July 30/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


The Bulletin's Link on the lccc Site


News Bulletin Achieves Since 2006
Click Here to enter the LCCC Arabic/English news bulletins Achieves since 2006


Bible Quotations
Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven.  But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven
Matthew 10/26-33: “26 “So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.  Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.  “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven.  But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.”
Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on July 29-30/18
Lebanese Christian Politicians Ignore Every Thing That Is Christian/Elias Bejjani/July 28/18
Lebanese Daily Al-Akhbar: Hurras Al-Din Will Undergo ‎Rebirth, Emerge As Al-Qaeda Representative In Syria/MEMRI/July 23, 2018
Lebanon’s shrinking freedom of expression/Mona Alami/The Arab Weekly/July 29/18
Iran’s kidnapping of the Lebanese government will not work/Ali al-Amin/The Arab Weekly/July 29/18
Israeli President Rivlin meets with Druze leaders/Itamar Eichner/Ynetnews/July 29/18
Turkey: Detained US Pastor Brunson Vilified by State-Supporting Media/Uzay Bulut/Gatestone Institute/July 29/18
Germany: Rise of the Salafists/Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institute/July 29/18
When We’re in Uniform They Treat Us Well': Israel's Druze No Longer Feel Like Blood Brothers/Noa Shpigel/Haaretz/July 29/18
Analysis/Mysterious Attack on Saudi Oil Tanker Heats Up U.S.-Iranian Front/Amos Harel/Haaretz/29 July/18
Druze doctor threatens hunger strike over Nationality Law/Hassan Shaalan and Moran Azulay/Ynetnews/July 29/18
Why Trump Attacks His Allies/Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Ashawq Al Awsat/July 29/18

Titles For The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on July 29-30/18
Lebanese Christian Politicians Ignore Every Thing That Is Christian
Yemeni Foreign Ministry: ‘Hezbollah’ Partner in Shedding Yemeni Blood
Civil aviation applicants protest delay in appointments
Lebanon Sinks Old Tanks to Create Underwater Dive 'Park'
Lebanon Launches Investigation into Fake Military Diplomas
Hariri May Submit Govt. Format Monday as Talks Reportedly Make Progress
Report: Russia Plan Requires Presence of Govt. in Beirut within 48 Hours
Arslan: Jumblat Conspiring against Syria, Executing Foreign Agendas
Lebanon Sinks Old Tanks to Create Underwater Dive 'Park'
Hundreds of Syrian Refugees Return Home from Lebanon
Rahi says absence of impartiality, humility impedes cabinet formation
Bassil: With kindness and law, we can solve our real estate problems and all crises
Hasbani: Those who hinder cabinet formation are known
Second victory for Lebanon's junior team in West Asia Basketball Tournaments
Kanaan: Finance and Budget Committee convenes tomorrow
Tarek Merehbi praises LebaneseKuwaiti historical relations
Hajj Hassan calls for comprehensive politicaleconomic rescue policy
Lebanese Daily Al-Akhbar: Hurras Al-Din Will Undergo ‎Rebirth, Emerge As Al-Qaeda Representative In Syria
Lebanon’s shrinking freedom of expression
Iran’s kidnapping of the Lebanese government will not work
Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on July 29-30/18
Israeli President Rivlin meets with Druze leaders
Iran Approves Release of Protest Leaders Mousavi, Karroubi
Palestinian Teenager Jailed for Slapping Soldiers Freed from Prison
Turkey Planning Summit with France, Germany, Russia
Iraq PM Sacks Electricity Minister after Weeks of Protest
Palestinian Militants Killed in Apparent Gaza Accident
Israel Arrests Italians who Painted Mural of Palestinian Teen
Druze doctor threatens hunger strike over Nationality Law
The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on July 28-29/18
Lebanese Christian Politicians Ignore Every Thing That Is Christian/أصحاب شركات الأحزاب المسيحية اللبنانية وتجار الهيكل
Elias Bejjani/July 28/18
Practically speaking, the owners of the so falsely called Christian political parties in Lebanon are extremely detached and strayed from all Christian values. In their every day practices they are much worse than the scribes and Pharisees, and practise the derailed deeds of the evil merchants whom Jesus Christ condemned, reprimanded and expelled from the Temple.
Yemeni Foreign Ministry: ‘Hezbollah’ Partner in Shedding Yemeni Blood
Aden- Asharq Al Awsat/Sunday, 29 July, 2018/An official from Yemen’s foreign ministry said that Lebanese ‘Hezbollah’ is a partner in shedding the blood of Yemenis by insisting on sabotage roles.This came in response to a letter sent by Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil to his Yemeni counterpart Khaled al-Yemany confirming that his government's position on the Yemeni crisis does not necessarily agree with that of all political powers in Lebanon. He said that Lebanon distances itself from disputes and wars and does not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries to serve its interests. The Yemeni government has earlier sent a letter of protest to the Lebanese government in regards to Hezbollah's interference in Yemen's internal affairs by its support to the Houthi coup militia, according to Saba news agency. The official told Saba that Bassil's letter indicates that Hezbollah has abandoned the Lebanese government's policy to distance itself from conflicts in the region. "The insistence of Hezbollah on acts of vandalism makes it an accomplice in shedding the Yemeni blood," said the source. He stressed that the Yemeni government is capable of defending its people and protecting the country's supreme interests. The source warned that Hezbollah will regret its interventions in Yemeni affairs. Yemen has brotherly relations with Lebanon and will continue to strengthen these relations to serve the interests of both countries, the official said. He added that Hezbollah’s position will not affect those relations, wishing Lebanon security and stablity.
Civil aviation applicants protest delay in appointments
The Daily Star/July 29/18/BEIRUT: Successful civil aviation applicants staged a protest Sunday, calling on President Michel Aoun to sign a decree that would assign them to their jobs, the state-run National News Agency reported. The protesters gathered at the road leading to Rafik Hariri International Airport, according to the NNA. Over the past several months, civil service applicants who succeeded in exams to join the Directorate-General of Civil Aviation have been protesting their continued unemployment, with sectarian issues holding up the hiring process. Multiple sources previously told The Daily Star that a decree to hire 110 new employees at the airport, including 25 air traffic controllers, aimed to help resolve understaffing, but its implementation has been held up because only about eight of the 110 were Christian. The decree was signed by Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, caretaker Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil and caretaker Public Works and Transport Minister Youssef Fenianos, but has yet to be signed by Aoun.

Lebanon Sinks Old Tanks to Create Underwater Dive 'Park'
Beirut- Asharq Al Awsat/Sunday, 29 July, 2018/Lebanese environmentalists on Saturday sank 10 old tanks and armored vehicles to the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea in a novel attempt to attract divers and create new habitats for marine life. Three kilometers off the coast of the city of Sidon, a huge crane on the back of a ship maneuvered the military hardware into place over the water before dropping them down to the seabed one after the other. The initiative to create an "underwater park" is spearhead by a local group, Friends of the coast of Sidon, which got the Lebanese army to hand over some of its old vehicles for the project. "This will be a paradise for divers and a place where we can develop underwater life," said NGO representative Kamel Kozbar, who hopes seaweed will soon cover the vehicles. For his part, environmental activist and Friends of the coast of Sidon board member Rabih Al Awji told Asharq Al-Awsat that this experiment had been piloted near Al-Abdeh in northern Lebanon. "Over time, embedded minerals collide and become part of the marine environment where algae grow and fish find refuge to place their eggs away from torrential currents to reproduce and live safely," Awji explained. Lebanon boasts some 200 kilometers of Mediterranean coast but beaches have not been spared from a waste and garbage crisis that has plagued Lebanon for years. In Sidon, a mountain of smelly trash has scarred the shoreline, despite the presence of a new waste management facility. In a region fraught with tensions the latest project also has some political undertones. The tanks have been placed with their turrets facing towards Lebanon's southern foe Israel "out of solidarity with the Palestinian people", Kozbar said.

Lebanon Launches Investigation into Fake Military Diplomas
Beirut- Caroline Akoum/Ashawq Al Awsat/July 29/18/Less than a year after the so-called military school scandal, when money was paid for the entry of officers in the ranks of the Lebanese Army, reports emerged about military personnel forging university diplomas in order to obtain promotions. The relevant cases were referred to the investigation in order to prosecute those involved in the forgery, including university professors, students and soldiers. Minister of Education in the caretaker government Marwan Hamadeh announced that he was following up cases of diploma forgery, noting the involvement of two or three universities. According to available information, around five soldiers were arrested for buying their certificates in return for thousands of dollars. However, military sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that one soldier was arrested, along with a number of professors, who are being subject to investigations. The sources noted that the case was related to forging a bachelor’s degree, adding that other employees might also be summoned by the ministry of education. According to judicial sources, the case is in the preliminary investigation stage and is handled by the army intelligence under the supervision of State Prosecutor Samir Hammoud. MP in the in the Baalbek-Hermel parliamentary bloc and a member of the National Defense Committee, retired Brigadier Walid Sukkarieh, expressed confidence in the ability of the army leadership to pursue those involved. He told Asharq Al-Awsat that forgery for special benefit was classified as “heinous crimes”, and its punishment was no less than the soldier’s expulsion from the army. According to Sukkarieh, the purpose of the forgery was getting a promotion, which is accompanied by a raise in the soldier’s salary. However, he stressed that the Defense Law did not provide for the military rank promotion on the basis of obtaining a university degree or even a doctorate. Retired Brigadier Nizar Abdel-Kader said that the university degree might contribute to a soldier’s promotion, provided that he sit for an exam. In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, Abdel-Kader noted that there were certain criteria that play a key role in the promotion, without the officer being subjected to an exam. Those include a decision by the army leadership and the factor of sectarian distribution, he said.

Hariri May Submit Govt. Format Monday as Talks Reportedly Make Progress
Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri is expected to submit a government format early next week to President Michel Aoun, an MP from his bloc said, amid reported progress in the marathon negotiations. “The formation process is definitely in the hands of PM-designate Saad Hariri, not caretaker Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil,” MP Rola al-Tabsh of al-Mustaqbal bloc told Asharq al-Awsat daily in remarks published Sunday. Hariri “was clear when he said that the obstacles have become simple and resolvable and that the government will be soon formed and may be announced early next week and before Army Day,” Tabsh added. The PM-designate “is expected to present a new format as of Monday,” the MP went on to say. MP Salim Aoun of Bassil's Strong Lebanon bloc meanwhile announced that “the positive atmosphere is still engulfing the cabinet formation process.” “But we are waiting for PM-designate Saad Hariri to turn them into action through putting forward a line-up that respects the results of the elections and conforms to the norms and principles that usually govern the formation of governments,” Aoun added in remarks to Asharq al-Awsat, noting that “every party should be represented according to the size of its bloc.”Hariri was tasked with forming a new government on May 24. The main obstacles hindering his mission are related to the representation of Christians and Druze in the new Cabinet.

