Detailed Lebanese & Lebanese Related LCCC English New Bulletin For October 29/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations
No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth
Luke 16/13-17: "No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.’The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all this, and they ridiculed him. So he said to them, ‘You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of others; but God knows your hearts; for what is prized by human beings is an abomination in the sight of God. ‘The law and the prophets were in effect until John came; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is proclaimed, and everyone tries to enter it by force. But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one stroke of a letter in the law to be dropped.

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

Daily Lebanese/Arabic - English news bulletins on our LCCC web site.Click on the link below

Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on October 28-29/18
Iran accused of using civil flights to funnel arms to Hezbollah in Lebanon/Simon Speakman/The Arab Weekly/October 28/18
The Annihilation of Iraq's Christian Minority/ Raymond Ibrahim/Gatestone Institute/October 28/18
Iran is pressuring US using Islamic Jihad in Gaza/Ron Ben Yishai/Ynetnews/October 28/18
The Vatican under Siege/What Must the Church Do to Restore Trust/Lawrence A. Franklin//Gatestone Institute/October 28/18
What Next After Netanyahu’s Visit to Muscat/Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al-Awsat/October, 28/18
Netanyahu in Oman/Salman Al-dossary/Asharq Al-Awsat/October, 28/18
Qatar comes back empty-handed/Mohammed Al Shaikh/Al Arabiya English/October 28/18
Rocky road’ to Iraq’s full govt formation as key posts remain unfilled/Michael Flanagan/Al Arabiya English/October 28/18
Will stinging US sanctions strengthen Iranians’ pursuit of freedom/Reza Shafiee/Al Arabiya English/October 28/18
The European Union's "special purpose vehicle" (SPV) is not likely to save business ventures with Iran’s regime/Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/October 28, 2018
Turkish Israeli relations back to square one again/Yasar Yakis/Arab News/October 28/18
The hypocrisy of Turkey’s ‘outrage’ over the death of Khashoggi/Tom Regan/The Arab Weekly/October 28/18

Titles For The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on October 28-29/18
Rahi from Beirut Airport: It is time to have a government, no justification for delay
Hezbollah’ Insists on Giving Cabinet Seats to its Members
New Government Expected Monday or Tuesday
Report: Hariri Insists on Govt. within 48 Hours, Rejects Giving Up Sunni Seat
Hizbullah Names 3 Party Members for New Govt.
Adwan Says 'Large Possibility' LF Won't Join New Govt.
Cautious Calm at Miyeh Miyeh Camp after Night Clashes
Duchess of Luxembourg arrives in Beirut
UNIFIL Western Sector Commander visits Tyre's Archbishops
'Year of Zayed' 2018 Horse Racing Cup in Park Beirut, under AlShamsi, Shebib's patronage
Lebanese Diaspora Football Tournament concludes in presence of Bassil
Hasbani says LF always takes advanced position in correcting path
Jumblatt patronizes inauguration of Kamal Jumblatt Public School in Mukhtara
Iran accused of using civil flights to funnel arms to Hezbollah in Lebanon
Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on October 28-29/18
US Congress officials: Iran must be cut-off from global financial transfer system
Iran’s Khamenei calls for fight against enemy ‘infiltration’ amid cyber worries
Mattis Says KSA Vows 'Full' Probe of Khashoggi Murder
Trump's Biggest Supporters in Congress Demand Tougher Sanctions on Iran
Oman’s FM: We Help Bring Palestinians, Israelis Together, We are not Intermediaries
Oman’s FM: We Help Bring Palestinians, Israelis Together, We are not Intermediaries
Istanbul Summit Stresses Importance of Political Solution in Syria
Turkish forces bombard Kurdish YPG militia positions east of Euphrates
ISIS repels US-backed forces from east Syria holdout
Bahraini Crown Prince Stresses Saudi Role in Ensuring Regional Security
Jubeir: Suspects in Khashoggi Case Under Investigation
Iraq: Controversy Over Choosing President's Deputies
Egypt Sets Ceasefire in Gaza After Violent Night Ignited by ‘Jihad’ Movement
Almost 2 Million Iranian Pilgrims Head into Iraq for Arbaeen
The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on October 28-29/18
Rahi from Beirut Airport: It is time to have a government, no justification for delay
Sun 28 Oct 2018/NNA - Maronite Patriarch, Cardinal Beshara Boutros al-Rahi, stressed Sunday that it is high time that the Lebanese had a new government, considering the delay as "unjustified". Speaking upon arrival at Beirut International Airport this afternoon, following a pastoral visit to Canada and after partaking in the works of the Synod of Bishops in Rome for 40 days, al-Rahi reiterated his "appeals to Lebanese officials to speed up the government formation." Addressing the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister-designate and all the political forces in Lebanon, Rahi said, "The time has come for us to have a government...I have always emphasized, and still do, that there is no justification for the delay since day one, and we cannot continue in this manner whilst the whole world wonders whether we actually care about our homeland!" "Countries have rushed to aid Lebanon, and have held three conferences within two months for Lebanon's sake, yet till this day we have not formed a government," the Patriarch reminded, hoping that the new cabinet will soon be formed to assume its economic, social and daily living responsibilities. Asked whether the new government would see the light without the participation of the Lebanese Forces, al-Rahi said, "If they talk about a government of national unity, it means that all political forces will be included...Otherwise, we cannot call it a government of national unity."Responding to another question whether Bkirki would soon witness an encounter between the Maradah Chief Sleiman Franjieh and the Lebanese Forces Party Head Samir Geagea, the Patriarch disclosed that he met with Franjieh in Rome who expressed his readiness to meet with Geagea upon the Patriarch's return. "I wish this meeting had taken place long before, and that it would last...and I cannot hide that when the rapprochement between the Lebanese Forces and the Free Patriotic Movement occurred, I wondered about the rest, since there must be rapprochement between the four parties," al-Rahi underlined. "Through our unity, we respect all the Lebanese society...So we have to come together as Lebanese, and only then can we talk about true national unity," the Patriarch asserted.
Hezbollah’ Insists on Giving Cabinet Seats to its Members
Beirut - Nazeer Rida/Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 28 October, 2018/ Most of the obstacles hindering the formation of the government have been resolved, except for one "knot" which shall be tackled by Prime minister-designate Saad Hariri once he returns from Jordan before he presents the full formation of the government to Lebanese President Michel Aoun. Meanwhile, reliable Lebanese sources revealed that ‘Hezbollah’ will have three ministers of its members, despite US pressures. Hariri confirmed on Saturday that the cabinet will be formed in the coming days. His announcement followed meeting parliamentary speaker Nabih Berri at Ain al-Tineh. He added that there remains a small obstacle in the way of forming a government but will be resolved once he is back from Jordan. "Everyone has sacrificed for the sake of the country and with the aim to form a national unity government that includes all parties," Hariri continued. He intensified consultations on Friday in which he met caretaker Information Minister Melhem Riachy following meetings with caretaker Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil, caretaker Public Works and Transportation Minister Youssef Fenianos and MP Wael Abou Faour. Sources told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that there has been an exchange among the political forces in the ministries. They added that the small obstacle is represented in the demand to grant a portfolio to an independent Sunni from 8 March Alliance. The Lebanese Forces showed an additional flexibility in which Riachy considered that the government is to be formed soon and that the positions and portfolios don’t entice the LF. Despite US objections over ‘Hezbollah’ being in charge of leading positions such as the ministry of health, sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that 'Hezbollah' has named three ministers for the upcoming government from its cadres. Hariri announced, at the beginning of the month, that he doesn’t mind Hezbollah having the ministry of health.

New Government Expected Monday or Tuesday
Naharnet/October 28/18/The line-up of the new government is expected to be announced Monday or Tuesday, a media report published Sunday said. Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, who voiced optimistic remarks on Saturday, will return Sunday evening to Beirut from Jordan to “make the final steps regarding the cabinet line-up,” An Nahar newspaper reported. “Hariri has asked all parties to provide him with the names of their ministers before Monday so that he allocates the portfolios and completes the cabinet line-up before his expected visit to the Baabda Palace in the beginning of the week,” the daily added. President Michel Aoun is expected to accept the line-up, An Nahar said. Political wrangling over portfolios, especially among Christian and Druze forces, has delayed the formation of the cabinet for several months now.A new hurdle has also emerged in recent days regarding the representation of Sunni MPs opposed to Hariri's al-Mustaqbal Movement.

Report: Hariri Insists on Govt. within 48 Hours, Rejects Giving Up Sunni Seat
Naharnet/October 28/18/Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri is insisting that the new government should be formed “within 48 hours,” sources close to him said on Sunday. “Hariri is awaiting the Lebanese Forces' response to a proposal giving it the labor portfolio instead of the justice portfolio in addition to other ministerial portfolio,” the sources told MTV. As for Hariri's stance on the appointment of a Sunni minister from outside his al-Mustaqbal Movement, the sources quoted Hariri as saying: “If you want to appoint him from my share, then start searching for another premier, but if President Aoun wants to give them a ministerial seat from his share, then this would be up to him.” The sources also confirmed that the cabinet formation process has entered “the phase of distributing portfolios and picking specific candidates.”

Hizbullah Names 3 Party Members for New Govt.
Naharnet/October 28/18/New Government Expected Monday or Tuesday.The line-up of the new government is expected to be announced Monday or Tuesday, a media report published Sunday said. Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, who voiced optimistic remarks on Saturday, will return Sunday evening to Beirut from Jordan to “make the final steps regarding the cabinet line-up,” An Nahar newspaper reported. “Hariri has asked all parties to provide him with the names of their ministers before Monday so that he allocates the portfolios and completes the cabinet line-up before his expected visit to the Baabda Palace in the beginning of the week,” the daily added. President Michel Aoun is expected to accept the line-up, An Nahar said. Political wrangling over portfolios, especially among Christian and Druze forces, has delayed the formation of the cabinet for several months now. A new hurdle has also emerged in recent days regarding the representation of Sunni MPs opposed to Hariri's al-Mustaqbal Movement. Hizbullah has chosen its three ministers in the new government from within the ranks of the party, defying alleged U.S. pressures in this regard, media report said. “Hizbullah named three of its cadres to become ministers in the new government,” sources informed on the government formation talks told Asharq al-Awsat daily in remarks published Sunday. “After reports of U.S. pressures, the party's insistence increased and it named a party member to be assigned the health ministerial portfolio,” the sources said. “The other ministers who will be part of its ministerial share are also party members,” the sources added, reminding that the party had taken a decision, prior to the parliamentary polls, to name its legislative and ministerial candidates from within the party's ranks. Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri had announced Saturday that the upcoming health minister will be a Hizbullah member despite any U.S. concerns in this regard. There are fears that Washington could suspend its health aid to Lebanon should a Hizbullah member become in charge of the ministry.
The party is blacklisted by the U.S. as a “terrorist organization.”

Adwan Says 'Large Possibility' LF Won't Join New Govt.
Naharnet/October 28/18/There is a “strong possibility” that the Lebanese Forces will not take part in the new government although a final decision is yet to be taken, LF deputy chief MP George Adwan announced on Sunday. “I can confirm that the government will be formed in the coming days and there's a large possibility that the LF won't take part in it,” Adwan told MTV, revealing that Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri is expecting the LF to give a final answer on Monday evening. “They must devise a Plan B if we don't join the government,” he advised. Noting that the LF's answer “is very critical and requires a meeting for the LF's Executive Committee,” Adwan noted that the meeting will take place in the next 24 hours. “The issue will be discussed and voted on,” he added, revealing that the LF had received Hariri's final proposal in the past few hours. “The government will be formed by the next three or four days,” Adwan went on to say. “For the first time ever, I will break the pledge of silence: general balance is required in the national affairs and granting us a sovereign portfolio would ensure this balance. Should we refrain from taking part in the government, all those who made us reach this stage will bear the responsibility,” the lawmaker warned. Adwan also pointed out that Hariri “wants the LF to take part in the government, whereas (caretaker Foreign) Minister (and Free Patriotic Movement chief) Jebran Bassil wants two things: preventing the LF from being represented with its true weight in the government or its non-participation.”Hariri had promised the LF the justice portfolio, a proposal that was eventually rejected by President Michel Aoun and Bassil's FPM.Wrangling over shares and portfolios has delayed the formation of the new government for several months now after Hariri was tasked with forming it in May.

Cautious Calm at Miyeh Miyeh Camp after Night Clashes
Cautious calm was engulfing the Miyeh Miyeh Palestinian refugee camp on Sunday after intermittent clashes at night, the National News Agency said. The agency said the night unrest involved the firing of three shells, heavy gunfire, sniper gunfire and grenades. The violence continued until 2:00 am, NNA said. The latest round of fighting had erupted on Friday after the collapse of a fragile and brief ceasefire. The truce had been reached after a "broad meeting between delegations from the Fatah and Ansarullah movements at the headquarters of Hizbullah's Political Council. The clashes between the two movements had first erupted on October 16 and have so far left several people dead and wounded.

Duchess of Luxembourg arrives in Beirut
Sun 28 Oct 2018/NNA - Grand Duchess of Luxembourg, Maria Teresa, arrived in Beirut this evening to meet with President of the Republic, Michel Aoun, House Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri. During her stay, the Duchess will visit Syrian refugee camps in the Bekaa to have a closer look at their situation, and will meet with UNICEF officials in Beirut. Welcoming the Duchess at Beirut Airport was the Director of Protocol at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Najla Assaker, the Luxembourg Consul in Lebanon Jacques Raphael and senior Embassy staff.

