Detailed Lebanese & Lebanese Related LCCC English New Bulletin For October 10/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations
You are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God
Letter to the Ephesians 02/11-21: "Remember that at one time you Gentiles by birth, called ‘the uncircumcision’ by those who are called ‘the circumcision’ a physical circumcision made in the flesh by human hands remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, so that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord;"

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 09-10/18
US Ambassador. To UN Nikki Haley resigns/Reuters, and Ynetnews/October 09/18
Turkey, Jailer of Journalists, Now Slams Saudi Arabia – for Murdering a Journalist/Simon A. Waldman/Haaretz/October 09/18
Saudi journalist’s disappearance developing into diplomatic mess/Simon Henserson/The Hill/October 09/18
A New Arab Military Alliance Has Dim Prospects/The Economist/October 08/18
Big spectacles, bigger shoes/Turki Aldakhil/Al Arabiya/October 09/18
What Kavanaugh nomination tells us about American politics/Walid Jawad/Al Arabiya/October 09/18
Establishing equality in Saudi Arabia/Hassan Al Mustafa/Al Arabiya/October 09/18
Why is the Russian GRU so hopeless/Dr. Azeem Ibrahim/Al Arabiya/October 09/18
New York City's Islamist Grant/Oren Litwin/Gatestone Institute/October 09/18
How Iran Plans to Take Gaza/Khaled Abu Toameh/Gatestone Institute/October 09/18
Russia's Bungled Spying/Leonid Bershidsky/The Guardian/October, 09/18
KSA and the Hyperloop Century/Josh Giegel/Asharq Al Awsat/October 09/18
Disappearance of Saudi journalist puts Erdogan in difficult situation/Semih Idiz/Al Monitor/October 09/18
The Disappearance Of Journalist Jamal Khashoggi: Before He Disappeared, The Saudi Press Accused Him Of Treason; Now It Is Expressing Concern/MEMRI/October 09/18

Titles For The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on October 09-10/18
Sources: Most of New Lebanese Govt. Structure Ready
Siemens to Solve Lebanon’s Chronic Electricity Crisis
Lebanese FM Embarks on Arab Tour ahead of Economic Summit
Report: No Breakthrough in Government Formation
Report: France in Focus on Lebanon Refugees Crisis, Economy and Govt Lineup
'Cowboy', Accomplice Sentenced over 'Jumblat Assassination Plot'
Bassil Talks 'Railways and Electricity' with Jordan King
Qaouq Slams Parties Seeking to 'Weaken Presidency'
Kataeb Calls for Government of Specialists
Kataeb Party Renews Call for Government of Specialists
Kataeb Leader Seeks Joint Struggle for Reform in Lebanon

Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on October 09-10/18
US Ambassador. To UN Nikki Haley resigns
Netanyahu Recommends Israeli Army Prepares for Gaza Violence
Jordanian King Stresses Need to Revive Peace Process
Most heavy arms out of planned Syria buffer zone, monitor says
Eight killed in suicide attack on afghan election candidate
Saudi Arabia has agreed to let Turkish authorities search the kingdom's Istanbul consulate
Erdogan Asks Riyadh to 'Prove' Journalist Left Consulate
Trump Says America Owes Kavanaugh Apology after Supreme Court Battle
Saudi's Crown Prince: Reformism and Authoritarianism
Syrian President Grants General Amnesty to Army Deserters
Most Heavy Arms Out of Planned Syria Buffer Zone
Public Strike in Iran Protests Worsening Living Conditions
Wave of Assassinations in Basra Claims 2 New Victims
Saudi ambassador set to return to Germany, meet with FM Heiko Maas
The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on October 09-10/18
Sources: Most of New Lebanese Govt. Structure Ready
Beirut - Youssef Diab/Asharq Al Awsat/October 09/18/The structure of the new Lebanese government is mostly ready, sources at the Baabda presidential palace told Asharq Al-Awsat on Monday. The completion of the lineup is pending an agreement over the ministerial portfolios allocated to the Lebanese Forces and the name of the third Druze minister from outside of the Progressive Socialist Party. “Following the return of President Michel Aoun from Armenia Friday, we might witness an effective translation of the positive climate and the Lebanese might witness the birth of their new cabinet very soon, most probably before the end of the month,” the sources said. On Thursday, Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri inspired optimism in the country, saying the government will be formed within a week to 10 days.However, pessimism pervaded the next day when caretaker Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil placed 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, driving frustration among most political forces. Since making his comments last week, Hariri has remained silent over the latest developments related to his government formation. However, sources close to the PM-designate told Asharq Al-Awsat that he has maintained his optimism. “The PM is counting on the wisdom of Aoun and his keenness to resolve the crisis,” the sources said, adding that Hariri was still receiving positive signs from the president. “He expects another meeting with the president when he returns from his official trip to Armenia,” they said. Political circles are currently anticipating Bassil’s upcoming television interview on Thursday to determine whether he will preserve the positive environment in the country. “Bassil will express his position regarding the cabinet formation process, but will not put an obstacle in the efforts exerted in this regard,” the sources added.

Siemens to Solve Lebanon’s Chronic Electricity Crisis

Asharq Al Awsat/October 09/18/A meeting between a delegation from Siemens, headed by its executive director in the Middle East, and Lebanon’s minister of energy in the caretaker government was held on Monday in Beirut to resolve controversies surrounding the company’s role in ending the country’s chronic electricity crisis. The three-hour meeting was followed by a news conference, during which Caretaker Energy Minister Cesar Abi Khalil and Siemens Middle East CEO Dietmar Siersdorfer expressed optimism at the prospects of cooperation between the two sides. “We agreed to commit ourselves to cooperate in order to crystallize the ideas put forward to reach final solutions,” Abi Khalil said, adding that the meeting was positive and aimed at “clarifying the misunderstanding that had happened as a result of rumors.” “Siemens provided an approach to improving the Lebanese [electricity] system, from production to transportation, distribution and collection,” the minister revealed. For his part, Siersdorfer refused to reveal details of the proposal presented to the Lebanese side and said: “We look forward to working with the Ministry of Energy and the Lebanese state to build an efficient energy system in the medium to long term.”Around two weeks ago, AMAL bloc MP Yassine Jaber criticized Free Patriotic Movement-affiliated Abi Khalil for reportedly rejecting an offer from Siemens to build power plants in Lebanon. He accused the FPM of committing to the “power ships” solution to resolve the electricity crisis. Abi Khalil had rejected the claims in a tweet, writing: “Siemens did not participate in any bids.”Siemens had originally made the offer to help resolve Lebanon’s power crisis during a visit by German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Beirut in June.

Lebanese FM Embarks on Arab Tour ahead of Economic Summit
Beirut - Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 9 October, 2018/Lebanese caretaker Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil kicked off on Monday a tour of Arab countries to deliver invitations to Arab leaders to attend the upcoming economic development summit. The summit is being hosted by Beirut in January. He arrived in Kuwait where he met with Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Jaber al-Sabah. The foreign ministry described the meeting as “excellent and brotherly.”Bassil and Sheikh Sabah discussed bilateral ties and the importance of Lebanon committing to its policy of disassociation from regional conflicts. The minister then traveled to Jordan where he is scheduled to meet with King Abdullah II.

Report: No Breakthrough in Government Formation

Naharnet/October 09/18/Although there is no major breakthrough in Lebanon’s government formation, but Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri is determined to form one in the next few days now that the ten-day deadline he set after his “positive” meeting with President Michel Aoun last week has ended, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Tuesday. The daily said that Hariri is “carefully working on a new government formula before presenting it to Aoun in the next few days.” Meanwhile, Hizbullah sources blamed the delay on what they said is “foreign intervention,” saying “we can’t form a government unless foreign vetoes are removed.”Center House sources of Hariri, dimmed any hopes that a breakthrough could be reached. “It is impossible to make a breakthrough on the formation,” they said, “Hariri is waiting for Aoun in order to resume contacts and find a solution. Everybody must make concessions in order to lineup a government,” they said, in an indirect reference to PSP leader Walid Jumblat.As the formation process stalls, Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblat hinted on Monday that he could agree to make “concessions” regarding his party's share in the new government. Jumblat had been insisting on getting all three Druze seats for his PSP but has recently shown some flexibility. Lebanese Democratic Party chief MP Talal Arslan, backed by President Michel Aoun and the Free Patriotic Movement, has stressed that he has the right to get one of the Druze seats.

Report: France in Focus on Lebanon Refugees Crisis, Economy and Govt Lineup
Naharnet/October 09/18/France is worried that a further delay in lining up Lebanon’s government could affect implementation of the CEDRE conference, although French diplomats affirm “commitment” to its resolutions that garnered billions of dollars for the Mediterranean country. Al-Joumhouria daily said on Tuesday that “the French interest in Lebanon is focused on the government formation process, the country’s economy and the crisis of Syrian refugees.”Senior French diplomatic sources in Beirut have stressed the need that Lebanon forms a Cabinet “the more time passes (without a government) the greater the concerns over the CEDRE conference, although we are committed to it,” they told the daily. They revealed that “French President Emmanuel Macron -expected to meet President Michel Aoun at the Francophone summit- has requested that Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil be present to discuss important issues with him, but was surprised to know that the Minister will not attend.” In May, Lebanon was garnered $11 billion in pledges, including $10.2 billion in loans and $860 million in grants at the CEDRE conference-– also referred to as Paris IV. Asked whether France has any reservations shall Lebanon allocate its health ministry for a minister of Hizbullah, they said: “We don’t have any problem with the minister’s political affiliation.” The United States has reportedly threatened to cut aid to ministries allocated for the party which the US lists as “terrorist organization.” On the electricity crisis, the sources affirmed that “Paris is very interested in the electricity file, which is one of the main causes of depletion of the treasury, and is able to help in finding scientific solutions.”

'Cowboy', Accomplice Sentenced over 'Jumblat Assassination Plot'

Naharnet/October 09/18/A Lebanese and a Syrian were on Tuesday handed jail sentences in absentia after they were convicted of plotting to assassinate Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblat in 2016. The National News Agency said the Military Court sentenced Lebanese national Youssef Munir Fakhr -- who is also known as 'The Cowboy' -- and the Syrian Muhannad Ali Moussa to ten years of hard labor. It also stripped them of their civil rights. In a separate case also involving 'The Cowboy', the court sentenced Lebanese fugitive Hammoud Khaled Awad to five years of hard labor and Lebanese fugitive Naji al-Najjar to three years of hard labor on charges of “conspiring with Fakhr and Moussa to form an armed group and supporting the Syrian revolution with money and arms.”“Fakhr and Moussa also communicated with Mandi al-Safadi, who has Israeli nationality and is close to the Israeli enemy's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,” the court said. The Cowboy was arrested in August 2016 upon his arrival at Beirut airport from the United States. He was released in December 2017 on an LBP 10 million bail after which he went into hiding.

Bassil Talks 'Railways and Electricity' with Jordan King

Naharnet/October 09/18/Caretaker Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil met Tuesday with Jordanian King Abdullah II and handed him a letter from President Michel Aoun. The letter included an invitation to the Arab socio-economic summit that will be held in Beirut in January.In a tweet, Bassil described the meeting with the monarch as “effective and productive.”“It involved an exchange of cordiality, ideas and Levantine visions; common sentiments and interests; good neighborliness; railways, electricity, water, border crossings and agriculture; and a special emphasis on the apple sector,” Bassil said. The minister had kicked off a tour of several Arab countries on Monday, beginning it with a meeting with Kuwait's Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah who also handed an invitation to the socio-economic summit.

Qaouq Slams Parties Seeking to 'Weaken Presidency'
Naharnet/October 09/18/A senior Hizbullah official on Monday accused certain political parties in Lebanon of seeking to “weaken” President Michel Aoun's tenure. “Hizbullah and the AMAL Movement are greatly facilitating the formation of the government,” Hizbullah central council member Sheikh Nabil Qaouq said. “It is not the Presidency that is delaying the formation of the cabinet, but rather political forces whose names and identities have become well-known,” Qaouq added, noting that Aoun's presidential term is being “harmed” by the ongoing delay. “They are deliberately delaying the formation of the government in order to weaken the president's tenure. They are not serving the country but rather proving that they cannot be entrusted with the interests of the country and its citizens,” the Hizbullah official went on to say.

Kataeb Calls for Government of Specialists
Naharnet/October 09/18/The Kataeb party on Tuesday urged President Michel Aoun and Premier-designate Saad Hariri to form a government of specialists and end wrangling between political parties over shares and portfolios. Speaking during the party’s politburo weekly meeting, Kataeb chief Sami Gemayel sounded the alarm over “unprecedented conflict over shares and quotas, and the destructive logic that has prevailed," between political parties. He said officials have “left the country bogged down in obstruction and its economic and political repercussions." Gemayel appealed on Aoun and Hariri “to put an end to the futile debate on quotas, and take the initiative to form a government of specialists from outside political parties,” noting the domestic and foreign challenges facing the country.

Kataeb Party Renews Call for Government of Specialists 09/2018/The Lebanese Kataeb party on Monday warned of the "destructive mentality" that is controlling the country, blasting the "unprecedented" haggling over ministerial shares. "They have turned a deaf ear to the citizens' suffering and concerns, and left the country drown in obstructive and its dire repercussions, both on the political and economic levels," read a statement issued following the weekly meeting of the Kataeb politburo. The party renewed its call for both the president and the prime minister-designate to end the "futile" dispute over shares and formation standards, and work on forming a rescue government of non-partisan specialists. The party also sounded the alarm over Lebanon's environment, urging the concerned officials to take immediate action to save what is life of Lebanon's nature.The politburo denounced all transgressions against the freedom of expression in Lebanon, warning of attempts to alter the country's image and dash the fundamental values on which it was built.

