Detailed Lebanese & Lebanese Related LCCC English New Bulletin For September 01/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations
An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah
Matthew 16/01-04: "The Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test Jesus they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. He answered them, ‘When it is evening, you say, "It will be fair weather, for the sky is red." And in the morning, "It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening." You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.’ Then he left them and went away.""

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 September 01/18
The parallel universe of Hassan Nasrallah/Dr. Yaron Friedman/Ynetnews/August 30/18
Lebanon: Families of the Missing Demand Independent National Body to Reveal Fate of Their Sons/Sanaa Al-Jack/Asharq Al-Awsat/August 31/18
Hariri Addresses Resignation, Syria, and Relationship with Hezbollah/Euronews/August 31/18,
NAYA | Giselle Khoury: A journalist who's loyal to truth/Tala Ramadan/Annahar/August 31/18
Hacking a Prince, an Emir and a Journalist to Impress a Client
David D. Kirkpatrick and Azam Ahmed/The New York Times/August 31/18
As Cabinet Formation Drags, Lebanon Risks Economic Tailspin/AFP/August 31/18
Analysis/A Massacre Waiting to Happen: For Syria's Idlib, Diplomacy May Come Too Late/
Zvi Bar'el/Haaretz/August 31/18
Exclusive: Iran moves missiles to Iraq in warning to enemies/John Irish, Ahmed Rasheed/Reuters/August 31/18
Iran launches anti-US-Israel front – from W. Iraq, with Tel Aviv in missile range, builds base facing Golan/DEBKAfile/August 31/18
The false UN report on Yemen/Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/August 31/18
Qaradawi: Politics is more important than Hajj!/Abdullah bin Bijad Al-Otaibi/Al Arabiya/August 31/18
Europe supports Turkey as relations with US /Sinem Cengiz/Arab News/August 31/18
Russia-US relations facing a bleak future/Maria Dubovikova/Arab News/August 31/18

Titles For The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on September 01/18
Security Council Renews UNIFIL's Mandate as U.S. Slams Hizbullah, Iran
U.N.: Ceasefire Violations May Spark Lebanon-Israel Conflict
On Lebanon Border, Minister Says Israel Not Bound by Post-War Syria Deals
Push for Law to Uncover Fate of Lebanon's Missing
Lebanese Leaders Mark Anniversary of al-Sadr's Disappearance
International Community 'Warns Lebanon'
Berri: New Govt. Must Distance Lebanon from Region Events, Represent All Forces
Hariri Wants to Meet Bassil before Talks with Aoun
'I Would Rather Deal with President Putin,' Says Hariri on Syria Ties
Bassil Says FPM Not to Blame for Govt. Obstacles, Wishes Hariri Success
U.S. Ambassador Attends Live Air Fire Exercise, Bradley Delivery Ceremony
The parallel universe of Hassan Nasrallah
Lebanon: Families of the Missing Demand Independent National Body to Reveal Fate of Their Sons
Hariri Addresses Resignation, Syria, and Relationship with Hezbollah
NAYA | Giselle Khoury: A journalist who's loyal to truth
Hacking a Prince, an Emir and a Journalist to Impress a Client
As Cabinet Formation Drags, Lebanon Risks Economic Tailspin

Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on September 01/18
Idlib rebels blow up bridges to hamper expected assault
Fears over Iranian proxies’ Iraq missile factories
Opposition Factions Blow up Bridges in Idlib ahead of Syrian Regime Offensive
Palestinians, Israeli Forces Clash in West Bank Protest
Egypt: First-ever Christian Woman Becomes Governor
ISIS Exploits Fighting in Tripoli, Preys On Sirte
UK minister to discuss Iran’s destabilizing activities in Syria, Yemen
U.S. Says Canada Has Made 'No Concessions on Agriculture' in NAFTA Talks
2 Hurt in Amsterdam Station Stabbing, Attacker Shot
U.S. May Send IS 'Beatles', Others to Guantanamo
Iraq PM Sacks Paramilitary Chief
Philippines' Duterte Eyes Arms Deals on Israel Trip
The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on September 01/18
Security Council Renews UNIFIL's Mandate as U.S. Slams Hizbullah, Iran
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 31/18/The U.N. Security Council has voted unanimously to renew for another year the mandate of the U.N. peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon. The measure backing the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) calls on the Lebanese government to boost its naval capabilities, with the ultimate aim of drawing down the mission's maritime taskforce. That requirement had been pushed by the United States, which also demanded better enforcement of the U.N. arms embargo against Hizbullah. "It is unacceptable that Hizbullah continues to flout this embargo, Lebanon's sovereignty, and the will of the majority of Lebanese people," U.S. diplomat Rodney Hunter said after the vote. He blasted Iran for supporting Hizbullah and said the group is a "direct threat" to peace and threatens the stability of Lebanon. But the text adopted by the Council does not mention Hizbullah by name, despite U.S. demands. "All states shall take the necessary measures to prevent, by their nationals or from their territories or using flag vessels or aircraft, the sale or supply of arms and related materiel to any entity or individual in Lebanon other than those authorized by the Government of Lebanon or UNIFIL," the resolution states. A U.S. diplomat said the aim of shrinking the U.N. maritime force, which consists of half a dozen military ships equipped with weapons and radar, was to cut the UNIFIL mission costs. First set up in 1978, UNIFIL was beefed up after the 2006 Lebanon War, tasked with guaranteeing a ceasefire and Israeli withdrawal from a demilitarized zone on the border. UNIFIL now has 10,500 troops on the ground monitoring the ceasefire and helping the Lebanese government secure its borders. Israel's position on having an international naval force so close to its territory remains unclear.

U.N.: Ceasefire Violations May Spark Lebanon-Israel Conflict
Associated Press/Naharnet/August 31/18/ The U.N. Security Council has warned that violations of the ceasefire agreement between Lebanon and Israel could lead to a new conflict and urged international support for Lebanon's armed forces and their stepped up deployment in the south and at sea. The council's warning against "a new conflict that none of the parties or the region can afford" came in a resolution adopted unanimously extending the mandate of the U.N. peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon known as UNIFIL until Aug. 31, 2019.
Council members urged "all parties" to exercise "maximum calm and restraint and refrain from any action or rhetoric that could jeopardize the cessation of hostilities or destabilize the region." UNIFIL was originally created to oversee the withdrawal of Israeli troops after a 1978 invasion. The mission was expanded after a 2006 war between Israel and Hizbullah so that peacekeepers could deploy along the Lebanon-Israel border, to help Lebanese troops extend their authority into their country's south for the first time in decades. Israel and Lebanon are still technically at war and the resolution reiterates the council's call for Israel and Lebanon "to support a permanent ceasefire and a long-term solution." The council also stressed "the necessity of an effective and durable deployment of the Lebanese Armed Forces in southern Lebanon and the territorial waters of Lebanon at an accelerated pace."It called for UNIFIL, which has more than 10,000 troops deployed in southern Lebanon, and the Lebanese military to analyze the country's ground forces and maritime assets. France's deputy U.N. ambassador Anne Gueguen stressed that "only the presence of the Lebanese state and its armed forces will ensure security ... and create the conditions of lasting stability in the south of Lebanon, and along its territorial waters."The Security Council also commented on the current political situation in Lebanon. Nearly four months after the country held its first general elections in nine years, politicians are still squabbling over the formation of a new government amid uncertainty over a long stagnating economy, struggling businesses and concerns over the currency. The Security Council welcomed the holding of elections and the country's progress toward reactivating government institutions, and called for the formation of a new Lebanese government "without further delay."

On Lebanon Border, Minister Says Israel Not Bound by Post-War Syria Deals
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 31/18/Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman has said that Israel will not be bound by whatever agreements the international community may reach on Syria after its civil war. Speaking on a visit to the Israeli border with Lebanon, Lieberman said his government would scrupulously observe existing agreements with Syria, with which it which also shares a frontier. Government forces have been massing around Syria's northwestern province of Idlib in recent days and look poised to launch what could be the last major battle of the seven-year war. "We see various gatherings here and there; in Ankara, in Tehran, in Geneva, in other places too. They are talking about redesigning Syria after the battle for Idlib," Lieberman said in English. "As far as the state of Israel is concerned, with all respect and appreciation for all agreements and all understandings, they are not binding on us," said the Israeli minister. "What obligates us are solely the security interests of the State of Israel. All other understandings and agreements that are reached in all kinds of places are simply irrelevant from our point of view.
"We shall observe to the letter all previous agreements." After the 1973 war, Israel and Syria agreed an armistice which included a demilitarized border zone. The two sides have never signed a formal peace treaty. Turkey, Russia and fellow regime backer Iran all operate "observation points" in Idlib as part of a "de-escalation" deal agreed last year that was meant to reduce bloodshed in the province. Israel has stayed out of the protracted civil war but insists that Iran, its arch-foe, withdraw its forces from Syria, which it sees as a threat.
Lieberman also told Israeli residents living near the Lebanese border that he had budgeted more than $60 million to strengthen civil defense in the area, particularly in improving public bomb shelters and blast proofing of "educational institutions."Lebanon's Iranian-backed Hizbullah is said by Israel to have tens of thousands of rockets that could be used against it. In 2006, Hizbullah fired 3,970 rockets into Israel during a 34-day war, according to Israeli authorities. More than 1,200 Lebanese, mostly civilians, and 120 Israelis, the majority soldiers, died in the fighting.

Push for Law to Uncover Fate of Lebanon's Missing
Naharnet/August 31/18/The Red Cross and Lebanese activists made a plea for the passage of a law to uncover the fate of thousands of people missing since the country's devastating civil war. An estimated 17,000 people remain disappeared since Lebanon's 15-year war ended in 1990, but a draft law to create a commission of inquiry could help determine their fate. The draft, in the works for years, has been approved by parliamentary committees and must now be voted on by the 128 lawmakers elected to office in May. On Thursday, the International Day of the Disappeared, the International Committee of the Red Cross and families of the missing called on the MPs to pass it. "Tell us where they are. Even if they're just bones," said Najla Qublawi, 56. Her eight-year-old brother went missing in 1976 in an area outside Beirut and she said her family has spent decades asking Lebanese authorities about him and protesting to demand more transparency. "I have hope with this draft law," said Qublawi, who fiddled nervously with colorful prayer beads as she spoke. Thursday's call came during an artist exhibit organized by the ICRC to highlight the prolonged suffering of families aching to know what happened to their loved ones. In one room designed as a cozy kitchen, a human form made out of grayish wire sits at a table facing an empty chair. In another, an image shows a man standing by a car with an Iranian license plate, his face blocked out by a bright white circle. The draft law would create a commission of inquiry led by the police and aided by special archeologists and anthropologists. Since 2012, the ICRC has been working on a database compiling info on each disappearance case, including the area the person went missing and the clothes they were wearing at the time. Later on, researches began gathering DNA samples from relatives of the disappeared in anticipation of the law's passage. Lebanon held parliamentary elections in May for the first time in nearly a decade, presenting a new opportunity for families to learn the fate of their loved ones. "The time is now," said Pablo Percelsi, the deputy head of ICRC's delegation, urging parliament to take action. "Thousands will be delivered from their grief and the past can finally pass," he said. "I promise you that we'll work forcefully on this," MP Roula Tabash, a lawyer and first-time parliamentarian from Beirut, told those gathered.

Lebanese Leaders Mark Anniversary of al-Sadr's Disappearance
Naharnet/August 31/18/Lebanon's leaders on Friday made statements commemorating Imam Moussa al-Sadr, the revered founder of the AMAL Movement who disappeared during a visit to Libya forty years ago. President Michel Aoun said Sadr “struggled for Lebanon's unity and its message of coexistence,” wishing he was still present in Lebanon to represent “a source of inspiration in political life and to be an icon for rapprochement, openness and keenness on people's interests.” “We remember a spiritual and humanitarian leader who dedicated himself to defend Lebanon and coexistence among its sons. His disappearance is a cause that concerns all Lebanese,” Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri tweeted. Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea meanwhile announced that Sadr's forced disappearance was similar to the assassination of “Bashir Gemayel, Kamal Jumblat and Rafik Hariri.” “They do not want Lebanon to rise,” Geagea added, referring to the perpetrators. “They have not succeeded but they are still trying,” the LF leader went on to say.