UNIFIL Western Sector Commander visits Tyre's Archbishops
Sun 28 Oct 2018/NNA - UNIFIL Western Sector Commander, Italian General Diodato Abaniara, visited Sunday the religious authorities in Tyre. Abaniara began his visit at the Maronite Archdiocese in Tyre, where he met with Archbishop Shukrallah al-Hajj, during which discussions focused on "strengthening the relationship between UNIFIL and religious and local authorities, and boosting the fruitful cooperation between them."Archbishop al-Hajj thanked Italy for its continued support for Lebanon, stressing on the important role played by the Italian Contingent in the South and recalling the relationship of Italians with Lebanon across the ages, especially in the Roman era. General Abaniara then visited the Cathedral of Saint Thomas of the Melkite Roman Catholic Church, where he met with Metropolitan Archbishop Michael Abras, who paid special tribute to Italy and its people for their permanent standing alongside Lebanon. Abras stressed the historical relations between Italy and Lebanon, especially the Phoenicians who built old ties with the peoples of the Mediterranean. He also highlighted the importance of cooperation with local and spiritual authorities in southern Lebanon in order to make the UNIFIL mission a success.
Abaniara, in turn, thanked Archbishops Hajj and Abras for their warm hospitality and their continuous support to the UNIFIL peacekeepers, especially the Italian soldiers, in order to complete the required tasks in southern Lebanon. He also underlined the significant role of main religious authorities in strengthening the relationship between UNIFIL and the people of the South. Abaniara concluded by praising the Lebanese people's cultural values and the advantage of coexistence that renders Lebanon a unique country in the world.

'Year of Zayed' 2018 Horse Racing Cup in Park Beirut, under AlShamsi, Shebib's patronage
Sun 28 Oct 2018/NNA - The Embassy of the United Arab Emirates in Beirut, under the patronage of its Ambassador Hamad Saeed Al-Shamsi and Beirut Governor Ziad Shebib, organized the Zayed 2018 Cup for Horseracing in the Park Beirut Square on Sunday. Attending the sports event was Caretaker State Minister for Planning, Michel Pharaon, former MP Nabil de Freij, President of the Lebanese Equestrian Federation, Major General Suhail Khoury, Race Director Nabil Nasrallah, and various sports dignitaries. In his word on the occasion, Shebib said, "This is a special day for Beirut and for the Beirut horseracing field, and God willing, this will be recurrent." He congratulated the winners of the first, second and third places, deeming the organized Cup "a special event which is a collaboration between Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates.""The horses sport in the United Arab Emirates has reached a world-class level in advancement, and together with Ambassador Al-Shamsi, we wished to unite the development, modernity and globalism of the history of this ancient sport in Lebanon, and in Beirut specifically," Shebib added. "The field of horseracing in Beirut dates back two thousand years since the Roman era," he continued to explain, noting that the horseracing field in which today's sports event was organized is 102 years old and thus, forms part of the heritage of Beirut that ought to be preserved. "This is what the Society for the Protection and Improvement of the Arabian Horse Breed is trying to do, and it is our duty to cooperate with this association to develop this sport and raise it to a more professional standard," Shebib emphasized. In turn, Minister Pharaon thanked the UAE and Ambassador Al-Shamsi for his continuous efforts and follow-up on activities in Lebanon. "Today, the event is important and symbolic, compared to the level of horseracing in Dubai, "he said. "We are living in a difficult situation in the field of horseracing in Beirut, so we hope that the plans and projects will be implemented quickly, with the approval of His Excellency Governor Shebib, the Municipality of Beirut and its Council, Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri and His Excellency, President Michel Aoun," Pharaon added. For his part, Al-Shamsi referred to "several initiatives in the Year of Zayed 2018 at the humanitarian and developmental levels in various educational and medical sectors," underlining "the importance of the horseracing field in Beirut."
"It is a historic field with Arabian horses, which Sheikh Zayed accorded great importance," Al-Shamsi added. "Our presence in the heart of Beirut, the capital of culture and civilization through the Sheikh Zayed Award means a lot to us," he went on. "Beirut is the Arab capital that embraced horses before many countries, and it continues to do so despite all the conditions facing this sport," Al-Shamsi underscored.

Lebanese Diaspora Football Tournament concludes in presence of Bassil

Sun 28 Oct 2018/NNA - In cooperation with the Moroccan Embassy in Lebanon and the Lebanese Ministry of Tourism, the Royal Moroccan Airlines hosted for the second year in a row, football teams from the Lebanese communities abroad, under the auspices of Caretaker Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gebran Bassil. The finals were attended by Bassil, Moroccan Ambassador to Lebanon Mohamed Karin, Regional Director of Royal Moroccan Airlines Khaled Dzeri, and Jounieh Municipality Head Juan Hobeich. The football tournament was organized by “Sport Evazion” with teams from the following countries: Canada, United States, Brazil, France, Morocco, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria and a team from Lebanon. The final games took place at the “Modern Star Lebanese Club” in Kafrhab - Ghazir.

Hasbani says LF always takes advanced position in correcting path
Sun 28 Oct 2018/NNA - Deputy Prime Minister, Caretaker Public Health Minister, Ghassan Hasbani, noted Sunday that the Lebanese Forces Party continuously adopts an advanced stand towards path rectification. Speaking in an interview to "Voice of Lebanon - Dbayeh" Radio Station earlier today, Hasbani assured that there is no obstacle related to the Lebanese Forces, but rather the obstacles lie with those who are attached to certain portfolios. "All sides possess sovereign or considerable ministerial portfolios...Why then is the veto on the Lebanese Forces?" Hasbani questioned. "Our real share pertains to the ability to carry out a development project through portfolios in order to reach achievements. Our parliamentary bloc has grown and LF's popular voice is largely significant," he added. "Everyone maintained their status as in the previous government with some amendments, and did not make enough sacrifices," Hasbani went on. "We hope to form a government as soon as possible, a harmonious cabinet that represents all Lebanese," he added, noting however that the cabinet formation alone is not the solution but rather the adoption of bold decisions.

Jumblatt patronizes inauguration of Kamal Jumblatt Public School in Mukhtara
Sun 28 Oct 2018/NNA - Progressive Socialist Party Chief, Walid Jumblatt, patronized on Sunday the inauguration of the Kamal Jumblatt Official School in Mukhtara, after funding its restoration works at his own expense. Attending the inaugural ceremony was Caretaker Education Minister, Marwan Hamadeh, who thanked Jumblatt for his generous initiative in funding the school's reconstruction. "We have been accused of being against private education in general," Hamadeh said, adding, "Even though we do recognize its importance, yet public education is secular and it is for the nation and the citizen."Hamadeh hoped that the Democratic Gathering would work on elevating public learning to the level of aspiration of the late Martyr, Mentor Kamal Jumblatt. In appreciation of his kind initiative, Jumblatt received a recognition shield and floral bouquet from the School's principal and students.

Iran accused of using civil flights to funnel arms to Hezbollah in Lebanon
Simon Speakman/The Arab Weekly/October 28/18
TUNIS - Western intelligence sources say Iran is using commercial aircraft to ship weapons systems to its Lebanese ally, Hezbollah, in Beirut.
News reports indicate that Tehran is using the civil Qeshm Air to supply Hezbollah with the equipment to upgrade its standard rocket arsenal to precision-guided missiles that could prove decisive in any future conflict.
US broadcaster Fox News used Flightradar24 to track Qeshm flight QFZ-9950 as it left Tehran. The plane landed in Damascus before proceeding to Lebanon several hours later, the network reported.
Western intelligence sources told Fox News the Iranian cargo plane carried weapons components, including GPS devices, to convert missiles to precision-guided weapons at Iranian factories in Lebanon.
Iran’s Qeshm Air has faced long-standing accusations of transporting arms for the country’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the elite al-Quds force, both the subject of US sanctions.
Officially, the airline ceased operations in 2013, ostensibly due to poor management. However, operations recommenced under new management in March 2017. Three IRGC officials — Ali Naghi Gol Parsta, Hamid Reza Pahlvani and Gholamreza Qhasemi — were reported to play instrumental roles in the airlines’ operation of its fleet of two Boeing 747s.
“It seems Iran/Hezbollah’s priority at this point is to continue converting their missiles,” said Hanin Ghaddar, a visiting fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, “since it is no longer safe to continue doing it in Syria (Israel is bombing them constantly), they are starting to move them to Lebanon, thinking that Israel will think twice before moving its operations against Iran/Hezbollah to Lebanon.”
Israel has struck several Hezbollah and Iran-aligned targets in Syria over the last year. Most recently, Israeli fighters struck a military facility in Latakia, where they claimed precision weapons were being developed for transfer to Hezbollah.
That strike resulted in the downing of a Russian transport plane operating over Syria and the subsequent deployment of Russia’s S-300 air defence system to Damascus.
That Hezbollah had access to precision-guided weaponry was all but admitted by Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah in September. Nasrallah told supporters that Israeli efforts to prevent the group from obtaining precision weaponry had failed as that had “already been achieved.”
“No matter what you do to cut the route, the matter is over and the resistance possesses precision and non-precision rockets and weapons capabilities,” he said. “If Israel imposes a war on Lebanon, Israel will face a fate and a reality it has never expected on any day.”
Hezbollah’s arsenal is thought to be formidable. Speaking at a conference hosted by the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies on October 21, Israeli Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan claimed Hezbollah possessed about 150,000 missiles and rockets.
“Iran’s goal is to deepen the Israeli dilemma of whether to strike Iran while it is opening more and more fronts against us — fronts that will be used to extract from us a high price if we think about attacking the Iranian nuclear programmes,” Israel Hayom reported Erdan as saying.
While Ghaddar conceded that Israel was not interested in seeking a war with Hezbollah in Lebanon, the development of weapons facilities in the country could prove to be Israel’s main red line.
“There are many options, (or) scenarios, that might or might not lead to a war but I also believe that Israel will not sit back and watch Hezbollah continue converting these missiles,” she said.
That much was largely made clear during Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s address to the United Nations in September when he accused Hezbollah of establishing three “secret sites” near Beirut’s international airport, where rockets could be converted into precision-guided missiles capable of striking deep inside Israel “within an accuracy of 10 metres.”
Hezbollah was designated a terrorist organisation by the US State Department in 1997. The group is expected to be subjected to additional sanctions in the coming weeks, with two bills awaiting signature by US President Donald Trump. The new measures target foreign nationals and companies providing financial, material or technological support to Hezbollah and its affiliates in the region.
Written By Simon Speakman Cordall
*Simon Speakman Cordall is a section editor with The Arab Weekly.

The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on October 28-29/18
US Congress officials: Iran must be cut-off from global financial transfer system
The Associated Press/Washington/Sunday, 28 October 2018/A battle is brewing between the Trump administration and some of the president's biggest supporters in Congress who are concerned that sanctions to be re-imposed on Iran early next month won't be tough enough. As President Donald Trump prepares to re-impose a second batch of Iran sanctions that had been eased under the 2015 nuclear deal, conservative lawmakers and outside advisers have become worried that the administration may break a promise to exert "maximum pressure" on Iran. They are angered by suggestions that measures to be announced Nov. 5 won't include a provision cutting Iran off from a key component of the global financial system. The self-described Iran hawks are concerned enough that they have drafted legislation that would require the administration to demand that Iran be suspended from the international bank transfer system known as SWIFT. "The president asked for maximum pressure, not semi-maximum pressure," said Richard Goldberg, a former aide to a Republican senator and senior adviser to the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a group that supports punishing Iran with sanctions. "Maximum pressure includes disconnecting Iranian banks from SWIFT."
Trump pledged Thursday to do whatever it takes to pressure Iran to halt what he refers to as its "malign conduct" such as nuclear and missile development and support for terrorism and groups that destabilize the Middle East. "On Nov. 5th, all U.S. sanctions against Iran lifted by the nuclear deal will be back in full force," he told a gathering at the White House to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the 1983 attack on the Marine Corps barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, which is blamed on Iranian-backed extremists. "And they will be followed up with even more sanctions to address the full range of Iran's malign conduct. We will not allow the world's leading sponsor of terror to develop the world's deadliest weapons. Will not happen." The Nov. 5 sanctions cover Iran's banking and energy sectors and will reinstate penalties for countries and companies in Europe, Asia and elsewhere that do not halt Iranian oil imports. They could also include measures to force Iran out of SWIFT. Despite Trump's tough stance, the hawks are worried about recent comments from Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin and his staff that suggest Iran will be able to stay connected to SWIFT. They are also concerned the administration will back down on its stated zero-tolerance policy for Iranian oil purchases by granting waivers to certain countries and companies that do not fully stop buying it.
Iran deal supporters, like the other parties to the agreement, argue that pushing Iran out of SWIFT, the Belgium-based Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, will lead to the creation of alternate mechanisms that could supplant it as the leading global institution for financial institutions to send and receive information about banking transactions. They also say expulsion will make it harder for Iran to conduct transactions, such as humanitarian purchases, that will still be allowed after Nov. 5. Allowing Iran to remain in SWIFT would make it easier for Tehran to import humanitarian goods like medicine permitted under U.S. sanctions and "would help the United States make clear that its critique of Iran is directed at the regime, not the people of Iran," said Elizabeth Rosenberg, a former Treasury official now with the Center for a New American Security. She added, though, that disconnection would be a "fast track" to isolation. The debate underscores the challenges the administration faces as it tries to isolate Iran without the full backing of other world powers who remain supportive of the nuclear deal. Although the hawks had been pleased by Trump's decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal in May and cheered the August re-imposition of an initial set of sanctions, they are now seething that Treasury may opt to use existing safeguards to isolate Iran instead of hitting SWIFT members with sanctions if they don't disconnect Tehran. Treasury has been coy about its intentions, saying only that Mnuchin and the agency have led "an intense economic pressure campaign against Iran as part of this administration's comprehensive strategy to address the totality of Iran's malign and destabilizing activity, with much more to come."

