July 25/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever
John 14/15-20: "‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. ‘I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you."

Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on July 24-25/18
Lebanon's government paralysis: Will Hariri blink first/Bassem Ajami/Annahar/July 24/18
An Israeli David’s Sling missile falls into Russian and Syrian hands/DEBKAfile/July 24, 2018
Daesh makes comeback in Iraq with switch to guerrilla tactics/Reuter/AFP/July 24, 2018
Americans Rate Helsinki Performance/Scott Clement and Dan Balz/The Washington Post/July 24/18
Sweden's Turbulent Election Year/Fjordman/Gatestone Institute/July 24/18
The Great British Foreign Office Fantasy/Douglas Murray/Gatestone Institute/July 24/18
What the UK should ask Qatar’s emir to do with Iran/Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/July 24/18
How Trump gave Putin the upper hand in Helsinki/Yossi Mekelberg/Arab News/July 24/18
Russia ups its game with players in Syria/Maria Dubovikova/Arab News/July 24/18
Between Trump’s policy and character/Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/July 24/18
Please do not die young/Turki Aldakhil/Al Arabiya/July 24/18
Muqtada al-Sadr and the future of Iraq/Michael Flanagan/Al Arabiya/July 24/18

Titles For The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on July 24-25/18
Hariri Welcomes Efforts to Ensure Return of Syria Refugees
Hariri to Submit Govt. Format 'within 2 Days', Hits Out at Damascus
Berri Says Contacts with Syria 'Serve' Lebanon’s Economy
Lebanon's government paralysis: Will Hariri blink first?
Most Dangerous Drug Dealer Killed in Army Raid in Lebanon
Lebanon: Crackdown on Activists for Tweets Criticizing Aoun, Hezbollah
Aoun awards medal to outgoing UNIFIL head
Direct air route ties Lebanese expats to their home country: Aoun
MEA Ranked Second Best in Middle East
UN Security Council Urges National Unity Government in Lebanon
Father of Lebanese woman imprisoned in Egypt calls on Aoun, Hariri to help
Hakim Expresses Pessimism over Government Formation
Hariri receives Russian and Belgian diplomats, UNIFIL commander
Japan supports construction of water tank in west Bekaa
Sheikh Hassan meets Abu Faour
United States provides 100 school buses to Lebanese public schools
Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on July 24-25/18
An Israeli David’s Sling missile falls into Russian and Syrian hands
Israel Shoots Down Syrian Fighter Jet over Golan Heights
Israel’s only goods crossing with Gaza to partially reopen
Russia Offers to Keep Iran Forces in Syria Far from Golan, Says Israel
Iran Army Warns of 'Firm, Strong Response' to US Threats
Washington Works With UN on ‘Lasting Settlement’ in Syria
Bolton Reinforces Trump Threats against Iran
Pompeo say US to broadcast in Farsi across several platforms
Iranian FM Zarif responds to Trump tweets with same words: ‘BE CAUTIOUS!’
Iran says will respond equally if US tries to block oil exports
Washington Backs Iraqi People’s Right to Hold Peaceful Rallies
Daesh makes comeback in Iraq with switch to guerrilla tactics
German spy agency says Iran’s growing cyber capabilities pose danger
Syrian actress and face of Syria’s anti-Assad revolution dies in Paris

The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on July 24-25/18
Hariri Welcomes Efforts to Ensure Return of Syria Refugees
Associated Press/Naharnet/July 24/18/Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri said Tuesday that he welcomes international efforts to ensure the return of Syrian refugees to their homes and awaits a roadmap being developed by the Russian ministry of defense on the matter. In a statement issued by his office, Hariri said he hopes the plan, in coordination with the U.S. administration, the United Nations and other relevant parties, will be a serious effort to resolve the refugee crisis. Last week, Russia's Defense Ministry said it proposed to the United States the creation of a joint group, along with Jordan, to organize refugee returns. Close to 1 million Syrians are registered with the U.N.'s refugee agency in Lebanon, a burden that the cash-strapped Lebanese government says it can no longer bear.

Hariri to Submit Govt. Format 'within 2 Days', Hits Out at Damascus
Naharnet/July 24/18/Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri announced Tuesday that he will meet soon with President Michel Aoun as an MP of his bloc said he will submit a “new government format” within “two days.”“I will visit the president soon and I have not announced any deadline for my designation and I'm not compelled to abide by any deadline,” Hariri said. Turning to the Syrian refugee file, Hariri added: “It caught my attention that the Russians and the Americans were the ones who decided that the refugees should return and not the Syrian regime.” “As for coordination to return the refugees, it is underway in the known manner,” the PM-designate added, apparently referring to General Security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim's efforts in this regard. MP Dima Jamali of Hariri's al-Mustaqbal bloc meanwhile told al-Jadeed TV that the PM-designate “will visit Baabda within two days to present to President Aoun a new cabinet line-up format.”“He has told the bloc that the atmosphere is positive regarding the Cabinet formation process,” Jamali added.Hariri was tasked with forming a new government on May 24. His mission is being hindered by political wrangling over the Christian and Druze shares.

Hariri Welcomes Efforts to Ensure Return of Syria Refugees

Associated Press/Naharnet/July 24/18/Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri said Tuesday that he welcomes international efforts to ensure the return of Syrian refugees to their homes and awaits a roadmap being developed by the Russian ministry of defense on the matter. In a statement issued by his office, Hariri said he hopes the plan, in coordination with the U.S. administration, the United Nations and other relevant parties, will be a serious effort to resolve the refugee crisis. Last week, Russia's Defense Ministry said it proposed to the United States the creation of a joint group, along with Jordan, to organize refugee returns. Close to 1 million Syrians are registered with the U.N.'s refugee agency in Lebanon, a burden that the cash-strapped Lebanese government says it can no longer bear.

Berri Says Contacts with Syria 'Serve' Lebanon’s Economy

Naharnet/July 24/18/Speaker Nabih Berri voiced hopes that a quick solution is reached for the crisis of Syrian refugees, noting that “coordination” between the Lebanese and Syrian governments on the issue serves Lebanon, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Tuesday.
Berri was quoted as telling his visitors that endeavors must be intensified to solve the crisis of refugees. He said “there is a need for communication between the Lebanese and Syrian governments to follow up on the refugees issue and solve it.”The Speaker stressed: “Solving the crisis falls in Lebanon’s and Syria’s interests alike,” adding that “having contacts with Syria serve Lebanon’s interest economically mainly when the phase of Syria’s reconstruction begins.” Seven years into Syria's war, Lebanon hosts around 1.5 million Syrian refugees, compared with a local population of 4.5 million. Over the past few months, more than 800 Syrians have left Lebanon for their neighboring home country in operations organised by the governments of Beirut and Damascus. Several thousand have also independently left in recent years. Coordination between Lebanon and Syria is a contentious issue in Lebanon. Some of Lebanon's political parties support it, while others who blame the Syrian regime for the assassination of ex-PM Rafik Hariri categorically reject it.

Lebanon's government paralysis: Will Hariri blink first?
Bassem Ajami/Annahar/July 24/18
No one doubts the patriotism and integrity of Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri. The man is truly among the few political leaders in the country who genuinely care about Lebanon's stability and economic progress. But he also succumbs too easily to pressure and sheer bullying by his political rivals. While between 2005 and 2018 the March 14 movement that he led enjoyed a clear parliamentary and popular majority, Hariri surrendered in every confrontation that pitted him against the March 8 movement, from disputes over appointments in key government posts to the formation of cabinets. He always justified his retreat by the desire to save the country political turmoil and security risks. No doubt a noble cause. The most serious retreat by Hariri was his decision to endorse Hezbollah's declared candidate, MP Michel Aoun, as president. In justifying his decision, Hariri said that he was inspired by reading "from the book of Rafik Hariri." That may be so. But he would have done better had he read the last chapter of his father's book. It speaks volumes about the rough characteristics that sway Lebanese politics. But the young Hariri was bullied and intimidated by the March 8 movement. And he surrendered once more. Today, in his attempt to form a government, Hariri again confronts the harassment apparatus of the March 8 movement. It manifests itself in the - sometimes subtle sometimes not- threats to revoke his nomination to form the awaited government. Foreign Minister and Aoun’s son-in-law Gebran Bassil's declaration that his patience "is wearing thin" is a clear expression of the prevailing mood within the March 8 camp.The serious point about Bassil's intimidating statement is that it conceals an intent to violate the constitution. Since the Taif Accord imposes no deadline on the nominated prime minister to form a government. Moreover, Bassil's declaration attracts criticism because the man has no official capacity to announce to the Lebanese the level of his patience over such a delicate issue. One can understand if the president makes such a declaration, or even the speaker or the designated prime minister. While Bassil is a key political player, and his role was enhanced by the recent legislative elections, which positioned him as the leader of the largest bloc in parliament, he is in no position to make such demands. His aim is to bully Hariri in the hope of coercing him to embrace his views on the shape and form of the awaited government. Interestingly, Bassil's patience did not wear thin when the office of the president was kept vacant for some two and a half years because the then-presidential candidate, MP Michel Aoun, did not command the needed majority in parliament. One may argue that this is all within the limits of the legitimate political game. That may be so. But the question that poses itself today is how will the current impasse be resolved? Previous experience tells us that Hariri is likely to blink first. Hopefully, he doesn’t.
**Mr. Ajami is a freelance researcher, writer and contributor to The Arab Weekly, London.

Most Dangerous Drug Dealer Killed in Army Raid in Lebanon
Beirut - Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 24 July, 2018/Eight gunmen were killed and 41 others arrested in raids by the Lebanese army in the town of Hammoudieh in eastern Lebanon over the possession of drugs and arms. Military sources described the operation as “very important and unique.” The sources told Asahrq Al-Awsat on Monday that Ali Ismail, who is wanted for drug dealing, was killed in the operation, describing him as “one of the most dangerous wanted men and the biggest drug dealer in the country.”The National News Agency reported that a wanted Syrian, who threatened to blow himself up to avoid arrest, was shot dead by an army unit that had been surrounding the suspected drug dealer and his gunmen in the town of Hammoudieh – Brital. The Syrian was identified as Hussein Ali Matar, also known as Jamal the Syrian. He worked Ismail’s bodyguard. "An army unit is raiding the house of Ali Zaid Ismail, wanted for drug dealing charges, in the Brital town of Hammoudieh, alongside armed groups linked to him,” said an army communique. Sources said that several military units were used in the operation, including air forces. Military choppers were seen flying over Hammoudieh, amid intensive patrols and other land reinforcements. “The wanted man and his team had fired in the direction of army personnel, while Ismail tried to escape the town,” the sources said. They revealed that the military had prepared for this operation for quite some time by monitoring and tracking the armed men and to avoid targeting civilians at the residential compound where the drug dealers had stayed

Lebanon: Crackdown on Activists for Tweets Criticizing Aoun, Hezbollah

Beirut- Youssef Diab/Asharq Al Awsat/Tuesday, 24 July, 2018/Crackdowns on activists on social media have escalated because of criticisms and comments against Lebanese officials. People are being questioned by the security services because of views and positions posted on their social media pages, criticizing President Michel Aoun, Hezbollah and other influential figures. Angered by the state measures, a group of activists will take part in a sit-in on Tuesday evening in central Beirut to reject what they call as “the policy of intimidation, the silencing of mouths and the restrictions on public freedoms.” Summonses and lengthy interrogation sessions with activists did not stop statements strongly attacking officials. During the past week, the Anti-Crime Office of the Internal Security Forces and the General Security Service summoned activists including Imad Bazzi, for his criticism of the Eden Bay tourist project, which is being built on the shore of Ramlet al-Bayda. Bazzi failed to attend the interrogation session on Friday as he was undergoing a surgery. Another activist, Elie Khoury, was summoned to a similar hearing before being contacted and informed of the cancellation of the session. In his tweets, Khoury criticized Aoun and said the purpose of the summons is "to intimidate Lebanese youth." In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, he said: “I have spoken to let the President of the Republic know the difficult reality and the suffering of young people in this country, and not to abuse him or attack his position.”“What I said does not mean revolution, but an expression of the grief felt by every Lebanese, and the campaign of summons does not scare me,” he noted. A judicial source told Asharq Al-Awsat that the judiciary “acts immediately when it receives tweets or remarks against the president who represents the country,” stressing that the investigation was conducted under the supervision of the Attorney General, Judge Samir Hamoud.