International Community 'Warns Lebanon'
Naharnet/August 31/18/The international community has called on Lebanon to form a “balanced government,” warning that it will not accept the presence of veto power for Hizbullah in it, media reports said. “The international messages have intensified over the past week, and they all stress the need for the formation of a balanced government,” al-Joumhouria newspaper reported on Friday. “There are warnings that any government that does not respect the political balance in Lebanon will not receive the international community's support. Moreover, any Western state will not accept the presence of veto power for Hizbullah and its allies in the government,” the daily added. In this regard, Swiss President Alain Berset advised Lebanese officials during his visit to Lebanon days ago to endorse “neutrality,” al-Joumhouria said. “The Lebanese society's composition is similar to the Swiss society and Lebanon's region is similar to Switzerland's neighboring region in the past, and such a situation can be resolved by endorsing neutrality,” the newspaper quoted Berset as saying. The Swiss president described his remarks as a “brotherly advice,” al-Joumhouria said.

Berri: New Govt. Must Distance Lebanon from Region Events, Represent All Forces

Naharnet/August 31/18/Speaker Nabih Berri on Friday called for a new government that would “distance Lebanon from the ongoing developments in the region” and “represent all of Lebanon's forces.”“We are seeking a government that would distance Lebanon from the ongoing developments in the region, a government with independent decisions based on national unity,” Berri said in a speech in Baalbek marking the 40th anniversary of the disappearance of Imam Moussa al-Sadr, the founder of the AMAL Movement. “Lebanon's government must represent all of Lebanon's parliamentary forces,” the Speaker stressed. He also hoped the obstacles delaying the government's formation will be resolved in the expected meeting between President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri. As for the thorny issue of restoring ties with Damascus, Berri said: “We're awaiting a political solution for the refugee file after the formation of the government and we need official dialogue between the governments of the two countries.”Separately, Berri said some forces “are trying to stage a coup” against the “resistant, patriotic Shiite duo,” in reference to AMAL and Hizbullah. “They are desperately trying to drive a wedge between AMAL and Hizbullah,” Berri added, noting that such an attempt has no chance of success. Turning to the security file in the Bekaa region, the Speaker announced that AMAL and Hizbullah are “lifting the cover off every wrongdoer, offender or drug dealer.”“On behalf of our two parliamentary blocs I call for issuing a calculated general amnesty that excludes homicides and attacks on security forces,” he added. “We call for dropping the arrest warrants through the law... We stress our confidence in the army and the security forces to preserve Bekaa's security, but the pressing situations in the Bekaa require developmental projects,” Berri went on to say.

Hariri Wants to Meet Bassil before Talks with Aoun

Naharnet/August 31/18/Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri prefers to hold talks with Free Patriotic Movement chief MP Jebran Bassil over the government line-up before meeting President Michel Aoun, media reports said. “Hariri will not visit Aoun carrying any draft Cabinet line-up except after a meeting he will hold anytime before the end of the week with FPM chief Minister Jebran Bassil,” al-Joumhouria newspaper reported Friday. “Hariri's agreement with the Lebanese Forces on giving it four portfolios not including a sovereign portfolio or the deputy PM post will not become final unless Bassil accepts it, knowing that Hariri has not yet agreed with the LF on the type of the four portfolios pending his meeting with Bassil,” the daily quoted informed sources as saying. “The latter could voice an opposing stance, especially that what the FPM circles are saying does not call for optimism,” the sources added. The sources, however, noted that a Hariri-Bassil meeting is likely to be held in the coming hours, while the meeting between the PM-designate and Aoun is expected Saturday or Sunday. The sources also pointed out that Hariri had formed his now-caretaker government on a Sunday in late 2016.

'I Would Rather Deal with President Putin,' Says Hariri on Syria Ties
Naharnet/August 31/18/Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri has announced that he prefers to talk to Russian President Vladimir Putin regarding Syria and not to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. “Russia controls Syria. So we will deal with the Russians,” Hariri said in English in an interview with Euronews, when asked what the end of Syria's war would mean for Lebanon. “I think Russia will have made its point,” the PM-designate answered when told that the Syrian regime is likely to recapture the rebel-held northern province of Idlib in the near future.
As for his relation with Russia, Hariri described it as "very good, perfect.” “I have a very good relationship with Russia and I have a good relationship with President Putin that I respect very much. And I believe he is somebody we can work with," Hariri added. Asked whether he thinks that he “will have to deal with Assad,” the PM-designate said: "I would rather deal with President Putin."As for the relation with Hizbullah, Hariri said: "We have political differences. Hizbullah knows that and I know that. They will never accept my policies vis-a-vis the gulf and I will never accept their policy vis-a-vis Iran. But it does mean we should stop the country from functioning."The prime minister-designate added that he will be working hard to form a government so he can implement the reforms Lebanon needs. Asked what he thinks about U.S. President Donald Trump, Hariri said: "I think President Donald Trump is someone who is very clear. He says something, he does it. The issue we had in the past is that we didn’t know what the policy was. At least today I know the policy and I know whether to work around this policy or with this policy and at least there’s someone we can talk to and convince them about our situation." Separately, Hariri reiterated that he wanted to “shock to the system” when he announced his resignation from Riyadh last year. “I believed the government was going the wrong way. People were taking sides and we weren’t able to govern,” he added.

Bassil Says FPM Not to Blame for Govt. Obstacles, Wishes Hariri Success
Naharnet/August 31/18/Free Patriotic Movement chief MP Jebran Bassil stressed Friday that the FPM is not behind the obstacles that are delaying the formation of the new government. “We're awaiting the formation of a national unity government on the basis of fairness, balance and partnership. This is the only way to form a government that works in a correct way and produces results for the Lebanese and the country,” Bassil said after talks with Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi in al-Diman. “The obstacles in the PM-designate's way are coming from the parties that are raising them. He is addressing them and we're helping him as much as possible and we wish him success. We are waiting for him to resolve the three main hurdles that are before him and we were hoping this would happen in these two days and God willing we will finish this soon,” Bassil added. “We're not concerned with the problems that the PM-designate is facing because we are not raising any own problem or obstacle. There were issues that we could have turned into obstacles but we did not, seeing as we're still insisting that no ministries should be confined to certain sects, such as finance, interior, energy and others, but we are facilitating things,” the FPM chief went on to say. He added: “Our only demand is fairness and we have not put any condition or veto on anyone and we have not rejected anything that falls under the principle of fairness.”

U.S. Ambassador Attends Live Air Fire Exercise, Bradley Delivery Ceremony
Naharnet/August 31/18/Over the last year, the United States has delivered thirty-two Bradley Fighting Vehicles and associated ammunition, equipment, and training valued at more than $100 million to the Lebanese Armed Forces, the U.S. embassy said. Thursday's live fire exercise hosted by the Air Assault Regiment “demonstrates the LAF’s (Lebanese Army's) ability to integrate these modern combat systems and combine its new protected mobility capabilities with A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft previously provided by the United States,” the embassy said in a statement. The exercise was attended by U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Elizabeth Richard. In August 2017, the Lebanese Army demonstrated its “impressive combat capabilities by defeating ISIS (Islamic State group) in Lebanon in Operation Dawn of the Hills. Now armed with modern attack aircraft and top-of-the-line armored fighting vehicles, the LAF is even more capable of defending Lebanon,” the embassy noted. It added that the United States “remains committed to a secure, stable, democratic, and prosperous Lebanon.”“With U.S.-provided weapons, equipment, and training, the LAF continues to develop combat capabilities that will ensure that the LAF remain a nationally unifying force, a bulwark against extremism and terrorism, and the only legitimate defender of Lebanon,” the embassy went on to say.

The parallel universe of Hassan Nasrallah
د.يارون فريدمان من صحيفة “يديعوت أحرونوت” الإسرائيلية: عالم نصرالله الموازي

Dr. Yaron Friedman/Ynetnews/August 30/18
Analysis: Listening to the Hezbollah leader’s speech, one would come to believe that a US-Saudi-Zionist conspiracy is behind the Syrian civil war and efforts to destabilize Lebanon; Nasrallah portrays his organization as saviors of the Arab world from Sunni jihadists when in fact only Russia’s intervention saved Assad and allowed Hezbollah to claim credit.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah spoke Sunday in honor of the “Second Liberation Day on the Lebanese-Syrian border,” in which the organization marked the Liberation of Lebanon from the Syrian rebels and during which he laid out the organization’s worldview: Hezbollah is a stabilizing force in the region. It is defending Lebanon, and defeated Israel and the rebels including ISIS. As far as Nasrallah is concerned, the Syrian civil is a failed American-Saudi-Zionist conspiracy.
Before you start laughing, you should ask the Arab-speaking Israelis among us how many of them believe the theory; you will be surprised by the response. Who is Nasrallah threatening this time (other than Israel)? And what is the conspiracy theory that is so persuasive in the Arab sector?Hezbollah leader Hassan
They defeated ISIS and the rebels
Nasrallah’s speech delivered in classical Arabic was broadcast on a screen at the Hezbollah celebrations in al-Hermel in the Lebanon Valley, on the northeastern border with Syria, which until recently had been threatened by the Syrian rebels. Nsrallah was of course careful not to leave his secure bunker, apparently located in Dahiya, the southern suburb of Beirut.
It seems that he is afraid of the new enemies he has accumulated in the civil war even more than he is afraid of Israel.At the beginning of the speech, Nasrallah congratulated those present for the first anniversary of the organization’s victory in this region and the liberation of the entire border area from the Syrian rebels. He praised the martyrs who sacrificed themselves, and saved the whole of the Lebanon Valley from the hands of Sunni jihad organizations.In his speech he raised the following questions: What would have happened if ISIS and Jabhat a-Nusra had won in Syria? What would have been the fate of the Middle East had ISIS won in Iraq? And what would these organizations do in Lebanon?
Hezbollah rallyHezbollah rally
Nasrallah described the appalling violence used by these Wahhabi organizations against their Sunni “brethren” in areas under their control, and scorned the Lebanese government for not joining the struggle against the rebels in Syria at the beginning of the civil war, because many in Lebanon supported them. Those who acted responsibly, in his view were the axis of resistance, i.e. Iran, the Syrian regime, and Hezbollah. According to Nasrallah, any Lebanese person who opposed their interference seven years ago now understands its importance for the rescue of Lebanon. In the speech, Nasrallah explained that Hezbollah’s entry into Syria was a defensive war for Lebanon and not an invasion, and that the organization’s victories in al-Qusayr, Kalmon, the Damascus suburbs, a-Zabdani, and Jarud Arsal near the Lebanese border were what prevented the invasion of Lebanon by those “Takfiri”—those who consider the rest of Muslims as infidels and cheapen their blood.
Who is afraid of war?
In his speech, Nasrallah emphasized the mobilization of Hezbollah youth and the enthusiasm they demonstrated in fighting. He explained that unlike previous generations in Hezbollah, the quality of the fighters stems from their high school and academic education as well. They are educated in the footsteps of Hussein Ben Ali, “the father of the martyrs,” who was the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad and was willing to sacrifice himself in Karbala, Iraq, for the sake of justice. The Shi’ites blame the Sunnis for the murder of Hussein.
According to Nasrallah, the situation in Israel is the opposite: there is a crisis of enlistment for combat units due to poor motivation and the lack of a desire to sacrifice for the homeland, and tens of thousands of soldiers seek leave on mental health grounds. He cited Israeli experts who say Israel is not prepared for the next war, despite the IDF arming itself with the best military technology. At one point, Nasrallah raised his voice and claimed that following the “Israeli defeat” in the Second Lebanon War, Hezbollah had achieved deterrence and that since then Israel has not dared to attack Lebanon. He added that the American sanctions did not affect the organization at all and that the Shi’ites in Lebanon were living well and are not materialistic.
The “second Liberation Day” celebrates the liberation of all of Lebanon from the Syrian rebels, while the “first Liberation Day” marked on May 25, is a holiday invented by Hezbollah to mark the liberation of Lebanon from the “Zionist enemy” after the Israeli withdrawal from south Lebanon in 2000. Thus Nasrallah presents Hezbollah as the shield of Lebanon against external invaders.
Israeli exit from south Lebanon, 2000 (Photo: Effi Shrir)Israeli exit from south Lebanon, 2000 Civil war conspiracy
According to Nasrallah, the US is behind ISIS and assists them militarily. Washington has threatened to impose sanctions on Lebanon if Hezbollah continues to intervene in Syria. According to Nasrallah, while Hezbollah, the Iraqi army (whose commanders are Shiite) and the Syrian army fought against ISIS, the US has actually been working on extending the lengthening of ISIS, just as it helped al-Qaeda in Afghanistan in the 1980s.But according to Nasrallah, anyone who relied on American aid ultimately lost, as happened to the Shah in Iran, who was abandoned by the US. The US has no ideology, in Nasrallah’s eyes, but only economic interests, primarily oil.
He added that Israel also abandons its friends when they no longer serve its purposes, as Israel abandoned the South Lebanon Army when it left Lebanon in 2000. Nasrallah specifically pointed to the joint US-Saudi military headquarters in northern Jordan, known as the Military Operations Center (MOC), which he says is controlling the war in Syria behind the scenes and in full coordination with Israel since 2013.
Assad meeting Iranian official (Photo: AP)Assad meeting Iranian official (Photo: AP)
In the past year, the Americans have also abandoned the rebels in southern Syria and the region was recaptured by the Syrian regime. Nasrallah asked: Why does the United States oppose the war against al-Qaeda in Idlib, the last pocket of rebels in Syria? They are defined as terrorists by the international community. Nasrallah also called on the world to prepare for another “chemical show,” meaning that the rebels in Idlib would claim that the Syrian regime was killing them with unconventional weapons. He claimed that the rebels would use this weapon against civilians in areas under their control in order to mobilize the international community to their advantage and provide an excuse for an American attack against the the axis of resistance.
The Kurds will be abandoned The International Court of Justice found that Hezbollah activists were involved in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri . Nasrallah threatened elements in Lebanon who intend to cooperate with the tribunal: “Do not play with fire.”The secretary general of Hezbollah spoke of the area east of the Euphrates in Syria which is controlled by the Kurds and advised them to continue negotiations with the Syrian government because the Americans would soon abandoned them as well, adding that the Americans had also abandoned the Palestinian Authority and that the trump administration plans to remove the matter of Jerusalem and the refugees from the agenda.
According to Nasrallah, the triangle of evil is Trump, Netanyahu and Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince — corrupt and greedy people who want to run the Middle East and eliminate the Palestinian issue. Nasrallah responded to the claim that Hezbollah had taken control of Lebanon and said that these were old accusations, ignoring the fact that Hezbollah is the largest political party in Lebanon, a party that is justifiably worthy of interfering in state affairs (more than 30 percent of Lebanese are Shi’ites). He also said that the purpose of this claim is to blame the organization for the economic crisis and other problems of Lebanon. He is careful not to mention Iran, which is the true boss in Lebanon today. Are you convinced?
In the Land of Conspiracies
The ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra phenomenon has become Hezbollah’s most important tool to whitewash its crimes. Lebanese militias committed heinous crimes against the Sunni population in Iraq and Syria in the name of the war against ISIS. Nasrallah did not save Lebanon, but on the contrary, he brought it into the war in Syria and caused the rebels to invade northern Lebanon in retaliation. He sent young Shiites to their deaths in order to continue receiving funds and support from Tehran and to train his fighters for the next war against Israel.
It is important to note that it was not the assistance of Iran and Hezbollah that saved Assad from collapse in 2015. Had Russia not intervened in the war in Syria, Hezbollah would have been crowned the main culprit in attracting jihadist organizations into Lebanon and in the destruction of the state. That is also the reason Nasrallah removed any mention of Iran from his speech.
He did not mention Russia either, in order to win credit for Putin’s achievements. Lebanon’s difficult economic situation is also largely due to the transformation of Lebanon into a Hezbollah-Land, a country subject to terrorism and drug trafficking, a country that spooks investors and is subject to international sanctions.The balance of deterrence that has been established since 2006 is the opposite of what Nasrallah described: It is Israel that created a situation in which Hezbollah no longer fulfills its goals — to attack it. As far as Hezbollah is concerned, those who fought ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, that is, Hezbollah, Assad and Iran, are automatically on the good side, but in reality these are terrorist organizations fighting each other, and at the moment Hezbollah is on the winning side —thanks to the Russian intervention.
Shiite terrorism is replacing Sunni terrorism.The worrisome phenomenon is Hezbollah’s success on the propaganda level. Many of the Arabs in Lebanon, Syria and even Israel believe Nasrallah’s words. As far as they are concerned, the war in Syria did not break out as a result of prolonged and severe repression, but rather because of an Israeli-American-Saudi conspiracy to topple Assad. As far as they are concerned, Hezbollah is not a cancer spreading throughout the body of Lebanon, but rather it is the one that saved Lebanon from the Jihad organizations. They believe that Israel was not neutral in the war in Syria, but rather supported the rebels against the regime while ignoring their affiliation with al-Qaeda. According to them, Israel and Saudi Arabia are working together to push aside the Palestinian issue and promote Trump’s “deal of the century.”
Sounds delusional? Ask your Arab neighbors, and you will be surprised by their reactions.
**Dr. Yaron Friedman, is a Ynet commentator for Arab affairs, he is a graduate of the Sorbonne University in Paris, a lecturer on Islam and an Arabic teacher at the University of Haifa in the Middle East and Islamic Studies Department. His book “The Alawites — History, Religion and Identity” was published in English by Brill-Leiden in 2010.,7340,L-5338317,00.html