Iran’s Khamenei calls for fight against enemy ‘infiltration’ amid cyber worries
Reuters, Iran/October 28/18 /Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called on Sunday for the stepping up of efforts to fight enemy “infiltration” in a speech to officials in charge of cyber defense, state television reported. “In the face of the enemy’s complex practices, our civil defense should ... confront infiltration through scientific, accurate, and up-to-date ... action,” Ayatollah Khamenei told civil defense officials, who are in charge of areas including cyber defense. The television report did not give details of the “infiltration” Khamenei was referring to. Iranian officials have long warned about Western cultural influences through entertainment, social media and the Internet as a threat against Islamic and revolutionary values.A decade ago, Iran’s nuclear program was hit by Stuxnet, a virus which was deployed by US and Israeli intelligence agencies against a uranium enrichment facility. Gholamreza Jalali, head of Iran’s civil defense agency, said on Sunday that Iran had recently neutralized a new version of Stuxnet. “Recently we discovered a new generation of Stuxnet which consisted of several parts ... and was trying to enter our systems,” Jalali was quoted as saying by the semi-official ISNA news agency at a news conference marking Iran’s civil defense day. He did not give further details. On October, 19, Jalali said that Iran is in the process of cutting off internet access, launching instead a national network as the US re-imposed sanctions near in early November, in a move seen by observers that it comes within the Islamic Republic control of possible protests due to further deterioration of economic and living conditions. Full story

Mattis Says KSA Vows 'Full' Probe of Khashoggi Murder
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/October 28/18/Saudi Arabia has promised a "full" investigation into the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Sunday following talks with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir in Bahrain. "We discussed it... the need of transparency, full and complete investigation. Full agreement from FM Jubeir, no reservations at all," Mattis told reporters following the talks, during which he warned the Saudi kingdom that the murder attributed to the Saudi authorities risked destabilising the region. "No reservations at all. He (Jubeir) said we need to know what happened and it was very collaborative, in agreement," the Pentagon chief told reporters on a flight from Manama to Prague where he will mark the centenary of Czechoslovakia. Saudi journalist Khashoggi, 59, who had criticized the kingdom's powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, had lived in self-imposed exile in the United States since 2017. He was murdered after entering his country's Istanbul consulate on October 2 to obtain paperwork to marry his Turkish fiancee. Gruesome reports have alleged that the Washington Post columnist was killed and dismembered by a team sent from Saudi Arabia to silence him. After weeks of denials, Riyadh has sought to draw a line under the crisis with an investigation. Prince Mohammed, heir to the oil-rich nation's throne, publicly denounced the murder as "repulsive," while the Saudi prosecutor acknowledged for the first time this week that based on the evidence of a Turkish investigation the killing had been "premeditated." But Riyadh on Saturday dismissed Ankara's calls to extradite 18 Saudis being held over Khashoggi's murder, as Washington warned the crisis risked destabilizing the Middle East. Addressing a forum in Manama on Saturday, Mattis warned that "the murder of Jamal Khashoggi in a diplomatic facility must concern us all greatly.""Failure of any nation to adhere to international norms and the rule of law undermines regional stability at a time when it is needed most," he stressed. The murder, which has tarnished the image of Crown Prince Mohammed, has sparked a wave of international criticism and affected Washington's relations with the kingdom. The United States relies heavily on Saudi Arabia to counter Iran's influence in the region and to defend the security of Israel. Mattis did not have a formal bilateral meeting with Jubeir on the sidelines of the Manama forum, where he met with several Arab and European leaders. The two men spoke at a dinner gathering all the ministers.

Trump's Biggest Supporters in Congress Demand Tougher Sanctions on Iran
Washington - Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 28 October, 2018/US President Donald Trump's biggest supporters in Congress are concerned that sanctions to be re-imposed on Iran on the 5th of November won't be tough enough. Lawmakers and outside advisers have become worried that the administration may break a promise to exert "maximum pressure" on Iran, demanding that Iran be suspended from the international bank transfer. Iran sanctions that had been eased due to the 2015 nuclear deal signed under the administration of former President Barack Obama. Meanwhile, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Iran will “resist” and “fight” the US economic war against it. He also announced a major government economic reshuffle to help face new US sanctions against Tehran’s oil exports. Rouhani urged the Iranian Parliament to approve four new ministers whom he described as part of the agenda to reform the Iranian banking sector and boost oil wealth. “Our main enemy, America, faces us with a drawn sword and we have to fight it and we have to unite," Rouhani said earlier, urging MPs to vote for his proposed ministers. Iran’s parliament approved the government economic reshuffle on Saturday, Reuters reported. Farhad Dejpasand received a vote of confidence by a wide margin as the new minister of economics and finance. The reshuffle, approved in a parliamentary session carried live on state TV, also brought in new industry, labor and roads ministers.

Oman’s FM: We Help Bring Palestinians, Israelis Together, We are not Intermediaries

Manama, Ramallah – Merza al-Khuwaldi, Kifah Zboun/Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 28 October, 2018/ Oman is offering ideas to help Israel and the Palestinians to come together but is not acting as mediator, according to Oman's Minister of Foreign Affairs Yousuf bin Alawi.
Speaking at the 14th IISS Manama Dialogue regional security summit in Bahrain, Alawi added, "If we do not reach a radical solution in Palestine, the Palestinians will never enjoy security and the entire Arab region will not settle, and terrorism will not end."
The FM asserted that his country relies on the United States and efforts by President Donald Trump in working towards this "deal of the century", noting that: "Israel is a state present in the region, and we all understand this, the world is also aware of this fact and maybe it is time for Israel to be treated the same and also bear the same obligations".Referring to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he said: "We do not say that the road is paved, but our priority is to end the conflict and move to a new world." Bin Alawi’s statement comes after Netanyahu's rare visit to Oman, and days after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas paid a three-day visit to the country and met Omani leader Sultan Qaboos.
Sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that Abbas welcomed this, adding that the Palestinian president supports any intervention that could save the situation. The sources stressed that the president wants Arab countries within an international mechanism along with the United States, Russia, the United Nations and other countries. Abbas was apparently aware of contacts and meetings with Netanyahu. The President banned any abuse of the Sultanate of Oman and ordered spokesmen and officials to refrain from commenting on Qaboos's meeting with Netanyahu and withdraw any comments on the issue. The Palestinian Authority remained silent about the meeting, and Fatah officials were forced to withdraw their comments on rejecting "normalization".It was not known if Oman would succeed in achieving a breaking through, but Palestinian sources ruled out this in light of current complexities. Ramallah preferred if Netanyahu wasn’t greeted in such a way that others would not be encouraged to start a public normalization with Israel. However, this is not the first senior Israeli official to the Sultanate, as former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin visited Oman in 1994 and was received by Qaboos. Few days after Rabin’s assassination, Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres hosted Omani Foreign Minister Yousef bin Alawi in Jerusalem. In January 1996, Israel and Oman signed an agreement on the mutual opening of commercial representation offices. Netanyahu's recent visit is the first public contact between Israel and Oman and came after a series of long negotiations. Netanyahu was accompanied by "Mossad" chief Yossi Cohen, National Security Advisor Meir Ben Shabbat and Foreign Ministry Director-General Yuval Rotem. “Among the issues discussed were ways to advance the peace process in the Middle East as well as several matters of joint interest regarding the achievement of peace and stability in the Middle East,” said a joint statement by the two leaders.
In contrast to the PA’s position, Hamas warned about the dangerous consequences of Netanyahu’s visit rejecting all types of normalization with the Israeli occupation. Hamas “deplores the acceleration of normalization with the Israeli entity” which serves as “an encouragement and cover for the Zionist enemy to commit more crimes and violations against the Palestinian people, and a stab in the back,” the organization said in a statement. Meanwhile, Iranian Parliament Speaker's Special Aide Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said that the Friday meeting with Israeli regime's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is far from the wisdom of Oman’s Sultan Qaboos. In a Saturday tweet and in reaction to Netanyahu’s unannounced trip to Oman, Amir-Abdollahian wrote, “the meeting of Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of the illegitimate Israeli regime, with Sultan Qaboos in Oman is far from the known wisdom of Sultan Qaboos,” according to Mehr News Agency. ‘Palestine Deal of the Century’ will not be fruitful for Trump and Netanyahu, he asserted.

Istanbul Summit Stresses Importance of Political Solution in Syria
Ankara - Saeed Abdulrazzak/Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 28 October, 2018/The Istanbul quartet stressed the need to continue on all tracks of the political solution, eliminate terrorism in Syria and ensure the voluntary return of refugees under the auspices of the United Nations.
Following the Syria summit, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan along with Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron held a joint news conference calling on the international community to work hand in hand for a sustainable solution in Syria. President Erdogan said "our aim is to reach a complete cease-fire to halt bloodshed," adding that the four nations agreed to increase cooperation among themselves and at the international level on the issue.
"We have discussed a political solution in line with Syrian people's legitimate demands which moves to reach stability in the country," Erdogan told reporters. He said that the participants in the summit stressed the importance of continuing Geneva talks to resolve the crisis in Syria, adding that the implementation of the Sochi agreement for Idlib was confirmed in preparation for a permanent solution to the Syrian crisis. On Turkey’s effort to eliminate terrorists along its borders in northern Syria, Erdogan repeated Ankara’s determination for a possible counter-terror operation in east of the Euphrates River. “We will continue to eliminate threats to national security in the east of Euphrates as well as in its west in Syria,” he said.
The leaders agreed on the importance of eliminating all terrorist organizations in Syria and calling on the international community to help the Syrians and prevent new waves of asylum.
With regard to the return of the Syrian refugees, Turkish President noted that his country had already spent $33 billion in helping Syrians. The Turkish leader also stressed that the return of Syrians to their homeland should be voluntary and that the UN is needed to coordinate this process. Turkey’s President called on other nations to increase support for refugees as he declared the “people of Syria will determine the future of Bashar al-Assad”. For his part, Putin told the news conference that a settlement in Syria cannot be reached without consultations that include Syria and "our Iranian partners.”
Asked about the possibilities of a second summit of the four countries, Putin said the countries have "not negotiated this yet, but everything is possible." “We proposed to our partners that Russia’s initiative to convene an international conference on Syrian refugees be supported. We are aware of everything related to this, we are aware of the problems, but unless we join efforts, we won’t achieve any results," Putin said. Putin pointed out that the talks focused on humanitarian aid to the Syrian people and on assistance in the return of refugees to the country. "Russia spares no effort in this area, but in order to drastically improve the situation in the country, to handle acute social problems and to revive the economy, the world’s collective efforts are needed," he asserted.
Macron said that the Istanbul summit is a continuation of Astana. He stressed the need to unite the various tracks of Syria and cooperate in the fight against terrorism and ensure access of aid to those in need. “The constitutional committee needs to be established, and should hold its first meeting by the end of the year. This is what we all want," he said, adding that” creating it will become a part of the political settlement in Syria." "It needs to be formed in order to prepare transparent elections monitored by the international community," the French leader noted. He praised Turkey's role in taking in the Syrian refugees and the sacrifices Ankara had done on the material and humanitarian levels of hosting them. He stressed the need to ensure the security of refugees wishing to return to their homeland. Macron underscored the importance of the ceasefire: "We will all be extremely vigilant to ensure that these commitments are met and that the ceasefire is stable and sustainable," he told reporters. In turn, the German Chancellor stressed the need for a political process to end the conflict under the auspices of the United Nations, with the ultimate goal of free elections. "At the end of this political process, there must be free elections to which all Syrians have access — including the diaspora," Merkel told the conference. She indicated that Sochi deal for Idlib was a successful agreement to prevent a new wave of refugees, while lauding the role of UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura. In response to a question on the drafting committee of the constitution and whether the Syrian regime will participate, Russian President asserted that the ongoing process includes the Syrian government and the opposition. Prior to the four-way meeting, Erdogan held a series of bilateral meetings, where he met Putin, Merkel and Macron separately.
The 45 minutes meeting between Erdogan and Putin discussed the relations between the two countries, especially in the field of energy as well as the Syrian file. On July 29, Erdogan called for the summit against the background of rising tensions in Idlib and growing fears of a humanitarian tragedy after the Syrian regime and its supporters mobilized military forces on its outskirts. Turkey has stepped its diplomatic efforts to avert a new wave of displaced people from Idlib, which includes some 4 million civilians, until Sochi agreement was reached with Russia on September 17. Ankara confirmed that the quartet summit will continue to promote Idlib agreement and coordinate efforts to push for a final political solution to the crisis. France has repeatedly stressed that the cease-fire in Idlib was "fragile" and needed to be strengthened, and considered the summit an "opportunity" to support the formation of a constitution drafting committee in Syria. Meanwhile, convey of reinforcements have reached the border province of Kilis including artillery and military vehicles, headed from the center of the state to various military units stationed on the Syrian border.These reinforcements, according to information obtained by the Anadolu Agency correspondent, aim to strengthen the capabilities of the military units stationed at the border.

Turkish forces bombard Kurdish YPG militia positions east of Euphrates

Reuters, Istanbul/Sunday, 28 October 2018/Turkish forces bombarded Kurdish YPG militia positions on the eastern shore of the Euphrates River in northern Syria, state-owned Anadolu news agency said on Sunday. The bombardment targeted the Zor Magar area to the west of northern Syria’s Ayn al-Arab region and was aimed at preventing “terrorist activities”, Anadolu reported. Turkey carried out an offensive against YPG forces in Syria’s Afrin region earlier this year and has repeatedly said it would target YPG forces to the east of the Euphrates River.

ISIS repels US-backed forces from east Syria holdout
AFP, Beirut/Sunday, 28 October 2018/ISIS has ousted a US-backed coalition of Kurdish and Arab forces from its holdout in eastern Syria, killing dozens of fighters, a monitoring group said Sunday. A Syrian Democratic Forces commander, asking not to be named, confirmed the SDF retreat from the Hajin pocket near the Iraqi border seven weeks into an offensive. The SDF, who are backed by air strikes of the US-led coalition, launched its campaign to retake the ISIS holdout on September 10. But they have faced a fierce fightback from the extremists, including under the cover of sandstorms, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says. “In counterattacks since Friday to Sunday dawn, ISIS has taken back all positions to which the SDF had advanced inside the Hajin pocket,” the monitoring group’s chief Rami Abdel Rahman said. The Observatory reported 72 SDF fighters killed, as ISIS took advantage of the storm that hampered coalition air cover and dispatched suicide bombers as part of their fightback. The SDF commander told AFP that his forces had faced a “strong dust storm” and lacked local knowledge of the terrain. Unlike ISIS, “our forces don’t know the area and can’t move around in conditions of zero visibility,” he said. “Military reinforcements and heavy weapons have been sent to the front and some units will be replaced by more experienced ones,” the commander said. “We will launch a new military campaign as soon as those reinforcements have arrived,” he said. More than 300 SDF fighters and around 500 ISIS extremists have been killed in the past seven weeks of fighting, the Observatory says. The coalition estimates that 2,000 ISIS fighters remain in the Hajin area. ISIS overran large swathes of Syria and neighboring Iraq in 2014, proclaiming a “caliphate” across land it controlled. But the extremist group has since lost most of that territory to various offensives in both countries. In Syria, its presence has been reduced to parts of the vast Badia desert also in the east and the Hajin pocket. A total of more than 360,000 people have been killed since Syria’s war erupted in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.

