July 27/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know
John 04/21-24: "Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him.God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.’"
Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on July 26-27/18
Bekaa Residents Express Discontent with 'Hezbollah/Asharq Al-Awsat/July 26/18
Hezbollah's Corruption Crisis Runs Deep/Matthew Levitt/The Washington Institute/July 26/18
Netanyahu discusses 'Druze needs' over Nationality Law protest/Moran Azulay|/Ynetnews/July 26/18
A Month of Multiculturalism in France: June 2018/Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institute/July 26/2018
Is Portugal Becoming a Bastion of Neo-Marxism/Tiago S. Freitas/Gatestone Institute/July 26/2018
Google’s Mortal Enemy Does It a $95 Billion Favor/Alex Webb/Bloomberg/July 26/18
Militias, crumbling institutions and the idea of Iraq as a model/Khairallah Khairallah//Al Arabiya/July 26/18
Welcoming refugees in Germany: Thoughts from the Jewish community/Eugen Balin/Al Arabiya/July 26/18
Rouhani and Saddam’s rhetoric/Ghassan Charbel/Al Arabiya/July 26/18

Titles For The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on July 26-27/18
Bekaa Residents Express Discontent with 'Hezbollah
Coordination with Syrian Regime Revives Spirit of Rival Lebanese Alliances
From Beirut, Russian envoy urges Syrian refugee return
Aoun, Berri, Hariri Discuss Refugee Return with Russian Delegation in Baabda
Aoun cables condolences to Assad, Syrian Sheikh Akl
Bassil from Washington: Lebanon's stability global necessity
Rahi meets Samy Gemayel, Lebanese community in Kuwait
Machnouk, Egyptian ambassador talk current developments
"Strong Republic" holds regular meeting under Geagea's chairmanship
Loyalty to Resistance: To adopt clear, specific standard in government formation
Geagea at "Strong Republic" meeting: We will not make any alliances to counter mandate
Hariri Receives Acting UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon
Report: Hariri Proposes ‘Compromise’ Cabinet Format
Joint Parliamentary Committees Pass Laws Protecting Anti-Corruption Whistleblowers, Solid Waste Management
Hizbullah Condemns Sweida Bombings
Mustaqbal Bloc: Doubting STL Again, Opens Door to Discord
Sami Gemayel Blasts Suppression, Arrogance in Joint Committees Meeting
Hezbollah's Corruption Crisis Runs Deep
Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on July 26-27/18
ISIS Commits Massacre in Syria’s Sweida as Toll Rises
Netanyahu discusses 'Druze needs' over Nationality Law protest
IS Leaves Syria Druze Reeling from Heaviest Losses of War
Syria’s Assad says Russian military needed in Syria long-term
Syria's Red Crescent, UN Begin Delivering French Aid
Israel Ministers Seek Changes after Jewish Nation Law Outcry
Palestinian attacker who killed Israeli settler and injured two is shot dead
Man Explodes Small Device outside US Embassy in Beijing
Hamas Vows Revenge after Israeli Raid Kills 3 Militants
Violence as Migrants Storm Morocco-Spain Border Fence
Iraq’s protests continue while bracing for Friday’s ‘March of a Million’
Report: Trump team preparing economic plan as part of Mideast peace proposal
Iran’s Suleimani threatens Trump: ‘The Red Sea is no longer secure’
Egyptian Government Wins Vote of Confidence
Egypt: Final Sentences to Imprison 20 Convicted of Joining ISIS
Fatah Rejects Any Interference with Measures against Gaza Strip
The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on July 26-27/18
Bekaa Residents Express Discontent with 'Hezbollah'
Baalbek, Beirut – Hussein Darwish/Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 26 July, 2018/
Protests in Baalbek over the killing of a wanted person by Lebanon’s security services have emphasized the Shiite community’s discontent with "Hezbollah" and strong criticism of its secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah. Supporters of the party played down the importance of the protests and put them in the category of a “conflict between drug smugglers”. They said that protesters were those against the State decision to fight drug smugglers. On Monday, the Lebanese Army conducted a massive security operation that led to the killing of one of the most wanted persons by the Lebanese judiciary and seven of his supporters. This operation was met with angry reactions among Baalbek residents, who cut roads and accused "Hezbollah" of conspiring with the Lebanese state “to shed our blood because we say no to hunger”. The Lebanese Army Command - Guidance Directorate - issued on Wednesday a statement saying that the eight persons killed during the Hamoudieh raid operation had refused to surrender to the raid force and had opened fire at the LAF elements despite many warnings. According to the statement, investigations and interrogations, under the supervision of the competent judiciary, prove that all eight of them were outlaws against whom several arrest warrants were issued. Although the wave of objections against "Hezbollah" has intensified over the past two days in the wake of the security developments, these voices are not new, and began during the last parliamentary elections, as many criticized the party’s distinction between the residents of the Bekaa and those of the South. A source from the Bekaa, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that "Hezbollah" had promised the residents during the parliamentary elections to visit their homes and stand on their demands. But after the elections, "Hezbollah" allowed “the Lebanese army and the security forces to enter our houses to inspect them and prosecute those wanted,” the source noted, adding that the party “did not meet its promises to carry out development projects.” In this context, former "Hezbollah" Secretary General Sobhi al-Tufaily criticized the party for neglecting the Bekaa residents. “The days have shown that no one in the state cares about the people of the Bekaa, and what is said about the legalization of the cultivation of cannabis will not be in the interest of the people of the Bekaa, because the cultivation licenses as promoted may go to other provinces, such as the South for example,” he told the Central News Agency.

Coordination with Syrian Regime Revives Spirit of Rival Lebanese Alliances
Beirut - Paula Astih/Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 26 July, 2018/Indications of an attempt by what was known as the March 8 coalition to keep the normalization of relations with Syria on the discussion table have raised objections by the so-called March 14 alliance, which mainly includes al-Mustaqbal Movement, the Lebanese Forces (LF) and the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP). This dispute has revived the spirit of the March 8 and March 14 coalitions, which had slowly eroded following a consensus agreement sponsored by Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri that led to the election of Michel Aoun as president. The Shiite duo – represented by “Hezbollah” and Amal Movement – has long encouraged the Lebanese government to revive the Lebanese-Syrian relations, causing a major dispute by the end of last year. In recent statements, Bassil said: “The political life between Syria and Lebanon will return, and all the roads between Lebanon and Syria, Iraq and Syria, Jordan and Syria will open, and Lebanon will breathe again through these land routes.” Several pro-Damascus parties agreed with Bassil, stressing the need to end Lebanon’s dissociation policy agreed in 2012 . Over the last two days, Speaker Nabih Berri has pushed strongly in this direction, saying that the lack of coordination with Syria must end. In this context, MP Salim Khoury in the Strong Lebanon bloc, led by Bassil, said that the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) and its parliamentary bloc supported the coordination with Syria to guarantee the return of the displaced and to preserve the interests of the Lebanese state. “In any case, some parties’ rejection to cooperate with Syria does not serve the Lebanese economy nor the higher interests of the state,” he added. In contrast, Al-Mustaqbal MP Bakr al-Hujairi considered the issue a “game” played by the March 8 coalition. In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, Hujairi warned that this issue might block the formation of Hariri’s new government.

From Beirut, Russian envoy urges Syrian refugee return
Reuters, BeirutThursday, 26 July 2018/A senior Russian official on Thursday urged Syrian refugees to return to Syria where he said they faced no threat from President Bashar al-Assad’s government or the Syrian security apparatus. Alexander Lavrentyev, Russia’s Syria envoy, also said the Syrian government was not able to provide much financial help to returnees and urged foreign donors to provide assistance, saying the issue should not be politicized. The United Nations says that conditions for returns to Syria are not yet fulfilled, more than seven years into a conflict that has killed hundreds of thousands of people since spiralling out of an uprising against Assad’s rule. While some refugees are trickling back, many Syrians who fled the country fear persecution by the Assad government. Russia, whose military has helped Assad defeat insurgents across much of Syria, last week declared it had set up a refugee center in Syria to help refugees return. Lavrentyev, who met Assad in Damascus on Wednesday, said people were returning to Syria every day.
“People understand that there is no threat from the government and from the governmental security apparatus and they are returning to their homes, to their territories which are now under the control of the government,” he said on a visit to Lebanon.Russia’s special presidential envoy to Syria Alexander Lavrentiev, meets with Lebanese President Michel Aoun, at the presidential palace, in Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, July 26, 2018. (AP) Some 5.6 million Syrians are registered as refugees in the region, around 1 million of them in Lebanon, where Lavrentyev met President Michel Aoun, Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri on Thursday. “People are returning,” Lavrentyev said. “It is a good sign, and it is a good signal for all those refugees who are still in Lebanon, in Jordan, in Turkey, that it is time to think it over, and to decide to return to their home,” he said. The Syrian government was “really willing to accept all those who want to come back to their homes”, he said. A Russian official said last week that preliminary assessments indicated 890,000 refugees could return to Syria from Lebanon in the near future, 300,000 from Turkey and 200,000 from European Union countries. Aoun told Lavrentyev that Lebanon welcomed the Russian initiative, a Lebanese presidential statement said. Aoun expressed “Lebanon’s readiness to offer the necessary assistance to implement the Russian proposals”, the statement said. Aoun has described the refugees as an existential threat to Lebanon, and has been calling for their voluntary return to secure areas of Syria before a political settlement to the war. Lebanon’s General Security directorate has worked with Damascus to coordinate the return of hundreds of refugees in recent weeks. The names of those wishing to leave Lebanon must be approved by Damascus before they can go back. In April, a Syria conference hosted by the European Union and co-chaired by the United Nations in April said conditions for returns were not yet fulfilled, and that present conditions were not conducive for voluntary repatriation in safety and  dignity. Assad has recovered control of most of Syria in the last few years. Much of the north and a large part of the east remains outside his control, however. The Syrian war is estimated to have killed hundreds of thousands of people. Western states have said they will not help rebuild Syria until a negotiated political transition is under way.

Aoun, Berri, Hariri Discuss Refugee Return with Russian Delegation in Baabda
Naharnet/July 26/18/President Michel Aoun presided Thursday afternoon over a meeting at the Baabda Palace in the presence of Speaker Nabih Berri, Premier-designate Saad Hariri and a Russian delegation led by special presidential envoy Alexander Lavrentiev. After the talks, Lavrentiev said he held "very interesting and very positive talks" with the three leaders. The Presidency had earlier announced that the meeting would tackle “the Russian proposals aimed at securing the return of displaced Syrians to their country.”The Russian delegation met earlier in the day with Hariri at the Center House. The National News Agency said the delegation arrived from Jordan for “talks with top Lebanese officials on the Russian initiative related to the repatriation of Syrian refugees and the practical steps to fulfill that.”Russia, Syria’s ally has put forward plans to the United States to cooperate for the safe return of refugees to Syria. Moscow has proposed the establishment of working groups in Lebanon and Jordan, to where many refugees have fled, a Russian defense ministry official said last week. An adviser to Hariri has met Russia's deputy foreign minister Mikhail Bogdanov to find out more about the initiative, the premier's office has said.
Aoun cables condolences to Assad, Syrian Sheikh Akl
Thu 26 Jul 201/NNA - President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun, sent a telegram to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Sheikh Akl of the Druze community in Syria, and paid condolences on the victims of the Suwayda massacre carried out by the terrorists Daesh (IS) group.