Aoun awards medal to outgoing UNIFIL head

The Daily Star/Jul. 24, 2018/BEIRUT: President Michel Aoun Monday granted the National Order of the Cedar to Maj. Gen. Michael Beary, the outgoing commander of the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon, during a farewell visit at Baabda Palace. Aoun thanked Beary for his efforts during his two-year term, and awarded him the medal in appreciation, a statement from the president’s office reported. The National Order of the Cedar is the highest state order of Lebanon and is offered in five grades. Beary was awarded the Commander’s badge.
Beary in turn thanked Aoun for his support, expressing hopes cooperation would continue with his successor, Italian Maj. Gen. Stefano Del Col. Aoun reiterated Lebanon had asked to extend UNIFIL’s mandate for an additional year without any amendments to its functions or budget.

Direct air route ties Lebanese expats to their home country: Aoun

The Daily Star/Jul. 24, 2018/BEIRUT: President Michel Aoun Monday said that the new direct air route between Beirut and Madrid would help tie Lebanese citizens living abroad to their home country. In a speech to a delegation of Lebanese expatriates from Canada, Aoun added that the direct flights, which were resumed by Middle East Airlines after a 25-year hiatus, would facilitate the marketing of Lebanese products around the world. The president also focused on the importance of political integration among Lebanese expatriates and praised their participation in this year’s parliamentary elections. Canada achieved the highest voting rate among Lebanese expatriate communities. Aoun called on the expatriates to consider the country’s latest achievements, including the passing of the new electoral law, the beginning of a new political era following the first Lebanese parliamentary elections in nine years, as well as the Lebanese Army’s victory last year against Daesh (ISIS) militants on the Lebanese-Syrian border.

MEA Ranked Second Best in Middle East 24th July 2018/The Middle East Airlines (MEA) was ranked second in the Middle East, as per TripAdvisor's 2018 Travellers' Choice awards. Lebanon's national carrier was named second best in the region, being listed between Emirates and Qatar Airways. Singapore Airlines was named the world's best airline in the awards, which are based on the US-based travel website's user ratings and reviews submitted from around the globe over a 12-month period. TripAdvisor Flights general manager Bryan Saltzburg said the Traveller's Choice awards "recognize the carriers that exceed passenger expectations and receive top marks from travellers".

UN Security Council Urges National Unity Government in Lebanon 24th July 2018/The UN Security Council on Monday expressed hope that a new government of national unity will be formed swiftly in Lebanon, voicing commitment to follow closely the situation in the country, including the implementation of 1701. "The members of the Security Council look forward to the upcoming mandate renewal of UNIFIL," read a statement issued following the meeting. The members of the Security Council also expressed support to the activities of UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon and UNIFIL in carrying out its mandate.

Father of Lebanese woman imprisoned in Egypt calls on Aoun, Hariri to help
The Daily Star/Jul. 24, 2018/BEIRUT: The family of a Lebanese woman imprisoned in Egypt since May called Tuesday for their daughter’s release, voicing fears that she is considering ending her life. Mona al-Mazbouh was charged with “deliberately broadcasting false rumors which aim to undermine society and attack religions.” She was sentenced to eight years in prison earlier this month after an Egyptian court accused her of insulting Egypt and attacking religion. “The put her on the ground in water and with bugs and she went nine days without food. The girl is dying, crying all day and night and now she’s thinking of committing suicide,” Mona’s father said in a news conference from Beirut Tuesday. “If something happens to her there, what’s going to happen after that?” he asked. The father called on President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri to intervene and help secure the release of his daughter. He said he wouldn’t let human rights organizations intervene in the case “so they wouldn’t insult Egypt.” The father added that he has apologized to Egypt and the Egyptian people on a daily basis. “The girl was treated unfairly and I hope she is sent to Lebanon as soon as possible because I am scared of what she may do,” he said. Mazbouh’s lawyer has filed an appeal and the court date has been set for July 29. She was arrested in May as she was leaving Cairo, after a video of her lashing out at sexual harassment in Egypt and calling Egyptians “dirty” and “pimps” began circulating, the Associated Press reported at the time. She has since remained in detention. Mazbouh later posted another video in which she apologized to the Egyptian people. She said she first posted the video on a private Facebook page that had only 25 members and that one of the participants then posted it on a public platform.
Hakim Expresses Pessimism over Government Formation 24th July 2018/Former Economy Minister Alain Hakim on Tuesday slammed the delay in forming a new government, criticizing the blatant recklessness and indifference towards the people's daily issues. “They are busy partitioning portfolios and setting conditions as if they exclusively own the ministeries, while the nation is going through economic, and financial crises that are threatening its citizens,” Hakim wrote on Twitter. “Where do they [officials] stand regarding the unresolved files on the economic, financial and social levels? Is there any place for the country and the nation when their personal interests are involved?”“The government will not be an all-inclusive one, but will rather be monopolized by certain people," Hakim expected.

Hariri receives Russian and Belgian diplomats, UNIFIL commander
Tue 24 Jul 2018/NNA - Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri received today the Russian chargé d'affaires Vyacheslav Maksudov at the Center House, in the presence of his adviser for Russian affairs Georges Chaaban, a statement by Hariri's press office said on Tuesday.
They discussed the Russian proposal for the return of displaced Syrians from Lebanon to their country. Maksudov told Prime Minister Hariri that a representative of the Russian president and a representative of the Ministry of Defense would arrive before the end of the week in Beirut to discuss the issue. Hariri also received Belgian Ambassador Alex Lenaerts. They discussed the situation and bilateral relations. Hariri also met with the UNIFIL Head of Mission and Force Commander Major General Michael Beary, on a farewell visit on the occasion of the end of his mission. He also met with former MP Khaled al-Daher, who said at the end of the meeting: "We visited Prime Minister Hariri and heard from him his commitment to Lebanon, its political stability and its protection, in the light of the difficult atmosphere in the region. We asked him about development in the region, but the national concern remains formation of the government and the need to accelerate it, because it is the national interest of the Lebanese". He added: "It is necessary to respect the Constitution and the prerogatives of all presidencies and institutions, and all attempts to weaken the prerogatives of the Prime Minister to weaken the presidency of the Council will fail. As a result, all Lebanese stand alongside Prime Minister Hariri today in his commitment to form the government and preserve prerogatives. We all know that the government is formed by the prime minister-designate who presents the names to the President of the Republic." He recalled "the remarkable political position of Prime Minister Hariri, who is discussing with all the parties," and hoped "that President Hariri will be rewarded by facilitating his mission and by not putting obstacles in the wheels of the formation, which is detrimental to the national interest. Prime Minister Hariri is committed to rights, duties, prerogatives and the constitution, and we are by his side and will not accept anything else." ---PM press office

Japan supports construction of water tank in west Bekaa
Tue 24 Jul 2018/NNA - In a press release by the Japanese Embassy in Beirut, it said: "The Embassy supports the construction of a water tank in Sohmor, West Bekaa, in order to provide clean water to all the residents of the village. On the occasion of the project completion, on July 24 2018, Matahiro .Yamaguchi, Ambassador of Japan to Lebanon, attended the inauguration ceremony organized by the municipality of Sohmor.
The ceremony was also
attended by Kabalan Kabalan, the President of the Council of the South. With a grant of USD 88,730 through the Grant Assistance for Grass-roots Human Security Program (GGP), the municipality can provide clear water to at least 1,000 residents in the village that suffer from water shortage. During the ceremony, Ambassador Yamaguchi praised the municipality’s efforts in implementing the project and highlighted Japan’s strong commitments to assist the local communities. Meanwhile, Mohammed EL Khechen, Mayor of Sohmor, expressed his deep appreciation for the Japanese support to people of Lebanon over the years."

Sheikh Hassan meets Abu Faour
Tue 24 Jul 2018/NNA - Druze Sheikh Aql, Naeem Hassan, met at the Druze House on Tuesday, with MP Wael Abu Faour, with whom he discussed the latest developments and general situation. During the meeting, Sheikh Hassan reportedly highlighted the necessity to preserve home stability and to speed up the government formation while considering the results of the recent legislative elections. Separately, Hassan met with Lebanon Ambassador to Yemen, Hadi Jaber.

United States provides 100 school buses to Lebanese public schools

Tue 24 Jul 2018/NNA - US Ambassador to Lebanon, Elizabeth Richard, and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Mission Director Dr. Anne Patterson on Tuesday delivered 100 school buses provided by USAID to public schools in 24 districts nationwide in the presence of Caretaker Minister of Education and
Higher Education Marwan Hamade.
In a press release by the US Embassy in Beirut, it said: "Starting academic year 2018-2019, this $4.6 million donation will provide access to school for nearly 5,000 vulnerable Lebanese and refugee students enrolled in both the first and second shifts of public schools throughout Lebanon. USAID's donation includes comprehensive bus operations and maintenance plans, regional training for school administrators on sound bus management, and training for drivers and supervisors on safe driving, child protection as well as bus operation and maintenance. The Ministry of Education and Higher Education will operate and maintain the buses and ensure their long-term sustainability. The buses are part of the $46.2 million Quality Instruction Towards Access and Basic Education Improvement (QITABI) program funded by USAID since 2014. QITABI works with young learners to improve their Arabic reading skills, increases access to education for deserving students and helps the Ministry of Education and Higher Education and the Center for Educational Research and Development sustain reading and access reforms.
Today's initiative is part of the U.S. Government's investment, through USAID, of more than $286 million to improve access to and the quality of education in Lebanon. Initiatives have included improving the quality of education in the public school system, training teachers and principals, equipping public schools with science laboratories and computers, and providing merit-based scholarships to deserving public school students to access top U.S.-accredited universities."In her delivered word, Ambassador Richard said: "We are here to mark another very important step in the U.S. Government's strong support for education in Lebanon - and especially our support for public schools. The 100 buses some of which are parked behind me will enable over 5000 young students in 24 districts across the country to get the education they deserve.
I don't have to tell anyone here about the importance of education. If I had to pick one factor in a young person's life that would determine whether his or her future would be bright and full of possibility, or whether it would be a lifetime of struggle, I would choose education.
For that reason, the U.S. government has committed a long time ago to invest heavily in education in Lebanon - nearly $300 million in the last ten years. We work with the public schools, from the earliest grades, and with private universities. We have trained public school teachers, we've renovated schools, we've provided equipment, we've helped develop a national education strategy, we've provided thousands of young people a chance to study English in the United States, and we've offered full four year scholarships for kids whose families cannot afford a private university education.
Today, I want to highlight one program that will be enhanced by the delivery of these buses you see here. It's called QITABI, and it is a nearly $50 million investment, increasing young children's ability to read in Arabic. We are now doing this program in half of Lebanon's public schools across the country - including in some of its most rural areas. It's been a big success! The Ministry of Education has developed benchmarks based on extensive data and experience to systematically measure and improve reading outcomes. The results for this program have been remarkable: over 70% of students have improved at least one reading level. But while we are improving programs that teach children in public schools good Arabic language skills, there are still many other barriers and challenges, including simply getting kids to school - especially in the remote areas.  This is why we worked with the Ministry of Education for over a year to design the school bus program. It will provide safe, reliable, and modern transportation system to get Lebanese children to school. We have a long and strong relationship with the Ministry of Education, whose unwavering commitment to the future of Lebanese children is impressive.
I'd like to say a special word today about Minister Hamade, whose personal commitment to educating every single young person in this country has been an inspiration to all of us. He has worked tirelessly with the United States and with our other international community partners who are also investing in education to dramatically improve access to education for all."

