqi experience, it’s not possible to deter an uprising via the authority’s move to block the internet. The Iraqi government has actually done so, and this is more than a symbolic borrowing of Tehran’s tools of suppression of its people’s protests.
It is too early to say whether what is happening in Iraq is a revolution or even an uprising. It is a declaration by the Iraqis, mainly Shiites, that they’re annoyed by the Shiite authority in the country. So far there seems to be no political channels for dealing with these protests. Muqtada al-Sadr is presently at the center of negotiations regarding the future of his movement in the government after winning the elections and the ruling Dawa party has the ability to ride the wave of protests through Nouri al-Maliki. The strange thing is that Iraq is not a closed country. This was the only benefit of Washington's move to take down Saddam Hussein's regime. It is an open country and has a failed sectarian authority, which along with its opponents is protected by a religious authority based in Najaf. Najaf is where the authority’s parties have spread their control over the airport, at a time when its poor people have not benefited from the accumulated wealth from major investments, which provided services to tens of millions of visitors each year.
Scenes from hell
Basra was also supposed to be one of the richest cities in the world. The wealth of Iraq is located there and has the only beach in Mesopotamia. The city today is searing in the heat of July. Oil itself is blocked in the southernmost city, as it is floating in underground channels not far below earth’s surface. Its smell reeks in the city, and if you add to that the heat of July and August, you’d realize that life there is a living hell on earth. The new rich class of the city has set up its islands away from the hellish summer. Meanwhile, the job opportunities provided by international oil companies which rushed to their city are not enough for the poor. Iraq has experienced the Baath atrocities and an ongoing calamity of wars and death. It has since endured the sway of Shiite religious parties, which have also failed at various levels. Today there is an uprising in Iraq in the wake of a parallel uprising in Iran and amid a major change in Tehran’s position after its massive expansion into the Levant. Now, we have to wait and observe.

Iraq and its imminent destiny
Amal Abdulaziz Al–Hazani/Al Arabiya/July 21/18
Israel has kept Iranian militias and the Lebanese Hezbollah from northern Jordanian borders in Daraa and thwarted their efforts to threaten Jordan’s national security after setting conditions on the Syrian regime to allow it to advance. The Israeli agreement with the Assad regime under Russian patronage thus served the interests of Jordan. As soon as the crisis in Jordan ended and Syrian refugees returned to their homes in Daraa, protests broke out in south of Iraq demanding basic services such as drinking water and electricity as a result of Iran cutting off electricity in the south and decreasing its share of electricity.
Protests in Iraq
In principle, the protesters’ demands in South Iraq expanded on legitimate grounds. People set their tents in hot climate with temperatures approaching 50°C after they ran out of patience due to some official’s negligence in the area which produces most of Iraq’s revenues.
What people complain about in southern and central provinces such as in Basra, Muthanna, Najaf and Karbala is what all Iraqi provinces complain of: rampant corruption in most governmental institutions and among most of the political classes. This has impacted the citizens’ livelihood as they suffer from unemployment and lack of services and from the spread of financial crimes like bribery and extortion. The Iraqi government can control the protests, now raging for the second consecutive week, by dispatching a governmental delegation to meet with tribal elders to control the angry youths and by launching an official investigation with officials in service agencies such as water and electricity. It could also implement measures such as Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s allocation of $3 billion for development projects in Basra.
Political vacuum
But in order to reassure people that these demands will be met, it is necessary to accelerate the formation of the coalition government and for the parliament to begin convening because this vacuum is one of the main reasons behind this chaos. When contemplating about a country as big as Iraq, with its rich natural and human resources, one wonders how since 2003 (the date of the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime) the country has not been able to stand on its feet and has become a bad model of governance. The Iraqi model shows the negative consequences when opportunistic foreign parties interfere in a country’s affairs and when there is also internal collusion. The majority of citizens in areas where protests are taking place today are Shiites who are against Iranian presence in their country. Even though the Arab region was harmed economically and politically after the revolutions of 2011 and later on, most countries which witnessed popular protests have been trying to bounce back and recover from the setbacks. As for the countries which are suffering from Iranian interference, they are still in dire situation before and after the revolutions and they are: Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen. Whenever Iran infiltrates a country, the latter becomes plagued by administrative and political corruption and turns into an incubator of terrorism. Iraq remains the most accessible country for Iran to foment crises, as it did in Mosul four years ago and enabled ISIS to occupy it thus preoccupying the central government and countries with the war against ISIS ever since. Today it is fomenting problems in the south to spread chaos, drag out the crisis and threaten neighboring countries.