Bassil from Washington: Lebanon's stability global necessity

Thu 26 Jul 2018/NNA - Caretaker Minister of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants, Gebran Bassil, said at the "promoting religious freedom" conference held at the US State Department in Washington "We are meeting today to promote religious freedom while the Knesset yesterday considered Israel a Jewish state," deeming the decision "a blow to pluralism and a booster of extremism, as it threatens the Palestinians living inside Palestine, strikes the right of return, and constitutes a wall of separation between religions.""I come from a different place, from the country of religions and sects. I come from the east from which the three heavenly religions have started. (...) I come from the only country in the world where Christians and Muslims equally share the responsibilities and positions in the State," Bassil said before his audience. "We have learned from past experiences, and so, we did not provide extremist ideas with the environment they need. Thus, the terrorists were defeated by our army, and we were the first country in the region to expel Daesh from its land by a national decision," the minister went on to say. "In our region, and despite the spreading extremism because of the Arab Spring and the Shiite-Sunni conflict, Lebanon remains focused on what brings together its own people, not what divides them," Bassil affirmed, pointing out that "Lebanon has 18 sects that share the concept of acceptance of the other and dialogue which is the way to fighting extremism and terrorism.""Although Lebanon's constitution is based on sectarian division, we are almost the only democracy in the region (...). Lebanon is unique in its message. For this reason, I call upon you, echoing the words of our President of the Republic, to make it a center for dialogue of religions with the United Nations.""You are concerned with preserving the Lebanese formula that protects religious freedom through the support of the legitimate institutions, on top of which the Lebanese army. We thank the United States of America and every other country that has contributed to supporting Lebanon's armed forces. The biggest threat to this formula would be the Syrian displacement and the Palestinian refugees residing on our land, and who should be repatriated as soon as possible, safe and dignified, so as not to tamper with diversity which is the basis for any permanent solution in the region," Bassil stressed. "The issue of displacement does not only tamper with our societies, but also affects all your countries. Europe's political map is changing because of asylum. (...) In the end, the stability of Lebanon is a global necessity, because it is the example of diversity in the world. So I appeal to you to work together to reduce the slide of some groups and nations towards unilateralism and to stop feeding this tendency to use religion for authoritarian purposes that lead to racial discrimination," the minister concluded.

Rahi meets Samy Gemayel, Lebanese community in Kuwait
Thu 26 Jul 2018/NNA - Maronite Patriarch, Cardinal Mar Bechara Boutros Rahi, on Thursday met in Bkirki with Kataeb Party chief, MP Sami Gemayel, in the presence of the Party's deputy head, former minister Salim Sayegh. Patriach Rahi also received this afternoon a delegation from the Lebanese community in Kuwait, headed by the President of the Maronite Parish in Kuwait, Joseph Istefan. The delegation briefed the Patriarch on the Parish's activities and their future projects.

Machnouk, Egyptian ambassador talk current developments

Thu 26 Jul 2018/NNA - Caretaker Interior and Municipalities Minister, Nouhad Machnouk, on Thursday welcomed Egyptian Ambassador to Lebanon, Nazih Al-Najari, with whom he discussed most recent political developments in Lebanon and the broader region.
Machnouk also took up with Najari the Russian project for the return of the displaced Syrians to their homeland. Talks dwelt on the best means to ensure the success of this project and secure a safe return for all those who were displaced.

"Strong Republic" holds regular meeting under Geagea's chairmanship

Thu 26 Jul 2018/NNA - The "Strong Republic" bloc headed by Lebanese Forces Party leader, Samir Geagea, held its regular meeting in Maarab, in the presence of Deputy Prime Minister and caretaker Minister of Public Health, Ghassan Hasbani, caretaker Minister of Information, Melhem Riachy, Vice president of the party, MP Georges Adwan, as well as current and former Deputies.

Loyalty to Resistance: To adopt clear, specific standard in government formation
Thu 26 Jul 2018/NNA - The "Loyalty to the Resistance" parliamentary bloc held this Thursday its regular meeting at its headquarters in Haret Hreik under the chairmanship of MP Mohammad Raad, and issued a statement dwelling on the local situation and "the complexities in forming the government.""This issue constituted the axis of deliberation, to determine the reasons for the delay in forming a government at a political moment in which the Syrian developments impose basic files which should be approached by the Lebanese State openly and positively so as to achieve the common interests of the two countries which require warm relations and open channels of political communication," the statement read. "The Syrian refugees' files and land transport through Syria, as well as the strategic security threat imposed by the Zionist enemy on both sides of Lebanon and Syria, are sufficient to correct the relationship, which is confirmed by the new context that clearly reveals Syria's victory over terrorist forces and their sabotage project to the whole region. This stage requires the existence of a national solidarity government that provides the necessary efficiency to take care of the interests of Lebanon and the Lebanese at various levels, namely sovereignty, security, economy and development," it added. The bloc congratulated Syria, its army, and its people on their strategic achievement, "bowing before the sacrifices of the heroic resistance forces that played an effective role in making this major achievement happen." The bloc finally upped calls for "the adoption of a clear and specific criterion in the formation of the new government, and avoiding discretion which will have negative repercussions affecting the level of confidence of the Lebanese in their government's effectiveness and ability to address the situation of the country.”

Geagea at "Strong Republic" meeting: We will not make any alliances to counter mandate

Thu 26 Jul 2018/NNA - Lebanese Forces party leader, Samir Geagea, chaired the meeting of the "Strong Republic" parliamentary bloc held in Maarab after which he read a statement that dwelled on the bloc's "appreciation for the efforts exerted by Premier-designate Saad Hariri to form a new government. The bloc calls on obstructing parties to cease their practices, so as to facilitate the process of formation urgently needed by the country." "In the same context, the bloc deplores the attempts of pressure and intimidation exercised by those same obstructers on the PM-designate, and which are aimed at one single goal, namely pushing the PM to adopt a government with a configuration that does not reflect the representative reality created by the recent elections, and thus does not reflect his convictions," he said. "We will not make any alliances to counter the current mandate," the LF leader assured however. The statement shed light on "the bloc's condemnation to the ongoing campaign against Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Health, Ghassan Hasbani, a campaign that has been going on for several months with the aim of falsifying the facts and spreading rumors in order to distort the image of Minister Hasbani, hence the image of the Lebanese Forces Ministers after they managed to win the confidence and appreciation of the overwhelming majority of the Lebanese, based on their good ministerial performance, their service to the citizens and their proper approach to all files, in addition to their honesty, integrity and transparency."He pointed out that "the Strong Republic looks with satisfaction at what was reached of US-Russian understanding over the return of Syrian refugees to Syria as soon as possible, starting from Jordan and Lebanon." "The bloc values in this context the series of contacts held by the Premier-designate with the Russian side in particular to give special attention to the return of displaced from Lebanon and to start implementing such a return the soonest possible. The Lebanese Forces puts all its relations, at home and abroad, at the service of this plan in order to make it a success."

Hariri Receives Acting UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon
Naharnet/July 26/18/Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri held talks on Thursday at the Center House with the Acting United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon Pernille Dahler Kardel, in the presence of his advisor Nadim Mounla, the Premier’s office said in a statement on Thursday. Discussions focused on the general situation and the developments in Lebanon and the region, and the missions carried out by the UN organizations.Cardel had urged Lebanese leaders on Wednesday to form a national unity government capable of “disarming all armed groups,” and hoped that the situation would be ready for the return of Syrian refugees back to their homeland.

Report: Hariri Proposes ‘Compromise’ Cabinet Format
Naharnet/July 26/18/A meeting between President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri on the delayed Cabinet formation recorded a “slight breakthrough” as the two men reportedly agreed on a “new amended” format of the new government that still needs “minor” changes, reports said on Thursday. Hariri, whose visit came one month after his last meeting with Aoun at the Baabda Palace, carried a “compromise, amended” format that focused on solving two main obstacles hindering his mission, the Druze obstacle and the share of the Lebanese Forces, the Saudi Asharq al-Awsat newspaper reported. Unnamed sources said the suggestion allocated “four portfolios to the LF, including a so-called sovereign portfolio and the three Druze Cabinet seats for the Progressive Socialist Party.” Hariri's sources told the daily “this formula satisfies everyone. If the intentions were sincere and there were no external obstacles hindering the government, the proposal will carry on.”On the other hand, al-Joumhouria daily said Hariri carried a new “amended” formula of the ministerial shares, saying the suggestion this time has “abandoned” the difficult conditions set by political parties mainly the Druze obstacle, the Lebanese Forces share and the representation of the Sunni opposition. The atmospheres “were positive” between the two men, it said. Aoun suggested a “slight change” regarding the Druze representation, meanwhile, a solution for the controversial LF ministerial share “is not difficult to find,” said the daily. Meetings between the two men will be intensified, and Hariri is expected to visit Aoun again before the end of the week “shall the contacts he plans to make with political parties” lead to fruition, said al-Joumhouria. Hariri was tasked with forming a new government on May 24. Several obstacles are hindering his mission, especially political wrangling over the Christian and Druze shares.

Joint Parliamentary Committees Pass Laws Protecting Anti-Corruption Whistleblowers, Solid Waste Management
Naharnet/July 26/18/The joint parliamentary committees approved enacting two laws on Thursday on the protection of anti-corruption whistleblowers and a draft on solid waste management after MPs Paula Yacoubian, Sami Gemayel and Elias Hanksh walked out of the meeting following a dispute over the waste issue. Loyalty to the Resistance bloc MP Nawaf Mousawi said the interlocutors “were able to lay the foundation stone for the enactment of a new law for integrated management of solid waste. This law is a message to the municipalities that they can move immediately.” For his part, MP Hikmat Deeb congratulated the Lebanese people on what he described as “major step in the trash management file.”“Protecting those who uncover corruption is a practical step,” said MP Alain Aoun. Gemayel, however, said: “I don't know what’s the benefit of the meeting is MPs can't tell their opinion.” Yaacoubian noted after she left the meeting that “waste sorting” is the solution to the problem. The committees met at Nejmeh Square under the chairmanship of Deputy Speaker MP Elie Ferzli, and in presence of caretaker Ministers of Finance, Water and Energy, Agriculture, and the Caretaker State Minister for Combating Corruption in addition to a number of MPs. The interlocutors agreed to meet every Thursday to discuss various issues, said Ferzli.

Hizbullah Condemns Sweida Bombings
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 26/18/Hizbullah issued a statement on Thursday condemning the suicide bombings that killed around 250 individuals overnight in Syria’s Sweida province. “Hizbullah denounces this hideous crime,” said the statement, “it comes in the wake of the impressive victories achieved by Syria and its allies recently especially in the Syrian south.”Islamic State suicide bombings and shootings hit Sweida on Wednesday, a Druze-majority province mostly held by government, killing at least 250. The onslaught began with a triple suicide bombing in Sweida, which was followed by attacks with guns and explosives on villages to its north and east. A fourth blast hit the provincial capital later in the day. IS claimed the assault hours later. At least 45 jihadists died carrying it out, the Observatory said.

Mustaqbal Bloc: Doubting STL Again, Opens Door to Discord
Naharnet/July 26/18/Al-Mustaqbal parliamentary bloc met on Tuesday under the chairmanship of Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri at the Center House. At the end of the meeting, the bloc issued a communique read by MP Tarek Merhbi. The bloc considers that the formation of the government is a national necessity in light of the economic challenges and regional developments, especially the ones related to the return of displaced Syrians and the need to make this step succeed. The bloc renewed its support for the efforts of Prime minister-designate Saad Hariri and the optimism he expresses, and stressed that coordination and consultation between the President and the PM is the main leverage of the government formation process and that the efforts of political parties to round off the angles and make concessions will boost this leverage and put an end to the deadlock cycle regarding the distribution of ministries. The bloc praised the speed with which Hariri communicated with Russian leaders regarding the repatriation of displaced Syrians, a return that must take place with international assurances that guarantee the safety and dignity of the displaced. The bloc discussed calls of some asking for the abolition of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, in charge of investigating the assassination of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and his companions. It considered the demand as a conclusive proof that the STL has made great progress towards the truth and the realization of justice in this great national affair. The bloc reminded that the STL is the result of one of the resolutions of international legality to which Lebanon is fully committed, warning that casting doubt once again on the STL and its action opens the door to the return of divisions. Mustaqbal has also hailed the successful army operation in the Bekaa towns of Hammoudieh-Brital, which led to the killing of a suspected drug trafficking baron and seven other people in a raid on his home in eastern Lebanon. The bloc also said that the new Israeli "Jewish Nation State" law is an “evidence of the racism practiced by the Israeli occupation of Palestine and another blow to any possible initiative to establish a just peace based on the right of the Palestinian people to return to their independent state with Jerusalem as its capital. It called on the UN and the international community to assume its responsibility and put an end to Israeli violations of all international resolutions.