The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on July 24-25/18
An Israeli David’s Sling missile falls into Russian and Syrian hands
DEBKAfile/July 24, 2018
Two missiles of the David’s Sling cutting-edge air defense system were launched against Syrian SS-21 missiles on Monday, July 23. One landed in Syria; the other one self-destructed. Both missed their targets.
The IDF spokesman eventually came clean about what happened to the the David Sling on its maiden combat mission – but only in dribs and drabs. The Syrian missiles targeted by the Israel interceptors did not actually cross into Israel. The built-in mechanisms of the two interceptors already in flight were ordered to self-destruct. Only one did. DEBKAfile’s military sources note that it is normal practice for an army, after a top-line weapon on its first operational mission falls on enemy soil intact – or even in pieces – to act fast for sterilizing the drop-site with heavy aerial or artillery bombardment. This enables a salvage team to move in and retrieve the weapon and is what an American or Russian army would have done.
IDF behaved differently for four reasons.
1. The David Sling’s launch team may not have discovered the location of the drop site.
The Air Force only slowly grasped what had happened.
By the time the second missile was known not to have self-destructed, it was too late to recover. It had almost certainly been carried off by Russian or Syrian helicopter.
Israel decided that its recovery was not worth the risk of a major clash with Russia and Syria.
By now, the first David’s Sling missile to go into action is almost certainly being studied avidly by Russian and Syrian intelligence engineers. It is only a matter of time before its secrets reach the hands of Iran and Hizballah. This loss is therefore a gave setback for Israel’s air defense system and intelligence which is also shared by the US.
This two-stage missile, developed jointly by the Israeli defense contractor Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and the American Raytheon, is brand new, having entered service only two years ago to fill the gap in Israel’s multi-tiered missile defense arsenal between the Iron Dome for short-range operations and the Arrows which are designed to stop long-range ballistic missiles. David’s Sling is built to intercept a variety of missiles ranging between 40 and 400km, including cruise missiles at low speed. Consisting of a solid-fuel rocket motor booster, it has speeds of up to mach 7.5. or 5,754 mph, and is armed with topline radar and electro-optical systems. David’s Sling missiles are worth $1m apiece. This anti-missile missile was assigned by US and Israeli planners to replace the Patriot PAC-2 in the Israeli arsenal.
The most urgent task now is to ascertain what know-how the Russians and Syrians have been able to extract from the missile in their hands, before determining how David’s Sling should redesigned and any glitches revealed in its first performance corrected before it is restored to service.
Israel Shoots Down Syrian Fighter Jet over Golan Heights
Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 24 July, 2018/Israel announced on Tuesday that it had shot down a Syrian warplane over the occupied Golan Heights. Israel’s Army Radio said the aircraft crashed in the Syrian-held side of the frontier. The condition of the pilot was unclear.
The military said it monitored the advance of the Syrian Sukhoi fighter jet and shot it down with a pair of Patriot missiles after it entered Israeli airspace by about two kilometers. It is only the second such incident along the border in 30 years. The military said that there had been an increase in the internal fighting in Syria since the morning hours, including an increase in the activity of the Syrian regime air force. It added the Israeli military was on high alert and would continue to protect its territory. Earlier, Israel sounded air defense sirens near the Syrian frontier and witnesses said the Israeli military launched two interceptor missiles, followed by the sound of explosions. It was the second such incident in two days on the Golan Heights, opposite Syrian areas where Damascus's forces have been routing opposition factions. Israel said two incoming Syrian rockets prompted Monday's alert and the launch of two interceptor missiles, but that the rockets fell short. On Monday, Israel rebuffed a new offer by regime ally Russia to keep Iranian forces in Syria away from the Golan Heights ceasefire line, an Israeli official said. The latest disagreement arose in a meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a senior Russian delegation dispatched to Jerusalem as regime forces advanced on the Golan. In Monday's meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Netanyahu turned down a Russian offer to keep Iranian forces 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the border, according to an Israeli official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The official said that Netanyahu told Lavrov: "We will not allow the Iranians to establish themselves even 100 kilometers from the border."Israel had previously rejected a Russian proposal that Iranian forces be kept 80 km from the frontier, according to Israeli officials. Netanyahu held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putinin Moscow on July 11 amid Israeli concern that Syrian regime head Bashar al-Assad might defy a 1974 demilitarization deal on the Golan or allow his Iranian and Lebanese “Hezbollah” allies to deploy there. Russia has said that it wants to see the separation of forces on the frontier preserved.
Israel’s only goods crossing with Gaza to partially reopen
AFP, JerusalemTuesday, 24 July 2018/Israel will partially reopen its only goods crossing with the blockaded Gaza Strip later Tuesday, a minister said, after closing it July 9 over border tensions and kites carrying firebombs to burn Israeli farmland. “Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman decided that Kerem Shalom will partially reopen and as of today at 12:00 pm (0900 GMT) it will be possible to transfer gas and fuel into the Gaza Strip, in addition to food and medicine,” Lieberman’s office said. The statement noted that the number of kites and balloons carrying firebombs into Israeli territory had been reduced but not totally eliminated. It said the crossing could return to full activity soon “conditioned on the full cessation of fire-balloon launches and friction on the fence.”Israel says the devices have sparked hundreds of fires since April and caused hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage.
Palestinians in Gaza see the kites and balloons as legitimate resistance against Israel’s more than 10-year blockade. The partial reopening follows urgent warnings from United Nations officials that emergency fuel suppliesare running low in the Gaza Strip and that the shortage is starting to affect hospitals and water sanitation. The coastal enclve suffers from a severe lack of electricity and relies on fuel-powered generators during outages that last hours at a time. Israel and Hamas, the Islamist movement that runs the Gaza Strip, reached a ceasefire at the weekend following a major flare-up of violence on Friday. Israel had carried out a wave of air strikes killing three Hamas militants after one of its soldiers was shot dead along the Gaza border There have been months of tension along the border, where mass protests and clashes began on March 30 and have continued at varying levels since then Hamas and Israel have fought three wars since 2008.

Russia Offers to Keep Iran Forces in Syria Far from Golan, Says Israel
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 24/18/Russia has offered to keep Iranian forces in Syria away from the border with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights but Israel wants Tehran to completely withdraw, an Israeli official said Tuesday. Moscow made the offer -- which would see Iranian forces stay 100 kilometres (62 miles) from Syria's border with the Golan -- during talks Monday in Jerusalem between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, the official said. But Israel said the proposal did not go far enough. "We won't accept Iranian military entrenchment in Syria, not near the border, not beyond the 100-kilometre stretch, which by the way the Russians talk about and agree to," the senior official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "We said there are also long-range weapons beyond that distance, and all the forces must leave Syria," the official said. The Monday meeting came after Moscow-backed Syrian government forces regained control of most of the two provinces in the country's south near the Golan Heights, through a combination of deadly bombardment and Russian-brokered surrender deals. The advance has pushed hundreds of thousands to flee southward, with Israel enabling more than 400 rescue workers and family members to cross through its territory into Jordan on Sunday for resettlement in Western countries. Iran is Israel's arch-enemy and Netanyahu has pledged to prevent it from entrenching itself militarily in Syria. A series of air strikes that have killed Iranians in Syria have been attributed to Israel. Both Tehran and Moscow are backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the conflict. Israel is eager to obtain guarantees that Iranian forces and allied groups, such as Lebanon's Hezbollah, are kept away from the Golan and even beyond.

Iran Army Warns of 'Firm, Strong Response' to US Threats
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 24/18/Iran's armed forces chief of staff on Tuesday warned the US of a robust reaction if it continued to threaten Iranian interests. "They will receive a firm and strong response to an unbelievable degree in the places and interests where they are based in the region and around the world," said Major General Mohammad Bagheri, according to the official IRNA news agency. "The vain and useless imaginings of the US president will never be realised," he said. Washington and Tehran have been trading angry threats since Sunday, when Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned the US "not to play with the lion's tail" and that conflict with Iran would be the "mother of all wars". His US counterpart Donald Trump responded with an all-caps tirade on Twitter: "NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE."Bagheri said Iran had "never instigated war" and "wanted peace and stability in the region".But, he added: "All plots against the Iranian people will be strangled at birth and the enemies will receive an unforgettable lesson."

Washington Works With UN on ‘Lasting Settlement’ in Syria
Washington- Mouaz al-Omari/Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 24 July, 2018/US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday that his country will work with the United Nations and its partners to forge a lasting settlement of the Syrian conflict that includes full representation for all Syrians, including the people of northeast Syria now recovering from the ISIS occupation. “We congratulate the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on their successful operations to liberate al-Dashisha, Syria, from the scourge of ISIS,” Pompeo said in a press statement. “Dashisha since 2013 has been a key stronghold and transit route for ISIS fighters, weapons, and suicide bombers between Syria and Iraq,” he explained, adding that the SDF now controls the area, with Iraqi Security Forces controlling the Iraqi side of the border. He noted that last week he convened 53 members of the US Coalition to Defeat ISIS to discuss the next phase of the campaign and the imperative for coalition burden sharing, particularly with respect to stabilizing liberated areas. Pompeo stressed that the US is grateful for the significant contributions received to date and look for these contributions “to accelerate as our partners in the SDF prepare for the next phase of operations against the few remaining ISIS strongholds in Syria.”He said that SDF ground offensive cleared over 1,200 square kilometers in the Dashisha area. “The offensive was part of our Coalition-backed effort to clear the last pockets of ISIS-held territory in the Middle Euphrates River Valley and the Iraq-Syria border region,” the secretary of state added. “We commend the bravery and sacrifice of the Syrian Democratic Forces. We also commend the significant efforts of the Iraqi Security Forces to ensure that ISIS could not flee into Iraq and the artillery and air support provided during key moments of the operation.”Pompeo stated that the liberation of Iraq and ISIS’s losses in Syria are major achievements, but the mission of his country’s forces is not complete. Destroying ISIS continues to be an urgent priority for President Trump and the Administration, he stressed. In this context, the US has welcomed the safe evacuation of more than 400 members of the Syrian Civil Defense, otherwise known as the White Helmets, and their families from southwest Syria. “We are glad that these ‎brave volunteers, who have saved thousands of lives, are now out of harm’s way although the White Helmets have consistently been targeted by the Assad regime,” State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said. She added that the United States and its international partners asked the United Nations to take the central role in this critical humanitarian operation. Nauert renewed her country’s call on the Assad regime and Russia to abide by their commitments, end the violence and protect all Syrian civilians in areas formerly part of the southwest de-escalation zone and throughout Syria.