Iran facing crises
Iran is set to go through some difficult days in November, since US President Donald Trump promised to target Iran’s oil trade, finding alternatives to Iranian oil to ensure the availability of energy supplies around that period. Iran has been in this cycle of difficulties ever since President Trump announced withdrawing from the nuclear agreement, and it expects an economic crisis that will heighten the intensity of popular anger, which has been going on since December. Iran is trying to show off its achievements and power in the region, imposing itself as a regional power that is not easily besieged because of US sanctions. Iran is reminding the Trump administration that it has the upper hand in Iraq – many believe that what’s happening there is a result of the American invasion – not just through the presence of the Iranian revolutionary guards but also through Iraqi militias affiliated with Iran such as the Popular Mobilization Forces, Iraqi Hezbollah, Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq and others as well as with political parties whose reference is Iran. Iran can throw the Iraqi card in the face of Washington and inflame the south of Iraq through war and chaos. Iran can also place whoever it wants among the protestors, and it can threaten oil fields and refineries as well as the borders of Iraq with neighboring countries. Nevertheless, the soon-to-be formed government, as well as the House of Representative chosen by the people, has the moral and national responsibility to solidify comprehensive development in all governorates and expose the corrupt. We cannot give in to Iranian influence in order to ease things on the government and the parliament. Iraq is a large country, and the majority of citizens in areas where protests are taking place today are Shiites who are against Iranian presence in their country and these people have influence, voices and demands.
The government did not have to wait for the people to take to the streets in such burning heat to offer the $3 billion so that other provinces won’t follow. If the Iraqis wish to revive their country after these decades of crises, they must stand up against sectarian practices, corrupt politicians and the agents of Iran, because they are the ones disrupting the supply of electricity and water and leading to unemployment and bad infrastructure.

Sururists and the rumor-mongers
Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran/Al Arabiya/July 21/18
Trending on the radical literature these days is a long book, written by one of the symbols of Sururism in Saudi Arabia and the region and entitled ‘Muslims and the Western Civilization.’ When contemplating on its long and detailed content, one notices it did not move an inch from the Sururist rhetoric which peaked in the 1980s and 1990s. This rhetoric has exploited preaching platforms to formulate a discourse that blends religious propagation with insinuations of political opposition. The issues tackled had similar headlines pertaining to “Christianization, the collapse of nation-states, the infidelity of governments, the dependence on the West, hostility towards the United States, the Palestinian cause, etc.” All of these matters were being raised and addressed in an extremist and radical way in complete disregard of the truth and the prevailing circumstances. The Qutbist approach has played an important role in sustaining such discourse and has added literary and emotional elements to enrage young minds and mobilize them to carry out any activity, including militancy.
Ideological support for terror
The said book discusses old tales and issues, which are no longer valid in our day and age. The much vaunted model of an Islamic state is only present in the minds. When the extremists tried to establish it, we are left with the emergence of ISIS— which is justified by the writer of the above-mentioned book who believes that stigmatizing the group is absolutely wrong and who says that there are countries which committed mistakes that are as disgraceful as the ones attributed to ISIS. On the basis of this point of view, we can surmise the theoretical support that Sururism provides to terrorism. The Sururists always deny this charge of supporting terrorism, even when proof and evidence is given such as their fatwas that call on to fight and disobey governments. In my assessment, this text is clear and conclusive proof of the crucial role played by Sururism in the emergence of terrorist organizations, including Al-Qaeda and ISIS. This is in addition to the theoretical and practical partnership with the Muslim Brotherhood and other takfirist and jihadist groups. What was once preached through audio cassettes during the 1980s and 1990s has today resurfaced in the form of this long book, spewing out hate against all governments, primarily against the Saudi government, in the pretext of defending Palestine.