Report: Russia Plan Requires Presence of Govt. in Beirut within 48 Hours

Naharnet/July 29/18/The Russian plan for repatriating Syrian refugees requires the presence of a new government in Beirut “within 48 hours,” a media report said. The 48-hour deadline “begins on Sunday morning,” Kuwait's al-Anbaa newspaper quoted informed sources as saying. It noted that other sources gave Thursday as another date for the expiry of the deadline "should contacts fail to resolve the remaining obstacles" over the next two days. The Lebanese political parties are wrangling over shares in the new government, especially the Christian and Druze shares. Lebanon says it currently hosts some 1.5 million Syrian refugees. Earlier this month, Russia presented the U.S. with plans for the coordinated return of refugees to Syria. The proposal includes the establishment of working groups in both Lebanon and Jordan, involving U.S. and Russian officials. Following talks with a Russian presidential delegation in Baabda on Thursday, President Michel Aoun said that the Russian initiative aims to return some 890,000 Syrians from Lebanon. The Russian initiative was proposed following the summit in Helsinki between U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, although it was not clear whether the U.S. supported the proposal.

Arslan: Jumblat Conspiring against Syria, Executing Foreign Agendas
Naharnet/July 29/18/Lebanese Democratic Party leader MP Talal Arslan has launched a fresh blistering attack on his Druze rival Walid Jumblat, accusing him of “conspiring against Syria and the Druze of Syria.”“Jumblat is continuing his ploys against Syria and he is executing foreign agendas,” Arslan added in a TV interview. He also alleged that Jumblat “went to Turkey and requested that the Druze be displaced from (Syria's) Idlib.” A war of words has escalated between the two men in recent weeks against the backdrop of wrangling over the Druze share in the new government. Jumblat is insisting on getting all three Druze seats for his Progressive Socialist Party, while Arslan – backed by President Michel Aoun and the Free Patriotic Movement – is demanding that he be granted one of the three seats.

Lebanon Sinks Old Tanks to Create Underwater Dive 'Park'

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 29/18/Lebanese environmentalists on Saturday sank 10 old tanks and armored vehicles to the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea in a novel attempt to attract divers and create new habitats for marine life. Three kilometers off the coast of the city of Sidon, a huge crane on the back of a ship maneuvered the military hardware into place over the water before dropping them down to the seabed one after the other. The initiative to create an "underwater park" is spearhead by a local group, Friends of the coast of Sidon, which got the Lebanese Army to hand over some of it old vehicles for the project. "This will be a paradise for divers and a place where we can develop underwater life," said NGO representative Kamel Kozbar, who hopes seaweed will soon cover the vehicles. Lebanon boasts some 200 kilometers of Mediterranean coast but beaches have not been spared from a waste and garbage crisis that has plagued Lebanon for years. In Sidon, a mountain of smelly trash has scarred the shoreline, despite the presence of a new waste management facility. In a region fraught with tensions the latest project also has some political undertones. The tanks have been placed with their turrets facing towards Lebanon's southern foe Israel "out of solidarity for the Palestinian people," Kozbar said.

Hundreds of Syrian Refugees Return Home from Lebanon

Associated Press/Naharnet/July 29/18/Hundreds of Syrian refugees started crossing the border from Lebanon on Saturday, the latest group to return to Syria from its western neighbor.
Three buses carrying scores of people crossed the border into Syria in the early afternoon and more than 30 other buses carried more refugees later in the day. Russia has put forward an initiative to return hundreds of thousands of refugees to Syria, and hundreds have returned from Lebanon over the past weeks. The head of Lebanon's General Security Directorate Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim called on Syrian refugees to come to the directorate's offices to register their names to return home. He added that the move will eventually end up returning "hundreds of thousands" to their homes. He said that some delays were caused by vetting those that are wanted back home. "We are insisting that no Syrian refugee returns home and then is detained," Ibrahim told reporters at the border. Syrian state TV said up to 1,200 Syrians were expected to end up returning on Saturday, adding that more than 30 Syrian buses crossed into Lebanon to bring them back home. "I have no words to express my feelings," a Syrian woman told the channel while aboard a bus after she reached the Syrian side of the border. A teenager in the bus carried a poster of Syrian President Bashar Assad with a caption that read: "Together on the roads of victory." Many have returned from the northeastern Lebanese town of Arsal over the past weeks. Most of those heading home Saturday were coming from the southern Lebanese village of Shebaa. President Michel Aoun said on Friday that the Russian initiative aims to return some 890,000 Syrians from Lebanon. Lebanon is home to some 1 million Syrian refugees, a large number for a country of 4.5 million people. The Russian initiative was proposed following the summit in Helsinki between U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, although it was not clear whether the U.S. supported the proposal.
Rahi says absence of impartiality, humility impedes cabinet formation
Sun 29 Jul 2018/NNA - Maronite Patriarch, Cardinal Bechara Butros al-Rahi, considered Sunday that the absence of impartiality and modesty among politicians is impeding the formation of the new government. Presiding over a Mass service at the Patriarchal Church in Diman this morning, Rahi voiced rejection of the flagrant breach of laws and the practice of injustice. "We deplore the excessive use of political power, in form of tyranny, injustice or seizure of public money, or as a means of illicit gain and personal profit, whilst it ought to be a noble art in the service of public good at all levels," said the Patriarch. Al-Rahi also denounced the evident negligence towards the country's economy in all its sectors; hence, causing the impoverishment of citizens and placing the state in a serious financial deficit, opening the door to migration of the youth. "We declare our rejection of this situation and such political practice, and we do not accept Lebanon's economic, social, daily living and cultural decline," Al-Rahi emphasized, voicing adamant refusal of the appropriation of constitutional principles and laws as well.

Bassil: With kindness and law, we can solve our real estate problems and all crises

Sun 29 Jul 2018/NNA - Caretaker Foreign Affairs and Emigrants Minister, Gebran Bassil, said Sunday that the Lebanese are capable of solving their real estate problems and overcoming all crises through kindness and law. Representing the President of the Republic in inaugurating the Yammouneh Damn and Lake in the Bekaa region this afternoon, Bassil said, "The issue of water in Lebanon is more than strategic, and must be accorded great care and attention both internally and externally." "Since our Parliamentary Bloc is currently handling the portfolios of both the Foreign Affairs and Water and Energy Ministries, and will presumably continue to do so, I have a proposal, given the importance of this strategic issue, to have an extraordinary ambassador at the Foreign Affairs Ministry responsible for diplomatic waters, because this concerns not only Lebanon's national interest, but also its strategic position on the issue of water," he went on. Bassil considered the water issue more important than oil and gas if Lebanon's water resources are well-preserved, which would enable the Lebanese State in years to come to provide the region with water supply, rendering the water subject a strategic force for the country.
Touching on the real estate border problem between the Yammouneh and Aqoura regions, Bassil considered that "it can basically be solved through kindness...When there is love among people, everything is resolved, while the second solution lies in the law that gives people their rights, and the law is safeguarded by the State which is the guardian of all.""We say to those who thought that the Yamouneh-Aqoura issue can trigger a clash between the components of the same nation, that a real estate or border issue between two villages cannot separate between its people who have shared two joint victories against the the Israeli enemy and Takfiri terrorists," Bassil underscored. In turn, Caretaker Agriculture Minister Hussein Hajj Hassan who took part in the inauguration highlighted Lebanon's dire need for preserving its water resources.
"We are facing a shortage of water supplies, which is a problem for the people of Baalbek-Hermel in particular, and for the Lebanese in general, so we need to declare a state of water emergency," he said. "Water scarcity can only be addressed through more water resources and the treatment of water resources in our dams, especially the Assi Dam. We thank the Ministry of Water and Energy for what has been accomplished so far, and we ask you for more achievements," Hajj Hassan added. For his part, Caretaker Water and Energy Minister, Ceasar Abi Khalil, also delivered a word at the Yammouneh Dam inauguration event, saying, "This is the third dam to be launched this year by the Water and Energy Ministry, which is striving to ensure balanced development in all regions. Its projects are spread over all the Lebanese territories as part of a national strategy." "Climate change has become a reality recognized by all. If we do not complete the dams, we will not be able to cope with the problem of water scarcity in the dry season," Abi Khalil went on. "Climate change further confirms the need for the 55 dams planned for by the Ministry, and the Assi Dam is a priority for our Ministry, which was included in the investment scheme at the Cedar Conference in Paris, during which representatives of more than 50 countries and international organizations praised the policies set by the Water and Energy Ministry," he underscored.

Hasbani: Those who hinder cabinet formation are known
Sun 29 Jul 2018 /NNA - Caretaker Public Health Minister Ghassan Hasbani said Sunday that those who are hindering the formation of a new government are now known. "If the government formation is dependent on a meeting between the designated Prime Minister and a certain political side, then it has become clear who is obstructing said formation," Hasbani said during an interview to "Voice of Lebanon" Radio Station this morning. Hasbani noted that "the President of the Republic is at an equal distance from everyone, thus alleviating obstacles and facilitating the process of forming a new government."Finally, Hasbani stressed the need for Syrian refugees to return to their homeland without waiting for any political solution.

Second victory for Lebanon's junior team in West Asia Basketball Tournaments
Sun 29 Jul 2018/NNA - The Lebanese junior team (under 16) reaped their second straight win in the West Asian Basketball Championship in the Iranian city of Gurgaon, defeating Iraq (96-44) on Sunday afternoon on the second day of the tournament.
Lebanon had reaped an earlier victory over Jordan (96-49) on Saturday.

Kanaan: Finance and Budget Committee convenes tomorrow
Sun 29 Jul 2018/NNA - The Finance and Budget Parliamentary Committee will convene in session at 10:30am on Monday, in order to discuss the work of the Committee for the next stage. Committee Head, MP Ibrahim Kanaan, hoped that members "will be present on time," adding that "if the quorum is not secured, the Committee will hold a second session at 11am the same day."

Tarek Merehbi praises LebaneseKuwaiti historical relations
Sun 29 Jul 2018/NNA - MP Tarek al-Merehbi commended Sunday the historical relations between Lebanon and Kuwait, thanking the Kuwaiti State for its keen concern for Lebanon and the Lebanese people and calling on Kuwaitis to visit Lebanon, their second homeland.
Merehbi's words came upon arrival in Kuwait's International Airport earlier today, where a warm reception awaited him by a crowd of Lebanese emigrants residing in Kuwait, mostly from the region of Akkar.