Bolton Reinforces Trump Threats against Iran
The Hill/Tuesday 24th July 2018/National security adviser John Bolton on Monday reinforced President Trump's threats against Iran, warning that the country would "pay a price" if it acts negatively toward the United States. “I spoke to the President over the last several days, and President Trump told me that if Iran does anything at all to the negative, they will pay a price like few countries have ever paid before," Bolton said in a statement Monday morning. Bolton's comments come roughly 12 hours after President Trump took to Twitter and issued an all-caps warning to Iranian leadership. "Never, ever threaten the United States again or you will suffer consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered before. We are no longer a country that will stand for your demented words of violence & death. Be cautious!" Trump tweeted. Trump appeared to be responding to remarks Iranian President Hassan Rouhani gave to a group of diplomats in which he said war with Iran "is the mother of all wars." He also seemed to leave the door open to peace talks, saying peace with Iran "is the mother of all peace." The tweet came shortly after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo compared Iran's leaders to the mafia and touted U.S. support for the people of Iran, especially protesters who have taken to the streets recently in opposition to the current government. Pompeo's comments came during an appearance at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum on Sunday evening. Tensions between the U.S. and Iran have been heightened for years, dating back well before the Trump administration. However, Trump risked escalation when he withdrew the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal earlier this year. The Obama-era agreement lifted sanctions on Tehran in exchange for the country abandoning its nuclear program. Every other country in the pact has vowed to uphold the deal, even in the United States' absence. Trump's latest rhetoric toward Iran was reminiscent of his threats against North Korea in August, when he warned that any additional threats from the country would be "met with fire, fury and, frankly, power, the likes of which this world has never seen before.”That heated tone eventually gave way to more traditional diplomacy. Trump met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un last month. While Trump has touted the meeting as an unmitigated success and claimed the country is no longer a nuclear threat, multiple reports have indicated the North Koreans have continued to develop their nuclear arsenal.
Pompeo say US to broadcast in Farsi across several platforms
Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnglishTuesday, 24 July 2018/The US is stepping up its efforts to broadcast in Farsi across several platforms and channels, the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced in a speech made to a largely Iranian American audience at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library outside Los Angeles on Sunday. Pompeo said the US Broadcasting Board of Governors is aiming to end internet censorship in Iran by creating a round-the-clock Farsi channel across television, radio, digital and social media platforms. He added that this is “so that ordinary Iranians inside Iran and around the globe will know that America stands with them”. The US Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) is a US government organization that operates directed media, notably Voice of America, Al Hurra, and Radio Sawa. Pompeo’s remarks come as the 40th anniversary of the Islamic revolution in Iran approaches. He did not mention when exactly this project will be launched. Pompeo had launched a rhetorical assault on Iran’s leaders, comparing them to a “mafia” and promising unspecified backing for Iranians unhappy with their government.

Iranian FM Zarif responds to Trump tweets with same words: ‘BE CAUTIOUS!’
Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnglishTuesday, 24 July 2018/‘BE CAUTIOUS!’ wrote Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in a tweet on Monday as a response to US President Donald Trump’s angry tweets, where he used the same words in response to Hassan Rowhani’s latest statements warning the US from ‘playing with the lion’s tail’. Zarif went on to say that Iran has received “harsher bluster” from other countries in the past few months, and that Iran has been around for millennia, hinting that the US is a younger country than his. President Donald Trump on Sunday warned Iran of consequences “the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered,” if it threatens the United States. This was in response to Iranian President Hassan Rowhani’s latest statements, where he said that “America should know ... war with Iran is the mother of all wars.” US President Donald Trump withdrew in May from the 2015 nuclear accord designed to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Tehran has said its nuclear work is just for electricity generation and other peaceful projects. Iran “is run by something that resembles the mafia more than a government,” US Secretary Mike Pompeo had said on Monday, citing what he called Iranian leaders’ vast wealth and corruption.

Iran says will respond equally if US tries to block oil exports
Reuters, BeirutTuesday, 24 July 2018/Iran will respond with equal countermeasures if the United States tries to block its oil exports, the foreign ministry in Tehran said on Tuesday.
US officials are stepping up diplomatic efforts to pressure countries to stop importing Iranian oil. “If America wants to take a serious step in this direction it will definitely be met with a reaction and equal countermeasures from Iran,” foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi was quoted as saying by the state news agency IRNA. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Saturday backed President Hassan Rouhani’s suggestion that Iran might block Gulf oil exports if its own exports are stopped. Already fraught relations between Tehran and Washington have worsened in recent days. On Monday, Iran dismissed an angry warning from President Donald Trump that it risked dire consequences “the like of which few throughout history have suffered before” if it made threats against the United States. Iran’s parliamentary speaker on Tuesday described Trump’s comments as “the words of a troublemaker”. “The United States is experiencing disorder and wildness in its diplomatic relations,” Ali Larijani was quoted as saying by IRNA. Iran has faced the threat of US sanctions since Trump decided in May to withdraw the United States from a 2015 agreement between world powers and Iran over its disputed nuclear program.

Washington Backs Iraqi People’s Right to Hold Peaceful Rallies
Baghdad – Hamza Mustafa/Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 24 July, 2018/The United States announced on Monday its support for the demands of Iraqi protesters. The White House said in a statement that it backs the people’s right to hold peaceful rallies to express their views. It also voiced its support for the Iraqi government’s vow that it will protect the people’s right to stage the demonstrations. It added that it was ready to support the people and government in their pursuit of economic reform, creation of job opportunities and fight against corruption. Protests had swept southern Iraqi regions, particularly Basra, with angry demonstrators demanding better services and an end to corruption. Three weeks into the protests, the Iraqi government announced on Monday that it was dispensing funds that it had pledged to spend on impoverished provinces, starting with Basra. Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi’s spokesman Saad al-Hudaithi revealed that 3.5 trillion Iraqi dinars have been dedicated to Basra and were immediately dispensed. The funds will be invested in stalled water desalination, electricity, health, education and environment projects, he revealed. Former Basra MP Awatef Nehme told Asharq Al-Awsat: “That the move, if late, was still a good step.”She added, however, that it was not enough to meet Basra’s needs, demanding “radical solutions to Basra’s problems.” “Ultimately, the prime minister’s slogan that he will combat terrorism never materialized,” she added, saying that corrupt figures should be held accountable for their practices. This demands actions, not words, Nehme said. Another MP, Salim Shawqi, said: “These funds are not a gift from the government, but what Basra was owed in the first place.”He explained that they were revenues from the province’s rich oil sector. The revenues, however, total 14 trillion dinars, “meaning the government only gave us crumbs that do not cover Basra’s needs,” he revealed. “The problem with the government and others before it since 2003 is that they lacked a project or vision or methodology. This in turn has negatively affected their performance in that they do not have real construction projects,” Shawqi explained. Iraq enjoys a budget of some $100 billion and a 25 percent deficit. It could have enjoyed $500 billion had the government worked on mega industry, agricultural and touristic projects, the lawmaker told Asharq Al-Awsat. The protests have meanwhile not abated. At least 14 people have been killed in the past two weeks, a member of the state human rights commission said Monday. Rights commission official Fadel al-Gharrawi said 14 people had died in Basra, Samawah, Najaf and Karbala and in the provinces of Diwaniyah and Babylon. He did not specify whether those killed were protesters or members of the security services, but a Sunday toll compiled from medical sources put the number of dead at 11, all demonstrators. Gharrawi said 275 protesters and 470 security personnel were wounded during thousands-strong demonstrations against corrupt officials. He said over 800 people had also been arrested, but said “the majority were later released”, without providing a precise figure.

Daesh makes comeback in Iraq with switch to guerrilla tactics

Reuter/AFP/July 24, 2018
BAQUBA, Iraq: Months after Iraq declared victory over Daesh, its fighters are making a comeback with a scatter-gun campaign of kidnap and killing. With its dream of a Caliphate in the Middle East now dead, Daesh has switched to hit-and-run attacks aimed at undermining the government in Baghdad, according to military, intelligence and government officials interviewed by Reuters. Daesh was reinventing itself months before Baghdad announced in December that it had defeated the group, according to intelligence officials who said it would adopt guerrilla tactics when it could no longer hold territory.
Iraq has now seen an increase in kidnappings and killings, mainly in the provinces of Kirkuk, Diyala, and Salahuddin, since it held an election in May, indicating the government will come under renewed pressure from a group that once occupied a third of the country during a three-year reign of terror.
Last month saw at least 83 cases of kidnap, murder or both in the three provinces. Most occurred on a highway connecting Baghdad to Kirkuk province. In May, the number of such incidents in that area was 30, while in March it was seven, according to Hisham Al-Hashimi, an expert on Daesh who advises the Iraqi government.
In one incident on June 17, three Shiite men were kidnapped by Daesh militants disguised as policemen at a checkpoint on the highway. Ten days later their mutilated corpses were discovered, rigged with explosives to kill anyone who found them. Speaking in the Shiite holy city of Kerbala surrounded by children wearing photos of their slain fathers around their necks, Bassem Khudair, a relative of the men, said security forces were uncooperative. He had implored the soldiers who found the men’s bullet-ridden car to pursue the kidnappers but was refused. “We went alone, bearing personal responsibility, as three of our own had been taken and we couldn’t just watch,” he said. “Six of us, all civilians, walked for about 10 or 12 kilometers. We found their documents scattered on the ground as we walked.” The next day, he received a phone call from his brother. The men were alive but held by Daesh. One of the kidnappers had said they would be executed if the government did not release all female Sunni prisoners.
The kidnapper then called Khudair daily. Khudair informed the government but none of Iraq’s intelligence agencies offered to trace the caller’s location, he said. Ten days later, the kidnapper told Khudair the men were dead. Military commanders in the provinces of Diyala and Salahuddin ducked responsibility for retrieving the bodies. Diyala Provincial Council Chairman Ali Al-Dani said the advantage currently lay with Daesh. “The terrorists now are moving in small groups that are hard to track. Intelligence work is needed,” he said.  “The situation is confusing, and the reason is the chaos within the security forces. There isn’t one command leading security in the province. This strengthens Daesh,” said Salahuddin Provincial Council Chairman Ahmed Al-Kareem. That kind of disarray among the security forces has allowed Daesh to stage a comeback, according to military, police, intelligence, and local elected officials.
They said poor coordination, meagre support from the central government, and a culture of avoiding responsibility are hindering efforts to contain the group, which continues to stage a steady stream of lower-level attacks in addition to the spike in kidnap and murder.
A military spokesman did not respond to phone calls and written requests for comment. The US-led coalition fighting Daesh said in a statement that it “has no safe haven in Iraq.”
Hit and run
The militants have regrouped in the Hemrin mountain range in the northeast, which extends from Diyala, on the border with Iran, crossing northern Salahuddin and southern Kirkuk, and overlooks Iraq’s main highway. Officials describe the area as a “triangle of death.” Military and intelligence officials gave varying estimates of how many Daesh fighters remain active in Iraq. Hashimi puts the number at more than 1,000, with around 500 in desert areas and the rest in the mountains. Al Qaeda once held sway over most of Iraq’s Sunni areas until it was beaten by US and Iraqi troops and their tribal allies during the “surge” campaign of 2006-2007. Its remnants hid in the desert between Syria and Iraq and later turned into Daesh. Some officials fear an even more radical group could emerge if there are gaps in security.“Filth wandering the desert for a loaf of bread is what they are,” said an intelligence official in Tikrit, the Salahuddin provincial capital. Fighters are resorting to Al Qaeda’s tactics: quick attacks then retreating into the desert. Even though they possess machine guns, anti-tank weapons and mines, the militants cannot penetrate cities because they no longer enjoy support among those Sunnis who once sympathized with them, said Eid Khalaf, Salahuddin’s deputy chief of police. “They can’t get food or weapons from citizens,” he said. “Their operations are primitive; they can’t send a car bomb into a city.”Each Daesh cell contains between three and five fighters, said Diyala Operations Commander Lt. Gen. Muzher Al-Azawi. He said there were no more than 75 fighters in the province. “They hide in the mountains, making it hard to find them. They plant explosives, use hit-and-run tactics, and snipers. They set up fake checkpoints for kidnappings,” he said.
‘Cities will fall’​
Numerous attempts to track down and kill Daesh leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi have failed, and his fighters are still active in other Arab states. In Syria, Daesh still holds some territory but has suffered militarily. In Egypt, it is concentrated in the sparsely populated northern Sinai desert. It holds no territory but conducts hit-and-run attacks. Daesh has tried to rebuild in Libya through mobile units in the desert and sleeper cells in northern cities. The group has exploited the ethnic and sectarian divide in Iraq. Iraqi and Kurdish forces fought together against Daesh. Now ties are strained over a Kurdish bid for independence last year which Baghdad stifled. Lack of coordination has caused a security vacuum in disputed territories, from which Iraqi forces dislodged the Kurds, creating opportunities for Daesh. “Are we expected to go into Diyala and help them clear the area then withdraw again? We are not being attacked in those areas, Iraqi forces are. We are not there, they expelled us,” said a Kurdish security official. Sunni tribesmen helped US and Iraqi forces turn the tide in the war against Al-Qaeda. Local tribes now say they need help as Daesh claws its way back. “We know these areas better than the security forces and at least 280 of us have been kidnapped or killed,” said Shammar tribal chief Ali Nawaf. Last month, militants drove into a village inhabited by Shammar tribesmen and kidnapped 30 men, he said. The next day, eight bodies were found tied up and blindfolded. Nawaf says he has 1,400 men ready to fight but they need help from the government in Baghdad. “Either the government sends more forces, or we raise Daesh flags. If we don’t plug this hole now, entire cities will fall,” Nawaf said.