Bahraini Crown Prince Stresses Saudi Role in Ensuring Regional Security
Manama/Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 28 October, 2018/Bahraini Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa stressed Saudi Arabia’s role in achieving regional peace and stability and supporting development and investment efforts for everyone’s benefit. He praised Saudi-Bahrain strong ties and added that they always look forward to strengthening them in various fields under the leadership of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. This came during the meeting between Prince Salman and Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir on the sidelines of the 14th International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Manama Dialogue. The Crown Prince hailed Saudi Arabia's keenness to attend and participate in the forum’s activities, adding that it contributes significantly to its success. He said the Kingdom holds a global position, stressing its prominent role in supporting security, peace and development issues at the regional and international levels. During the meeting, both parties discussed the most important topics at the regional and international levels, issues of common interest and the most important axes discussed by the Manama Dialogue Forum, the annual security conference in Bahrain. Jubeir, for his part, expressed Saudi Arabia’s appreciation for Bahrain’s support towards the bilateral relationship and regional cooperation. He stressed the importance of such forums to exchange ideas and visions to face regional security challenges. During his meeting with US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis on Saturday, the Bahraini Prince stressed the Middle East’s strategic position in the global system, which highlights the geopolitical dimension of the region. He pointed to” the active efforts of the US administration and its pivotal role in establishing security, stability and peace in the region.” Also, he stressed the Kingdom’s continued support to the regional and international efforts. The two sides exchanged views on how to face the challenges of extremism and terrorism and discussed bilateral relations and means of strengthening them to achieve the two countries’ common interests. Prince Salman also shed light on the importance of the Manama Dialogue as a political and intellectual platform to discuss the latest security and political developments in the region. He said a number of regional and international decision-makers meet and contribute to enhancing security and stability.

Jubeir: Suspects in Khashoggi Case Under Investigation

Manama- Obeid Al Suhaimi/Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 28 October, 2018/Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said “unfortunately there has been "hysteria in the media" regarding the case of Saudi Citizen Jamal Khashoggi before investigations were concluded. During the 14th International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Manama Dialogue, Jubeir cautioned that "investigations take time." Eighteen Saudis have been arrested in connection with Khashoggi’s death. “The individuals are Saudi nationals, they are detained in Saudi Arabia, the investigation is in Saudi Arabia and they will be prosecuted in Saudi Arabia," he affirmed. Jubeir also confirmed Saudi-US ties, saying: “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has a strategic relationship with the United States.” "That relationship is ironclad. Saudi Arabia has been an ally of the Western countries since the beginning of the third Saudi state … it’s not going to change." During a discussion session that witnessed the participation of Bahrain’s foreign minister Shiekh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, Jubeir said, “The GCC will remain the most important institution for the Gulf States.” The FM aslo described ties with Iraq as excellent, noting that the kingdom has investments in this country and plans to open two consulates. Bahrain’s FM told the conference that the Gulf bloc would remain a “pillar” of regional security and that a proposed security alliance grouping the United States, Gulf states, Jordan and Egypt would be activated next year. Meanwhile, US Defence Secretary James Mattis called the death of Khashoggi a national security concern for nations in the Middle East. Our Secretary of State will be taking additional measures as the situation is clarified," Mattis said. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this week announced moves against 21 Saudis to either revoke their visas or make them ineligible for US visas after the Khashoggi death.

Iraq: Controversy Over Choosing President's Deputies
Baghdad - Hamza Mustafa/Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 28 October, 2018/Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi announced that the post of deputy PM is abolished and has assigned ministers to the task, meanwhile, political blocs aspiring to take the position of vice-president are adhering to the Federal Supreme Court’s decision, which confirmed the unconstitutional decision of former Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi to abolish the position of Vice President in August 2015. Legal adviser Ahmed Abadi believes that there is no relationship between the formation of the government and the position of vice-president because this position, regardless of the number of persons that occupy it, is not within the authority of the Prime Minister. Abadi told Asharq Al-Awsat that the positions of vice-presidents of the republic are within the authority of the president only. As stipulated by the law, the selection of a vice-president should be submitted to the parliament for approval by absolute majority. Nothing has been issued yet by the Iraqi Presidency to indicate President Barham Saleh will soon announce his deputy, or deputies, however, an informed political source indicated the president is waiting for the consensus of the blocs on this post, although according to the constitution, it is within his powers. The source told Asharq Al-Awsat that the president is waiting for bloc’s nominations, taking into account this time there is a tendency to assign a second or third deputy to the Turkmens and not limiting it to Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds. Within the Shiites officials, there seems to be an agreement to assign Nouri al-Maliki, head of State of Law Coalition and former VP, to this term’s position, member of State of Law Saad al-Matlabi told Asharq Al-Awsat. As for Sunnis, a top official revealed to Asharq Al-Awsat there were sharp differences within the component about who would assume this position if it was agreed to choose a second or third vice president, noting that Saleh al-Mutlaq, Khamis al-Khanjar, Osama al-Nujaifi and Jamal al-Karboli are all competing for the post. However, Athil al-Nujaifi, Muttahidoon Party top official, denied reports that his brother Osama Nujaifi is a candidate. Nujaifi told Asharq Al-Awsat that his brother, Ousama, decided to remain a member of the parliament. Deputy head of the Turkmens Front, MP Hassan Turan, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Turkmens are now trying to achieve the position of vice-president given they are the third nationalism in Iraq after the Arabs and Kurds. He added that President Barham Salih and the political leaders in the country support this idea, especially since the Turkmens did not get a ministry in the current government. "There is a tendency among some Shiite leaders to grant the post of vice president to a Shiite-Turkmens figure, which implies a silent conflict between Shiite-Turkmens and Sunni-Turkmens," indicated the source. He added that this means a Turkmens figure other than Arashad al-Salihi could be named vice-president and Salihi will be given a ministerial position in Abdul Mahdi’s government.

Egypt Sets Ceasefire in Gaza After Violent Night Ignited by ‘Jihad’ Movement
Ramallah - Kifah Ziboun/Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 28 October, 2018/Egypt succeeded in setting a new truce in Gaza Strip on Saturday, following a violent night set by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) Movement, which fired rockets at Israel, who responded with raids. The exchange of rockets lasted for long hours and almost dragged the Strip into a new war. PIJ Movement announced that it has reached for a ceasefire with Israel following Egyptian intervention. "We informed the Egyptians that we will be committed to a ceasefire as long as Israel is committed to it," PIJ Spokesperson Dawoud Shihab said in a statement. Egypt has made great efforts with UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nikolay Mladenov to contain the situation that was triggered by sudden escalation decision by the PIJ. PIJ Movement, one of the resistance groups that operate in Gaza, said it had fired the rockets in retaliation for Israel's killing of five Palestinian protesters on Friday. It said it can't stand idly while peaceful protesters are being killed. Khaled al-Batsh, member of the movement’s political bureau, said that the attacks were the fulfillment of the promises made by PIJ to protect the return marches with their guns, break the siege and revenge for the blood of the martyrs. "The occupation could not have been allowed to kill four peaceful demonstrators in Gaza and two in the occupied West Bank for taking part in peaceful popular marches without responding to the crimes," he said. But the movement's rhetoric was neither convincing to Israel nor to Hamas, which refused PIJ’s initiative in such a confrontation. Tel Aviv, for its part, accused Iran and Syria of being behind PIJ’s escalation. "Islamic Jihad fired dozens of missiles at Israel under the guidance of Iran and Syria,” said Israeli Army spokesman Ronen Manelis. “These incidents show the dangers threatening the State of Israel," he stressed. He confirmed that the Israeli army sent clear messages that it would respond inside and outside Gaza Strip on these rocket attacks. “The priorities of the Israeli army in terms of threats have not changed. Iran and then its military presence in Syria top it, followed by thwarting Hezbollah's armament with precision rockets, Hamas threats and finally ISIS.” Manelis said that Damascus and the Iranian Quds Force directed the Hamas rockets that recently targeted Israel. "Clear messages were delivered to those who needed that delivery," the spokesman said, "nobody is immune, neither in Gaza Strip nor outside of it,” he stressed.

Almost 2 Million Iranian Pilgrims Head into Iraq for Arbaeen
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/October 28/18/At the border town of Mehran between Iran and Iraq, a sea of pilgrims surges forwards, en route to one of the biggest religious pilgrimages on the planet. Iranian organizers say more than 1.8 million Iraqi visas have been issued for Iranians this year for the Arbaeen pilgrimage which culminates on Tuesday as the devout head, many by foot, to Karbala and one of the holiest sites of Shiite Islam, the shrine of Imam Hussein. Men and women, young and old, toddlers in prams and elderly pushed in wheelchairs -- they converge from all over the Islamic republic. "I go because my heart demands it of me, I go because of my love for Imam Hussein," said Morteza Taghikhani, a 39-year-old auto worker, who had already been on the pilgrimage five times before. His wife and young children were accompanying him for the first time: "They insisted on coming. Though it is a difficult trip, they've enjoyed it so much." The pilgrims stream past tents, called "mokebs", which hand out free food ranging from scrambled eggs to boiled turnips. Full meals are served at midday and in the evenings. The crossing stays open around the clock, but blankets and tents are provided for anyone needing a rest. Every few meters there is a free shoeshine, and when the pilgrims take off their shoes the attendant kisses their feet as a sign of respect: for Shiites the Arbaeen march is so holy that just serving the pilgrims is thought to bring divine reward. The pilgrimage marks the martyrdom in 680 of Imam Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Mohammad, who refused to accept the leadership of the "usurper" Caliph Yazid and was massacred along with his followers at Karbala.
Cannot be defeated
Shiite Muslims have honored his death with elaborate mourning ceremonies ever since and Hussein's last stand has come to serve as a powerful symbol of resolve and sacrifice in the face of oppression. That imagery remains a key part of Iran's religious and political self-image, and even as modernity has transformed much of the country, the huge scale of the Arbaeen pilgrimage is a reminder of how significant the symbolism remains. "This march shows world imperialism that the Muslim nation cannot be defeated, whether by economic or military or political means," said Sajjad Entezar, a 23-year-old cleric from the Iranian holy centre of Qom. Arbaeen marks the 40th day after Imam Hussein's martyrdom, with the devout marching on foot for all or part of the way to Karbala. Khadijeh Mehrjoo, a 36-year-old city council member from a small town in central Iran, said she was not concerned by the long days and nights -- or even Iraq's security issues. "There is no need to worry, Imam Hussein himself looks after us," she said. State institutions offer free services and food to pilgrims alongside those of the public, while the national broadcaster gives wall-to-wall coverage for a fortnight before Arbaeen, which falls on October 30 this year. The march was forbidden for many years, under former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, who fought a devastating war with Iran in the 1980s. Restrictions were only lifted after his downfall in 2003. With the formation of a new Iraqi state, where the post of prime minister is held by a Shiite, the march quickly became one of the most popular religious pilgrimages in the world. Even the Islamic State group's emergence and its ruthless campaign against Shiites, which it considers infidels, did not deter the pilgrims. If anything, the Sunni extremists' seizure of vast swathes of Iraqi territory in 2014 -- reaching within 70 kilometers (45 miles) of Karbala -- only invigorated the faithful, pushing the number of pilgrims into the millions. For Mehrjoo the pilgrimage is itself a means to defeat the threats against it. "The march creates unity, solidarity," she said.
"If we join hands we can overcome. We can defeat the enemies of Islam."