Hajj Hassan calls for comprehensive politicaleconomic rescue policy

Sun 29 Jul 2018/NNA - Caretaker Agriculture Minister Hussein Hajj Hassan called Sunday for working on a comprehensive political and economic policy that would address the various issues at stake in the country. Speaking at the inaugural ceremony of the first soap exhibition in the southern city of Bent Jbeil earlier today, Hajj Hassan hoped that the agricultural and industrial sectors would receive more attention during the next government's mandate. He noted that these sectors have suffered a lot from external competition and internal obstacles over the past years, in wake of the previous governments' negligence. "We have presented more than 20 projects and proposals to support the industry, but to no avail because the country's economic vision is missing," Hajj Hassan went on. "A comprehensive economic policy and a long-term economic program for industry and agriculture are needed," he stressed. "Lebanon's economy is based on border crossings and transit movements with the neighboring countries, especially Syria, so we are keen on having the best relations with our sister state, Syria, as well as Jordan and Iraq," Hajj Hassan emphasized. He also highlighted the need for good relations with Syria in order to end the issue of the displaced and contribute to Syria's reconstruction. Over the new cabinet formation, Hajj Hassan said, "The key point in the formation of the government is the adoption of unified standards in the representation of parliamentary and political blocs within cabinet, which will contribute to a large extent to accelerating its formation."
Lebanese Daily Al-Akhbar: Hurras Al-Din Will Undergo ‎Rebirth, Emerge As Al-Qaeda Representative In Syria
MEMRI/July 23, 2018
The following report is now a complimentary offering from MEMRI's Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor (JTTM). For JTTM subscription information, click here.
On July 14, 2018, the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar, which is close to Hizbullah and the Syrian regime, published an article predicting that Hurras Al-Din, the recently established pro-Al-Qaeda organization in Syria, will soon be reborn under new leadership comprising former prominent Al-Qaeda commanders, with the sole aim of "ruling the jihadi scene" in Syria. Suhayb 'Anjarini, the author of the article, says that Hurras Al-Din's recent accomplishments secured it large amounts of Kuwaiti funding and promises of increased financial support if its future operations intensify and if the organization's size increases.
Remarking on the group's founding, 'Anjarini says that Hurras Al-Din was, in February 2018, "established to be an official representative of Al-Qaeda in Syria" to revitalize Al-Qaeda's presence in the country following the "jihadi divorce" between Jabhat Al-Nusra (JN) and Al-Qaeda, referring to the 2016 severing of ties between JN and Al-Qaeda.[1] 'Anjarini says the organization is now preparing to play a more active role, as it has increased its membership in recent months due to large infusions of funds, and promises to further increase funding "among the Syrians" as well as attract "new waves" of non-Syrian muhajireen (i.e. foreign fighters). Hurras Al-Din has also, according to the author, attracted "tens" of Uyghur fighters who split from the Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP) following its alliance with JN aka Hay'at Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) in the recent infighting among rebel groups in Syria.[2]
'Anjarini says the organization is poised for a "rebirth in the current month" after months of "inactivity" following its formation. Information obtained from "behind-the-scenes" reporting by jihadis indicates that Hurras Al-Din has "completed its self-structuring and is ready to fill the void left over by the factions' in-fighting in the jihadi arena," says the writer. Further, says 'Anjarini, the new source of funding is "likely" a new "room" funded by a Salafi movement in Kuwait. These Salafis wish to "revitalize" Al-Qaeda-related activities in Syria. However, says 'Anjarini, this increased funding "promise" is based on three conditions being met: an increased "size" of operations, increased number of mujahideen, and increased "base" of operations.
Reflecting on the group's activities until this past June, 'Anjarini says the organization's field combat consisted of "localized" attacks in "Latakia's northern countryside, Aleppo's southern countryside, and Hama's northern countryside." But, says the writer, Hurras Al-Din distinguished itself early this month in an attack in Hama's northern countryside that targeted Tel Bazzam, north of Suran. 'Anjarini says the attack was significant because it was a test of Hurras Al-Din members' discipline and their obedience to the chain of command, as opposed to the size or results of the attack, which "did not change the landscape." The other indicator of the importance of this operation, says 'Anjarini, was that it was "the first time" an operation was conducted under the command of the "Jordanian arm of the organization," and was launched from an area that had Turkish military monitoring points.
Commenting on the early stages of its formation, 'Anjarini says that Hurras Al-Din focused on portraying itself as Syrian in appearance by installing the Syrian Abu Hummam Al-Shami as Hurras Al-Din's general commander. Formerly, Al-Shami aka Samir Hijazi acted as JN's general military commander. But, says the writer, this "direction" will not help Hurras Al-Din in the upcoming stage, with the "ambition" of attracting more foreign fighters to "rule the jihadi scene." 'Anjarini mentions that there are indications that the next stage will include publicly declared activities by Hurras Al-Din's "shadow commanders," but, he adds, there is a possibility these "non-Syrian Al-Qaeda" commanders' roles will also be publicly announced.
The writer says that Hurras Al-Din "includes a number of notable Al-Qaeda faces, most of whom belong to the 'Jordanian [Salafi-jihadi] movement."
Prominent among these leaders, says 'Anjarini, are four names who are "confirmed members of the Shura Council of Hurras Al-Din," and whose "symbolism" is clearly the reason why Hurras Al-Din attracted international jihadis. They are: Abu Julaybeeb Al-Urduni (Iyyad al-Tubasi), Abu Khadijah Al-Urduni (Bilal Khuraysat), Sami Al-'Uraydi (former shari'a official in JN), and Abu Al-Qassam Al-Urduni (Khalid Mustafa Al-'Aruri). The latter, says 'Anjarini, is a historically renowned Al-Qaeda leader and had been an assistant to Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi. Uncorroborated information sources, says 'Anjarini, further state that the Shura Council also includes the notorious Egyptian Al-Qaeda leader Saif Al-Adl. 'Anjarini says that Al-Adl and Al-'Aruri were both freed from "Iranian prisons" as part of a 2015 prisoner exchange deal set up by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). 'Anjarini says that it is "likely" that Al-Adl will assume a "larger role in the Shura Council, closer to actual command of Hurras Al-Din."
Regarding the "jihadi chaos in Idlib," wherein many factions are constantly fighting, 'Anjarini says that Hurras Al-Din demonstrated restraint and avoided the fight. Such an attitude, he says, has turned the group into a "new destination" for jihadis who wish to avoid any internal fighting. To this end, 'Anjarini says that Hurras Al-Din, during the early stages of its formation, issued a "charter of jihadi principles," a copy of which was sent to Al-Qaeda leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri along with the group's pledge of allegiance to him, in which it expressed its intention "not to engage in any internal fitna [strife]."
'Anjarini alludes to information indicating the welcoming of HTS leader Abu Muhammad Al-Joulani to Hurras Al-Din's growing role as a prominent jihadi group, as it would "ensure it [i.e. Hurras Al-Din] becoming an attractive [target] to any international assault carried out in Idlib under the headline of 'fighting terrorism.'"
[1] See MEMRI JTTM report Jabhat Al-Nusra Leader Al-Joulani Severs Group's Ties With Al-Qaeda, Changes Its Name To Jabhat Fath Al-Sham, July 27, 2016.
[2] See MEMRI JTTM report Al-Qaeda Supporters In Syria: The Syrian Arm Of The Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP) Is Violating Its Leadership's Guidelines, And Is Loyal To Hay'at Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), May 17, 2018.
Lebanon’s shrinking freedom of expression
Mona Alami/The Arab Weekly/July 29/18
BEIRUT - More than seven activists have recently been summoned by Lebanese intelligence services because they posted social media comments critical of pro-Syrian and Iranian-Lebanese politicians and parties. In the past two years, human rights groups have reported a threefold increase in the arrest, prosecution and questioning of activists and journalists. The Lebanese penal code punishes libel and defamation of officials, a justification that appears to be increasingly deployed by security officials to question and prosecute activists or harass disgruntled citizens venting their frustration on social media.
Rawane Khatib and Khaled Abbouchi were summoned July 24 by the Lebanese office for cybercrime. They were accused of publicly criticising Lebanese President Michel Aoun and his son-in-law, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil.
In itself, that’s notable. However, it falls within the context of a wider security crackdown by Lebanese intelligence services, targeting people denouncing the actions of specific parties, activists say.
“Arrests and summoning (for interview) targets activists or journalists critical for the most part of Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, followed by President Aoun and Hezbollah,” said Widad Jarbouh, a researcher at the SKeyes Centre for Media and Cultural Freedom at the Samir Kassir Foundation.
Mohammad Awwad, an activist known for articles disparaging Hezbollah, was arrested by the Lebanese General Security. He was released after he signed a document forbidding him from criticising the three main political positions in Lebanon — the president, prime minister and the parliamentary speaker — as well as various religious figures.
Also in July, Elie el-Khoury, 25, was summoned by Lebanon’s cybercrimes bureau for questioning. Khoury had complained about the poor level of public services in Lebanon and accused Aoun of turning the country into his “family home.”When Khoury’s lawyer intervened, the cybercrime bureau rescinded its request without explanation, Lebanese website Naharnet said. Journalist Fidaa Itani was sentenced in absentia to four months in prison and fined 10 million Lebanese pounds ($6,550). Itani had called out Bassil on Facebook over his alleged racist policies towards Lebanon’s Syrian refugees. The journalist, who is also a Hezbollah opponent, uncovered numerous cases of potential corruption in which Bassil was implicated. Other infamous cases targeting activists and journalists include the prosecution of researcher Hanin Ghaddar affiliated with the Washington Institute. In April, after intense lobbying from both local political figures and the US Embassy, sources close to the matter said, the Military Tribunal reversed its verdict, referring the case back to the Military Prosecution. The tribunal’s decision came after Ghaddar’s lawyer filed an objection to the court’s decision to sentence her client in absentia to six months in prison for comments critical of the Lebanese Army. A vocal critic of Hezbollah, Ghaddar accused the army of distinguishing between Sunni and Shia militants, suggesting it was more tolerating of the latter. That same month, First Investigative Judge Ghassan Oueidat issued an arrest warrant for journalist Maria Maalouf for slandering Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah.
However, elsewhere, Jarbouh noted, other segments of the population, typically those associated with parties aligned to Iran and Syria who threaten and attack activists remain untouched. “As an example, individuals who voiced death and rape threats against an American University student who was filmed protesting against the Syrian regime offensive on Aleppo two years ago were never summoned by authorities,” he said.
In May, another critic of Hezbollah, Ali al-Amin, who was running as an independent in parliamentary elections against the organisation, was severely beaten. Amin is a Shia journalist and director of the news website “Al Janoubia” (“The South”). The perpetrators of the crime are yet to be identified.
“To date, most of the summons and arrests are the work of the office for cybercrime, the general security and the Lebanese army intelligence,” says Jarbouh.
SKeyes estimates that, over the past two years, arrests targeting activists and journalists increased from 10 to 30 per year. The rise in power of pro-Iran and pro-Syria figures in parliamentary elections appears to have translated into a shrinking of freedom of expression and repressive measures in Lebanon.
*Mona Alami is a French-Lebanese analyst and a fellow at the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East of the Atlantic Council. She lives in Beirut.