German spy agency says Iran’s growing cyber capabilities pose danger
Reuters, Berlin Tuesday, 24 July 2018/Iran has expanded its cyber attack capabilities and poses a danger to German companies and research institutions, Germany’s BfV domestic intelligence agency said in its annual report. The report, released on Tuesday by German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer and the BfV agency, cited steadily increasing cyber attacks with a likely origin in Iran since 2014, and said numerous such attacks were seen on German targets in 2017.

Syrian actress and face of Syria’s anti-Assad revolution dies in Paris
Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnglishTuesday, 24 July 2018/Syrian activists on Monday announced the death of prominent Syrian actress, Mai Skaf, in Paris. Skaf has been publicly opposing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, as well as being one of the most notable anti-Assad individuals in the entertainment industry. She was arrested several times as a result since the beginning of protests against Assad, which she was a part of since 2011. Social media users shared their sorrow and condolences, stating that the last post she shared on her Facebook page before her death was: “I will not lose hope, I will not lose hope. It is the great Syria, not Assad’s Syria.”French authorities have not released a cause of death yet, or the results of their ongoing investigation into her sudden death. Syrian musician Samih Chokueir stated that an autopsy of her body is still being carried out to find out the cause. Chokeir said that Skaf’s house in Paris has been closed off with yellow tape, adding that she was in good health before her passing. Skaf has a son who is 20 years of age who lived with her in Paris. Sources say that he is currently at Syrian actor Maxim Khalil’s house, which is also in Paris. It was not yet announced if Skaf’s body would be buried in France or Syria. Several social media users, Syrian actors and civilians have described the case as mysterious and strange. Pro-Assad media outlets have also picked up the news and begun a campaign smearing Skaf’s name according to sources. Skaf was an avid anti-Assad activist and was arrested twice in 2011 and 2013. She was nicknamed as the ‘Revolution’s Icon’. After she was released from prison, she left Syria in 2013 and lived in France until she died.

The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published
on July 24-25/18
Americans Rate Helsinki Performance
Scott Clement and Dan Balz/The Washington Post/July 24/18
But public reaction nationally appears more muted than in Washington, where Trump faced withering bipartisan criticism for appearing to side with Putin over US intelligence agencies at a July 16 news conference in Helsinki. Most Americans do not think Trump went “too far” in supporting Putin, and while more Americans say US leadership has gotten weaker under Trump, his ratings on this question are slightly improved from last fall.
The findings indicate that while Trump was judged critically for his summit performance, the event has not at this time proved to be a significant turning point in his presidency, despite the sharp criticism he received in the hours and days after the meeting and the multiple efforts by White House officials and the president to clarify his remarks in Helsinki. The poll results suggest that overall attitudes toward the president have hardened on both sides and that major events produce only modest changes in his overall standing, if any.
The Post-ABC poll conducted Wednesday through Friday finds that overall, 33 percent of Americans approve of Trump’s handling of his meeting with Putin while 50 percent disapprove. A sizable 18 percent say they have no opinion. A slightly larger 56 percent disapprove of Trump expressing doubts about US intelligence agencies’ conclusion that Russia tried to influence the outcome of the 2016 election. On both questions, those who say they “strongly disapprove” of Trump’s performance outnumber those who say they “strongly approve” by better than 2 to 1.
Trump’s ratings for handling the summit represent a weakened moment for him, but they are not markedly worse than ratings of his presidency overall in other recent polls. A Washington Post-Schar School poll earlier this month, for instance, found 43 percent approved of Trump’s job performance while 55 percent disapproved, with strong disapproval outpacing strong approval by roughly 2 to 1.
The new Post-ABC poll finds 40 percent saying Trump went “too far” in supporting Putin, a criticism that was voiced by both Democrats and Republicans in Washington over the past week.
However, almost as many — 35 percent — say Trump handled Putin “about right,” while an additional 15 percent say he did not go far enough to support Putin. The rest have no opinion. Democrats, liberals and college graduates are the only groups in the poll among whom a majority say Trump went too far in supporting Putin.
Partisans split in their ratings of Trump’s meeting with Putin, but Republicans are less united in support for Trump than in other recent polls about his presidency. Among Democrats, 83 percent disapprove of Trump’s handling of the meeting, while among Republicans, 66 percent approve of Trump’s performance. By way of comparison, in the Post-Schar School survey, 87 percent of Republicans said they approved of Trump’s overall job performance as president.
A bare majority of Republicans in the new poll — 51 percent — approve of Trump expressing doubts about US intelligence conclusions on Russian election interference. But a smaller 31 percent disapprove, with 18 percent offering no opinion. Among Democrats, 78 percent disapprove of what Trump said about US intelligence findings, as do 59 percent of independents.
Independents lean negative on Trump’s handling of the summit overall, with 33 percent approving and 46 percent disapproving. Self-identified “moderates” are particularly negative, with 64 percent disapproving of how Trump handled the meeting, nearly as high as 73 percent among liberals. A smaller 58 percent majority of conservatives approve of Trump’s conduct at the summit.
The Post-ABC poll finds that 47 percent say that under Trump, America’s leadership in the world has gotten weaker, vs. 30 percent who say it has gotten stronger. That is an improvement on last November, when the margin between those who said weaker vs. those who said stronger was 27 percentage points.
Despite Republicans’ lukewarm support for Trump’s Helsinki performance, they express growing confidence in his ability to project U.S. strength around the world. A 74 percent majority of Republicans say American leadership has “gotten stronger” under Trump, up from 53 percent last November and 61 percent in July 2017. By contrast, 80 percent of Democrats say Trump has weakened U.S. leadership around the world.
On this question, independents lean more negatively than positively, with 22 percent saying America’s leadership has gotten stronger under Trump, 47 percent weaker and about one-quarter saying it has stayed the same.
College graduates had a much sharper negative reaction to the Helsinki summit than those without college degrees — college grads are 18 points more likely to disapprove of Trump’s performance (62 percent vs. 44 percent). Those without college degrees are nearly three times as likely to say they have no opinion of Trump’s performance.
In contrast to many surveys about the president and politics, the Helsinki poll produced only modest gender differences. Men were slightly less disapproving of the president’s handling of the summit than women, but the gap was not statistically significant.
Americans younger than 40 gave Trump lower marks for his overall handling of the summit than did those older than 40. But younger and older Americans tended to offer similar assessments to other questions.
The Post-ABC poll was conducted by landlines and cellphones from Wednesday through Friday among a random national sample of 464 adults. Overall results have a margin of sampling error of 5.5 percentage points, and the error margin is larger among subgroups.
Sweden's Turbulent Election Year
Fjordman/Gatestone Institute/July 24/18
Disaffection with immigration has affected the two largest establishment parties.
"What you read about Sweden on alternative news platforms is true. We are facing problems more severe than ever before in our history, where Swedes face a situation of being a minority within 20 years if nothing is done to stop the replacement of our people...What makes the situation even more difficult is, of course, the extreme political correctness that has haunted Sweden for decades, but which is now finally breaking up." -- Gustav Kasselstrand, co-founder and Chairman of the Alternative for Sweden party.
Kasselstrand and the Alternative for Sweden argue that the policies of the Sweden Democrats are no longer sufficient to deal with Sweden's problems with violent crime and public gang shootings.
Sweden's general election on September 9 looks set to become the most interesting the country has had in years. Concerns over mass immigration and rampant crime are redefining the political landscape. For the first time in more than a hundred years, the Social Democrats may be dethroned as the country's largest political party. By Swedish standards, this constitutes a political earthquake.
Concerns in Europe over crime and mass immigration have been changing the political atmosphere, from Italy to Germany. Now, these developments may finally have caught up with Sweden as well.
The Social Democrats in Sweden are not just any political party. They have shaped Swedish political and cultural life for generations. At the peak of their power, they dominated Swedish society to such an extent that the country almost resembled a one-party state. They have been the largest party in all national elections for more than a century. From the 1930s until the early 1990s, they received more than 40% of the vote. Several times during this period, they got more than 50% of the votes and held an overall majority of the seats in the Swedish Parliament (Riksdag). They received 45.2 % of the votes as late as in 1994, and 39.9 % in 2002.
In most opinion polls from mid-2018, the Social Democrats received between 22% and 28% support. If they get 24% of the votes in the 2018 general elections, this will still make them a major party – but it would also be the worst election result the Swedish Social Democratic Party has had since 1912.
The main challenger is the nationally-oriented party known as the Sweden Democrats (SD). The SD entered the Swedish Parliament for the first time in 2010. In 2014, they received 12.9% of votes and became the third largest party, after the Social Democrats and the Moderate Party.
The Moderates have promoted mass immigration just as much as the Social Democrats have when they held power. Disaffection with immigration has thus affected the two largest establishment parties.
Jimmie Åkesson, who has served as the leader of the SD since 2005, stated in an interview from July 2018 that he is certain the Sweden Democrats will become the largest political party in Sweden. Perhaps in 2018; if not, later. The Sweden Democrats have clearly become a force to be reckoned with.
His optimism is not without merit. Several polls have shown the SD to surpass the Moderates to become the second largest party. A couple of opinion polls from 2018 have even suggested that the SD could surpass the Social Democrats and become the largest party in Sweden with up to 28.5 % support.
Stefan Löfven, who led the Social Democratic Party since 2012, has been Prime Minister of Sweden since 2014, heading a minority coalition government consisting of the Social Democrats and the Green Party. Löfven is widely perceived as not being a particularly strong leader. It caused concern among the Social Democrats when Löfven was openly laughed at by the audience during a TV debate with other party leaders in May 2018.
Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Löfven is widely perceived as not being a particularly strong leader. It caused concern among the Social Democrats when Löfven was openly laughed at by the audience during a TV debate in May 2018. Pictured: Löfven at a European Union summit on December 14, 2017. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
The election could leave an unpredictable political situation in Sweden. One possibility is that the Social Democrats and the Moderates, the two traditionally largest parties, could team up and form a coalition government together.
This would be comparable to how the Social Democrats (SPD) and the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) have been in power together in Germany since 2013. The major establishment parties largely agree on major issues concerning the EU, mass immigration, Islam and Multiculturalism. It may make sense for them to team up together to prevent dissenting voices from gaining power.
The decline of the Social Democrats in Sweden mirrors the decline of their sister parties in other European countries, such as Germany and the Netherlands. This wider trend cannot be attributed to one person alone, and has also opened up room for movements to the right of the SD.
This year, a new party called Alternative for Sweden (Alternativ för Sverige, AfS) entered the election campaign. Its name is clearly inspired by the Alternative for Germany (Alternative für Deutschland, AfD), which, during the elections in 2017, became the third-largest party in Germany.
Several former members of the Sweden Democrats, such as the writer Jan Milld, have defected to the AfS, as have several former SD Members of Parliament. Even the party leader of Alternative for Sweden, Gustav Kasselstrand, has a background in the Sweden Democrats.
During an interview with Voice of Europe last month, Kasselstrand stated:
"What you read about Sweden on alternative news platforms is true. We are facing problems more severe than ever before in our history, where Swedes face a situation of being a minority within 20 years if nothing is done to stop the replacement of our people. I would describe the problems in Sweden as a kind of low-intensity civil war (with gradually increasing intensity each day). What makes the situation even more difficult is, of course, the extreme political correctness that has haunted Sweden for decades, but which is now finally breaking up."
Kasselstrand and the Alternative for Sweden argue that the policies of the Sweden Democrats are no longer sufficient to deal with Sweden's problems with violent crime and public gang shootings. The AfS want to end immigration completely and to start repatriating hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants, criminal aliens and immigrants who burden Swedish society in one way or another.
Meanwhile, some established parties such as the Green Party feel that Swedish immigration policies are too restrictive. They want even more immigration than today. However, this view no longer seems to be popular with the voters. The Green Party is currently struggling to maintain their seats in Parliament.
Mass immigration has created an atmosphere of extreme polarization in Swedish society. These tensions will not go away regardless of the election results in September. Political change finally seems to be coming to Sweden.
*Fjordman, a Norwegian historian, is an expert on Europe, Islam and multiculturalism.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