The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on October 28-29/18
The Annihilation of Iraq's Christian Minority
ريموند إبراهيم: إبادة الأقلية المسيحية في العراق

 Raymond Ibrahim/Gatestone Institute/October 28/18
"I'm proud to be an Iraqi, I love my country. But my country is not proud that I'm part of it. What is happening to my people [Christians] is nothing other than genocide... Wake up!" — Father Douglas al-Bazi, Iraqi Catholic parish priest, Erbil.
"Contacting the authorities forces us to identify ourselves [as Christians], and we aren't certain that some of the people threatening us aren't the people in the government offices that are supposed to be protecting us." — Iraqi Christian man, explaining why Christians in Iraq do not turn to government authorities for protection.
Government-sponsored school curricula present indigenous Christians as unwanted "foreigners," although Iraq was Christian for centuries before it was conquered by Muslims in the seventh century.
According to the "World Watch List 2018" report, Christians in Iraq -- the eighth-worst nation in the world in which to be Christian -- are experiencing "extreme persecution," and not just from "extremists."
"Another wave of persecution will be the end of Christianity after 2,000 years" in Iraq, an Iraqi Christian leader recently said. In an interview earlier this month, Chaldean Archbishop Habib Nafali of Basra discussed how more than a decade of violent persecution has virtually annihilated Iraq's Christian minority. Since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, the Christian population has dropped from 1.5 million to about 250,000 -- a reduction of 85%. During those 15 years, Christians have been abducted, enslaved, raped and slaughtered, sometimes by crucifixion; a church or monastery has been destroyed about every 40 days on average, said the archbishop.
While it is often assumed that the Islamic State (ISIS) was the source of the persecution, since that terror group's retreat from Iraq, the situation for Christians has barely improved. As the archbishop said, Christians continue to suffer from "systematic violence" designed to "destroy their language, to break up their families and push them to leave Iraq."
According to the "World Watch List 2018" report, Christians in Iraq -- the eighth-worst nation in the world in which to be Christian -- are experiencing "extreme persecution," and not just from "extremists."
Although "Violent Religious Groups" (such as the Islamic State) are "Very Strongly" responsible, two other societal classes seldom associated with the persecution of Christians in Iraq are also "Very Strongly" responsible, the report states: 1) "Government officials at any
level from local to national," and 2) "Non-Christian religious leaders at any level from local to national." Also, three other societal groups -- 1) "Ethnic group leaders," 2) "Normal citizens (people from the general public), including mobs," and 3) "Political parties at any level from local to national" -- are all "Strongly" responsible for the persecution of Christians in Iraq. In other words, virtually everyone is involved.
The report elaborates: "Violent religious groups such as IS and other radical militants are known for targeting Christians and other religious minorities through kidnappings and killings. Another source of persecution are Islamic leaders at any level, mostly in the form of hate-speech in mosques. Government officials at all levels are reported to threaten Christians and 'encourage' them to emigrate. Also, normal citizens in the north have reportedly made remarks in public, questioning why Christians are still in Iraq."
Several regional Christian leaders confirm these findings. According to Syriac Orthodox bishop, George Saliba:
"What is happening in Iraq is a strange thing, but it is normal for Muslims, because they have never treated Christians well, and they have always held an offensive and defaming stand against Christians.... We used to live and coexist with Muslims, but then they revealed their canines [teeth].... [They do not] have the right to storm houses, steal and attack the honor of Christians. Most Muslims do this, the Ottomans killed us and after that the ruling nation-states understood the circumstances but always gave advantage to the Muslims. Islam has never changed."
Father Douglas al-Bazi -- an Iraqi Catholic parish priest from Erbil who still carries the scars from torture he received 9 years earlier -- made the same observation:
I'm proud to be an Iraqi, I love my country. But my country is not proud that I'm part of it. What is happening to my people [Christians] is nothing other than genocide. I beg you: do not call it a conflict. It's genocide... When Islam lives amidst you, the situation might appear acceptable. But when one lives amidst Muslims [as a minority], everything becomes impossible.... Wake up! The cancer is at your door. They will destroy you. We, the Christians of the Middle East are the only group that has seen the face of evil: Islam.
The Iraqi government is complicit -- when not actively participating -- in the persecution. As one Christian man explained after being asked why Christians in Iraq do not turn to governmental authorities for protection:
"Contacting the authorities forces us to identify ourselves [as Christians], and we aren't certain that some of the people threatening us aren't the people in the government offices that are supposed to be protecting us."
When Christians do take the risk of reaching out to local authorities, police sometimes rebuke them with comments like, "[you] should not be in Iraq because it is Muslim territory."
The Iraqi government has only helped foster such anti-Christian sentiments. In late 2015, for instance, it passed a law legally forcing Christian and all other non-Muslim children to become Muslim if their fathers convert to Islam or if their Christian mothers marry a Muslim.
Government-sponsored school curricula present indigenous Christians as unwanted "foreigners," although Iraq was Christian for centuries before it was conquered by Muslims in the seventh century. As a Christian politician in the Iraqi Ministry of Education explained:
"There's almost nothing about us [Christians] in our history books, and what there is, is totally wrong. There's nothing about us being here before Islam. The only Christians mentioned are from the West. Many Iraqis believe we moved here. From the West. That we are guests in this country."
"If the [Christian] children say they believe in Jesus" in school, notes one report, "they face beatings and scorn from their teachers."
Most telling is that the Iraqi government hires and gives platforms to radical clerics whose teachings are nearly identical to those of the Islamic State. Grand Ayatollah Ahmad al-Baghdadi, for instance, one of the nation's top Shia clerics, explained during a televised interview the position of non-Muslims living under Muslim rule:
"If they are people of the book [Jews and Christians] we demand of them the jizya [a tax on non-Muslims] — and if they refuse, then we fight them. That is if he is Christian. He has three choices: either convert to Islam, or, if he refuses and wishes to remain Christian, then pay the jizya. But if they still refuse — then we fight them, and we abduct their women, and destroy their churches — this is Islam!...This is the word of Allah!"
Considering that Muslims in Iraq are indoctrinated by such an anti-Christian rhetoric from early youth -- starting in the schoolrooms and continuing in the mosques -- it should probably not be a surprise that many Muslims turn on neighboring Christians whenever the opportunity presents itself.
In one video, for example, a traumatized Christian family from Iraq tell of how their young children were murdered -- burned alive "simply for wearing the cross." The mother explained how the "ISIS" that attacked and murdered her children were their own Muslim neighbors, with whom they ate, laughed, and to whom they even provided educational and medical service -- but who turned on them.
When asked who exactly threatened and drove Christians out of Mosul, another Christian refugee said:
"We left Mosul because ISIS came to the city. The [Sunni Muslim] people of Mosul embraced ISIS and drove the Christians out of the city. When ISIS entered Mosul, the people hailed them and drove out the Christians.... The people who embraced ISIS, the people who lived there with us... Yes, my neighbors. Our neighbors and other people threatened us. They said: 'Leave before ISIS get you.' What does that mean? Where would we go?... Christians have no support in Iraq. Whoever claims to be protecting the Christians is a liar. A liar!"
Iraq's Christians are on the verge of extinction, less because of ISIS, and more because virtually every rung of Iraqi society has been, and continues to be, chipping away at them.
"If this is not genocide," said Chaldean Archbishop Habib Nafali towards the end of a recent interview, "then what is?"
**Raymond Ibrahim, author of the new book, Sword and Scimitar, Fourteen Centuries of War between Islam and the West, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Gatestone Institute and a Judith Rosen Friedman Fellow at the Middle East Forum.
© 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.

Iran is pressuring US using Islamic Jihad in Gaza
Ron Ben Yishai/Ynetnews/October 28/18
Analysis: Iran is worried by Netanyahu's visit to Oman and the progress in ceasefire talks in Gaza. To disrupt these efforts, Tehran sent Islamic Jihad to fire a massive barrage of rockets. Islamic Jihad also stands to gain, it gets to have the final say and claim a victory.
The Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which was behind the escalation in the Gaza Strip over the weekend, normally works in coordination with Hamas. As the second biggest and strongest military organization in Gaza, it feels responsibility towards the strip's residents and serves as a silent partner to the Hamas regime. Ideologically and religiously speaking, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad is not much different to Hamas, which is another reason for the good, close cooperation between the two factions.
The main difference between Islamic Jihad and Hamas nowadays is mostly their relationship with Iran. Hamas receives financial support and technological aid from the Islamic Republic, despite the fact it is a Sunni organization and despite the "bad blood" between Hamas and the Ayatollah regime over the Syrian civil war.
Meanwhile Islamic Jihad, which is also Sunni, has subjugated itself almost completely to Iran. Like Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad receives not just money and weapons from Tehran, but also orders. This must also be why it initiated the escalation over the weekend.
A senior security official shared that assessment, noting the organization's new leadership—which now sits in Damascus—is far more extreme than that of Ramadan Shalah, and is more devoutly serving the Iranians. And so the Gazan Islamic Jihad is trying to create a new equation according to which it would respond with rocket fire to Palestinians deaths in the riots on the strip's border.
"We won't allow for a new equation of this type, and we won't let Islamic Jihad launch rockets at Israel without us responding with a heavy military blow. We also won't allow Islamic Jihad to do as it pleases with the silent consent of Hamas," the senior security official said.
So what happened this weekend to make Islamic Jihad break away from the restraint imposed by Hamas under Egyptian pressure, with the hope of improving the living conditions of the Gaza residents? The main cause was the reports on Friday that the Egyptians have finally reached understandings with Hamas to restore calm in Gaza, more or less under the same parameters put in place after the 2014 Operation Protective Edge.
Another explanation lies in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's trip to Oman and the diplomatic talks he had there with Sultan Qaboos. Several days before Netanyahu, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas visited Oman, with Sultan Qaboos initiating this indirect dialogue between Netanyahu and Abbas and doing a great service to the American administration.
The Iranians, who saw and heard the reports from Gaza and Oman, are worried the arrangement in the strip would allow the Americans to make a bigger move to present their plan to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They don't want this to happen and are doing all they can to disrupt such a move. Tehran is also trying to put pressure on the Americans to prevent US President Trump from re-imposing a second wave of sanctions on November 6, targeting the export and sale of oil.
In other words, the Iranians are trying to pressure the Americans by sabotaging their interests concerning Israel, to spare themselves the harsh sanctions. It is therefore rather clear why Islamic Jihad would act against the interest of Hamas, which wants to bring the negotiations with the Egyptians to a successful end, by escalating the situation in the service of its masters in Tehran.
The Islamic Jihad leadership also has its own reasons. All of the Palestinian factions in Gaza, and mostly Hamas and Islamic Jihad, want not only an arrangement that would lead to a truce and ease the humanitarian distress of the strip's residents, but also a victory they can claim. They want to have an arrangement on their terms, which they could present as a military triumph of the "resistance" over Israel.
The Gaza factions don't want to admit that the "March of Return" campaign, which led to more than 200 Palestinian fatalities and thousands of others wounded, was a complete failure. They want to show the Palestinian blood spilled on the border was not in vain, and so they need that psychological victory. Therefore, with the arrangement closer than ever, Islamic Jihad seeks to have the final say with the final shot, thus proving the "March of Return" campaign and the arson terrorism forced Israel to accept the terms of the agreement mediated by the Egyptians.
Islamic Jihad can afford to fire that final rockets barrage because it knows Israel has made a strategic decision not to launch a wide-scale ground operation and take over the strip. And so Islamic Jihad—and Hamas—are willing to suffer serious damage to their military facilities, for the sake of that psychological victory. That way, they don't lose face in Gaza in case a ceasefire is reached, and their patrons in Tehran are pleased.
Israel accepts this pattern, which has cemented itself since August: the Egyptians negotiate with Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The two organizations promise restraint but continue with the March of Return riots and the incendiary balloons. From time to time, when there are difficulties in the negotiations with the Egyptians, Hamas, Islamic Jihad or the errant factions escalate with rockets—while the Hamas political leadership looks the other way—following which the talks with Egyptians resume with Israel giving Egypt as much leeway as necessary to reach a stable arrangement.
Israel's security heads—primarily Prime Minister Netanyahu, Defense Minister Lieberman and IDF Chief Eisenkot—have decided that in any case it's best to let the Egyptians exhaust their influence on Hamas. And as long as the negotiations continue, Israel can settle for measured responses to the rioting on the border, the incendiary balloons, and the rockets. The Iron Dome gives the security heads the feelings that we could tolerate an erosion of the Gaza border residents' sense of security, so long as we don't have to launch a large-scale war in the strip that would cost us in lives and economic damage and end exactly as Operation Protective Edge and its predecessors had ended.
This cold and cruel calculation is what causes the fire from the strip, the ongoing erosion of the Gaza border residents' sense of security, the worsening humanitarian distress of the Palestinians in the strip and the rocket fire.
Israel accepts this situation, inter alia, because it wants the close cooperation with Egypt to continue and because its security heads realize there is no point in a large military campaign in the strip right now without the decision to take over Gaza and hold it for over a year in order to establish a different regime there. After all, it's not even guaranteed that we could find a different and better regime that would stop the rocket fire.
Israel therefore uses these rounds of escalations to systematically destroy considerable parts of Hamas's quality military capabilities—both to make an example out of them, but also because when the IDF does go to war, large parts of Hamas's military assets (mostly its tunnels, naval commandos and special aerial measures) will be out of commission and won't harm us.,7340,L-5381560,00.html?fbclid=IwAR3pK71SeC4vtzAWVw-wKEKvFX7Dbe9mU5jiHc9ObiDOb0JDlqzpqZ2Rsho