Sami Gemayel Blasts Suppression, Arrogance in Joint Committees Meeting 26th July 2018/Kataeb MPs Samy Gemayel and Elias Hankache, as well as MP Paula Yaacoubian, on Thursday walked out of the joint parliamentary committees' meeting due to sharp divisions over the waste management issue. In a joint press conference held following their withdrawal of the session, the three lawmakers condemned the heavy-handed suppression that are being subject to, noting that they were prevented from expressing their viewpoints during the meeting. “I wonder, what is the real purpose of having a Parliament if lawmakers are not allowed to express their opinions?” Gemayel asked. “Why rushing to close this matter without discussion when the Parliament's general assembly is not expected to meet anytime soon? The joint committees can hold successive meetings, because there will be no Parliament sessions as long as no government is formed,” he pointed out. “No one discussed the technical aspect of this matter. We were stopped from doing so.” “Those who were in charge of the waste mangement file over 20 years, held positions in the Environment Ministry and relevant committees, benefitted from Sukleen, and eventually left the country without alternatives because they were betting on extending this company’s contract, are today preaching us about ethics and integrity,” Gemayel said, slamming the arrogance and recklessness of some people over this issue. “Everyone with practical and good solutions for the waste crisis is prevented from speaking up,” he said. “Certain harmful techniques are old school, i.e. the incinerators, while there are new methods for treating waste. We stood against assigning this file to the Development and Reconstruction Council because it is not entitled to assume it,” Gemayel highlighted. The Kataeb chief added that the party had demanded that the waste management tenders be scrutinized by the Tenders Department, stressing the need to address this issue as soon as possible.

Hezbollah's Corruption Crisis Runs Deep
Matthew Levitt/The Washington Institute/July 26/18
The following text was originally published in Arabic on the Alhurra website.
The group's involvement in human trafficking and other criminal activities is far more extensive than Nasrallah cares to admit, going beyond anything his anti-corruption committee is likely to address.
In the run-up to the recent Lebanese elections, Hezbollah officials and candidates rarely spoke about the party’s military deployment in Syria. Instead, they focused on two main issues: the economy and corruption. What Hezbollah wants to avoid discussing most of all is how its fight in Syria to support Assad’s regime relates to the eroding economy and growing corruption it is suffering inside Lebanon.
In general, the state of extraordinary dissatisfaction within Hezbollah’s traditional Shia political base is the result of the party’s deep slide in the Syria war and the growing number of its dead there. For some of Hezbollah’s old supporters, the doctrine of “resistance” was specifically related to Israel, not to defending President Assad and his war against mostly Sunni Syrian civilians. In the run-up to the parliamentary elections, signs were posted on the highway in the Beqa area, Hezbollah’s main stronghold, opposing the party’s candidates and bearing slogans such as “We are keen to resist, but our loyalty is to Baalbek Hermel.”
There has been a state of irony and suspicion within Hezbollah’s ranks over the heavy price the organization is paying to support the Assad regime. Many Hezbollah fighters see they are paying the whole price, while the Iranians are reaping the benefits. As a result, a large number of veterans are leaving the party, making room for a new and different group of younger fighters. The new fighters join the party in order to get a salary, not to fulfill a sense of conviction, which makes the Syria war an economic rather than ideological issue for this new generation of Hezbollah soldiers.
Accordingly, Hezbollah is also suffering from a crisis of confidence based on the realization that the group has become implicated in corruption. Hezbollah is recruiting its fighters from the poorest areas in Beirut’s Dahiya neighborhood and the Beqa region along the Syria-Lebanon border, and to a lesser extent from southern Lebanon. But at a time when Hezbollah is recruiting the poor, its wealthy supporters are profiting from the war.
Last April, the Wall Street Journal reported that a former Hezbollah fighter had criticized group leader Hassan Nasrallah in an open letter for his failure to tackle corruption within the organization. In the past, one would never hear this kind of public criticism of the party, but the letter received support in social media. Nasrallah realized that Hezbollah had a serious problem and made campaigning against corruption and supporting economic development the centerpiece of the group’s electoral platform.
Describing how the issue had affected Lebanon’s public sector, Nasrallah stated that fighting corruption is “a major national battle.” On May 25, in a speech marking the anniversary of Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon, he announced that the party leadership had studied the “corruption file” and appointed Hassan Fadlallah, a Hezbollah member of parliament and head of an anti-corruption committee, to follow up on the matter under the supervision of Nasrallah himself.
But even if the party proves it is capable of eliminating much of the political corruption that has resulted from the war economy that Hezbollah contributed to creating, it will be unable to address some of the most pervasive and alarming corruption activities carried out by influential individuals within the group. Most of these powerful and corrupt figures are involved in the criminal network that provides financial support to Hezbollah, especially the part that funds the group’s terrorism and military activities, which is referred to by US law enforcement as the Business Affairs Component.” The BAC was first detected in early 2016 through a joint operation involving the Drug Enforcement Administration, Customs and Border Protection, Treasury Department, Europol, Eurojust, and French, German, Italian, and Belgian authorities. The investigation involved seven countries and resulted in the arrest of a number of Hezbollah members and collaborators on charges of drug trafficking, money laundering, and possession of weapons for use in Syria.
Alongside these activities, some prominent figures in Hezbollah are involved in horrific criminal enterprises, including trafficking in sex and human beings. Consider, for example, Ali Hussein Zeaiter, a Hezbollah official responsible for procurement and criminal financing. In 2014, the U.S. Treasury Department designated him a terrorist for using his companies to acquire unmanned aerial vehicle components operated by Hezbollah over Syrian territory and against Israel. The following year, the Treasury listed additional companies run by Zeaiter in China and Lebanon for their procurement of UAV components for Hezbollah. A few months later, in 2016, Lebanese authorities uncovered a large prostitution network, mainly employing Syrian women. Hezbollah claimed to have played a role in uncovering the human trafficking and sex network, but press reports linked the prostitution network to Zeaiter, whom the Treasury Department described as the group’s procurement agent.
More recently, in May 2018, the Treasury designated Mohammad Ibrahim Bazzi as a terrorist and described him as a “Hezbollah financier” with close ties to former corrupt Gambian dictator Yahya Jammeh and a drug dealer linked to Hezbollah, Ayman Joumma. The Treasury revealed that Bazzi “is a major donor to Hezbollah” and has given the party “financial aid over many years by providing the millions of dollars he has earned from his commercial activities.” Bazzi’s financing of terrorism is mainly accomplished through close ties with two activists in the commercial branch of Hezbollah, Adham Tabaja and Ali Yousef Sharara.
Bazzi appears to support Hezbollah through human trafficking as well. A month after classifying him for supporting Hezbollah’s terrorist activities, the Treasury released a report on human rights abuses by corrupt foreign political dignitaries and their financial facilitators. The report highlighted the role of Bazzi, mentioning his close association with Yahya Jammeh. Among Jammeh’s numerous human rights violations listed in the report, the charge of human trafficking was mentioned. In fact, in its own special report on human trafficking, the State Department describes Gambia as “a source and destination country for women and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking.” The report adds that “women, girls, and to a lesser extent boys are vulnerable to sex trafficking, forced labor in street markets, and domestic servitude” once they are caught up in this network. The “Lebanon connection” to the world of sex trafficking in Gambia involving close associates of Jammeh has been reported for a long time. According to the State Department, this includes the smuggling of people not only from Lebanon to Gambia, but also in the opposite direction. The report noted that “Gambian women are subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking in the Middle East, including Lebanon and Kuwait.”
The role of Bazzi in some of these trafficking activities in partnership with Jammeh was reportedly cited in the original version of the Treasury Department’s press release when his designation as a terrorist was announced, but was eventually deleted. According to a report in Alhurra, a Treasury official revealed “Bazzi’s involvement in the process of using the Syrian girls who are collected from refugee camps and trading them for money to help Hezbollah.”
Indeed, Bazzi’s role in human trafficking was discovered as part of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s investigation into Hezbollah’s money-laundering and drug trafficking operations, called Project Cassandra. In early 2014, a White House meeting on this issue was held before Jammeh’s visit to Washington that August. Fearing that the meeting on human trafficking in Gambia would lead to a discussion about Hezbollah and Bazzi’s role in these activities, agents from the Project Cassandra Project Task Force were excluded from the discussions.
Hezbollah is open about the corruption crisis facing all Lebanese parties, including Hezbollah itself. But the group closes its ranks and hides its dirty laundry when it comes to senior officials such as Zeaiter and Bazzi, who represent a rot at the core of the party’s narrow leadership circle. Hezbollah’s corruption extends beyond financial mismanagement and allows the powerful party barons to earn money from the war economy in Syria while recruiting foot soldiers from among the poor. For a group that calls itself “the party of God,” the likes of Zeaiter and Bazzi represent shameful problems. The corruption of Hezbollah is spreading far deeper than Nasrallah cares to admit, and it is more complex than anything else the group’s anti-corruption committee is likely to address.
**Matthew Levitt is the Fromer-Wexler Fellow and director of the Reinhard Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence at The Washington Institute.

The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on July 26-27/18
ISIS Commits Massacre in Syria’s Sweida as Toll Rises
Beirut - Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 26 July, 2018/The death toll in coordinated ISIS suicide bombings and shootings in southwestern Syria rose to nearly 250 overnight, more than half of them civilians, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Thursday. Wednesday's attacks hit Sweida, a Druze-majority province mostly held by the regime which had remained relatively insulated from the country's seven-year civil war. The death toll climbed steadily throughout the day and into the night, the Britain-based monitoring group, said. "The toll is now 246 people dead, including 135 civilians," said Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman. The others killed were pro-regime fighters or residents who had taken up arms to defend their villages. "The toll keeps rising as civilians who were wounded are dying and people who were unaccounted for are found dead," Abdel Rahman told AFP. The onslaught began with a triple suicide bombing in the city of Sweida, which was followed by attacks with guns and explosives on villages to its north and east. A fourth blast hit the provincial capital later in the day. ISIS claimed the assault hours later. At least 45 militants died carrying it out, the Observatory said. It added that it was the worst bloodshed to hit Sweida province since the civil war began in 2011.