Lebanon: Families of the Missing Demand Independent National Body to Reveal Fate of Their Sons
Beirut- Sanaa Al-Jack/Asharq Al-Awsat/August 31/18
“My son Maher was not 15 years old when they took him to fight Israel armed with a rifle, facing planes, battleships and armored vehicles.” Maryam Saidi told Asharq Al Awsat. “It was in 1982 when Maher disappeared, and when the heads of the parties entered the parliament to represent the people.”
Maryam is one of the mothers, fathers, sisters, sons and daughters who participated on Thursday in a gathering of the families of those who went missing during the Lebanese war (1975-1989) on the occasion of the International Day of Missing People.
“If the committee for the missing was doing enough work, we wouldn’t be here today,” she said. Her “partner in sorrow”, Najat Jrouj Maoushi, stressed: “The people are responsible because they re-elect those who have caused the kidnapping of 17,000 persons. The people are insensible. If they weren’t, they would have boycotted the elections.
But resolving the issue of the missing needs more than gatherings and statements. More importantly, it needs independent professionals. This is the first fruit of a new mechanism of action adopted by the Committee of the Families of the Kidnapped and Missing Persons in Lebanon.
The head of the committee, Wadad Halawani, said: “The continuous work has brought our voice to new circles, including political and partisan forces from inside and outside the Parliament. With the help of legal experts and a number of deputies, led by former MP Ghassan Mukheiber, we succeeded in completing a draft-law on the establishment of the National Independent Commission for Missing Persons.”
On this issue, Mukheiber told Asharq Al-Awsat that the proposed plan of action included the establishment of “an independent national body, whose mission is to reveal the fate of those missing and those who are forcibly disappeared. The body will have the necessary powers to carry out this mission, will not subject to any tutelage and will enjoy the maximum degree of independence.”
He added that the committee would consist of retired judges, representatives of the Bar Association and parents of the missing and those who are forcibly disappeared, noting that the formation of the committee was awaiting the adoption of the relevant law by Parliament.
“What we need is a specialized body whose mission is to make contact with the Syrian and Palestinian authorities and the old militias, to investigate the fate of the missing, to clarify the truth, and to set a follow-up plan,” Mukheiber explained.
ICRC spokeswoman Yara Khawaja said in response to a question about the responsiveness of the Lebanese authorities to the work of the organization: “I do not want to assert, but it can be said that the atmosphere is relatively positive. The bill passed through Parliament’s human rights and justice committees and we hope to achieve positive results.”
Hariri Addresses Resignation, Syria, and Relationship with Hezbollah
Euronews/August 31/18,
After seven years of ravaging war in Syria, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri told Euronews’ correspondent Anelise Borges in an exclusive interview that he would be dealing more with Russia rather than the Syrian regime.
Borges spoke with Hariri about what it’s like to be surrounded by war, his relationship with Russia and Hezbollah, and the challenges he’s facing in Lebanon.
Hariri on Syria
Borges: "Opposition forces have all but capitulated in Syria. There are plans of a major offensive on the rebels last stronghold of Idlib... and that would spell the end of the war. What would that mean for Lebanon?"
Hariri: "Nothing. I think Russia will have made its point — Russia control Syria. So we will deal with the Russians."
Borges: "What is your relationship with Russia?"
Hariri: "Very good. Perfect. I have a very good relationship with Russia and I have a good relationship with Putin that I respect very much. And I believe he is somebody we can work with."
Borges: "So you don’t think you will have to deal with Assad?"
Hariri: "I would rather deal with President Putin."
What Hariri thinks of Trump
Borges: "What do you think about Donald Trump?"
Hariri: "I think President Donald Trump is someone who is very clear. He says something, he does it. The issue we had in the past is that we didn’t know what the policy was. At least today I know the policy and I know whether to work around this policy or with this policy and at least there’s someone we can talk to and convince them about our situation."
Lebanon's political challenges
The country held parliamentary elections this year for the first time in nearly a decade but Hariri has yet to form a new government.
Borges: "Why did you decide to resign last year?"
Hariri: "I wanted to shock to the system. Because I believed the government was going the wrong way. People were taking sides and we weren’t able to govern."
Borges: "What is your relationship with Hezbollah?"
Hariri: "We have political differences. Hezbollah knows that and I know that. They will never accept my policies vis-a-vis the gulf and I will never accept their policy vis-a-vis Iran. But it does mean we should stop the country from functioning."
The prime minister says he will be working hard to form a government so he can implement the reforms Lebanon needs.

