Detailed Lebanese & Lebanese Related LCCC English New Bulletin For October 07/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations
I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled
Luke 12,49-53: "‘I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on, five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.’

نشرات اخبار عربية وانكليزية مطولة ومفصلة يومية على موقعنا الألكتروني على الرابط التالي

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Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on October 06-07/18
How the Rafic Hariri International Airport describes Lebanon/Nadim Koteich/Al Arabiya/October 06/18
Trump nominee Kavanaugh sworn in as Supreme Court justice after Senate vote/Reuters/October 07/18
Iran sanctions leave global powers divided/Zaid M. Belbagi/Arab News/October 06/18
Can Iraq’s new PM deliver reforms and fight corruption/Hussain Abdul-Hussain/Arab News/October 06/18
Analysis/How Assad Helped Create ISIS to Win in Syria and Got Away With the Crime of the Century/Alexander Griffing/Haaretz/October 06/18
The influential class in Iraq does not get the message/Adnan Hussein/Al Arabiya/October 06/18
Putin’s visit and the S-400 deal will test India-US relations/C. Uday Bhaskar/Al Arabiya/October 06/18
Indian Muslim girl tied to tree, flogged ‘for falling in love with Hindu boy/Manoj Chaurasia/Al Arabiya/October 06/18

Titles For The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on October 06-07/18
Hariri, HRM Discuss Syrian Refugees, Granting Lebanese Women Right to Pass Nationality to Children
Report: Hizbullah Affirms ‘Good’ Ties with Bassil
Bassil: FPM Seeking National Unity Govt., One Minister to Every Five MPs is a Fair Criteria
Report: Hizbullah Rebuffs US Aid Threats, Says Parties in Agreement on Portfolios
Bassil Shuffles Ministerial Papers Day After Hariri Inspired Positive Climate
General Security Chief Ushers in the Beginning of End of Refugee Crisis
Former President Amine Gemayel Says Political Forces Must Overcome Selfishness to End Stalemate
Kataeb leader Samy Gemayel Demands Top Officials to End Government Formation 'Farce'
How the Rafic Hariri International Airport describes Lebanon

Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on October 06-07/18
Trump nominee Kavanaugh sworn in as Supreme Court justice after Senate vote
‘I love working with’ Trump, relationship with US unchanged: Saudi crown princeUS considers sanction waivers on countries reducing imports of Iranian oil
Pompeo Eyes Progress over Trump-Kim Summit on Asia Trip
Israel to Remove UN Palestinian Agency from Jerusalem
Supporters of Missing Saudi Journalist Rally for His 'Release'
Syrian militants start to withdraw heavy weapons from Idlib buffer zone
In Syria's Sweida, Young Men Take Up Arms to Defend Villages
Syria Rebels, Jihadists Clash near Planned Idlib Buffer
Russian Source: Moscow to Open 'Communication Channels' Between Tehran, Tel Aviv
Israel Threatens Gaza with War
Iraqi Blocs Complicate Abdul-Mahdi's Mission With Ministerial Candidates
New Iraqi President Congratulates Nadia Murad on Nobel Peace Prize
Erdogan: Turkey Won’t Leave Syria Until its People Hold Elections
Era of Bank Secrecy Ends as Swiss Start Sharing Account Data
Iran Guard Warns Netanyahu Will Be 'Forced into the Sea'
The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on October 06-07/18
Hariri, HRM Discuss Syrian Refugees, Granting Lebanese Women Right to Pass Nationality to Children
Naharnet/October 06/18/Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri held a meeting at the Center House on Friday with a delegation from Human Rights Watch headed by its Executive Director Kenneth Roth, in the presence of MP Roula Tabsh. After the meeting, Roth said: “Human Rights Watch just had a very productive meeting with the Prime Minister. We focused on four areas. We discussed the next steps in the waste management crisis and how we can make sure that there is a real community consensus about what’s required. We spoke about the importance of really taking the opportunity created by the National Human Rights Institute to address the problem of torture and make sure that the moves to stop torture end up attacking torture in reality. We discussed the problem of Lebanese women married to non-Lebanese men being unable to confer nationality to their family. We understand that there has been long-standing fears that granting this right and ending this discrimination against women would somehow change the demographic balance of Lebanon. In fact, that is a complete exaggeration from the statistics that everybody knows regarding how small a problem it is. It is a big problem for these women and their children. We discussed some practical ways forward, perhaps even a passport that has some limited rights but at least gives these children the ability to travel and the security of knowing they are Lebanese in their home country. Finally, we talked about the issue of Syrian refugees. We all agree that it is premature to send anybody back to Syria where Assad’s prisons remain filled, where people are being tortured and executed. The real question is, while the refugees are in Lebanon, how do we make sure that they are not so miserable that they are effectively forced back.” He added: “The biggest problem has been the difficulty of people paying the 200 dollars per six months fee to be registered. While the government has issued a waiver of that fee in certain cases, there are some big exceptions, which large numbers, probably half the refugees, are falling through. They are afraid to travel, they have difficulty sending their kids to school and accessing healthcare. That is not in anybody’s interest. It’s not in Lebanon’s interest to have an uneducated group of children, and not to know where these people are because they are not registered.”
He concluded: “We discussed what it would take to make sure that this waiver of 200 dollars fee applies across the board, so everybody has the basic necessities of life while they are in Lebanon, while they wait for things to improve in Syria.”

Report: Hizbullah Affirms ‘Good’ Ties with Bassil
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/October 06/18/Hizbullah party said its chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah is capable of “responding to Israel on the right time and place,” noting that Minister Jebran Bassil has carried out his duty as foreign minister when he denied the presence of ‘missile sites’ alleged by Israel, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Saturday. “This is the party’s policy,” said Hizbullah sources, “we don’t deny (Israeli) claims nor do we affirm. Minister Jebran Bassil took action out of his duty as foreign minister by denying the presence of missile sites. Denying the Israeli irrational claims in front of the international public opinion concerns the Lebanese state and foreign ministry,” they said. Regarding the relations between Hizbullah and Bassil, the sources stated: “There is direct contact, we don’t need to exchange messages. Bassil and Nasrallah hold regular meetings.” During his address before the U.N. General Assembly, Netanyahu claimed that Hizbullah has positioned three missile sites near Beirut's Rafik Hariri International Airport. He said the sites include the football stadium of the Hizbullah-affiliated al-Ahed club, another site near the airport and the Ouzai fishermen's harbor. In response, Bassil led dozens of ambassadors and journalists to locations near Beirut's international airport, including a golf course and a soccer stadium, seeking to dispel Israeli allegations. “We have not for once asked (President Michel) Aoun or Bassil to take some position. That’s why we turn a blind eye when we disagree over simple issues, because Aoun and Bassil make strategic decisions much importance than trivial issues,” they concluded.

Bassil: FPM Seeking National Unity Govt., One Minister to Every Five MPs is a Fair Criteria

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/October 06/18/Caretaker Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil said on Friday that forming a national unity government is the “optimal solution that is worth sacrificing but not to the extent of extortion or failing the presidential term.” In a press interview, Bassil stressed to reporters that the Free Patriotic Movement is not to blame for the Cabinet formation delay, saying: “Everything I say today aims to expedite the formation of the Cabinet.”On the conflict over government quotas, Bassil said: “A fair distribution of portfolios is to allocate one minster to every five parliamentarians of the same political bloc, because if we adopt the criteria of four ministers, we would end up with 38 ministers."“We don’t interfere in the formation process. We have not made any initiative or contact in that regard. I challenge those who say that I have taken the initiative to form a government, as it is the task of the Premier-designate. But we demand political justice in the formation," he said. On the Druze representation obstacle, Bassil said: “We have not created a (separate) bloc for (Druze) MP Talal Arslan. We have waged the elections together (as Strong Lebanon bloc) which created a new political partnership that can’t be ignored.”On the conflict over a so-called sovereign portfolio and the Deputy PM post, he said: “Targeting the President's share is a serious strategic matter. We are giving up everything in terms of the LF obstacle contrary to what some are circulating. “The LF is entitled to three ministers. The number of State portfolios dedicated to Christians is well known, so why make them all part of our share? We want a full-fledged Maarab agreement," Bassil said, noting that naming the Deputy Prime Minister is the President's right as “per custom.”

Report: Hizbullah Rebuffs US Aid Threats, Says Parties in Agreement on Portfolios
Naharnet/October 06/18/Hizbullah has reportedly stressed consensus among Lebanese leaders to allocate the health ministry for the party, brushing off all US threats. Hizbullah sources told al-Joumhouria daily that an agreement was reached between the party, Speaker Nabih Berri, PM-designate Saad Hariri and the President to assign a Hizbullah minister for the health ministry. “When local forces are in agreement they care less about any foreign warnings,” said the sources. The United States has reportedly threatened to cut any US aid to ministries run by Hizbullah which the US considers a “terrorist organization.” Regarding the distribution of other portfolios, they said that “Berri (leader of AMAL Movement) and Hariri have agreed to allocate the finance ministry for AMAL and the health for Hizbullah. We will not disagree with Berri on other portfolios,” they said.

Bassil Shuffles Ministerial Papers Day After Hariri Inspired Positive Climate
Beirut - Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 6 October, 2018/Lebanon’s caretaker Foreign Minister and head of the Free Patriotic Movement Gebran Bassil placed on Friday a new criterion for the government formation by granting each parliamentary bloc one minister for every five deputies won during the last May 12 elections. “The fair criterion would be a minister for every five deputies, because if we adopt the criteria of four ministers, we would end up with 38 ministers,” he said during a press conference. Bassil’s new standard would allow his parliamentary bloc to take six ministers in the new cabinet, in return of only three to his Christian rival, the Lebanese Forces (LF). However, the LF refused the new criterion and said Bassil was not responsible for forming the new cabinet. “The only standard we will follow is the popular criterion which allows us to receive one third of Christian ministers,” the LF said in response to Bassil. The Foreign Minister’s comments came following a positive climate inspired on Thursday evening by Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, who said the government will be formed within a week to 10 days. In an interview with Marcel Ghanem on MTV, Hariri said the new cabinet would be a national accord government that includes the main political parties and protects the country from the challenges. “I am willing to give the Lebanese Forces, the Free Patriotic Movement and all the parties from my own share because what is important is the country, the economy and the Lebanese citizen,” Hariri said. But, Bassil’s comments on Friday reshuffled papers and drove former MP Fadi Karam, the Secretary of the LF’s Strong Republic Parliamentary bloc, to write on his twitter account, “We are shifting from one maneuver to another, and from one failure to another.” Without naming Bassil, he said, “His only concern is to control all the decisions to pass certain files... And the only obstacle standing in the way is the Lebanese Forces. Yes, that’s how officials wager on obstruction.”