Netanyahu discusses 'Druze needs' over Nationality Law protest

Moran Azulay|/Ynetnews/July 26/18
PM meets with Ministers Lieberman, Kahlon and Kara and MKs Amar and Hasson ahead of meeting with Druze community leaders following their protest against the Nationality Law; Druze leader says happy to accept meeting, so long as it focuses on amending Nationality Law.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a meeting with government ministers and Knesset members Thursday about the needs of the Druze community ahead of his meeting Friday with Druze leaders in the wake of their protest over the Nationality Law.
The prime minister met with Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, Communications Minister Ayoob Kara, and MKs Hamad Amar (Yisrael Beytenu) and Akram Hasson (Kulanu) at the Kirya IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv, holding what was described as a cordial and positive discussions.
Despite this, no agreements have been made regarding changes to the Nationality Law, according to the Prime Minister's Office. Netanyahu and Minister Yariv Levin, who led the legislation process, don't think it's right to "open" the law at this time and make changes to it.Despite the PMO's statement, MK Hasson said the prime minister did promise to examine the legal aspects of amending the last, tasking Minister Levin with it.
The prime minister will meet on Friday with the Druze community's dignitaries, including spiritual leader Sheikh Mowafak Tarif.
Tarif said he was happy to accept the prime minister's invitation to meet, as long as the meeting will focus on amending the Nationality Law.
"We are not talking about other problems right now, like the budget. We want to know the Druze's status under the Nationality Law and understand how the law's definition of the Druze's status and rights will affect the community. This is our current concern. This, and nothing more," he said.
The Sheikh will address the Jewish Agency's Board of Governors meeting on October 24 in Tel Aviv after accepting the invitation of new Jewish Agency chairman and outgoing opposition leader Isaac Herzog, made as a sign of respect and appreciation for the Druze community in the wake of the Druze's protest against the Nationality Law.
On Sunday, coalition party leaders will discuss the matter in an effort to formulate a plan to help resolve the real issues facing the Druze community in Israel.
In addition, the government will consider promoting legislation to give preference to Druze who serve or served in the IDF.
During Thursday's meeting, Netanyahu and the other officials discussed the possibility of adding to a law passed in May that sets a day in the State of Israel's official national calendar celebrating the Druze community and their contribution to the country.
Alternatively, the coalition could propose new legislation to establish the Druze community's status in the State of Israel.
"Netanyahu is once again lying to the public. This is his how he operates— he supports the protest in order to bury it," accused Zionist Union MK Saleh Saed.
"I stopped believing the Prime Minister's Office's political spins, I will continue to protest against the Nationality Law with all my might, alongside bereaved families and the entire Druze community," he concluded.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett on Wednesday criticized the law that he and his party members voted for.
"Following conversations with many of our Druze brothers, it appears that the way we passed the Nationality Law was detrimental to the Druze community and to those who link their fate with the Jewish state," Bennett wrote in his Twitter account.
"This, of course, is not the intention of the Israeli government. These are our blood brothers who made a covenant with us, and stand with us, shoulder to shoulder, on the battlefield. We, the Government of Israel, have a responsibility to find a way to bridge the gap," Bennett stated.
Netanyahu put all of his weight behind the Nationality Law, which states that the State of Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people and that Hebrew is the official language of the state. Arabic was defined as having a special status, with the official state use of Arabic to be determined in separate legislation.
Under the previous version of the bill, which passed in its first reading in May, the Arabic language was to receive a special status and state services were to be made accessible in Arabic as well.
This week, 100 Druze IDF officers in reserves, many of them with a rich record of fighting in Israel's various wars over the years, have joined the fight against the law.
Several of the Druze reserve officers expressed anger for being excluded from Israeli society despite the fact they served and continue to serve the country.
"I don't understand why this law is necessary. Is somebody questioning that the fact the country is Jewish? This law only creates second-class citizens," Brig. Gen. (res.) Imad Fares lamented.
One of the main sticking points of the law was article 7b, which defined the development of the Jewish settlements as a national value, and allowed the exclusion of people from these new communities on the basis of race or religious, among other things.
However, after a warning from the Knesset's legal advisor, the article was amended. The law in its new version states that Israel "views the development of Jewish settlements as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment."
The first petition to the High Court of Justice against the Nationality Law was submitted last week by the heads of the Druze community, followed by three Knesset members—including two from the coalition—who also filed a petition to the High Court on Sunday.
The move was initiated by MKs Amar (Yisrael Beytenu), Hasson (Kulanu) and Saed (Zionist Union).
The Druze community's petition, which was submitted in bilateral move, was formulated by the Druze Lawyers' Forum on behalf of the Knesset members, the Forum of Druze Community Leaders and the Druze community.
"For the Druze community, which sacrifices its blood and its sons for the sake of Israel, the Nationality Law is a spit in the face," said the MKs.
"We have joined forces in a bilateral move because this is an extreme governmental action against Arabic speakers. The law perpetuates the discrimination against the Druze community and other minority groups," added the Druze MKs.
Even after his meeting with Netanyahu, Kulanu MK Hasson said he has no intention of withdrawing his petition to the High Court against the law as long as the status of the Druze community is not enshrined in the law.

IS Leaves Syria Druze Reeling from Heaviest Losses of War

Associated Press/Naharnet/July 26/18/The death toll in coordinated Islamic State group attacks in Syria's Sweida neared 250 on Thursday, the Druze-majority province's heaviest loss of life of the seven-year civil war. Sweida, which is mainly government-held, had been largely insulated from the conflict raging in the rest of the country since 2011. But Wednesday's onslaught shattered the relative calm and showed that IS retains the ability to mount deadly attacks against civilians, despite being ousted from their last remaining urban pockets in recent months. Four suicide bombers struck the city of Sweida, while other IS fighters attacked villages to its north and east with guns and explosives. The death toll reached 246 on Thursday, 135 of them civilians, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group. The others killed were pro-government fighters or residents who had taken up arms to defend their villages. "The toll keeps rising as civilians who were wounded are dying and people who were unaccounted for are found dead," Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP. State television broadcast footage of the funeral processions in Sweida, showing men in the traditional white caps of the Druze minority exchanging condolences. Men carried caskets draped in the two-star government flag and pictures of those killed against a backdrop of the rainbow colours that represent the Druze community. At least 56 jihadists died carrying out the assault. - IS regroups -IS claimed responsibility in a series of statements on its propaganda channels on Wednesday. It posted gruesome photographs showing jihadists beheading at least four men it said were government fighters it had captured in Sweida. The assault came after the jihadists suffered a series of defeats that saw them ousted from the last urban pockets of the sprawling cross-border "caliphate" they proclaimed in Iraq and Syria in 2014. In May, the last IS fighters in Yarmuk refugee camp in the southern outskirts of Damascus were bused out with their relatives to desert territory still held by the group. News websites in Sweida alleged that some of the jihadists who took part in Wednesday's attack had been given safe passage out of Yarmuk. They posted images that purported to show IS fighters killed in the assault with identification cards showing they were from Yarmuk. Zeina, a resident of the tiny village of Al-Matuna, said her family woke up to the sound of gunfire and grenade blasts at around 5:30 am (0230 GMT) on Wednesday. "My relative shot back at one of the fighters outside our home and we heard him scream: 'The infidels have killed me'," she told AFP. Her cousin and his wife were both killed. "The villages that were attacked were on edge last night, and all the men were on high alert," Zeina, 32, said on Thursday. State news agency SANA said dozens were killed in the assault but did not give a specific toll. It said calm returned to Sweida late on Wednesday after government forces and armed villagers surrounded the IS fighters and killed them. The assault drew condemnation from the United Nations as well as government allies Russia and Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah. "We condemn this disgraceful crime, its perpetrators, and anyone who stands behind it and the takfiri (extremist Muslim) ideology that these terrorist groups adopt," Hezbollah said in a statement on Thursday. UN humanitarian coordinator in Syria Ali al-Zaatari condemned the "terrorist bombing in Sweida city", saying all civilians should be protected. Syria's Druze minority makes up around three percent of the population. They are regarded as heretics by the Sunni Muslim extremists of IS.

Syria’s Assad says Russian military needed in Syria long-term
Reuters, MoscowThursday, 26 July 2018/Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said on Thursday Russian forces were needed in the country long-term and for more than just fighting terrorism, Russian news agencies reported, citing an interview with the leader. The rapid return of refugees to Syria is the main issue being discussed between Damascus and Moscow, Interfax news agency cited the president as saying. Furthermore al-Assad said that the “White Helmets” activists who have refused amnesty will be liquidated like all terrorists. The Syrian President also said that Idlib province and other areas where terrorists are located will be the priority for the Syrian army activities. As for the refugees, al-Assad said a rapid return of refugees to Syria is the main issue being discussed between Damascus and Moscow.

Syria's Red Crescent, UN Begin Delivering French Aid
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 26/18/Syrian relief workers and the United Nations began distributing humanitarian assistance provided by France to the battered region of Eastern Ghouta on Thursday, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent announced. The organisation said on Twitter "3,840 blankets, 572 kitchen kits and tents from (the) French aid," as well as 30 medical kits, were being handed out late Thursday morning. Pictures published by SARC show a convoy of their trucks and UN vehicles, as well as blankets being handed out to a child and adults. A source from the organisation told AFP a total of seven trucks entered Douma, the main town in Ghouta, and unloaded the aid there. Residents of Eastern Ghouta had faced five years of crippling siege during which even the most basic food and medicines were virtually unaffordable, forcing around 400,000 people to rely on UN aid deliveries.
SARC did not say exactly who or how many people would benefit from the latest aid delivery. The assistance was part of a humanitarian aid operation coordinated between Moscow and Paris, the first such mission between Russia and a Western country. More than 40 tonnes of medical aid and humanitarian supplies were loaded onto a Russian military cargo plane in the central French city of Chateauroux early Saturday. The supplies, including medicine, clothes and tents, was flown to the Russian military base in Syria's Hmeimim before being brought to the outskirts of Damascus on Thursday. France had said it had secured "guarantees" from Russia that the Syrian regime would not obstruct the distribution of the aid, and that it would not be misappropriated or used for political purposes. "This humanitarian operation, conducted jointly with Russia, is being implemented under the supervision of the United Nations in Syria," a French foreign ministry spokesman said on Wednesday. Syrian troops recaptured Ghouta from rebels in April, after a blistering assault which killed hundreds and ended in a surrender deal that transferred tens of thousands of opposition fighters and civilians out of the area. Thousands stayed in the suburb and others have returned in recent weeks, although many of Ghouta's towns remain in ruins.

Israel Ministers Seek Changes after Jewish Nation Law Outcry
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 26/18/Two key ministers have called for changes to a deeply controversial law declaring Israel the nation state of the Jewish people after a backlash and a court challenge from the Druze minority. Opponents have called the law "racist" as it makes no mention of equality and Israel's democratic character, implying that the country's Jewish nature comes first. Members of Israel's 130,000-strong Druze community -- many of whom willingly serve in the police and military -- have been among those strongly denouncing the law. Community leaders have filed a court challenge to the law, given final passage in the middle of the night on July 19. It becomes part of Israel's so-called basic laws, a de facto constitution. On Thursday, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon called for changes in response to the concerns of Druze, saying the law had been "passed in haste." "The last thing that we want is to harm the Druze community," Kahlon, whose Kulanu party is the second largest in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition, told army radio. His comments followed similar ones on Wednesday by Education Minister Naftali Bennett of the religious nationalist Jewish Home party. Bennett, who was a prominent advocate for the law, said he had now realized damage was done, adding that the Druze were "our brothers who stand shoulder to shoulder with us on the battlefield." "We, the government of Israel, have a responsibility to find a way to heal the rift," he said. Druze lawmakers were expected to meet Netanyahu, Kahlon and Defenسe Minister Avigdor Lieberman on the issue later Thursday. Druze leaders are also planning a demonstration against the law in central Tel Aviv on August 4. The Druze are an offshoot of Shiite Islam. Officials say there are 110,000 of them in northern Israel and another 20,000 in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. The legislation makes Hebrew the country's national language and defines the establishment of Jewish communities as being in the national interest. Arabic, previously considered an official language, was granted only special status. Arab Israelis have also denounced the law, saying it encourages discrimination and racism. Arab citizens make up some 17.5 percent of Israel's more than eight million population.

Palestinian attacker who killed Israeli settler and injured two is shot dead
Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnglishThursday, 26 July 2018/In the latest flare of tension between Israel and Palestinians, a Palestinian attacker was shot dead by the Israeli army after stabbing to death one settler and injuring two others after he infiltrated into an Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank on Thursday. According to Al Arabiya correspondent, the Israeli army shot the Palestinian when he attacked the settlers in the settlement of Adam which lies between Jerusalem and the West Bank city of Ramallah. There was no immediate comment from Palestinian officials. Reuters news agency reported earlier that medics were treating three people, the Israeli ambulance service Magen David Adom said. One of them was in a critical condition and another sustained serious injuries. The third person was lightly wounded. "A terrorist infiltrated into the community and stabbed three civilians. The terrorist was shot and killed," the Israeli military said. Israeli security forces at the Adam settlement in the occupied West Bank where a stabbing attack took place. (AFP) Israeli-Palestinian tensions have surged in the past few months. At least 140 Palestinians have been killed in the Gaza Strip by Israeli fire in weekly border demonstrations. Israel says Hamas, the Islamist group that rules Gaza is using the protests as cover for a cross-border attacks. Hamas denies this. Palestinian militants have in recent weeks fired hundreds of rockets into Israel from Gaza and have opened fire at Israeli troops across the border, killing one soldier and drawing fatal Israeli air and tank strikes. Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians collapsed in 2014 and a bid by the US administration to restart them has so far shown little sign of progress. Palestinians want to establish a state in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, territories that Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war. Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005, annexed East Jerusalem in a move not recognized internationally and maintains control over more than half the West Bank, where the Palestinians have limited self-rule. (With Reuters)

Man Explodes Small Device outside US Embassy in Beijing
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 26/18/A man exploded a small homemade bomb outside the U.S. Embassy in Beijing on Thursday, injuring only himself, according to police and an embassy spokesperson. Photos on social media showed a large amount of smoke and police vehicles surrounding the embassy shortly after the incident. Apart from a heightened security presence, the scene outside appeared to be normal by early afternoon. The Beijing Police Department posted a statement on its website identifying the suspect only by his surname, Jiang, and said he was 26 years old and a native of Tongliao city in the Chinese region of Inner Mongolia. He was injured on the hand by the explosive device, which was made from fireworks and was detonated at about 1 p.m., police said. There was no word on a motive and the statement said the investigation was continuing. No damage was done to embassy property and no other injuries were recorded, a U.S. embassy spokesperson said, speaking on routine condition of anonymity. Only one person was involved and police responded to the situation, the spokesperson said. Neither the police nor the embassy had any comment on a report by the ruling Communist Party newspaper Global Times that said officers had earlier removed a women from outside the embassy who had sprayed gasoline on herself in a "suspected attempt at self-immolation" at around 11 a.m. China and the U.S. are in the middle of a trade dispute, but America remains a hugely popular destination for travel, education and immigration for Chinese citizens. On weekdays, large lines of visa applicants form outside the embassy, which sits in a busy corner of the city hosting numerous diplomatic installations as well as hotels and stores.