NAYA | Giselle Khoury: A journalist who's loyal to truth
Tala Ramadan/Annahar/August 31/18
BEIRUT: As a journalist, Giselle Khoury built her professional image in 1986 and presented a cultural talk show on LBC. After that, she was part of the launching of Al-Arabiya news channel, where she was hosting a political talk show. Khoury is now working at the British Broadcasting Company.
Annahar interviewed the considerable intellectual firepower journalist recently at the BBC studios, where she is currently hosting her programme “Al Mash’had”.“I faced many challenges during my journalistic journey, especially that I aimed to cover political news, it was a tough challenge because I'm a woman, but these challenges are the juice of my career life,” Khoury told Annahar. The shows presented by Khoury are informative. She interviewed heads of states, leading personalities, and decision makers from all around the world. The tactic that Khoury uses when she is interviewing makes the guests speak from the heart; her tactic is a combination of both insistence and gentle questioning style. This makes it easier for her to get better material and be able to put her guests at ease, and especially, win their trust. “My favorite interview that I've done was the one with journalist Mohamed Hassanein Heikal, because it had a huge impact on the Egyptian audience," Khoury said, adding that on a local level, her interview with Ziad Rahbani was also a big highlight. Her purpose, as Khoury puts it, is to highlight that ignorance is not a bliss, and people should be informed and educated on any matter that surrounds them. “I became a journalist because I'm from the Lebanese Civil War generation, and I wanted to express my rejection of violence and war in a certain way,” she said. Khoury, who is the wife of the late Annahar journalist Samir Kassir who was assassinated on June 2, 2005, has launched the Samir Kassir Foundation and SKeyes Centre for Media and Cultural Freedom in 2006 to reinforce that the media should not excuse everything and explain nothing, instead it should be praising the value of truth and stick to this principle. The SKF’s mission is to spread Samir Kassir’s literary, academic and journalistic heritage. Samir Kassir Foundation is, to Khoury, the child that she never had from Kassir. While fulfilling her essential role in democracy and delivering the truth, Khoury managed to keep her family safe from the world of politics, since, she believes, it can be a dangerous world at times.“My profession taught me many things, it taught me how to face challenges, and how to be close to fights without fighting,” Khoury told Annahar.
Hacking a Prince, an Emir and a Journalist to Impress a Client
By David D. Kirkpatrick and Azam Ahmed/The New York Times/August 31/18
The rulers of the United Arab Emirates had been using Israeli spyware for more than a year, secretly turning the smartphones of dissidents at home or rivals abroad into surveillance devices.
So when top Emirati officials were offered a pricey update of the spying technology, they wanted to make sure it worked, according to leaked emails submitted Thursday in two lawsuits against the spyware’s maker, the Israel-based NSO Group.
Could the company secretly record the phones of the emir of Qatar, a regional rival, the Emiratis asked? How about the phone of a powerful Saudi prince who directed the kingdom’s national guard? Or what about recording the phone of the editor of a London-based Arab newspaper?
“Please find two recordings attached,” a company representative wrote back four days later, according to the emails. Appended were two recordings the company had made of calls by the editor, Abdulaziz Alkhamis, who confirmed this week that he had made the calls and said he did not know he was under surveillance.
The NSO Group’s actions are now at the heart of the twin lawsuits accusing the company of actively participating in illegal spying — part of a global effort to confront the growing arms race in the world of spyware.
As private companies develop and sell cutting-edge surveillance technology to governments for tens of millions of dollars, human rights groups say the scant oversight over the practice invites rampant misuse. And no company is more central to the battle than the NSO Group, one of the best-known creators of spyware that invades smartphones.
The two lawsuits, filed in Israel and Cyprus, were brought by a Qatari citizen and by Mexican journalists and activists who were all targeted by the company’s spyware.
In Mexico, the NSO Group has sold the surveillance technology to the Mexican government on the explicit condition that it be used only against criminals and terrorists. Yet some of the nation’s most prominent human rights lawyers, journalists and anti-corruption activists have been targeted instead. Many are now plaintiffs in the lawsuits.
The government of Panama also purchased the spyware, and the president at the time used it to spy on his political rivals and critics, according to court documents in a case there.
Whenever challenged, the company has said that it merely sells the technology to governments, which agree to deploy it exclusively against criminals but then operate it on their own.
The new lawsuits include leaked documents and emails that directly challenge the company’s repeated assertions that it is not responsible for any illegal surveillance conducted by the governments that buy its spyware.
In the case of the U.A.E., the lawsuits argue, an affiliate of the NSO Group attempted to spy on foreign government officials — and successfully recorded the calls of a journalist — at the request of its Emirati customers four years ago.
The technology works by sending text messages to a target’s smartphone, hoping to bait the person into clicking on them. If the user does, the spyware, known as Pegasus, is secretly downloaded, enabling governments to monitor phone calls, emails, contacts and potentially even face-to-face conversations conducted nearby.
For the U.A.E., documents show, an affiliate of the NSO Group specifically suggested language for the corrupting text messages. Many were tailored for the Persian Gulf with seemingly innocuous invitations like “Ramadan is near — incredible discounts” and “keep your car tires from exploding in the heat.”
Leaked technical documents included in the lawsuits also show that the company helped its clients by transmitting the data gained through surveillance through an elaborate computer network.
“We are pushing to make the law catch up with technology” and show that the spyware makers “are complicit in these privacy violations,” said Alaa Mahajna, an Israeli lawyer who filed the lawsuits in cooperation with Mazen Masri, a senior lecturer in law at the City University of London.
The NSO group declined to comment until it could review the lawsuits. The Emirati Embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment.
After The New York Times reported last year that prominent Mexican lawyers, journalists and anticorruption campaigners had been targeted by the NSO Group’s spyware, the Mexican government announced a federal investigation.
But more than a year later, the investigation has made little apparent progress, so the Mexican journalists and human rights defenders joined the lawsuits to uncover more about the government’s hacking program.
The lawsuits also shed new light on the political intrigues involving Israel and the Persian Gulf monarchies, which have increasingly turned to hacking as a favorite weapon against one another.
The NSO Group’s actions are now at the heart of the twin lawsuits accusing the company of actively participating in illegal spying.CreditDaniella Cheslow/Associated Press
The U.A.E. does not recognize Israel, but the two appear to have a growing behind-the-scenes alliance. Because Israel deems the spyware a weapon, the lawsuits note, the NSO Group and its affiliates could have sold it to the Emirates only with approval by the Israeli Defense Ministry.
Leaked emails submitted in the lawsuits show that the U.A.E. signed a contract to license the company’s surveillance software as early as August 2013.
A year and a half later, a British affiliate of the NSO Group asked its Emirati client to provide a sixth payment of $3 million under the original contract, suggesting a total licensing fee of at least $18 million over that period.
An update the next year was sold through a different affiliate, based in Cyprus, at a cost of $11 million in four installments, according to leaked invoices.
Tensions between the U.A.E. and its neighbor Qatar reached a boil in 2013 over a struggle for power in Egypt. Qatar had allied itself with the Egyptian Islamist movement that won the elections after the Arab Spring. Then the U.A.E. backed a military takeover that cast the Islamists into prison instead.
In the escalating feud, each side accused the other of cyberespionage. Hackers broke into the email accounts of two outspoken opponents of Qatar — the Emirati ambassador to Washington, Yousef al-Otaiba, and an American Republican fund-raiser who does business with the U.A.E., Elliott Broidy. Mr. Broidy has filed a separate lawsuit accusing Qatar and its Washington lobbyists of conspiring to steal and leak his emails.
Other hackers briefly took over the website of the Qatari news service to post a false report of an embarrassing speech by the emir to damage him, and later leaked Qatari emails exposing awkward details of Qatari negotiations over the release of a royal hunting party kidnapped in Iraq. Allies of Qatar blamed the Emiratis. The leaked emails disclosed in the new lawsuits may also have been stolen through hacking. Lawyers involved said the documents were provided by a Qatari journalist who did not disclose how he had obtained them.
The messages show that the Emiratis were seeking to intercept the phone calls of the emir of Qatar as early as 2014.
But the Emirati target list also included Saudi Arabia. In the email discussions about updating the NSO Group’s technology, the Emiratis asked to intercept the phone calls of a Saudi prince, Mutaib bin Abdullah, who was considered at the time to be a possible contender for the throne.
The Emiratis have been active promoters of Prince Mutaib’s younger rival, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Last year, the crown prince removed Prince Mutaib from his role as minister of the national guard and ordered his temporary detention in connection with corruption allegations.
In a telephone interview, Prince Mutaib expressed surprise that the Emiratis had attempted to record his calls. “They don’t need to hack my phone,” he said. “I will tell them what I am doing.”
According to the emails, the Emiratis also asked to intercept the phone calls of Saad Hariri, who is now prime minister of Lebanon.
Mr. Hariri has sometimes been accused of failing to push back hard enough against Hezbollah, the powerful Lebanese movement backed by Iran. Last year, the U.A.E.’s Saudi ally, Crown Prince Mohammed, temporarily detained Mr. Harari in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, and forced him to announce his resignation as prime minister. (He later rescinded the announcement, and he remains prime minister.)
Mr. Alkhamis, who resigned in 2014 as the editor of the London-based newspaper Al Arab, called the surveillance of his phone calls “very strange” but not unexpected, since he had published “sensitive” articles about Persian Gulf politics.
The U.A.E.’s use of the NSO Group’s spyware was first reported in 2016. Ahmed Mansoor, an Emirati human rights advocate, noticed suspicious text messages and exposed an attempt to hack his Apple iPhone. The U.A.E. arrested him on apparently unrelated charges the next year and he remains in jail.
After Mr. Mansoor’s disclosures, Apple said it had released an update that patched the vulnerabilities exploited by the NSO Group. The NSO Group pledged to investigate and said in a statement that “the company has no knowledge of and cannot confirm the specific cases.”
But other leaked documents filed with the lawsuits indicate that the U.A.E. continued to license and use the Pegasus software well after Apple announced its fix and the NSO Group pledged to investigate.
On June 5, 2017, the U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia began a blockade of Qatar in an effort to isolate it. Ten days later, an internal Emirati email cited in the lawsuits referred to 159 members of the Qatari royal family, officials and others whose phones it had targeted with the NSO spyware, promising a report based on “what we found from the top 13 targets only.”
“ur highness based on ur instructions we viewed the collecting from the Q phone targeting,” wrote an Emirati official identified in the lawsuits as an assistant to Prince Khalid bin Mohammed, the chairman of the Emirati intelligence agency and the son of the de facto ruler of the U.A.E., Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed. This month, Amnesty International said one of its staff members working in Saudi Arabia had also been targeted by spyware that appeared to be linked to the NSO Group, and the company reiterated that it bears no responsibility for its customers’ use of its spyware.
“Our product is intended to be used exclusively for the investigation and prevention of crime and terrorism,” the company said in a statement to Amnesty, pledging to “investigate the issue and take appropriate action.”
**A version of this article appears in print on Aug. 31, 2018, on Page A7 of the New York edition with the headline: How United Arab Emirates Used Israeli Technology to Spy on

As Cabinet Formation Drags, Lebanon Risks Economic Tailspin
AFP/August 31/18
Despite three months of wrangling, Lebanon's premier-designate has been unable to form a new cabinet, threatening to paralyse the country's institutions and launch its already-frail economy into a dangerous tailspin. Lebanon is no stranger to drawn-out negotiations over forming governments, but the current delays risk squandering a precious $11 billion package of economic aid. On May 24, after parliamentary elections, President Michel Aoun quickly nominated Saad Hariri for his third term as prime minister and tasked him with forming a cabinet. "The objective was to form a government as quickly as possible. We had hoped in the beginning that it would be formed in two weeks," says Alain Aoun, a member of parliament and the president's nephew. That new government would be able to sign off on billions of dollars in aid pledged by donor countries and international organisations at the France-led CEDRE conference in April. But political parties have been locked in a three-month dispute over how many -- and which -- ministerial posts they will each be granted. Lebanon is governed by a complex system which aims to maintain a precarious balance of power across religious and political communities. Its major political players have always ruled through consensus, which leaves little to chance, typically includes dizzying horsetrading, and means negotiations can easily drag out. In 2009, Hariri needed five months to pull together his first government, and it took Tamam Salam double that time to announce his in 2014.The current delays may seem relatively harmless, but Aoun says there is more at risk now than ever before. "We've definitely seen worse in the past, but the context is different now," he told AFP.
"We're facing an economic emergency."
Boost to infrastructure on hold
The Lebanese economy's downward spiral was brought on by the outbreak of conflict in neighbouring Syria in 2011.
Economic growth plummeted from a solid nine percent at the time and has hovered around 1.1 percent for the past three years. Public debt stands at $82 billion, equivalent to 150 percent of gross domestic product, the third highest worldwide after Japan and Greece.The CEDRE funds are earmarked to boost the economy, with a focus on improving Lebanon's ailing infrastructure. In exchange, Lebanon promised a string of reforms including tougher measures to fight corruption and reduce budget deficits. But without a new government, the authorities cannot introduce major structural changes or sign off on the deal. Lebanon's parties are mainly arguing over who will head powerful ministries, including the interior, foreign affairs, and energy portfolios. But they are also bitterly divided over what future ties with the government in neighbouring Syria will look like. After seven years of fierce fighting, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad appears to have regained the upper hand with around two-thirds of the country under his control. Lebanese officials have increased calls for some 1.5 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon to return home and are scrambling to ensure Beirut gets a slice of any economic activity generated by Syria's reconstruction. But some parties long opposed to Damascus say any new cabinet should formally adopt a policy of distancing itself from Assad.
In the red'
The head of powerful pro-Damascus movement Hezbollah said the thorny question should be set aside to protect Lebanon from financial disaster. Hariri has also warned of economic collapse, saying this week that "the responsibility to accelerate the formation of the government is that of all parties, in order to avoid the economic deterioration in the country."In the interim, the economy has continued to worsen. The value of cleared checks -- an indicator of investment and consumption -- dropped 13 percent between January and June this year, according to Lebanon's central bank. "The delay in the formation of the new cabinet has an undeniable impact on investments and therefore on growth," says Marwan Barakat, chief economist at Bank Audi. Barakat said seven of 11 economic indicators he studied were "in the red" in the first seven months of 2018 compared with the same period last year.
But those close to the government say the rescue funds from CEDRE are on the way, despite the delays. "An extra month or two won't compromise a strategy spread out over 10 years, maybe more," Hariri's economic adviser Nadim Munla says.

The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on
September 01/18
Idlib rebels blow up bridges to hamper expected assault
Agencies/Arab News/August 31/18/BEIRUT: Rebels from Idlib have blown up two key bridges in a bid to hamper an expected government assault on Syria’s only remaining rebel-held province, a monitor said on Friday. The bridges over the Orontes River linked areas of neighboring Hama province under government control to rebel-held territory in Idlib, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.They were blown up by Islamist factions from the National Liberation Front (NLF), the main non-jihadist alliance in Idlib, Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said.
“They were the two main bridges in the area, but there are others,” he told AFP.The bridges were located in the Al-Ghab plain, which straddles Hama and Idlib provinces and could be one of the first targets of any government offensive. Government forces have been massing around Idlib province for weeks, particularly in Al-Ghab which was once a key farming area. “The rebels have seen the intense activity on the regime side, with the arrival of tanks and armored vehicles,” Abdel Rahman said. “Rebel groups are reinforcing their positions in anticipation of a military operation.”In recent days, both the government and its ally Russia have stepped up their rhetoric against the rebel presence in Idlib, which is dominated by the Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) jihadist alliance formed by Al-Qaeda’s former Syrian branch, Al-Nusra Front. “The Syrian command has taken a decision to defeat Al-Nusra Front in Idlib no matter the sacrifices that it would entail,” Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said on Thursday. Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday that talks to create humanitarian corridors in Idlib were ongoing. On Wednesday he called on the West not to stand in the way of an “anti-terror operation” in Idlib, saying: “This abscess needs to be liquidated.” Turkish troops are also stationed in the area and Ankara — which backs the NLF — has expressed opposition to any large-scale offensive that sparks a new exodus of refugees.An assault on Idlib by Damascus and Moscow could be the last major battle of the civil war that has torn Syria apart since 2011. More than 350,000 people have been killed in the conflict and millions forced to flee their homes.