General Security Chief Ushers in the Beginning of End of Refugee Crisis 06/2018/General Security chief Abbas Ibrahim said that the periodic departures of batches of Syrian refugees herald the beginning of the end of the crisis that has been plaguing Lebanon over the past few years, rejecting claims that the adopted return mechanism is slow paced. Asked by LBCI about the refugees who are being denied access to Syria, Ibrahim hoped that a general amnesty law, allowing all the Syrians to return to their homeland, would be issued soon. Ibrahim revealed that he had made a secret visit to Jordan recently to discuss the reopening of the Nassib border crossing which helps generate annual revenues of $1 billion for Lebanon, adding that talks are ongoing with the Syrian authorities regarding this issue. "This matter requires some time to be addressed,” Ibrahim stated.

Former President Amine Gemayel Says Political Forces Must Overcome Selfishness to End Stalemate 06/2018/Former President Amine Gemayel on Friday warned that the situation in the country cannot remain the same amid the blind selfishness that is controlling the political factions that are haggling over ministerial shares, shoring up the Kataeb leader Samy Gemayel's call to form a technocrat government. "Both the president and the prime minister-designate have wide popular bases and large parliamentary blocs which enable them to provide the needed support to form any type of government. Therefore, they must seize this proposal [to form a technocrat government] and seek to establish a rescue Cabinet that would win the people's confidence," he told Al-Markazia news agency. Gemayel criticized political forces for being drifted along by their petty interests, saying that the situation in the country would start getting better once all of them relinquish their self-seeking behavior. Asked about President Michel Aoun's role in this case, Gemayel voiced regret that the latter has been restrained by many constraints since his election. The ex-president expressed deep concern over the growing suppression of the freedom of expression in Lebanon, deeming the forcible cancellation of the Saydet Al-Jabal meeting at the Bristol Hotel as an act reminiscent of the Syrian tutelage era.

Kataeb leader Samy Gemayel Demands Top Officials to End Government Formation 'Farce' 06/2018/Kataeb leader Samy Gemayel on Saturday called on President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister-Designate Saad Hariri to stop the "farce" that has been hindering the Cabinet formation process, renewing his call for a technocrat government that would include non-partisan figures. "People are suffering and the country is drowning, while they are haggling over ministerial shares," Gemayel wrote on Twitter."Our lives and future now depend on selfishness and interests that have nothing to do with the welfare of Lebanon and its citizens."
How the Rafic Hariri International Airport describes Lebanon
Nadim Koteich/Al Arabiya/October 06/18
In September, an international scandal related the Rafic Hariri International Airport in Beirut broke out and another one followed later.
At the beginning of September, US television channel Fox News reported that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards had recently used the airport to smuggle weapons (and definitely money) to Hezbollah. The report by identified two flights by Fares Air Qashem Company on the Tehran-Damascus-Beirut-Doha route as being behind this smuggling operation.
This company is considered as one of Iran's phony civilian airlines which is often used by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and the Quds Force to smuggle weapons.
The report identified the locations and timelines of Iranian flights as well as their routes which it described as "unusual" when compared to the routes taken by other airlines that travel to Lebanon. The General Directorate of Civil Aviation corroborated Fox News reports about the flights, but denied that they were used for smuggling weapons, claiming that the flights actually flew cattle to Qatar.
Claims and denials
In the last week of September, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the UN General Assembly that Israel had evidence that Iran was helping Hezbollah develop its missiles and showed pictures that he said were of three Hezbollah weapon warehouses containing 1,000 rockets.
He claimed that “the location is in the vicinity of Al Ouzai area (southern entrance of Beirut) near the airport”. After Netanyahu's statement and within the context of a systematic and organized campaign, the Israeli army posted on its official Twitter account five photos and a 76-seconds video of sites it said to be Hezbollah's missile project near Beirut airport.
We cannot be sure about the veracity of the Israeli claims, nor can we trust Hezbollah’s denial of these allegations. We cannot also trust the denial of the Lebanese official authorities which have to coexist with various forms of weaponry and money smuggling to Hezbollah which have built an arsenal over several years – an arsenal that’s more powerful than that of a traditional army – and whose practices are in violation of international resolutions and safety nets in this regard.
The Rafic Hariri International Airport has become important for Hezbollah in recent years, after smuggling from the sea has become very difficult because of international monitoring of the territorial security of Lebanese waters, as per UN Resolution 1701 after the July 2006 war.
The Rafic Hariri International Airport has become important for Hezbollah in recent years, after smuggling from the sea has become very difficult because of international monitoring of the territorial security of Lebanese waters, as per UN Resolution 1701 after the July 2006 war
As for the land borders, Hezbollah’s pressure has succeeded in easing the UN resolution 1680 restrictions, which stipulated marking the borders with Syria and controlling them. What greatly managed them is in fact the Israeli warplanes which made it their task to prevent the smuggling of weapons between Syria and Lebanon to the extent of bombing an Iranian plane moments after it landed at the Damascus International Airport.
The case related to the Rafic Hariri International Airport has become the centerpiece of the recent acrimony between Israel and Hezbollah, which is a facility that was repeatedly bombarded by Israel. Both sides have used the airport to assert their authority and domination over the country. In fact, a portrait of Bashar al-Assad hung alongside the photo of the Lebanese president during the period of the Syrian military presence in Lebanon.
An icon of irony
One of the historical paradoxes is that the first manifestation of Israeli hostilities against Lebanon was in the airport on December 28, 1968, when a group of commandos landed there and blew up 13 civilian planes, in response to an earlier hijacking of El Al plane at the Athens airport by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which was active in Lebanon.
According to Waddah Sharara, the goal was to raise the stakes because Lebanon played host to the Palestinian revolution, which ironically proved to be too high a cost for Lebanon over the decades.
The other irony in history relates to the earliest incident associated with Iran’s armed wing, we now know as Hezbollah, which also took place at this airport, when an American plane (TWA Flight 847) from Rome to Athens was hijacked and diverted from its course to the Beirut airport and this began a phase in which the airport has been under the control of various armed militias since February 1984.
It was then that the name of Hezbollah military commander Imad Mughniyah came to the surface. The CIA accused him of hijacking the plane and killing an American passenger on board and then dumping his body on the tarmac of the Beirut airport.
Plot thickens again
It is as if the circle of confrontation has taken a dramatic turn and concluded after 40 years, just like the plot of a well-scripted film, and went back to the 1968 incident and to the policy of raising the stakes on Lebanon for hosting Hezbollah and its Iranian revolution instead of the Palestinian factions and their revolution. When the late Rafic Hariri launched the project to revive the airport in 1994, the airport proved to be a symbol for the idea of Lebanon's resurrection from war, an insignia of modernity which Hariri attracted us to, similar to Turkish Prime Minister Tansu Çillerin who had invested heavily in infrastructure development, particularly the Istanbul airport. Today, scandals are bedeviling the airport again. Another issue is passenger congestion, which is a sign that development plans are not being carried out to meet the volume of traffic. Things then worsened when a semi-clash happened between two official security apparatuses in the airport. It’s as if we are regressing back to 1984 and 1985. It seems that this airport describes us and sums up our situation.

The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on October 06-07/18
Trump nominee Kavanaugh sworn in as Supreme Court justice after Senate vote
Reuters/October 07/18
Brett Kavanaugh was sworn in as US Supreme Court justice on Saturday, the court said, after a deeply divided US Senate confirmed him to the court and Republicans dismissed accusations of sexual misconduct against the conservative judge.
The Senate confirmed Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, as Republicans dismissed sexual assault accusations against the conservative judge and delivered a major victory to President Donald Trump. By a vote of 50-48, the Senate gave a lifetime job to Kavanaugh, 53, after weeks of fierce debate over sexual violence, privilege and alcohol abuse that convulsed the nation just weeks before congressional elections on November 6.
The Senate vote takes the highest US court down a more conservative path for perhaps a generation and is a bitter blow to Democrats already chafing at Republican control of the White House and both chambers of the US Congress.
Adding to the drama, women protesters in the Senate gallery shouting, “Shame on you,” briefly interrupted the start of the final confirmation vote on Saturday afternoon.
Kavanaugh’s nomination became an intense personal and political drama when university professor Christine Blasey Ford accused him of sexually assaulting her when they were high school students in a wealthy suburb of Washington in 1982.
Two other women accused him in the media of sexual misconduct in the 1980s.
Kavanaugh fought back hard, denying the accusations in angry and tearful testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee that was viewed live on television by around 20 million people.
Trump stood by Kavanaugh, a federal appeals court judge with a history of advancing Republican causes, and this week mocked Ford’s account of what she says was a drunken attack on her by Kavanaugh when they were teenagers.
‘Vote them out!’
Hundreds of protesters against Kavanaugh had gathered on Saturday on the grounds of the Capitol and at the Supreme Court. They chanted, “Vote them out! Vote them out!” and carried signs including, “I am a survivor, not a troublemaker!”
A townhouse near the Washington residence of Republican Senator Susan Collins, whose backing for Kavanaugh helped get him over the line on Saturday, flew the flag of her home state Maine upside down in protest.
Trump, seeking a legacy as the president who put a strongly conservative stamp on the court, said on Saturday before the vote that Kavanaugh would do “great, great” job there.
His confirmation will allow Trump to hit the campaign trail ahead of the elections saying that he has kept his 2016 promise to mold a more conservative American judiciary.
Democrats said Kavanaugh’s partisan defense of himself, in which he said he was victim of a “political hit,” was enough itself to disqualify him from the court.
Repeatedly during the Senate debate, Republicans accused Democrats of staging a “smear” campaign against Kavanaugh to prevent a conservative becoming a Supreme Court justice.
The accusations against Kavanaugh energized the #MeToo social media movement that emerged after high-profile accusations of sexual assault and harassment by men in politics, the media and the entertainment industry.
Kavanaugh is expected to be sworn in quickly and will join four liberal justices and four other conservatives as the court, which is expected soon to hear controversial disputes involving abortion, immigration, gay rights and voting rights.
The dispute over Kavanaugh has added fuel to campaigning for the midterm elections in November when Democrats will try to take control of Congress from the Republicans.
Several polls show that Republican enthusiasm about voting, which had lagged behind, jumped after the Kavanaugh hearing last week.
But Democrats hope women angered at the Kavanaugh accusations will turn out in large numbers to vote out Republicans.
The White House has said he will swiftly be sworn in.
Kavanaugh to be sworn in on Saturday
Brett Kavanaugh will be sworn in as a justice to US Supreme Court on Saturday - hours after he was confirmed by the Senate, the court announced in a statement.
Chief Justice John Roberts will administer the constitutional oath and retired Justice Anthony Kennedy, who Kavanaugh is replacing, will administer the judicial oath in a private ceremony.
Trump: Kavanaugh will do ‘great, great’ job
US President Donald Trump said he was looking forward to a Senate confirmation vote on his Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Saturday and said the conservative judge would do a “great, great” job on the court.
The embattled Kavanaugh was poised to win Senate confirmation later on Saturday, weathering sexual misconduct accusations and criticism of his character and temperament.
Trump spoke to reporters on the White House lawn.
I applaud and congratulate the U.S. Senate for confirming our GREAT NOMINEE, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, to the United States Supreme Court. Later today, I will sign his Commission of Appointment, and he will be officially sworn in. Very exciting!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 6, 2018
President Trump said he is “100 percent” certain that Christine Blasey Ford named the wrong person when she accused Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault in testimony during his Supreme Court nomination hearings.
““This is one of the reasons I chose him is because there is no one with a squeaky clean past like Brett Kavanaugh. He is an outstanding person and I’m very honored to have chosen him,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One while flying to a campaign rally in Kansas.
“We’re very honored that he was able to withstand this horrible, horrible attack by the Democrats.”