The Vatican under Siege/What Must the Church Do to Restore Trust?
Lawrence A. Franklin//Gatestone Institute/October 28/18
If reports are verified that Pope Francis, while Archbishop of Buenos Aires, defamed accusers of predator priests, refused to meet with them, and denied that any abuse occurred under his watch, then he may not possess the moral authority to cleanse the Church of predatory priests, and those who protected them, without resigning.
The Vatican, it seems, still needs to make a policy decision on whether to allow homosexual-oriented clergy. Pedophilia, on the other hand, needs to be treated with zero tolerance.
The Vatican could convene a new Vatican Council where resolutions could be adopted to permit priests to marry and have children. In a world where women are increasingly recognized as equals before the law, such a council could also decree that female priests are permissible. These changes would be superficial and would not alter the eternal truths and dogma of the Catholic faith.
The Catholic Church needs to recast itself as the conscience of the world, although this could invite censure, even persecution, and risk alienation from secular authorities and some leaders of other religions over issues such as abortion, immigration, capital punishment, religious freedom, the equality of women, and freedom of conscience.
On October 12, Pope Francis officially accepted the resignation of Washington's archbishop, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, from the high-profile post Wuerl had occupied for 12 years. Wuerl's resignation was the latest and most direct casualty of the sex-abuse scandal that for years has been rocking the Catholic Church. Pictured: Pope Francis waves as he leaves after his September 24, 2015 visit at St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Washington, DC, as Donald Wuerl (right) looks on. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
On October 12, Pope Francis officially accepted the resignation of Washington's archbishop, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, from the high-profile post Wuerl had occupied for 12 years. Wuerl's resignation was the latest and most direct casualty of the sex-abuse scandal that for years has been rocking the Catholic Church. More specifically, Wuerl -- a close ally of Pope Francis -- stepped down as a result of a nearly 900-page Pennsylvania grand jury report from 2018, which detailed the extent of the rampant sexual abuse of priests against children and of the systemic cover-up of the crimes.
Cardinal Wuerl was among those accused of covering for abusive priests in the grand jury's exhaustive investigation of Pennsylvania's dioceses, including the Diocese of Pittsburgh, which Wuerl had headed from 1988 to 2006. As a consequence of his role in re-assigning or reinstating priests accused of sexual abuse, Wuerl requested that the Pope accept the resignation he had previously submitted in 2015, at age 75, as is tradition. Although Pope Francis accepted Wuerl's resignation, he nevertheless requested that Wuerl stay on as apostolic administrator of the diocese until a new Archbishop to Washington, D.C. is selected.
It was, however, the Pope's heaping of praise on Wuerl that especially angered the victims of sexual abuse at the hands of clerics. In his letter accepting Wuerl's resignation, Francis wrote:
"To our Venerable Brother Card. Donald William Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington,
"On September 21st I received your request that I accept your resignation from the pastoral government of the Archdiocese of Washington.
"I am aware that this request rests on two pillars that have marked and continue to mark your ministry: to seek in all things the greater glory of God and to procure the good of the people entrusted to your care. The shepherd knows that the well-being and the unity of the People of God are precious gifts that the Lord has implored and for which he gave his life. He paid a very high price for this unity and our mission is to take care that the people not only remain united, but become witnesses of the Gospel "That they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me" (John 17:21). This is the horizon from which we are continually invited to discern all our actions.
"I recognize in your request the heart of the shepherd who, by widening his vision to recognize a greater good that can benefit the whole body (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 235), prioritizes actions that support, stimulate and make the unity and mission of the Church grow above every kind of sterile division sown by the father of lies who, trying to hurt the shepherd, wants nothing more than that the sheep be dispersed (cf. Matthew 26:31).
"You have sufficient elements to "justify" your actions and distinguish between what it means to cover up crimes or not to deal with problems, and to commit some mistakes. However, your nobility has led you not to choose this way of defense. Of this, I am proud and thank you.
"In this way, you make clear the intent to put God's Project first, before any kind of personal project, including what could be considered as good for the Church. Your renunciation is a sign of your availability and docility to the Spirit who continues to act in his Church.
"In accepting your resignation, I ask you to remain as Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese until the appointment of your successor.
"Dear brother, I make my own the words of Sirach: "You who fear the Lord, trust in him, and your reward will not be lost" (2:8). May the Virgin Mary protect you with her mantle and may the strength of the Holy Spirit give you the grace to know how to continue to serve him in this new time that the Lord gives you."A few months earlier, in July, Pope Francis also accepted the resignation of Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, from the College of Cardinals, after he had been removed from public ministry in June over "credible allegations" of his sexual abuse of a minor nearly five decades ago, when he was a priest in New York.
In August, former Papal Nuncio (ambassador) to the United States, Carlo Maria Viganò, called upon Pope Francis to resign the Papacy. Viganò justified this demand by claiming that the Pontiff had covered up allegations of sexual-abuse crimes by McCarrick. Viganò also named several high-ranking, pro-Pope Francis officials -- including Wuerl -- whom he accused of abetting a homosexual sub-culture inside the Vatican.
In a September 13 piece in National Review, Michael Brendan Dougherty posed two questions about why McCarrick's influence had endured, despite frequent and long-standing allegations of his predatory sexual behavior. The first was: Did Francis spare McCarrick because he sought McCarrick's counsel on how the Vatican should reform the American Episcopate (bishops)? The second was: Does Francis overlook the sins of those prelates he views as allies, such as McCarrick, in order to advance his papal agenda?
If the response to either of those questions is yes, then the Vatican's factional infighting between liberals and conservatives may have reached a critical level. This moment may demand a massive restructuring of church structure to sustain Catholicism's vitality as the moral compass for half of the world's Christians. (Non-Catholic Christians such as Orthodox and Protestant sects comprise the other half of the world's 2.2 billion Christians.)
Viganò's 11-page "indictment" was published at a vulnerable moment for the Catholic Church, already reeling from ever-widening evidence of sexual abuse of innocents by predator priests. Viganò had launched his attack during the Pope's visit to Ireland, a country where respect for the Catholic Church had already declined, following revelations of sexual crimes by priests and decades of harsh treatment of young women who have given birth to children outside of marriage.
Given public knowledge of the bitter factional disputes within the Vatican, Viganò's detailed accounts of political maneuvering within the College of Cardinals and the Roman Curia (the Catholic Church's administrative bureaucracy) are indeed plausible. He is allied with high-ranking Vatican conservatives who are opposed to the apparent liberal agenda of Francis, such as permitting divorced and remarried Catholics, in some cases, to receive the Eucharist (Communion). He is also allied with whoever is against the Vatican's recent pastoral rhetoric on same-sex attraction; and with those who are skeptical of what they perceive as the Pope's antipathy to capitalism. Other high-ranking church officials have denounced the West for failing to support Christians being persecuted in Muslim lands.
These denunciations can be interpreted as criticism of Pope Francis's perceived unwillingness directly to confront the issue of clerical sexual crimes. Additionally, some Catholics have criticized the pope's tendency to grant unscripted in-flight media interviews, and then seeming to blame them for confusion among Catholic laypeople as to where he stands on key theological and social questions.
Viganò himself has been a casualty of inside-the-Vatican bureaucratic wars during his tenure as Secretary-General of the Vatican Governorate (2009-2011), the equivalent of serving as Mayor of Vatican City. While in this position, he was accused by some of his Vatican City adversaries of, among other things, nepotism and exhibiting "a harsh and intransigent managing style." However, these accusations may have been generated by Viganò's uncompromising opposition to financial improprieties he had previously uncovered in the Vatican Bank.
Those criticisms prompted Viganò's removal at the time by Pope Benedict XVI from his position as the Vatican Bank's Secretary-General. Subsequently, Benedict dispatched him to the United States to serve as nuncio (ambassador from the Vatican). Viganò may also be disappointed by the failure of Popes Benedict and Francis to appoint him as president of Vatican City, a post that automatically includes a promotion to Cardinal.
Viganò's allegations against Pope Francis were buoyed by some recently surfaced corroborating evidence, including a letter from 2006 indicating that the Vatican had been aware of McCarrick's alleged predatory behavior for some time. This letter, addressing McCarrick's alleged pattern of sexual abuses, was written by Father Boniface Ramsey. Ramsey then was a faculty member at Immaculate Conception Seminary at Seton Hall University in New Jersey. The university was in the Diocese of Newark, where McCarrick was archbishop at the time. The letter appears to confirm Viganò's charge that McCarrick's sexual criminal activity had been known by the Vatican for several years.
On September 27, Viganò released an additional letter, appealing directly to Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Prefect of the Congregation of Bishops, to reveal documents that would further corroborate Viganò's allegations. Cardinal Ouellet, however, refused to substantiate them. Instead, he defended the Church as having been grievously wounded by Viganò's unproven assertions.
Some prominent Catholics imply that the Vatican gave a pass to McCarrick because of the Cardinal's prodigious fund-raising capabilities for the Catholic Church's Papal Foundation in America. That theory, which connects McCarrick's fund-raising prowess to the Vatican's toleration of the Cardinal's aberrant behavior, was furthered by an announcement on September 13 that West Virginia's only bishop, Michael Bransfield, had resigned over allegations of sexual harassment. Bransfield was the President of the Papal Foundation for several years in conjunction with his tenure as Rector of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. He had worked closely with Cardinal McCarrick, raising millions for the favorite charities of Popes Benedict XVI and Pope Francis.
As for former Ambassador Viganò, he reserved some of his most pointed criticism for those in the Vatican who allegedly promoted the careers of members of homosexual networks in the Holy See. It seems likely that Viganò supports Catholic teaching that "homosexuality is a psychological and moral disorder... that is always sinful, depraved, and ruinous of character." In addition, Viganò asserted that one Vatican prelate possessed a "pro-gay ideology" and another favored the promotion of homosexual clerics to positions of authority.
In his original letter, Viganò also sardonically ridiculed the Pope's public condemnation of clerical careerism, as if that were the source of the Church's problem, when the real issue was predatory sexual behavior. Viganò may be calling out the inadequate response of the Pope because he is genuinely horrified. The Pope's silence on Viganò's specific charges, however, as well as his thinly veiled comparison of Viganò to the devil, may lend further credibility to Viganò's accusations and character.
Moreover, Pope Francis, a week before he accepted Wuerl's resignation, ordered a search of the Vatican Archives to determine how McCarrick managed to climb the ladder of Catholic hierarchy despite allegations that he had abused both seminarians and younger priests.
The President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, urged Francis to establish a more exhaustive investigation -- called an "Apostolic Visitation" -- of McCarrick's crimes. This would be similar to the investigation that the Vatican approved recently in Chile, which helped lead to the resignation of almost all of its bishops.
More significant than the personalities involved in these allegations of misconduct, however, is the greater question of what the American Catholic Church can do to redeem its moral authority among its approximately 70 million lay faithful. What must the Church do to restore the trust of the billions of Christians and non-Christians around the world? How can the Vatican recalibrate its primary mission that every human's ultimate and proper destination is union with the divine presence of God?
One thing Pope Francis should not do is resign -- at least not immediately. Such a dramatic move might throw the Church into chaos and lead to a feeding frenzy by secular enemies of Catholicism and cynical media outlets. If, however, reports are verified that Francis, while Archbishop of Buenos Aires, defamed accusers of predator priests, refused to meet with them, and denied that any abuse occurred under his watch, then he may not possess the moral authority to cleanse the Church of predatory priests, and those who protected them, without resigning himself. These reports about the Pope's tenure in Argentina were echoed in a cover story on Francis's papacy raised in Der Spiegel, charging that there are currently 62 cases on trial in Argentina concerning allegations of clerical sex crimes.
While Francis is still Pope, he should first demand that any cleric or lay person guilty of sexual abuse or its cover-up resign immediately. The Vatican should then invite lay investigative authorities to review all allegations of criminal behavior, including any possible related blackmail activity. Only when innocent clergy, seminarians, and lay Catholics believe that a total eradication of inappropriate sexual activity within the Church's hierarchical structure has occurred, will harmony be restored to the Church.
Such a purge is not likely to result in an open-season hunting period on homosexuals inside the church. The church teaching on homosexual behavior as immoral is likely to remain constant, but continued compassion towards those with a same-sex attraction is also likely. The Vatican, it seems, still needs to make a policy decision on whether to allow homosexual-oriented clergy. Paedophilia, on the other hand, needs to be treated with zero tolerance.
The Catholic Church, one of humanity's oldest institutions in civilization, will endure. Moreover, its followers embrace as article of faith the words of Jesus that "the gates of hell will not prevail against it (the church)." All the same, to remain relevant in this contemporary moment, the Church would do well to draw open the curtains to let fresh air and new ideas into its hallowed halls.
The Vatican could convene a new Vatican Council where resolutions could be adopted to permit priests to marry and have children. In a world where women are increasingly recognized as equals before the law, such a council could also decree that female priests are permissible. These changes would be superficial and would not alter the eternal truths and dogma of the Catholic faith.
The Church needs to be revolutionary in action in a revolutionary era. Its high clerics must lead, not manage. It must not seek to be popular or even welcomed in the halls of state power. The Catholic Church needs to recast itself as the conscience of the world, although this could invite censure, even persecution, and risk alienation from secular authorities and some leaders of other religions over issues such as abortion, immigration, capital punishment, religious freedom, the equality of women, and freedom of conscience. The Church's hierarchy must not shy away from confrontation with some of society's materialistic, one-dimensional view of man.
If the papacy can regain its moral authority, it might also be able to rally Christians to the cause of defending Western civilization from religious totalitarian extremism, responsible for the martyrdom of hundreds of thousands of the faithful in recent decades -- around 90,000 in 2016 alone.
The failure of the Vatican to posit a comprehensive rebuttal of Viganò's allegations has seriously wounded this Papacy. The Pope's indecision is sapping his once-wide international acclaim. His lack of exigency is characterized by his decision to wait until January before formally addressing the issue of sexual criminality among the clergy in front of Church's bishops. There is also confusion and anger within the body of the Catholic faithful. If support for Francis continues to ebb, it will, and should, lead to his resignation as Pontiff.
**Dr. Lawrence A. Franklin was the Iran Desk Officer for Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. He also served on active duty with the U.S. Army and as a Colonel in the Air Force Reserve. He is also a practicing Catholic.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

What Next After Netanyahu’s Visit to Muscat?
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al-Awsat/October, 28/18

The nonchalant reactions of the Arab public and media to the Omani announcement that they received Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Muscat illustrates how much the region has changed. Israeli activity has exceeded political meetings and delved into other areas such as economics and sports, and is repeating this in a number of Arab countries, so is it the end of this forbidden relationship? I think so. The non-pragmatic way of dealing with the conflict has harmed the Palestinians and hasn’t deterred the Israelis. The Arab culture of rejecting relations and normalization with Israel is deeply rooted and still alive, but what’s new is that it is no longer the engine moving the policies of Arab governments, which they used to throw around like a ball against each other. The Sultanate of Oman has done well by handling things with clarity and openness, and because Oman is not part of regional conflicts, none of these governments pointed their media artillery against them, despite the frankness of the visit that included a number of ministers who went with Netanyahu.What happened behind the scenes of the visit is still unknown, and what was said about the Omani mediation between the Palestinians and the Israelis is unlikely, given that Egypt is taking up this task. So does it have to do with the Iranian-Israeli file? Maybe, given that Oman is trusted by both sides as an honest broker.
Iran is living its worst time on both fronts. It was hit in Syria, US sanctions have returned and it will be crowned by more sanctions on oil and dollar transactions in only a week’s time. The very important development is Israel’s growing role in the region as a result of the Syrian civil war and the entry of Iran and its militias into areas considered by Israel as its security belt.Israel has played an important role in hitting Iran’s growing influence in Syria. It took up roles that rejecting Arab countries couldn’t achieve. With this, military balance in the region was achieved, and Israel became integral to regional security after it was once considered a poisonous apple that everyone avoided dealing with. The Syrian war changed the equation when Israel became an involved party. In addition to Turkey and Russia, Iran’s strong involvement in the war is what prompted Israel to enter and become a major player, especially when both the US and Turkey failed in the face of the Iranian regime’s expansion and hegemony in Syria, after it was clear that it is building an empire with chaotic militias.
Even those who reject Israel in the context of the Palestinian cause found themselves compelled to welcome the intervention of Israeli air forces which dramatically changed the situation in Syria and curbed Iranian threats in the region. Israel imposed itself on the heart of the region’s military camps, and without its intervention, stopping Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ expansion that succeeded on the back of Russian military and political presence would not have been possible. Is Iran increasing its understanding with Israel and reassuring it through intermediaries, or is it Israel that wants to deliver its messages to Tehran, given that Israel influences US decision-making and policies that are steadfast on boycotting the Iranian regime and choking it economically?These are important changes in the region, and they will not stop with the activities of the Israeli leaders in Muscat. It is actually the start of a political division built on conflicts in Syria, Yemen and elsewhere.