Kataeb Leader Seeks Joint Struggle for Reform in Lebanon 09/2018/Kataeb leader Samy Gemayel on Tuesday met with the President of Association of Banks in Lebanon, Joseph Torbey, with talks featuring high on the critical phase that Lebanon's economy is going through and ways to avert further decline.
Following the meeting, Gemayel stressed the urgent need to introduce reforms, which must begin by forming a reformist government, in order to reduce the state's deficit. "Othewise, the country is heading into a steep economic decline," he warned. Gemayel said that he had asked the Association of Banks to play an effective role in averting economic collapse and press the state to adopt reforms, noting that it has power and authority over the state whose money is covered by the banks. “The people, banks and the international community must compel the state to set out a reform agenda, because the economic situation will deteriorate even further if the state's performance ends up destroying the public finances," he warned. "We fear the fall of all economic sectors in one blow."“Something must be quickly done by influencers because we cannot rely on those in power to enforce reform. Influencers, which are firstly banks, can pressure the state." Gemayel reiterated his call for ending squandering, random employment in the public sector, tax evasion, electricity deficit, along with other required reforms in order to bring back the state finances to the right position.
“There is a need to form a government. However, it is strange that political parties are unaware of the growing financial and economic threats. Instead, they are focusing on their ministerial shares while taking the country as a hostage and disregarding all the proposals being presented to end this stalemate,” Gemayel deplored. Later, Gemayel met with the head of the General Confederation of Lebanese Workers, Bechara Asmar. Following the talks, Gemayel hailed the joined efforts to defend the rights of the Lebanese citizens, also outlining the Confederation's key role in pressuring the implementation of reforms in the country. “We discussed the shutting down of several businesses due to economic stagnation, which increased the unemployment rate. We also conferred over the dangerous situation which must not prolong," he stated, blaming the ongoing political bickering over ministerial shares.
“If they are unable to partition seats, then we call on President Aoun and PM-designate Hariri to end the disgraceful wrangle over shares, to form a government of specialists and set a reformatory program,” Gemayel stressed. "The country can no longer endure this situation. We shall work hand in hand with the General Confederation of Lebanese Workers and economic bodies in order to demand reforms," he affirmed. “We hope that people would not be left unaided to face their fate while being taken hostages for the sake of partisan and political interests. We must focus on the people’s future and welfare as we will fight day and night to achieve our goal,” Gemayel vowed. The Kataeb leader was accompanied by former Economy Minister Alain Hakim, the head of the party's Social and Economic Council Jean Tawile, and legal adviser Lara Saade.
The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on October 09-10/18
US Ambassador. To UN Nikki Haley resigns
Reuters, and Ynetnews/October 09/18
US President Donald Trump accepts Nikki Haley's resignation, as reported by the Axios news site; 'Hopefully, you'll be coming back at some point. Maybe in a different capacity,' Trump says to Haley, a known supporter of Israel at the UN.
US President Donald Trump has accepted the resignation of UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, Axios news site reported on Tuesday, citing two sources familiar with the matter.Haley would not confirm the report to Reuters when asked about it during a visit to the White House. Trump and Haley held a press conference during which the US envoy to the UN announced she would be leaving her position by the end of the year. "Big announcement with my friend Ambassador Nikki Haley in the Oval Office," Trump tweeted. Trump said that Haley is a "very special" person, adding that she told him six months ago that she might want to take some time off. Trump said that together, they had "solved a lot of problems."Speaking to reporters in the Oval Office, he praised her for having done an incredible job and said he hoped she could come back to the administration serving in another position."We're all happy for you in one way, but we hate to lose (you). ... Hopefully, you'll be coming back at some point. Maybe a different capacity. You can have your pick," Trump said. It's the latest shake-up in the turbulent Trump administration just weeks before the November midterm election.
No reason for the resignation was immediately provided.
Haley, 46, was appointed to the UN post in November 2016 and last month coordinated Trump's second trip to the United Nations, including his first time chairing the UN Security Council. Before she was named by Trump to her UN post, Haley was governor of South Carolina, the first woman to hold the post. She was reelected in 2014. Last month Haley wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post discussing her policy disagreements but also her pride in working for Trump. It came in response to an anonymous essay in The New York Times by a senior administration official that alleged there to be a secret "resistance" effort from the right in Trump's administration and that there were internal discussions of invoking the 25th amendment to remove Trump from office. "I proudly serve in this administration, and I enthusiastically support most of its decisions and the direction it is taking the country," Haley wrote. "But I don't agree with the president on everything." Echoing previous statements from Trump, Haley said the United States under his presidency is now respected around the world.
"Now the United States is respected. Countries may not like what we do, but they respect what we do. They know that if we say we're going to do something, we follow it through," she said. Earlier this year, Haley told Reuters that, "Every day I feel like I put body armor on," to protect US interests at the United Nations.  As governor, she developed a national reputation as a racial conciliator who led the charge to bring down the Confederate flag at the Statehouse and guided South Carolina through one of its darkest moments, the massacre at a black church. Being the daughter of Indian immigrants, Haley is seen as a rising star in the Republican Party and a possible candidate for the 2020 presidential elections.
South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, a close Trump ally tweeted that Haley "has a very bright future and will be a key player in both the future of the Republican Party and our nation as a whole for years to come."
However, she said she would not be running in 2020 and would campaign for Trump.
The top diplomat is considered an enthusiastic supporter of Israel in at the UN, and has shared Trump's criticism of the UN institutions. The United States announced in June it was leaving the United Nations' Human Rights Council, with Haley calling it "an organization that is not worthy of its name."Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Haley for her support of the Israel at the UN and said she had fought hypocrisy at the organization. "I would like to thank Ambassador Nikki Haley, who led the uncompromising struggle against hypocrisy at the UN, and on behalf of the truth and justice of our country," Netanyahu tweeted. Israel's ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, echoed Netanyahu's remarks, applauding her stance towards the Jewish State. "Thank you, Nikki Haley! Thank you for representing the values common to Israel and the United States. Thank you for your support, which led to a change in Israel's status in the UN. Thank you for your close friendship. You will always be a true friend to the State of Israel," Danon said.  Trump said he would name her successor within two or three weeks.

Netanyahu Recommends Israeli Army Prepares for Gaza Violence
Asharq Al Awsat/October 09/18/Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told cabinet ministers that should the humanitarian situation in Gaza Strip worsen, it will backfire and may call for a military response, political sources in Tel Aviv said on Monday. According to sources, Netanyahu instructed the Israeli army and other security services to prepare for such a scenario, “because Israel will not accept to be the focus of internal Palestinian quarrels.”Sources in the Israeli security establishment have presented reports, estimating that internal conflicts between the Palestinian Authority on the one hand and Hamas on the other will intensify in coming days and possibly lead to clashes. Hamas in the Gaza Strip may try to pick a fight with Israel to make a case that its battle is against the blockade. Efforts should focus on reducing the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, but that might never happen, so we have to be militarily prepared, Netenyahu told ministers. Israel is currently focusing all its attention on the situation in the West Bank following a shooting in which two settlers were killed. A state of alert has been declared throughout the West Bank in anticipation of a similar event in other locations.

Jordanian King Stresses Need to Revive Peace Process

Amman – Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 9 October, 2018/Jordanian King Abdullah II stressed the need to revive the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, based on the two-state solution, international resolutions and 2002 Arab peace initiative. He also expressed his support for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, "living side by side with Israel, in peace and security." He made his statement during a meeting with Israeli Labor Party leader Avi Gabbay on Monday. Gabbay told King Abdullah that he is grateful for the peace between Israel and Jordan and thanked him for his "continued efforts to promote stability in the region." He expressed his commitment to a two-state solution and his belief that such a plan is "the best way to bring peace and long-term security to Israel."

Most heavy arms out of planned Syria buffer zone, monitor says
AFP, Beirut/Tuesday, 9 October 2018/Extremists and Turkish-backed militants have withdrawn most heavy weapons from territory around Syria’s last major opposition stronghold ahead of a Wednesday deadline, a monitor said. The weapons pullback is the first major test of a truce deal brokered by government-backed Russia and opposition militants-backer Turkey last month to avoid what the United Nations warned would be the appalling humanitarian consequences of a major government offensive. Under the agreement, all opposition groups have a Wednesday deadline to withdraw all their heavy weaponry from a 15- to 20-kilometre (nine- to 12-mile) buffer zone along the front line in Idlib province and adjacent areas of the northwest. By next Monday, the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) alliance led by Al-Qaeda’s former Syria branch, and other militant factions must also withdraw their fighters.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group, said the heavy weapons pullout was near complete on Tuesday. “The buffer zone is now almost empty of any heavy weapons on the eve of the expiry of the deadline,” its chief Rami Abdel Rahman said.
The pro-Ankara National Liberation Front said it finished pulling out its heavy weapons on Monday. HTS and smaller extremist factions quietly began withdrawing theirs on Saturday in an operation that continued through Monday night, the Observatory said. HTS, which controls more than half of Idlib, has not given any formal response to the September 17 truce deal. But a source close to the group told AFP it had come under irresistible pressure to fall into line to avoid further hardship for its stronghold’s three million residents, many of whom have fled previous bloody government offensives on other parts of Syria.
“Everybody has been forced to agree to the initiative, though reluctantly, so that people can enjoy a bit of security and safety after long years of suffering from the savagery of the regime and its allies,” the source said. The new buffer zone is to be patrolled by Turkish troops from the one side and Russian military police from the other. The source said HTS was satisfied that the presence of the Turkish troops, whose numbers have been increased in recent weeks, would prevent any Russian-backed government offensive. Forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have retaken swathes of territory in Syria since Russia entered the war in September 2015.

Eight killed in suicide attack on afghan election candidate

AFP, Kandahar/Tuesday, 9 October 2018 /A suicide bomber targeting an Afghan election candidate on Tuesday killed at least eight people, officials said, days ahead of a parliamentary vote that militants have vowed to disrupt. Another 10 people were wounded when the attacker blew himself up inside Saleh Mohammad Asikzai’s campaign office in the southern city of Lashkar Gah, Helmand provincial governor spokesman Omar Zhwak told AFP. Asikzai was among the injured, Zhwak added. Provincial police spokesman Salam Afghan confirmed the attack. “We are investigating,” he said. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, but Helmand is a Taliban stronghold. It is not clear how many people were inside the room at the time of the blast, which comes a day after the Taliban warned candidates to pull out of the “bogus” election scheduled for October 20. Describing the polls as a “malicious American conspiracy” and urging voters to boycott them, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the militants would pull no punches to disrupt the ballot. It was the second suicide attack to target a parliamentary candidate since campaigning officially kicked off on September 28.
An attack on a rally in the eastern province of Nangarhar on October 2 killed 13 people and wounded more than 40. More than 2,500 candidates will contest the poll, which is seen as a test run for next year’s presidential vote. At least five have been murdered in targeted killings so far, according to the Independent Election Commission. Preparations for the ballot, which is more than three years late, have been in turmoil for months and there has been widespread speculation about whether the vote would go ahead. Bureaucratic inefficiency, allegations of industrial-scale fraud and an eleventh-hour pledge for biometric verification of voters threaten to derail the process and any hope of a credible result. Some 54,000 members of Afghanistan’s beleaguered security forces will be responsible for protecting more than 5,000 polling centers on election day. More than 2,000 polling centers that were supposed to open will be closed for security reasons.

Saudi Arabia has agreed to let Turkish authorities search the kingdom's Istanbul consulate
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/October 09/18/Saudi Arabia has agreed to let Turkish authorities search the kingdom's Istanbul consulate after prominent journalist and Riyadh critic Jamal Khashoggi went missing last week, the Turkish foreign ministry said Tuesday. "Saudi authorities said they were open to cooperation and that a search can be conducted at the consulate building," the ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said in a statement. Aksoy added the search will take place as part of the official investigation, which was being conducted "in an intense manner", though he did not say when. Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributor who had been published in the Arab and Western media, vanished last Tuesday after visiting the consulate to obtain official documents. Previously Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told Bloomberg that Riyadh would be ready to welcome Turkish officials to search the premises. Ankara sought permission to search the building on Sunday after the foreign ministry summoned the Saudi ambassador for a second time, Turkish television reported this week. Riyadh's envoy in Ankara was first called to the ministry on Wednesday. While Riyadh claimed he had left the building afterwards, Turkish police said Khashoggi did not come out of the consulate. Government sources said police believe the journalist was killed inside the consulate. Police also said a special team of around 15 Saudis were especially sent to Istanbul and in the building at the same time as Khashoggi.
Turkish security officials were working to identify the 15 individuals, English-language state broadcaster TRT World reported, adding that Turkish officials believe the Saudis may have taken the consulate's CCTV footage with them when they returned to Saudi Arabia.
Khashoggi, a former Saudi government adviser, had been living in self-imposed exile in the United States since last year fearing possible arrest. He has been critical of some policies of the crown prince and Riyadh's intervention in the war in Yemen.

Erdogan Asks Riyadh to 'Prove' Journalist Left Consulate

Turkey's president has demanded Saudi officials prove their claim that missing journalist and Riyadh critic Jamal Khashoggi left the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, as the US called for a thorough probe into his disappearance. Recep Tayyip Erdogan's comments on Monday came after media reports said his government sought permission from Saudi authorities to search the consulate premises in Istanbul. Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributor, vanished last Tuesday after entering the consulate to receive official documents ahead of his marriage to a Turkish woman. "Consulate officials cannot save themselves by saying that he left the building... Don't you have a camera?" Erdogan told a news conference in Budapest. "If he left, you have to prove it with footage. Those who ask Turkish authorities where he is should ask what happened." US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a statement late Monday urged "the government of Saudi Arabia to support a thorough investigation of Mr Khashoggi's disappearance and to be transparent about the results of that investigation". Turkish police said at the weekend that around 15 Saudis, including officials, arrived in Istanbul on two flights last Tuesday and were at the consulate at the same time as Khashoggi. A Turkish government source told AFP at the weekend that the police believe the journalist "was killed by a team especially sent to Istanbul and who left the same day". Riyadh vehemently denies the claim and says Khashoggi left the consulate. Turkey on Monday sought permission to search the consulate premises, Turkish NTV broadcaster reported. The move came after the foreign ministry summoned the Saudi ambassador for a second time Sunday over the journalist's disappearance. A Turkish diplomat confirmed Monday that the Saudi envoy had met deputy foreign minister Sedat Onal. "The ambassador was told that we expected full cooperation during the investigation," the source said. The ambassador was first summoned to the ministry on Wednesday. Erdogan said Turkish police and intelligence were investigating the case. "The airport exits and entrances are being examined. There are people who came from Saudi Arabia," he said. "The chief prosecutor's office is investigating the issue."US President Donald Trump said he was "concerned" about the journalist's disappearance. "Right now, nobody knows anything about it. There are some pretty bad stories going around. I do not like it," Trump told reporters at the White House.
Awful crime
Protesters gathered outside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Monday with banners reading "We will not leave without Jamal Khashoggi", demanding to know what had happened to him. Yemeni activist Tawakkol Karman, the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, said it would be an "awful crime" if the claims of his death were true. "Killing him is like killing us. This policy is just a terror policy. There's no difference between the state terror and other terror actions," she added. Khashoggi went to the consulate to obtain official documents required for his marriage to Hatice Cengiz. Turkish police quickly said he never left the building as there was no security footage of his departure. The consulate rejected claims that the journalist was killed there as "baseless". Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman previously told Bloomberg that Riyadh was "ready to welcome the Turkish government to go and search" the consulate, which is Saudi sovereign territory. "We will allow them to enter and search and do whatever they want to do. If they ask for that, of course, we will allow them. We have nothing to hide," Prince Salman said in an interview published on Friday. Khashoggi had been critical of some of the crown prince's policies and Riyadh's intervention in the war in Yemen in Arab and Western media. He compared the 33-year-old prince to Russian President Vladimir Putin in a column for the Washington Post in November 2017. "As of now, I would say Mohammed bin Salman is acting like Putin. He is imposing very selective justice. The crackdown on even the most constructive criticism — the demand for complete loyalty with a significant 'or else' — remains a serious challenge to the crown prince's desire to be seen as a modern, enlightened leader," he wrote.
'Devastating impact'
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a top Senate ally of Trump, warned of a "devastating" impact on the US alliance with Saudi Arabia if allegations are confirmed. Saudi Arabia launched a modernisation campaign following Prince Mohammed's appointment as heir to the throne with moves such as lifting a ban on women driving. But the ultra-conservative kingdom, which ranks 169th out of 180 on RSF's World Press Freedom Index, has been strongly criticised over its intolerance of dissent with dozens of people arrested including intellectuals and Islamic preachers.