The Great British Foreign Office Fantasy
Douglas Murray/Gatestone Institute/July 24/18
The armies of ISIS came right up to the villages on the Syrian side along the borders of the Golan. There, they were able to bring that form of peace-through-barbarism which the world has come to know well. If ISIS had triumphed in the Syrian conflict rather than suffering repeated set-backs, would the UK Foreign Office have handed them the territory by way of reparational justice, or victor's prize?
The painful irony of this situation should be clear to all observers. If the Israelis did not lay claim to the Golan, there would have been no means to have got the White Helmets and their families out of Syria. Had Israel not made the Golan the peaceful and thriving area it is, it would simply be another part of Syria in which different sectarian groups were slaughtering other sectarian groups.
The British Foreign Office will have to back out of its self-imposed corner regarding the Golan at some point and accept the reality on the ground. How much better it would be if it did so now in a spirit of goodwill and reciprocity, rather than later on in a spirit of inevitable and grudging defeat.
According to the British Foreign Office, the Golan Heights are 'occupied'. They have been 'occupied' -- according to the logic of the UK Foreign Office -- since 1967, when Israel took the land from the invading forces of Syria. Ever since then, the Israelis have had the benefit of this strategic position and the Syrian regime has not. This fact, half a century on, still strikes the British Foreign Office as regrettable, and a wrong to be righted in due course.
Of course, since the onset of the Syrian civil war in 2011, the official position of the UK government has become ever-harder to justify. For example, if the Israeli government were at some point over the last seven years suddenly to have listened to the wisdom of the Foreign Office in London and handed over the strategic prize of the Golan, to whom should it have handed it? Should Israel be persuaded to hand over the territory to the Assad regime in Damascus? It is true that, throughout the course of the Syrian civil war, the one bit of territory to which the Syrian regime has laid claim and which it has not been able to barrel-bomb and otherwise immiserate the people there has been the Golan Heights. Only in the Golan has anybody in this 'Greater Syria' been able to live free from the constant threat of massacre and ethnic, religious or political cleansing.
Other candidates for the territory naturally presented themselves across the same time-frame. The armies of ISIS came right up to the villages on the Syrian side along the borders of the Golan. There, they were able to bring that form of peace-through-barbarism which the world has come to know well. If ISIS had triumphed in the Syrian conflict rather than suffering repeated set-backs, would the UK Foreign Office have handed them the territory by way of reparational justice, or victor's prize? If not them, then perhaps the armies of Iran or Russia could have been the recipients of this feat of restorative diplomacy? Perhaps anyone who wished to lay claim to the Golan could have had it. So long as it was not the Israelis.
The ongoing madness of the British Foreign Office's position has been highlighted in recent days thanks to a request which came from the British government, as well as the governments in other European capitals and in Washington. A request which also involved the Golan.
Over the weekend, it emerged that the British government was among foreign governments to have made a dramatic request of the Israelis. As the war in Syria appears to be clarifying towards its end-point, a group of around 800 members of the 'White Helmets' and their families had reportedly become trapped near the southwestern border near the Golan Heights. The White Helmets only operate in 'rebel areas' and are despised by the Assad regime. With Syrian government forces moving in, a massacre may well have been about to occur.
At the request of these foreign governments, the Israelis just carried out an extraordinary and unprecedented mission. In recent days, a reported 422 of the intended evacuees and their family members were saved by the Israelis. The other -- almost half -- of the intended number appears already to have been cut off by other forces. Nevertheless, those who did make it out were transferred by Israeli forces across the Golan and have now reportedly arrived safely in Jordan where their future status will be determined. Some may stay in Jordan; others will be moved abroad to Western countries.
The painful irony of this situation should be clear to all observers. If the Israelis did not lay claim to the Golan, there would have been no means to have got the White Helmets and their families out of Syria. Had Israel not made the Golan the peaceful and thriving area it is, it would simply be another part of Syria in which different sectarian groups were slaughtering other sectarian groups.
As it is, the area is in the control of Britain's most reliable ally in the region. An ally which -- even as it is lectured by Britain -- agrees to requests from the British government that takes advantage of a strategic reality, one which the British government still refuses to accept. The Israeli government has given the British government what it wanted. Perhaps now would be a good time for the British government to reciprocate in some way? There could be no better means of doing so than by admitting that the British policy of the last half a century has been a Foreign Office fantasy and a wholesale dud of 'realist' regional thinking. The Foreign Office will have to back out of its self-imposed corner regarding the Golan at some point and accept the reality on the ground. How much better it would be if it did so now in a spirit of goodwill and reciprocity, rather than later on in a spirit of inevitable and grudging defeat.
**Douglas Murray, British author, commentator and public affairs analyst, is based in London, England. His latest book, an international best-seller, is "The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam."
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

What the UK should ask Qatar’s emir to do with Iran
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/July 24/18
The emir of Qatar is in London this week for talks with British Prime Minister Theresa May, and she should use her leverage with the Gulf state to demand a more unified approach to dealing with Tehran.
When the BBC published evidence last week that the Qatari government had supplied around a billion dollars to terrorist groups in southern Iraq for the release of 28 hostages kidnapped on a hunting trip, including nine royal family members, it led to outrage across the Middle East because of the likely impact this seemingly reckless move would have on the prolongment of conflict in the region.
The allegations had been made before, but were always denied firmly by Qatar. In March 2018, Qatar’s ambassador to the United States, Sheikh Meshal bin Hamad Al-Thani, wrote to The New York Times clearly stating that “Qatar did not pay a ransom.” Last week, text messages were revealed that not only exposed the dishonesty of the regime, but also an apparent disinterest in the implications for counter-terrorism operations of any ransom payment of this magnitude.
It was by some distance the largest such transfer ever made, but its costs will be felt most sharply by the residents of Iraq and neighboring countries, who will have to most likely endure many more months of instability and bloodshed as a result of Doha’s decision.
In geopolitical terms, the leaked messages emphasized another aspect of Qatar’s foreign policy, one which may have more far-reaching consequences for the region’s future and Western interests in it. Two of the groups Qatar is shown to be negotiating with are Iran-backed Shia militias: the Lebanese arm of Hezbollah and the Iraqi Kataib Hezbollah (the Party of God Brigades), known in that part of the world mainly for bombing scores of American troops. Negotiations were eventually directed on the kidnappers’ side by the leader of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), General Qassem Soleimani. The fact that the architect of Iran’s foreign military activities felt that it would improve the environment in which negotiations took place to insert himself into the picture, and that the Qataris appear in the text messages to be willing to accept him as a reasonable interlocutor, shows how much daylight there is between Western and Qatari perceptions of the regime in Tehran. In Washington and London, the Qataris were negotiating with designated terrorists. But in Doha, it was just diplomacy.
The story was a microcosm of an increasingly awkward situation unfolding in the Gulf right now, wherein Qatar is showing a growing fondness for the Iranians at the very moment that it is trying to protect its relationships in Europe and North America. The regime in Doha wants military and political backing from Iran, and so has made overtures in both the investment and security realms.
There has even been talk that it could share the 2022 World Cup with its Persian neighbor if, as looks likely, it fails to develop the necessary infrastructure in time. But these maneuvers are taking place at exactly the same time that the US administration is trying to place maximum pressure on the Iranians to return to the negotiating table over its expansionist (in terms of religion and influence more than territory) policies in the region.
The prime minister should make it clear that continued British political support, arms sales and investment protection are conditional on a foreign policy which better befits an ally.
Qatar is placing itself boldly between the US and Iran by offering the economic lifeline that may keep the latter afloat in a time of sanctions.
This undermines Britain’s interests in two important ways. First, Europeans have been working hard to mediate between the US and Iran. British intelligence services and foreign policy officials are privately very critical of Iran’s role in the region, but are more supportive publicly out of a fear that taking too hard a line will empower the extremists in Tehran.
The British and their European allies are hoping that US pressure will give Iran the incentive to negotiate, and that they can then retain the necessary trust to conduct those negotiations. Qatar’s political and economic lifelines to the Iranians will diminish this incentive and make talks less likely.
Second, Qatar’s willingness to do business with Iranian militias should concern Western officials immensely. They are not designated as terrorist groups for political reasons – but these groups routinely conduct attacks against civilians and finance insurgency against internationally recognized governments. If Doha believes that it can curry favor with Iran by dealing with these militias as partners rather than enemies, as it did in the ransom case, then it will be responsible for prolonged violence in the region as well as strengthening the IRGC, emboldening Iran’s overseas military operations and further weakening the prospects for negotiation.
The Qataris are heavily dependent on British support for their diplomatic strength and, to a lesser extent, economic prosperity. There is a reason why they have spent tens of millions lobbying in Britain since they were boycotted by other Arab states last June. Theresa May has a lot of leverage over the government there. So as the emir is paying his respects this week, the prime minister should make it clear that continued British political support, arms sales and investment protection are conditional on a foreign policy which better befits an ally: the Qataris must stop buttressing Iran’s position and discontinue their casual attitude towards activities that support and sustain terrorism. If they refuse, then the emir should not be invited back again. • 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. He serves on the boards of the Harvard International Review, the Harvard International Relations Council and the US-Middle East Chamber for Commerce and Business. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh

How Trump gave Putin the upper hand in Helsinki
Yossi Mekelberg/Arab News/July 24/18
And just when you think that you have seen almost everything possible in politics, here comes the Trump travel show with a new, unexpected and bizarre surprise. Many political observers in Washington feared a summit between the US president and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, especially a one-on-one meeting. Their view was that a canny and ruthless Putin, who possesses ample experience in international affairs, would outwit and outmanoeuvre the complete diplomatic novice and out-of-sorts Trump. Even in their worst-case scenario it was hard to imagine that the meeting would turn into such a major farce, letting Russian meddling in US elections completely overshadow other pressing issues that affect the entire world. In this European visit, Donald Trump managed to weaken America’s relationship with NATO and consequently the alliance itself; he intervened in British politics to the fury of Prime Minister Theresa May; he brought out hundreds of thousands of people onto the streets of the UK to demonstrate against his visit; and in Helsinki he undermined his own intelligence community. He flew back home facing a barrage of criticism for handing a victory by knockout to the leader of a country that he, only on his way to the summit, described as a foe of the United States.
To be sure, the US president’s European trip yielded one major achievement. For at least a short time, and after many years, he united a very partisan Washington. To his self-inflicted misfortune, a divided American political scene joined forces in condemning his embarrassing pandering to Putin, undermining in the process his own intelligence and security services. In the run-up to the summit in Helsinki both sides had low expectations. Kremlin adviser Yuri Ushakov may have asserted that “we consider Trump a negotiating partner,” but he added “the state of bilateral relations is very bad. We have to start to set them right.” And Trump in a Twitter outburst, which can now be seen as a precursor to the now infamous post-summit press conference, attested to worsening relations with Russia. However, he blamed his own country for this: “Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of US foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!”
This provides an insight to what was on his mind prior to meeting Putin. Forget the rumours that the Russians have embarrassing evidence regarding his behaviour; the real issue is the investigation by former FBI director Robert Mueller into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, and the allegation that senior people in the Trump campaign conspired with those agents to derail Hillary Clinton’s quest for the White House. Only two days before the meeting between Trump and Putin, Mr Mueller signed an indictment against 12 Russian state agents for “Conspiracy to Commit an Offense Against the United States,” accusing them of conducting large-scale cyber operations to interfere with the 2016 US presidential race.
It left Putin more confident than he has been for a long time that ... he can continue with his aggressive policies and interference in other countries’ affairs with complete disregard for international laws and conventions
There is no expectation that Russia will hand over its operatives to the US to face trial, but it is widely acknowledged by those in charge of the investigation, and by most people on the US political scene, that there was indeed such meddling in the presidential elections. Moreover, at least 12 Trump associates had contacts with Russians during the campaign or the subsequent transition period, and four have already been indicted including Paul Manafort, a former Trump campaign chairman. It is therefore not particularly astonishing that Trump would prefer Putin’s “extremely strong and powerful” denial of Russian interference in the elections over the findings of his own intelligence agencies, and also blame what he calls “Mueller’s witch hunt” for the deteriorating relations between the two countries. Trump was selling indulgences to Putin very cheaply and exonerating an aggressive Russia.
There is nothing wrong with reflecting on one’s own country’s handling of foreign affairs. Yet to stand next to a serial human rights abuser – who has annexed part of a neighbouring country and occupied another part of it, who has allegedly sent secret agents to poison his enemies abroad and who is supporting the murderous regime in Damascus – and accept the strength of his denials as evidence of truth, is to break new ground in lack of judgment. Putin must have left the press conference laughing all the way back to his Kremlin office, knowing that he had got exactly what he wanted from the American president: an incoherent, defensive and divisive put-down of his own country and allies.
The world was left guessing and picking up clues from media interviews, as to whether issues such as the Crimea, or Russia’s role in Syria including allowing Iran’s menacing forces to take key strategic positions there, or addressing the extension of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty which expires in 2021, or trade relations, were discussed at all. Uncharacteristically for such summits, no joint communique was issued. It left Putin more confident than he has been for a long time that the sanctions imposed on his country following the invasion of the Crimea will be lifted sooner rather than later, and more generally that he can continue with his aggressive policies and interference in other countries’ affairs with complete disregard for international laws and conventions.
The Helsinki summit reinforced the view that in this period of increasing threats to world stability, rising nationalistic-populism, regional conflicts and US-induced trade wars, a resurgent Russia is feeling empowered by a divided and leaderless democratic-liberal world. It senses the opportunity to take advantage of EU and NATO internal squabbling: some of this is fuelled by Washington, some by Russia and in the case of the EU much of it is self-inflicted. The Russians are bound to perceive this lack of direction, conviction and leadership on both sides of the Atlantic as an opportune moment, and might reach the conclusion that it is their time again.
*Yossi Mekelberg is professor of international relations at Regent’s University London, where he is head of the International Relations and Social Sciences Program. He is also an associate fellow of the MENA Program at Chatham House. He is a regular contributor to the international written and electronic media. Twitter: @YMekelberg

Russia ups its game with players in Syria
Maria Dubovikova/Arab News/July 24/18
The international movement around Syria involving Moscow is getting more intense. Meetings and phone conversations between Moscow and Tel Aviv are becoming more than regular after Russia fulfilled its promise to guarantee the presence of the Syrian Army in the South, on the borders with Israel.
On Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov met Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli Minister of Defense Avigdor Lieberman in Jerusalem; just after, Netanyahu spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the phone.
The boost for Syria is also due to the successful operation to recover Daraa, the province which was the starting point of the Syrian conflict in March 2011. And after talks in Helsinki between Putin and Donald Trump where the two presidents reached some important agreements, albeit their outcomes remain unclear, the situation in Syria has received momentum. Right after the Helsinki summit, Russia’s special presidential envoy to Syria, Alexander Lavrentiev, went to Iran to clarify the outcome of the Helsinki talks with the Iranian leadership. The Iranian presence on Syrian ground was among the key subjects in the Putin-Trump talks. Iran had stated before that it is looking forward to further cooperation with Russia in Syria, and might consider withdrawal of its troops if its interests will be guaranteed by Russia. The Russian ambassador to Turkey, Alexei Yerkhov, has announced that an agreement was reached between Russia, Turkey and Iran to hold a trilateral meeting, though a date was not yet set. However, it is expected to be held by summer’s end. The three countries have much to discuss. Many groundbreaking changes occurred since the last trilateral meeting in April this year, including a ceasefire in the Golan Heights, the transferring of those who want to leave to Idlib province and the rescue of the White Helmets from Syria to Jordan through Israel, with their further transportation to the West, as this was the main precondition by Jordan. Reportedly, the latter was made possible by an agreement between Putin and Trump in Helsinki. Russia is playing a multilevel and multidimensional game in the region, and it is obvious. And it is implementing its game successfully.
Russia intends to work hard to return Syrian refugees from Jordan and Lebanon back to Syria, in cooperation with the United States and the United Nations. Moscow will seek to assist Amman and Beirut, which have taken in an enormous influx of refugees, bearing in mind its strategic interests to strengthen its political ties with these countries and being ready to use every opportunity to realise the long-term strategic goals and interests. Russia is playing a multilevel and multidimensional game in the region, and it is obvious. It is implementing its game successfully. Moscow will have to work hard to persuade Ankara and Tehran that Russia and the US have not yet reached any agreements behind their backs that might hurt their interests.
Russia will attempt to advocate for Israeli interests in Syria as well. This task will be among the toughest to realise for Russia, yet it is obliged to proceed for further implementation of the settlement plan in Syria. Russia will do its utmost to persuade Iran to withdraw its forces from Syria, which is an Israeli and American demand. This might provide a breakthrough vis-a-vis international negotiations over Syria. Russia is showing similar leadership on the Kurdish issue. Since the end of last summer, Turkey and Iran have discussed launching a joint campaign against the Kurdish PKK to abort their bid for an independent state. The reasons behind this are different, but in the very end the policies are serving the same cause in the framework of the Syrian conflict.
This will be tough for Russia and the US to handle. Moscow will advocate its Helsinki agenda, which was indirectly formulated during the summit. Russia will guarantee the security of the Jewish state, Iran will get a guarantee that it will not be expelled from the process, and cooperation will continue with broad international involvement in the Syrian crisis settlement that is developing following Russia’s scenario. In the current circumstances, it is obvious that Russia’s strategy is a winning one: pursuing approaches that correlate with the interests of regional and global players. The upcoming month will pave the way for a more solid ground for the trilateral talks. A lot depends on what the US will come up with following what has been discussed in Helsinki.
*Maria Dubovikova is a prominent political commentator, researcher and expert on Middle East affairs. She is president of the Moscow-based International Middle Eastern Studies Club (IMESClub). Twitter: @politblogme