Fears over Iranian proxies’ Iraq missile factories
Agencies/Arab News/August 31/18
BAGHDAD: Iraqi armed factions backed by Iran have been working for months to develop ballistic missiles and are threatening to use them against American forces in the country, Shiite commanders and Iraqi security officials told Arab News.Improved missile technology being developed by Iranian proxy forces in another country in the Middle East will be of grave concern to Arab countries and the US.  Iran is already accused of supplying Houthi militias in Yemen with ballistic missiles that are fired at Saudi Arabia, and helping Hezbollah build factories in Lebanon that produce similar weapons. Iran has been financing and equipping dozens of Shiite and Sunni insurgent groups operating in Iraq since 2005. Some have become the most powerful military groups in Iraq and the region, including Badr Organization, Assaib Ahl Al-Haq, Kattaib Hezbollah-Iraq and Saraya Al-Kharasani. All of the groups fought against Daesh over the last four years under the umbrella of the Popular Mobilization, alongside the regular Iraqi military and which was backed by the US-led coalition in Iraq.
Latest versions
Although most of these groups have been equipped by Iran, many have established factories to manufacture they own weapons across the country.They succeeded in producing some short-range missiles such as Al-Ashtar, Al-Muntaqim and Al-Qaher, and have moved on to expand the ranges of these missiles.
The most advanced — Al-Fatah — is the result two years work, a senior Shiite commander within the Saraya Al-Kharassani faction told Arab News. He said the ranges of the latest versions are still unclear as they have not yet had a chance to test them. “All the (Shiite) armed factions have participated in this by using Iraqi and foreign experts,” he said. “The missiles are ready but have not been used before. We may experiment them in the next few days near the border in Basra.”  A report by Reuters on Friday said ballistic missiles had been transferred from Iran to Iraq over the past few months to threaten Iran’s enemies in the region. The report said the missiles had a range of between 200 and 700 kilometers, putting Riyadh or the Israeli city of Tel Aviv within striking distance if the weapons were deployed in southern or western Iraq. Shiite commanders and Iraqi security officials, however, told Arab News that these missiles have been built in Iraq and their range has not yet been tested to be classified as medium-range. They said their use for targets outside Iraq has not even discussed. Ahmed Assadi, the commander of Kattaib Sayed Al-Shuhaddaa and a newly elected Shiite MP, told Arab News that so far the missiles had not yet reached further than 70 kilometers when tested. “There is a Directorate of Military Manufacturing linked to the popular mobilization that has factories spread outside the cities and in areas known to the government,” he said. “We have been working on developing the range of missiles along the last four years and we started from the 6 kilometer range but have not succeeded to reach more than 70.”  Assadi denied that missiles were imported by either the regular security forces or the Shiite armed factions from Iran in the last few years. The Kharassani commander claimed there was no possibility of using the new missiles against targets outside of Iraq but admitted that the government does not have control over the activities of the Iran-backed factions. “All discussions until now indicate their use will be against the occupier inside Iraq,” he said, in reference to American forces in the country. The number of missiles are few as the experts are waiting to test them soon in southern near the Iranian border. “If the experiment of one (missile) succeeded, we can make ten in very short time,” the commander, said. A senior Iraqi National Security official told Arab News that the transfer of ballistic missiles across the Iraq-Iran border would be almost impossible. “The border is monitored by the US-led coalition forces by satellites, which are thermally sensitive to this type of missiles and thus it is impossible to transfer such missiles as one piece or even as disjointed pieces across the border without being monitored,” the official said.  “The issue is very serious and no country can get involved even Iran.”Shiite political parties and armed factions are Iran’s biggest and most powerful tool in Iraq, where they have competed with the US to win influence since 2003. “The Americans know that the ballistic Iranian missiles are in Lebanon with Hezbollah not in Iraq,” a prominent Shiite leader told Arab News. “Iraq is an area used by Iran to solve its problems with America not vice versa. “Iran sees Iraq as a region that could lose its control completely at any moment, so why would they provide Iraqis with ballistic missiles that might be used against it one day?”
Opposition Factions Blow up Bridges in Idlib ahead of Syrian Regime Offensive
Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 31 August, 2018/Opposition factions in Idlib blew up two key bridges in an attempt to impede a Syrian regime offensive on the northwestern province, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Friday. The bridges over the Orontes River linked areas of neighboring Hama province, under regime control, to opposition-held territory in Idlib, the Britain-based rights monitor said. "They were the two main bridges in the area, but there are others," Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP. The bridges were located in the Al-Ghab plain, which straddles Hama and Idlib provinces and could be one of the first targets of any regime offensive. Regime forces have been massing around Idlib province for weeks, particularly in Al-Ghab, which was once a key farming area. "The opposition factions have seen the intense activity on the regime side, with the arrival of tanks and armored vehicles," Abdel Rahman said."The factions are reinforcing their positions in anticipation of a military operation."

Palestinians, Israeli Forces Clash in West Bank Protest
Gaza- Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 31 August, 2018/Israeli forces fired tear gas and rubber bullets on Friday at rock-throwing Palestinians protesting against land seizures for Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, among the disputes stalling peace efforts. Around a dozen of the hundreds of Palestinians gathered in the village of Ras Karkar were injured, witnesses said. An Israeli police spokesman had no immediate comment. An Israeli court broke new judicial ground on Tuesday by giving legal recognition to a Jewish settlement built without Israeli government authorization on privately owned Palestinian land. The court declared the settlers the legal owners, finding that Israeli authorities were unaware the land was privately owned when they originally mapped out the area, in territory captured in the 1967 Middle East war. It based its ruling on an Israeli law that states that even transactions with legal faults could be valid if they were conducted in “good faith”. Most countries consider all of the settlements built on land that Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war to be illegal. Israel disputes this. Some 500,000 Israelis live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, areas that are also home to more than 2.6 million Palestinians. Palestinians say rapid settlement expansion in recent years could deny them a viable and contiguous state. The other Palestinian territory, Gaza, was largely quiet on Friday despite expected border demonstrations, a weekly event in there since March 30. Israel has killed most than 170 Palestinians during the Gaza protests, in what it called an effort to thwart breaches of the fortified frontier. Israel withdrew settlers and soldiers from Gaza in 2005. The last round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks collapsed in 2014.

Egypt: First-ever Christian Woman Becomes Governor

Cairo - Waleed Abdul Rahman/Asharq Al-Awsat/August 31/18/Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has sworn in several new provincial governors, including the first-ever Coptic Christian woman to hold the position. A total number of 22 governors on Thursday took the oath before Sisi in the presence of Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly and Local Development Minister Mahmoud Shaarawi. After the swearing-in ceremony, the newly appointed governors and their deputies met with Sisi, who ordered them to focus on meeting the people’s needs and curbing rising inflation. The new reshuffle included General Khaled Fouda, governor of South Sinai, General Ahmed Rashed Moustafa, appointed as the new governor of Giza, Mohamed Abdelfadeel Shousha, the new governor of North Sinai, Abdelaziz Qonsoua, the new governor of Alexandria, and General Khaled Abdel Hafez who was appointed as the new governor of Cairo. The appointees also include Manal Awad Mikhail in Damietta province, who became the first Christian woman ever appointed to such a position in the country. Ambassador Bassam Radi, the spokesman for the Egyptian presidency, quoted the president as saying that he wishes success and luck to the new governors in performing their tasks. “Egypt expects lots of effort, collective action, and dedication to further development," Sisi said.

ISIS Exploits Fighting in Tripoli, Preys On Sirte
Cairo- Jamal Jawhar/Asharq Al-Awsat/August 31/18/Security agencies in western Libyan have detected movements of ISIS militants on the outskirts of Sirte, raising fears that the organization is seeking to re-establish itself in the coastal city amid fighting between armed militias in Tripoli. Al-Bunyan Al-Marsous operations chamber reported that Sirte security forces went on alert three days ago when ISIS movements were detected 70 kilometers south of the city. A security source told Asharq Al-Awsat that investigation agencies in the west are chasing ISIS remnants on the outskirts of Sirte and in desert routes, noting that some members of the group, wearing camouflage uniforms, were stopping citizens and asking for their identity cards. The source associated the emergence of ISIS members in south Sirte areas with the ongoing fight among armed militias in the capital, stressing that the terrorist organization sought to exploit the clashes and the absence of security in the country to re-establish its presence. Further, ISIS claimed responsibility for last week’s armed attack against Wadi Kaam gate in Tripoli that killed seven security guards and wounded dozens.. Libyan Interior Minister Abdulsalam Ashour stated that the perpetrators - all Libyan nationals – have been arrested. In the same context, the Secretary-General of the Arab Organization for Human Rights (AOHR) in Libya voiced his concerns that political disputes in Tripoli would push terrorist groups such as ISIS to exploit the fragile security system in the capital and conduct terrorist attacks. Libya, Niger, Sudan and Chad agreed on August 11 to create a joint operation center to strengthen border security and to combat terrorist groups, smuggling, and human trafficking.

UK minister to discuss Iran’s destabilizing activities in Syria, Yemen
Arab News/August 31/18/JEDDAH: Junior Foreign Minister Alistair Burt arrived in Tehran on Friday to discuss the future of Iran’s international nuclear deal, in the first visit to the country by a British minister to Iran since US President Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 agreement. His visit comes as the EU tries to keep the deal alive. Burt will also discuss Iran’s “destabilizing role” in the ongoing conflicts in Syria and Yemen, as well as the plight of dual nationals detained in Iran. In a statement ahead of the visit, Burt said: “During my visit … I will stress that Iran’s ballistic missile program and its destabilizing activities in the Middle East must be addressed. I will also use the opportunity of my visit to push for the resolution we all want to see in the cases of the British dual nationals detained in Iran.”Britain is seeking the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation. She was arrested in April 2016 at Tehran’s airport as she was heading back to Britain with her daughter, now aged four, after a family visit.Burt will meet Iranian ministers, including his counterpart Abbas Araghchi, and NGOs during his two-day visit. “As long as Iran meets its commitments under the deal, we remain committed to it as we believe it is the best way to ensure a safe, secure future for the region,” said Burt.

U.S. Says Canada Has Made 'No Concessions on Agriculture' in NAFTA Talks
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 31/18/Canada has not compromised on a key sticking point in talks with the United States on the rewrite of the North American Free Trade Agreement, a U.S. official said Friday. As the fourth and final day of negotiations got underway between Canada's Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Canada's managed dairy market remained a roadblock. "The negotiations between the United States and Canada are ongoing. There have been no concessions by Canada on agriculture," a USTR spokesperson told AFP.

2 Hurt in Amsterdam Station Stabbing, Attacker Shot
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 31/18/Two people were hurt during a stabbing incident at Amsterdam's busy Central Station on Friday morning before the alleged attacker was shot and wounded, Dutch police said. "A suspect has been shot after a stabbing incident at Amsterdam Central Station," Dutch police said on Twitter, indicating that the station had been evacuated and closed off to all rail traffic. However, police shortly afterwards issued an update to say there was "no talk" of a complete evacuation and only two platforms had been closed off to passengers. The two wounded people and the knife-wielding suspect were taken to hospital, Amsterdam police said. Trams, which leave from the front of the station were not running, the police added, saying more information was not immediately available. Around 250,000 people travel through Central Station every day, according to statistics provided by the travel guide. The station is located on the Dutch capital's historic canal-ringed city center.

U.S. May Send IS 'Beatles', Others to Guantanamo
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 31/18/The Trump administration is considering sending some captured Islamic State fighters, including the two "Beatles," British citizens who took part in beheadings, to the military-run prison in Guantanamo, Cuba, NBC has reported.
The prison could be used to jail indefinitely a number of "high-value" IS foreign fighters captured in Iraq and Syria, while sending less important detainees whose governments won't accept them to an Iraqi-run prison, NBC said, citing unnamed U.S. officials and European diplomats. NBC said among those being considered for transfer are Alexanda Amon Kotey and El Shafee el-Sheikh, two survivors of a four-man IS unit that saw kidnapped foreign journalists and others tortured and beheaded. The captives have been dubbed "The Beatles" for their British accents. Moving newly captured jihadists to Guantanamo would mark a shift in U.S. policy by the Trump administration: after having peaked at 780 detainees, the facility has not received a new prisoner since 2008. Most detainees have been released, and the current population is 40, including several key al-Qaida figures accused of plotting the September 11, 2001 and other attacks. Their trials under the military justice system have stalled for more than a decade, and adding newcomers will raise concerns the Trump administration has little intention to respect their legal rights. The U.S. military recently repatriated two US citizens detained in Syria, and has sent their cases to civilian courts where they now face trial for supporting Islamic State. A U.S. military spokeswoman, Commander Sarah Higgins, had no comment about the NBC report and added: "there is no one identified for transfer to Guantanamo at this time." "The detention facility at Guantanamo Bay is one disposition option for long-term detention of enemy combatants. Other options include transfer to foreign partners and prosecution in U.S. courts."
Working with Britain
The cases of Kotey and Sheikh have been controversial in Britain. According to unconfirmed reports, they were stripped of their British citizenship before they were captured in early 2018 in Syria, and the British government has made no effort to have them brought to Britain for trial.
British opponents of the death penalty have demanded that the U.S. not be allowed to take control of them. In July, Minister for Security Ben Wallace told parliament that the British government is "working closely with international partners to ensure that they face justice for any crimes they have committed." At the same time, he said the British government's official position is that the Guantanamo prison "should close.""Where we share evidence with the U.S., it must be for the express purpose of progressing a criminal prosecution, and we have made that clear to the United States," he said.