Trump Says America Owes Kavanaugh Apology after Supreme Court Battle

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/October 09/18/President Donald Trump said Monday he was apologizing on behalf of the whole country to his new conservative Supreme Court justice after one of the most contentious confirmation processes in US history. At a White House swearing-in ceremony, Trump stood next to Justice Brett Kavanaugh and said he'd been "proven innocent" of the sexual assault allegations that threatened to derail him in a Senate confirmation process revealing the depth of the left-right split tearing through American politics. "On behalf of our nation, I want to apologize to Brett and the entire Kavanaugh family for the terrible pain and suffering you have been forced to endure," he said at the ceremony in the ornate White House East Room. Trump showed he still considers the nomination row a political battle. Before the ceremony, he'd described opposition Democrats as "evil" and the sexual assault claims as a "hoax." But after being sworn in, Kavanaugh struck a markedly more conciliatory tone. He told an audience that included the entire Supreme Court and a Who's Who of Republican movers and shakers that he had "no bitterness" and would never bring politics into the top court. "The Supreme Court is a team of nine. And I will always be a team player on the team of nine.... The Senate confirmation process was contentious and emotional. That process is over," he said.
Fight for votes
Trump sees his success in getting Kavanaugh onto the court -- tilting the crucial body to the right for potentially years to come -- as one of the major successes of his turbulent two-year administration. It also comes in the final run-up to midterm elections on November 6.
The president -- whose Republicans fear losing at least the lower chamber of Congress -- predicted that Democrats would pay for their attempts to block the confirmation, especially during the lurid debate over decades-old sexual assault allegations. "I think a lot of Democrats are going to vote Republican," he said in his earlier comments outside the White House. "I think you're going to see a lot of things happening on November 6." Democrats had fought tooth and nail to stop Kavanaugh's candidacy, claiming that the accomplished, conservative-minded judge was not suited to the Supreme Court. Then, just as his confirmation seemed inevitable, 11th-hour allegations emerged that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted a 15-year-old girl while at high school and exposed himself to a female classmate at an alcohol-fueled dorm party at Yale University. No concrete evidence was produced to back up the searing accusations, which Republicans described as a dirty tricks campaign. After an extra FBI probe -- which media reports say was drastically curtailed by the White House -- also found nothing new, Kavanaugh was finally voted into the coveted post. Kavanaugh officially took the oath in a more hurried, private procedure Saturday, but the White House version late Monday gave the Trump administration a chance to perform the equivalent of a victory lap on live television.
Lighting a match
Trump has repeatedly said that putting conservatives on the court -- Kavanaugh is his second appointment -- was among the top goals of his presidency. "I've always been told it's the biggest thing a president can do and I can understand that," he said. He called the Kavanaugh row "a disgraceful situation brought about by people who are evil," and said that the result was "very exciting." "I'm doing rallies and people are loving that man and loving that choice," he said. In reality, Kavanaugh's confirmation lit a match under existing tensions ahead of the midterm elections. The two-vote margin of victory in the Senate made it the closest Supreme Court confirmation vote since 1881 -- and by far the most contentious since Clarence Thomas in 1991. Only one Democrat voted for Trump's nominee.

Saudi's Crown Prince: Reformism and Authoritarianism
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/October 09/18/Saudi Arabia's Mohammed bin Salman has implemented a string of reforms in his country, but with his ascension to crown prince in June 2017 has come an intensified crackdown on dissent. Just a few months after the 33-year-old was appointed heir to the Gulf region's most powerful throne, rights groups reported the first wave of arrests. In September 2017, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International reported the arrest of dozens of writers, journalists, activists and religious leaders, including prominent Islamist cleric Sheikh Salman al-Awda. It was around this time that columnist Jamal Khashoggi left the kingdom for self-imposed exile in the US. Khashoggi, who has been missing since he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, had been banned from writing in the pan-Arab Al-Hayat newspaper following his defence of the Muslim Brotherhood, which Riyadh has blacklisted as a terror organisation.
Promising move
The September 2017 arrests took place shortly before the kingdom announced it was lifting a decades-long ban on women drivers, seen as a sign that the ultra-conservative nation may be heading towards a more "modern" society. The announcement was part of Prince Mohammed's Vision 2030 plan for economic and social reforms as Riyadh prepares for a post-oil era. In a rare public appearance in October, the crown prince -- known as MBS -- said he would strive for "a country of moderate Islam that is tolerant of all religions and to the world". While many in the international community lauded the young prince's efforts to modernise the country, another wave of arrests was set to take place. In November, dozens of princes, businessmen and senior officials were detained in what the authorities said was an anti-corruption crackdown. Suspects, including billionaire Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, were held at Riyadh's luxury Ritz-Carlton hotel for three months and freed only after reaching substantial financial settlements with the authorities. At the same time, Prince Mohammed was accused by Lebanese officials of placing Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad Hariri under house arrest in the Saudi capital after he had made a shocking resignation announcement from there. The string of arrests and the Hariri case have reflected poorly on the image of Prince Mohammed as a "reformer".
Change from the throne
He was thrust into the spotlight again in May 2018 when Human Rights Watch said at least 11 women rights activists were arrested -- just a month before the ban on women was to be officially lifted.Another two arrests, including that of Samar Badawi -- sister of jailed blogger Raif Badawi -- were reported in August. Some analysts said the women's arrests were not "surprising" and were in line with Saudi Arabia's top-down vision -- that change only comes from the throne. Rights groups also said they were concerned about the fate of activist Israa al-Ghomgham, who was detained on charges of inciting protests in mainly Shiite areas of the Sunni-ruled kingdom's Eastern Province. According to Amnesty International, Saudi Arabia's public prosecutor is seeking the death penalty against her and her husband, and three other rights activists.
Prince Mohammed had sought to cultivate in the West the image of a reformer by reducing the powers of the religious police, agreeing to the reopening of cinemas, the organisation of concerts and the entry of women into sports stadiums. But analysts say that although claims that Khashoggi has been killed after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul a week ago remain unconfirmed, if they are true they would seriously damage the prince's credentials as a reformer. Turkish police believe Khashoggi was killed by a team of assassins who were sent to Istanbul and departed the same day, according to a Turkish government source. Riyadh has denied the allegations as "baseless".

Syrian President Grants General Amnesty to Army Deserters
Associated Press/Naharnet/October 09/18/ Syrian President Bashar Assad has granted general amnesty to army deserters both within Syria and those outside the country. A decree published by state media on Tuesday says the amnesty doesn't include "criminals" and those on the run unless they turn themselves in to authorities. Deserters in Syria have four months to do so; those abroad have six months. The amnesty could help boost the return of refugees, some of whom have not been able to go back home because they were blacklisted. The decree comes at a time when government forces have managed over the past year to capture wide areas once held by insurgents, including in southern Syria and the eastern suburbs of the capital, Damascus. The flashpoint in Syria is now the country's northwestern province of Idlib.

Most Heavy Arms Out of Planned Syria Buffer Zone

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/October 09/18/Jihadists and Turkish-backed rebels in Syria's last major opposition stronghold have withdrawn most of their heavy weapons from a planned buffer zone ahead of a Wednesday deadline, a monitor said. The pullback is the first major test of a deal brokered by government ally Russia and rebel-backer Turkey last month to avoid what the United Nations warned would be the appalling humanitarian consequences of a major government offensive. Under the agreement, all factions have until Wednesday to withdraw heavy weaponry from the 15- to 20-kilometre (nine- to 12-mile) wide buffer zone, which rings Idlib province and adjacent areas of the northwest. And by Monday, the buffer zone must be free of all jihadists, including those of the region's dominant armed group, the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) alliance led by Al-Qaeda's former Syria branch. Analysts had expected Ankara to have a difficult time enforcing the September 17 deal but by Tuesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the heavy weapons pullout was near complete. "The buffer zone is now almost empty of any heavy weapons on the eve of the expiry of the deadline," the Britain-based monitor's chief, Rami Abdel Rahman, said. HTS and smaller jihadist factions quietly began withdrawing their heavy arms on Saturday in an operation that continued through Monday night, the Observatory said.
The pro-Ankara National Liberation Front said it had completed its weapons pullback on Monday.
'Forced to agree' -
HTS, which controls more than two-thirds of the buffer zone around Idlib along with other jihadists, has not given any formal response to the September 17 truce deal. But by beginning to pull out its weapons, the group was implementing it "de facto", Abdel Rahman said. "No faction, rebel or jihadist, would be able to withstand the consequences of any escalation if the deal's terms were not met," Abdel Rahman said. A source close to HTS told AFP it had come under irresistible pressure to fall in line to avoid further hardship for the rebel zone's three million residents, many of whom have fled previous bloody government offensives on other parts of Syria. "Everybody has been forced to agree to the initiative, though reluctantly, so that people can enjoy a bit of security and safety after long years of suffering from the savagery of the regime and its allies," the source said. The source said HTS was satisfied that the presence of the Turkish troops, whose numbers have been increased in recent weeks, would prevent any Russian-backed government offensive. Under the terms of the deal, the buffer zone is to be patrolled by Turkish troops and Russian military police. But rebels objected to Moscow's presence in the zone and said they received Turkish guarantees that Russian patrols had been dropped.
Jihadist withdrawal?
For the zone to come into effect, "radical groups" -- interpreted as meaning HTS and other jihadists -- must also leave the area by next Monday. It is still not clear whether the jihadists will comply with this second deadline. Nawar Oliver, an analyst from the Turkey-based Omran Centre for Strategic Studies, said he thought HTS would comply with the deal even if it did not publicly announce its support. "It'll still have a presence in Idlib and is not handing over any weapons or fighters, but is handing over the (buffer) zone to a neutral side, Turkey, and to the NLF," he told AFP. Forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have retaken swathes of territory in Syria since Russia intervened in September 2015. A series of offensives earlier this year saw a succession of longtime rebel strongholds surrender. A similar Russia-backed assault had been expected in Idlib before the deal was announced last month. Despite progress in implementing the Idlib deal, Assad insisted on Sunday that the arrangement would not become permanent. In comments reported by state news agency SANA, he said the accord was a "temporary measure" and Idlib would eventually return to state control. The civil war has killed more than 360,000 people and forced millions to flee their homes since it erupted in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.

Public Strike in Iran Protests Worsening Living Conditions
London - Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 9 October, 2018/Many shop owners in Iranian cities joined truck drivers in their strike, which is on its 16th day, protesting against worsening economic conditions and rising prices. Video footage shared by Iranian activists on social media showed massive strikes in markets across several Iranian cities. The strike received no coverage by official and Revolutionary Guard news agencies that only reported “normal” activity in Tehran markets on Monday. Alternatively, reports said security forces deployed to a number of Iranian cities. According to the activists, Tabriz, Isfahan, Mashhad and Sinandaj were among the biggest cities that have seen recurrent market strikes. Eyewitnesses also reported protests taking place in several Tehran markets, as well as a number of smaller towns. Truck drivers, encouraged by trade unions, have been staging a sit-in for weeks. This is a second such strike they hold this year. Police have arrested over 100 drivers in recent days, according to human rights centers in Iran. These strikes included all the provinces of Iran, according to social media posts. Trade union sources pointed out during the past few days that the strikes were taking place in Urmia, Ardabil, Ahwaz, Isfahan, Qazvin and Bandar Abbas. Despite threats by Iranian authorities and police, strikes have lasted over a week so far. Although economic conditions have worsened enough to provoke strikes, official agencies say that the Iranian rial was improving. Nevertheless, reliable and independent information on dollar to Iranian exchange rates have disappeared after the government shut down multiple economic monitoring websites. Sources said the government launched a misinformation campaign in hopes to tame the demand for the dollar. The Iranian government is using its official media outlets to build confidence in and demand for other foreign currency. Observers say the market has seen the demand for the dollar fall. Meanwhile, official media reported a rise in gold rates. Dollar exchange rates continued to fluctuate, varying between 140,000 and 135,000 rials, according to official agencies.

Wave of Assassinations in Basra Claims 2 New Victims

Baghdad - Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 9 October, 2018/ still felt in the southern Iraqi province as authorities continued to arrest activists in a bid to prevent them from demanding their basic rights, one of the activists said Monday. Two young men were killed in Basra Monday, becoming the latest victims in a cycle of assassinations witnessed in the city. Iraqi police did not issue any statement to comment on the development. Since July, demonstrators took to the streets of Basra to protest against corruption and demand improved services and job opportunities. The assassination of the two men on Monday came after Iraqi authorities issued arrest warrants against 16 civil activists, whose homes were raided by police officers on grounds of being involved in the burning of political party offices and the Iranian consulate in September. Activist Wael Al-Zamel told Asharq Al-Awsat: “I believe that the arrest warrants are malicious, because they are against protesters, who were not involved in the burning of political party offices in Basra and other incidents.” Other activists said that Youssef Thanawi, the leader of “God’s Revenge”, a militia with strong ties to Iran, was behind the arrest warrants. An activist, who wished to remain anonymous, said that some protesters had burned the offices of “God’s Revenge” following personal disputes that erupted between them and Thanawi. The protesters had objected to Thanawi’s leading of 2015 street protests because of his links to Iran and suspicious incidents in Basra.

Saudi ambassador set to return to Germany, meet with FM Heiko Maas

Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Tuesday, 9 October 2018/The Saudi Ambassador to Germany, Prince Khalid Bin Bandar Bin Sultan, will return to Berlin to meet with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, according to official reports on Tuesday.
The meeting will discuss the importance of cooperation between both countries. The return of Prince Khalid bin Bandar bin Sultan to Berlin comes as the countries turn the page on a diplomatic crisis that lasted almost a year.