Iran’s kidnapping of the Lebanese government will not work

Ali al-Amin/The Arab Weekly/July 29/18
Lebanon has been trying to form a new government since its general elections last May. Saad Hariri was appointed head of the new government and he must consult with Lebanon’s president to form his cabinet but that is not the only political force — domestic or regional — he must placate.
It’s been three months and the new cabinet is yet to see the light. Worse, it does not look like it will see the light any time soon.
The problem seems related to deciding on the quota of each political force in the cabinet. In this one, the deadlock centres on the so-called Druze knot, Christian knot and Sunni knot.
Observations of the government formation process in Lebanon during the past decade reveal that a crisis accompanied the birth of every cabinet. The past decade coincided with the rise of Iranian influence in Lebanon and of Hezbollah’s growing control on many state institutions.
The resolution of these repetitive government crises required outside intervention. Usually, Iran would hold the crisis in Lebanon hostage until it gets what it wants regionally and internationally, then it would instruct Hezbollah to release the government in Lebanon.
A striking similarity exists between the government crises in Iraq and Lebanon. Strong disagreements about quotas seem to be blocking the process in each case. Iraq and Lebanon voted practically at the same time and in both elections victory was on the side of Iran and its allies. After the elections in Lebanon, Qassem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s al-Qud Force, happily announced that Hezbollah had secured 74 out of the 128 seats in parliament. He was referring to a political alliance between Hezbollah, the party of President Michel Aoun and the party of parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and other parliamentarians. In his mind, they’re all led by Hezbollah and therefore led by Iran.
Hezbollah seems capable of imposing its own version of the new government. Generally, Hezbollah gives great importance to regional considerations and objectives when battling for the composition of cabinet in Lebanon. This time, however, Hezbollah does not seem to be in a rush to decide. Like all the other parties involved, Hezbollah knows it controls the game.
If it wishes, Hezbollah can perpetuate the government crisis indefinitely. There is nothing in the constitution to prevent it. Hezbollah has solid experience at this game. From May 2014 through October 2016, Lebanon was without a president and Hezbollah was behind that crisis.
Knowing that, we need to ask about Iran’s objectives in delaying the government crises in Lebanon and Iraq. Iran has boasted about controlling four Arab capitals but it seems this control is subjected to serious challenges and threats.
In Yemen, the Houthis are losing ground to the “legitimate” forces and the Arab coalition forces. Changes in the Syrian scene do not seem to be going in Iran’s favour. Even though Syria’s future is vague, the Russian-US-Israeli entente does not look promising for Iran. Russia will have the last word there on condition that it curtails Iran’s influence in Syria.
The situation in Baghdad and Beirut is less catastrophic for Iran than in Sana’a and Damascus. Nevertheless, with US President Donald Trump’s anti-Iran crusade picking up momentum, the future for Iran’s influence in Iraq and Lebanon does not look rosy.
By raising the bar of anti-Iranian sanctions, Trump has virtually voided the nuclear agreement with Iran. The result is that any power or influence that Iran may continue to sway in Iraq and Lebanon is subject to great fluctuations due to strategic losses elsewhere in the Arab world.
In Lebanon, Iran may seem to be holding enough cards to strike a deal with Israel; Iran would guarantee stability on Israel’s borders with Lebanon in exchange for Israel’s consent to Iran’s continued influence in Lebanon but even that scenario is contingent on the results of big changes in the region.
The process of putting in place a new cabinet in Lebanon cannot be isolated from its regional context that Iran is continuously trying to shape and control. This time, however, the ransom for freeing the Lebanese government is not significant.
Washington is not ready to compensate Hezbollah for its handy work of erecting hurdles in Lebanon and the European countries are not willing to meddle between Washington and Tehran. The Arab countries do not wish to pay for this get-out-of-jail card even though such a card has proved crucial for Iranian influence in Beirut. What is holding up the formation of a new government in Lebanon is this quest for a buyer except that what Iran is offering for sale is no longer attractive to regional and international bidders.
*Ali al-Amin is a Lebanese writer.

The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on July 29-30/18
Israeli President Rivlin meets with Druze leaders
الرئيس الإسرائيلي يلتقي قيادات درزية
Itamar Eichner/Ynetnews/July 29/18

The Druze community leaders meet with President Reuven Rivlin to discuss the controversial Nationality Law which they claim discriminates against Arab speaking population in the country; Rivlin: 'It's important to feel equal'; Druze leaders: 'We will not be able to continue to live in a country where a large part of the population feels excluded.'The Druze community leaders met with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Sunday in order to once again express their position over the Nationality Law which they describe as discriminatory.
The Nationality Law, 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.
The Druze community leaders had asked to meet the president following their meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu on Friday.
The president greeted them at the President's Residence and reiterated his support for the community.
“The partnership between us is ingrained in the foundation of this country. This is the basis, to live in cooperation, in the country we have established … in full partnership with all those who live in this good country, which is good to everyone and we can retain this equation with no problem.
"I made my position clear during the latest round of discussions in the Knesset, when I sent a letter to expressed my opinion on the subject ... I have no doubt that you are equal to us from a legal standpoint and we must make sure that you feel equal as well,” Rivlin exclaimed.
Chairman of the Forum of Druze and Circassian Authorities and head of the Horfeish Council, Mufid Mar'i, told the president at the meeting: "What hurts the Jews hurts the Druze, and what hurts the Druze hurts the Jews. We feel the embrace and connection."
Head of the Daliyat al-Karmel Regional council, Rafik Halabi, said after the meeting that the Druze community cannot live in a country that blatantly discriminates against them. "We expressed our concerns regarding the law, which we see as discriminatory, that does not acknowledge our citizenship, our sense of belonging and we clearly said (to the president-ed) that we want equality for everyone. We will not be able to continue to live in a country where a large part of the population—who is loyal to this country, feels excluded,” Halabi explained.
Halabi went on to say that the sentiment over the law is shared among other Arab speaking communities.
"We’ve come to you to express our pain and distress, which is felt by not only the heads of local councils, not only by the officers and religious leaders, but rather by the entire Arab and Circassian population in Israel. There are professors, hospital department heads … what will you say to them? That they are not citizens? That they are not equal? ​​Basic legislation should apply to everyone, not only to a majority," he concluded. The president listened to the arguments and promised to do as much as he can in order to make the feelings of the community known to the relevant authorities. "This partnership and a sense of partnership are part of our souls," the president emphasized.
Earlier, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Druze spiritual leader Sheikh Mowafak Tarif at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on Friday in an effort to mend the rift between the Druze community and the State of Israel surrounding the Nationality Law.
Other prominent figures from the Druze community were also at the meeting, including Brig. Gen. (res.) Amal Asad, former Labor MK Shachiv Shnaan and Communications Minister Ayoob Kara (Likud). 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.
Instead, 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. In addition, the government will consider promoting legislation to give preference to Druze who serve or served in the IDF.

Iran Approves Release of Protest Leaders Mousavi, Karroubi
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 29/18/Iran's top security body has approved the release of opposition figures Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, under house arrest for seven years for leading mass protests in 2009, a family member told local media. "I have heard that the decision to lift the house arrest was approved by the Supreme National Security Council," said Hossein Karroubi, son of the jailed reformist, according to the Kalameh news website which is close to the family. "This decision will be presented to the (supreme) leader so that this case can be concluded," he said, adding that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei would have 10 days to veto the decision. There was no official confirmation of the decision, but the reports come at a time when Iran's leaders are keen to unite conservative and reformist factions to face down increasing pressure from the United States and a worsening economic crisis.
Mousavi, 76, and Karroubi, 80, were reformist candidates in the controversial election of 2009, which was won by hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. They claimed the vote was rigged, triggering months of mass protests, particularly in Tehran. Hundreds of thousands took to the streets in the biggest challenge to the system since the Islamic revolution of 1979. The pair were placed under house arrest without trial in February 2011, along with Mousavi's high-profile wife, 66-year-old Zahra Rahnavard. Hossein Karroubi said the security council had also agreed to lift restrictions on reformist figurehead Mohammad Khatami, who was Iran's president from 1997 to 2005. The media had been banned from showing Khatami's face and strict limits were placed on his movements. President Hassan Rouhani repeatedly vowed to seek the release of Mousavi and Karroubi -- a major plank of his election in 2013 and re-election last year, with their names frequently chanted at his rallies. But despite Rouhani chairing the Supreme National Security Council, which is made up of government and military figures appointed by the president and supreme leader, there had been no sign of progress on their release.

Palestinian Teenager Jailed for Slapping Soldiers Freed from Prison

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 29/18/Palestinian teenager Ahed Tamimi was released from prison Sunday after an eight-month sentence for slapping two Israeli soldiers, an episode captured on video that made her a symbol of resistance for Palestinians. Tamimi, 17, and her mother Nariman were driven early on Sunday from the Sharon prison inside Israel to a checkpoint leading to the occupied West Bank, where they live, prison spokesman Assaf Librati said. They were then handed over to Israeli soldiers, he said, who brought them to their village of Nabi Saleh. After being released by the soldiers, Tamimi made brief comments to crowds and journalists gathered, saying she hoped everyone would come to a news conference later in the day. Her father Bassem put his arms around the two of them as they walked together along the road, the crowd chanting "we want to live in freedom." Family members and supporters had also gathered at the checkpoint to greet them, but the military vehicles driving them did not stop there and continued into the West Bank. Israeli authorities appeared keen to avoid media coverage as much as possible, and conflicting information had meant supporters and journalists scrambled to arrive on time at the correct location. Tamimi and her mother were first expected to arrive at a checkpoint near the Palestinian city of Tulkarm in the West Bank, but the location was changed three times before it was finally announced they were being taken to a crossing at Rantis, about an hour's drive away. There had been slight tension at the checkpoint before Tamimi's arrival as a few men with Israeli flags approached supporters holding a Palestinian flags. Words were exchanged but there was no violence. In a sign of the sensitivity of the case, Israeli authorities on Saturday arrested two Italians and a Palestinian for painting Tamimi's now-familiar image on the Israeli separation wall cutting off the West Bank. Both Tamimi and her mother were sentenced to eight months in an Israeli military court following a plea deal over the December incident, which the family said took place in their yard in Nabi Saleh. Video of it went viral, leading Palestinians to view her as a hero standing up to Israel's occupation. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has praised her and social media has been flooded with support. But for Israelis, Tamimi is being used by her activist family as a pawn in staged provocations. They point to a series of previous such incidents involving her, with older pictures of her confronting soldiers widely shared online. Many Israelis also praised the restraint of the soldiers, who remained calm throughout, though others said her actions merited a tougher response.
Embassy protests
Tamimi was arrested in the early hours of December 19, four days after the incident. She was 16 at the time. Her mother Nariman was also arrested, as was her cousin Nour, who was freed in March. Israel's military said the soldiers were in the area on the day of the incident to prevent Palestinians from throwing stones at Israeli motorists. The video shows the cousins approaching two soldiers and telling them to leave before shoving, kicking and slapping them. Ahed Tamimi is the most aggressive of the two in the video. The heavily armed soldiers do not respond in the face of what appears to be an attempt to provoke rather than seriously harm them. They then move backwards after Nariman Tamimi becomes involved. The scuffle took place amid clashes and protests against U.S. President Donald Trump's controversial recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Relatives say that a member of the Tamimi family was wounded in the head by a rubber bullet fired during those protests.