Iraq PM Sacks Paramilitary Chief
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 31/18/Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has announced the dismissal of the head of the powerful Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary force, which played a major role in stinging defeats of the Islamic State jihadist group. The prime minister in a statement reproached the force's head Falih Alfayyadh for "having been implicated in partisan political matters which contravene the rules of neutrality which apply to members of the security and intelligence forces." Alfayyadh, 62, was also dismissed from his position as national security adviser. Despite being on the PM's electoral list ahead of legislative polls that took place in May, the prime minister suspected Alfayyadh of negotiating behind his back with rival Hadi al-Ameri as post-election talks were underway. The Hashed al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization) auxiliary force was created by the government in 2014, after a call to jihad by the spiritual leader of the Shiite community, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani to help in the fight against IS.

Philippines' Duterte Eyes Arms Deals on Israel Trip
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/August 31/18/Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte arrives Sunday for a visit to Israel and Jordan, pursuing a pivot away from his nation's long-time reliance on American military hardware and backing.
The four-day stay in Israel is the first by a Philippine leader in over 60 years of diplomatic ties between the two nations, yet their links go back to Manila sheltering Jews during the Holocaust. Duterte's visit is generating a lot of attention, powered both by his penchant for foul-mouthed statements -- including likening himself to Hitler -- and his internationally condemned drug crackdown that has killed thousands. Duterte, accompanied by an entourage including soldiers and police, will sit down with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and hold an event with some of thousands of Filipino migrant workers in Israel. He has pivoted the Philippines away from its former colonial master the United States and toward warmer diplomatic and business ties with China and Russia. The U.S. and Canada have both had military hardware deals fall apart with the Philippines due to concerns over Duterte's drug war. But so far sales with Israel have gone smoothly."(The visit) is for President Duterte to look for an alternative market for... weapons for our armed forces as well as for the police," Henelito Sevilla, an international relations expert at University of the Philippines, told AFP. Israel is among the world's top arms dealers, with nearly 60 percent of its defense exports going to the Asia Pacific region, according to Israeli defense ministry data.
'No Jerusalem embassy'
The Philippines emerged as a significant new customer in 2017 for Israel, with sales of radar and anti-tank equipment worth $21 million. There could be far bigger deals on the way as Manila plans a multi-billion dollar overhaul of its armed forces. Duterte has been dismissive of American sales overtures, saying he does not need U.S. fighter jets or submarines. Manila says the trip is expected to yield signed agreements on defense as well as labor, which is one of the Philippines' top exports. Some 10 million Filipinos work abroad and send home money that is a lifeline to the economy. Manila is keen to ink agreements that protect the workers' conditions and pay, who are seen as national heroes at home. Though the Philippines has a special bond with Israel for giving refuge to some 1,300 Jews fleeing the Holocaust, Duterte drew global condemnation for likening himself to Hitler in 2016. "Hitler massacred three million Jews. Now there are three million drug addicts (in the Philippines). I'd be happy to slaughter them," he said. Most mainstream historians say six million Jews died in the Holocaust. Duterte later apologized to the Jewish community over his remarks, which he said were aimed at critics who had likened him to the Nazi leader. Just over a year later the Philippines abstained from a U.N. vote rebuking the United States for moving its embassy to Jerusalem. Palestinians see the eastern part of the disputed city as the capital of their future state. The Philippines was reportedly among a handful of nations considering following the Americans' move, but Manila has issued repeated denials. "This is actually not a topic of discussion," Philippine Foreign Undersecretary Ernesto Abella told journalists at a pre-visit briefing. Duterte heads to Jordan on September 5, where he is expected to meet with King Abdullah II.

The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published
September 01/18
Analysis/A Massacre Waiting to Happen: For Syria's Idlib, Diplomacy May Come Too Late
زافي برئيل من الهآررتس: مجزرة متوقعة في ادلب السورية والجهود الدبلوماسية قد تأتي متأخرة

Zvi Bar'el/Haaretz/August 31/18
The U.S. and Russia are trying to forestall the offensive by negotiating with militias. But Assad isn't waiting – his forces are advancing on Idlib, where some 2.5 million Syrians fearfully wait
Some 2.5 million Syrians, including 1 million displaced people, are fearfully awaiting the Syrian army’s major offensive against the city of Idlib and its suburbs. The United Nations has warned that the attack could displace some 800,000 people.
America is trying to work with Russia to forestall the offensive by negotiating agreements with the various rebel militias controlling Idlib, but so far without success. Russia is also conducting independent negotiations with the militias’ leaders for the same purpose, together with its Turkish partner, but again without much success.
Idlib is considered the rebels’ last major bastion. They have migrated to it from throughout Syria during the eight years of civil war, in part because the cease-fire agreements the Syrian government signed with the rebels in southern Syria, Aleppo, Hama and other cities all allowed the rebel fighters to relocate to Idlib with their weapons. It has therefore become a fortified zone of which each militia controls a piece.
Some of the militias have agreed to negotiate with Russia, and some have even been invited to integrate into the Syrian army. But others have refused to engage in any talks. The Nusra Front, which is affiliated with Al-Qaida and is considered a terrorist organization by all the parties involved, is actually one of the militias willing to negotiate. But unless all the militias agree, a violent offensive against the city is probably inevitable. This would be the last major offensive of the war, after which the focus would shift to diplomacy.
The schedule for the diplomatic negotiations doesn’t leave much time. In early September, Russian, Iranian and Turkish officials are slated to meet to prepare for a meeting with representatives of the rebels and the Syrian government. On September 14, German, French, British, Saudi, Jordanian, Egyptian and American officials will meet in Geneva under UN auspices to discuss Syria’s future constitution.
It’s hard to see the latter meeting producing any practical results, since Russia, the Syrian government and the Syrian rebels will all be absent. Apparently, it is merely intended to demonstrate some kind of international involvement and present an alternative to Russia’s moves.
The key question is whether the Idlib offensive will precede these meetings or not. But Syrian President Bashar Assad isn’t waiting. His forces are advancing on Idlib, and this week’s visit to Damascus by Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami was meant in part to coordinate the military operation there.
Israel and the West were upset primarily by the public announcement that Iran and Syria had signed an agreement under which the former would rebuild the latter’s army. But according to Iran’s military attaché in Damascus, Abolqassem Alinejad, in the first stage, this will only entail clearing minefields and an offer to build weapons factories in Syria.
Hatami is the first Iranian defense minister in 20 years who didn’t come from the ranks of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. He was appointed by President Hassan Rohani due to the president’s bitter dispute with the Revolutionary Guards over control of the country’s economic resources. The organization controls more than half of the Iranian economy, and Rouhani believes this causes great economic damage.
He therefore fired the previous defense minister, Hossein Dehghan, a Revolutionary Guards loyalist. Dehghan became “supreme leader” Ali Khamenei’s adviser on military production instead, and has even announced that he plans to run in the next presidential election in 2021 “to save the country.”
This doesn’t mean Hatami agrees with Rohani on everything. But unlike his predecessor, he does at least consult the president on military plans.
Hatami’s statement about rebuilding the Syrian army should be taken with skepticism mainly because of the high cost this would entail, estimated at tens of billions of dollars. Iran, which is experiencing a deep economic crisis, would have trouble bearing those costs alone, especially since Syria already owes Iran some $6 billion on the loans Iran has provided. Iran’s own military involvement in both Syria and Yemen is estimated to have cost it another $16 billion.
Fears that Iranian soldiers or pro-Iranian militias will merge with the Syrian army also seem dubious. Who would command these mixed units, in which some of the soldiers wouldn’t even speak Arabic? Would Syria’s high command agree to set up separate Iranian units that would take orders from Iranian commanders?
Nor can the Shi’ite militias in Iraq, which are funded and trained by Iran, be compared to those that might be established in Syria. In Iraq, the militiamen are Iraqi citizens. In Syria, they would be foreign soldiers. Moreover, Russia has proposed integrating any rebel militias that agree to be part of the Syrian army. And the rebels certainly wouldn’t agree to serve in the army alongside Iranian units.
Thus Hatami’s announcement seems to have been aimed mainly at expressing Iran’s resolve to stay in Syria and fight for the status of an influential power in postwar Syria. But on this front, Iran faces a tough battle against Russia on one hand and America and Israel on the other.
U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton said recently that Russia offered to make Iranian forces redeploy if America removed its forces from Syria. Bolton also said that his Russian counterpart asked him to present a map of where America is willing to let Iranian forces stay. In other words, Iran wouldn’t leave Syria completely, but would be restricted to certain areas.
But Bolton said he rejected this offer, and Washington continues to insist that all Iranian forces leave. In response, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova issued a blistering statement saying that all U.S. forces must leave Syria before Washington asks other forces to leave. She demanded to know why U.S. forces were deployed in Syria at all and who had given it permission to enter the country.
Russian officials also accused America of sheltering thousands of Islamic State fighters and other terrorists in the American-controlled region around the Tanf border crossing. For now, Israel’s warnings that it will continue to take action against Iranian forces in Syria don’t seem to have impressed Russia. But Moscow’s willingness to barter an Iranian pullback for an American pullout shows that Iran can’t fully rely on Russia. Russia’s diplomatic dialogue with Washington indicates that it’s using Iran as a bargaining chip, and also making good use of Iran’s dependency on it as one of the only countries that refuses to comply with American sanctions on Iran.
Iran has also already lost its competition with Russian over Syria’s civilian economy. Granted, Iran signed a memorandum of understanding a year ago to build a cellular network in Syria and form a partnership in mine phosphates, but that memorandum remains on paper only. It hasn’t been implemented yet because Syria would prefer business partnerships with China and Russia to partnerships with Iran, and it is therefore using its massive bureaucracy to delay and even thwart the Iranian deals.
Russia, not Iran, won exclusive rights to repair and develop Syria’s oil fields, build refineries and train Syrian workers. It will also take the lead in Syria’s civilian reconstruction, which is valued at hundreds of billions of dollars. At commercial fairs in Syria over the last two years, Russian, Chinese and other Asian companies won the best deals, while Iranian companies had to make do with crumbs. Iranian businessmen thinking of doing business in Syria understand that if they want to obtain Syrian government contracts, they will have to share their businesses with the Revolutionary Guards. Thus for now, they prefer to stay out of the picture.
Unlike Iran, Russia can forge partnerships with Western and Asian companies that can make sure Syria’s oil gets marketed once full production resumes. Iran would not only have trouble forming business consortiums, it would also have trouble selling the oil as long as American sanctions on it remain in force. Thus Iran will apparently have to make do with close access to the Syrian government, a limited degree of influence over Assad’s policies and maintaining its logistical ties with Hezbollah via Syria.
But the international considerations and strategic games that are preoccupying both world powers and countries in the region are of little interest to Idlib’s fearful residents. Even before the military offensive on the city has begun, they’re living under a reign of terror by local militias, which are kidnapping, arresting and killing civilians suspected of “collaborating with the regime” or abetting the Islamic State. Idlib residents heard Assad’s promise “to liquidate terror in Idlib” and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s vow, at a meeting with his Saudi counterpart, to cleanse the “festering abscess” of Idlib. And they know the attacking troops and the bomber planes won’t be able to distinguish between terrorists and innocent civilians.
Turkey, which set up several outposts in Idlib to fulfill its responsibility for supervising implementation of the de-escalation agreement there, can’t provide local residents with protection. Nor is there any other international force that could prevent the expected slaughter. Thus for some of these residents, any diplomatic solution will come too late.
Exclusive: Iran moves missiles to Iraq in warning to enemies
جون أيرش وأحمد رشيد عبر وكالة رويترز: إيران تنقل صواريخ إلى العراق في تهديد لأعدائها