The Sururist movement believes that stigmatizing ISIS is absolutely wrong, still it denies defending terrorism
The writer of this book has surprisingly turned a blind eye to the state of Qatar and alleged that the text was completed before the international crisis against Qatar began! However, he examines some of the events that took place after the crisis with Qatar ensued! This is a clear contradiction and a way of eluding discussion around Qatar’s historic role in normalizing relations with Israel, especially as they ostensibly rally night and day about the Palestinian cause and defend Hamas.
New mediums of communication
The Sururist movement has been severely damaged in recent times as governments have become aware that this organization is a severe hindrance to all development efforts and that it spreads vicious hatred and takfirist ideas. After the clampdown on this movement, it has started to look for other opportunities to influence society by sending serious messages through social media and mobile phone applications to incite people against the government. However, the writer of this book and his accomplices know very well that the Sururist movement has totally collapsed so he wanted to resurrect it, and it’s also difficult for him to see the movement lack the lecturers who can save the movement and its supporters from extinction. The Palestinian cause has always been the fuel which Sururists used to ignite fires with the state. If one goes back to the Sururists’ literature in their magazines such as in ‘As-Sunnah’, ‘Al-Bayan’ and ‘Al Osrah,’ and in their audio recordings, hymns and plays, one can see that talking about the Palestinian cause is exploited to demonize the existing governments by comparing them to Israel which assaults an entire people. At the drop of a hat, they compare any nation with Palestine and any government with Israel.
Exploiting the Palestinian cause
As for the person who wrote the book, where he denounces various ruling families and governments, he had written a poem about Palestine but its content does not refer to Palestine nor does it refer to Israel. Among its verses are:
My child’s slingshots terrify mortars And the fleet is terrified by my sailboat! Not only Palestine was exploited as other humanitarian causes pertaining to Kashmir, Philippines, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and other conflicts in the world were also exploited by placing the blame on governments. It is to be noted here that Saudi Arabia, specifically King Fahd, played a major role in convincing former US President Bill Clinton to conduct strikes against Serbia to force it to agree to a ceasefire. This fact was verified by President Clinton himself in a televised speech, but the Sururists never acknowledge any gratitude to governments. Saudi Arabia has moved away from this distorted history, and we must forget that phase. All of the chatter circulating right now is very weak resistance to the current of change and major developments. Therefore, those who have not boarded the ark will drown in the flood, as they will be left with no shelter and there shall be nobody to protect them.

Houthi disarmament prerequisite for ending war in Yemen
Mohammed Al Shaikh/Al Arabiya/July 21/18
There can be no solution to the war in Yemen unless the Houthis agree to give up their weapons. I do not think one can find a single Saudi who would accept Houthis (Iran’s agents in Yemen) to keep their armaments, particularly their medium and heavy weapons. If these weapons continue to be in Yemen, it would mean that Iran will form proxy religious parties, like Hezbollah in Lebanon. With such proxies, Iran will remain a threat to Saudi national security, and shall wait for an opportunity to export terrorism into the country. Any solution, dialogue or reconciliation between the conflicting parties in Yemen must first start with the Iran-backed Houthis giving up their weapons. If not, the conflict should not be brought to a close.
Rafik al-Hariri’s capitulation
Rafik al-Hariri’s lenience in the Taif conference over Hezbollah’s weapons, under the pretext that the weapons provided a means for resistance, ruined Lebanese state and caused its people to suffer a great deal. With these weapons, Hezbollah became the dominant party in Lebanon and started exercise great power. The Lebanese president, along with the prime minister and parliamentary speaker now operate as pawns of Hassan Nasrallah, who in turn passes on orders he receives from Tehran. I am certain that Iranians want to replicate their experiment in Lebanon now in Saudi Arabia’s southern areas on the border with Yemen. It is possible that Iran is weaker today than it was when it created Hezbollah in the early 1980s. Nevertheless, it has an agent in Hamad bin Khalifa of Qatar who will have no problem in opening doors for Houthis, as he harbors a lot of hatred against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Following the collapse of the planned Arab revolution and the boycott imposed by four of the strongest Arab powers, Hamad has lost his mind and has been looking for any opportunity to retaliate against those who caused the failure of his crazy revolutionary project. Americans had to isolate him in the region after learning that his support for political Islam will always end with terrorism, which is fought by the entire world. Any solution, dialogue or reconciliation between the conflicting parties in Yemen must first start with the Iran-backed Houthis giving up their weapons
Qatar only has financial wealth and the media at its disposal. I do not think it can support the Houthis, especially after the boycotting countries have drained a lot of its resources. The imminent fall of Hodeida will also make it very difficult for Qatar’s financial support to reach Houthis. This would mean that the Houthis will reach a point where they have to take part in negotiations by force and not by choice. From this point on, all efforts must be directed towards putting restrictions on them and pressuring them to surrender their weapons to the Yemeni national army, no matter what the pressure may be. It is my assessment that the Saudi leadership and people will never accept anything less, even if the war in Yemen continues for a hundred years. In the early 1990s, Rafik Hariri was working very hard to become prime minister. In principle, the Syrians rejected his ambitions, unless he agreed to allow Hezbollah to keep its weapons. When he agreed to this, Iran occupied Lebanon and so we must be very careful not to repeat the same mistake.