The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on October 09-10/18
Turkey, Jailer of Journalists, Now Slams Saudi Arabia – for Murdering a Journalist
تحليل لسيمون ولدمان من الهآررتس: تركيا التي تعتقل الصحافيين الآن تنتقد السعودية لقتلها صحافي

Simon A. Waldman/Haaretz/October 09/18
مواجهات اعلامية وانتقادات واتهامات بين السعودية وتركيا حول قضية اختفاء الصحافي السعودي المعارض جمال الخاشقجي في تركيا وهما (تركيا والسعودية) من أكثر الدول في العالم قمعاً للحريات. في هذه الأثناء الغرب لن يحرك ساكنا حول عملية الإختفاء هذه وذلك للمحافظة على البلايين السعودية
Two of the world's biggest suppressors of freedom of expression are about to go head to head over Jamal Khashoggi's disappearance, while the West, keen to keep Riyadh's billions onside, will only muster a silent displeasure, a whisper in a thunderstorm.
Saudi dissidents don't just vanish into thin air. If anything, they are deliberately disappeared, as was the case with journalist and prominent media commentator Jamal Khashoggi several days ago. He entered the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul to sign papers relating to his forthcoming marriage but has not been seen since.
Turkish investigators are looking into the possibility that Khashoggi was tortured, murdered and chopped into pieces while still in the consular building.
Shocking? Certainly. Reckless? Absolutely. But the Saudi kingdom figured it could get away with it. His grandiose plan, Vision 2030, an ambitious attempt to restructure the Saudi economy to make the desert kingdom less dependent on oil, reduce the country’s debt, boost the private sector, build tall sophisticated compounds and grant women more rights, was stillborn.
While the publicity associated with giving women the right to drive drew positive attention, in reality there has been a fatal lack of detailed forward planning behind the flawed vision, and it all depends too much on the central role of MBS himself. Human rights are still a problem, the Kingdom remains closed, women are far from being equal, tribalism remains deeply rooted and corruption and nepotism is rife.
The response of MBS to the lack of investor enthusiasm to his plan and the resultant cash-flow problem was to round up Saudi businessmen and hold them captive at the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton hotel, as part of a so-called anti-corruption probe. Confessions were signed after torture and under duress while billions of siphoned dollars were handed over to the Saudi authorities.
In reality, this was a modern-day a political purge and money grab.
But it didn’t encourage foreign investors. In August 2018, ARAMCO’s estimated $2 trillion floatation for a 5% per cent stake in the company - which was essential to funding the crown prince’s grand vision - was abruptly called off.
Some of the other MBS disasters include doubling down in the Yemen civil war - which seems to have no end in sight, kidnapping and forcing Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri to resign only for Hariri to rescind his resignation upon his return to Lebanon, a failed boycott of Qatar which has utterly failed to convince Doha to align its foreign policy with the Gulf Cooperation Council, and an inability to prevent Iranian dominance in Syria with the looming victory of Bashar Assad.
Despite harsh clampdowns on civil society and on domestic opponents of Turkey’s authoritarian President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey is – surprisingly - a relatively open place for those involved in Middle Eastern politics to work. That’s true for a heterogenous spectrum of activists: Iranian dissidents, Syrian exiles and Hamas members.
It seems that the thought of an increasingly critical Khashoggi, who split his time between the U.S. and UK, also partly basing himself in Turkey, a country which has been on the opposite end of MBS’s policies - it supported Qatar during last year’s crisis and seems to have come to an understanding with Iran over Syria - was simply too much for MBS to bear.
Tensions are already simmering between Turkey and Saudi over Ankara’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt (against the Saudi-backed President Sisi) and in general competes with Saudi Arabia for influence, status and leadership in the Sunni Muslim world.
Although still waiting for the results of the investigation to unfold, President Erdogan has already indicated that he is taking a personal interest in this case.
If investigators conclude that Khashoggi was murdered on Turkish soil, Erdogan will take it as personal affront. The firebrand Turkish president is not known to take kindly to insults (and never misses an opportunity for point-scoring either) and will no doubt go on the offensive against Saudi Arabia. However, it is highly unlikely that Turkey will receive any meaningful support, especially from the West.
Western powers seldom vocalize official opposition to Saudi policies. There was an important exception last summer when Canada issued a condemnation in Arabic of the Kingdom’s abysmal human rights record and its poor treatment of dissidents.
The response was swift and severe. Canada’s ambassador was given 24 hours to pack his bags. Riyadh future declared trade deals and bilateral investments cancelled.
Ottawa received little international backing. Its powerful neighbor to the south washed its hands of the matter. U.S. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said it was up to the Saudi and Canadian governments to resolve their differences. Similar sentiments were echoed across Europe. MBS can rest comfortably knowing that President Donald Trump seems to like Saudi Arabia, and European nations need Saudi oil to continue to flow at a reasonable price. Meanwhile, U.S., British and French arms deals with Saudi are worth billions of dollars. Germany’s and Italy’s are worth hundreds of millions. With billions at stake the Western nations might do is voice a silent displeasure, a whisper in a thunderstorm.
Instead, get ready to witness the spectacle of Turkey, whose security services - since the failed 2016 coup - have abducted as many as 100 members of the Gulen movement overseas and implemented a purge that has netted hundreds of thousands of critics and jailed over 100 journalists, condemn Saudi Arabia for its overseas misdeeds and treatment of dissidents.
That’s right, two of the world's biggest suppressors of the freedom of expression are about to go at it over each country’s violation of fundamental freedoms. To make matters worse, President Erdogan and Crown Prince Mohammed probably won’t even get the irony.
**Dr Simon A. Waldman is a Mercator-IPC fellow at the Istanbul Policy Center and a visiting research fellow at King's College London. He is the co-author of The New Turkey and Its Discontents (Oxford University Press, 2017). Twitter: @simonwaldman1

Saudi journalist’s disappearance developing into diplomatic mess
سيمون هندرسون من موقع الهل: اختفائ الصحافي السعوديي جمال الخاشقحي يتحول إلى فوضى سياسية
Simon Henserson/The Hill/October 09/18
Today marks one week since exiled Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who lived part-time in Washington, disappeared after walking into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.
Many fear that Khashoggi has been murdered. An almost equally dismal possibility is that he was taken back to Saudi Arabia against his will. Saudi officials deny either possibility, saying they do not know where he is and suggesting that he left the consulate after a meeting.
We can’t be certain what happened, but a diplomatic row of immense proportions is brewing in front of a worldwide audience gripped by gory details provided by Turkish officials. The worst-case scenario is that Khashoggi was tortured, killed and mutilated, while the incident was videoed.
Many people perhaps would want to reject such reporting as implausible, poorly sourced, or written by supermarket tabloid-type journalists. But, sadly, the details appear to be all too true. “He was killed and his body dismembered,” the New York Times reported. The Wall Street Journal said Turkish police concluded that Khashoggi “was killed in his country’s consulate in [Istanbul] and his body possibly removed from the building in pieces,” citing two Turkish officials briefed on the case. And the Washington Post, for whom Khashoggi wrote opinion columns often critical of developments in the kingdom and its crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman, reported Khashoggi was “likely dismembered.”
President Trump has acknowledged his concern. “I don’t like hearing about it and hopefully that will sort itself out,” he told reporters. “There’s some pretty bad stories about it.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo yesterday urged Saudi Arabia to “support a thorough investigation” and “to be transparent about the results.”
A few hours earlier, Vice President Mike Pence had emphasized the increasing danger to journalists: “Deeply troubled to hear reports about Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi,” he tweeted. “If true, this is a tragic day. Violence against journalists across the globe is a threat to freedom of the press & human rights. The world deserves answers.”
Pence is indeed right. The ghastly fate of a raped and murdered Bulgarian journalist who had been investigating local misuse of European Union funds is one example. But in the Twittersphere, some perceived the vice president’s remarks as an attempt to take the heat off the administration’s Saudi allies.
Washington clearly wishes Khashoggi had not disappeared and wants to diminish any negative fallout on the kingdom while trying to triage an emerging rift between Turkey and Saudi Arabia, regional competitors with very different views of the role of political Islam.
The prospect of defusing the crisis immediately does not appear likely. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said Saudi Arabia must prove that Khashoggi left the consulate on his own. Turkey demanded access to the consulate, a concession that the Saudi crown prince apparently has made. Although consulates do not have the same level of diplomatic immunity as embassies, this is still significant.
The latest Saudi statement, from Prince Khalid bin Salman, the ambassador in Washington and younger brother of the crown prince, described suggestions of Saudi involvement in Khashoggi’s disappearance as “absolutely false and baseless.”
In what appears to be a Turkish attempt to boost Saudi embarrassment, the Sabah newspaper today gives yet unverified details of the flights of two Saudi executive jets that brought a total of 15 men from Riyadh to Istanbul on the day of Khashoggi’s disappearance. The Turkish media have described the two groups of men as “murder squads.”
According to the Turkish newspaper, one jet flew back to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and then to Riyadh, while the other flew to Egypt. The newspaper gave identification numbers of both aircraft. Along with Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt are regional rivals of Turkey. If these flight details are true, the diplomatic crisis could be gaining dimensions.
This could be a turbulent week for U.S. relations with the Middle East. We retain some hope for Khashoggi to emerge, somewhere, alive and well. But don’t count on it.
Simon Henderson is the Baker Fellow and director of the Bernstein Program on Gulf and Energy Policy at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

A New Arab Military Alliance Has Dim Prospects

The Economist/October 08/18
WHEN President Donald Trump, King Salman of Saudi Arabia and Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, Egypt’s president, laid their hands on a glowing orb in Riyadh last year, the theatrical gesture provoked bewilderment and derision. But perhaps the orb worked some magic. On September 28th Mike Pompeo, America’s secretary of state, met six of his counterparts from the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC), as well as Egypt and Jordan (see map), and confirmed that they were fashioning a Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA). They paid lip service to the goals of curbing terrorism and pacifying Syria. But their priority was plain: “stopping Iran’s malign activity”.
Excitable American and Arab officials, who plan to hold a summit in January, have already dubbed it an Arab NATO. Excluding America, the alliance’s annual defence spending would exceed $100bn and it would command over 300,000 troops, 5,000 tanks and 1,000 combat aircraft. But MESA is unlikely to live up to its nickname. It will probably not operate on the basis that an attack on one is an attack on all, a principle enshrined in its Western equivalent, which Mr Trump has undermined. Moreover, previous efforts at Arab military unity have ended in disappointment.
Arab coalitions were humiliated in almost all of their wars with Israel. Shortly after the GCC was formed in 1981, it created the Peninsula Shield force. That not only proved useless in the Gulf war, but the following year Saudi and Qatari troops killed each other in border clashes. In 2014 the idea of a GCC joint command was resuscitated. Little came of it.
One problem is that smaller states fear ceding control to larger neighbours. In the 1960s it was Egypt that caused jitters; today it is Saudi Arabia, under the de facto rule of Muhammad bin Salman, its ambitious crown prince. His obsession with Iran is another concern. Though he is supported by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kuwait and Oman are more sanguine about the threat posed by Iran. A third problem is that many Arab states blame foreign foes for internal troubles, such as protests and terrorism. Even Mr Trump may not be keen to help his autocratic allies put down dissent in the name of defence.
But the biggest obstacle in MESA’s path is a dispute between Arab states. For over a year Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt have blockaded Qatar over its contrarian stances. The feud has hit military co-operation, with America pulling out of drills with its Gulf allies last October to encourage “inclusiveness”. America’s main base in the region is in Qatar.
MESA will probably go the way of other half-baked defence schemes—from the Arab League’s Joint Defence Council of 1950 to Saudi Arabia’s Islamic Military Counter-Terrorism Coalition in 2015. “Every couple of years someone comes up with a big idea,” says Emile Hokayem of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a think-tank in London. “People work like crazy for a year. And it ends with a shiny new building and a deck of PowerPoint slides.”
More important than any multilateral bloc is America’s commitment to the region. Yet even here, a gap is opening between words and deeds. America has pledged to keep its troops in Syria “as long as Iranian troops are outside Iranian borders”. But there has been no American aircraft-carrier in the Persian Gulf for six months, the longest absence in 20 years. Next month America will pull four missile defence batteries out of Bahrain, Jordan and Kuwait, just as Iran threatens missile attacks on Gulf capitals. James Mattis, the defence secretary, wants to reduce America’s military footprint in the Middle East after 17 years of continuous war. Mr Trump will probably show more enthusiasm for flogging weapons to his Arab allies than wading onto the battlefield next to them.
Big spectacles, bigger shoes
Turki Aldakhil/Al Arabiya/October 09/18
There are those whom we do not see in general statistics, who are difficult to distinguish or rather impossible to recognize in a public street but whom we all recognize their merits and feel happy for their joy.
We know their moments of grief will not make it to the front pages, nor even the last page. However, we do not rest and we do not sleep well before we soothe them throughout their sadness and before admitting their influence on us thanks to their frank simplicity.
There’s no doubt that the good people we encounter in our daily lives is what makes life easier: the school principal who adjusts his watch like he adjusts the semesters’ schedules, the deputy principal whom we remember as serious and someone who knows all the details even though he never spoke much to us, the student guide whom every parent sat with to make sure his children are serious about learning, the old doorman whose facial expressions are comfortable and who knows when your little girl left when he sees the smile of the driver behind his window and who holds the little children’s hands to cross the street with them to get them in the car’s backseat.
There are also the passport control officers who smile to hundreds of travelers who just arrived to the airport and whose smile soothes the travelers’ difficult journey, the policeman who dreams of a star on his shoulder, the soldier who bid his mother farewell so he can protect mothers as they sleep on the southern front and the traffic policeman who aided many and waited for the ambulance and who without waiting to be thanked drove his car and went to another accident site on the highway in the dark night.
There are also the judge who raises his hand to the sky so he does not forget the injustice against an old woman who has come from afar, a driver in a remote town from my homeland’s towns checking his car tires and the oil and water in it so he guarantees driving female teachers in the morning to a neighboring village and a female doctor on a hectic shift but who maintains her smile because she believes that welcoming patients and easing things for them is a duty before examining them or holding a pen and paper to write a prescription.
There are the journalist who is hesitant while phrasing a news piece or who is late to post the news because he did not find a photo that suits the topic, which he believes will convey the truth, and the trader who knows that his honesty is the secret to his livelihood.
Defining a 'good citizen'
There is the student whose entire world is the result of the school semester and who stays up all night studying so he impresses his parents before he even rejoices for his own sake, a university lecturer who just returned from a conference where he represented the country to enhance the ranking of universities and a researcher working in a small room at night to help find a medicine or seriously looking to find mathematical proof for a complicated problem that may decrease the cost of the product on the consumer who does not know him.
There are the mother holding her child’s hand in a shop so they choose the colors which the teacher requested for the national day and a seller behind the cashier smiling and refusing to take money for the green color because we all owe so much to this color which makes us all good citizens.
Who is the good citizen, and is there a definition of that and through which we can meet others like him?
In my simple definition, the good citizen is the man with the big spectacles and the big shoes, as the English proverb puts it. He’s the one with the big spectacles because he saw the entire scene then carefully selected his right place within the society’s ranks. He is a teacher who loves his job, a principal who deserved his post after a long wait, an officer who stays up and works at night because the next rank he attains will make him satisfied with his performance in serving his country before retiring, a mother saving riyals to rejoice in the wedding of her oldest daughter and a father in a foreign country depriving himself a delicious meal so he can afford sending the university tuition fees to his only son.
These are people we do not see on television channels; they sleep early and wake up before dawn and are out there at 6 a.m. on the highway to arrive to work, and they stay after the supervisor leaves to finish some paperwork for someone whom they do not know and have no ties to and who was not even recommended by any old friend. These people finish their work because they believe they are the country’s forearms and they are all responsible for looking after it. Their days are alike but their wishes are different. There is no country without them, there are no strong nations without the masses of good citizens, those who raise children and who finalize paperwork.
They are the ones with the big shoes because they walk a mile in other people’s shoes. They are not unjust and they do not swear at others. They practice patience in the moment when others usually burst in anger. They walk in the citizens’ shoes in this very moment and always respond with patience and kindness to anyone who loses his temper in the queue. They advise each other to be patient. They do not interfere much to change the course of history, unlike the intellectuals and those rushing to gain posts. They fear posts like the poor fear the end of the month and like the rich fear the decline of a stock in the market.
They are the army who wakes up every morning to serve in the location they picked or found themselves assigned to. Their dreams are clear and their wishes are honest. The eye sometimes misses them but the heart never does.
Their days are alike but their wishes are different. There is no country without them, there are no strong nations without the masses of good citizens, those who raise children and who finalize paperwork. By protecting rules, corruption moves backward.
They are the fathers we see at the parent-teacher meeting, the mothers who do not know the name of Columbia’s president and what the latest Twitter hashtag is but who know when their children wake up to school and when their exams are and who follow up on them. They are the youths who drive their cars without dumping trash in the street or disrespecting a traffic light or driving above the speed limit.
They are the ones whose percentage from the population percentage cannot be colored in the flag. They are the flag’s pole, the country’s soil and the song of forever. We salute these, the people who are very ordinary but who make our lives and countries prettier, from the heart.