‘I love working with’ Trump, relationship with US unchanged: Saudi crown prince
Arab News/October 05/18/JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s crown prince said relations with the US are still strong despite comments by Donald Trump that the Kingdom must pay for American military support. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said: “Actually we will pay nothing for our security.” The Kingdom pays for all its military equipment from the US, he said: “We believe that all the armaments we have from the United States of America are paid for, it’s not free armament.” Since the beginning of Saudi-US relations “we’ve bought everything with money,” the crown prince told a group of Bloomberg reporters on Wednesday. Saudi Arabia changed its military spending strategy after Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, with 60% of spending with the US over a decade, the prince said. “That’s why we’ve created the $400 billion in opportunities, armaments and investment opportunities, and other trade opportunities,” which Prince Mohammed said was a good achievement for both countries. The various deals, which were signed in 2017 when President Trump made Saudi Arabia his first overseas visit, means that “part of these armaments will be manufactured in Saudi Arabia, so it will create jobs in America and Saudi Arabia, good trade, good benefits for both countries and also good economic growth. Plus, it will help our security,” he said. “I love working with him. I really like working with him and we have achieved a lot in the Middle East, especially against extremism, extremist ideologies, terrorism and Daesh,” said the crown prince. President Trump and King Salman launched a global counter terror center in Riyadh during his visit to the country. Prince Mohammed visited Washington in March where the president hailed the links between the two allies. “The relationship is probably the strongest it’s ever been,” Trump said at a joint press conference. “We have huge investments between both countries. We have good improvement in our trade – a lot of achievements, so this is really great,” the prince said on Wednesday. The US-Saudi efforts, along with global partners, have pushed back extremists and terrorists and countered Iran’s “negative moves in the Middle East in a good way,” he told the publication. On the topic of controlling oil prices, the crown prince said the Kingdom has never “decided that this is the right or wrong oil price. The oil price depends on trade – consumer and supplier – and they decide the oil price based on trade and supply and demand. What we are committed in Saudi Arabia is to make sure there is no shortage of supply. So we work with our allies in OPEC and also non-OPEC countries to be sure that we have a sustainable supply of oil and there is no shortage and that there is good demand, that it will not create problems for the consumers and their plans and development,” he said. Prince Mohammed confirmed that Trump did make a request to Saudi Arabia and OPEC to replace whatever may be lost of supply from Iran. “And that happened. Because recently, Iran reduced their exports by 700,000 barrels a day, if I’m not mistaken. And Saudi Arabia and OPEC and non-OPEC countries, they’ve produced 1.5 million barrels a day. So we export as much as 2 barrels for any barrel that disappeared from Iran recently. So we did our job and more. We believe the higher price that we have in the last month, it’s not because of Iran. It’s mostly because of things happening in Canada, and Mexico, Libya, Venezuela and other countries that moved the price a little bit higher. But Iran, definitely no. Because they reduced 700,000 barrels and we’ve exported more than 1.5 million barrels a day,” the crown prince said.
When asked about diplomatic issues with Germany and Canada and how that differed from what Trump said, the prince replied: “It’s totally different. Canada, they gave an order to Saudi Arabia on an internal issue. It’s not an opinion of Canada about Saudi Arabia as much as they are giving an order to a different country. So we believe this is a totally different issue. Trump is speaking to his own people inside the United States of America about an issue.

US considers sanction waivers on countries reducing imports of Iranian oil
Reuters, Washington/Saturday, 6 October 2018/US President Donald Trump’s administration is considering sanction waivers for countries that are reducing their imports of Iranian oil, a US government official said on Friday. The US withdrew from a deal on Iran’s nuclear program in May and will individually impose sanctions on Iran's crude oil consumers on November 4. These sanctions are aimed at forcing Tehran to stop its intervention in Syria and Iraq and end its ballistic missile program. Iran says it has abided by the nuclear deal signed in 2015 with five major powers including the United States. The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the administration was “in the midst of an internal process” of considering exemptions for major cuts. The official said the administration “is ready to work with countries that reduce their imports on a case-by-case basis.”US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in India last month that the administration would consider sanction waivers and that Iranian oil buyers should take a “little bit of time” to stop their trade with Iran. White House National Security Adviser John Bolton said on Thursday that the administration’s goal was that there be no waivers and “exports of Iranian oil and gas and condensates drops to zero.” Bolton added that the administration would not necessarily achieve that.

Pompeo Eyes Progress over Trump-Kim Summit on Asia Trip
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/October 06/18/US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he hoped to accelerate a second summit between Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump as he kicked off an Asian trip Saturday featuring a meeting with North Korea's leader. Pompeo arrived in Tokyo on the first leg of a tour that will take him to Pyongyang for a fourth time as the contours of a possibly historic US-North Korea deal take shape. Speaking on the plane on the way from the United States, Pompeo said his aim was to "develop sufficient trust" between the historic foes to inch towards peace. "Then we are also going to set up the next summit," said Pompeo. However, he played down expectations for a major breakthrough, saying: "I doubt we will get it nailed but begin to develop options for both location and timing for when Chairman Kim will meet with the president again.""Maybe we will get further than that."In June, Trump met Kim in Singapore in the first-ever summit between the countries. No sitting US president has visited North Korea, which according to human rights groups remains one of the most repressive countries on Earth. Since the Singapore summit, which yielded what critics charge was a vague commitment by Kim towards denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, the road towards better ties has been bumpy. Trump scrapped a previously planned trip by his top diplomat to Pyongyang after what he said was insufficient progress towards implementing the terms of the Singapore declaration. But the unorthodox US president has also declared himself "in love" with the strongman in Pyongyang. Pompeo has repeatedly declined to be drawn out publicly on the shape of an eventual agreement. The United States has called for a comprehensive accord and strict enforcement of sanctions on North Korea in the meantime.
Grand bargain
Pompeo kicks off his trip in Tokyo, holding talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Foreign Minister Taro Kono. Japan, which has seen North Korean missiles fly over its territory and been threatened with annihilation, has historically taken a hard line on Pyongyang and stressed the need to maintain pressure on the regime. More recently, however, Abe has said the only way to improve strained ties is a face-to-face meeting with former international pariah Kim. After Tokyo, Pompeo travels to Pyongyang and then on to South Korea, whose dovish president Moon Jae-in has served as a go-between for the two sides. South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha has given a hint of what a grand bargain between the two countries could look like. In an interview with the Washington Post, she said the North could agree to dismantle Yongbyon, its signature nuclear site. In exchange, the United States would declare a formal end to the 1950-53 Korean War -- which concluded with an armistice rather than a full-blown peace treaty -- but North Korea would stop short of delivering an exhaustive list of its nuclear facilities, she said. Pompeo refused to be drawn on the outlines of a deal, saying only that his "mission is to make sure that we understand what each side is truly trying to achieve."After Seoul, Pompeo closes his trip Monday in China, North Korea's political and economic lifeline. The Beijing stop could be tense as it comes days after Vice President Mike Pence delivered a blistering speech accusing China of military aggression, commercial theft, rising human rights violations and electoral intervention against Trump.
Israel to Remove UN Palestinian Agency from Jerusalem
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/October 06/18/The UN agency for Palestinian refugees on Friday expressed concern after Jerusalem's Israeli mayor said he would remove it from the city.
Mayor Nir Barkat announced in a statement Thursday a "detailed plan to remove UNRWA from Jerusalem and replace its services with municipal services".UNRWA said such a move would affect its humanitarian operations and installations in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.
The agency runs schools and health centres particularly in the Shuafat refugee camp where it says 24,000 Palestinians are estimated to live. UNRWA has come under pressure from Israel and the United States. The two countries object to the fact that Palestinians can pass refugee status to their children, and want the number of refugees covered by the agency to be sharply reduced. The US administration ending its funding to UNRWA in August, the latest in a series of controversial moves applauded by the Israeli government but criticised by the Palestinians and the international community. "The US decision has created a rare opportunity to replace UNRWA's services with services of the Jerusalem Municipality," Barkat said. "We are putting an end to the lie of the 'Palestinian refugee problem' and the attempts at creating a false sovereignty within a sovereignty," he added. The issue of Palestinian refugees -- along with the status of Jerusalem -- has long been a major sticking point in peace efforts. More than 750,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled during the 1948 war surrounding Israel's creation. They and their descendants are now classified as refugees who fall under UNRWA's mandate. Palestinian leaders continue to call for at least some of them to be allowed to return to their former homes now inside Israel under any peace deal. Israel says Palestinians must give up the so-called right of return and that allowing descendants of refugees to inherit their status only perpetuates the problem instead of solving it.
Israel also considers all of Jerusalem as its united capital, while the Palestinians see the predominantly Arab eastern area as the capital of their future state. Some five million registered Palestinians refugees are eligible for UNRWA services in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, the blockaded Gaza Strip, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. Barkat said that under his plan all UNRWA schools in east Jerusalem will be closed by the end of the current school year. Health centres will likewise be shut down. The municipality will also lobby Israeli political leaders and press them to exercise their "authority to remove UNRWA (headquarters) from Israel's sovereign territory" in Jerusalem. "In parallel, the city will work to expropriate the area for public purposes," he said. But on Friday UNRWA said it was "determined to continue to carrying out" its services in east Jerusalem and criticised Barkat's plan. "Such messaging challenges the core principles of impartial and independent humanitarian action and does not reflect the robust and structured dialogue and interaction that UNRWA and the State of Israel have traditionally maintained," the agency said.