How Russia wangled Israel into phony Gaza “ceasefire,” and acceptance of Iranian/Hizballah in the north
موقع دبكا الإسرائيلي: كيفية نجاح روسيا في الإحتيال على إسرائيل من خلال وقف إطلاق نار كاذب في غزة وبالقبول بوجود حزب الله والإيرانيين على جبهتها الجنوبية

Debka File/July 21/18
Israel came out of its “wide-scale” operation against Hamas terror on Friday night, July 20, leaving Hamas holding the initiative for the next round of violence. The IDF operation was almost as phony as the Gaza “ceasefire.” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gady Eisenkott staged a ritual by now all too familiar: The flames of war were quenched in Gaza and on the northern front by a two-prong military-cum-diplomatic intervention without Israel conducting a large-scale military operation. A day earlier, Lieberman admitted that Israel’s deterrent strength had been seriously eroded by Hamas getting away with more than three months of aggression. He held the government responsible.
On Friday afternoon, Netanyahu talked by phone to President Vladimir Putin. The subject of their conversation was not revealed. However, the prime minister’s office issued a statement affirming that he would continue to act against the establishment of an Iranian presence in Syria.
Lieberman was meanwhile on the phone to his Russian counterpart, Gen. Sergei Shoigu, following which Ambassador Alexander Shein in Tel Aviv announced that he was confirming as authentic the reports of an Russian-Israel accord to ensure the withdrawal of Iranian and Hizballah forces from Israel’s border.
After that verbal round came a spate of Russian backtracks. Ambassador to Baghdad Maksim Maksimov stated that Iranian forces would not quit Syria because, like the Russian army, they were there legitimately at the invitation of the Damascus government. He stressed that so long as Russian troops remained in Syria, so too would Iranian forces. Russian ambassador to Damascus Alexander Kimshchank came forward on Thursday to assert: “There are no pro-Iranian armed units in the south of Syria,” adding, “This issue has already been settled.”
Russia diplomats caught in a web of self-contradiction are less of a problem than the arrival of Hizballah and Shiite militias under the command of Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers to points just 2-3km from Israel’s Golan border. Their presence catches the Netanyahu government in contradiction of its frequent vows to prevent any Iranian or pro-Iranian forces from getting established in Syria, least of all on Israel’s border.
DEBKAfile’s military sources report that because Tehran has escaped scot-free in Syria, Israel found its hands tied on the Gaza front against Hamas. On Friday, Netanyahu and Lieberman decided to accept Putin’s guarantees to keep Iranian forces at a distance from Israel’s borders – despite his repeated default on former guarantees. But no more than five hours elapsed before Hamas turned the Gaza flame high with a deadly cross-border attack on Israel border forces. For the first time in more than three months of explosive balloon and flaming kite attacks and violent border assaults, Hamas surprised Israel by deploying trained marksmen against Israeli troops and killing one soldier. The furious IDF tank and air force reprisal on 8 Hamas outposts killed 4 Palestinians and injured more than 100.
While getting set for the next round of a wide-ranging IDF counter-terror offensive in Gaza, the diplomatic wheels began turning. Egyptian General Intelligence Director Gen. Kemal Abbas and the UN Middle East envoy, Nikolai Maldanov were enlisted to the effort.
The Israeli public were told (a) that Israel fighter jets had conducted three large-scale sorties against Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip Friday evening, as the prologue for a major ground operation, and (b) that Israel had asked Egypt to broker a ceasefire.