Netanyahu in Oman
Salman Al-dossary/Asharq Al-Awsat/October, 28/18
Twenty-four years after Israel’s first visit to Oman, by late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, the Sultanate surprised the observers on Monday by receiving another Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, in a move that brought back the debate over the Omani-Israeli relations, the normalization of relations between the two sides, and the extent of its benefit for the Palestinian cause. Is it possible for these visits to advance the peace process and contribute to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, or is it nothing more than a gratuitous reward to the Israeli side?
The relationship between Muscat and Tel Aviv is a controversial issue. There is Oman’s pragmatic position towards a state that it considers as existing, whether we accept it or not, and another opinion that sees in the Sultanate’s stance a distancing from the consensus over the need to adhere to the Arab initiative and not give Israel the opportunity to infiltrate Arab countries, by normalizing relations with it without nothing in return.
While a proposal was made to the Israeli side, represented by the Arab Initiative, which Israel is refusing to accept, and which Arab countries regard as the minimum acceptable condition to carry out the normalization process, there are those, including the Sultanate of Oman, who believe that practical steps are necessary to end the stalemate in this file. In fact, they believe in this necessity, even if it meant jumping towards a direct contact with Israel, in contradiction to what has been agreed upon in the Arab Initiative. This is a point of view, although we disagree with it. In reality, this is not the first time an Arab country diverts from agreements it has signed in the Arab League corridors.
In the case of the Omani reception of the Israeli prime minister, although many reservations were made, leaked information revealed that the moves of the Sultanate came in coordination with the Palestinian Authority.
In addition, Muscat declares clearly and publicly that its ultimate goal is to move towards the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. For the sake of this goal, the Sultanate takes the risk of holding individual communication with Israel’s highest officials.
What is the difference between normalization between Oman and Israel and that between the latter and Qatar? The difference is vast, but can be summed up in three essential points: The first is that Muscat does not practice duplicity or incitement while extending its hands to Israel and maintaining uninterrupted visits between the two countries, as does Doha.
The second point is that the Sultanate has adopted a unique approach to dealing with the Palestinian issue, governed by the principles of political benefits and interests. It, therefore, considers that its political route is governed by its strategy, not by blatant and reproachful contradictions and by portraying itself as a supporter of the resistance axis to cover its strong relations with Israel.
As for the third point, the Sultanate does not try to overstep other Arab countries, does not incite their peoples, nor does it intervene in their affairs. It has never thrown accusations against others. Of course, it is too early to judge the sudden Omani move - the reception of the highest Israeli official - and the extent to which it will succeed in achieving a breakthrough of the peace process stalemate, although I believe that any such moves should be carried out within the framework of the Arab peace initiative. What counts for the Omanis is that they make their steps, bear the consequences, declare them publicly, do not flatter nor betray, and most importantly, have the courage to declare what they see right, even if it had not essentially the conditions to be so.

Qatar comes back empty-handed

Mohammed Al Shaikh/Al Arabiya English/October 28/18
I said it and I will always say it that the Saudi Kingdom is not a banana republic like Qatar that lives without history, legitimacy and a rooted culture, and this is what is the Muslim Brotherhood and the statelet of Qatar do not realize.
The Muslim Brotherhood used the Jamal Khashoggi incident and tried to take advantage of it to achieve their old dreams which are represented in disturbing the security and stability of Saudi Arabia, by distorting the image of its leaders and demonizing them, and especially the image of our great dream Prince Mohammed bin Salman. This is what they have been trying to do after they had realized that their survival at the time of this great pioneer is impossible.
Thus, once the circumstances of Khashoggi’s case appeared to them and Hamad bin Khalifa, they started to exaggerate and ignite everything through their satellite channel Al-Jazeera, through the international organization of the Muslim Brotherhood and some of the Western media platforms, whether the ones that Qatar bought or by bribing the workers in the platforms which they could not buy.
This harmonizes with what Minister of Propaganda of Nazi Germany Joseph Goebbels said: “Lie and lie, until people believe you”. However, liars are eventually exposed. They have been threatening us, ever since the crisis of Khashoggi’s disappearance emerged, that the Turks have irrefutable evidence, recordings and photos that are tantamount to a knockout for Saudi Arabia.
After almost three weeks of fuss and rumors, Turkish President Erdogan asserted what Saudi Arabia said about the case. He added some questions and suggested that the accused ones be tried in Turkey; he gave no statement or a hint opposite to what Saudi Arabia’ government had said in a detailed statement that was attributed to an official source and that was published on Reuters. Those who work with Qatar had raised the ceiling of accusations and dealt with the case like an ambiguous and foggy movie.
I would say to the Muslim Brotherhood and, Hamad bin Khalifa who still controls Qatar: At the beginning you tried to recruit and polarize the Saudi Sahawis and Sururists, paid them millions and bought media platforms for millions. You limited your goal and your utmost desire to disturbing the stability and security of Saudi Arabia ever since Hamad’s coup against his father. All your mad attempts and reckless adventures failed. You conspired with Gaddafi, whom you eventually turned against. This is in addition to your irrational financing of the Arab Spring, or to be more precise, the bloody spring, and you also used terrorists, adopted them and issued them Qatari passports to facilitate their harmful movements. You clung to Khashoggi’s case not because you love the man, but to use it as a pretext to harm us. As for the results, you failed every time and you returned from you aggressive attempts empty-handed.
If there was a rational person in the Qatari leadership, who deals with the incidents objectively and wisely, you would not have faced all these disasters which at the end, the Qataris are the ones who are paying for.
Saudi Arabia’s leadership, specifically in this era, enjoys legitimacy and acceptance that are rarely found in Arab countries, except for the UAE. Your attempts, or more accurately the attempts of Azmi Bishara, your great preacher who thinks on your behalf, will have no impact on us and will only harm you.

‘Rocky road’ to Iraq’s full govt formation as key posts remain unfilled
Michael Flanagan/Al Arabiya English/October 28/18
In keeping with constitutional requirements, Adel Abdul Mehdi was invited to form a government about a month ago by the President of the Republic. He was the consensus choice of the major players/parties and pledged independence and end to corruption.
One of Abdul Mehdi’s chief requirements was that “technocrats” replace the usual party cronyism is making cabinet ministers. As I explained in earlier posts here, ordinarily the parties “spend” their votes that they have in Parliament to “buy” Ministers in the government. Thusly, the various parties controlled the Ministries which, in turn, reflexively helped the party first and the people afterward.
Abdul Mehdi pledged to abolish this process and replace it with the selection of “technocrats” who would be primarily interested in the nation. This pledge proved to be impossible to entirely keep. Instead of the “technocrat” approach replacing the previous system, Abdul Mehdi selected from three candidates offered by the political parties for each post as opposed to the parties self-selecting an automatic Minister “bought” with their parliamentary votes. After reviewing these slates, Abdul Mehdi made the final pick from those lists. It is marginally better than the old system but still allows for too much cronyism. As those of us from Chicago know best, corruption dies hard. Further, Abdul Mehdi was unable to get all of the Ministers required selected at once. Power struggles and party politics kept the new Prime Minister from filing the last eight positions. In these eight are the most influential and important Ministers including Defense Minister and the Interior Minister (the DoD and Homeland Security equivalents in the United States). The new Prime Minister viewed the partial selection as more important than waiting for a complete slate to be acceptable. This is because his own position and his Cabinet must be approved by the deadline of the Second of November. It is better to have half a loaf now and meet the deadline and assemble the rest later than to risk the entire slate of twenty-two Ministers to be confirmed all at the same time.
Key posts remain vacant
As for these last eight Ministers, the road will be rocky to reach a decision.The Sunni believe that they are entitled to have the Defense Minister and will likely reject any choice that is not a Sunni. The Iranian bloc wants to be responsible for appointing the Interior Minister (MoI). Iran wants the new Prime Minister to choose the MoI Minister from Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF). The PMF has been the Iraqi militia fighting ISIS. It has been thoroughly infiltrated by Iran and, in its role of protecting the borders; the PMF facilitates Iranian illicit activities and movement across the entire Northern Middle East. This was a huge sticking point with many Parliamentarians and led to a deferred decision. Also the new PM pledged to completely change the cabinet, holding over no current Ministers. This pledge he was able to keep. Sadly but necessarily, the good went with the bad. Mohammed Shi’ia al Sudani, the former Minister of Work and acting Minister of Industry was swept out with the old. Mohammed al Sudani is known to me from my time in the Maysan Province where he was the Provincial Governor. He is honest and a good man. He is just the kind of man that belongs in government and I hope that there will be a future for him serving the Iraqi people.
Frictional points
Other frictional points in this process provide for future problems for the new Prime Minister.
First, there was no selection from the Basra Province to the cabinet. Basra is the second city of Iraq and has ordinarily been given the Ministers of Oil and Transportation. Iraq’s only port is in Basra and the people there feel that they are entitled to these Ministries because of the closeness of Basra to these issues. Also, Basra has been without a regular supply of water for some time now and there have been riots and general unrest. Abdul Mehdi must tread carefully here. Second, the conscience of Iraq had spoken about government formation recently. Imam al Sistani recently gave a sermon “suggesting” that any new government should have several hallmarks. Among these are principally that there should be no holdovers, that the selections should be non-sectarian and that the political parties should not be the arbiters of the selection process. Abdul Mehdi was only able to meet these “suggestions” in part. Al Sistani, of course, has no formal role in the process but is ignored at the peril of the government. Their selection had better work out for all concerned or the government will almost certainly fall.
All in all, the process was a step forward to building an anti-corruption government. In hopes for the future, United States congratulated the progress of the new Prime Minister and Secretary of State Pompeo telephoned Mr. Abdul Mehdi to congratulate him and wish him well. The Western Nations have similarly signaled their approval as well.

Will stinging US sanctions strengthen Iranians’ pursuit of freedom
Reza Shafiee/Al Arabiya English/October 28/18
The new round of US sanction on Iran hit where it really hurts i.e. Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its arm the Basij Force. The US Treasury Department slapped Iran with fresh sanction on October 16.
It sanctioned the force and 22 other banks, companies and financial institutions directly funneling billions of dollars into IRGC’s foreign adventures. The Basij for decades has been recruiting, training and dispatching hundreds of thousands of child soldiers into wars. Basij now has earned its well-deserved place, as “specially designated global terrorists” on US’s blacklist. The list sanctions a number of Iranian companies and also freezes Basij assets and blocks US citizens from doing business with the Basij and its conglomerate of banks, investment companies and engineering firms, among other interests.
The new sanctions-for the first time- have targeted Iran’s Tractor manufacturing, the largest in the Middle East and Africa. Ironically, the revenues are used to fuel foreign wars and the leftovers are used to oil the regime's repressive security forces at home.
“In addition to its involvement in violent crackdowns and serious human rights abuses in Iran, the Basij recruits and trains fighters for the IRGC-QF, including Iranian children, who then deploy to Syria to support the brutal Assad regime,” the Treasury Department said in a press release. The Treasury Department added that the Basij also recruits among Afghan migrants to Iran.
By targeting the Basij militia- IRGC's most powerful arm at home – using child soldiers since 1979, the US economically will have the regime on chokehold. Basij is the machine with which the Supreme Leader Ali Khomeini and his financial conglomerate heavily rely on for doing their dirty work.
The Treasury Department’s detailed statement sheds light on highly unethical conduct of recruiting, training and sending child solders to the war. The statement also revels shocking truth of how the IRGC uses children as young as 12-years-old merely as canon fodders in its many wars across the region.
“The Basij recruits and trains fighters for the IRGC-QF, including Iranian children, who then deploy to Syria to support the brutal Assad regime. Since at least early 2015, the Basij has recruited and provided combat training to fighters before placing them on a waiting list for deployment to Syria,” the statement added.
A coordinated effort
US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley blasted the Iranian regime for its use of children in the war front. She said in the Security Council: “The use of child soldiers is a moral outrage that every civilized nation rejects while Iran celebrates it.”
Haley added that the regime is using Basij to recruit children to fight in Syria, including Afghan immigrants as young as 14-years-old. She said the group’s funding comes from “multibillion dollar business interests operating in Iran’s automotive, mining, metals and banking industries.”
She hits the nail on the head by adding: “Iran’s economy is increasingly devoted to funding Iranian repression at home and aggression abroad. In this case, Iranian big business and finance are funding the war crime of using child soldiers. This is crony terrorism.”
The US Treasury also added a screenshot of a November 25, 2017 video broadcast by the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) news agency showing a 13-year old Basij member in the Syrian border city of Abu Kamal.
He said he was a “defender of the shrine,” the euphemism the Iranian government uses for fighters it sends to Syria and Iraq. He names two of his fellow soldiers who were killed in Syria. In the video, the boy speaks about his motivation to join forces in Syria.
Afghan child soldiers in Syria
The same system of sacrificing children continues to this day. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW) report released on October 1 last year, the IRGC and its armed Basij units continue to put children of Afghan refugees in Iran in harm’s way, as was witnessed in the currently waging Syrian conflict.
In a repeat of the Iran-Iraq War, the regime reportedly recruited and dispatched schoolchildren to sweep minefields in Syria. The HRW report states: “Afghan children as young as 14 have fought in the Fatemiyoun division, an exclusively Afghan armed group supported by Iran that fights alongside government forces in the Syrian conflict. Under international law, recruiting children under the age of 15 to participate actively in hostilities is a war crime.”
During the Iraq-Iraq war, Khomeini’s regime used hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren as cannon fodder. It has been reported that most young recruits received between one to three months of military training before they were being sent to the war front.
There were reports of nine-year-old children being used in human wave attacks, while others were asked to run over minefields to clear the path. In fact, many child soldiers captured by Iraqis during the Iraq-Iran war were in their early teens.
Iranian child soldiers were sent into the battlefield with plastic keys around their necks. These keys symbolized their so-called permission to enter paradise. Sent ahead of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) troops and armored vehicles, these children were used as ‘mine-clearers’. Most of them were blown up as they charged across the minefields, thereby clearing the way for the IRGC.
Clearing minefields
According to some estimates about the Iran-Iraq War, which killed around a million people between 1980 and 1988, the paramilitary Basij Force recruited thousands of children to clear minefields. Although there are no reliable records about the actual number of children casualties in the war, a statement made in 1982 by former president of the regime Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani stated that 400,000 volunteers had supplemented Iran’s armed forces. According to a report by the International Committee of the Red Cross at least 10 percent of Iranian prisoners of war were underage children. According to many Iranian military officers captured by Iraqis during the war, nine out of 10 Iranian child soldiers were killed in the battlefields. Basij Force’s illegal and cynical tactics for mobilizing and indoctrinating Iran’s innocent children to participate in wars abroad, and internal suppression, has been ignored for years by the international community. The steps taken by US Treasury Department are certainly welcomed by the Iranian people as they give strength to their pursuit of freedom.
*Reza Shafiee is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). He tweets @shafiee_shafiee.