John Irish, Ahmed Rasheed/Reuters/August 31/18
PARIS/BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iran has given ballistic missiles to Shi’ite proxies in Iraq and is developing the capacity to build more there to deter attacks on its interests in the Middle East and to give it the means to hit regional foes, Iranian, Iraqi and Western sources said.
Any sign that Iran is preparing a more aggressive missile policy in Iraq will exacerbate tensions between Tehran and Washington, already heightened by U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
It would also embarrass France, Germany and the United Kingdom, the three European signatories to the nuclear deal, as they have been trying to salvage the agreement despite new U.S. sanctions against Tehran.
According to three Iranian officials, two Iraqi intelligence sources and two Western intelligence sources, Iran has transferred short-range ballistic missiles to allies in Iraq over the last few months. Five of the officials said it was helping those groups to start making their own.
“The logic was to have a backup plan if Iran was attacked,” one senior Iranian official told Reuters. “The number of missiles is not high, just a couple of dozen, but it can be increased if necessary.”
Iran has previously said its ballistic missile activities are purely defensive in nature. Iranian officials declined to comment when asked about the latest moves.
The Iraqi government and military both declined to comment.
The Zelzal, Fateh-110 and Zolfaqar missiles in question have ranges of about 200 km to 700 km, putting Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh or the Israeli city of Tel Aviv within striking distance if the weapons were deployed in southern or western Iraq.
The Quds Force, the overseas arm of Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), has bases in both those areas. Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani is overseeing the program, three of the sources said.
Western countries have already accused Iran of transferring missiles and technology to Syria and other allies of Tehran, such as Houthi rebels in Yemen and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
Iran’s Sunni Muslim Gulf neighbors and its arch-enemy Israel have expressed concerns about Tehran’s regional activities, seeing it as a threat to their security.
Israeli officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the missile transfers.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday that anybody that threatened to wipe Israel out “would put themselves in a similar danger”.
The Western source said the number of missiles was in the 10s and that the transfers were designed to send a warning to the United States and Israel, especially after air raids on Iranian troops in Syria. The United States has a significant military presence in Iraq.
“It seems Iran has been turning Iraq into its forward missile base,” the Western source said.
The Iranian sources and one Iraqi intelligence source said a decision was made some 18 months ago to use militias to produce missiles in Iraq, but activity had ramped up in the last few months, including with the arrival of missile launchers.
“We have bases like that in many places and Iraq is one of them. If America attacks us, our friends will attack America’s interests and its allies in the region,” said a senior IRGC commander who served during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.
The Western source and the Iraqi source said the factories being used to develop missiles in Iraq were in al-Zafaraniya, east of Baghdad, and Jurf al-Sakhar, north of Kerbala. One Iranian source said there was also a factory in Iraqi Kurdistan.
The areas are controlled by Shi’ite militias, including Kata’ib Hezbollah, one of the closest to Iran. Three sources said Iraqis had been trained in Iran as missile operators.
The Iraqi intelligence source said the al-Zafaraniya factory produced warheads and the ceramic of missile moulds under former President Saddam Hussein. It was reactivated by local Shi’ite groups in 2016 with Iranian assistance, the source said.
A team of Shi’ite engineers who used to work at the facility under Saddam were brought in, after being screened, to make it operational, the source said. He also said missiles had been tested near Jurf al-Sakhar.
The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and the Pentagon declined to comment.
One U.S official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that Tehran over the last few months has transferred missiles to groups in Iraq but could not confirm that those missiles had any launch capability from their current positions.
Washington has been pushing its allies to adopt a tough anti-Iran policy since it reimposed sanctions this month.
While the European signatories to the nuclear deal have so far balked at U.S. pressure, they have grown increasingly impatient over Iran’s ballistic missile program.
France in particular has bemoaned Iranian “frenzy” in developing and propagating missiles and wants Tehran to open negotiations over its ballistic weapons.
Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Thursday that Iran was arming regional allies with rockets and allowing ballistic proliferation. “Iran needs to avoid the temptation to be the (regional) hegemon,” he said.
In March, the three nations proposed fresh EU sanctions on Iran over its missile activity, although they failed to push them through after opposition from some member states.
“Such a proliferation of Iranian missile capabilities throughout the region is an additional and serious source of concern,” a document from the three European countries said at the time.
A regional intelligence source also said Iran was storing a number of ballistic missiles in areas of Iraq that were under effective Shi’ite control and had the capacity to launch them.
The source could not confirm that Iran has a missile production capacity in Iraq.
A second Iraqi intelligence official said Baghdad had been aware of the flow of Iranian missiles to Shi’ite militias to help fight Islamic State militants, but that shipments had continued after the hardline Sunni militant group was defeated.
“It was clear to Iraqi intelligence that such a missile arsenal sent by Iran was not meant to fight Daesh (Islamic State) militants but as a pressure card Iran can use once involved in regional conflict,” the official said.
The Iraqi source said it was difficult for the Iraqi government to stop or persuade the groups to go against Tehran.
“We can’t restrain militias from firing Iranian rockets because simply the firing button is not in our hands, it’s with Iranians who control the push button,” he said.
“Iran will definitely use the missiles it handed over to Iraqi militia it supports to send a strong message to its foes in the region and the United States that it has the ability to use Iraqi territories as a launch pad for its missiles to strike anywhere and anytime it decides,” the Iraqi official said.
Iraq’s parliament passed a law in 2016 to bring an assortment of Shi’ite militia groups known collectively as the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) into the state apparatus. The militias report to Iraq’s prime minister, who is a Shi’ite under the country’s unofficial governance system.
However, Iran still has a clear hand in coordinating the PMF leadership, which frequently meets and consults with Soleimani.
*Additional reporting by Phil Stewart and Jonathan Landay in Washington; editing by David Clarke
*Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Iran launches anti-US-Israel front – from W. Iraq, with Tel Aviv in missile range, builds base facing Golan
من موقع دبكا: إيران تقيم جبهة ضد أميركا وإسرائيل من جنوب العراق بنصب صواريخ يصل مداها إلى تل ابيب وذلك في مواجهة قاعدة الجولان
DEBKAfile/August 31/18
Russia, Iran, Syria and Hamas have launched six steps to counter the US-Israeli plan to hit Iranian military targets in Syria, which National Security Adviser John Bolton finalized in Jerusalem two weeks ago. That plan is to strike Iran’s Al Qods Brigades and allied Shiite militia forces in Syrian and western Iraq, as DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources were first to reveal. The US and Israel agreed to provide each other with reciprocal air and military cover for their operations in Syria. This accord was first implemented on Aug. 23, when unidentified warplanes bombed a pro-Iranian Iraqi Shiite Khataib Hezballah convoy on the Syrian-Iraqi highway.
The Russian-backed Iranian-Syrian-Hamas alliance subsequently put together six counter-measures:
1-Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami arrived in Damascus with a large military delegation to sign expanded military cooperation pacts with Syrian ruler Bashar Assad. Israeli and American officials who initially made light of this event were forced to take a second look.
2-Iran was empowered by these accords to deepen its military grip on Syria, backed by the promise of Russian military and air cover modeled on the US-Israeli mutual commitment.
3-Tehran and Damascus agreed to retaliate for every US or Israel attack on Iran’s Al-Qods or Shiite militia forces in Syria in the same coin, i.e. by targeting US military forces posted east of the Euphrates Rive along the Syrian-Iraqi border, or IDF forces inside the Golan enclave. Al Qods chief Gen. Qassem Soleimani was put in charge of these operations.
4-Our exclusive sources also reveal that the new military pacts signed by Iran and Syria provide explicitly for three large Iranian bases to go up in Syria as hubs for the various Iranian command posts dispersed across the country; one outside Aleppo; a second between Damascus and the Israeli Golan border and a third at a still undetermined location.
5-In the wake of these pacts, the United States, Russia, Iran and Israel are all engaged in military buildups in the Middle East and around Syria of intervention forces for a potential escalation.
The Americans have prepared major naval and air strength in the region capable of rapid responses, mainly with Tomahawk cruise missiles.
The Russians are massing a sea armada opposite the Syrian coast. Fresh arrivals on Friday, Aug. 31, raised the number of warships to 24.
Syrian air defense networks are on the highest war alert since early this week. The IDF’s presence in northern Israel has been beefed up and the troops placed on high alert.
6-On Friday, Iran said it had supplied allied Iraqi Shiite militias with ground-to-ground missiles with ranges of between 200km and 700km. From Western Iraq, meaning Anbar, where Soleimani has concentrated a large force, these mssiles can reach Tel Aviv; and from southern Iraq, the Saudi capital of Riyadh. The senior US allies in the region are therefore under fresh Iranian missile threat from Iraq.
DEBKAfile’s military sources note that these missiles have long been in the hands of the Iraqi Shiite militias under Tehran’s thumb, but Iran’s leaders decided it could do no harm to release the information to its enemies at this time.
In former articles, our sources have pointed out that a US-Israeli showdown with Iran in Syria would inevitably spill over into Iraq.
Hamas joined the emerging fray on Thursday, when its leader noted that the Palestinian organization also had rockets capable of reaching Tel Aviv. He was pointing up the collaboration between Gaza’s Palestinian rulers and Tehran.
The false UN report on Yemen
Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/August 31/18
The shock of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights’ report on Yemen, which is full of political and legal mines must be a “positive shock.”
The “international” Arab coalition is not just the coalition of Saudi Arabia and the UAE as these two countries are acting in Yemen under the umbrella of international legitimacy and the UN Security Council resolutions. That’s just a reminder!
Hence, things must be put on the right track. The war in Yemen is not between “parties” or “conflicting parties”, let alone between Hadi’s forces and Ansar Allah’s forces, i.e. the Khomeini Houthi militia. No, it’s a conflict between legitimacy and illegitimacy
No, it’s a conflict between legitimacy and illegitimacy, between international law and terror gangs, between the UN Security Council, which is the highest international authority, and terrorist coup militias.
This language and spirit are what was missing in the UN “experts” report, regardless of the report’s details.
Language used
Yemen’s ambassador at the UN Ahmad Awad bin Mubarak noticed something important and said during his interview with Sky News that the report “had a non-neutral language that’s closer to activists’ language!”
The report’s flaw – despite the fact that it condemned the Houthis a little and this is normal! – is, as we said, that it had a strange odor and attempted to “normalize” legal and legitimate equality between the Khomeini Houthi coup camp, which is a danger to Saudi Arabia and the UAE in particular, with Yemeni legitimacy.
This means recklessness in terms of protecting Saudi, Emirati, Arab and even international security that is being threatened by the Houthi missiles and mines in the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait.
While lamenting the humanitarian situation, the report, for example, ignored Saudi Arabia’s, the UAE’s and Kuwait’s donation of $1.180 billion to UN agencies operating in Yemen.
The report also marginalized the truth that the ruling ceiling to everything that’s happening in Yemen and regarding Yemen is governed according to the three internationally recognized references: the national dialogue decisions, the Gulf initiative and the relevant UN Security Council resolutions especially Resolution 2216.
This is an indicator that the report has an unpleasant smell. The opposing camp quickly employed it as seen in the tweet of Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani who sympathetically advised and said: “The UN report about Yemen is worrying,” and called for morality and humanity!
Yemen’s Minister of Information Muammar al-Eryani further discussed the report’s flaws and said: “The report described the Yemeni crisis as a conflict and referred to the Houthi militias as a de facto authority and as forces, not militias. It described the national army and resistance as militias in support of Hadi.
It described the military operation launched by the government to liberate the city of Hodeidah as aggression, in an apparent opposition to all Security Council resolutions and references about resolving the Yemeni crisis.”
The positive shock, which the Coalition members must think of, especially Saudi Arabia and the UAE, is how to confront the leftist-Khomeini poisonous propaganda against us in western capitals early, and from front lines.
This is the issue. This is the ounce of prevention that is worth a pound of cure.