In fact, the Israeli jets dropped no more than 6 missiles on each Hamas command center attacked. Although they were said to have been flattened, they were damaged but remained standing.
After a quiet night on the Gaza front, Hamas offered Israel a dose of reality. On Saturday morning the terrorist group’s spokesmen commented that the ceasefire was very fragile and liable to break down at any moment. Furthermore, in none of the negotiations were the balloon-cum-kite offensive or the Palestinian border riots addressed and would therefore continue. Hamas had achieved exactly what it sought: the freedom to carry on as before, call the shots on when to goad the IDF into reprisals and to calibrate the level of escalation centering on the Gaza Strip.
After witnessing Israel’s handling of security threats on those two fronts, Hamas, Iran and Hizballah will feel free to continue to erode the IDF’s deterrence and self-confidence, while landing a fresh blow or setback on Israel’s head whenever they choose. Netanyahu-Putin phone calls will not change this skewed symmetry.

Iran’s vicious and rapidly growing dominance
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/July 21/18
History is indeed one of the best tools with which to comprehend the Iranian regime’s current and prospective threats. A nuanced examination of the rapid and remarkable growth of Tehran’s hegemony ought to send an alarming message to the international community — and urge it immediately to take appropriate action.
When Khomeini assumed power and set up the system of Velayat-e-Faqih (the governance of the jurist, which gives the supreme leader custodianship over the entire nation), the regime had barely any influence in other countries, in the region or beyond. Iran also endured eight years of a bloody and devastating war with its neighbor, Iraq.
Nevertheless, Tehran still managed to dramatically widen its spheres of influence, open new fronts and export its extremist ideology and revolutionary ideals. During the Iran-Iraq war, although many of Iran’s resources were drained, the theocratic, determined and defiant regime began to implement its international agenda. Three years after 1979, the ruling mullahs sent more than 1,000 members of its Quds Force — a special unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) that operates in foreign territories — to Lebanon. Within a short period of time, these IRGC members gave birth to the first, and currently the most powerful, Shiite militia group in the world: Hezbollah.
The Iranian regime soon resorted to terrorist tactics as its modus operandi. Through a series of concerted operations — including the bombing of American embassies, taking hostages, kidnappings, the killing of peacekeeping troops from Europe and the US, suicide bombings, and deadly attacks against Israel — Iran and Hezbollah scored their first geopolitical, strategic and ideological victory when they forced Israel and the US to pull out of Lebanon.
Within a few years, Beirut became the first Arab capital to fall into the hands of Iran, and Iranian leaders bragged about it. This new front in the Levant was not sufficient for Tehran, which turned its attention to Bahrain and other Gulf nations. The IRGC and Ministry of Intelligence invested their resources in building a network of surrogate militias, sponsoring terrorist groups and supporting fundamentalist Shiite groups across the region, such as the Islamic Front for the Liberation of Bahrain
It is incumbent on the international community to put an end to the Iranian regime’s rapidly growing hegemony, and its dangerous and vicious expansion.
In an attempt to establish systems of governance similar to that of Iran in neighboring countries, the Iranian regime began stirring up protests in Gulf nations by pursuing a sectarian agenda, and the supreme leader publicly called for the overthrow of Gulf governments, including that of Saudi Arabia. Feeling empowered, Tehran plotted to assassinate prominent figures, including Riyadh’s ambassador to Washington.
In Iraq, Iran did not give up its objective to dominate Baghdad, even after eight years of war, which led to a military stalemate. Tehran exercised significant patience until it found its political opportunity in 2003, during the Iraqi conflict involving the US.
As for Syria, the Iranian regime had long sought to dominate Damascus as it did Beirut. Although Damascus and Tehran were staunch allies, former President Hafez Assad most likely drew a red line for Iran, warning Tehran against creating militia groups in Syria, setting up military bases in the country or attempting to rule over Damascus. Iran was aware that if it crossed this red line, Assad was capable of damaging Iran’s interests in Lebanon. Resorting to their masterful skill of patience, the mullahs waited until they found an opportunity in 2011.
Like the Lebanese civil war, the Syrian conflict provided a ripe opportunity for Tehran to infiltrate and dominate the political, security and military establishment of the Syrian regime. Syria has turned into a large military entrenchment for Iran. The IRGC has set up more than 10 military bases, some of which are permanent, in Syrian cities.