The European Union's "special purpose vehicle" (SPV) is not likely to save business ventures with Iran’s regime
د. ماجد ربيزاده: من غير المرجح أن تحمي قوانين الحماية التجارية في الإتحاد الأوروبي المشاريع التجارية مع النظام الإيراني

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/October 28, 2018
It has been almost six months since US President Donald Trump pulled out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly referred to as the Iran nuclear deal. In August, primary sanctions were re-imposed on the Islamic Republic. Secondary sanctions will be re-imposed on Tehran as well in early November.
Since the US withdrew from the nuclear agreement, the European Union has been attempting to chart ways through which it can satisfy several demands set by the Iranian regime.
Tehran made it clear to the EU that Iran’s Supreme Leader’s five demands must be fulfilled. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s demands included ensuring that the signatories maintain Iran’s major sanctions reliefs, that there would be no interference by the world powers and the UN in Iran’s domestic and regional policies or its ballistic missile program, and that the EU would “guarantee the total sales of Iran’s oil.”
The EU’s primary efforts to satisfy the Iranian leaders through political support or some minor policy changes were unsuccessful. Iran’s oil revenues and exports have been steadily falling since the US withdrew from the JCPOA. In the first week of October, Iran’s oil export dropped to approximately 1.1 million barrels per day (bpd). In April 2018, before the US pulled out of the nuclear agreement, Iran’s oil export was more than 2.5 million bpd, a decline of more than 50 percent.
As a result, the EU has come up with a new plan to facilitate payments to Tehran. The new mechanism, which is called the "special purpose vehicle" (SPV), will be officially in place by Nov. 4, a few days before the US imposes the secondarysanctions on Iran’s oil industry.
The SPV is designed to assist Iran’s regime to circumvent sanctions. Instead of paying the Islamic Republic through dominant currencies such as the dollar or euro, payments will be made to the Islamic Republic for its exports through other goods and services that have the same monetary value. This mechanism, which was introduced by the EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini at the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September, is neither new nor innovative.
Tehran is not unfamiliar with such a barter system, which has been used for many decades by countries that are under sanctions by the international community or the United Nations Security Council.
Although the EU claims that the main objective is to maintain the nuclear deal, the EU is prioritizing trade and business deals with the Islamic Republic.
The EU’s primary efforts to satisfy the Iranian leaders through political support or some minor policy changes were unsuccessful. Iran’s oil revenues and exports have been steadily falling since the US withdrew from the JCPOA.
However, the EU’s SPV is doomed to fail for several reasons. To begin with, even if the European governments agree to participate in such a plan, corporations, firms, and private financial institutions will be reluctant to do so because of the repercussions. Doing business with Tehran will have critical legal and financial impacts on European companies which would most likely drag them into a legal battle with American financial institutions.
It is also unrealistic to argue that European corporations are willing to run the risk of losing the $18 trillion US market for the sake of Iran’s $400 billion market. If firms are caught violating US financial sanctions even with the EU’s SPV, not only they will endanger their business with the US, the world’s largest economy, but they will most likely lose their ability to obtain credit, funds or borrow money from the US monetary institutions.
Furthermore, those European financial institutions or banks which help Iran sidestep US sanctions may be barred from using the US dollar. This would be a “death penalty for any international bank,” as former Treasury Under Secretary David Cohen once put it.
That is why large EU corporations — such as the French oil company Total, leading German firms from the transport and telecom sectors including Rail operator Deutsche Bahn and Deutsche Telekom, and carmakers PSA, Renault and Daimler- immediately — ended their projects in Iran. Besides, no large company has declared that it will be willing to re-enter Iran’s market because of the EU’s new plan. In fact, more companies are planning to leave Iran’s market.
Secondly, Iran is more desperate for cash than for goods and services. In these critical times, the Islamic Republic needs the money because it is hemorrhaging billions of dollars in Syria and Iraq — recruiting foreign fighters to operate in Syria in support of Bashar Assad, smuggling powerful weapons to the Houthis in Yemen, and ratcheting up its financial and military support to Hezbollah and Shiite militias across the region.
More likely, the SPV is not going to be the last plan that the EU introduces to help the Iranian regime sidestep the US sanctions.
In conclusion, the EU’s new plan, the SPV, will most likely fail. Instead of assisting the top state sponsor of terrorism circumvent economic sanctions, the EU must seize the opportunity and pressure the Iranian regime into changing its destructive behavior and becoming a constructive player in the region.
*Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh

Turkish Israeli relations back to square one again
Yasar Yakis/Arab News/October 28/18
Turkish-Israeli relations sometimes look like the myth of Sisyphus. According to the Greek mythology, Zeus condemned Ephyra’s king Sisyphus, in the afterlife, to rolling a big rock to the top of a mountain. Whenever he neared the top the rock rolled down and he had to roll it back up again in a never-ending labor. Turkish-Israeli relations face a similar fate. Whenever these two countries managed to settle their disputes, a new reason popped up: Sisyphus’ rock rolled back down the hill and Ankara and Tel Aviv had to restart mending their relations again.
These relations reached one of their peaks in the 1990s, paradoxically when Necmettin Erbakan was Turkey’s prime minister. The military establishment chose his term of office to push through several military cooperation agreements with a view to forcing Erbakan to do the opposite of the anti-Israel rhetoric he used before he came to power.
The high mood in Turkish-Israeli relations continued — and even improved — during the early years of Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP). When, as a newly established political party, we paid our first unofficial visit to the US in 2002, the American Jewish organizations were queuing up to host Erdogan in their respective think tanks. Two years later the American Jewish Congress (AJC) bestowed the Profile of Courage award on Erdogan. He was the first non-Jewish (and Muslim) leader to receive this award. However, ten years later AJC President Jack Rosen sent a letter to Erdogan saying: “A decade after we gave you our award, you have become arguably the most virulent anti-Israel leader in the world, spewing dangerous rhetoric for political gain and inciting the Turkish population to violence against the Jewish people.”
“And now, we want it back,” he concluded.
During this ten-year period relations had gradually deteriorated. Turkey energetically protested in 2008 against Israel’s attack on Gaza where hundreds of Palestinians were killed. In 2009, Erdogan angrily reacted to the intervention of journalist David Ignatius in a session of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland and, turning to the Israeli president Shimon Peres, said: “You know very well how to kill.”
Paradoxically, the biggest increase in trade relations took place in 2010 and 2011 when the political relations were at their lowest level. During the 16 years of AKP rule, foreign trade increased 4.5 fold.
The relations reached its lowest level when, in May 2010, the Israeli Defence Forces attacked a cargo ship carrying humanitarian aid products to Gaza in the international waters and killed ten Turkish citizens. After this incident, Turkey put three pre-conditions for normalizing the relations: an apology, an indemnity to be paid to the families of the incident’s victims and the lifting of the embargo imposed on Gaza. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was persuaded by then-US president Barrack Obama to offer a verbal apology in 2013. The Israeli government agreed to pay a certain amount to the families of the victims. On the lifting of embargo, Netanyahu said this could be done if the security situation warrants it.
However, President Erdogan maintained his harsh rhetoric against Israel. In a conversation with the journalists after a Friday prayer in July 2014, he said: “Our diplomatic relations are at present at the level of chargé d’affaires. Israel conducts a policy of state terror. We cannot look at Israel in a positive way. As long as I will be in my present position (prime minister), I will never think positively about Israel.”
Despite this strong tone of animosity, efforts to improve relations continued among diplomats. When a framework was agreed upon, President Erdogan made a more conciliatory statement in January 2016 and said: “Israel needs a country like Turkey in the region. We have to admit that we need Israel as well”. Soon after this statement, in June 2016, diplomatic relations returned to the ambassadorial level.
This truce lasted only two years. When the Trump administration transferred the US Embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May 2018, Turkey withdrew its ambassador in Tel Aviv and Israel withdrew its ambassador in Ankara. Erdogan, in his capacity as the rotating chairman of the Islamic Cooperation Organization, convened an emergency summit, which in May 2018 adopted a strongly worded communique saying: “Israel committed savage crimes with the backing of Donald Trump’s administration, emboldened by the US decision to recognize Jerusalem”.
Despite the fluctuating nature of the relations in the political sphere, economic relations have developed satisfactorily and steadily. Paradoxically, the biggest increase in trade relations took place in 2010 and 2011 when the political relations were at their lowest level. During the 16 years of AKP rule, foreign trade increased 4.5 fold.
Turkey’s relations with Israel have always been part and parcel of domestic politics in Turkey. It needs to be de-emotionalized with the efforts of the political leaders.
**Yasar Yakis is a former foreign minister of Turkey and founding member of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Twitter: @yakis_yasar
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view

The hypocrisy of Turkey’s ‘outrage’ over the death of Khashoggi
Tom Regan/The Arab Weekly/October 28/18
Ever since Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi disappeared October 2 into the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, US media have shown little restraint in condemning the man’s death.
Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Turkish officials have been relentless in their condemnation of Saudi Arabia. Turkish officials claim they have an audiotape of Khashoggi’s killing.
They released pictures of the 15 men they say were Saudi operatives sent from Riyadh to kill Khashoggi. On October 23, Erdogan made a speech in which he openly attacked the Saudis and claimed they had spent days plotting the killing.
US journalists are beginning to point out the hypocrisy of Turkey’s position on Saudi Arabia and how Turkish officials — Erdogan in particular — have “played” American media and political figures.
One of the first people to bring this to the public’s attention was Anthony Cordesman, who holds the Arleigh A. Burke chair in Strategy at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington. Cordesman wrote an article for the CSIS website titled “The Other Side of the Khashoggi Tragedy.”
In the article, Cordesman admitted it was hard to believe Saudi Arabia did not bear responsibility for Khashoggi’s death but he also pointed out the hypocrisy of Turkey’s “outrage” over the death of a US-based Saudi journalist.
Cordesman said the outrage comes from a government that was described in the US State Department’s “2017 Country Reports on Human Rights,” released last April, as “actively repressing far more people than Saudi Arabia.”
He noted that while this is not a region where “most governments hesitate to eliminate legitimate opposition elements,” the US State Department made clear Turkey does not lag “in the comparative body count” nor has it “shown any more concern for its prisoners than Saudi Arabia seems to have shown for Khashoggi.”
The State Department’s human rights report noted that, by the end of 2017, Turkey had “dismissed or suspended more than 100,000 civil servants from their jobs, arrested or imprisoned more than 50,000 citizens and closed 1,500 nongovernmental organisations.” The report documented the extent of the Turkish government’s prosecution of independent journalists, noting that journalistic sources said there were as many as 153 Turkish journalists in prison at the end of last year.
After Cordesman’s article appeared, several US outlets picked up on the theme of Turkish hypocrisy but Cordesman said too little attention has been paid to “the fact that in many ways this is a contest between two very authoritarian and repressive regimes.”
“A lot of others have simply singled out Saudi Arabia, which has its flaws, but they have not put anything into perspective and I think what has been particularly weak has been the effort to really look at the strategic importance of Saudi Arabia and the need to find some way both to deal with the Khashoggi murder and preserve what is a strategic relationship because in this region you don’t have ‘correct’ partners,” Cordesman said.
He added that part of the problem was that the Saudis played into Turkish hands with their delayed response and confused stories. “I think that first it is a horrible crime and it is remarkably stupid in terms of the target and you would be hard put to find an operation that was more visibly and stupidly carried out,” Cordesman said. “You created an almost ideal model of how not to carry out a covert operation. One problem is that if you make yourself into the ideal target, sooner or later somebody’s going to go for you.”
Cordesman said Erdogan has been quick to seize the opportunity and “played” the Western media, which relies on a flood of instant news with little perspective. He added that Western media and politicians largely ignored Turkey’s awful record on human rights, its treatment of journalists and rendition of its citizens to Turkey. Erdogan “played this very skilfully while the Saudi side was very stupid in the way it conducted its public relations campaign as it practically begged to get negative coverage,” he said.
Can Saudi Arabia recover from the negative coverage and, if so, how long will it take?
“You never know for about six weeks,” Cordesman said. “A lot of these things go away fairly quickly but the question is still going to be we haven’t seen any of this come to the point where you know what the Saudi reaction is really going to be.”
Cordesman pointed to another unknown: “All these things are still to be played out. Then the question is whether the kingdom does anything proactive that would convince people it has learned from this lesson.”