Hamas Vows Revenge after Israeli Raid Kills 3 Militants
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 26/18/The military wing of Gaza's rulers Hamas on Thursday vowed revenge after Israeli strikes killed three militants in the latest flare-up of violence. Israel said the artillery fire late Wednesday was in retaliation for shots fired at troops along the border which injured one soldier. "We announce the raising of the preparedness level to the highest and alert all of our soldiers and forces in every location," said a statement from the al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas. "The enemy shall pay a high price in blood for the crime which it commits daily against the rights of our people and our fighters."The Gaza border was quiet Thursday morning, however. The three men were killed Wednesday by Israeli artillery fire targeting a Hamas military base near the border east of Gaza City. In total the Israeli army said it hit seven Hamas sites throughout Gaza in response to the border shooting. The military said nine projectiles -- likely mortars or rockets -- were fired at Israel from Gaza overnight, including one that was intercepted by air defence systems. It said most were fired at "open territory adjacent to the security fence". No injuries or damage were reported. The latest bloodshed came five days after the UN and Egypt brokered a deal to halt a July 20 surge in violence. Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since 2008. Tensions have spiked since Palestinians began protesting along the Gaza border in late March, with Israeli fire killing at least 153 Palestinians since then. Most were shot dead during protests and clashes but others were killed in Israeli airstrikes or artillery fire. One Israeli soldier was killed by sniper fire from Gaza, setting off a wave of Israeli strikes on July 20.

Violence as Migrants Storm Morocco-Spain Border Fence
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 26/18/Some 400 migrants from sub-Saharan Africa reached Spain Thursday after storming a double barrier between Morocco and the Spanish territory of Ceuta, with some attacking security forces with quicklime, police said. The scramble over the barrier is the biggest in Ceuta since February 2017, when more than 850 migrants entered the overseas territory over four days. It comes as Spain becomes the number one destination for migrants crossing the Mediterranean by boat, surpassing Italy with 19,586 arrivals so far this year, according to the International Organization for Migration. A spokesman for the Guardia Civil police force in Ceuta told AFP the migrants managed to climb over the double barrier, which is covered in small blades, early on Thursday morning. They scrambled over "all of a sudden, with much violence," and some attacked police with quicklime they had in tubes and bottles. As a result, "more than a dozen police" were injured, four of whom had to go to hospital for burns in the face and arms.Isabel Brasero, spokeswoman for the Red Cross, said they had to attend to 30 migrants with injuries, none serious. Eleven of them were taken to hospital for stitches and possible fractures, she added. She said that after they had climbed over the barrier, they ran to the centre that houses migrants once they arrive in Spanish territory. Ceuta and Melilla, another Spanish territory on Morocco's northern border, have the EU's only land borders with Africa, which is why many migrants try to reach them.

Iraq’s protests continue while bracing for Friday’s ‘March of a Million’
Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnglishThursday, 26 July 2018/Iraq’s Basra city was the first station for protests to erupt before it swept over other governorates in mid and southern Iraq, while popular anger is still brewing and protests continue until the people’s demands are met. On Thursday, protesters raised more demands on the government, calling for the dissolving of Basra’s governorate council as well as holding some security officials accountable for the use of excessive force against the protesters. Young Iraqis putting up tents ahead of Friday’s protests. (Supplied) On Thursday evening, residents of northern Basra’s al-Howair area called for an open sit-in, demanding jobs for the unemployed and better public services, while other protesters put up their tents in front of the local administration. Meanwhile, coordinated groups of protesters all over Iraq are in preparations to unite and stage a “March of a Million” on Friday, calling on politicians, tribal chiefs and religious leaders to stay away. Young Iraqis in a sit in inside their tent in front a local administration north of Basra. (Supplied) Husni al-Mousawai from Basra who will participate in Friday’s march said to Al Arabiya English that people in Basra “no longer trust those who were part of the consecutive federal or local governments,” adding that a group called “Basra youth” has been established to unify their demands with allthe other groups from all over Iraq in order to get positive results from Friday’s protests. At least 14 people have been killed in Iraq in two weeks of protests over corruption and lack of public services, Fadel al-Garawi, a member of the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights, told AFP. He added that 275 protestors and 470 security personnel were injured during the protests. Meanwhile, Garawi said that 828 protestors were arrested so far, most of which have been released.

Report: Trump team preparing economic plan as part of Mideast peace proposal
Reuters, Washington Thursday, 26 July 2018/A long-awaited Middle East peace plan from the Trump administration will include what the White House is calling a robust economic plan to help resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, an official has said. US President Donald Trump’s envoys are also working on the most detailed set of proposals to date for the overall plan, the White House official said in a briefing with reporters on Monday. The plan thus far has no release date. Trump had hoped to reveal it early this year but his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moving the embassy there, reversing decades of US policy, inflamed tensions in the region. The Palestinians have said that they have lost faith in the Trump administration to act as a fair mediator and have boycotted the process since last December’s Jerusalem announcement. The White House has offered few details on a peace plan that has drawn widespread skepticism even before its unveiling. Trump’s proposals are the product of shuttle diplomacy to regional capitals by senior White House adviser Jared Kushner, who is married to Trump’s daughter Ivanka, and Jason Greenblatt, a lawyer who is playing a role in the negotiations.
Negotiating peace
The two envoys have asked leaders in the region to outline for each issue an outcome that they could live with and that the other side could accept, the official said. Past attempts by American presidents at negotiating peace between Israel and Palestine have fizzled based on differences over the status of Jerusalem and borders. The Trump team has studied past efforts as a guidepost to the future, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The official said the Trump plan would be the most detailed package of solutions ever offered and that some finishing touches were being put on the main proposals and economic plans. A rollout strategy was being developed, the official said. Trump had asked his team how the embassy announcement would affect peace negotiations. He was told it would cause some short-term disruption, but that long-term the prospects for peace would be improved, the official said. Despite Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ refusal to engage on the subject, Trump’s advisers expect the Palestinian leadership to read it and provide some realistic feedback and offer some proposals on how to improve it, the official said.

Iran’s Suleimani threatens Trump: ‘The Red Sea is no longer secure’
Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnglishThursday, 26 July 2018/In another round of threatening statements by the Iranian regime, the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force Qassem Suleimani has issued a direct threat to the United States President Donald Trump, adding new fuel to weeks of tension between Iran and the US. In a speech broadcast by Iran’s al-Alam channel, Suleimani threatened Trump by saying that “The Red Sea is no longer secure”. “You know that this war will destroy all that you possess. You will start this war but we will be the ones to impose its end. Therefore you have to be careful about insulting the Iranian people and the president of our Republic,” Soleimani said in a speech, as reported by al-Alam in Arabic. “You know our power in the region and our capabilities in asymmetric war. We will act and we will work,” he said. This is believed to be related to Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi militias’ attack on two Saudi oil tankers on Thursday, which temporarily halted all oil shipments through the strategic Red Sea shipping lane of Bab al-Mandeb.
Maritime threat
The new development is believed to be an Iranian involvement in threatening the maritime movement by encouraging the Houthis to attack oil tankers in the Red Sea, which is considered one of the most important trade routes in the world for oil tankers. Suleimani also praised statements made by Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani when he threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz incase Iranian oil shipments are blocked. Suleimani threatened saying: “we have many other straits and Hormuz is one of them.” The Quds commander added: “You know that this war will destroy all that you possess. You will start this war but we will be the ones to impose its end. Therefore you have to be careful about insulting the Iranian people and the president of our Republic,” Suleimani said. This latest flare in words comes in the heels of a tweet by US president Trump on Monday warning the Iranian president using cap letters: “NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE.”(With Reuters)

Egyptian Government Wins Vote of Confidence
Cairo - Mohamed Nabil Helmy/Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 26 July, 2018/Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouli has won parliament’s vote of confidence after the majority of lawmakers gave their green light to the cabinet’s policy statement and line-up, Speaker of the House of Representatives Ali Abdel Aal announced. The vote of confidence motion came at the end of the parliament’s third ordinary round pending the resumption of its functions in October. Although the house of representatives has set two days, with four sessions each, to respond to the government’s policy statement, the parliament on Wednesday witnessed tension after some of the deputies objected for not being granted the right to speak at the sessions. Following the vote of confidence, Madbouli pledged to take into consideration the valuable remarks made by the lawmakers during the deliberations on the policy statement. He added that the cabinet will continue to make assessments on its performance, in addition to setting plans that serve the citizens. Speaking after the parliamentary session, Abdel Aal thanked the ad hoc committee which was assigned to prepare a comprehensive report on the government's policy statement, noting that all the lawmakers with various affiliations have been united on floating proposals and solutions to improve the living standards of Egyptian citizens. Abdel Aal noted that the house of representatives has adopted 197 bills during the third cycle.

Egypt: Final Sentences to Imprison 20 Convicted of Joining ISIS
Cairo - Walid Abdulrahman/Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 26 July, 2018/Egypt's top appeals court has issued a final verdict of life-imprisonment in the case of 20 accused of joining ISIS in Zagazig in Sharqia Governorate, after the court rejected Wednesday the appeal submitted by the convicts. Zagazig Criminal Court issued sentences in the case of the accused including life-imprisonment and three years imprisonment for joining ISIS. The Public Prosecution in the country referred the accused to the criminal court after posing several charges against them including joining a terrorist group that aims at disrupting the public order, jeopardizing the society’s safety and interests, suspending state institutions, offending the personal freedom of citizens, targeting state institutions, killing police and army members and endorsing takfiri ideologies. The Public Prosecution managed to determine the terrorist group members and to arrest them. The prosecution accused them of undermining the national unity and social peace since they have joined an ISIS-affiliated group that calls for thwarting the regime. Meanwhile, Egypt's top appeals court overturned on Wednesday sentences of death and life imprisonment for 16 defendants that had been convicted of involvement in street violence in the aftermath of dispersing two strikes for Muslim Brotherhood, that is considered a terrorist group by Egypt. Cairo Criminal Court issued a sentence in February in 2017 to execute two condemned and penalize 20 defendants (6 among them are fugitives) for 25 years in prison. The Public Prosecution referred the defendants to the criminal court after accusing them of intentional murder for terrorist purposes and routing for the sake of disrupting security and public safety, damaging public and private buildings and possessing arms and ammunition. South Cairo Criminal Court decided to postpone the retrial of activist Ahmed Douma in the case of the cabinet incidents to August 11.

Fatah Rejects Any Interference with Measures against Gaza Strip

Ramallah - Kifah Ziboun/Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 26 July, 2018/Member of Fatah Central Committee Azzam al-Ahmad said his movement would submit, next week in Cairo, a comprehensive response to the Egyptian draft proposal on inter-Palestinian reconciliation. In an interview with the official Palestinian television channel, Ahmad noted that Fatah would not hold any direct talks with the “Hamas” delegation, but would only meet with the concerned Egyptian officials. “We are tired of frequent meetings and talks. We have told Egyptian officials that we don’t want to meet with Hamas at the present time (…) We don’t want talks, agreements and new sponsors, but only the implementation of what has been agreed upon,” he said. “If Hamas agrees, Egypt will convene a press conference to announce the resumption of the implementation of the reconciliation agreement,” he added. Ahmad quoted Egyptian Intelligence Chief Major General Abbas Kamel as telling him that President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi was following up on the file and that he did not want reports about meetings with Fatah or “Hamas” or details about what happened. He told him that he wanted a report of no more than two lines, including one detail: “The following has been accomplished on the ground.” The Fatah official did not report the details of the Egyptian proposal, but stressed that it do not carry a new addition to the old agreement. He noted that he expressed his opinion immediately on some of its points. “This is a draft...and we will give a positive response,” he said. But he explained that the positive response did not mean agreeing on what was proposed. The latest Egyptian ideas are based on the recent reconciliation agreement, through a gradual implementation, but with changes represented by an agreement to form a new national unity government that will handle the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and that will agree on clear and binding solutions to the problem of financial collection and the case of former “Hamas” government employees. But the proposal did not include clear solutions to other issues, such as how to control Hamas’ security and judicial bodies and the fate of “Hamas” militants. Sources in Fatah told Asharq Al-Awsat that the movement would refuse to link measures taken by the Palestinian Authority against Gaza with the reconciliation file. They stressed that such decision belonged solely to President Mahmoud Abbas and PA officials and should not be a condition for reconciliation.