Supporters of Missing Saudi Journalist Rally for His 'Release'
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/October 06/18/A Saudi columnist remained missing on Friday as supporters rallied outside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul calling for his "release" despite Riyadh's denials that he was being held there. Jamal Khashoggi, a contributor to the Washington Post, has not been seen since he went to the Saudi mission on Tuesday to receive an official document for his marriage. The Turkish-Arab Media Association (TAM) organised a rally in front of the consulate for Khashoggi, a former government adviser who has been critical of some policies of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Riyadh's intervention in the war in Yemen. He has lived in self-imposed exile in the United States since last year to avoid possible arrest. The crown prince told Bloomberg that the journalist was not inside the consulate and said he was ready to allow Turkish authorities to search the building. "We are ready to welcome the Turkish government to go and search our premises," he said, which is Saudi sovereign territory. He added, "we will allow them to enter and search and do whatever they want to do... We have nothing to hide," he said in the interview published on Friday. According to Khashoggi's fiancee, a Turkish woman called Hatice A., he went to the consulate and never re-emerged. Ankara and Riyadh have given contradictory versions of the circumstances of Khashoggi's disappearance, with Turkish officials saying they believed he was still inside the consultate. But Saudi Arabia claimed he had entered and then left the mission on Tuesday. "As journalists we are concerned by the fate of Jamal. We do not know if he is alive or not, and the statements by Saudi Arabia on the subject are far from satisfactory," Turan Kislakci, a friend of Khashoggi and TAM chief, said in a statement to supporters. As Kislakci spoke, supporters held up images of the journalist, with the words "Free Jamal Khashoggi". "We believe that Jamal Khashoggi is the consulate's 'host' and call for his immediate release, or to tell us where he is," Kislakci added.
'Petrifying signal
Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International's Middle East research director, urged Riyadh to "immediately disclose the evidence supporting their claim" that he left the consulate, "otherwise their claims are utterly baseless". Yemeni activist and 2011 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Tawakkol Karman, hit out at the Saudi authorities and told AFP that she believed Khashoggi "was kidnapped in this gangster's den that is supposed to be a consulate". "What we want is Jamal Khashoggi's release. He entered the building of the consulate, he has to come out of there safe and sound. And the Turkish government must assume its role and deal with the case of Jamal Khashoggi because Turkish sovereignty has been violated," she added. Human Rights Watch called on Ankara to "deepen their investigation" into the journalist's whereabouts, saying his possible detention could "constitute an enforced disappearance" in a statement late Thursday. "If Saudi authorities surreptitiously detained Khashoggi it would be yet another escalation of Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman's reign of repression against peaceful dissidents and critics," Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at HRW, said.
Amnesty's Maalouf said the incident "sends a petrifying signal" to the kingdom's critics and dissidents.
Syrian militants start to withdraw heavy weapons from Idlib buffer zone
Reuters, Beirut/Saturday, 6 October 2018/Two Turkey-backed Syrian militant officials told Reuters that militant groups on Saturday began to withdraw heavy weaponry from a demilitarized zone agreed by Turkey and Russia in northwest Syria. “The process of withdrawing heavy weapons began this morning and will continue for a number of days,” a militant group commander told Reuters. The official said the Turkey-backed National Front for Liberation (NFL) rebel alliance will extract its heavy weaponry - such as rocket launchers and artillery vehicles - and bring it 20 km from the contact line between insurgents in Syria's militant-held Idlib province and government forces. “Light and medium weapons and heavy machine guns up to 57 mm will remain in place,” the official said. Under the deal agreed last month between Turkey and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's key ally Moscow, “radical” rebels will be required to withdraw by the middle of this month from the demilitarization zone. The agreement halted a threatened Syrian government offensive. The United Nations had warned such an attack would create a humanitarian catastrophe in the Idlib region, home to about 3 million people. The main militant group in the Idlib area, Tahrir al-Sham, has yet to say whether it will comply with the agreement

In Syria's Sweida, Young Men Take Up Arms to Defend Villages
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/October 06/18/Maysoun Saab's eyes filled with tears as she recalled finding her parents bleeding to death on the fround outside their home, minutes after they were shot by Islamic State militants on a killing spree across once tranquil villages they infiltrated in a southeastern corner of Syria. Within an hour, she had lost her mother, father, brother and 34 other members of her extended family. Overall, more than 200 people were killed and 30 hostages abducted in the coordinated July 25 attacks across Sweida province. It was one of the biggest single massacres of the Syrian civil war and the worst bloodshed to hit the province since the conflict began in 2011, underscoring the persistent threat posed by the Islamic State group, which has been largely vanquished but retains pockets of territory in southern and eastern Syria. More than two months after the attack, tensions over the missing hostages — all women and children — are boiling over in Sweida, a mountainous area which is a center for the Druze religious minority. Anger is building up, and young men are taking up arms. This week, the militants shot dead one of the women, 25-year-old Tharwat Abu Ammar, triggering protests and a sit-in outside the Sweida governorate building by relatives enraged at the lack of progress in negotiations to free them. It's a stark change for a usually peaceful province that has managed to stay largely on the sidelines of the seven-year Syrian war, and where most villagers work grazing livestock over the surrounding hills.
"We still haven't really absorbed what happened to us. It's like a dream or a nightmare that you don't wake up from," said Saab, a slender woman with a long braid showing underneath a loose white scarf covering her hair. During a rare visit to the Sweida countryside by an Associated Press team, armed young men and teens, some as young as 14, patrolled the streets. Some wore military uniforms, others the traditional black baggy pants and white caps worn by Druze villagers. They said the Syrian army had provided them with weapons to form civilian patrols to defend their towns and villages. Residents recalled a summer day of pure terror that began with gunfire and cries of "Allahu Akbar!" that rang out at 4 a.m. Militants who had slipped into the villages under the cover of darkness knocked on doors, sometimes calling out residents' names to trick them into opening. Those who did were gunned down. Others were shot in their beds. Women and children were dragged screaming from their homes. Word of the attack spread in the villages of Shbiki, Shreihi and Rami as neighbors called one another to warn of the militant rampage. A series of suicide bombings unfolded simultaneously in the nearby provincial capital of Sweida. In Shreihi, a small agricultural village of cement houses, Maysoun and her husband were asleep in one room, their children, 16-year-old Bayar and 13-year-old Habib, in another when she heard the first burst of gunfire. From her window, she saw the silhouette of her neighbor, Lotfi Saab, and his wife in their house. Then she saw armed men push open the door, point a rifle at them and shoot. Maysoon screamed, her voice reverberating through the open window. The militants threw a grenade in her direction. Her husband climbed onto the roof of their home and aimed a hunting rifle at the men, while she hunkered downstairs with the children. At least two of the men blew themselves up nearby. At the crack of dawn, Maysoun heard another neighbor screaming, "Abu Khaled has been shot!" — referring to Maysoun's father. Ignoring her husband's orders to stay indoors, Maysoun ran over the rocky path to her parent's house, and spotted her father's bloodied body on the ground near the front porch. She screamed for her mother and found her lying nearby, shot in her leg, blood everywhere. "There is no greater tragedy than to see your parents like this, strewn on the ground before your eyes. We were together just the night before, staying up late together and talking. ... They took them away from us," she said, choking back tears.
Maysoun's brother, Khaled, meanwhile, was trapped with his wife and daughter in their home, fearfully watching the IS fighters from their shuttered window. Another brother, who rushed to their aid, was killed outside Khaled's home.
Less than an hour later, Maysoun called to tell Khaled that both their parents were dead. When he was able to leave his house, Khaled said he and other neighbors fought and killed as many IS militants as they could. He suffered two gunshot wounds in his thigh. But there was no time to grieve. "We didn't have the chance to cry or feel anything, even if our father, mother, neighbors, friends, all of these people had died. But at the time there wasn't a moment to cry for anyone," said the 42-year-old truck driver. Residents said the village men fought with whatever weapons they could lay their hands on — hunting rifles, pistols, even sticks — against the far superior IS guns. The Islamic State group, which once held large swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq, has been mostly vanquished. Its de facto capital of Raqqa, in eastern Syria, fell a year ago this month. But the group fights on in eastern pockets like Deir el-Zour and Sweida province. Some here fear that as the militants flee the advancing Syrian government forces, they will try to regroup in remote pockets of territory like this once quiet corner of Syria. They fear another raid or more trouble because of the brewing tensions over the hostages IS still holds. On Tuesday, a video posted on the internet purported to show IS militants shoot Abu Ammar in the back of her head as they threatened to kill more hostages if the Syrian government and its Russian allies do not meet their demands, which include freeing IS fighters and their family members elsewhere in Syria. In the village of Rami, where 20 civilians from the Maqlad family were killed in the July assault, Nathem Maqlad points to bullet holes and blood stains on the ground from the battle with IS. "I stand ready and alert to defend our land and dignity all over again if I have to," he said, walking with a group of young men with rifles slung over their shoulders.