What Kavanaugh nomination tells us about American politics
Walid Jawad/Al Arabiya/October 09/18
The bitter partisan battle over Brett Kavanaugh nomination to the Supreme Court ended with a narrow Senate vote making him the latest Supreme Court justice.
His confirmation came despite sexual assault allegations and a display of anger during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. The 50-48 vote came almost entirely along party line proving that partisanship trumps truth and justice.
The state of American politics is deplorable as did this process showed, but there is a structural issue that was ignored for the most part in the national debate over Kavanaugh’s nomination. that further exacerbated the negative effects of a poisonous political atmosphere.
The Judiciary
Americans are blind to the destructive structural problem plaguing the US judiciary. The long-held belief that judges are objective and independent is not entirely accurate and definitely not grounded in reality.
Judge Kavanagh’s confirmation process revealed the severity of judges fallibility, thus illuminating the fissures in the court system, and exposing him as a political ideologue. The contentious Senate hearings highlighted the accepted underlying tension between Republicans and Democrats.
Each party is interested in advancing their nominee through the process to guarantee a representative on the bench who agrees with their political doctrine. As a result, the partisan bickering co-opts the objectivity of the nominee turning him/her into a political tool. Kavanaugh’s hearing was an extreme example of how the political views of the nominee is the only qualification.
How can democracy work if the branch of government that is charged with striking a balance between the Executive and Legislative, and keeping them in check, is itself a tool advancing a political ideology?
The Supreme Court
The composition of the nine justices on the Supreme Court is critical to the character of the US. Legal decisions decided by the Supreme Court become the law of the land and affects how Americans live their lives.
Ruling on gun rights and abortions, segregation and voting rights are some of the issues impacting Americans immediately and profoundly. For decades the justices were evenly divided between liberals and conservatives with Justice Anthony Kennedy casting an often swing vote. Although the court strives to pass unanimous decisions 9-0, numerous consequential rulings end with a 5-4 split. The critical nomination of Kavanaugh lies in the fact that he is replacing the swing vote of the retired Kennedy. Kavanaugh being a conservative will likely rule in favor of Republican supported positions. Now that Kavanaugh has been voted in on Saturday the country will move toward conservatism for generations to come. Abortion rights, Roe v. Wade, being one of the most divisive issues the nation is anticipating a challenge to. Kavanaugh would be anticipated to seal its reversal denying women the right to choose.
The repeated historical 5-4 decision split among the nine justices on the Supreme Court can be analyzed to show the complexity of their positions. The courts own scorecard shows the ruling of individual justices in different categories including First Amendment, Federalism, Economics and others. But there is an overriding factor that explains the split strongly correlated with ideological affiliation. Because Kavanaugh was nominated by President Trump, the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee grilled the nominee to glean the depth of his commitment to conservative causes. The contentious hearing process went beyond Kavanaugh’s ideological leaning to his character, fitness and whether he has the temperament required to sit on the bench after sexual accusations by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.
#MeToo extension
The confirmation process quickly turned into a he-said-she-said debate where the question observers were faced with was “who do I believe more, Dr. Ford or Judge Kavanaugh?” This debate, ensuing testimony by both before the Senate committee, and the expanded FBI background check reframed the process to be an extension of the #MeToo movement.
For the record, I do believe Dr. Ford’s account and extend my admiration to her courage to recount her horrifying experience before the nation. True, there is a small possibility her memory mistook Kavanaugh for the perpetrator. There has not been corroborating accounts of the incident as recited by Dr. Ford.
For that small doubt, we are not justifying casting judgment on Kavanaugh as a sexual predator. But it was his words in defense of his reputation is what should have given Senators and supporters pause. “This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit, fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election. Fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record. Revenge on behalf of the Clintons. And millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups”, he angrily lashed out directing his assault on the Democrats on the committee without offering proof.
Coverage of the nomination process myopically dwelled on details of the sexual allegation. As a result, people overlooked the zealot partisan entrenched position and how it informed people’s conclusions.
Watching the nomination process, one heard an “us vs. them” debate not along gender lines, but along political party affiliation. Most Republican, regardless of gender, showed different levels of support for Kavanaugh while Democrats stood by Dr. Ford.
The debate hardly included his political animosity toward the Democrats. Kavanaugh’s deeply rooted political conviction and ideological belief should have cost him the nomination. His tirade against the Democrats goes against the presumed allegiances to the law.
Lasting effects
In addition to the Supreme Court deciding how laws should be interpreted and applied they decide political outcomes. The Supreme Court has decided the presidency in Bush vs. Gore in their recount battle giving the White House to George W. Bush.
How can democracy work if the branch of government that is charged with striking a balance between the Executive and Legislative, and keeping them in check, is itself a tool advancing a political ideology?
The justices have the final say on matters of great consequences without Americans having the ability to change course as they are appointed for life. This is a far cry from the electorates ability to vote in nominees who are appealing to them, or vote out underperforming ones when reelections come around.
Americans are typically dissatisfied with their elected officials leading to a political seesaw from one election cycle to the next. The presidency consistently alternates between the Republicans and Democrats due to that dissatisfaction.
In the case of the Supreme Court, voters are not offered a process by which they can remove a justice for underperforming, or for lack of touch with the greater society. The immunity the justices enjoy combined with the power they hold often dramatically changes the whole of society; taxes, environment, business, etc.
Political affiliation
American voters are not as partisan as many like to believe. In fact, candidates craft their messages to include the greatest number of voters. When messaging has to be divisive, candidates are careful not to alienate significant voting blocks.
Therefore, there are more similarities between candidates’ platforms trying to be as close to the center as possible. The political label, Republican vs. Democrat, becoming the most important defining aspect of a race. Winning public office is the ultimate goal regardless of the strategy or tactics. Senator Joe Manchin, the only Democrat who voted for Kavanaugh, betrayed his own announced position on Kavanaugh, “I have reservations about this vote given the serious accusations against Judge Kavanaugh and the temperament he displayed in the hearing.”
Manchin is fighting a tough reelection race in West Virginia; a deep red state Trump won in a landslide over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 elections. Again, winning by any means necessary often means betraying personally held beliefs. In this case, even betraying future generations by voting for a candidate whom he thinks is not good for the nation. Politics is a dirty game.
Judges should be cut from a different cloth. After all, they decide on matters affecting our way of life. A new litmus test should be applied to judges nominated to the highest court of the land.
Any person who is or was politically affiliated with a political party shouldn’t be considered. Showing bias toward specific ideology with unrelenting zeal should be ground for automatic disqualification.

Establishing equality in Saudi Arabia
Hassan Al Mustafa/Al Arabiya/October 09/18
The royal decree issued by Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, King of Saudi Arabia, granting former judge of the Department of Endowments and Heritage in Qatif, Sheikh Mohammed al-Jirani, the first grade Order of King Abdulaziz, is a confirmation of important principles, embodied in the following precepts:
1-To strengthen the concept of full citizenship and equality among all segments of the population where everyone in Saudi Arabia is equal and where there is no difference between one sect and another and an area and another and that the basis for honoring individuals will be their contribution to their national work, knowledge and loyal efforts in countering violence and extremism.
2-Those who have been subjected to violence or have been killed because of their national stances will be appreciated by the political leadership in their lives and after their deaths. Their families will be taken care of and they will receive the highest honors, just as the case is with judge Jirani who was killed for taking a position of peace and his stance against raising arms against the state.
3-Confronting terrorism and extremism by all means is an ongoing process that will not end until the security and safety of the society is ensured. The assassination of individuals will not intimidate state institutions, national voices and civil actors, and will not prevent them from playing their roles in criticizing and confronting the fundamentalist ideology.
Granting Jirani the first grade Order of King Abdulaziz is very significant and indicates the determination of the state to strengthen the concept of full and impartial justice for all citizens
State’s determination
The political leadership in Saudi Arabia could have simply settled the matter with King Salman receiving the Jirani family in January when he ordered naming of a street after him, and gave his family a home and directly offered condolences to the family.
However, granting Jirani the first grade Order of King Abdulaziz is very significant and indicates the determination of the state to strengthen the concept of full and impartial justice for all citizens, which is one of the main concepts of the modern state.
In a related context, King Salman bin Abdulaziz frankly stated at a ceremony in Medina, organized by people in his honor in September: “Everyone in the kingdom is equal, there is no partiality towards one or the other. In some countries, immunity is granted to some, while in the kingdom anyone can file a complaint against anyone.”
The king’s speech emphasized the principle of “the rule of law” and that everyone is equal before law without any favoritism and that the reference is only what the law determines and stipulates.
This emphasis on the “rule of law” requires, in order to be implemented, the implementation of a culture about the concept of law and the significance of respecting it to build a civil state that is free of chaos and nepotism and where everyone avails the same set of opportunities.

Why is the Russian GRU so hopeless?

Dr. Azeem Ibrahim/Al Arabiya/October 09/18
British intelligence services worked swiftly to identify the two Russian GRU (Glavnoye Razvedyvatel’noye Upravleniye), military intelligence service agents, who were responsible for the Skripal poisoning in Salisbury UK.
After their entire itinerary was detailed along with CCTV footage of every stage of their mission – including the reconnaissance phase prior to the actual attack – the two Russian operatives offered a comical explanation of having life-long ambitions to visit the famous Salisbury cathedral.
A far-fetched account, which seemed to have been desperately cooked up only after they were exposed. It seems no prior thought was put into a plausible cover story for such a brazen mission. Only last week we were informed of another blatant and amateurish attempt when Russian spies tried to target the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in April of this year. Dutch authorities showed copies of four consecutively numbered passports of GRU agents who flew directly from Moscow with no stop over. The agents used public wifi hotspots which was not encrypted so all their login details were easily obtained. The vehicle they hired was intercepted by Dutch intelligence and was full of incriminating material.
So why does Russia’s GRU continue to attempt global operations which are so poorly conceived? This is after all a country, which was dominated by the once globally feared and respected KGB. One explanation might be that since the West has consistently failed to respond adequately to Russian assertiveness in recent years, whether in Syria, or in Crimea, or in their ongoing cyber and intelligence efforts to undermine the social and political structures of the West, there is simply no need to go the extra mile.
After all, the only response has been sanctions, and though they have done considerable damage to the Russian economy, they have done nothing to undermine Putin’s domestic political position. Quite the opposite. So in effect, the West is rewarding Putin with increased domestic political support by helping him rally popular nationalist support in defiance to Western pressure for his increasingly ostentatious behavior.
After all, the only response has been sanctions, and though they have done considerable damage to the Russian economy, they have done nothing to undermine Putin’s domestic political position
Adequate response
Another side of the story might be that Putin is not expecting that the West could do much more in response, even if they wanted to. Sure, there will be a strongly worded statements from allies in the West. But as far as Russia’s international standing goes, that’s hardly going to change anything. The West is already taking a pretty dim view of the Putin government as it is – with Trump the only notable exception.
Can Europe realistically pose a military challenge to Russia? Hardly. Can they inflict further economic pain on the country? Perhaps, but that avenue is already near exhaustion. Anything else? Then Putin will likely be able to turn around and spin that as an act of British aggression – once again with a positive effect for Putin’s domestic position.
That said however, if Europe were serious about retaliation, it does in fact have an avenue to respond. Putin may be the keystone of the Russian political system, but he is not floating on air. He needs the support and loyalty of the oligarchs to remain in power. And most, if not all, of those oligarchs have huge investments and flourishing money laundering operations running, primarily, out of London.
What is more, the British government has the legal authority to freeze assets and crack down on the loosely-regulated vehicles used for money laundering in the City. The British government does, therefore, have the power to do serious damage to the Russian plutocracy, and can use that leverage to pit Putin’s power base against him.
Putin is not stupid. He knows this. But he is betting that this will not happen. And he may have a point. If Downing Street goes for the “nuclear option”, that creates a dangerous precedent: suddenly, Chinese billionaires, or African Presidents find that London can take an interest in their assets and can usurp them for political reasons.
Even if the City’s status as the world’s foremost financial centre for dubiously wealthy individuals and companies was not already threatened by the spectre of Brexit, this would definitely be a huge blow all by itself. So why not goad London a little bit more? After all, when have they ever put principle before the interests of the City before?