The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on July 26-27/18
A Month of Multiculturalism in France: June 2018
Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institute/July 26/2018
"Cultural anti-Judaism from the Maghreb has been imported in the luggage of some immigrants.... It has often been aggravated by... the image of the man and the father, at the bottom of the social ladder... From there, a focus of resentment on 'France' and 'the Jews,' whose success, real or imagined, appeared to some as an additional 'injustice' and an affront to the ancient hierarchies." — Georges Bensoussan, Causeur.
The Christianophobia Observatory, a Paris-based Roman Catholic non-profit organization that tracks attacks against Christians, reported 128 incidents of church vandalism or other anti-Christian attacks in France during the first five months of 2018.
"I am opposed to the institutionalization of an Islam of France. If the state interferes with religion, then it is an infringement of the 1905 law on the separation of church and state." — Bruno Retaillea, Chairman of the Republicans in the Senate, opposing the creation of a French Islam.
June 1. In an interview with the magazine L'Obs, Marwan Muhammad, one of the leading Muslim activists in France, vowed to oppose President Emmanuel Macron's plans to reorganize Islam in France: "Macron can do his own thing, we do ours. He can name a great imam, he can even to pray behind him if he wants to. That does not mean that he will receive the approval of the people."
June 2. In an interview with the newspaper Le Monde, the chief chaplain of the Muslim faith in the French armed forces, Abdelkader Arbi, called for the establishment of a military seminary to train the next generation of Muslim chaplains. The course of study would be at the undergraduate level and would be full-time for a period of three years.
June 3. The managers of a Carrefour hypermarket in Chambourcy complied with Muslim demands to remove Israeli dates from the store's "Ramadan department." Customers complained that the presence of Israeli products at the store was "an affront to Muslim customers."
June 4. Police in Paris evacuated around 1,000 migrants from two makeshift camps in the city, five days after another 1,000 were taken to temporary lodgings. The operation began at dawn at a camp along the Canal St Martin northeast of the city center where an estimated 550 mainly Afghan migrants were staying. Another 450 people were evacuated from a camp to the north at Porte de la Chapelle. The St Martin Canal is near the site of a sprawling former camp by the Stalingrad Metro stop, which was cleared, only to spring up again several times last year.
June 5. Two Chechens were arrested on suspicion of having travelled to Syria. Investigators from the Directorate General for Internal Security (DGSI) made the arrests in the departments of Moselle and Puy-de-Dome as part of an investigation into a suspected jihadi plot. In May, a 20-year-old Chechen-born French Russian man named Khamzat Azimov killed one person and injured four others in a knife attack in the Opéra Garnier district of Paris.
June 5. Prime Minister Édouard Philippe announced a plan to double the number of French lessons — to 400 hours, up from 200 hours — it offers to migrants who are living in the country legally. The extra French lessons are part of immigration reforms intended to balance swifter deportation of rejected asylum seekers with better support for those allowed to stay. France will also double the time, from 12 hours to 24, of "civic training" courses given to refugees. The courses are designed to explain French values as well as practicalities, such as how to obtain work, healthcare and housing. Immigrant parents will also be offered free childcare during their French lessons, while those turning 18 will have access to a new 500-euro "culture pass" for young people to spend on museum trips and other cultural activities. Philippe said the measures, which will also include better help for immigrants in finding jobs, were an investment in France's "national and social cohesion." He did not say how much the plan would cost.
June 6. The Mayor of Toulon, Humbert Falco, called on the French government to deploy police reinforcements to help regain control over the city's no-go zones, situated an hour east of Marseille. "I do not want to make political controversy over this subject, which is extremely serious, but Interior Minister Gerard Collomb did not visit Toulon during his recent trip, but we have the same problems as Marseille and Nice," he said. "Toulon must be helped." Gunfights have been on the increase in Toulon this year as rival gangs vie for control over drug trafficking in the city.
June 6. A 42-year-old man in Mantes-la-Jolie, a suburb of Paris, was charged with manslaughter after shaking his five-month-old daughter to death. The man, confessing to the crime, said: "I was observing Ramadan and without eating, my nerves were on edge."
June 6. Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet confirmed that approximately 450 radicalized individuals will be released from prison in 2019. This includes 40 persons convicted of Islamic terrorism offenses. The others are common criminals who were radicalized in prison. The average age of those to be released is 24 years. Paris Prosecutor François Molins called for better communication between intelligence services to prevent recidivism: "There is a major risk of having people out of prison at the end of their sentence who have not at all repented of their crimes, and who may even be more hardened by their time in prison."
June 7. TF1, a private national French television channel, reported that a 33-year-old Iraqi man who arrived in France in 2016 — and was granted refugee status in June 2017, as well as a 10-year residency permit — was arrested at his home in Lisieux, on charges of possibly being a senior member of the Islamic State. He is suspected of having participated in the June 2014 massacre at a military base north of Baghdad in which 1,700 Shiite soldiers were kidnapped and executed. He is also the subject of legal proceedings in Iraq, where authorities believe he may have administered the Samarra region north of Baghdad on behalf of the Islamic State. French authorities have rescinded his refugee status and residency card.
June 7. Thirty victims or families of victims filed a lawsuit against the French state for failing to protect them during the November 13, 2015 jihadi attack on the Bataclan Theater, where 89 people were killed. The plaintiffs accused soldiers who were present at the theater of failing to intervene. "Two-and-a-half years after the attacks, the families of the victims still do not understand why, on order, eight members of Operation Sentinel [a French military operation with 10,000 soldiers and 4,700 police and gendarmes deployed across France to protect against jihadi attacks], present in front of the Bataclan theater, were prevented from intervening," said Samia Maktouf, one of the lawyers. "We want a precise answer." The plaintiffs' lawyers said the lawsuit "aims clearly to establish all the responsibilities and to know exactly what Sentinel's missions are, if not to intervene when civilians are attacked with the weapons of war."
June 8. In an interview with the journal Causeur, French historian Georges Bensoussan explained the rise of Muslim anti-Semitism in France: "Cultural anti-Judaism from the Maghreb has been imported in the luggage of some immigrants. It has often been aggravated by the shock of acculturation and the destructuring of traditional society, when the image of the man and the father, at the bottom of the social ladder, has experienced a real downgrade accelerated by unemployment. It has been further aggravated by the shock of modernity, illustrated by the emancipation of girls (and the academic success of some of them). From there, a focus of resentment on 'France' and 'the Jews,' whose success, real or imagined, appeared to some as an additional 'injustice' and an affront to the ancient hierarchies."
June 9. Two men aged 21 and 22, previously unknown to French intelligence services, were arrested near Fontainebleau, a town southeast of Paris, for allegedly of plotting a jihadi attack, potentially against homosexuals, on behalf of the Islamic State. Police discovered knives, firearms and Islamic State propaganda at their homes. The men, described as "very determined friends," were subsequently indicted by an anti-terrorism judge for "terrorist criminal conspiracy" and imprisoned. Neighbors said they were "very reserved" people: "We said hello, they did not answer, they barely opened their door."
June 10. Two young people reportedly entered the Our Lady of Providence Roman Catholic church in Digoin shortly before the lunchtime Mass and began yelling "Allahu Akbar" ["Allah is the greatest"].
June 11. The newspaper Le Figaro reported that a Muslim rapper called Médine — named after Medina, the city from which Mohammed, the founder of Islam, launched his conquest of Arabia — would perform at the Bataclan theater, where jihadis in November 2015 killed 89 people. Médine's lyrics are known for their hatred towards non-Muslims. Conservative politicians expressed indignation. Marine Le Pen tweeted: "No Frenchman can accept that this guy goes to dump his filth on the very place of the carnage of Bataclan. Complacency or, worse, incitement to Islamist fundamentalism, that's enough!" Laurent Wauquiez, the president of the Republicans, called the announcement a "sacrilege for the victims, dishonor for France." Prime Minister Édouard Philippe, citing the "scrupulous respect" for free speech, said that the concert would be allowed to proceed.
June 12. Prime Minister Édouard Philippe and Interior Minister Gérard Collomb participated during Ramadan in a break-the-fast Iftar dinner organized by the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM). The two men called on Muslim leaders to fight fundamentalist Islam. "Everyone feels," Philippe said, "that we are living a crucial moment for our country, for the quality of our life in common."
June 13. Police said that a car with four occupants deliberately crashed into a police van in Paris. Police pursued the car, which then crashed into the van a second time. The occupants escaped on foot. Police said they found a Koran and a variety Arabic documents in the car's back seat.
June 14. The City of Paris unveiled bulletproof glass walls and metal fences designed to protect the Eiffel Tower from jihadi attacks. The new walls are part of security measures that have cost nearly €35 million ($41 million) and are due to be finished by mid-July. Glass walls measuring 6.5 centimeters (2.5 inches) thick will run along two sides of the tower. The walls, which are also resistant to vehicle-ramming attacks, are "rock-solid for absolute security," said Bernard Gaudillere, head of SETE, the company that operates the Eiffel Tower. The other two sides will be fenced off with 3-meter (10-foot) metal barriers.
June 14. A 38-year-old convert to Islam was arrested in Chateauroux on suspicion of plotting to bomb a libertine club after police discovered a make-shift device at his home. The man was subsequently indicted for "terrorist criminal conspiracy" and "individual preparation for the commission of an act of terrorism."
June 15. Thousands of Muslims prayed in the streets of Nice to mark the end of Ramadan. Mayor Christian Estrosi posted a photo on Twitter of the open-air prayers, which are illegal, and wrote: "I condemn with the utmost firmness the street prayers which have been held at the Ariane since 6am this morning. The laws of the Republic must be respected everywhere." In another tweet he wrote: "These prayers, gathering 1000 people, are organized with the help of loudspeakers and can be heard throughout the city. Even if #AidElFitr is an important moment for Muslims, nothing can justify street prayers and thus disturb public order."
June 15. The French government froze the assets of Swiss imam Hani Ramadan as part of the fight against the financing of terrorism. Ramadan was expelled from France in April 2017. The French Interior Ministry said that Ramadan had "in the past adopted behavior and made remarks posing a serious threat to public order on French soil." Ramadan is the older brother of Tariq Ramadan, a Geneva-born Islamic scholar, currently being held in custody in France for allegedly raping several women.
June 17. A 24-year-old Muslim woman shouting, "Allahu Akbar" ["Allah is the greatest"], stabbed two people at the checkout lane of a supermarket in La Seyne-sur-Mer. Police said the woman, who was dressed in black and was wearing dark glasses, had "proven psychiatric disorders" but was not known to have been radicalized. She was arrested an ordered to undergo a psychiatric exam. "Several witnesses report that she said it was Allah who asked her to commit this act because they were all unbelievers," said Toulon Prosecutor Bernard Marchal.
June 17. A 29-year-old man in Nice was observed taking pictures of the city hall and nearby police vehicles. He was also broadcasting verses from the Koran from his cellphone. When police confronted him, he grabbed a knife, spat on them and shouted: "You are all unbelievers, I am going to kill you."
June 18. The mayor of Montfermeil, Xavier Lemoine, commemorated the memory of Arnaud Beltrame, a police officer who was killed after he offered himself up to a Muslim gunman in exchange for a female hostage. The gunman, a 26-year-old Moroccan citizen named Redouane Lakdim, had taken hostages at a supermarket in Trèbes on March 23 and demanded the release from prison of Salah Abdeslam, one of the participants in the Paris attacks in November 2015. Five people, including Beltrame, died in the Trèbes attack. A marble plaque in his honor read: "Colonel Arnaud Beltrame, officer of the Gendarmerie, 1973-2018, dead hero, victim of Islamist terrorism."
Muslim groups and far-left politicians expressed outrage that the plaque made reference to Islam. Angélique Planet-Ledieu of the Left Front said: "We are proud that a place pays tribute to the humanism and sacrifice of Arnaud Beltrame, but by adding the notion of Islamist terrorism, the mayor continues his provocations and inscribes in marble his vision of a religious war."
June 19. Almost half of the 630 migrants rescued from the Mediterranean Sea who arrived in Spain's port of Valencia on June 17 said they wanted to seek asylum in France, according to the Spanish government. The majority of the 630 migrants are from Africa, including 450 men and 80 women, of whom at least seven are pregnant. There were also 89 adolescents and 11 children under the age of 13, according to Valencian authorities.
June 20. A 30-year-old man armed with a knife and shouting "Allahu Akbar" attacked passersby in Tours. Police said the man suffered from a "psychological weakness" and that his actions were not related to terrorism.
June 21. President Emmanuel Macron said that anti-immigration populism was spreading across Europe like a disease: "You can see them rise a bit like leprosy all across Europe, in countries where we thought that would be impossible to see them again, in neighboring countries." Italian Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio replied: "The real leprosy is the hypocrisy of someone who pushes back immigrants at Ventimiglia [Italian-French border town] and then wants to preach to us about our sacrosanct right to ask for an equal distribution of migrants."
June 23. Ten people with links to the radical far-right were arrested by anti-terrorist police in over an alleged plot to attack Muslims. The arrests were made in operations across France, including Corsica. The suspects had an "ill-defined plan to commit a violent act targeting people of the Muslim faith," police said. Another source said the gang was looking to attack "targets linked to radical Islam."
June 24. President Emmanuel Macron said that he supported financial sanctions against EU countries which refuse to accept migrants. "We cannot have countries that benefit hugely from EU solidarity and claim national self-interest when it comes to the issue of migrants. I am in favor of sanctions being imposed in the event of non- cooperation."
June 26. Police raided a Paris university, Paris-8, in Saint-Denis, to remove around 150 migrants who had been living in the building since January. Initially, the migrants — mostly males from West Africa as well as from Sudan and Eritrea, but also Sudanese and Eritreans — had slept outside until activists arranged for them to be sheltered in the university. Several classrooms had been converted into dormitories. The decision to evacuate the building was made after it was discovered that some of the migrants had scabies. The president of the university, Annick Allaigre, said that 133 of those expelled from the building would likely be granted a residence permit.
June 27. The Christianophobia Observatory, a Paris-based Roman Catholic non-profit organization that tracks attacks against Christians, reported 128 incidents of church vandalism or other anti-Christian attacks in France during the first five months of 2018. The number represents an increase of 12.5% ​​compared to the first five months of 2017, when there were 112 attacks, occurring in 53 of France's 101 departments.
June 28. The chairman of the Republicans in the Senate, Bruno Retaillea, said that he opposed the creation of a French Islam: "I am opposed to the institutionalization of an Islam of France. If the state interferes with religion, then it is an infringement of the 1905 law on the separation of church and state. If we try to organize an Islam of France as best we can, we will not succeed, because nine out of ten Muslims belong to Sunni Islam which does not recognize a hierarchy. So what may happen is that there will be a beginning of institutionalization, the state will put the hand where, precisely, it does not have to put it, and will make things worse than they are now."
June 29. Public prosecutors in Toulouse opened an investigation into a senior Muslim cleric who, in a sermon, recited anti-Semitic religious passages and predicted Israel's destruction. Mohamed Tatai, the Algerian-born imam of the newly inaugurated Grand Mosque of Toulouse and the leader of Circle for Civil Dialogue, an interfaith dialogue group, will be investigated for "possible incitement to hatred."
June 30. The regional assembly of Corsica unanimously voted to accept more migrants in the aftermath of a European Union agreement to encourage countries to set up reception centers for migrants arriving by sea. All parties represented in the Corsican assembly backed a motion proposed by Bonifacio Mayor Jean-Charles Orsucci, a member of President Emmanuel Macron's Republic on the Move party, and called for the establishment of a committee of local and national representatives to organize the "efficient reception of migrants."
**Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute.
© 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.