Turkey Planning Summit with France, Germany, Russia

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 29/18/President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey is seeking to hold a summit in Istanbul with France, Germany and Russia on September 7 to discuss regional issues including the Syrian conflict, in comments published on Sunday. "We will discuss what we can do in the region together," Erdogan said, quoted by Hurriyet daily. He gave no further details on the issues on the agenda but said Turkey would continue dialogue with Russia, "outside of this foursome", in the remarks made to Turkish journalists during his South Africa visit on July 25-27. Erdogan met with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the visit on the sidelines of the Brazil, China, India, Russia and South Africa summit of leading emerging economies in Johannesburg. "We will separately have a summit in Istanbul on September 7 with Russia, Germany, France and Turkey", Erdogan was quoted as saying. There was no immediate confirmation from Moscow, Paris or Berlin. The seven-year conflict in Syria is likely to be high on the four countries' agenda as Russia, Iran and Turkey continue their efforts to end the war under the Astana peace process launched last year despite being on opposing sides. While Moscow and Tehran support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime, Ankara has repeatedly called for his ouster and helped Syrian rebels. In April, Erdogan held a summit with Putin and Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani in Ankara. The three leaders are due to meet again in the near future in Tehran, Erdogan said without giving an exact date, while technical talks as part of the Astana process will take place on Monday and Tuesday in the Black Sea resort of Sochi in Russia.

Iraq PM Sacks Electricity Minister after Weeks of Protest

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 29/18/Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Sunday sacked his minister of electricity after three weeks of protests against corruption and chronic power cuts in the energy-rich country where successive conflicts have devastated infrastructure. A statement from Abadi's office said the premier sacked Qassem al-Fahdawi -- whose departure was demanded by protesters -- "because of the deterioration in the electricity sector." Iraq has been gripped by three weeks of protests over power outages, unemployment, state mismanagement and a lack of clean water. The demonstrations -- during which 14 people were killed -- first erupted in the oil-rich but neglected southern province of Basra, home to Iraq's only sea port, before spreading north including to Baghdad. Power shortages are chronic in Iraq, a country devastated by a conflicts including the war against the Islamic State group who held a third of the country before Abadi declared victory over them in December. Chronic, hours-long electricity cuts are a source of deep discontent among Iraqis, especially during the scorching summer months when demand for air-conditioning surges as temperatures soar past 50 degrees Celsius (120 Fahrenheit). Since the ouster of dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003, Iraq has allocated some $40 billion (35 billion euros) in state funds to rebuild its power network and meet the needs of a 38-million-strong population, official figures show. But much of that has been siphoned off by politicians and businessmen in a country listed by Transparency International as the world's 12th-most corrupt.
'Fake contracts'
A government official told AFP on Sunday that Abadi had also ordered investigations launched into fake contracts. Since 2003, more than 5,000 so-called "phantom contracts" have been signed in the public sector, according to Iraq's parliament. During the same period, $228 billion dollars have gone up in smoke due to shell companies. A lawyer, Tareq al-Maamuri, recently lodged a complaint against Fahdawi and his ministry for failing to provide electricity. He also demanded prosecutions over alleged "embezzlement of public funds." Since Saddam's toppling in 2003, successive electricity ministers have been sacked over corruption or forced to quit in the face of angry protests. One of them fled abroad after he was accused of embezzling $500 million. In 2010, one of Fahdawi's predecessors, Karim Wahid, resigned after a wave of protests across central and southern Iraq against draconian power rationing. Power shortages have forced Iraqis to buy electricity from private entrepreneurs who run generators visible on street corners across the country. Despite the shortages, electricity consumption has risen since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion as Iraqis make more use of household electronic equipment including computers and mobile phones. Iraq -- the second-largest oil producer within the OPEC cartel -- sits on some of the world's largest crude reserves, with the oil sector accounting for 89 percent of the state budget. Officials say the expensive war against IS and a slump in world crude prices, slashing revenues, have emptied state coffers of the funds desperately needed to rebuild the infrastructure. They also blame Iraqis who they say are not paying their utility bills. Fahdawi's sacking comes amid political tensions as Iraq awaits the results of a partial recount of May 12 elections, while political factions jostle to cobble together a coalition.

Palestinian Militants Killed in Apparent Gaza Accident

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 29/18/Two Palestinian militants were killed in the eastern Gaza Strip early Sunday, their movement said, in an explosion during what residents said were preparations to launch a projectile at Israel. The left-wing Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) named the two members of its armed wing as Ayman al-Najjar, 26, and Muhannad Hamuda, 24, both from Jabalia in northern Gaza. The explosion happened east of Jabalia, with the PFLP saying the two were killed in the line of duty. Palestinian medical sources had reported that they died as a result of an Israeli strike, but the Israeli army denied the claim. Gazan residents said it appeared the two had been preparing a rocket to launch at Israel. The PFLP is considered a “terrorist” organization by Israel, the United States and the European Union. There has been persistent violence between the Israeli army and Palestinian protesters along the Gaza-Israel border since late March in which at least 157 Palestinians have been killed. Troops shot dead two Palestinians during Friday's protests. One Israeli soldier has been killed since late March.