In 2012, Iran also found a great window of opportunity to significantly expand its influence in the Arabian Peninsula by supporting the Houthis in Yemen, militarily, financially and politically. A UN panel conclusively found recently that the Iranian regime was behind the transfer of illegal weapons to the Houthis.
From the perspective of the Iranian regime, its rapidly growing dominance and influence has been a success. Iranian leaders boasted about controlling four Arab capitals: Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and Sanaa.
It is worth mentioning that a 40-year period is infinitesimal in the context of the world’s political history. However, the Iranian regime managed in this short period of time not only to consolidate its power but also to considerably expand its influence and dominance, from Lebanon and Syria to Iraq and Yemen, and even into some European and Latin American nations.
The lesson to learn from the four-decade history of the ruling mullahs is crystal clear: if the Iranian regime has accomplished such a remarkable and rapid expansion of influence in such a relatively short period of time, imagine how much further it can extend its hegemony, supremacy and dominance in the event that it is not adequately countered and stopped.
It is incumbent on the international community to put an end to the Iranian regime’s rapidly growing hegemony, and its dangerous and vicious expansion.
• Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council.

Iran’s ‘fantasy’ of support from Putin
Camelia Entekhabifard/Arab News/July 21/18
Iranians watched the news conference given by US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin after their summit in Helsinki last week with particular interest — and with a particular eye on Putin.
Apparently they believed the Russian leader might defend their national interests — a curious about-face, since the Russians are usually portrayed in Iran as users and back-stabbers. Indeed, despite relations with the US having broken down 40 years ago, an American in Tehran would be treated with more compassion than a Russian.
In fact, it was the regime who conveyed to the public the notion that Putin might raise with Trump the issue of the Iran nuclear deal, and find a way to avoid renewed sanctions. Ali Akbar Velayati, special adviser to the Supreme Leader, went to Russia to meet Putin before the summit. Some super-optimistic Iranian dreamers thought he might be carrying a message for Trump to be delivered by Putin.
What actually happened turned out to be something of a cold shower for these fantasists. Putin mentioned Iran only briefly at the press conference, and did not criticize Trump for his withdrawal from the nuclear deal.
“Thanks to the Iranian nuclear deal, Iran became most controlled country in the world, it submitted to the control of IAEA,” Putin said, and the deal “effectively ensures the peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear program and strengthens the non-proliferation regime.”
Those remarks conveyed only satisfaction that Iran, a Russian neighbor, could not be armed with nuclear weapons.
Putin may already have made a deal with Trump to sell Iran down the river again.
In Iran, the public has historical suspicions of Russia that date from a 19th-century war. In the modern era, Russia earned a fortune when it signed a contract with Iran in 1995 to build the Bushehr nuclear power plant. Work was delayed for several years by technical and financial challenges, and by political pressure on Russia from the West as Iran came under tight international sanctions, and construction stopped in 2007. Approximately $11 billion of investment has gone into Bushehr, and it is still not clear if it is actually operational.
Perhaps this money was paid to the Russians in return for friendship and support at the UN Security Council, but nevertheless the Russians have twice sided with the international community against Iran’s nuclear program.
The Russian S-300 air-defense missile system was part of an $800 million arms deal with Iran signed in 2007. Delivery was delayed, with lots of excuses, and was revived when Iran reached the framework agreement of the nuclear deal in 2015.
Interestingly, a day after the Helsinki summit, and apparently frustrated by Putin’s performance, President Hassan Rouhani’s chief of staff Mahmoud Vaezi revealed that at the UN General Assembly in New York last September Trump had eight times requested a meeting with Rouhani, and was turned down each time.
Perhaps the regime’s strategists are now thinking that if Putin can have a face-to-face with Trump despite allegations of Russian meddling in US elections, then why shouldn’t they?
They may be too late. Putin moves too quickly for them, and he may already have made a deal to sell them down the river again.
Perhaps Rouhani and his “fixer,” Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, are preparing another attempt this year at the UN General Assembly to save the nuclear deal and their regime. If so, this time they will have to call Trump — because he won’t be calling them again.
• Camelia Entekhabifard is an Iranian-American journalist, political commentator and author of “Camelia: Save Yourself By Telling the Truth” (Seven Stories Press, 2008).