Is Portugal Becoming a Bastion of Neo-Marxism?
Tiago S. Freitas/Gatestone Institute/July 26/2018
It is time for the people of Portugal to take a break from their concern over soccer scores to wake up to the dangerous attempt -- within their own parliament -- to turn their lovely sunny country into a bastion of neo-Marxism.
Since the dramatic October 4, 2015 legislative election in Portugal, which resulted in the fall of the newly-formed conservative government after less than two weeks, the country has been run by a far-left coalition.
On one hand, this is not surprising, given Portugal's long-standing socialist tradition; like many European countries, it has managed to balance a free-market economy with heavy government taxation and powerful labor unions.
On the other hand, the ruling coalition now has the contribution of a toxic partner -- the "Bloco de Esquerda" ("Left Bloc") -- which has been demanding implementation of its extreme social, economic and foreign policy agenda in exchange for political support. Since its formation in 1999, through the convergence of the neo-Marxists, Trotskyists, feminists and environmentalists, this bloc entered the scene like a political Trojan Horse, and gradually took root in academia and other cultural institutions, to the point at which it now wields actual parliamentary power.
This power has taken the form of an intensification of a neo-Marxist agenda, ranging from a near-successful attempt to legalize euthanasia, disproportional defense of animal rights, gender modification for anyone 16 and older, and a series of draconian anti-private-sector measures. Yet, not a word from Portuguese media platforms.
While other European countries are at a crossroads, seeking to regain control of their social structure and borders following years of extreme liberalism, Portugal is backtracking -- falling prey to a group that organizes youth camps with indoctrination seminars, and holds conferences on topics such as: "Private Property is Theft: The Need for the Socialization of Productive Assets," and "Boycott Israel; Free Palestine."It is time for the people of Portugal to take a break from their concern over soccer scores to wake up to the dangerous attempt -- within their own parliament -- to turn their lovely sunny country into a bastion of neo-Marxism.*São Bento Palace in Lisbon, seat of Portugal's parliament. ( Tiago S. Freitas currently works as a corporate lawyer in Lisbon, Portugal.
© 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.

Google’s Mortal Enemy Does It a $95 Billion Favor

Alex Webb/Bloomberg/July 26/18
As far as Alphabet Inc.’s Google is concerned, the EU taketh away but it giveth too.
The first part of that was made clear this week when Brussels antitrust cops whacked the search giant with a 4.3 billion-euro ($5 billion) fine over its bundling of apps on the Android mobile operating system — a decision that might restrict the company’s access to the mobile browsing data that is its lifeblood.
Yet Google has reason to offer thanks to bureaucrats elsewhere within the EU, namely the ones who came up with the idea for Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation. While that legislation was created to give consumers better control over how tech companies use their data, it may at the same time have strengthened Google and Facebook’s iron grip on the digital advertising market. As I’ve written before, the new rules might make it easier for the Silicon Valley duo to cut out advertising agency middlemen and -women and pitch directly to the consumer brand owners.
The suspicion that Google and Facebook might do well from GDPR was reinforced by Publicis SA, the biggest ad agency after WPP Plc. It said Thursday that second-quarter earnings suffered a 10 million-euro hit because of the new rules. Indeed, the media website Digiday has estimated that overall spending on programmatic ads — digital advertisements that use browsing history to target web users — fell by as much as 40 percent in Europe in the immediate aftermath of GDPR’s May 25 rollout.
Publicis doesn’t expect its own shortfall to be repeated, but it was telling nonetheless that a senior executive Steve King believes that Google and Facebook’s ad revenue probably increased over the same period.
That might be because, when it comes to the value chain for digital ads, the two companies can do pretty much all of the important stuff in buying and selling space. They both own:
Since both companies have used their vast resources over the past two years to make sure everything they do is GDPR-compliant, the consumer brand-owners have probably felt more confident just working with them rather than companies who are active in just one part of the chain. AppNexus, a digital advertising supplier, estimates that about half of European marketing dollars went through DoubleClick before GDPR. On May 25, that surged past 95 percent, before declining again.
None of this is to suggest that GDPR means that Google and Facebook now have a lock on all aspects of the digital ad business. Publicis says it doesn’t expect any further detrimental impact from the new rules, and ad agencies will continue to act as a gateway between the brand owners and the digital places where their ads are displayed. But, make no mistake, the Silicon Valley companies want that business too, and GDPR appears to have strengthened their hand in trying to create a one-stop shop for advertisers.
So while that Android fine was a big one, it’s worth remembering that Google and Facebook got $135 billion of ad sales revenue last year — Google’s was $95.4 billion. Any extra edge will be very lucrative indeed.

Militias, crumbling institutions and the idea of Iraq as a model
Khairallah Khairallah//Al Arabiya/July 26/18
Iraq is at a dead end. What confirms this is a very simple question that has emerged these days as the popular protests which erupted in Basra have expanded to Baghdad. Can anyone predict the country’s future and conclude anything other than that it’s become impossible to re-establish it as a unified state like it was before 2003? The US has decided to finish off Iraq and not the Saddam Hussein regime. There is no other explanation to what the George Bush administration did in March 2003 when American troops launched the operation to invade Iraq.
On April 9, 2003, American troops entered Baghdad without any resistance worth mentioning. Saddam Hussein later escaped from Baghdad to his hometown of al-Awja, near Tikrit, and the Americans eventually found him in a ditch which he thought it will protect him from those who wanted to settle their accounts with him. Saddam was waiting for a better day to get out of that ditch but that day never came. His only consolation is that some people are nostalgic to the time when he ruled despite all the atrocities he committed.
Not only the Americans wanted to settle their account with Saddam as there was also Iran which carried an old vendetta against him and Iraq. The American-Iranian aim, which Israel hides behind, was Iraq itself. It turned out that the American administration which wanted to turn Iraq into a model of what the region’s countries should look like was in fact ignorant about everything in the country. It was normal for Iraq to reach the phase it has reached. It was never possible to imagine that Iranian-backed sectarian militias can build a modern state in Iraq. Iraq is currently paying the price of a hellish idea that the neoconservatives had in the US. This idea is based on finishing off Iraq under the bright slogan of establishing a model for a democratic state in the region, a state that also has one of the world’s largest oil reserves. No rational man with the minimum sense of sympathy can disagree that getting rid of Saddam Hussein’s regime was a necessity. This regime which was established on the basis of killing off others, beginning with executing rivals from among Baath comrades, in 1979 only understood the language of oppression inside Iraq. What Iraq is going through today is the repercussions of the phase post the American-Iranian war on Iraq
Regional formulas
As for outside Iraq, it never possessed the capability to comprehend regional and international formulas. There is plenty of evidence that show how ignorant Saddam and his aides were in terms of understanding what is happening in the region and the world. There is the war with Iran which he forcefully fought and which at the beginning he thought it will be a walk in the park. There was also the mad adventure in Kuwait. This is in addition to Saddam’s belief that the Soviet Union can do anything for him, specifically in 1990 when he sent his troops to Kuwait to cancel an independent Arab state, that’s a UN member, from existence. Back then, he did not know that the Cold War had ended and that the Soviet Union had entered the phase of internal collapse. These are only few examples of Saddam Hussein’s practices which may only have one good thing about them and which is the fact that he did not completely destroy state institutions, particularly the Iraqi army which was established in 1921 during the era of King Faisal I. Dissolving the army and security apparatuses was one of the first decisions made by the American administration after its invasion of Iraq. The US did this without thinking of an alternative and without realizing the threat of having the Iraqi army be a group of militias affiliated with parties that fought alongside Iran on a sectarian basis during the 1980-1988 war.
How can these militias build a modern Iraqi state that’s a model to the region’s countries when these militias’ leaders who control governance and vital economic facilities in the country work to serve Iran? Iraq is currently paying the price of having militias replace the state and its institutions. Therefore, there was no point of holding the legislative elections on May 12. It was enough that Iran did not like the results of these elections to obstruct political life in the country. Iran has its own interpretation of the elections as it thinks that the Iraqi government must be under its command regardless of these elections’ results.
After the 2010 elections, Iran imposed Nuri al-Maliki as prime minister to replace Ayyad Allawi and this was in agreement with the Barack Obama administration. The Iraqis did not rise to demand electricity and eliminate the corrupt but they practically stood up to take back their country from Iran which seeks to impose a government that receives its orders from Tehran and which is headed by a leader of a militia that’s affiliated with the Popular Mobilization or so. Iraq practically collapsed when the US decided to get rid of the Iraqi army. There’s plenty of talk about rebuilding the army, which showed the limits of what it’s capable of doing when ISIS seized Mosul in June 2014. What Iraq is going through today is the repercussions of the phase post the American-Iranian war on Iraq. In the end, it’s not possible to rely on sectarian militias to build a state with modern institutions.
Sectarian militias
The Kurds were right when they tried to exit the state of Iraqi sectarian militias. The failed miserably, at least till now. Will the Iraqi people who do not belong to the Kurdish ethnicity succeed where Masoud Barzani failed in September last year? All indicators show that there is no political horizon for the popular activity that began in Basra. The worst fear is that what neoconservatives planned in Washington following the September 11 terror attacks, i.e. get rid of Iraq, is fulfilled. In 2001, al-Qaeda carried out terror attacks in New York and Washington. Iraq did not have anything to do with these attacks but this did not prevent the Bush administration from launching a war on Iraq before they complete eliminating Taliban in Afghanistan. What made it take this decision at this particular timing? Amid what’s happening in Iraq, it’s clear that the desired result has been achieved. Iraq has become a model to what the region’s countries should be. It’s become a country that’s controlled by sectarian militias, which receive their orders from Iran. Militias can build everything except a state and a country. Those who doubt this can come from Iraq to Lebanon. There is an Iranian interpretation of the Lebanese parliamentary elections’ results, and Iran wants to translate this via a Lebanese cabinet that’s formally headed by Saad Hariri but that actually follows it. This is why a cabinet has not yet been formed in Lebanon. And now all this is happening in the era of sectarian militias which destroyed Iraq and led it to this dead end which threatens the country’s fate – that is if this fate has not been decided yet.