New York City's Islamist Grant
Oren Litwin/Gatestone Institute/October 09/18
Alarmingly, three of New York City's grant recipients are linked to Islamic extremism -- the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Muslim American Society (MAS) and the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA).
It seems that ICNA, in particular, plans to use the money not for civic improvement but for religious proselytizing.
To pay for prayer services with a government grant is a blatant violation of constitutional law, and all the more so when it is for a proselytizing purpose.
If New Yorkers want to help Muslim communities, giving money to CAIR, ICNA and MAS should be the last thing they do.
The New York City Council recently awarded grants to three groups linked to Islamic extremism: the Council on American Islamic Relations, the Muslim American Society and the Islamic Circle of North America. Pictured: New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson (right) chats with colleagues at a council session on January 4, 2018. (Official NYC Council Photo by William Alatriste)
On August 21, the New York City Council announced $250,000 in grants made to 14 Muslim community organizations, in collaboration with the New York Immigration Coalition. Alarmingly, three of the grant recipients are linked to Islamic extremism -- the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Muslim American Society (MAS) and the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA).
Worse, it seems that ICNA, in particular, plans to use the money not for civic improvement but for religious proselytizing.
The grant announcement was made at ICNA's headquarters in Jamaica, Queens, after the jumu'ah prayer service. Present were the young speaker of the city council, Corey Johnson, and Councilman Daneek Miller, the sole Muslim member of the council.
Councilman Miller is no stranger to ICNA; his campaign website prominently features a photo of him speaking at the ICNA mosque.
ICNA was established in 1971, ostensibly as a "non-ethnic, non-sectarian" grassroots organization, with the aim of seeking the "establishment of the Islamic system of life as spelled out in the Qur'an."
In fact, it functions as the American arm of the Pakistani Islamist group Jamaat e-Islami (JI). Indeed, ICNA's international charity, Helping Hand for Relief and Development (HHRD), works closely with JI in Pakistan. Worse, in 2017 HHRD openly worked with the "political" wing of the murderous terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba.
Jamaat e-Islami has long been linked to political violence, notably during the Bangladeshi war of independence in 1947 -- during which Pakistan employed JI groups as death squads. ICNA's former Vice President Ashraf Uzzaman Khan was convicted in absentia by Bangladesh in 2013 of being part of the Pakistan-backed Al-Badr death squad, and personally murdering 7 professors and intellectuals.
The radical literature of JI's founder, Sayyid Abul 'Ala Maududi, is repeatedly emphasized in the 2010 ICNA members' handbook, which explicitly discusses ICNA's true goal of setting up a worldwide Islamic state via proselytizing campaigns.
Unsurprisingly, ICNA secretary general Muhammad Rahman said that ICNA's portion of the grant money would fund "community engagement activities"; he specifically mentioned "Iftar in the Park" and outdoor prayer services.
To pay for prayer services with a government grant is a blatant violation of constitutional law, and all the more so when it is for a proselytizing purpose.
MAS, meanwhile, has been identified in courtroom testimony as the main U.S. front group for the Muslim Brotherhood. And CAIR was founded by the leaders of the Islamic Association for Palestine, a front group for Hamas; following the 2007 Holy Land Foundation trial, which featured strong evidence that CAIR was still coordinating with Hamas, the FBI cut off all contact with CAIR.
CAIR's New York chapter has been particularly open in its support for terrorism. Former executive director Cyrus McGoldrick has a history of inflammatory rhetoric, including retweeting a statement from Hamas leader Khaled Mashal mocking those who object to its rocket attacks on civilians, and other tweets quoting Hamas slogans.
And CAIR-NY board member Lamis Deek publicly praised a Palestinian drive-by murderer and called him a "martyr," and bluntly stated that the "Zionist Israeli government does not have the right to exist." She was even more explicit in 2009:
"[I]n choosing Hamas, what [the Palestinian people] chose was one united Palestinian state on all of the 1948 territories from the north to the very south.... [And] we support their right to liberation from violent colonialism."
New York's new grant program likely reflects the increasing influence that CAIR has in City Hall. Worth noting is that CAIR-NY President Zead Ramadan is a significant donor to New York politicians, including Mayor Bill DeBlasio. And Faiza Ali, the director of Speaker Johnson's office, was formerly the community affairs director of CAIR-NY (as well as a civic engagement director for the Arab American Association of New York, which also received grant money).
Speaker Johnson, a councilman from Manhattan, also owes his current position to the support of the Queens and Bronx Democratic machine (to which he has directed considerable pork); this may help to explain his willingness to associate himself with Queens-based groups like ICNA.
It is shocking that an effort to strengthen local Muslim communities is being exploited to fund groups linked to extremism. Sleazy pay-for-play politics do not excuse such reckless policy, nor do they excuse violating the Constitution by funding religious services.
If New Yorkers want to help Muslim communities, giving money to CAIR, ICNA and MAS should be the last thing they do.
*Dr. Oren Litwin is a Research Fellow at Islamist Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.
Gatestone wishes to thank The Daily Caller and the Middle East Forum for their kind permission to reprint this article.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

How Iran Plans to Take Gaza
Khaled Abu Toameh/Gatestone Institute/October 09/18
The situation in the Gaza Strip is unlikely to witness any positive changes. Even if Hamas were to be removed from power, the Palestinians would continue to suffer under other radical groups such as Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ).
Even if Hamas were to wake up tomorrow morning and have an about-face, striking a genuine truce with Israel, there will always be other terrorist groups that are prepared to breach the agreement any time they wish.
These are crucial factors that need to be taken into account by any international party that seeks a solution to the catastrophe called Gaza. Alternatively, one might to wish to continue to inhabit some alternate reality in which all be would be well if Israel would only ease restrictions on the Gaza Strip.
Gaza's second-largest terrorist group after Hamas is the Iranian-funded Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), which has thousands of supporters and militiamen. Pictured: Masked members of PIJ training in the Gaza Strip. (Photo by Abid Katib/Getty Images)
If anyone was hoping that removing Hamas from power in the Gaza Strip would improve the situation there and boost the chances of peace between Palestinians and Israel, they are in for a big disappointment. Hamas, which violently seized control over the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2007, is not the only terrorist group in the coastal enclave, home to some two million Palestinians.
In addition to Hamas, these are several other Palestinian terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip.
The second-largest group after Hamas is Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), which has thousands of supporters and militiamen. If and when Hamas is ever removed from power, PIJ has the strongest chance of stepping in to fill the vacuum.
You remove Hamas from power, you will most likely end up having to deal with PIJ - not a more moderate group. While Hamas could only be considered "good," in some alternate reality, its replacement would not be any better. Islamist fundamentalism is enshrined in the hearts and minds of tens of thousands of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
The two Islamist groups -- Hamas and PIJ -- are like two peas in a pod. The two do not recognize Israel's right to exist and continue to call for an armed struggle to "liberate all Palestine," from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River.
Like Hamas, the Iranian-funded PIJ also has an armed wing, called Saraya Al-Quds (Jerusalem Brigades). Founded in 1981 by PIJ leaders Fathi Shaqaqi and Abed Al-Aziz Awda in the Gaza Strip, the Jerusalem Brigades is responsible for hundreds of terrorist attacks against Israel, including suicide bombings. In recent years, the group has also been launching rockets and mortars at Israel.
Although it considers itself an independent group, PIJ often operates in coordination with Hamas. The two groups even have a joint "operations command" to coordinate their attacks on Israel. Sometimes, they carry out joint attacks.
The Jerusalem Brigades likes to take to the streets in shows of force aimed at the other Palestinian terrorist groups in particular and the Palestinian public in the Gaza Strip in general. Generally, Hamas does not tolerate competition from other armed groups in the Gaza Strip, but when it comes to PIJ and its military wing, it is a different story altogether. When PIJ displays its power and weapons on the streets of Gaza, Hamas shuts up about it.
Hamas evidently knows that PIJ, a large and influential group, is dangerous to mess with. Hamas also seems aware that meddling with PIJ means getting into trouble with PIJ's paymasters in Iran. Like PIJ, Hamas is also dependent on Iran's political, financial and military backing. Iran considers PIJ its main ally and puppet in the Gaza Strip. Through PIJ, Iran inserts its tentacles into the internal affairs of the Palestinians, much to the dismay of President Mahmoud Abbas and his Western-backed Palestinian Authority.
Relations between Iran and Hamas have not been stable in recent years, largely due to Hamas's refusal to support the Iranian-backed regime of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad. Lately, however, reports have surfaced in some Arab media outlets that Iran and Hamas have agreed to lay aside their differences.
In the past few years, a number of Hamas delegations have visited Tehran as part of the group's effort to patch up its relationship with Iran. The last visit took place in October 2007, when a Hamas delegation comprising Ezzat Al-Risheq, Sami Abu Zuhri, Khaled Qaddoumi, Mohammed Nasr and Zaher Jabarin, visited Tehran to brief Iranian leaders on the latest developments surrounding efforts to end the crisis between Hamas and Abbas's Fatah faction.
Despite the apparent rapprochement, Iran has strong reservations about trusting Hamas. Its skepticism appears based on Iran's fear that Hamas is ready to reach a reconciliation agreement with Fatah and a truce accord with Israel. Such an alliance, in the eyes of Iran, would constitute a betrayal on the part of Hamas. Any agreement with Fatah would mean that Hamas is prepared to join forces with Abbas and, even worse, engage in future peace talks with Israel. Any truce agreement with Israel would mean that Hamas is prepared to lay down its weapons and abandon the armed struggle against the "Zionist enemy." This "surrender" would be anathema to the mullahs in Tehran, who have a declared goal of eliminating Israel.
As far as Iran is concerned, the PIJ is its real ally in the Palestinian arena. And as far as Iran is concerned, PIJ will always be seen as a natural replacement for Hamas in the Gaza Strip if Hamas ever does forge a deal with Fatah or Israel.
The PIJ, meanwhile, is doing its utmost to prove its trustworthiness to its masters in Tehran. Last week, PIJ's military wing again dispatched its heavily-armed fighters to the streets of the Gaza Strip in a show of force directed towards Hamas, Iran and the rest of the world.
Abu Hamzeh, a spokesman for the Jerusalem Brigades, proudly declared during the paramilitary march that his group "will never compromise or bargain on one inch of the land of Palestine -- all Palestine." He added: "Our weapons are the symbol of our pride and power of our people. We will resist all conspiracies and foil all schemes aimed at liquidating our cause."
So, what does all this mean for Gaza?
First, that the situation there is unlikely to witness any positive changes. Even if Hamas were to be removed from power, the Palestinians would continue to suffer under other radical groups such as the PIJ. Second, that even if Hamas were to wake up tomorrow morning and have an about-face, striking a genuine truce with Israel, there will always be other terrorist groups that are prepared to breach the agreement any time they wish. Third, that the Gaza Strip will continue to be swarmed by several heavily-armed groups that will continue to launch terror attacks on Israel and impose a reign of terror and intimidation on the Palestinian population.
Fourth, that neither Abbas nor any other third party would ever be able to set foot in the Gaza Strip, impose law and order and confiscate the weapons of the terrorist groups.
These are crucial factors that need to be taken into account by any international party that seeks a solution to the catastrophe called Gaza. Alternatively, one might to wish to continue to inhabit some alternate reality in which all be would be well if Israel would only ease restrictions on the Gaza Strip.
*Khaled Abu Toameh, an award-winning journalist, is based in Jerusalem.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Russia's Bungled Spying
Leonid Bershidsky/The Guardian/October, 09/18
The latest failures of Russia’s military intelligence service, commonly known as the GRU, expose a major flaw in President Vladimir Putin’s habitual way of dealing with public fiascos: He mistakenly believes the uproar will blow over.
The Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, and his British counterpart, Theresa May, said Thursday that the GRU had tried to hack the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in the Hague, which was testing the substance used to poison ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the U.K. in March. The Russian agents allegedly were caught trying to disrupt the OPCW computer network using equipment hidden in a car trunk. They also are said to have been caught with diplomatic passports. The Netherlands expelled them.
This follows a similar scandal in Switzerland, where two Russian agents allegedly tried to hack the Spiez Laboratory, a chemicals testing facility that also examined the substance used on Skripal. The two were eventually detained in the Netherlands.
Also on Thursday, the US Justice Department announced criminal charges against seven Russian military intelligence officers for trying to hack into anti-doping agencies and international sports organizations in response to accusations of doping against Russia.
The new revelations extend a line of embarrassing GRU failures, including a botched effort to conceal Russian links to the downing of a Malaysian passenger airliner over eastern Ukraine and an alleged failed coup in Montenegro, both in 2014. In addition, U.S. authorities presented highly detailed charges against GRU officers in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee in 2016. Recently, one of the Skripals’ alleged unsuccessful poisoners was convincingly identified by open source intelligence researchers as a GRU colonel, decorated with Russia’s highest military medal for his part in the Crimea annexation.
In Soviet times, such carelessness probably would have led to reprisals against the spy agency, but Putin appears to be taking a different attitude. There have been no reports of a GRU shakeup, and on Wednesday, Putin said he thought the agitation would just go away. “I think it’ll all pass someday, I hope it’ll be over, and the sooner it’s over, the better,” he said of the Skripal story, which he described as “another spy scandal being artificially blown up.”
For a leader known for his ability to wrong-foot opponents with lightning judo-like moves, Putin has been strangely passive in recent months. He has missed several opportunities to escalate military action in Syria and made no surprising moves elsewhere, including Ukraine or the Balkans.
Putin hasn’t been shy about conveying his belief that time is on his side. During a call-in session with voters in June, he said he expected Western attempts to put pressure on Russia to run their course eventually. “All this pressure will end when our partners realize that the methods they’re using are inefficient, counterproductive, damaging to everyone and that the Russian Federation’s interests will have to be taken into account,” he said.
But nothing will blow over as long as Putin’s intelligence services keep waging, and losing, a high-stakes, secret war against the West. The GRU flops aren’t the only examples of Russian ineptitude; in July, Greece, a North Atlantic Treaty Organization member traditionally friendlier to Russia than most others, expelled two Russian diplomats for trying to obtain and distribute sensitive information.
Putin was right when he said Wednesday that spy wars “cannot be shut down.” But a government that can afford to wait wins more often than it loses. The Russian spy operations are too transparent to Putin’s adversaries to be of any help to him. They’re so painfully incompetent that they undermine Putin’s domestic support, even as many Russians are grumbling about a sharp retirement-age increase he signed into effect on Wednesday.
The Russian president doesn’t have a reputation as a lovable bungler; his propaganda machine has honed an image of ruthless efficiency and cunning. The Russian leader doesn’t have the Teflon coating of a Donald Trump, who can make one misstep after another and still keep his support base. The Russian president can’t afford to look fallible, but he increasingly does. Simply trying to wait out one unfavorable news cycle after another won’t fix the problem.
Putin has more than five years left in what is likely to be his last presidency. I don’t know which prospect is scarier: That he will realize passivity works against him and start making even riskier moves, or that he’ll retreat further into his shell, leaving the various corrupt cliques in the Russian elite to fight it out. Both could have disastrous consequences for Russia the country, as opposed to Russia the political regime.
The most unlikely scenario is that Putin ends the ham-handed spy operations and looks for better, smarter ways for Russia to assert itself internationally.