Israel Arrests Italians who Painted Mural of Palestinian Teen

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 29/18/Israeli forces have arrested two Italians for drawing a giant mural of a Palestinian teenager seen as a symbol of resistance on the separation wall in the occupied West Bank, police said. The roughly four-meter (13 foot) image near Bethlehem in the West Bank depicts Ahed Tamimi, 17, who was released from prison Sunday after an eight-month sentence for slapping two Israeli soldiers, an episode captured on video. On Saturday, Israeli border police arrested two Italians and a Palestinian "on suspicion of damaging and vandalizing the security fence in the Bethlehem area," a statement said. The three, whose faces were masked, "illegally drew on the wall, and when border policemen took action to arrest them, they tried to escape in their car, which was stopped by the forces," the statement said. On Wednesday, a man drawing the mural had identified himself as Italian street artist Jorit Agoch. A message was posted to a Facebook page under his name saying he had been arrested and pleading for help. On Sunday morning the three were still being held by Israeli forces. At the same time, Tamimi and her mother Nariman were taken from the Sharon prison inside Israel to their home village of Nabi Saleh in the occupied West Bank after serving their sentences. Palestinians see Tamimi as a symbol of resistance to Israeli occupation of the West Bank. For Israelis, Tamimi is being used by her activist family as a pawn in staged provocations. The separation wall cutting the West Bank off from Israel is filled with graffiti in support of the Palestinian cause. Secretive British street artist Banksy is among those who have painted on the wall.
The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on July 29-30/18
Turkey: Detained US Pastor Brunson Vilified by State-Supporting Media
Uzay Bulut/Gatestone Institute/July 29/18
It appears that Pastor Andrew Brunson, as both an American and a Christian, has become a perfect scapegoat for the Turkish government and its media outlets. If Ankara were a genuine ally of the West, Brunson -- who lived and worked peacefully at a small Protestant church in Izmir for 23 years -- would not have been arrested in the first place, let alone robbed of his freedom and prevented from returning to the US.
Andrew Brunson, the American pastor detained in Turkey for two years on false terrorism and espionage charges, was released from prison on July 25, only to be put under house arrest until the resumption of his trial in October. The court ordered him to wear an electronic ankle-bracelet at all times and banned him from traveling outside Turkey.
Pastor Andrew Brunson (center) is transported from jail to house arrest in Izmir, Turkey, on July 25, 2018. (Image source: Ruptly video screenshot)
Moreover, according to the Washington Post's Carol D. Leonnig:
"President Trump thought he had a deal with Turkish President Erdogan to free Andrew Brunson, the American pastor imprisoned in Turkey for the last two years on what the administration considered bogus terrorism charges.
"As part of the deal, on July 14, Trump asked Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to release Ebru Ozkan, 27, a Turkish woman who was detained in Israel on charges of acting as a smuggler for Hamas. The day after Trump and Netanyahu spoke, Ozkan was deported from Israel.
"Several U.S. officials insisted there had been no misunderstanding of the terms of the deal, but the Turks, transferring Brunson to house arrest, failed to send the pastor home."
Brunson, detained in October 2016, is accused, with no evidence, of working for two groups that Turkey lists as terrorist organizations. One is a movement led by the US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, referred to by the Turkish government as the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETO), and whom President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accuses of organizing the failed military coup attempt in July 2016. The other is the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). If convicted, Brunson faces up to 35 years behind bars.
Erdogan has made it clear that his intention is to make the US administration extradite Gülen in exchange for Brunson's release. In September 2017, Erdogan said:
"America wants us to return a priest... You also have a priest. You should give him to us too. Then we will try and return the one here."
Brunson's 62-page indictment states, among other allegations:
"The suspect... under the guise of being an evangelical church pastor... acted as an agent of unconventional warfare, per the doctrine of intelligence and psychological warfare and... acted within a group of personnel, most of whom had received special training and had military and intelligence backgrounds."
Brunson's release to house arrest came a week after US President Donald Trump posted a message on Twitter calling Brunson's detention "a total disgrace" and urging Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to "do something to free this wonderful Christian husband & father."
On July 26, the White House threatened to impose sanctions on Turkey if it fails immediately to return Brunson to the United States. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu responded angrily on Twitter: "Noone dictates Turkey. We will never tolerate threats from anybody. Rule of law is for everyone; no exception."
Members of the pro-government media in Turkey have been demonizing Brunson since his arrest two years ago. In May 2017, for instance, the newspaper Takvim referred to him as an "imposter-spy," adding:
"Brunson worked as a military officer in the American army and supported both the FETO and the PKK... Meanwhile, he quickly rose in the ranks of the CIA... There have been claims that if the [coup] had been successful, Brunson would have been appointed head of the CIA."
During a July 15, 2018 panel discussion on CNN Turk, Nedim Şener -- a columnist for the newspaper Posta -- accused Brunson of "aim[ing] to Christianize Kurds," and claimed that "Brunson's computer contains the names of CIA agents." Şener added, "Brunson denies all of these things, but this is an attitude of FETO that we are familiar with."
In a July 27 article entitled "Arrest the Priest Again," the pro-Erdogan newspaper Yeni Safak wrote: "That Priest Brunson, who has been tried for committing crimes on behalf of FETO and the PKK, was released yesterday and put under house arrest has received negative reactions from the public and the exorbitant threats coming from the US have been the last straw. The best response to Trump's words, 'We will impose large sanctions on Turkey,' will be to put the priest in jail again, just as he deserves."
In a July 27 column in the news outlet Aydinlik, author Ceyhun Bozkurt at first claimed that many missionaries in Turkey had a secret agenda to cause chaos in and Christianize the country. He wrote, in part: "Missionaries continued their plans against Turkey in the 2000s, as well. In 2006, they carried out their activities by partitioning Turkey into 11 regions....
"Since 1800s, the unconventional warfare methods of missionaries who entered the Anatolian region have been effective in starting Turkish-Armenian conflicts, Bulgarian rebellions and Kurdish nationalistic movements. The missionaries who worked for their head organization, the American BOARD, provoked Armenians and Bulgarians and forced Kurds to rebel by Christianizing them through organizations they established, such as schools and hospitals... For about 200 years, we have faced too many Brunsons who were much more than pastors, and we will continue facing them."
He then, however, appears to call for respect for the rule of law:
"What is important is to engage in a political struggle against them in a correct and lawful way."
Then there is Ahmet Hakan, a Brunson critic and a well-known columnist. In a piece for the newspaper Hurriyet on July 27, Hakan stated that Turkey "should not bow down to the threats from the US... After this rampage, Brunson should not be told: 'You are free, you can go.'"
It appears that Brunson, as both an American and a Christian, has become a perfect scapegoat for the Turkish government and its media outlets. If Ankara were a genuine ally of the West, Brunson -- who has lived and worked peacefully at a small Protestant church in Izmir for 23 years -- would not have been arrested in the first place, let alone robbed of his freedom and prevented from returning to the US.
Let us hope that the Trump administration's threats of sanctions will be effective in securing Brunson's release.
*Uzay Bulut, a journalist from Turkey, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Gatestone Institute. She is currently based in Washington D.C.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Germany: Rise of the Salafists
*Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institute/July 29/18
"Salafists see themselves as defenders of an original, unadulterated Islam.... As a consequence, Salafists want to establish a 'theocracy' according to their interpretation of the rules of sharia, one in which the liberal democratic order no longer applies." — Annual Report of Germany's Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV).
"Under the guise of humanitarian aid, Islamists succeed in radicalizing migrants. In the past, Salafists in particular tried to reach out to migrants. They visited refugee shelters for this purpose and offered assistance. The target group was not only adult migrants, but also unaccompanied adolescents, who, due to their situation and age, are particularly susceptible to Salafist missionary activities." — Annual Report of Germany's Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV).
The BfV report makes a direct link between the increase in anti-Semitism in Germany and the rise of Islamist movements in the country: "The 'enemy image of Judaism' therefore forms a central pillar in the propaganda of all Islamist groups.... This poses a significant challenge to the peaceful and tolerant coexistence in Germany."
The number of Salafists in Germany has doubled over the last five years and now exceeds 10,000 for the first time, according to Germany's BfV domestic intelligence agency. BfV estimates that Germany is home to more than 25,000 Islamists, nearly 2,000 of whom pose an immediate threat of attack.
The new figures are included the latest annual report of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz, BfV), and presented by Interior Minister Horst Seehofer and BfV President Hans-Georg Maaßen in Berlin on July 24.
The report, considered the most important indicator of internal security in Germany, draws a bleak picture. The BfV estimates that the number of Islamists in Germany increased to at least 25,810 by the end of 2017, up from 24,425 in 2016.
Strangely, the report does not provide any estimates for the number of followers of the Islamic State or al-Qaeda living in Germany. As a result, the actual number of Islamists in Germany is undoubtedly higher than 25,810.
According to the report, Salafists comprise the single largest Islamist group in Germany. The number of Salafists in Germany jumped to 10,800 in 2017, up from 9,700 in 2016; 8,350 in 2015; 7,000 in 2014; 5,500 in 2013 and 4,500 in 2012.
The BfV report states:
"Salafists see themselves as defenders of an original, unadulterated Islam. They model their religious practice and lifestyle exclusively on the principles of the Koran, the Prophet Mohammed and the first three Muslim generations, the so-called righteous ancestors (Al-Salaf al-Salih in Arabic). As a consequence, Salafists want to establish a 'theocracy' according to their interpretation of the rules of sharia, one in which the liberal democratic order no longer applies.
"Political and jihadi Salafists share the same basic ideology. They differ primarily in the means by which they wish to achieve their objective, the 'Salafist theocracy.' Political Salafists spread their Islamist ideology through intensive propaganda activities — which they describe as 'missionary work' (Dawa) — to transform society, through a long-term process, according to Salafist norms.
"Many political Salafists position themselves as being against terrorism. They emphasize the peaceful nature of Islam and reject open calls for violence. Nevertheless, it should be noted that political Salafism has an ambivalent relationship to violence because in principle it does not exclude religiously inspired violence as a means to achieve its goals.
"In their interpretations of Islam, political Salafists make selective use of the classical works of the Islamic legal literature, which affirms a strong affinity to violence when dealing with non-Muslims. Salafists believe that the universal claim of Islam, due to its superiority as the divine plan of salvation for all of humanity, must be imposed by force if necessary. Therefore, the fundamental affirmation of violence is an intrinsic part of Salafist ideology.
"The two Salafist currents have different but easy-to-bridge views on under which prerequisites violence may be used. This explains why the transition from political to jihadist Salafism is fluid." The BfV report states that Salafists are focusing their proselytizing and recruiting efforts on migrants seeking refuge in Germany:
"Under the guise of humanitarian aid, Islamists succeed in radicalizing migrants. In the past, Salafists in particular tried to reach out to migrants. They visited refugee shelters for this purpose and offered assistance. The target group was not only adult migrants, but also unaccompanied adolescents, who, due to their situation and age are particularly susceptible to Salafist missionary activities.
"The diverse propaganda activities of Salafists, which they play down as 'proselytizing' or 'inviting people to Islam' — it is in truth a systematic indoctrination and often also the beginning of radicalization — are successful: Salafism is the fastest growing Islamist trend in Germany.
"The Salafist scene represents the essential recruitment field for Jihad. Almost without exception, all persons with a German connection who have joined the jihad were previously in contact with the Salafist scene."
According to BfV, the growth of Germany's Salafist movement is being fueled in part by migrants from Chechnya: "Within the Salafist scene in Germany, actors of North Caucasian origin — especially from the Russian Republic of Chechnya — have gained importance. Particularly affected are federal states in Eastern and Northern Germany, as well as North Rhine-Westphalia. "The North Caucasus Islamist scene is characterized by sprawling, Europe-wide networks and characteristics. It is largely sealed-off to the outside. A critical factor for radicalization is the personal contact spectrum, which connects elements from the religion and the traditional clan structure. The North Caucasus Islamist has established contacts with Middle Eastern jihadi groups due to the 'successes' of the North Caucasus fighters in Syria or Iraq."The BfV report makes a direct link between the increase in anti-Semitism in Germany and the rise of Islamist movements in the country:
"Islamist propaganda often combines religious, territorial and/or national-political motives with an anti-Semitic worldview. The 'enemy image of Judaism' therefore forms a central pillar in the propaganda of all Islamist groups.... "The BfV recorded a large number of anti-Semitic incidents in 2017. The spectrum of incidents ranged from anti-Israeli banners at public events and anti-Semitic sermons to anti-Semitic posts on social media and verbal or physical attacks against individual Jews."The BfV has found that all the Islamist groups active in Germany spread and nurture anti-Semitic ideas. This poses a significant challenge to the peaceful and tolerant coexistence in Germany."
According to BfV, the second-largest Islamist movement in Germany is Millî Görüş (Turkish for "National Vision"), which has around 10,000 members in the country. The movement is strongly opposed to Muslim integration into European society:
"The movement believes that a 'just' political order is one founded on 'divine revelation' while those systems designed by humans are 'vain.' At present, the 'vain' Western civilization dominates, based on violence, injustice and exploitation of the weak. This 'vain' system must be replaced by a 'just order,' based exclusively on Islamic principles, rather than man-made ones and thus 'arbitrary rules.' All Muslims should contribute to the realization of the 'just order.' To do this, Muslims must adopt a certain vision (Görüş) of the world, namely a national/religious ('Milli') vision, a 'Millî Görüş.'"
In addition to the Salafists and Millî Görüş, BfV estimates that Germany is now home to 1,040 members of the Muslim Brotherhood, 950 members of Hezbollah and 320 members of Hamas. After presenting the BfV report Interior Minister Horst Seehofer demanded that the government speed-up deportations of Islamists. "We do not have anything under control in any area," he concluded.
*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.

When We’re in Uniform They Treat Us Well': Israel's Druze No Longer Feel Like Blood Brothers
تقرير من الهآررتس يتناول وضع الدروز في أسرائيل الذين فقدوا شعورهم أنه إخوة بالدم مع اليهود بعد قانون يهودية إسرائيل