Welcoming refugees in Germany: Thoughts from the Jewish community
Eugen Balin/Al Arabiya/July 26/18
Jews have lived in what is today Germany since the 5th century. They have seen good times, and of course, horrific times as well, culminating with the genocidal murder of 6 million innocent Jewish women, children and men during the Shoah (Holocaust).
Before the Nazis came to power in 1933, some 522,000 Jews lived in Germany. By 1943, only 20,000 Jews remained and the country was declared “judenrein”, i.e. “clean of Jews”. Today, around 200,000 Jews live in Germany; the Jewish community therefore constitutes only 0.24% of Germany’s population of 82.7 million people. In Germany today, there is a new reality of an influx of refugees from Arab and Muslim countries – a phenomenon occurring seven decades after the Jewish community was expelled from Germany itself. Before discussing how Germany’s Jews have welcomed the refugees, let’s take a step back to understand why the German government opened the doors of this country. Since 2015, more refugees have arrived in Germany than anywhere else in the European Union. In August 2015, the German government decided to open the German borders for refugees fleeing war and seeking for a safe haven. The German chancellor, Dr. Angela Merkel, called it a “national duty”, in accordance with the German constitution and the Geneva Conventions. The German constitution, which went into force in 1949, starts with the obligation to protect human dignity. This constitution is built on the nation’s murderous actions during the Second World War, as it was drafted just after the Shoah. It reflects the duty of future generations to never again repeat the deadly mistakes of the past. German democracy must make clear that any form of hatred and both anti-Semitism and Islamophobia will not be tolerated by the state authorities and the people of this country
Jewish community in Germany
With that said, we can better understand the German government’s decision and will now discuss how the Jewish community in Germany has welcomed the refugees since the refugee crisis in 2015. The president of the German Jewish Central Council, Dr. Josef Schuster, wrote an op-ed in September 2015 together with World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder stating that, “[i]t is with relief that we note that there are far more people who are welcoming the refugees than there are people who reject them openly… The Jewish community, both in Germany and world-wide, welcomes this evolution towards an open society. It is the right thing.”In order to understand the Jewish point of view, you have to consider both Jewish law and Jewish history. The Jewish history is a history of exodus and expulsion. Every year during the Jewish celebration of “Pesach” (Passover) we commemorate the Jewish exodus from Egypt and the survival of the Jewish people from slavery under Pharaoh. This memory is engrained in every generation, and it is an essence of Jewish peoplehood. It became a lived reality, rather than a mere memory, when Jews tried to escape their certain deaths during the Shoah, but were mostly refused entrance across the world during their greatest time of need. With our history in mind, many members of Jewish communities across Germany decided to help the refugees. The German Jewish Central Council initiated the “Mitzvah Day” in 2012, implementing the Jewish tradition of Tikkun Olam, of “repairing the world” and making it a better place for all. One-third of the Mitzvah Day activities in 2015 were directed to helping the newly arrived refugees.
Offering asylum
The Jewish Community of Pinneberg, a town in the northern part of Germany, advocated for the protection of refugees from the very beginning of the crisis and offered asylum to people in need of protection irrespective of their religious affiliation. On a personal level, my mother - a musicologist by profession - taught piano to a young adolescent refugee from Afghanistan. They have developed a close and trusting relationship. The process of integration into German society is a hard journey for refugees. Music is an international language of understanding and can thus be an effective door-opener.
During the piano lessons, he confided in her his sorrows and hopes. She was the first person he shared his joy after successfully passing his driving test. These personal moments are not connected to politics or even religion, but they demonstrate that, when people meet face-to-face, there are few barriers.
Furthermore, in 2016, my mother co-initiated an inter-religious integration project for female refugees. These women, who fled their homelands and were often abused during their escapes, now use music, singing, and dancing to heal and help with the process of integration, including learning the German language.
The project has played a part in creating a sustainable integration and has been therefore a success – but there is no question that the process of integration will continue to be a long and hard journey. While the Jewish community in Germany is a small minority, cases like these demonstrate that, on a personal level, we can offer support and help and make a genuine difference in the lives of some of the new arrivals.While a significant segment of German society did not welcome refugees, the Jewish community represented by the German Jewish Central Council stood up for their rights and reminded German society of the Shoah’s lessons.
Numerous challenges
Of course, there are a tremendous number of challenges for Germany in general, and Germany’s Jewish community in particular. Unfortunately, anti-Semitism continues to be of grave concern, being on the rise again across all of Europe. Anti-Semitism is not an issue for Jews only – society as a whole must confront this hatred. Sadly, there have been too many cases of anti-Semitic acts committed also by refugees in the last years. In April 2018 a young man wearing a kippa (a traditional Jewish skullcap) was attacked in Berlin, while the attacker, a young Syrian refugee, whipped the victim with a belt shouting “Yahudi”. In January 2016, a kippa-wearing Jew has been insulted as a “Jew” in Arabic and then robbed by refugees from Syria and Afghanistan. As the number of anti-Semitic incidents grows, a clear message must echo across Germany that the humanistic approach of giving a safe haven to people in need can never be met with an acceptance of hatred against another minority. There must be a zero-tolerance approach to anti-Semitism. Part of the problem is that refugees coming from certain countries may have brought anti-Semitic sentiments with them, having been raised to learn and accept hatred against the Jewish people. Bringing these attitudes to Germany is unacceptable and incompatible with Germany’s values today. It’s a huge challenge for German authorities to ensure that fundamental human rights of all are respected. For this reason, the refugees who are affected by such prejudice need to overcome it in order to become an integrated part of our society. There is no other option. German democracy must make clear that any form of hatred and both anti-Semitism and Islamophobia will not be tolerated by the state authorities and the people of this country.As a society, we should be judged based on how we treat minorities and respect fundamental human rights. Having said that, there are many challenges and there is a long way to go for all of us, but in order to foster tolerance, mutual understanding and respect we need to overcome all racism and prejudice.
All sides have an obligation. It’s our common duty to follow this path in order to make this world a better place.

Rouhani and Saddam’s rhetoric
Ghassan Charbel/Al Arabiya/July 26/18
It is not unusual for tensions to be high among the Iranian regime and its generals. Tehran knows that a new difficult chapter was opened the moment Donald Trump announced to the world that his country was pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal. All that he has dealt since that day has been one painful blow after another against Tehran. The deal that Iran reached with six world powers in the summer of 2015 was a purely Iranian achievement. Tehran believed that it helped defuse any potential confrontation with the United States and earned it an international badge for good behavior, as well as massive funds.
The truth is, what was left out of the deal was much more important than what was included in it. Tehran succeeded in keeping is regional behavior and meddling and its rocket arsenal off the negotiations table. That way, it was able to invest the funds it reaped from the nuclear deal in financing its major regional push.
Iran may have believed that no one would withdraw from the deal because it had become an international agreement. It believed that Trump’s dissatisfaction with the pact and its failure to mention its regional behavior were simply means to exert pressure on it. It would be wrong to believe that one can predict Trump’s decisions. He is a man who very easily takes extraordinary decisions over thorny issues.
The high level of tensions in Tehran could be linked to its realization that the remaining signatories in the 2015 deal cannot make up for the United States’ absence. Iranians have sent several signals in the past few weeks that they do not trust the Europeans’ ability to meet its demands over political guarantees and financial compensations. Compounding Tehran’s headache is the fact that its interference in Yemen may fail and two of the capitals it had declared as its areas of influence – Baghdad and Beirut – are struggling to form a government
Open messages
This was coincided with several open messages from European companies that said if they had to choose between enjoying ties with Iran and ties with the US, they would opt for the latter without hesitation. Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal was not a whim or a publicity stunt. His administration’s preparations to impose oil sanctions, which will take effect on November 4, indicate that Iran will face a drop in its exports. Its income will also drop at a time when it is burdened by its involvement in military confrontations and commitment to financing allied militias on many fronts.
The most dangerous repercussion of the impending economic difficulties Tehran will face is the possibility that trouble will erupt on the internal Iranian scene itself. Taking into consideration the popular protests that had swept the country in recent months, we realize that any deterioration in living conditions will only fuel the fire of public discontent that demanded that Tehran quit regional wars and turn to its people’s concerns. It is true that Iranian agencies enjoy extraordinary expertise in stifling protests, but it is also true that ongoing disappointment in successive governments may test the regime. The data on unemployment and poverty and the fall of the local currency will definitely eat away at the image of the regime and its governments.
Add to that Europe’s quick condemnation of Tehran’s malign regional behavior despite its commitment to the nuclear deal. Thwarting Iran’s destabilizing regional policy is no less important than thwarting its nuclear ambitions. Iran has more reason to be concerned. Regional conflicts are not being left in the hands of local forces, but they are now controlled by major world powers. The decisive Russian intervention in Syria appears more significant now than it did in the past. The international community’s acceptance of a Russian Syria is a sign of the rejection of an Iranian Syria. Moscow is overseeing the deployment of Syrian regime forces on the disengagement lines with Israel according to a 1974 agreement. This is a clear message to Iran to steer clear of the area.
The Syrian file
Tehran knows full well that the Syrian file was resolved at the American-Russian summit in Helsinki whereby Israel’s security would be preserved, Iran’s meddling would be kept in check and Syrian refugees would be aided. Compounding Tehran’s headache is the fact that its interference in Yemen may fail and two of the four capitals that it had declared as part of its areas of influence – Baghdad and Beirut – are struggling to form a government despite successful parliamentary elections. Given the above, tensions are on the rise in Tehran. This was evident in President Hassan Rouhani’s hint that he may block the Hormuz Strait if Iran was barred from exporting its oil. His statements were praised by the supreme leader and Iranian Revolutionary Guards. In a reflection of more of his fears, Rouhani went so far as to threaten Trump, saying: “Don't play with the lion's tail, this would only lead to regret.”
It was interesting that Rouhani resorted to expressions from the Saddam Hussein dictionary when he added: “America should know that peace with Iran is the mother of all peace, and war with Iran is the mother of all wars.”Difficult months are in store for the Middle East. The tensions are shifting from Syria to Iran. It is clear that Iran will be facing difficult options. It could either take the poison of re-imposed sanctions and await the end of Trump’s term or agree to hold negotiations over its nuclear program and regional role. The supreme leader and Guards are confronted with two difficult choices. Opting for the “mother of all wars” is inadvisable because Saddam’s experience does not encourage taking such a destructive decision.