Qaradawi: Politics is more important than Hajj!
Abdullah bin Bijad Al-Otaibi/Al Arabiya/August 31/18
This year’s Hajj was one of the most successful and distinguished Hajj seasons as it is evident via the testimony of more than two million pilgrims and the praise of Arab and international media outlets and via the astonishing development of the services provided to the pilgrims. In spite of this success and distinction, political disputes dominated the minds of some people, especially in Iran and Qatar.
No matter how much the Muslim Brotherhood members study sharia, they could never be considered jurists because their understanding of Islam differs from what Muslims have known for centuries. The Muslim Brotherhood and political Islam jurists have jumbled up the priorities as while Islam focuses on faith and worship, they can only understand this religion from an angle of politics and partisan interests. Qaradawi was one of the most famous figures to have who allowed suicidal operations and encouraged youths to execute such operations. All violent religious militias emerged after the issuance of his fatwas
The tutor of terror
One of the most striking examples of this mindset is demonstrated by Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who has adopted the Qatari nationality and who is considered one of the most important Qatari weapons for spreading chaos and terrorism around the world via his extremist fatwas, violent political positions and incitement to kill and destroy.
After the four Arab countries boycotted Doha, the latter continued to adopt its stubborn and arrogant approach. Hence it went in the direction of Iran and Turkey and sought to find any means to support terrorism and extremism. This is what Qatar did after the anti-terror quartet put it under international scrutiny to monitor its relations with terrorism in Sunni and Shia countries, and this is why Qatar attacks everything related to these four countries as for example it went as far as preventing its citizens from performing Hajj, the fifth pillar of Islam, with the threat of imprisoning and punishing them.
In order to satisfy and align with the Qatari policy, Qaradawi wrote a tweet in which he underestimated the fifth pillar of Islam and people condemned it. He justified the Qatari move of preventing citizens from performing the obligatory religious duty. This is normal for Qaradawi and political Islam jurists. They prioritize the interest of the party and the organization over Islam. To them, Islam is a means to grab power and authority.
Agent provocateur
When he was a young member of the Muslim Brotherhood, Qaradawi wrote a poem in which he praised Abdel Meguid Hassan, the killer of Mahmoud El Nokrashy Pasha. The poem which the Brotherhood youths echo says:
“Respect and salutations to you Abdel Meguid,
you have become a role model for the youth
You poisoned a dog and another dog came after him
and for every dog we have someone to poison him”
Qaradawi then fled from Abdulnasser’s oppression to Qatar. He played a dangerous role in many of the Muslim Brotherhood organizations in the Gulf. After the Vilayat-e Faqih revolution in Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood and Qaradawi supported it, and when the Brotherhood-Iranian axis of resistance was formed, it was supported by Qatar and Qaradawi.
Qatar established the International Union of Muslim Scholars for him to compete with traditional religious institutions. It gave Qaradawi millions to gather followers across the world and in the virtual world. Qatar sought to announce him as a religious reference that resembles the Vilayat-e Faqih reference in Iran to a great extent.
Qaradawi was one of the most famous figures to have who allowed suicidal operations and encouraged youths to execute such operations. All violent religious militias emerged after the issuance of his fatwas — starting with Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram to ISIS and dozens of terrorist militias who kill Muslims and peaceful people around the world. He fully supported the terrorist Lebanese Hezbollah and the terrorist Hamas Movement in splitting Palestinians and exploiting the Palestinian cause in order to serve Iran and its axis of resistance.
His bloody and terrorist ideology was fully exposed at the onset of the fundamentalist spring, which is known as the Arab Spring. At that time, Qaradawi seemed to have lost his balance and his terrorist voice grew hoarse. He went to Egypt and hijacked Tahrir Square under the protection of the Muslim Brotherhood.
There he talked about fundamentalism and extremism and spoke of an agenda that had not occurred to any mind there. He started to issue provocative remarks and unfounded fatwas based on the Brotherhood’s concepts which believe that taking over power is religion’s most important pillar and that restoring the Islamic Caliphate is the most important duty.
Purveyor of violence
During this ominous ‘Spring’, Qaradawi was live on television when he issued a fatwa to kill Muammar Gaddafi and encouraged everyone around him to kill him. This reflected a shameful compliance with the Qatari policy which was in support of terrorism and its groups in Libya at that time. Qaradawi thus issued this fatwa without any hesitation. Any true jurist, however, that has nothing to do with politics and its games would have never done so.
The ominous ‘Spring’ was a significant stage that exposed the jurists of political Islam, its groups and movements as this is when they realized that their time has come, and they must emerge to the surface and grab power in every country they operate in. Their political statements and positions started to become clear, and this cautioned countries and governments to the real danger represented by the Muslim Brotherhood and its branches across Arab countries and the world.
Interpreting Islam by making politics its core and main duty is a pure concoction of the Muslim Brotherhood, an approach that has never been seen in the history of Islam. It all started with Hassan al-Banna who manipulated religious texts to serve his project, organization and group. At one time, he denounced politics and at another he made it central in his rhetoric.
Any serious researcher can track his contradictory statements on politics and religion, as well as his praise of fascism and Nazism. He established the secret organization and ordered assassinations of politicians, judges and figures who opposed him. Yusuf al-Qaradawi is one of his disciples and group members who resumed the path after him to spread terrorism and extremism.
Qaradawi has lured a lot of the unspecialized intellectuals to his fold by issuing some tolerant fatwas on sub-jurisprudential matters. Some of them thus saw him as a symbol of tolerance and simplification. However, Qaradawi’s equation is clear, simplification on sub-jurisprudential issues and extremism in politics. Qaradawi is an extension of the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideology in general but he became one of the major symbols of this movement.
Qaradawi is the Brotherhood’s bard of modest talent. Whoever reads the poems in his book Nafahat wa Lafahat or any of his other books would not miss the extremism and terrorism in his writings from his famous ‘Nouniya’ poem till his last poem. They are all highly provocative and incite terrorism and destruction.
Finally, Qaradawi and his ilk are mere cogs in the wheel of the Muslim Brotherhood which only finds in Islam what serves its political project.
Lebanese Families of the Missing Demand Independent National Body to Reveal Fate of Their Sons
سناء الجاك/أهالي المفقودين اللبنانيين يطالبون بهيئة وطنية مستقلة لكشف مصيرهم
Beirut- Sanaa Al-Jack/Asharq Al-Awsat/August 31/18

Europe supports Turkey as relations with US worsen
Sinem Cengiz/Arab News/August 31/18
While Turkey is experiencing problems with the US, European leaders have started to make statements that lay down both political and economic support for Ankara.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s phone calls with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron were followed by meetings between Turkish Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, who is also Erdogan’s son-in-law, and his French and German counterparts. Albayrak is also expected to meet his British counterpart soon. From the European capitals, consecutively positive remarks are being made that support Ankara against American policies, particularly after the recent Turkey-US trade row.
While US President Donald Trump was happy to announce the fall of the Turkish lira against the dollar via Twitter, the same happiness did not occur in other Western capitals. Moreover, the lira’s plunge rang alarm bells in the EU, which did not waste any time in taking an opposing stance on the Turkish economy. Turkey is a vital trading partner in the Middle East for the EU, which is concerned about a potential spillover of economic mayhem. This made the EU leaders come to the defense of Turkey, with the first show of support coming from Turkey’s largest trading partner, Germany. Speaking at a press conference, Merkel underlined that Germany would prefer an economically strong Turkey, saying: “Nobody has an interest in the economic destabilization of Turkey.”
Needless to say, a weaker Turkey has many implications for the EU and even the global economy. French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire declared that France would further enhance its economic ties with Turkey, sending a clear message to the US that the EU stands with Turkey in this economic turmoil. Another response came from the European Parliament, which urged the White House to resolve its issues with Turkey through “constructive diplomatic engagement.” From the Middle East peace process to the Iran nuclear deal, the US and Europe have found themselves on differing sides of international conflicts and foreign policy issues.
Thus, the EU’s stance not only indicates that the Turkish and European economies are politically and economically interdependent, but also shows that Ankara and Brussels can put their bilateral issues aside in the face of a common threat. Here, the well-known theory of “balance of threat” comes to mind. This theory, first proposed by Stephen M. Walt in the 1980s, says states’ alliance behavior is determined by the threat they perceive from other states.
From the Middle East peace process to the Iran nuclear deal, the US and Europe have found themselves on differing sides of international conflicts and foreign policy issues. Even before Trump took office, fading American influence had led to the thought in EU capitals that the US was no longer the traditional guarantor of security and stability in Europe and the Middle East.
Moreover, Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal has dealt a severe blow to EU-US relations, which are at their worst since the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. This even led European Council President Donald Tusk to tweet: “Looking at the latest decisions of President Trump, someone could even think: With friends like that, who needs enemies?” Tusk, touching on Washington’s attitude in dealing with the Iran nuclear deal and trade disputes, even called on the EU to be more united than ever before to deal with what he called Trump’s “capricious assertiveness.” Increasing anti-Americanism on Europe’s streets has parallels with such feelings in Turkey.
Likewise, Turkey, a NATO ally and a very significant actor for the US in its Middle East policies, is engaged in a stand-off in relations with Washington — ranging from Ankara’s objection to American support for PKK-affiliated Kurdish forces in Syria, to US reluctance to extradite Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is exiled in Pennsylvania and who Ankara regards as the mastermind behind the failed 2016 coup attempt. It would not be wrong or exaggerated to say that NATO has been experiencing a growing polarization between its members, and this is not good news for the future of the organization or for the future of the region, which is prone to great conflicts.
From the other side, Turkey and the EU do still have issues waiting to be resolved. However, the policies of the Trump administration risks doing harm to the interests of both Turkey and Europe, and this has made the latter realize that a collective action is needed for dealing with the US. Both Turkey and the EU have the sense that they are aboard the same ship, facing common challenges and having to cope with American waves together.
Additionally, turmoil in Turkey is not wanted by the EU due to the potential flow of refugees, which is a matter related to European security. Thus, the summit proposed by Ankara involving France, Germany and Russia to discuss Syria could be significant in this matter.
• Sinem Cengiz is a Turkish political analyst who specializes in Turkey’s relations with the Middle East.

Russia-US relations facing a bleak future
Maria Dubovikova/Arab News/August 31/18
The new US sanctions against Russia, imposed in response to the alleged chemical attack in the UK targeting former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter, came into effect on Monday after a one-week delay. The postponement shows that there are contradictions in Washington, either between the White House and lawmaking bodies or within the administration itself, or possibly both.
The sanctions are to be introduced in two stages. The first, imposed this week, placed limits on the export and supply to Russia of certain technologies that are considered related to US national security, as well as banning non-existent financial aid. The US also demands Russia permit access for UN chemical weapons inspectors to certain facilities. There is a deadline of 90 days for Russia to respond and, in case of none, the US will move on to the second stage of sanctions — downgrading diplomatic relations and severing all ties with Russia, except with its space industry, which is hugely important to America.
With investigations into Russian interference in the US elections ongoing, it is very difficult to foresee any improvement in relations or cooperation in the short term.
The Russian reaction has been restrained. The Kremlin said it would review the sanctions in full before considering a possible response, adding that Russia will act in its best interests. Russia stressed that the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons last year recognized that it had destroyed its chemical weaponry and facilities, which is not the case for the US. Moscow also insists it is not culpable in the Skripal affair. From the Russian point of view, it has never been proved to be guilty, while the poisoning of the two other British citizens with the nerve agent was crumpled in the shadows by the British government, which raises serious questions regarding what went on behind closed doors.
Russia says that the new US sanctions make dialogue between the two countries more difficult. What is clear in Moscow is that Washington is ready to go further and peace is not on its agenda.
The roots of the current crisis lie in the perspective with which Americans view Russia and its leadership. Bilateral relations between the two countries are at their worst since Trump became president because of the weakening of American power and the rise of Russia worldwide.
At their July summit in Helsinki, Vladimir Putin and Trump looked very pessimistic about the chances of reaching a “grand bargain.” The rapprochement between Moscow and Washington and cooperation between the two sides to resolve a number of global problems, from wars in Ukraine and Syria to climate change, have gone with the wind after America continued to impose sanctions on Russia and its economic and political figures and entities.
No one can predict the future course of US-Russian relations. This level of unpredictability has not emerged since the early 1990s, when the Soviet Union was dissolved. What is different in US-Russian relations today is the lack of confidence.
After Russia rose from the ashes of the Soviet Union, the West did not know how to respond. Eventually, in 2009, former US President Barack Obama tried to reset the relationship between Washington and Moscow. Washington later imposed economic and financial sanctions after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, never mind the policy of deterrence in terms of an increased NATO presence in the Baltic region.
At the same time, there were other structural factors working for Russia, including the decline of the influence of the West and the rise of the Chinese dragon. Europe has not fully recovered from the devastating impact of the 2008 financial crisis, as the collapse of confidence in the European economy, and the West in general, has worsened with the influx of refugees across the Mediterranean. This was followed by the 2016 British vote to leave the EU.
What is the course of Russian-US relations in the future? With investigations into Russian interference in the US elections ongoing, it is very difficult to foresee any improvement in relations or cooperation in the short term.
Sanctions are not and will never be effective against a country such as Russia — they will never make Moscow change its policies, and they may even have the opposite effect. In Russia, there is a saying that, if you face lots of obstacles on your way and others try to stop you, it means that you are moving in the right direction. The sanctions policy chosen by the current US administration is counterproductive and has already proved to be ineffective.
• Maria Dubovikova is a prominent political commentator, researcher and expert on Middle East affairs. She is president of the Moscow-based International Middle Eastern Studies Club (IMESClub).