Syria Rebels, Jihadists Clash near Planned Idlib Buffer
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/October 06/18/Fighting erupted on Friday between Turkey-backed rebels and jihadist hardliners in northwest Syria, a monitor and a resident said, near a planned demilitarisation zone. The buffer zone, agreed last month between rebel backer Ankara and government ally Moscow, is meant to separate regime fighters from the myriad rebel and jihadist forces of the Idlib region. On Friday, just days away from the deadline to establish the zone, clashes erupted between rival rebels and jihadists. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said fighting first began between Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), led by former Al-Qaeda fighters, and Nour al-Din Al-Zinki in the town of Kafr Halab. HTS had reportedly been trying to arrest a local commander present in the town on the western edge of Aleppo province, near the administrative border with Idlib province. "Zinki sent reinforcements to the area, and the clashes expanded to several areas and the National Liberation Front joined in," said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman. The NLF is the main Turkey-backed rebel alliance in the Idlib region, but jihadist heavyweight HTS holds most of the province. "The clashes are near where the buffer zone is supposed to be established and are the biggest since the deal was announced last month," said Abdel Rahman. The Britain-based Observatory said HTS had taken two towns, including Kafr Halab. At least three civilians, one HTS member, and two NLF fighters were killed, the monitor said. "We woke up at 4:00am to the sound of gunfire from an HTS convoy," a resident of Kafr Halab told AFP. "They started hitting civilian homes, and a child was killed," said the resident, speaking on condition of anonymity. Russia and Turkey agreed last month to set up a U-shaped demilitarisation zone ringing Idlib that would be free of both heavy weapons and jihadists. The NLF has cautiously welcomed the deal but HTS has yet to endorse it. Many of the agreement's details, including where exactly the zone would fall, remain murky.
Russian Source: Moscow to Open 'Communication Channels' Between Tehran, Tel Aviv
Moscow, Beirut, London - Raed Jabr,/Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 6 October, 2018/An informed Russian source told Asharq Al-Awsat on Friday that Moscow has already launched “calm efforts to open communication channels between Tel Aviv and Tehran with an aim to lower tension and prevent a possible confrontation between the two sides in Syria,” particularly after Russia completed the delivery of S-300 missile system to Damascus.The source did not rule out that Russia plays the role of a “mediator” between the two sides in that regard. Meanwhile, in Moscow, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that “Damascus has the right to defend its territories,” adding that the delivery of S-300 missile system to Damascus aims to “promote stability and is not a provocative act.” However, the French Foreign Ministry said on Friday it was “concerned” by Russia's delivery of advanced anti-aircraft defense system to Bashar Assad's army. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Agnes von Der Muhll told reporters in an online briefing, “France notes with concern the delivery by Russia of sophisticated anti-aircraft capabilities for the benefit of the Syrian regime.”She added that "Amid regional tensions, the delivery of such equipment by Russia contributes to maintaining the risk of military escalation and removing the prospect of a political settlement of the Syrian crisis.” Separately, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Friday fighting began between Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), led by former Al-Qaeda militants, and a faction from the National Liberation Front in the countryside of Aleppo near a planned demilitarization zone. Last month, Russia and Turkey agreed last month to set up a demilitarization zone in Idlib that would be free of both heavy weapons and jihadists. The Britain-based Observatory said HTS had taken two towns, including Kafr Halab. At least three civilians, one HTS member, and two NLF fighters were killed, the monitor said, according to AFP.

Israel Threatens Gaza with War
Tel Aviv/Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 6 October, 2018/Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman stated that his forces are ready to conduct a military operation against Gaza strip and bragged in killing Palestinian protesters at the border fence, posing a direct threat to Hamas.
“We got through the High Holy Days just as we had planned, without a war erupting and while exacting a heavy price from the rioters on the Gaza border,” Lieberman wrote on his Twitter account, Friday. “But the holidays are now behind us, and I tell the heads of Hamas: 'Take that into account,” he added. According to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Abbas "has interfered in all UN attempts to ease the plight in Gaza.” “If Hamas thinks that as a result of this plight it can attack Israel – it will be making a very major mistake. Our response will be harsh, very harsh,” Netanyahu warned. In an interview published in the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth and the Italian La Repubblica, Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip Yehya al-Sinwar said that “it would be the fourth war. It can't end as the third one, which already ended as the second one, which already ended as the first one. They should take over Gaza. I don't think they want an additional two million Arabs. No. War achieves nothing.”He added, “I am not the leader of a militia, I'm from Hamas. And that's it. I am the Gaza leader of Hamas, of something much more complex than a militia—a national liberation movement. And my main duty is to act in the interest of my people: to defend it and its right to freedom and independence.”Sinwar continued: “If we see Gaza returning to normalcy... if we see not only aid, but investments, development—because we are not beggars, we want to work, study, travel, like all of you, we want to live, and to stand on our own—if we start to see a difference, we can go on. And Hamas will do its best. But there is no security, no stability, neither here nor in the region, without freedom and justice. I don't want the peace of the graveyard." "First of all, I never went to war—war came to me. And my question, in all truth, is the opposite. Why should I trust them? They left Gaza in 2005, and they simply reshaped the occupation. They were inside, now they block borders” he added. “There is no future without Hamas. There is no possible deal whatsoever, because we are part and parcel of this society, even if we lose the next elections. My responsibility is to work with whoever can help us to end this deadly and unjust siege,” Sinwar continued.

Iraqi Blocs Complicate Abdul-Mahdi's Mission With Ministerial Candidates
Baghdad, Erbil - Hamzah Mustafa, Ihsan Aziz/Asharq Al-Awsat/October,06/2018/Sources told Asharq Al-Awsat on Friday that Iraqi political blocs have started handing the names of their ministerial candidates to Adel Abdul-Mahdi, driving question marks about whether the newly appointed Prime Minister would be bound or free in his choices while forming the new government. Except the Sairoon Alliance headed by Muqtada Al-Sadr, Iraqi political blocs are currently complicating the mission of Abdul-Mahdi by already starting to demand certain shares and portfolios in the next cabinet. In this regard, former official government spokesman Dr. Ali al-Dabbagh told Asharq Al-Awsat, “Abdul-Mahdi was handed the prime ministry position burdened with a heavy legacy due to the war on ISIS, randomness that accompanied the last phase in Iraq, scarce resources and high expectations.” According to Dabbagh, the Prime Minister would be distant from achieving a high level of success. “The first task should aim to calm down the street and to lower the level of anger and distress among the Iraqis,” he said. In Iraq, the presidency is held by a Kurd, while the prime minister is Shiite and the parliament speaker is Sunni. The prime minister-designate has 30 days to submit his cabinet to parliament.Head of the Sadrist Movement political committee, Nassar al- Rubaie, said on Friday that the political program for the next phase in Iraq should see a government bound in implementing its programs. At the Kurdish level, the Kurdistan Region finds itself facing the echoes of the earthquake triggered by the race witnessed between the two main parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), over the presidential seat and which led to the winning of Barham Salih. Salih, who was elected and sworn in as the new president on October 2, was the PUK's choice, while the KDP backed Fuad Hussein, the chief-of-staff to former Kurdistan regional president Massoud Barzani.

New Iraqi President Congratulates Nadia Murad on Nobel Peace Prize
Asharq Al-Awsat/October,06/2018/Iraq’s new President Barham Salih congratulated on Friday Yazidi activist Nadia Murad for winning the Nobel Peace Prize. He declared her award “an honor for all Iraqis who fought terrorism and bigotry". In a tweet, Salih said he had spoken with Murad to congratulate her, saying the prize was "an acknowledgement of (the) tragic plight" of the religious minority and "recognition for her courage in defending human rights of victims of terror & sexual violence". Murad, the first Iraqi to become a Nobel peace laureate, was also congratulated by the country's outgoing Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi and his intended successor Adel Abdel Mahdi. "I congratulate Iraq and the Iraqis. I congratulate the Yazidi brothers and sisters. I congratulate Nadia Murad for her award," prime minister designate Mahdi wrote on Facebook. Non-governmental organization Yazda said Murad's award was important for all Yazidis who had suffered at the hands of the ISIS terrorist group. "Today marks a special day for the Yazidis and other minorities and all victims of genocide and mass atrocities committed" by ISIS, said the NGO, set up to help Yazidi women recover from the trauma of rape. "We hope that this recognition will help Nadia and Yazidis endeavors to bring justice, peace, and coexistence", added Yazda in a tweet. After being captured by ISIS fighters in August 2014, Murad was taken by force to Mosul, the terror group’s former bastion. She later escaped and has become a champion of the Yazidis and a global voice in their quest for justice.

Erdogan: Turkey Won’t Leave Syria Until its People Hold Elections
Ankara - Saiid Abdulrazzak/Asharq Al-Awsat/October,06/2018/Turkey will not leave Syria until the Syrian people hold an election, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday. “Whenever the Syrian people hold an election, we will leave Syria to its owners after they hold their elections,” Erdogan said at the two-days TRT World forum in Istanbul, which was attended by prominent diplomatic and political officials. The President added that Turkey has cleared the “Euphrates Shield” in Aleppo province and the “Olive Branch” in Afrin from “terrorist organizations,” in coordination with the Free Syrian Army. He pointed out that about 250 thousand Syrians have returned to these regions after Turkey had fought terrorist organizations and liberated these areas. "Idlib has become a refuge for those fleeing bombardment in Aleppo and other parts of Syria,” Erdogan noted. He warned that targeting it with barrel bombs and other weapons will force the displaced to flee to Turkey, which has so far hosted 3.5 million Syrians. In a common matter, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu met with Special Envoy of UN Secretary General on Syria Staffan de Mistura on the sidelines of the forum in Istanbul and discussed with him the Syrian file. “We have discussed the period ahead in the political process in Syria, including the Constitutional Committee,” Cavusoglu tweeted on Friday. He called on Thursday for a "balanced political solution" in Syria, saying that establishing a constitutional committee is the "last window of opportunity" for peace. De Mistura, for his part, stressed the importance of the next three months to establish stability in Idlib and form a the constitutional commission. The international community has tried all solutions to succeed in Syria. However, the military solution was the objective to solve the problem from the beginning, De Mistura explained. “We have reached a dead end. The two sides need a mediator to find common factors. We want a political solution,” he stressed. “The most important point in the matter is that we do not want proxy wars. There are armies of many countries, and this is a very large risk,” he said, pointing to the importance of political negotiations. He also gave an example the Idlib agreement, which was reached between Turkey and Russia and enabled the protection of three million people in Idlib.