KSA and the Hyperloop Century
Josh Giegel/Asharq Al Awsat/October 09/18
Any Silicon Valley company worthy of its name always begins with a business vision that always ends with the goal of changing the world for the better. The same may be true of entire countries led by enlightened leadership intent on creating a better life for individual citizens. When, as a high-tech engineering company we first started to consider the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as a potential partner for our revolutionary hyperloop technology, we found ourselves confronted by the phenomenon of a new style leader armed with a vision and out to transform his own society for future generations at a level of speed unprecedented in the Kingdom’s own history.
So, the question became how two entirely different cultures—the American West Coast of constant change and an Islamic society deeply rooted in tradition—could mutually share in the same benefits of radical innovation, and how each would further the cause of the other while understanding the inherent limitations and challenges of cross-cultural dialogue. Our work with the Kingdom thus far has been a classic case of advanced technology applied to the civic, social and economic structures of a country in order to result progress without sacrificing values. In this regard, one may say that our hyperloop system and the Vision2030 program of the Kingdom have found each other at the right place and the right time.
This was most recently evidenced in our trip to Jeddah in September to film an in-house commercial promoting the viability of the hyperloop system in and around the GCC. We featured the Saudi founder of one of the region’s first vertical farming enterprises who must travel between Jeddah and Dubai –a 1676-kilometer, three-hour flight--on a regular basis for his work. The time, this gentlemen explains in the film, that he would save traveling between the two cities by our technology would not only be cut to about 90 minutes, but could be reinvested in business travel to other cities; to better local management of his work and, most of all—to his own family.
Much like “the Aramco Century” which helped to usher in the economic and social modernization of the Kingdom when American oilmen and the outstanding modernist HRH King Abdulaziz bin Abdul Rahman Al Saud joined forces with nearly seamless cooperation to advance industry, society, health and education over the course of eight decades. This combination of American technology and Saudi vision will be necessary to what one may deem “the Hyperloop Century”. By this, we mean a new century driven by digitalization, unsurpassed speed, automation, “smart cities” and clean, highly sustainable environmental standards all necessary to the economic future of the Kingdom and, indeed, the world. Like his grandfather, HRH Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has constructed his Vision2030 in response to future generations of technology critical to the survival and prosperity of the Kingdom in the modern age.
However, none of this will mean anything without transportation. Transportation is the fundamental material backbone of all material change and transportation is currently on the threshold of its first revolution in 100 years. Hyperloop, more than any other transportation technology; more than automated cars, drones, sonic flight, or unmanned aircraft, is the leader in mobility of the future.
Why? Because the hyperloop is: a) terrestrial movement at the speed of a jet, therefore as applicable to cargo as it is to passengers; b) it integrates with current infrastructure—it does not “destroy” or replace airports or freeways or train stations but integrates with their current foundations, thus adding to the all over infrastructural economy; c) it is fully sustainable with zero direct emissions, has very low operating costs owing to its near-vacuum interior; and will cost no more than average intra-city regional travel.
In a word, any country that envisions cities or regions of the future is not a country that can be without hyperloop technology. The future of high-speed mobility, of which our particular system is the global leader, will not only mean the ability to move passengers and cargo at ground level at record rates of speed, but will contribute to the social and economic benefit of communities throughout the Kingdom in ways not often associated with transportation.
How, exactly, would hyperloop affect the Kingdom for the better in tandem with the goals and vision of Vision 2030? The reasons are multi-fold and speak to the vibrant society, thriving economy and ambitious vision the Kingdom has made its mission. A hyperloop economy would localize promising manufacturing industries and develop them into regional and global leaders. It would develop the brightest minds in priority fields. It would grow the SME [small to medium enterprise] contribution to the economy. It would enable the development of the Saudi tourism sector and ease access to healthcare services. It would ensure environmental sustainability and improve livability in Saudi cities. It would develop the digital economy, improve the ranking of educational institutions, and push forward the GCC integration agenda.
Cargo shipping is also essential in this respect. Our partner, DP World, who has a long history in the Kingdom overseeing the port of Jeddah, has partnered with us to create ‘CargoSpeed’, a joint venture to deliver freight at the speed of a flight, but closer to the cost of trucking. Hyperloop, for example, can eliminate the need for various intermediaries in logistics operations, such as ports and carriers by enabling products to be transported directly to consumers. This can add up to far more than the savings in transportation costs, especially for high-value and time-sensitive products, ultimately optimizing the end-to-end journey. What this could mean for the building of NEOM, for example, Red Sea tourism development or logistics transport along the Arabian Gulf is quite significant from both a cost and volume perspective.
Hyperloop technology is no longer the dream of “Silicon Valley mavericks”. In September, the United States Congress invited us to testify before the Senate on the advances of our technology. We were the only such company to receive this honor. The event underscored the fact that we are keen to work with governments, as has been the foundation of our success so far in the US, in India, Europe, and the Mideast.
It is naturally our hope that one day the best and the brightest among the next generations of talented Saudi youth will forge the future of modernization in their country with as much pride in “The Hyperloop Century” of US-Saudi relations as we have witnessed in our economic partnership of the last. This is the role of technology truly at its most meaningful: as a force for positive change, for diplomacy; the transformation and well-being of society—breaking down barriers of time and distance along the way in order to clear the path to limitless potential and borderless understanding.

Disappearance of Saudi journalist puts Erdogan in difficult situation
Semih Idiz/Al Monitor/October 09/18
The potential for a full-blown crisis between Turkey and Saudi Arabia remains in the cards.
REUTERS/Murad SezerHuman rights activists and friends of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi hold pictures of him during a protest outside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, Oct. 8, 2018.
The disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was last seen entering the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul last week to obtain documents necessary to marry his Turkish fiance, is a new headache for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The affair — which involved gruesome allegations of murder by Saudi agents — has the potential to cause a serious rift between Turkey and the principal Gulf state at a delicate moment for Ankara with regards to developments in the Middle East.
The Turkish-Saudi relationship is one of superficial cordiality, but it's otherwise known to be loveless at the best of times because of differences over a host of issues related to developments in the region.
The Saudi regime does not command much respect among Erdogan’s Islamist support base either, especially since Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman effectively took control of power and started underlining the importance of moderate Islam.
The term “moderate Islam” is seen by Turkish Islamists as a Western invention designed to control governments in predominantly Islamic countries.
The Saudi regime is also widely accused in Turkey of playing a duplicitous role in the Middle East that serves US and Israeli interests more than those of the Islamic world.
Turkey’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood and its offshoots like Hamas — which are considered by Saudi Arabia as radical organizations that pose an existential threat — is a principal issue that Ankara and Riyadh are at odds over.
The backing that Riyadh gave to the Egyptian military in 2013 when it toppled the country’s elected President Mohammed Morsi and his Islamic Brotherhood-led government still rankles Ankara.
Turkey’s support for Qatar, in defiance of Saudi-led efforts to isolate and punish the Gulf state for its support of the Muslim Brotherhood and its good ties with Iran, is another contentious issue between Ankara and Riyadh.
Despite these clouds over the relationship, diplomatic pragmatism has forced the sides to maintain a veneer of friendly ties. This, however, may be hard to preserve now as facts pertaining to Khashoggi’s disappearance begin to emerge.
The fact that Khashoggi had good personal relationships with prominent names from Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) and strong links to the pro-government media in Turkey will also pressurize Erdogan into acting firmly against Riyadh.
In his initial statement on the affair over the weekend, Erdogan also characterized Khashoggi as “a friend of long standing.” He will, therefore, want to avoid any impression that he is prepared to whitewash an affair involving the disappearance of a respected international journalist who also happens to be close to prominent names within his own party.
Yasin Aktay, a columnist for the Islamist daily Yeni Safak and personal adviser to Erdogan — Aktay blew the whistle on Khashoggi’s disappearance — is one such name. Aktay was contacted by Hatice Cengiz, Khashoggi’s Turkish fiance, as she was told to do by Khashoggi if he should not reemerge from the consulate after entering it on Oct 2.
Meanwhile, well-known names from the Middle East such as Tawakkol Abdel-Salam Karman, the Yemeni journalist, politician and human rights activist who was awarded the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, are among those keeping vigil outside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul and calling for Riyadh to be held accountable. Hakan Albayrak writes for the newspaper Karar, whose audience is the more liberal wing of AKP supporters. He argues that Turkey can’t afford to take this affair lightly.
“If the strongest reaction is not shown in response to what was done to Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey, then Saudi Arabia and other states will be encouraged to carry out these operations in Turkey,” Albayrak wrote.
Yahya Bostan, from the pro-government Daily Sabah, also reflected the groundswell of anger against Saudi Arabia.
“If Saudi Arabia had a journalist and dissident murdered at a diplomatic mission in a foreign country, it deserves to be designated a rogue state more than any other nation in the world,” Bostan wrote.
“If Jamal Khashoggi has indeed been killed at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, there will be legal, political and diplomatic consequences,” he added.
Aktay is also among those demanding strong action against Riyadh. “When we ask [consulate officials], they say [Khashoggi] left [the consulate] even though we have established that he did not,” Aktay told the daily Hurriyet in an interview.
“This suggests they do not take Turkey seriously. … This is a matter of honor for Turkey now. Being overly sensitive about our ties with Saudi Arabia is a luxury at this stage” he added.
Erdogan told reporters on Oct. 8, during a press conference in Budapest with Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban, that it was “Turkey’s political and humane duty” to follow this affair closely with all the means available to it.
“Consulate officials cannot exonerate themselves by simply saying [Khashoggi] left the premises. If he did, then they have to prove this with visual material,” Erdogan said.
According to various press accounts based on information from unnamed Turkish officials, the operation against Khashoggi was carried out by Saudi agents numbering somewhere between 12 and 15, who arrived hastily in Istanbul on two private jets just prior to Khashoggi’s fateful appointment at the consulate and left equally as hastily shortly after it.
This group is suspected of having carried out the operation against Khashoggi.
Turan Kislakci, who heads the Turkish-Arab Media Association, provided a chilling account for reporters on what happened to Khashoggi, which he said was based on information provided by security officials.
“After he entered the consulate, he was anesthetized and [then] his body was cut into 15 pieces and distributed among 15 people,” Kislakci told reporters. This claim has not been officially corroborated yet.
The Saudi consulate denies these allegations and has maintained over its Twitter account that Khashoggi left the consulate after completing his business there.
In an interview with Bloomberg on Oct. 5, Prince Mohammed also denied the allegations against his country and said they would allow the Turkish government to search the consulate. “We have nothing to hide,” he said.
Ankara has applied to do so, but many commentators believe the permission by the Saudi side is farcical since there has been plenty of time to rid the premises of evidence. It is not clear either if the Saudi permission will cover a detailed search by police experts for forensic evidence.
Ankara is clearly angry that the Saudi regime selected Turkey to carry out an operation such as this, fully aware that this was bound to leave Turkey in a difficult position domestically and internationally.
Many also question how Saudi officials believed they would get away with this operation without being noticed. They indicate that this either reflects a lack of intelligence or a lack of respect for Turkey.
Nagehan Alci, a pro-government columnist for HaberTurk, wrote that Prince Mohammed is known for brutally arresting and destroying his opponents. She speculated in her column as to why Salman had opted to kill Khashoggi in this way, even though it was clear that this would anger not just Turkey but also the United States.
“This was done to spread fear among his enemies by showing them that he will annihilate his opponents regardless of whether they live in the United States or write for the Western media,” Alci argued, referring to the fact that Khashoggi was living in self-exile in America and wrote a column for The Washington Post. “Saudi Arabia means oil for the world. With the self-confidence that this gives, and relying on the attraction of the dividends that Aramco shares will secure, [Prince Mohammed] must have thought that Khashoggi’s death would not give him much of a headache,” Alci reasoned.
If that is the case, it may turn out to be a gross mistake on the part of Prince Mohammed because Ankara has been left in a situation that it can’t afford to take lightly.
Diplomatic observers expect Turkey to recall its ambassador in Riyadh and expel the Saudi Consul General in Istanbul in the coming days, depending on how this affair pans out. The potential for this to turn into a full-blown crisis between the two countries also remains on the cards.
Meanwhile, Khashoggi's Turkish friends seem determined to see that this matter is not swept under the carpet for the sake of diplomatic expediency.
*Semih Idiz is a columnist for Al-Monitor's Turkey Pulse. He is a journalist who has been covering diplomacy and foreign policy issues for major Turkish newspapers for 30 years. His opinion pieces can be followed in the English-language Hurriyet Daily News. His articles have also been published in The Financial Times, The Times of London, Mediterranean Quarterly and Foreign Policy magazine.