Noa Shpigel/Haaretz/July 29/18
The new nation-state law has given members of Israel's model minority the feeling they've been betrayed: 'We’re blood brothers when someone dies but now we're second-class?'
On Wednesday, Education Minister Naftali Bennett tweeted a half apology, half excuse. “After conversations with many of our Druze brothers, it seems that the way the nation-state law was legislated actually hurt them and those who have tied their fate to the Jewish state.”
As the head of the Habayit Hayehudi party put it, “These are our blood brothers who stand shoulder to shoulder with us on the battlefield and who have entered into a life covenant with us. We, the government of Israel, have the responsibility of finding a way to repair the rift.”
It seems that for years nothing has been said about the Druze that doesn’t include the words “blood,” “brothers” and some form of “covenant.” (Once this was more commonly a “covenant of blood,” today it’s more often a “covenant of life.”)
The good news is that the Druze no longer buy this. “It’s lip service,” said Munib Fares from the northern Druze town of Hurfeish immediately after he saw Bennett’s tweet. “What do you think, the Druze are stupid? We’re not stupid anymore. This is a different generation. Where were you during the vote, Bennett?”
In his and his wife Nasim’s pastry shop in the town on Mount Meron near the Golan Heights, Fares tossed the question into the air – and it remained unanswered.
The nation-state law that passed in the Knesset last week has angered the Druze community. The fight began when the three Druze MKs – Akram Hasoon (Kulanu), Saleh Saad (Zionist Union) and Hamad Amar (Yisrael Beiteinu) – petitioned the High Court of Justice against the new law. Also, a forum of reserve army officers formed to fight the legislation.
Finally, an emergency meeting was held on Thursday evening at Saad’s home, which included Zionist Union’s Tzipi Livni, who was recently tapped as the next opposition leader. It also included the spiritual leader of the Druze community, Sheikh Muwafak Tarif. And of course, there were angry posts on social media.
For years the Druze have felt they deserve a special status in Israel, partly because they’re drafted into the army; they’re not volunteers. Now many of them feel betrayed and say the country is treating them like second-class citizens – like other minority groups.
Fares, a former journalist who worked for years for public broadcaster Channel 1, says the new law “has no value, it’s a purely populist law. This is another attempt by [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu to overtake Bennett from the right.”
Fares thinks the commotion has been overdone, but he views the law as harming Zionist and democratic values. “It erased the principles from the Declaration of Independence. Netanyahu isn’t any smarter than [Menachem] Begin and [Ze’ev] Jabotinsky,” Fares said, referring to right-wing leaders from yesteryear.
“This is particularly an attack on the Druze and everyone who serves the country according to the law. It doesn’t add honor to the nation, and not to how we look outside Israel either.”
Fares’ expectations from the country’s leaders are very low; he says the new law “will disappear from the agenda, and Netanyahu will find something new. He always invents something new to scare us.”
‘Don’t steal the feeling’
What can the Druze do? Fares’ mentions “all the Druze who 30 years ago made an effort to disconnect from the Arab nationality and who gave their children [Hebrew] names like Rami, Dudu, Osnat and Rinat in the hope of erasing the Arab nationalism and drawing close to the Jews.” He proposes that they “return to their roots after this spitting in their faces. What’s wrong with Ahmed, Elias, Fatma and Tuhfah?”
Nasim Fares says the two were at a graduation ceremony for their son who finished a medic’s course in the army. They showed pictures of one of their grandsons, 4 months old, saluting (with his mother’s help) in front of the parade grounds while the Israeli anthem was being played.
“I feel proud,” she said. “Don’t steal the feeling of belonging to the country from us. I’m an Israeli Druze in every way; so are my children and grandchildren. This isn’t just the country of the Jews.”
Hurfeish is filled with soldiers and officers, including those in the reserves. At the entrance to the town, alongside the road that leads to the cemetery, is a huge sign with pictures of Kamil Shanan, from Hurfeish, and Hael Sathawi, from Maghar. These are the two Druze police officers who were killed last year by three Israeli Arabs just outside the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem.
For F., a resident of Hurfeish who serves in the security forces, the nation-state law is less worrying than the condition of the town. “We pay a heavy price but we love it,” he said. “There isn’t a house here without an Israeli flag.”
Last year was the first year since 1995 that a little bit of land was freed up for construction. “The community is suffocating, like all the Druze communities,” he said. “They don’t even fix the road.”
Still, he supports the new law. “The Arabs are multiplying too much,” he said. “Finally they’re starting to take control with the law over the Arabs in the south with the polygamy.”
His friend, Osama al-Kadi, said: “We linked our fate with the fate of the Jewish people even before the founding of the state and the imposing of the compulsory draft law in 1956. We’re loyal citizens of the country, serving in the security forces, working and paying taxes, carrying the burden and fulfilling all our civic obligations.
“So when the Basic Law that defines the national values of the State of Israel makes no mention of the Druze community in Israel, this creates a feeling of disappointment, a lack of respect and discrimination enshrined in law against us.”
‘Why a stab in the back?’
A few kilometers south of Hurfeish is the Druze town of Beit Jann, which in recent years has made headlines for leading the national rankings in high school graduates receiving matriculation certificates. Surprising about this achievement is that Beit Jann is also near the bottom of Israel’s socioeconomic indexes
“They could use us as an example and model instead of pushing us into the corner,” said Ali Azu of Beit Jann, a retiree who once worked for the prison service.
Last week Azu posted a collage on Facebook made out of four pictures: two of Druze army officers and two of Likud MKs Oren Hazan and David Bitan. The text expressed regret that the two officers were the victims and the two Knesset members, who are under police investigation, “are those who decide on the nation-state law.”
“We, the Druze, classify ourselves as before July 18 and after July 18," Azu said. In other words, before the law and after.
Before the law, “we were the spearhead in every field, in education and also in defense. After it, there is embitterment, great
disappointment and uncertainty that require fateful decisions about the continuation of the partnership,” he added.
“Many young people are already thinking about this. If we’re in a low-level caste, that of the untouchables, there’s no reason for us not to follow the same path as [Joint List MK] Ahmad Tibi and support him. At least he respects us.”
Among the group of religious Druze farther up the street, one said: “We didn’t expect from the country we’ve served for 70 years to treat us this way, to be separated. That the Jew is sacred.” He says his parents are originally from Syria; he doesn’t want to return. “But why a stab in the back?”
Another man said: “In Arabic there’s a saying: Give a balloon more and more air and in the end it will explode.”
In the community of Kisra Samia in the Upper Galilee, people are no longer trying to be polite. The anger there, as in other Druze towns and villages, is directed not only at the government and country but also at Communications Minister Ayoub Kara of Likud. Many residents said Kara no longer represents them but were afraid to give their names.
“He shouldn’t try to enter the village,” one said. “He’s not really Druze,” another added.
“This is the height of racism – in previous governments it wouldn’t have happened,” said Mahmoud Shakur from Kisra. One of his sons is serving in the army and another is about to enlist, but army service is no longer to be taken for granted, he added.
“My children are treated worse than the Arabs. I won’t let them enlist. For what? Why contribute to the country?” he said.
“They can study or work for three years, save money and build a home. Like those in Umm al-Fahm," he added, referring to an Arab city. "What, we’re blood brothers when someone dies but now we're second-class?”
Hisham Asad, a young man who became more religious after finishing his military service a few years ago, tried to count how many disabled veterans live in the town.
“When we’re in uniform they treat us well,” he said.” After we’re released we’re dirty Arabs. They forget we protected them.”

Analysis/Mysterious Attack on Saudi Oil Tanker Heats Up U.S.-Iranian Front
عاموس هاريل من الهآررتس:  الهجوم الغامض على ناقلة النفط السعودية يسخّن الجبهة الأميركية الإيرانية
Amos Harel/Haaretz/29 July/18
Washington fears Iranian-led attack on troops in Iraq ■ Israeli politicians say fight to stop Iran in Syria proved successful, but military remains skeptical
An incident on Thursday that generated relatively little media coverage is attracting a great deal of attention among intelligence organizations in the region and from the oil industry. A huge tanker with a shipment of oil from Saudi Arabia bound for Egypt was damaged by a missile attack from the northern Bab el-Mandeb strait in the Red Sea. The Houthi rebels in Yemen, armed and financed by Iran, were responsible for the attack. It happened in the wake of the renewed exchange of threats between the United States and Iran, which could also hurt the oil market.
The tanker, the Arsan, was flying a Saudi flag and transporting some 2 million barrels of oil to Egypt. It was struck by missiles near the port of Hodeida in Yemen where Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have been attacking the Houthis for the past few months. According to the Washington Institute the tankers were hit by a rocket fired from a fast-attack vessel or a ground-to-sea missile fired from Yemen, possibly a C-802, which Iran supplies to the rebels. The Houthis claimed responsibility for the attack and the Saudis announced that they were suspending tanker shipments in the Red Sea until the situation was sorted out and marine traffic was safe again. The Washington Institute researchers wrote that the Red Sea is the third most important shipping lane in the word (the first is Hormuz in the Persian Gulf).
The incident happened in the midst of a typical Twitter duel between U.S. President Donald Trump and the Iranian leadership, during which the Iranians threatened to disrupt international oil shipments if the United States imposes sanctions that hurt the Iranian oil industry. The commander of the Revolutionary Guards Quds Force, Gen. Qasem Soleimani, has accused Saudi Arabia over the past few days of responsibility for the “unsafe” conditions in the Red Sea.
The United States is worried about Soleimani, who directly threated Trump last week, for other reasons as well. There is concern that the Revolutionary Guards might deploy Shi’ite militias, armed and financed by Tehran, to strike U.S. troops in Iraq. In the beginning of this decade, the United States accused Iran of a similar wave of attacks against it in Iraq. This is one of the reasons for the hostility that U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis harbors against the Iranians. Mattis was commander of the U.S. Army’s CENTCOM at the time, and he accused Iran of killing his troops in Iraq.
Endgame in Syrian Golan
The Israeli conflict with the Iranians focuses mainly on events in Syria, in light of the Assad regime’s successes in the civil war. The raising of the Syrian flag at the Quneitra crossing on the Golan Heights on Thursday shows that Assad’s assault to renew control over the Syrian Golan Heights is nearing an end. Meanwhile, heavy bombardments by the Syrian army and the Russian air force continue on the last positions held by ISIS-backed rebels in the southwestern corner of the Syrian Golan. Israel is preparing for the full return of the UN observer force, UNDOF, on the Golan when the situation stabilizes on the Syrian side.
Politicians in Israel were optimistic over the weekend about the possibility that the main understandings with Russia will be implemented, as reached by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Russian foreign minister and army chief of staff last week: the reinstatement of the 1974 Separation of Forces Agreement and a Russian commitment to keep the Iranians and the Shi’ite militias some 100 kilometers from the boundary with the Israeli Golan.
The Israeli cabinet believes Israel has so far been very successful in its fight to stop the Iranians in Syria. Iranian pressure on Syrian President Bashar Assad to allow them to establish an airport and a seaport under their control was apparently to no avail. An Iranian plan to deploy a large Shi’ite militia in Syria, with tens of thousands of fighters, has been delayed after one of the intended militia bases was bombarded. Meanwhile, in Lebanon, the Hariri government is working to stop the construction of assembly lines for the production of precision rockets, following American pressure based presumably on precise intelligence.
Iran persists in its efforts in Syria to deploy anti-aircraft systems, medium-range ground-to-ground missiles and unmanned aircraft quite some distance from the border. Israel will continue to pressure Russia over these weapons, in the hope that it will stop the Iranians from gaining a foothold in Syria. Early June saw the failure of a move initiated by Russia itself to keep Hezbollah away from the border between Syria and Lebanon, so as to reduce weapons-smuggling from Syria to Lebanon. The arrival of Russian forces at the border encountered resistance from Hezbollah and the Russians evacuated their troops.
Israel’s immediate demand from Russia involves the presence of Iran and the militias within 100 kilometers of the Israeli Golan boundary. Moscow has promised to work to remove the Iranians when the Syrian Golan is fully retaken. The issue also came up in the Trump-Putin meeting in Helsinki two weeks ago.
Compared to the optimism of Israeli politicians on this matter, the IDF is more skeptical, and is worried that over time, the Iranians will break the agreement and the Russians will not enforce it.