Era of Bank Secrecy Ends as Swiss Start Sharing Account Data
Reuters/October 06/2018/The era of mystery-cloaked numbered Swiss bank accounts has officially come to a close as Switzerland, the world’s biggest center for managing offshore wealth, began automatically sharing client data with tax authorities in dozens of other countries.
The Federal Tax Administration (FTA) said on Friday it had for the first time exchanged financial account data at the end of September under global standards that aim to crack down on tax cheats. Bank secrecy still exists in some areas — Swiss authorities cannot automatically see what citizens have in their domestic bank accounts, for example — but gone are the days when well-paid European professionals could stash wealth across the border and beyond the prying eyes of their tax man. The initial exchange was supposed to be with European Union countries plus nine other jurisdictions: Australia, Canada, Guernsey, Iceland, Isle of Man, Japan, Jersey, Norway and South Korea. “Cyprus and Romania are currently excluded as they do not yet meet the international requirements on confidentiality and data security,” the FTA said.
Transmission of data to Australia and France was delayed “as these states could not yet deliver data to the FTA due to technical reasons”, it said, adding that it also had not yet received data from Croatia, Estonia and Poland. About 7,000 banks, trusts, insurers and other financial institutions registered with the FTA collect data on millions of accounts and send them on the Swiss tax agency. The FTA in turn sent information on around two million accounts to partner states. It put no value on the accounts in question. The information includes the owner’s name, address, country of residence and tax identification number as well as the reporting institution, account balance and capital income. This lets authorities check whether taxpayers have correctly declared their foreign financial accounts. The annual data swap will expand next year to about 80 partner states, provided they meet requirements on confidentiality and data security. The OECD Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes reviews states’ implementation of the accord. Under international pressure, Swiss banking secrecy has weakened for years, meaning rich people from around the world can no longer easily use the Alpine republic to hide wealth. The changes have put Switzerland in fierce competition with faster-growing centers like Hong Kong and Singapore.

Iran Guard Warns Netanyahu Will Be 'Forced into the Sea'
AFP/October 06/2018/The deputy commander of Iran's revolutionary guards warned Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday to "practice swimming in the Mediterranean" because he would be forced to abandon his country. "I tell the prime minister of the Zionist regime to practice swimming in the Mediterranean because soon you will have no choice, but flee into the sea," Brigadier-General Hossein Salami said, according to the ultraconservative news website Fars news. Speaking at a rally of the volunteer Basij militia in the central Iranian city of Isfahan, Salami said Israel could be destroyed by Iran's Lebanese ally Hezbollah. "They are not at the level of being a threat for us, Hezbollah is enough for destroying them," he said. Iran does not recognise Israel, and opposition to the Jewish state has been a central tenet of its government since the 1979 revolution. Its officials regularly warn that Israel will soon cease to exist, although they are usually careful to indicate that this will not be due to a direct attack by Iran. "In 25 years' time, with the grace of God, no such thing as the Zionist regime will exist in the region," said supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in 2015, which has become a frequently-used prediction among hardliners. The presence of Iranian troops and equipment in Syria has served to dial up the tension between the two countries. In September Netanyahu accused Iran at the UN general assembly of still trying to build nuclear weapons and vowed he would "never let a regime that calls for our destruction to develop nuclear weapons. Not now, not in 10 years, not ever."

The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on October 06-07/18
Iran sanctions leave global powers divided

Zaid M. Belbagi/Arab News/October 05/18
When US President Donald Trump decided to tear up what had become known as the Iran nuclear deal, the EU, among others, was concerned about the trade arrangements it had with Iran. The incentive of international trade was central to persuading Iran to bring its nuclear program into line.
After a year of protests, nationwide labor strikes and bank failures, the prospect of increased global trade is more important than ever to the regime in Tehran. With Russia, China and Turkey also working to retain their economic ties to Iran, in addition to the EU, the renewed US sanctions, which were labeled illegal by many, will be limited in their effectiveness going forward.
President Trump unilaterally withdrew from the nuclear agreement, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), in May. In August, the UK, France and Germany, who have led efforts to preserve the deal, stated that the president’s actions were in violation of a UN Security Council resolution, and vowed to intensify efforts to circumvent the US measures.
Last week, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, these plans took shape. It is understood that EU diplomats, supported by their Russian and Chinese counterparts, have devised a scheme to barter Iranian oil products for European goods. The proposal will allow Iran to sell its oil to Russia, where it would be refined and then sold to Europe. European companies would then transfer goods and services to Iran, thereby dodging US trade restrictions. The mechanism, at present a work in progress, amounts to an affront to the Trump administration as it ramps up its anti-Iran agenda.
Despite European powers and the Chinese repeatedly affirming that multiple inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have shown Iran to be in compliance with the nuclear deal, the White House remains skeptical. Senior officials in the Trump administration insist that the agreement, negotiated by former President Barack Obama, has not effectively curtailed Iran’s nuclear weapons program or, indeed, Tehran’s aggressive actions in the Middle East and beyond, including sponsorship of terrorism.
With some experts estimating that Iran spends between $12 billion and $15 billion a year supporting the Assad regime alone, limiting Tehran’s ability to finance its regional ambitions remains a paramount concern of the US and its Middle Eastern allies.
With Middle Eastern nations, including Israel, wholly unimpressed with the deal and anxious about the specter of Iranian support for movements in Bahrain, Yemen, Iraq and Syria, there is no sign of consensus on how to deal with the regime in Tehran. America’s annual terrorism report, last published in July 2017, describes Iran as “the foremost state sponsor of terrorism.” It adds that “groups supported by Iran maintained their capability to threaten US interests and allies.” With some experts estimating that Iran spends between $12 billion and $15 billion a year supporting the Assad regime alone, limiting Tehran’s ability to finance its regional ambitions remains a paramount concern of the US and its Middle Eastern allies.
This year the Iranian rial fell to a historic low, crashing through 90,000 rials against the dollar. The clerical establishment that controls Iran has taken notice of the severity of such economic woes, offering the idea of possible government referendums or early elections. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, keen to bolster the regime ahead of the 40th anniversary of the 1979 revolution, is under pressure to improve the lives of Iranians amid the unemployment affecting about 3.2 million his countrymen.
With between 12 and 30 percent of the economy controlled by the country’s powerful Revolutionary Guard paramilitary force, severely curtailing its role by clipping its wings regionally could have further economic and political consequences. The praetorian force, which answers only to Khamenei and runs Iran’s ballistic missile program, is central to regime stability — a reality of which the White House is only too aware.
Efforts to bypass US sanctions put powerful NATO allies in direct confrontation with a Trump administration that has shown itself to be only too willing to withdraw from long-standing alliances. Disagreements over Iran represent a sharp break between the US and its European partners, at a time when Russia’s divisive actions challenge the post-1945 status quo. With the World Trade Organization (WTO), the International Criminal Court (ICC), NATO and the G-20 all having been targeted by Washington, European allies must be careful to preserve transatlantic ties while simultaneously avoiding antagonizing the regime in Tehran further. As decades of international diplomatic norms are being damaged, global powers can ill afford major disagreements over issues as important as nuclear proliferation and international trade. The Iran nuclear deal succeeded because of its multilateral approach, and the efforts of years of painstaking diplomacy. With both sides now threatening to pursue independent solutions to deal with Tehran, the hard-won consensus of 2015 might very well be lost altogether, leaving Iran isolated and free to act with impunity.
• Zaid M. Belbagi is a political commentator and adviser to private clients from London to the Gulf Cooperation Council.
Twitter: @Moulay_Zaid

Can Iraq’s new PM deliver reforms and fight corruption?
Hussain Abdul-Hussain/Arab News/October 06/18
Three weeks before he was named Iraq’s prime minister-designate, Adel Abdul-Mahdi wrote an editorial in which he argued that the position should not be about the person in the role, but instead should be all about “rules and institutions.” He said that the authority of ministers should be bound by regulations, and demanded a strong judiciary, the establishment of an anti-corruption police force, and auditors to surveil the government. However, judging by the parliamentary blocs that underwrote his selection this week, as well as his past performance, many Iraqis expressed skepticism over how far he can take the fight against corruption.
Abdul-Mahdi was previously vice president. And between 2014 and 2016, he served as oil minister.
Harith Hasan Al-Qarawee, a fellow at the Central European University in Budapest, questioned how the groups that put forth Abdul-Mahdi’s name would allow him to embark on the structural change that Iraq desperately needs. “Abdul-Mahdi’s premiership was the result of a deal that might not last, and that might leave him alone without any bloc behind him in Parliament.” Al-Qarawee went on to say that “without a bloc of his own, how can he sustain his support ... while at the same time embark on reforms by taking on the blocs that support him?”
Further complicating Abdul-Mahdi’s mission, according to the Iraqi scholar, is a “new factor — a restless Iraqi street.” Over the past few months, Basra and many other southern Iraqi cities have witnessed riots that sometimes turned deadly.
Throughout his long career, Adel Abdul-Mahdi has often switched sides with seeming ease. He started out as a Baathist, then became a communist before reinventing himself as an Islamist.
The experience of other countries that have witnessed sweeping changes might be instructive. Change usually is the result of a shift in the political culture, reflecting a swing in the popular mood. Had Abdul-Mahdi made it to the premiership at the head of a reform movement, or had he built a parliamentary coalition around his vision of reform, as spelled out in his editorial, change might conceivably be on the cards. But it is unlikely that a prime minister who owes his job to the same groups that have been accused of corrupting the state will be able to fix the country.
Judging by their past experience with Abdul-Mahdi, many Iraqis believe he is not even willing to reform. Social media has been buzzing with speculation. Haidar Hassan Kazem, a soccer player with a considerable following on Twitter, questioned the wisdom behind “rewarding” Abdul-Mahdi. “He served as the minister of finance, the minister of oil and as the vice president,” Kazem tweeted. “What has he achieved in his previous roles? And did he ever succeed in the past for us to reward him and make him prime minister?”
Abdul-Mahdi’s past failure has not been the only concern for Iraqis. Footage widely shared on social media shows him with fighters of the Badr militia, an Iranian-sponsored paramilitary group.
Iraqis are also unsettled by Abdul-Mahdi’s apparent political opportunism. Throughout his long career, the 76-year-old prime minister-designate has often switched sides with seeming ease. He started out as a Baathist, then became a communist before reinventing himself as an Islamist. In 2003, he began to recast himself as a moderate Islamist. He also styled himself as someone who could mediate between Washington and Tehran, a role that many other Iraqi politicians raced to play, hoping that such a triangulation would allow them to win the approval of both America and Iran and make them “consensus candidates” for top government jobs. And of course, consensus candidates, like Abdul-Mahdi, are usually colorless individuals who avoid taking difficult positions on equally difficult issues — which are legion in Iraq. It is not a status that augurs well in a prime minister.
Tired of endemic corruption and the failure of successive governments, Iraqis have little choice but to hope that any kind of change might be for the better, even if it involves the elevation of an establishment politician to the top spot. But with someone who has achieved as little as Abdul-Mahdi in his previous jobs and who owes his premiership to the corrupt politicians he promises to eliminate, it is only normal for Iraqis to express skepticism, if not outright rejection, of Abdul-Mahdi’s accession.
• Hussain Abdul-Hussain is the Washington bureau chief of Kuwaiti daily Al-Rai and a former visiting fellow at Chatham House in London.
Copyright: Syndication Bureau