Between Trump’s policy and character

Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/July 24/18
There are around 2,000 employees and workers in the White House where the American president works and lives. These workers include cleaners and floral designers. The president has 234 administrative assistants, 76 assistant and consultants in the National Security Council, 27 in the economic council, 33 in the office of science and technology policy, 240 in the commercial affairs office and so on.
President Donald Trump, and those who preceded him, do not wake up in the morning and just decide policies from their head. The president is an institution and not a figure on his own. An army of consultants works with him, and there are specialized departments, which offer him options. Trump thus makes decisions accordingly and based on a supreme policy that represents the American Republican right wing.
Trump’s offensive policy in defending America’s economic interests is also a higher policy that’s based on five pillars: supporting national security, strengthening the economy, sealing better commercial deals, confronting competitors and ratifying bilateral commercial agreements
Anyway, everyone now knows that Trump is different than previous presidents. It’s due to mixing between his character and his policy that they warn us of dealing with him and ask: Why do you bet on him? Before talking about him, we must remember that in terms of relations between countries, dealing with the state’s president is not an option. Trump is the president of the US regardless of what some think of him.
Character vs policy
There are two sides to Trump, his character and his policy. He is not a traditional president, as he does not commit to the presidency’s traditions. He’s spontaneous and a populist, and he knows how to sway his voters. The most recent poll among Republican voters last month showed that Trump still enjoys great popularity, above 80%.
He’s someone who likes confrontations when there are crises, regardless of all the trouble this may bring. An example is his battles with American media outlets which has reached an unprecedented level of clashing to the extent that these days there are advertisements calling on people to sign a petition to impeach him. This is Trump and this is his character.
The side which people find difficult to understand is his policy. Many think he does not have a policy and that he represents a chaotic and impulsive case. That is not true at all. Most of what he proposes reflects the policy of the higher institution, such as dealing with the nuclear deal and Iran and dealing with North Korea, China, Europe, NATO, terrorism as well as dealing with internal affairs like health insurance, abortion, migration and others.
Of course, some of his opinions are opposed even inside his Republican party, and this is normal. The most controversial matter is his policy towards Russia, and we’ve seen him back down while making statements after he returned from his meeting with the Russian president. This confirms that the higher policy remains the final judge.
Foreign policy
It’s actually Trump who permitted the announcement of the indictment of Russian officers in the case of the electronic targeting the Democratic Party. And this was before he met with Putin to pressure him.
There is also his decision to impose massive fees on China’s imports and the commercial war it may cause between the two giant markets. This decision reflects the state’s fear of what it views as China’s rise at the expense of the US while using America’s technology and living off American markets with subsidized goods and others. This is the state policy in which congress members in joint committees from both parties in the Senate participate in making.
Trump’s offensive policy in defending America’s economic interests is also a higher policy that’s based on five pillars: supporting national security, strengthening the economy, sealing better commercial deals, confronting competitors and ratifying bilateral commercial agreements.
Most of what we’ve seen, at least in foreign affairs, reflects the government’s policy. What’s new is the president’s style. In Brussels, after Trump entered the meeting hall and sat in front of the NATO secretary and after the door was opened for journalists and photographers to enter and take photos, Trump surprised everyone, except his team, when he harshly criticized Germany, much to the NATO representatives’ shock.
Despite the strange incident, Trump’s statements were in line with the US stance even before Trump became president. Washington was displeased with Europe’s orientation to import gas and in large quantities from Russia because it strengthens Russia’s political influence and economically empowers it.
What’s common is for the president’s statements in front of journalists to be limited to compliments, such as voicing the strong ties with his NATO partners, and then after the journalists leave and the door is closed, the participants frankly talk to each other and Trump can then attack Germany’s stance and NATO’s stance if he wants to.
Trump reflected Washington’s real stance. He said it in his own style which prefers to embarrass the other party. The US secretary of state who sat beside him did not seem surprised because these statements have been prearranged within the American team while making use of Trump’s controversial character and as he himself, i.e. Trump, seeks to make gains from popularity inside the US. His eye is on the midterm elections in November and his other eye is on the presidential elections later.
My next article will be about Trump and his policy, changing the constants and destroying the international institution.

Please do not die young!
Turki Aldakhil/Al Arabiya/July 24/18
In old times, a young man would bid his parents farewell after they had saved enough money and supplies to get him to his destination, embrace him and say goodbye to him as they may never see him again. Seeking education was difficult, tiresome and far. It required money, supplies and energy but before all that, it required a patient mother and a father who know well that good education is always far, tiring and expensive. But, like a beautiful woman, it is worth all the trouble that men with good taste go through! Also back then, people were the ones who sought education, and not the other way around. However, this has no longer been the case until a few decades ago. There are now different types of schools and universities that have all sorts of majors. Your language teacher may be a click away on your laptop or even on your smartphone. You can even obtain a oud (similar to a guitar) and follow the musical notes on your smartphone. Open your eyes well and you will see something new. Open your eyes well when you watch television and you will see an idea that you’ve seen before but without noticing its hidden message. You will smile alone. This new smile is the sign that you learnt something new even if you do not tell anyone about it my dear reader
This article is not paid for by smart devices companies but it has a tone that opposes the ‘end of study’ syndrome!
Studying and learning
It’s true that there’s a difference between studying and learning, but the distance between the two definitions have remained an objective and urgent question before defining the above-mentioned syndrome: Is it really possible to stop learning and studying? When? Where? And how? Back to the end of study syndrome, which is that feeling that we all experienced – feeling tired and exhausted of the plenty of assignments or of the nearing exams and the mental fatigue that extends to the entire body and you feel like you don’t have the desire to do anything as you make the huge wish and ask: When will studying come to an end? I am no doctor but everyone has experienced this. High school students, for instance, think going to university is their lifeline but they are taken by surprise when the syndrome emerges again during their last semester when they begin to lose hope whenever someone mentions the lack of jobs or low wages.
The victim of the end of study syndrome then gets married after the systemized and university education marathon ends only to find himself/herself back in the seat of education as they try to understand the opposite sex. It’s a new type of learning!
The first child then arrives, and a new phase of joyful mental and physical fatigue that resembles the end of study syndrome begins. The parents reluctantly learn how to deal with their infant and then how to deal with him as a boy, a teenager and a young man later. As days pass by, this boredom feeling repeats and life goes on so when will this tired exhausted individual stop learning?We all know the definition of the old man: “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty.” Take it from me.
Therefore, learning is not a purely voluntary and continuous process, but one can say that real aging is what one suffers from when he stops learning anything new and discovering skills. This is even if said individual is a muscular young man in his 20’s, as he’d be an old man who suffers from negative aging because he surrendered to the idea of no longer learning. Allow me to note that some of our proverbs have been frustrating when they believe that seeking knowledge at an old age is like engraving in water. It’s as if they are preventing you from knowledge, discovering and learning new things for the mere fact that you are old of age!
Learning despite old age
Not a day should pass by without exercising your memory, without recalling a verse of poetry or sharing a new song with a friend or a loved one. Open your eyes well and you will see something new. Open your eyes well when you watch television and you will see an idea that you’ve seen before but without noticing its hidden message. You will smile alone. This new smile is the sign that you learnt something new even if you do not tell anyone about it my dear reader. I am grateful to a dear friend and poet I have hosted on the talk show Edaat as he narrated how he found a poetry bahr (metrical series) difficult, so he swore to never learn it. When he tried to understand it and write poetry according to it, he couldn’t. He said it was like seeing waves before him and he couldn’t master the bahr which he willingly rejected to learn. I smiled and said: “Poetry, like everything else, has premonition and dignity that prevent them from relenting before those unwilling to understand it.”A university student and a young man who is worried about the massive amount of information before high school examinations can enjoy the curricula’s small details. There’s no doubt that part of this is the responsibility of the teacher and parent.
However, this art of enjoying every moment and of maintaining the sentiment of childish amazement when we learn something new for years is what makes a 50-year-old man wake up at 5:00 a.m. to go run for two hours and go early to work before other younger men in their 20s and 30s. How many 60-year-olds have exhausted young men who are not one even a third of their age?! Women advise their daughters who are about to get married: “A man’s worst disease begins when they retire, my child. They master disgruntling when they stop learning your new characteristics. Be new so he maintains his agility. Beware of early retirement. Life begins to slow down when a man sits on a couch in the middle of the house and begins to observe the world from behind screens or through newspapers.” Get out of the house, my friend, and do not let the grey hairs on your head to prevent you from breaking the stereotype that it’s difficult to learn and discover when you’re old. Paddle and learn how to dive! As for you, the young, enjoy the nectar of life. Do not look at life’s stages like an old horse looks at the distant barrier. Invade new opportunities, surprise yourselves and those around you and keep in mind the never-dying saying by Al-Mutanabbi: I have not seen among the defects of people anything worse than a shortage in the willingness of the able to do something.  Full capacity is optimizing everything, and this can only be achieved by enjoying everything well, even traffic lights!

Muqtada al-Sadr and the future of Iraq
Michael Flanagan/Al Arabiya/July 24/18
The Iraqi elections in May have been marred with corruption, theft, fraud and mass abstentions by honorable Iraqis looking to not participate in the sham. Muqtada al-Sadr’s bloc won the elections and gained the right to form a government. He did so by a combination of factors.
First, there was a record low turnout by Iraqis boycotting the elections because of pervasive government corruption and a lack of trust in the system. Al-Sadr’s bloc showed up in ordinary numbers while all of the opposing blocs had record lows in their respective turnouts.
Second, al-Sadr’s group performed mass vote fraud by destroying the registration machines in a suspicious fire and then by destroying actual paper ballots in another suspicious fire hopefully forcing the (now unreliable) electronic ballots to be used. The origins of these fires are not proved yet but al-Sadr’s involvement is the biggest open secret in Iraq since the days of Saddam. Third, al-Sadr actually gained legitimate votes and bloc partners by preaching a popular message of Iraqi Nationalism, anti-corruption and honest government. Iraqis are starved for an honest, Iraq-First government and al-Sadr held out that possibility, however illusory the promise turned out to be. The legitimate installation of al-Sadr and his cronies in the highest seats of power in Baghdad may take Iraqis on a very short road to destruction
Invalidate ballots
In response to this outcome, the Iraqi Parliament (filled with parliamentarians who are losing their jobs) voted to invalidate all of the electronic ballots on the grounds of fraud and require that a manual recount be taken in all of Iraq. Parliament also invalidated the votes cast outside of Iraq by ex-pats and soldiers – especially the Peshmerga (the Kurdish Militia). Last, Parliament ousted the National Electoral Commission and replaced it with a better-respected panel of judges. This law was immediately challenged by the sitting President of Iraq, the Kurdish parties and others. On Thursday of last week, the Supreme Federal Court of Iraq ruled on the challenge to that new law and largely upheld the actions by Parliament. There will be a manual recount of electronic balloting but not the entire country – only the parts of Iraq where fraud was alleged. Also, the court upheld the appeal by requiring that the votes cast outside of Iraq will not be invalidated and will be counted.
Iranian bloc
Al-Sadr largely won his points and his majority will likely hold up. Since the election, al-Sadr’s bloc has gained the support of the Iranian bloc. Additionally since the appeal’s failure, al-Sadr has gained the support of the current Prime Minister, Hayder al-Abadi, in the naked hope of remaining prime minister.
Al-Sadr still lacks sufficient votes to declare a majority and must work with additional partners to form the next Iraqi government. This will be hard being that al Sadr has sacrificed all of his credibility and will now need to horse-trade for power. This process is exactly what he ran against but apparently never meant to put into practice.
Additionally, his situation is further complicated by the possibility of his bloc partners (the Communists among others) defecting from al Sadr because his promises of an honest government turned-out to be a lie.
The matter is now with the Iraqi people to decide whether they want an honest government dedicated to Iraqi nationalism, honesty, integrity and success, or, to have another group of leaders rob and pillage the country for they own wants and needs in the exercise illegitimate power with stolen money.
Lack of honesty
Sadr’s militia is a scary proposition to oppose but now is the time to strike before he gains more power and capacity. His lack of honesty, fair dealings and devotion to Iranian interests makes al Sadr dangerous to all Iraqis. It is not an overstatement that he could easily be another Saddam in the making and Iraqis should be wary and act now, while they still can. They should protest constantly, forcefully and demand another election. At that election, they should actually show-up this time and vote and elect an honest government. It is clear that the message of an honest government is a wining message and such a candidate would prevail in a re-election if held. In one fell swoop, the Iraqi population could throw out a corrupt sitting government and blunt the efforts of a dangerous demagogue whose allegiance is to Iranian interests and not to Iraqi nationalism as it should be.
The legitimate installation of al-Sadr and his cronies in the highest seats of power in Baghdad may take Iraqis on a very short road to destruction. If he is willing to lie about his principles to get elected, why would he respect the law if installed?
The success of al-Sadr in forming a coalition will not only fail to hold the promise of a new day for Iraq but may herald the beginning of the end of Iraqi democracy. Now is the time to act.