Exclusive: German Intelligence Contradicts Merkel On Iran's Nuclear Drive

Jerusalem Post/July 21/18
The domestic intelligence agencies in Germany are the functional equivalent of Israel's Shin Bet.
A new German intelligence report from the city-state of Hamburg on Thursday said Iran's regime continues to seek weapons of mass destruction, delivering another intelligence agency blow to Chancellor Angela Merkel's belief that the 2015 atomic deal with the Islamic Republic has been effective in curbing Tehran's nuclear weapons ambitions.
The Jerusalem Post reviewed the 211-page document that states "some of the crisis countries... are still making an effort to obtain products for the manufacture of atomic, biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction (proliferation) and the corresponding missile carrier technology (rocket technology)."
The Hamburg report added that "the current main focus points of countries in the area of relevant proliferation activities are: Iran, Syrian, Pakistan and Syria."
Hamburg's intelligence agency conclusions covering Iran's alleged illicit conduct conform with the intelligence data from 2018 state agency reports in Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, North Rhine-Westphalia and Hesse.
The domestic intelligence agencies in Germany are the functional equivalent of Israel's Shin Bet.
The Hamburg intelligence official wrote that that "Iran still constitutes, because of its previous nuclear relevant activities, the focus of Germany in the sector of counter-proliferation."
The report said that "Iran continues to pursue unchanged an ambitious program to modernize its rocket technology with the goal of a continued increase of the reach of the missiles."
Merkel said on July 9 that "[Germany] remains committed to the nuclear agreement. We think it was well-negotiated."
The US government pulled out of the Iran deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive of Plan of Action (JCPOA), in May because of the agreement's failure to prevent Tehran from building a nuclear weapon device. Merkel has not commented on the intelligence findings of state agencies that appear to significantly undermine her strong defense of the effectiveness of the atomic deal reached with world powers in July 2015.
Iran's activities - ranging from espionage to support for Hezbollah and the spread of religious extremism - are cited 48 times in Hamburg's intelligence report.
Hesse's state intelligence agency published in June a document on countering the spread of weapons of mass destruction, singling out the Islamic Republic of Iran as one of two states seeking to obtain the ultimate form of powerful weapons.
According to the document: “Weapons of mass destruction are a continued instrument of power politics that also, in regional and international crises situations, can shatter the entire stability of state structures. States like Iran and North Korea attempt, in the context of proliferation, to acquire and spread such weapons by, for example, disguising the transportation ways through third countries.”
The Post reported in early June that the intelligence agency of Baden-Württemberg wrote in its report: “Iran continued to undertake, as did Pakistan and Syria, efforts to obtain goods and know-how to be used for the development of weapons of mass destruction and to optimize corresponding missile-delivery systems.”
Bavaria’s intelligence agency noted in its April report: “Iran, North Korea, Syria and Pakistan are making efforts to expand their conventional weapons arsenal through the production of weapons of mass destruction.”
The Islamic Republic of Iran sought to obtain illicit goods for its missile program from Germany, the intelligence agency for Germany’s most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia, the Post reported in June.
The North Rhine-Westphalia intelligence agency wrote: “Because of the demand for relevant goods for its rocket program, Iran continues to represent proliferation defense in our work.”
German exports to Iran rose to 3.5 billion euros in 2017 from 2.6 billion euros in 2016.
The Federal Republic conducts dual-use deals with the Islamic Republic, in which German technology and equipment can be used for military and civilian purposes. The Post reported in February that Iranian businessmen purchased industrial material from the Krempel company in Baden-Württemberg that was later found in chemical rockets used to gas Syrian civilians in January and February.
A total of 24 Syrians were severely injured in those poison gas attacks. Germany’s Federal Office for Economic Affairs and Export Control told the Post that the Krempel material was not a dual-use item, and declined to stop trade between Krempel and the Islamic Republic.
Amir Taheri, a leading Iranian journalist, wrote Thursday on Twitter that the "Russian steel firm Sursthal ceases trading with Iran, citing threat of US sanctions. Its Iranian partner Fulad Mubarakah says it is in talks with German firms to fill the gap with Berlin govt. backing (Strange world: Putin on Trump's side, Merkel on the opposite side?!)"