Analysis/How Assad Helped Create ISIS to Win in Syria and Got Away With the Crime of the Century
الكسندر كرفينك من الهآررتس: كيف ساعد الأسد على خلق داعش ليربح في سوريا وكيف تمكن من التفلت من جريمة العصر

Alexander Griffing/Haaretz/October 06/18
There 'won't be any Nuremberg-like trial of Assad and his associates,' says the last U.S. ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford.
While Syria remains torn between Russian, American and Turkish interests, with world leaders working to avoid a bloodbath in the remaining pocket of resistance, one thing is certain: President Bashar Assad has won Syria’s devastating seven-year civil war.
To secure his victory, experts say, Assad helped incubate the extremism that led to the rise of the Islamic State and the further spread of jihadism in Syria – the very elements he now vows to destroy in Idlib, the last rebel enclave in the country and home to millions of civilians and refugees.
Robert Ford, the ambassador to Syria under President Barack Obama and the last U.S. ambassador to the country, told Haaretz that Assad “will stay in power for as long as the eye can see,” and more importantly there “won’t be any Nuremberg-like trial of Assad and his associates.”
Furthermore, he says, not only will Assad not be held accountable for the use of chemical weapons or other wartime atrocities, but his allies Russia and Iran that helped him defeat the rebels won’t be able to bankroll the rebuilding of the war-ravaged country.
“The Syrian government lacks financial resources, and neither Russia nor Iran can provide much more than they already provide,” says Ford, now a fellow at the Middle East Institute in Washington and a professor at Yale.
Assad’s downfall seemed all but guaranteed at many points during the eight years since the Arab Spring began to topple Middle Eastern dictators. Yet Assad has now outlasted fellow despots like Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and Libya’s Muammar Gadhafi, and also Western leaders like Obama and Britain’s David Cameron who once vowed to stop his bloodletting and drew red lines warning Assad against using chemical weapons or risk regime change.
Ford, who resigned in February 2014 to protest Obama’s alleged lack of policy against Assad, had regularly met with the rebels and wrote in The New York Times in June 2014 that while “these men were not angels … they acknowledged that they would ultimately have to fight Al-Qaida and the foreign jihadis.” But in the end it was Assad who ended up convincing much of the West that he was a better choice than the rebels to help battle the Islamic State and jihadism.
A new narrative
In 2011, months after the uprising against Assad began in Daraa and quickly started to destabilize the country, his regime released thousands of jihadists from Syria’s now infamous prisons.
Using a cold and pragmatic calculus, Assad fomented chaos and terror to discredit the opposition and ensure that the West wouldn't intervene against him. Syrian war expert Christopher Phillips details how Assad tied the opposition to jihadists in his comprehensive 2016 book "The Battle for Syria: International Rivalry in the New Middle East."Phillips told Haaretz, “it is hard to tell just how successful the discrediting strategy was. Certainly the majority of Syrians who didn't flee or take up arms seemed to tacitly back Assad but was that because they didn't trust the opposition or because they feared the regime? It was probably a mixture of both.”“In 2011, the majority of the current ISIS leadership was released from jail" by Assad, Mohammed Al-Saud, a Syrian dissident with the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, told Newsweek in 2014. “No one in the regime has ever admitted this, or explained why.”The leaders of two major Islamist groups, Hassan Aboud of Ahrar al-Sham and Zahran Alloush of Jaysh al-Islam, were also both in Assad’s prisons in early 2011. Additionally, as the Islamic State began to take root in Syria and spread into Iraq, Assad let the group grow. Phillips wrote in The Atlantic in August that this “was partly pragmatic, as ISIS was in the peripheral east while other rebels threatened the western heartlands, but it was also strategic.”
“The regime did not just open the door to the prisons and let these extremists out, it facilitated them in their work, in their creation of armed brigades,” a former member of Syria’s Military Intelligence Directorate, one of more than a dozen of Syria’s secretive intelligence agencies, told Abu Dhabi-based The National in 2014.Assad “concocted a legitimizing narrative: It portrayed the oppositionists as violent, foreign, sectarian Islamists,” Phillips wrote, “in the hope that only jihadists and his regime would be left for Syrians and the world to choose from.”
Assad’s survival and Hezbollah’s lasting presence
As the war progressed, Hezbollah, Iran and later Russia intervened militarily to help Assad, while the United States, Turkey and the Kurds fought in Syria and set up military bases to battle the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. Hezbollah was “absolutely key” to Assad’s survival, Phillips says.
Hezbollah members were the first foreign fighters, in 2012, to enter on Assad’s side and “led the way in key battles like Qusayr and in reorganizing the army and pro-Assad Syrian Democratic Forces,” Phillips told Haaretz. “Iran’s Soleimani may have been the brains, but Hezbollah were the trusted implementers,” he added, referring to the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Quds force.
Iran has long viewed its presence in Syria as key in its desire to establish a land bridge between Tehran and Beirut, a strategic asset it hopes would thwart both Saudi Arabia and Israel, its regional rivals.
Another major factor that allowed for Assad’s survival was the strength of prewar Syria’s government. Phillips wrote that in 2000, when Assad came to power, he had “inherited a coup-proofed regime” from his father, Hafez Assad.
The structure Hafez built lasts to this day, and as Ford adds, it's the reason “neither Russia nor Iran control the Syrian power elite inner circle and that circle has stayed loyal to Assad consistently through the civil war.” Most of Syria’s top security positions are packed with Alawites, the sect the Assad family belongs to, which is only about 10 percent of the predominantly Sunni population. While Assad’s army suffered mass desertions and lost well over half its soldiers in the first four years of the war, the power structure around Assad stayed loyal.
What’s next for Syria?
Assad’s survival has left Syria in ruins; the country is now “weaker, poorer and less influential in the region,” Ford says. Assad's travel is now restricted to “friendly” countries, lest he face extradition.
Russia, while reeling from its own economic woes, is working behind the scenes to secure funding to rebuild Syria. “Russia wants to show the world that the Syrian civil war is largely over, and refugees returning would be one indicator that the Assad government has won its victory,” Ford says.
Syrian government forces are preparing a phased offensive in the province of Idlib and surrounding areas Reuters
The Trump administration, however, has made clear that Washington will not help fund the rebuilding effort, and U.S. sanctions make foreign investment very difficult in the country.
The Russian government even went so far as to release a list from its "refugee coordination center" at Khmeimim air base in Syria claiming that 900,000 refugees could return to Syria soon from Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. Turkey is amassing troops near Idlib and fears a mass exodus from the region toward its border. But Ford says Syria’s basic infrastructure can't handle a returning population. Recent estimates to rebuild Syria range from $250 billion to $400 billion, according to AP. “Little of Homs and Aleppo cities have been rebuilt even though fighting in those cities ended years ago," Ford says. "Where would refugees live? What jobs would they have? What about clean water and electricity and heat for winter?”
As a result, Russia has been lobbying Germany and France and even Turkey to foot the bill to rebuild Syria, while Trump has been pressing his allies not to support Assad financially. Iran’s indefinite presence in Syria is also all but certain to keep U.S. funding out and continue to isolate Syria both economically and diplomatically. Assad’s ruthless victory has created one of the largest refugee crises since World War II, one that has brought out demons in many Western countries now embracing anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim politics.
The reconstruction and repatriation effort faces another problem – many refugees may not want to return. Syria’s security services are checking information on each refugee and, according to Ford, there are stories in the media of some people being detained or promptly sent into military service upon their return. Russia, Assad and Turkey have agreed for the time being not to enter Idlib and destroy the jihadists there at the expense of civilian lives, delaying the final military push that most observers still see as inevitable.
Additionally, a recent UN report estimated that between 20,000 and 30,000 Islamic State fighters remain in Syria and Iraq – despite Trump’s recent declarations of victory over the group. The Islamic State, recent events indicate, remains both an international and internal threat, and Iran even declared Wednesday that it killed 40 ISIS leaders with six missile strikes in retaliation for the September 22 attack on a military parade in Iran that killed 25 people, nearly half of them members of the Revolutionary Guards.
So while Assad may soon finally defeat the rebels who sought to tear down his regime and regain his territory (except the 28 percent held by the U.S.-backed Kurds in the northeast), he'll be left with a country facing a severe humanitarian crisis, few resources to rebuild with and well-armed and trained jihadists still gunning to end his secular rule through terror.