The Disappearance Of Journalist Jamal Khashoggi: Before He Disappeared, The Saudi Press Accused Him Of Treason; Now It Is Expressing Concern
MEMRI/October 09/18
The disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, and was never seen leaving it, is a trending topic in the Arabic press, particularly the Saudi press. Khashoggi, whom some Turkish elements surmise was murdered by the Saudis inside the consulate, is a veteran Saudi journalist well known in the Arab world, especially for his criticism of the Saudi regime and his support for the Muslim Brotherhood. In the past year Khashoggi even moved to the U.S. in fear for his life, and began writing a Washington Post column; in it, he was harshly critical of Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman.
Prior to Khashoggi's disappearance, and since his move to the U.S., there were numerous articles in the Saudi press attacking him, particularly in the 'Okaz daily. The articles accused him of betraying his country, ranked him with the leaders of Al-Qaeda and ISIS, and described him as being in the service of the enemies of Saudi Arabia, starting with Turkey, Iran and Qatar, out of greed. Three days after his disappearance, a similar article called him "conspirer with reactionary ideas" who is loyal to the enemies of the state and is working "to sway public opinion [against Saudi Arabia] and undermining security and stability in the country."
However, about a week after his disappearance, just as the accusations that Saudi Arabia had murdered him at the Istanbul consulate peaked, there was a reversal in the tone of articles in the Saudi press about him. Articles now expressed the country's concern about him, and the hope of hearing that he was alive and well. These articles also denied that Saudi Arabia had had a hand in his alleged murder, arguing that that the country had no history of eliminating oppositionists in that way and that such an act would in any event cause more harm than good. They also stated that Turkey, Iran, and Qatar, and the Qatari Al-Jazeera TV, by attempting to accuse Saudi Arabia of involvement in murder, were essentially implicating themselves.
This report will set out the change in tone in the Saudi press with respect to Khashoggi, prior to and immediately after his disappearance and a week later.
Saudi Press On Khashoggi Before And Immediately After His Disappearance: Traitor And Collaborator
'Okaz Columnist Ahmad Al-Shamrani: "One Who Betrays Us, Jimmy, Has No Place Among Us"
On June 15, 2018, Ahmad Al-Shamrani wrote in his column in the Saudi daily 'Okaz: "I have nothing to say about Jamal Khashoggi except that he is a traitor and has become the same as the apostate 'Abd Al-Bari 'Atwan [editor of and known for his criticism of the Saudi regime]. But 'Atwan has nothing to do with us, except in the sense that he once worked at a Saudi paper,[1] while Jimmy [Jamal Khashoggi] used to preach patriotism and saw those who come out against the leader and the homeland as traitors who should be prosecuted. That's what he said. And now he has become the sort of person he warned us against. You poor wretch, Jamal... You have become a servant of Turkey and Qatar, and perhaps also of the third side [of this triangle], Iran. This is not surprising, because whoever betrays the homeland where he lives and studied is easily [tempted by] money...
"Your masters are exhausting you, dragging you from one podium to the next to slander Saudi Arabia and its customs. I actually pity you when I see you wheezing into the microphone, repeating the same things over and over, while half of what you say cannot [be heard] due to your heavy breathing, oh Jimmy. It was Saudi Arabia, which you curse, that taught you and brought you out of the caves of Afghanistan [where you were a jihadi fighter] to make you into a media personality and chief editor of several papers. It is our leaders who placed the 'iqal[2] upon your head and taught you that nationality is the first priority and must not be bargained over. How did you trade your 'iqal for a turban [worn by the Turks and Iranians] and your Saudi robes for trousers that were possibly picked out for you [by someone else]?... One who betrays us, Jimmy, has no place among us... Our honor as Saudis, including your relatives, does not permit us to allow you to be part of our homeland..."[3]
'Okaz Columnist Muhammad Al-Sa'ed: Khashoggi Is Part Of A Satanic Alliance Seeking To Harm Saudi Arabia
In his September 17, 2018 column in 'Okaz, Saudi columnist Muhammad Al-Sa'ed ranked Jamal Khashoggi with the leaders of ISIS and Al-Qaeda as part of an alliance trying to harm Saudi Arabia and Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman: "Dear Saudi [reader], there are those who want you to believe with all your heart that Qatar, Turkey, Iran, the Houthis, the [Muslim] Brotherhood, Hizbullah, Al-Qaeda, [Saudi dissidents] Sa'd Al-Faqih and [Muhammad] Al-Mas'ari, the Al-'Ahed Al-Jadid [the anti-Saudi Twitter account], Al-Maffak ["the Screwdriver," a pejorative name for oppositionist Dr. Ahmad bin Sa'id], [Al-Qaeda leader] Al-Zawahiri, Jamal Khashoggi and [ISIS leader] Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, all wish nothing but prosperity, growth and a [happy] future for the [Saudi] kingdom, and that they stay awake at night seeking [ways] to realize the interests and aspirations of the Saudis and [safeguard] their safety and security...
"Do you know that [Sa'd] Al-Faqih, [Muhammad] Al-Mas'ari, Ghanem Al-Dosari, Madawi [Al-Rashid] and the other traitors in London receive a steady stream of money for their 'treachery,' without any difficulty?... Oh Saudi [reader]... Do you really believe that the hostility of Qatar, Iran, the Houthis, the Muslim Brotherhood... and the exiles [i.e. Saudi dissidents] in London, Berlin and Washington... toward [Crown] Prince Muhammad bin Salman stems from their concern for the interests of the kingdom? [Do you really believe] that they are not planning to turn us into a nation without a homeland, into homeless [refugees camping] on the borders of Turkey and Somalia or drowning in the waters of Europe in search of a place for ourselves and our children...?
"Today they are trying to demonize Prince Muhammad bin Salman and morally assassinate [his character]... and they want us to believe that they are doing it all for our sake and for the sake of our future...
"This satanic alliance is waging a war [against Saudi Arabia] fueled by one trillion dollars of Qatari oil and gas revenues, [by the Turkish] dreams [to build] a [new] Ottoman empire, and by the Muslim Brotherhood's hatred and its aspiration to take over Mecca and Medina in order to actualize its agendas and enslave the people of [this] kingdom. And all this [is happening] while the Middle East is experiencing difficult times full of treachery, fraud, conspiracies and dangers. In this war [against Saudi Arabia's enemies] there is no room for goodwill, agreements or soft diplomacy, for it is a matter of life and death."[4]
'Okaz Columnist Ahmad 'Ajab Al-Zahrani: Khashoggi Plots With Enemies Of The State
In his October 5, 2018 column, just three days after Khashoggi's disappearance, Ahmad 'Ajab Al-Zahrani wrote: "When Jamal Khashoggi supported the misguided ideas of jihad and was an enthusiastic follower of Al-Qaeda's ideology, and when he spent time with the leaders of this organization and interviewed them on the battlefronts of Afghanistan, nobody stood up and asked: 'Who kidnapped Khashoggi?!' When he sided absolutely with the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood and started touting the 'achievements of tolerant Islam' in Turkey, calling on everyone else to learn a lesson from their experience, nobody stood up and asked: 'Who kidnapped Khashoggi?!' Even when he suddenly left [Saudi Arabia] and settled in exile, in the U.S., when he turned the blade of his dissident pen against the country where he grew up and studied, [writing a column] for The Washington Post, nobody stood up and asked: 'Who kidnapped Khashoggi?!' But when he freely walked into the Saudi Embassy [sic] for the second time, to obtain papers related to his marriage, and then emerged from it, slanted reports and stories appeared about him, titled 'Who kidnapped Khashoggi?!'
"Jamal Khashoggi was already kidnapped many years ago by the extremist Muslim organizations, and became a different man: a conspirer with reactionary ideas who does not hesitate for a moment to show loyalty and respect for the enemies of the state, be they factions or so-called states like Qatar. When our sister [country] Bahrain let him broadcast his Al-Arab channel from its soil, he launched [that channel] with a program in which he stabbed [Bahrain] in the back with his poisoned dagger: He hosted the oppositionist Khalil Marzouq and gave him an opportunity to accuse and attack the Bahraini authorities for revoking his citizenship, along with that of 72 others. This forced Bahrain to take measure to close down the channel and fire its workers, 24 hours after its launch.
"In one of his dissident articles, [penned] outside Saudi Arabia, Jamal Khashoggi wrote: 'I feel sad when I speak to Saudi friends in Istanbul and London, who [like me] have also chosen to live in exile. There are at least seven of us. Will we become the kernel of a Saudi diaspora[?]' This was an implicit admission that he is in contact with traitors against the homeland who have fled to those countries, chiefly Sa'd Al-Faqih[5] and Ghanem Al-Dosari.[6] In addition, he once again explicitly voiced his terrorist aims, namely swaying public opinion [against Saudi Arabia] and undermining security and stability in the country for the sake of personal and sectarian goals.
"I don't know why there is only one option – that is, that Khashoggi was kidnapped – when all options are equally possible – for instance, that he was received in a civilized manner [at the consulate], as befits his [prominent] stature, despite his dissident views. Perhaps he realized the error of his ways and felt that constantly running away would not save him from his pangs of conscience, and that all the international laws protecting political asylum seekers would not provide him with the tranquility that he enjoyed in his homeland. So he secretly left the consulate and went to quietly contemplate returning to Saudi Arabia and turning himself in, in order to receive a lighter sentence. This is the decision which will free him from his shackles and the misguided ideas and extremist organizations that have held him hostage over the past decades. This is the decision which will provide a happy ending to the story titled 'Who Released Khashoggi and Returned Him to the Homeland?'"[7]
Following Accusations That Saudi Arabia Is Guilty Of Murder, The Saudi Press Changes Its Tone: Concern About Khashoggi, Hope That He Is Alive And Well
Al-Riyadh Editorial: Saudi Arabia Is More Concerned About Khashoggi Than Anyone Else Is; The Accusations Are False And Disconnected From Reality
Al-Riyadh's October 8, 2018 editorial objected to the reports that suggested Saudi involvement in Khashoggi's disappearance, especially reports on Qatar's Al-Jazeera TV: "Media outlets that purport to be professional – but which facts show are far from any semblance of professionalism, reliability or balance [in reporting] – fall into puzzling contradictions in their reports about the disappearance of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul. This is because they are not reporting the facts, as they are meant to, but rather are overlooking them and inventing [facts] that correspond to their inclinations and goals of harming the [Saudi] kingdom in every possible way.
"[This is] especially [true of] the Qatari Al-Jazeera channel, which pretends to be professional and reliable in its coverage of events, yet proves over and over again that it is far from professional, trustworthy and reliable... Instead of doing its real media duty, it started looking for information, taking less interest in the source or reliability of this information than in its [capacity to] create an uproar that exists only in the diseased imaginations of the channel's decision-makers. It jumped to conclusions without any tangible evidence that proved what it was trying to prove. The programs aired on the channel, and the guests they hosted to comment on the disappearance of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi were rife with false stories, in a desperate attempt to make exaggerated accusations that bear no relation to reality.
"The Saudi kingdom is a state that is very concerned about its citizens and has a rich record of caring for them and for handling their affairs, wherever they are. It does not employ the policy of other countries that act in secret. On the contrary; all its affairs are conducted in the open and in plain sight, especially when they pertain to the security of the state and its citizens – for we have nothing to be ashamed of and nothing to hide. As for the disappearance of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Saudi Arabia demanded to discover what happened to him before others did, for it is more concerned about his fate than anyone else is, and will not agree to bargain over the safety and interests of its citizens."[8]
'Okaz Columnist Expresses Hope That Jamal Is Well, Says Qatar, Turkey And Iran Are Trying To Weave A Scenario – But That Scenario Implicates Them
Hamoud Abu Talib wrote in his October 8 column in 'Okaz that at this moment concern for Khashoggi's safety naturally eclipses the ideological disputes with him. At the same time, he stressed that Saudi Arabia does not resort to political assassination, but meets its moral obligations toward its citizens – despite the fact that the Qatari-Turkish-Iranian "axis of evil" is attempting to present a different picture. He wrote: "I had numerous and deep disagreements with Jamal Khashoggi, and had many disputes with him when I wrote for [the Saudi daily] Al-Watan and he was the paper's chief editor... Despite this, my only hope right now is that he is well and that we will soon hear news that he is safe and sound. After all, he is a family man with a wife and children, and as a citizen of my country he is entitled to live there and to enjoy the solidarity [of his fellow Saudis]. In any case, this is not the time to remember our differences and his offenses against [his] country.
"The noise and uproar over his suspicious disappearance in Turkey following his visit to the Saudi consulate indicates that there is a dangerous mystery surrounding his disappearance, which serves nobody but those who wish to distort the good name of Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia has already officially announced, in more than one way, that it is keen to discover what happened to its citizen [Khashoggi]. The Saudi Consulate in Istanbul has opened its offices to the media; Saudi Arabia has dispatched an official team to investigate the mystery of his disappearance; and all the relevant elements are meeting their moral and national obligation toward this Saudi citizen. But the axis of evil, represented by the Qatari-Turkish-Iranian triangle along with the militias and mercenaries that follow it, is trying to spin a different scenario, which implicates [these three countries] before anyone else.
"The history of Saudi Arabia knows no assassinations by the intelligence [apparatuses]. Otherwise it would have used [this method] against those who posed the greatest threat to it in various periods. Saudi Arabia still resorts to moral and patient [means], and pays no heed to one who rails against it from outside [its territory], even if he calls himself an oppositionist and causes it severe harm..."[9]
Columnist For Makkah Daily: "The Damage Caused By Harming Journalists Or Causing Them To Disappear Is Much Worse Than Damage That Might Be Caused By Their Words"
In his October 8 column in the Makkah daily, journalist 'Abdallah Al-Mazhar argued that the accusations that Saudi Arabia had harmed Khashoggi make no sense, since targeting Khashoggi would cause more harm to its reputation than any article a journalist could pen. He wrote: "I think it is foolish and unprofessional to think that the Saudi government is among the elements that benefit from harming [Khashoggi], as is claimed by the media. The exact opposite is true: It is the Saudi government and its reputation that suffer most from incidents like these. The harm caused by targeting journalists and causing them to disappear is far greater than any harm that an article by any journalist or thinker could cause. If the idea is that an article or an opinion can be said to distort the reputation of the homeland, then to torture or cause the disappearance of the authors [of such articles] blackens [the homeland's] reputation completely...
"Ever since [Khashoggi] disappeared, those who weep over him yearn for the moment when it will be proven that he is gone for good, and not for the opposite – because his disappearance is far more useful to them than his presence. Furthermore, his reappearance or return will obviously be useless [to them], nipping [their] pre-prepared attacks in the bud.
"It's possible that the entire affair is a criminal matter that has nothing to do with politics or politicians, thoughts or opinions. Perhaps those who harmed Khashoggi or caused him to disappear did not even know him. However, it was [only] afterwards that [interested parties] thought about how to exploit the disappearance, and invented stories that suited [their] agendas that are obvious to anyone with half a brain..."[10]
[1] 'Atwan wrote for the Saudi Al-Madina daily, and also for the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat.
[2] The band used to secure the kefiyya headdress, which is a symbol of Arabism.
[3] 'Okaz (Saudi Arabia), June 15, 2018.
[4] 'Okaz (Saudi Arabia), September 17, 2018.
[5] Sa'd Al-Faqih, an Islamist Saudi dissident, founded the Committee for the Defense of Legitimate Rights in Saudi Arabia (CDLR) in 1993 and later fled to London, where he founded the Movement for Islamic Reform in Arabia. He is very active on social media, voicing positions that oppose the Saudi regime and its policies.
[6] Ghanem Al-Dosari is a Saudi human rights activist, political satirist and opponent of the regime, well-known for his criticism of the Saudi royal family.
[7] 'Okaz (Saudi Arabia), October 5, 2018.
[8] Al-Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), October 8, 2018.
[9] 'Okaz (Saudi Arabia), October 8, 2018.
[10] Makkah (Saudi Arabia), October 8, 2018.