Druze doctor threatens hunger strike over Nationality Law
تقرير من يديعوت أحرونوت: طبيب درزي في إسرائيل يهدد بأضراب عن الطعام أحتجاجاً على قانون يهودية دولة إسرائيل

Hassan Shaalan and Moran Azulay/Ynetnews/July 29/18
As hundreds of people demonstrate in Tel Aviv as part of the Druze community protest against the law, prominent community doctor asks ‘Have I served for 32 years for my country for nothing?’ A Druze doctor told a crowd of hundreds of demonstrators on Satruday night that the community will march on Jerusalem, launch a hunger strike and block roads if the recently-passed Nationality Law is not nullfied.
Hundreds of people demonstrated in Tel Aviv’s Habima Square as part of the Druze community’s protest against the controversial law which has been the subject of significant scrutiny. Dr. Sami Awad, a 54-year-old Druze father of three and a human resources expert from Daliat al-Carmel, delivered a speech at the protest, telling the crowds: “We will go up to Jerusalem, start a hunger strike, and block roads if the law stands; we demand equality for all minority groups.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet on Sunday with the heads of the coalition factions in an effort to mend the rift between the Druze community and the government surrounding the law. At 4pm, a meeting will be held with heads of local authorities from the Druze community, and immediately after that, the various parties will begin formulating the solution “I was discharged from the army about four years ago after a 32 years’ service, since 1982,” Dr. Awad the angered demonstrators. “I give lectures to many organizations, colleges, and universities, in Israel and abroad. I’m an organizational consultant, but I also prepare young Druze for their IDF service,” he explained.
“I want to tell you that the army is the only place where I felt equal, but not completely equal. I served with my Jewish friends, and I would go back home to a house without a construction permit, without legal electricity connections, to a neighborhood without Infrastructure and without basic services,” he continued. “When I travel to the center of the country, I see new neighborhoods in Yokneam and cities like Harash and Modi’in. And in my town, they are still dealing with water and electricity connection problems, at best. When I travel abroad, my name is marked and I am constantly questioned until I take out my ID card,” he added as he listed examples of discrimination he says he has suffered. “The education I received and absorbed at home, like the other young Druze in this country, focused on the importance of donating, giving back, and the love of the homeland,” Dr. Awad said. “In the 1950s, my father served as a fighter in the IDF, my grandfather also served. Despite all this, the feelings were difficult today. To constantly witness discrimination, feel discrimination, feel different, and hurt over the injustices … Despite all this, I was filled with pride and I spent many years in the military because I felt that it was mine, that Israel is my country,” he added.Druze combat fighters
The bond between Jews and the Druze community is natural, the doctor told his listeners, drawing parallels between his community’s minority status and that of Jews around the world. “The existence of the state of Israel was never guaranteed despite the Holocaust that accelerated the country’s establishment.” “What happens now? Now that the nationality bill passed, emotions are very high. Why? The law permits discrimination, without anyone’s discretion. The law simply says: discriminate between a Jew and a non-Jew. The law is terrible not because of what it states, but because of what it lacks,” Dr. Awad argued. “The law doesn’t mention equality and there is no word about other minorities, only Jews. Article 1c, the most damaging one, states that only Jews have the right to national self-determination in the State of Israel. What does this mean? That means I cannot define myself, I have no definition. I, who served 32 years in the IDF, do not know how to define myself at all,” he bemoaned. “Am I a mercenary? A temporary guest here? Passerby? Have I served for 32 years for my country for nothing?,” he asked, describing the feeling that has ensued as a result of the law as “dreadful.” “How can I persuade young Druze to enlist in the army now, to contribute to this country that this law states is not mine? How will I look at my son, and in eight years time, when it his time to enlist, explain to him that after 32 years in the army I do not want him to enlist because it’s not ours anymore? What will happen next? What will happen in 10-20 years?”The protest against the Nationality Law in Tel Aviv .
Dr. Awad also asked what would be of the soldiers currently serving in the IDF, how they will look upon the flag, “when, according to the definition of this superfluous and divisive law, they are simply mercenaries.”The doctor also shared personal losses which he had suffered while serving in the army. “I lost soldiers in the battlefield and accompanied bereaved families for years, I felt their pain … What will happen in this new reality, I do not know, the Druze street is outraged today, there is no point in doing anything if I do not have my full rights as an equal citizen,” he said. The speaker further highlighted the Druze contribution to the military and the country. “It’s true that we are only 125,000 people, but we have a lot of rights in this country: There are 142,000 Druze in Israel, two generals in the IDF, 18 brigadier generals; one of the developers of the Iron Dome is a senior Druze officer from a village in the north,” he explained. Officers, engineers in various security forces, and ambassador were among the prominent professions to which he said the Druze community had contributed. Highlighting that 427 Druze people had perished in Israeli wars, Dr. Awad hailed their presence in the medical, academic and scientific fields.Netanyahu meets with Druze leaders
Turning to the prime minister, Dr. Awad said he had one small message, reminding him that he was only alive due to actions carried out by a Druze.”I want to remind him that 50 years ago, when he was commander of the Sayeret Matkal commando unit on Mount Hermon, he was caught in a snowstorm. If he had stayed there, he and his entire team would not be with us today. The person who came to his aid is one of the north’s residents, Salim Shufi, a young Druze who rescued him and his entire crew. How can you not remember Salim while approving this new and appalling law?” he asked. “We built this country together with the Jews, we are not against the state, under any circumstances … We are in favor of equality for all residents regardless of religion … The Declaration of Independence is the foundation, and it is our Nationality Law.”‘Druze soldiers feel like mercenaries in the IDF’
Last Wednesday Brig. Gen. (Res.) Amal As’ad, former commander of the Coordination and Liaison Administration, also expressed his anger saying, “After we built this home together with Jews, the Nationality Law excludes the Druze community from that home and put it outside the fence. “We encourage the fact that Israel is a Jewish state even prior to its establishment and we will continue doing so with or without the law,” As’ad elaborated. “But, for some reason the Druze community was left behind. I’ve served in the IDF for this country for 26 years and I have the right to demand for it to mine exactly as it is yours,” he went on to say.
“We intend to take further measures, without making any reckless moves. We are thinking together about our next steps to amend the law,” the former commander of the coordination and liaison administration explained. “Most people—including ministers, are starting to understand that this law is bad for the state, bad for the Jewish citizens, and bad for other minorities,” he stated. According to As’ad, there are Knesset members, lawyers, heads of local authorities and officers who petitioned the High Court on the matter. “I am proud to be a member of the Druze community … The Nationality Law has hurt us, we do not want separate laws … We are proud of the flag, the national symbols, and the Declaration of Independence. The state should be a state for its entire people—Jewish and non-Jewish citizens living there,” he insisted.
Shaher Mahameed, a Haifa-based MDA paramedic, also shared his feelings regarding the controversial law. “I have been working in this field for more than 20 years, treating Jews and Arabs without any difference. I saved the lives of Jews many times. After they recovered, they even gave me certificates of appreciation. Unfortunately, the government approved a racist law that discriminates between Arabs and Jews. Instead of respecting us, Israel continues to disparage us. “
‘The law is racist, we lost our faith in the country’
Angered by the law, a Bedouin soldier said he was ashamed of the government which he said had proved it was racist.Why should I serve in a country that spits in our faces? I prefer not to remain in the army for another minute if this law stands. The government is shooting itself in the foot,” he complained.
No agreements have been made regarding changes to the Nationality Law, according to the Prime Minister’s Office. Netanyahu and Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, who led the legislation process, have stated their opposition to changing the newly passed law. Instead, 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. lternatively, a complementary law will be added to the Nationality Law to establish the Druze community’s status in the country. The secondary law will be formulated by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit and a legal advisor from the Druze community.Netanyahu meets with MKs and ministers to discuss the Druze community
Netanyahu meets with MKs and ministers to discuss the Druze community
In addition, the government will consider promoting legislation that gives preference to Druze who serve or served in the IDF.inister of Finance Moshe Kahlon will work on a solution to a range of issues raised by senior members of the Druze community, with concerns mainly regarding infrastructure in Druze villages, setting a unique program for the employment of Druze women, and more.,7340,L-5318819,00.html

Why Trump Attacks His Allies
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Ashawq Al Awsat/July 29/18
In the 17th Century, international relations foundations were laid in what was called the Peace of Westphalia treaties, following sectarian wars and countries fighting in Europe. The treaties ended conflicts, some of which lasted 30 years and killed eight million people.
There were three principles in the treaties: Faith in the sovereignty of the state, non-interference in its affairs, and that all states are equal in the international perspective. Upon this, the concept of international relations in the modern world was built, and even though it did not always succeed in stopping conflicts, it remained a reference. One of the most prominent advocates for the return of these principles to our region is the Arab League’s Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit, believing that, if respected, they can end continuing conflicts stemming from regional and foreign interferences.
From a previous article of mine about American President Donald Trump administration’s policies, we can get a relatively clearer view of these principles.
President Trump has criticized more than once what he considers the influence of international organizations, including the United Nations and its agencies. He opposes international agreements like the World Trade Organization Agreement, considering them as interfering and contradicting to his country’s policies. This is why he has withdrawn from UNESCO, and most of his country’s commitments to the Paris Climate Agreement, reduced commitment to the refugee agency and withdrawn from the UN Human Rights Council.
More importantly, he threatened to reassess his country’s commitments towards the very strategic NATO. Washington’s share in NATO’s budget is massive - $650 billion - which is more than double what all other 27 member-countries pay altogether! Trump is asking NATO for more power, and from the rest of the members more financial commitment, and military participation in fighting, including Germany and Japan.
With the same logic, he almost destroys NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Organization, which is almost obliterated, rejecting many of the commitments to it. So we have to understand the current administration through its public behavior when we talk about its statements as well as its policy in the Gulf and the Middle East in general. He treats the Gulf states as his closest neighbors [Canada and Mexico] and like his most important allies [Germany]. He does not accept Turkey and Qatar to buy the Russian S-400 missile system because he sees it giving Moscow political influence and funding its military-technical capabilities. Trump’s administration is also different from the former one and the Democratic Party in general, especially when it comes to mixing politics with human rights. As I mentioned in my previous article on Trump, there are five pillars of his government’s policy, including strengthening his country’s economic power and confronting its competitors. He considers that Europeans live on the benefits of post-World War II and he challenges them to embrace full free trade. He accuses the Chinese of exploiting his country’s flexible investment systems to transfer knowledge, steal advanced technology to their country and threaten America’s standing.
Of course, there are many people who do not agree with Trump, but his actions and his direct language express the positions of the party, specifically the Right. Those who disagree with him believe that the United States, as a superpower, has a greater political and moral responsibility for managing the world, and that the 400-year-old Westphalia principles are no longer valid with dramatic changes due to the progress in technology and the geopolitical changes. The migration explosion due to civil wars, hunger, and economic mismanagement may justify military intervention through NATO, or economically through the World Bank. Trump, as president, does not necessarily reflect his personal vision of the world around him, as much as the views of the party that brought him to the White House. Before that, he was known as an international investor, dealing with immigrants and with foreign investors, New Yorkers and merchants. America ’s foreign policy under Trump does not see the same value for the organizations and alliances built after World War II. As for Iran, it deals with it as a threat to its own interests. Washington wants Tehran to know its limits in dealing with a superpower, but expects its European allies and Arabs to take responsibility for it.