The influential class in Iraq does not get the message
Adnan Hussein/Al Arabiya/October 06/18
It seems that the message sent by public protests in Iraq was not received hence the purpose was not achieved. It is as if there was no message in the first place to reach the addressed who is no other than the powerful political class in Iraq that even after five months of the parliamentary elections is struggling to form a new government. The government could have been formed within a month or even less. Now perhaps it will take another month or more to complete the task, a pattern repeated every four years and having taken place for the fourth time in a row.
Less than two months after the elections, a protest movement erupted in Iraq, the strongest in its history. These protests claimed more than 20 lives and left hundreds wounded. In recent weeks, the toll has increased, as a number of civil activists were kidnapped and some were killed, including women, especially in Basra — the city that has been the center of the protests.
Impervious to public protests
It was assumed that this movement would have been sufficient to push the powerful political class towards hastening government formation with the intention of meeting the protesters’ pressing needs. Their demands included first and foremost the basic provisions of electricity, clean water, agriculture, health care services, as well as legislative action entailed by the election process, particularly the formation of a new government. Yet the influential political class did not show necessary diligence in the matter. When the results of the elections were announced, dozens of objections and complaints were made within the context of competition and power struggle among influential parties. What hinders the formation of a government in Iraq is a collective effort of the political class to maintain the system of quotas. In order to answer and resolve these appeals and objections, the former parliament made the decision to suspend the Electoral Commission’s work and to form a new temporary commission that was entrusted with the job of manual recounting of votes in many electoral sectors and centers. This delayed the announcement of the final results for three months, which in turn postponed the legislative functions. In fact, the first day of the new parliament was deemed an “open session” due to its inability to reach an agreement on the individual to be elected as the Speaker of the House of Representatives along with his two deputies. This was a clear constitutional violation, which violated a previous decision of the Federal Court which four years ago adjudicated that the first session of the House of Representatives must not be an open one because this is contrary to provisions of the Constitution. However, as is the norm for the powerful political class, it acted in contempt of the law as what matters to them is to reach a consensus among them on the sharing of influential positions according to the system of quotas. This system is one of the reasons leading to the outbreak of protest movements in recent months, as well as similar movements going as far back as 2010.
Addiction to quotas
Four years ago, the government of Haider al-Abadi went through a similar process. It took months for it to be formed and ended up into a division between the coalition of the State of Law and the Islamic Da'wa Party due to a conflict between Abadi and the coalition and party leader Nuri al-Maliki who wanted to renew his term for a third time after serving two previous terms. Maliki’s terms ended with a major disaster for Iraq and its people as ISIS occupied a third of Iraq’s territories and established itself as an entity. The war to eliminate it lasted for three years (some of the organization’s remnants are still active in some areas).
Since then there has been no president or leader of a political organization in Iraq that has not repeatedly voiced his disdain for the quota system and vowed to work against it and avoid falling into its trap. Yet, the ongoing process of forming a new government contradicts the very principle previously extolled by these leaders. In fact, what hinders the formation of a government in Iraq is the collective effort of the political class to maintain the quota system and to share the positions of government and other higher state posts according to that very system.
The quota system will again be a decisive factor in the formation of the new government. The position of the Speaker of the House of Representatives did not go to any person that was not a Sunni. And as usual the president is Kurdish and the prime minister is Shiite. It is important to note that this system is unconstitutional as it is contrary to the provisions of the Constitution which champions the principles of equality, justice, and equal opportunity and commits the state to guaranteeing them.
Voter apathy
To sum up, the political process that has been undergoing in Iraq since 2003 is currently reproducing itself, and those in charge of it are rotating themselves for the fourth time in 12 years. Of course, the powerful political forces and their leaderships will be delighted by this result, unaware of the fact that it will, in turn, drive the Iraqi community into further hating this process and the officials in charge of it. According to official data of which the veracity is highly doubted, the elections in May were boycotted by about 60% of the electorate, exceeding the boycott witnessed by the 2014 elections. The recycling of the political process and its outcomes necessarily means a higher level of hatred for this process and the parties in charge of it. This has been expressed in the protests which took place in the city of Basra and elsewhere, where the protesters headed towards the headquarters of influential parties (often Islamic) and demanded their closure as well as the expulsion of their representatives in the provincial councils. In fact, it appears that these forces have neither grasped the content nor realized the significance of this powerful message.

Putin’s visit and the S-400 deal will test India-US relations
C. Uday Bhaskar/Al Arabiya/October 06/18
The brief no-frills visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to Delhi (October 5) for the 19th India-Russia annual summit has been substantive in the final outcome and has infused high-level political traction to a bi-lateral relationship that is important for both nations but had remained moribund in recent years. Predictably the military supplies component was the most visible and the Russian built S-400 multi-layered air defense system that India seeks to acquire had elicited considerable attention , more due to the impact this would have on the India-US relationship.
While both nations signed on the dotted line confirming that Moscow will provide the S-400 to India at a cost of US $ 5.43 billion, the announcement itself was subdued. A brief sentence was included in the joint statement, which noted that both countries “welcomed the conclusion of the contract for the supply of the S-400 long-range surface-to-air missile system to India.” Contrary to pre-summit expectations, the two sides were unable to finalize the other major military inventory items, such as stealth frigates for the Indian navy and assault rifles for the army.
Symbol of political resolve
While India and Russia signed major agreements in other fields such as space, nuclear energy, railways and anti-terrorism cooperation, the S-400 has become both the symbol of the political resolve that now animates the five decades old India-Russia relationship and a litmus test for the resilience of the relatively nascent India-US relationship.
It may be recalled that the S-400 was also acquired from Russia by China and the US invoked its 2017 CAATSA (Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act) legislation against Beijing in September for engaging in ‘significant transactions’ with Russia. This legislation was given more teeth after Mr. Donald Trump assumed office as the US President. Other ‘adversaries’ identified by the USA include Iran and North Korea and the Russia /S-400 issue apart, Delhi will also have to steer its relations with Iran through the Trump driven CAATSA mine-field in coming months.
The S-400 deal has been on the Indian radar for some years and while the credibility of air defense systems – particularly against ballistic missiles, hyper-sonic cruise missiles and rogue drones is yet to be rigorously proven, most major powers have invested in this defense system. The US has introduced and exported the THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) to ward of ballistic missiles and it is claimed that limited area defense can be established effectively More often than not, national capitals that house the command and control of strategic forces are the prime choice for such air defense systems.
Will the USA invoke the CAATSA provisions against India for this S-400 ‘transgression’ as it has in relation to China or announce a waiver? In a cautious response, the local US embassy in Delhi noted that: “The waiver authority is not for a blanket waiver. It is transaction-specific. Waivers of CAATSA Section 231 will be considered on a transaction-by-transaction basis. We can't prejudge any sanctions decisions." It was further added that the US intent in relation to the CAATSA was to impose costs on Russia for what has been described as its ‘malign’ behavior by stopping the flow of significant money to Moscow and that the legislation was not intended to “impose damage to the military capabilities of our allies and partner.”
India is in an anomalous position in relation to the USA and Russia apropos its military inventory dependency. Unable to overcome the ignominy of being the world’s largest importer of arms , Delhi has in effect distributed its strategic dependency between Washington and Moscow and has acquired major military platforms from both Cold War adversaries. This could be characterized as ‘anomalous-alignment’ by Delhi, which like many other capitals, (ostensibly friendly to the USA) is grappling with a capricious Trump led US foreign policy. Canada is illustrative of the predicament of US allies and partners who have to ‘deal’ with US President Trump.
The complexity for India is the China factor – a strand that has strategic relevance for both the USA and Russia. India has deep-seated anxiety about Chinese intent in Asia and the 4,000 km long unresolved territorial cum border dispute that led to the October 1962 war festers. China’s economic-trade profile is much larger than that of India and both Asian giants are wary of the other.
Paradoxically the emergence of China as the world’s number one GDP nation within this decade has deep implications for both the US and Russia. A bruising trade war has already begun between the US and China and its long term impact on the global economy will be corrosive to the current orientation of economic and trade related globalization.
Russia remains economically vulnerable and unlike its principal interlocutors (USA, China and India) Moscow does not figure in the top 10 nations as per GDP projections for 2018-19. Despite the current cooperation between Russia and China, there is latent misgiving about the bear being enveloped in the dragon’s suffocating embrace. On current evidence, neither demography nor geography favor Russia over China’s creeping assertiveness.
Consequently India is a distinctive swing-state in the complex and imbalanced quadrilateral that links the USA, China and Russia with the lumbering elephant. Would it be strategically prudent for the Beltway to lower the CAATSA boom against Russia, China and India simultaneously? For India, the challenge will be to retain a degree of stability in its relations with Washington even as a deadline looms large in early November in relation to both Russia, Iran and CAATSA. In an unintended way, the Putin visit will test the resilience of the India-US relationship.

Indian Muslim girl tied to tree, flogged ‘for falling in love with Hindu boy’

Manoj Chaurasia/Special to Al Arabiya English/October 06/18
A Muslim girl was tied to a tree and flogged mercilessly by a group of villagers in India’s Bihar state earlier this week for eloping with a Hindu boy.
The young girl, daughter of Mohammad Farid Ansari from southern Bihar’s Nawada district, had fallen in love with Rupesh Kumar, son of Arjun Rajvanshi, while both were studying in a local government school.
Reports said when the girl’s parents came to know about these affairs, they stopped her going to school and also warned against meeting the youth from other religion but she continued meeting the boy. On September 30, she finally eloped with her boyfriend, much against the wishes of her family. After three days of extensive searches, she was recovered from a neighbouring village on Thursday although the boy fled the scene.
Subsequently, her family members brought the girl along to their Jogia-Maran village which was soon followed by a hurried-convened village court. The court found the matter too serious and ordered for thrashing the girl in public, witnesses said.
Soon the girl was tied to a tree and badly thrashed by local villagers until she fell unconscious. She remained tied for about five hours before the local police could reach the spot and rescued her.
“I love the boy and will marry him come what may. I am ready for any punishment,” she told the media. She said she is an adult and can well decide about her future. “I don’t believe in castes or religions. I am 19-year-old and can well decide whom I should marry, whom I should not,” she asserted. The police are investigating the case. “We have registered a case in this regard and raids are on to arrest the accused persons,” local sub-divisional police officer Sanjay Kumar said on Saturday.
The girl’s father said he wanted to marry his daughter to a suitable boy from their own community but she slipped out of the home with some excuses when there was no power at night and ran away.‘Love’ is still a taboo in conservative Bihar, and quite many who have defied the existing social order have paid with their lives, banished from their villages, imposed heavy fine or served other crude punishment.
In December 2017, a love pair from two different castes was ordered by a local village court to leave their village for falling in love. The couple who hailed from the same village under Bandara block in north Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district had only recently fled home and had been living together as husband and wife but the local villagers strongly objected to their act.
In October the same year, two women related to each other were killed and their bodies hanged from a tree in the same Muzaffarpur district allegedly for falling in love. In September, a woman was lynched while her boyfriend was blinded in Araria district for a similar reason. In June, a teenage boy was badly beaten up, tortured and then left in an isolated place and wrapped in coffin clothing in Bhojpur district, but luckily he survied. The reason was similar.
A horrible story also came from Bhagalpur district where a local village court ordered to shoot dead a boy for falling in love with a girl.
In another bone-chilling incident reported from Gaya district, a teenage girl and her boyfriend were badly beaten up, strangled to death and then burnt on the same funeral pyre for falling in love in 2015. An equally horrific incident took place in 2008 when a 15-year-old boy was thrashed, paraded through the streets with his head shaved and then thrown under the wheels of a running train for daring to write a love letter to a girl from a different case. The incident took place in Kaimur district.
Social scientists say these incidents are indicative of the fact that the society is not ready to change and that it still gives due preference to the old social custom of arranged marriages.
“The raw treatments of those falling in love or opting for love marriages indicate how ethnic ego still persists quite much and the people are ready to go to any extent to save their honor,” said prominent social scientist Sachindra Narayan who served as a professor at Patna’s AN Sinha Institute of Social Studies.